March 2023 Books

New Books Read

A Venom Dark and Sweet by Judy I. Lin***
The Book of Tea book 2 of 2
I really enjoyed this one too. I read the first book last month and all the things I liked about it continued in this one. This one is a little more focused on the political issues of the empire than the first one was, but I thought it was really well done. I liked learning about the gods and the mythology of the world Lin created.
3.5/5 relics from gods

Pan Macmillan

A Victorian Flower Diction: The Language of the Flowers Companion by Vanessa Diffenbaugh and Mandy Kirby
I read this book as research for the novel I’m writing but I did find it both interesting and very helpful. The book talks in depth about 50 flowers, sharing their meaning for the Victorians and sharing art and poetry that uses these flowers as symbols. The book also contains a longer list of dictionary entries for more flowers and their basic meanings. I haven’t read The Language of the Flowers, the novel that this dictionary is a companion to, but the book was very helpful for my purposes.
3/5 chrysanthemums

Babel by R. F. Kuang***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: racism, racial slurs, death, Imperialism
I adored this book. If you’re not interested in linguistics and language and the academic theory surrounding language, this book is probably not for you. I thought it was fascinating, and I loved the setting of magical Victorian Oxford and the dark academia vibe. It reminded me a little of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, but with more likable and diverse characters. I also loved the exploration of Imperialism and racism and the difficult pull and push between one’s homeland and one’s adopted homeland, especially when one’s adopted homeland is exploiting one’s homeland. I love that this book is an anti-Imperialism, labor union book. It’s a very niche genre but one I love. My only criticisms are that I wished it had a happier end (though I’m not sure a happier end would have been believable), and I wished Ramy and Robin had a little happiness together.
5/5 silver bars

Penguin Publishing Group

Homicide and Halo-Halo***
Tita Rosie’s Kitchen Mysteries book 2 of 4
CW: PTSD, trauma
This book has an author content warning at the beginning, so make sure to read it for a full list of triggers that may be in the book. I enjoyed this book too. The first book in this series was my book of the month a couple years ago and it’s a super enjoyable cozy mystery full of delicious food. This one continues in the same vein. I loved learning more about Filipino cuisine and I loved the beauty pageant aspect of the plot. We love mysteries (or really any books) with excellent female and BIPOC representation.
3.5/5 Filipino baked goods

The Tale of Genji by Murasaki Shikibu, translated by Kencho Suematsu
CW: pedophilia, grooming of a child
This book is considered one of if not the first fiction novel ever written. This translation is supposedly one of the first translations of the book into English, however it only translates the first 17 chapters and not all 54. I don’t know why they didn’t translate the whole thing, but I must say, I’m grateful because 17 chapters was more than enough. Of course this book is important historically in that it is one of the first fictional novels ever written and it was written by a woman, so that’s cool. But that doesn’t make it good. It was not good. It was actually quite awful. It had no plot and no interesting characters. Prince Genji, the main character, was just the worst, a womanizer and a pedophile. It was also confusing for someone who has no knowledge of Japanese court structure, life, or customs in the year 1000. I hated it.
1.5/5 ladies named after flowers (I have to give it more than a 1 because I did finish reading it)

Alfred A. Knopf

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel
I loved it. This book reminded me a bit of David Mitchell, one of my favorite authors. I loved how the story weaved through time and created such a neat, satisfying well resolved ending. I don’t want to say too much because spoilers, but I adored it. I read it in basically one sitting.
5/5 moon colonies

Penguin Random House

Spare by Prince Harry
CW: PTSD, trauma, death of a parent, suicide, suicidal thoughts
Prince Harry’s memoir was fascinating. We all know a little about the royal family and we all know a little about Princess Diana and her death, but getting to see the royal family and Princess Diana through Harry’s eyes was very interesting and also heartbreaking. Harry reads the audiobook which was cool to get to hear it in his voice. I was left with the conviction that the monarchy is no longer relevant and continues to be a harmful institution, and with the conviction that the way the press dehumanizes and commodifies famous people is disgusting. I wish only the best for Harry, Megan and their children and only the worst for everyone else in the royal family.
4/5 tabloids

Cursed by Marissa Meyer
Gilded book 2 of 2
CW: death of children, loss of bodily autonomy
This was a month of reading second books in series apparently. Cursed is the sequel to Gilded, and the duology is a retelling of Rumpelstitskin. I don’t think I liked this series as much as Meyer’s first fairytale retelling, The Lunar Chronicles, but it was still very enjoyable. I really liked the world she created and the magical creatures and gods in it.
3.5/5 golden chains

Lion Forge Comics / Oni Press

Gender Queer by Maia Kobabe***
Book Hangover Alert**
CW: body dysmorphia
I tried to buy this book for Banned Books Week last year and it was sold out so I still don’t have a copy, but this month for Trans Rights Read-A-Thon, I thought I would go ahead and get it from the library. It was great. You know I’m always trying to find more ace representation and Kobabe’s graphic memoir explores eir experience as a nonbinary asexual person. My complaint on the last book I read with ace rep (Loveless) was that it didn’t reflect my experience as an ace of not really wanting romantic or sexual relationships. I felt Kobabe’s experience of discovering asexuality more closely mirrored mine, although I identify as a cis woman. I hope everyone can read this book and more books like it. Stop banning books, you cowards.
5/5 pronouns

W. W. Norton & Company

The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
CW: slavery
Two translated books and one book about translation this month. I’ve read parts of The Odyssey before from other translations but this is the first time I’ve read it straight though. Emily Watson’s translation is quite new and comes with a more feminist lens which was super interesting. I enjoyed it. I liked that she kept it as a metered poem, which it is in the original Greek. Other translations translate it to basically a prose poem, keeping the line breaks, but losing the meter and form. I do think it’s a little too long and there’s too much time spent between Odysseus returning to Ithaca and finally confronting the suitors. Also I didn’t realize how much help he had from Athena. Like Odysseus had a great reputation for being so smart and a great warrior, but really he just had a lot of help.
3/5 wine-dark seas

**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 A Venom Dark and Sweet for a lush Asian inspired fantasy with LGBTQIA+ rep. Read Babel for anti-capitalism, anti-imperialism, immigrant experiences and LGBTQIA+ rep. Read Homicide and Halo-Halo for BIPOC rep, strong ladies, and LGBTQIA+ rep. Read Gender Queer for experiences in self discovery and LGBTQIA+ rep.

Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQIA+ 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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