March 2022 Books

Books Reread

Wildwood Dancing by Juliette Marillier
Book Hangover Alert**
Wildwood book 1 of 2
I just got the companion book to this one, and I wanted to reread it before I read the companion. I forgot how much I like this book. It should probably be on my list of favorite books. It is a retelling of “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” It’s set in Transylvania, and it’s just superb. Jena, the main character, is one of my favorite strong heroines. I love the feminism and the sisterhood in this book as well. Highly recommend.
5/5 enchanted frogs

New Books Read

Random House Publishing Group

The Maid by Nita Prose
CW: ableism, manipulation, drug use
We’re going to be talking about disability studies a lot in this blog. The Maid is told from the perspective of Molly, a maid in an upscale hotel. To me, she reads as autistic and maybe having OCD as well. Neither of these diagnoses are named by the author, who just calls Molly “socially awkward,” which I felt was weird? Did she feel that if she named them, people would criticize her for the representation? But by not naming them, I felt it made these identities seem taboo. I read a few reviews trying to get an idea of whether people though Molly’s characterization was an accurate representation of neurodivergence. The reviews were very mixed. As far as I could tell, Prose does not identify herself as neurodivergent. I do not identify that way either, so you may take my review with a grain of salt. I felt that even though the characterization relied on many stereotypes of autism and OCD, they weren’t negative stereotypes, and Molly was still a round, relatable, sympathetic character. Though she is at times manipulated by those around her, the reader doesn’t doubt her intelligence or her empathy, and her disability actually helps her do her job and makes her who she is. Overall it was a fun locked-door mystery.
3.5/5 cleaning carts

Anchor Books

Diary of a Young Girl by Anne Frank***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: the holocaust, anti-semitism
I don’t know if this was a Book Hangover, or I just felt sad after finishing it. Last month I read The Betrayal of Anne Frank, and I’m embarrassed to say that I haven’t actually ever read Anne Frank’s diary, despite having visited her museum in Amsterdam and reading the aforementioned book. So I finally did it. What struck me most about Anne Frank’s diary is how normal she seemed. She was just a normal 15-year-old girl, with normal 15-year-old thoughts and feelings living her life during a momentous moment in history. But when I think about, we’re living though a momentous moment in history right now and, like Anne, somehow we’ve all figured out how to carry on as if this were normal. The other thing that struck me about the book was just the terribly sad dramatic irony. Because the reader knows what happened to Anne. In her final entries, Anne could see the end of the war was coming. She had so much hope for her future, was planning her return to school, and she was betrayed and died so close to the end of the war.
3.5/5 food ration coupons

Cazadora by Romina Garber***
Book Hangover Alert**
Wolves of the World book 2
CW: misogyny, homophobia
I told you all last month how much I loved Lobizona, and I’m still really enjoying this series. I loved getting to see more of the Septimus world in this book and I loved getting to meet some new characters. I like that it kept me on my toes and I didn’t know what was going to happen. The ending was a surprise for me and I’m super excited to for the next one to come out! I hope Manu and her friends can continue to speak their truth.
4/5 septibol matches

Audible

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen
This is only the second Austen novel I’ve read. It’s not as good as Pride and Prejudice but I did enjoy it. I particularly enjoyed the performance of the narrator of the audiobook. I liked that I could tell which characters I was supposed to like, not only by what they said, but by the various annoying voices the narrator gave them, while the likable characters had likable voices. I haven’t read many Gothic novels, but I did enjoy the way Austen pokes fun at Gothic tropes and subverts Gothic conventions.
3.5/5 mysterious trunks

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
CW: ableism, scientific animal testing, medical testing without consent
I almost didn’t put this one on here, because it’s just a short story and not a novel (there is a novel but I only read the short story version), but The Metamorphosis is pretty short too. And this is my blog, so I can do whatever I want. My dad recommended this short story to me. It is a really interesting piece of science fiction. I’ve been thinking about it a lot from a disability standpoint and it leaves me…uneasy? It is certainly an interesting concept and I think it brings up a lot of good questions about humanity. I felt maybe the author’s intention was to highlight a theme of human dignity and universal worthiness, but I really just felt Charlie was an object of pity. His disability is separated from him and made into the villain, which goes against the identity model of disability studies which posits that the disability cannot be separated from the identity of the person. But I was also interested in the fact that Charlie at the height of his intelligence in the middle of the story was just as isolated as Charlie with his disability, perhaps proving that a cure for mental disability isn’t a good idea. I also get stuck on consent; Charlie can’t consent to this operation and he doesn’t have anyone advocating for his wellbeing separate from his utility as a scientific test subject. Even though Charlie is at first grateful for the operation, if he had been able to give informed consent, I would feel less weird about it. I’m not going to rate this one because I feel too conflicted.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: abandonment, rape, abortion, racism, alcohol and drug addiction, AIDS
I got this as a gift for recruiting my sister into the cult of Book of the Month. It was stellar. Last month I read The Bad Muslim Discount, and I enjoyed that this book and that book took place at about the same time in American history. It was interesting to compare the Muslim experience to the Puerto Rican experience over the same time period. I loved Olga and all her family dynamics. I love the exploration of how doing something for a cause greater than yourself can also come with personal sacrifices. At what point is it worth it? I also highly recommend reading the poem that inspires the name of the book.
5/5 very fine linen napkins

(If you, too, would like to be recruited into the cult of Book of the Month, use this link.)

Bloomsbury USA

This Poison Heart by Kalynn Bayron***
Book Hangover Alert**
I really enjoyed Cinderella is Dead which I read last year, so I was excited to read This Poison Heart. Honestly, I think it was even better than Cinderella is Dead. I loved the mystery of the creepy house left to you in a will. I loved the secret magical community. I loved all the plants. I loved Black and LGBTQ+ characters in a fantasy, and it wasn’t a big deal. I’m already ready for the next book. Also, isn’t the cover just gorgeous?
4.5/5 carnivorous plants

CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform

The Last Pow-Wow by That Native Thomas and Steven Paul Judd***
CW: anti-Native racism, blood quantum, genocide, alcohol and drug addiction
This was a free audiobook on Audible and I’ve had some mixed results with the free Audible books (see the November 2020 book blog) but this one was really good. It was told in almost short stories that all intertwined and met together at the end at The Pow-Wow of All Pow-Wows. That Native Thomas reads the book, which I really enjoyed. His style reminded me a lot of other Native storytellers I’ve heard. I liked how the book mixed in history along with issues relevant to Natives today and also fantastical elements. I did feel the style was a little heavy on telling rather than showing (something we talk a lot about in creative writing), but I also felt that style was very much in keeping with more traditional Native storytelling, and it didn’t make me not like the book.
3.5/5 fancy dancers

The Metamorphosis by Franz Kafka
There is something so oddly relatable about Gregor Samsa waking up one morning as a gigantic beetle and still feeling like he should go to work. I don’t know if Kafka intended this to be a disability narrative, but I do think that author intention doesn’t matter as much as reader interpretation. Maybe I’ve just been thinking a lot about disability this month, but Gregor’s transformation strikes me a little like a narrative of someone who becomes disabled. He is isolated from his family. At first they try to help him and support him, but then they begin to feel he is a burden. They stop being able to communicate with him, thinking that he can’t understand them anymore. Eventually they decide they can’t take care of him anymore and Gregor isn’t really inside the beetle anyway. I hope this isn’t most people’s experience of becoming disabled, but I do think it shows how family and friends can drift away from you when something happens to change the way you have to live your life.
3/5 beetles

Sourcebooks Inc

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: homophobia, microagressions
I really enjoyed this. I was chasing the high of Red, White & Royal Blue and, while I don’t think I liked this one quite as much, it was still very fun. A+ banter and I loved the friendships portrayed as well. Both main characters had some inferiority complex problems that were a bit annoying but it was so funny I forgave them. It was also very charmingly British.
4/5 dung-beetles

Collins Crime Club

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie
A Hercule Poirot mystery
CW: colonialism, ethnocentrism, racism (directed at the natives of Egypt)
So good. I haven’t read many of Christie’s novels but I have enjoyed them every time. I do think I should read more of them. I won’t say too much about Death on the Nile since I don’t want to spoil it, but I love how she creates her mysteries. There’s always some details I can guess or figure out on my own, but I can never predict the full picture, which is so exciting.
4/5 Egyptian ruins

Cybele’s Secret by Juliet Marillier
Book Hangover Alert**
Wildwood book 2 of 2
This is the sequel to Wildwood Dancing above. I loved it. It followed Paula, one of Jena’s younger sisters. It’s set in Istanbul and it was full of magic and mystery. Also there were pirates. Fabulous. It’s probably not quite as good as Wildwood Dancing but I loved that it allowed me to live in that world a little longer. The only thing I’m mad about (and I am IRATE) is that Marillier left the ending just a little open for a third book about Stela, the youngest sister, and didn’t wrap up all of Tati’s loose ends, also leaving those for a third book. AND THEN her stupid American publisher asked her to write a different series and not finish this one. The audacity. This book came out in 2008, so I guess I’m not that hopeful that she’ll write a third book, but I want that more than anything.
4/5 dashing pirates

Orion

Will My Cat Eat My Eyeballs by Caitlin Doughty
CW: death, dead bodies
Everybody has questions about death. Let a mortician answer them for you. This book is a collection of common death questions from children. It’s interesting, funny, and informative. Even though they weren’t necessarily the questions I would have asked, I still learned a lot.
(The answer, by the way, is probably yes, if your cat or dog is starving several days after you die.)
3.5/5 dead bodies in the plane seat next to you

HarperCollins

Pumpkin by Julie Murphy***
Book Hangover Alert**
Dumplin’ book 3 of 3
CW: homophobia, fatphobia
If you loved the Dumplin‘ movie (and if you didn’t you’re probably a monster), then you should absolutely read the book and then read the next two books in the series. I loved this story of a baby drag queen in a small town. I loved Waylon’s relationships with his parents, grandmother, and sister. I loved that we got to visit characters we fell in love with in Dumplin‘ and Puddin‘. It was feel good. It was queer. I read it in like 3 sittings.
4/5 rainbow cummerbunds

A River Enchanted by Rebecca Ross
Book Hangover Alert**
Elements of Cadence book 1
I loved this. Definitely the best fantasy book I’ve gotten from BOTM (though I did really like Piranesi). I loved the world Ross created on the island of Cadence. I loved the Scottish folklore. I loved the magic and the delicate relationships between characters. I loved the mystery, and I was surprised by the plot twist. The ending was bittersweet and left me very ready for the next book.
4.5/5 enchanted plaids

Twelve Angry Men by Reginald Rose
CW: bigotry
I have some students reading this play for class, so I read it too to be able to help them with their essays. It really is a play about 12 angry white men in a room. But it’s pretty good. It shows how biases can prevent people from being objective, which is an important lesson. I also love how the characters revise and change their opinions as they discuss the case (I mean it would be a boring play if they didn’t), but I love that it shows people changing their minds when presented with new information–something it seems many people resist doing.
3/5 switchblades

Wide Awake by David Levithan***
CW: anti-semitism, racism, homophobia
I read a lot of gay books this month too. Loving that energy. This book was written in 2006, so before Trump and accusations of stealing the election, but it’s so oddly prescient. It’s set “in the near future” and it tells the story of the election of the first gay Jewish president. After he is elected and Duncan, the protagonist, and his friends are hopeful that love has won and the country is finally moving forward, the new president’s opponent tries to say that the election was fraudulent, despite losing both the popular vote and the electoral college. It reminded me so forcefully of both the election in 2016 and in 2020. I loved that it was a story about hope and about standing up for what you believe in. I also loved the portrayal of Duncan’s Christian friends; it was a nice reminder that some Christians think the most important idea in the Bible is love.
3.5/5 bad Christian pop songs

Simon and Schuster

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds***
CW: gun violence, death, drugs, gang violence
This is a beautiful novel-in-verse. I read it really quickly but it was really good. It takes place in the 60 seconds a boy is in an elevator, on his way to kill the man who killed his brother. It explores grief, cyclical trauma, Black masculinity, and how society has failed poorer communities. It’s a really powerful novel, beautifully written, and very relevant. My students are going to read it in their class and I expect a lot of them will relate to it.
4/5 elevator ghosts

Princess in Waiting
Princess Diaries book 4 of 11
I must admit these are starting to wear on me a bit. I sort of wish the books in the series took place farther apart from each other, so we could see a bit more character development. I still think Micheal is too old for Mia and Lilly could be a better friend. They’re still funny and charming, but they do all sort of seem the same.
2.5/5 moon rocks

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read Diary of a Young Girl to learn more about the Holocaust. Read Cazadora for an Argentine-inspired, feminist fantasy. Read Olga Dies Dreaming to learn more about Puerto Rican history and the Puerto Rican experience. Read This Poison Heart for a fantasy that includes many characters of color and LGBTQ+ characters. Read The Last Pow-Wow to learn more about Native history, culture, and current issues. Read Boyfriend Material for a lovely gay romance. Read Pumpkin for a queer coming of age in a small town. Read Wide Awake for a hopeful political story of love and acceptance. Read Long Way Down to learn about Black masculinity and cycle of poverty that leads to gangs and violence.

Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQ+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.

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