Today I am going to talk about the second half of the books I read in June. You know, similar to what the title of this blog post suggests.
Admittedly, I didn’t look too much into this when I started reading it, but somewhere along the way, I had added it to my TBR and the cover is gorgeous, so at one point I had some interest in reading it?
This is inspired by Peggy Guggenheim and her daughter, and follows the 15-year-old daughter of an eccentric American heiress and art collector and a group of artists she has brought with her to her…secret? home in Mexico in order to hide and protect them from Hitler, who has issued a list of “cultural degenerates” right before the start of the war.
Sounds heavy, but it’s actually pretty light for the most part. The artists are, as expected, totally wack and have bizarre and tense rapport with each other, but the main theme of the book if the isolation and neglect experienced by the daughter, who is trying to figure out her own talents.
I thought this book had a lot of potential but it just sort of fell flat for me.
But again, THAT COVER THO!
10. The Chestnut Man – Søren Sveistrup
As expected, I really enjoyed this one! It’s written by the creator of The Killing, the American version of which was one of my favorite TV shows of all time, I’m not even being dramatic here. The first two seasons aired on AMC back in the early 2010s, and as so many good shows do, got canceled. AMC was like FINE and brought it back for a third, but then canceled it again! There was more outrage until Netflix picked it up, but only for one more season, sadly. (Of course, those seasons weren’t as good, but still, I love this show so hard and would sometimes play it in the background while I was working, just for the comforting vibes of it.)
But yeah, this a really great Danish thriller which follows several characters, including two police officers/detectives who are begrudgingly paired up JUST LIKE THE KILLING. Ugh, and I had the audiobook playing too and the narrative had a great voice and this book just flew by for me.
It was thrilling and also scary at times, and I wasn’t able to solve it which actually always pisses me off when I do! This is just a great book and I’m looking forward to reading more by him, and also trying to find the original version of The Killing, which I have been putting off for too long now.
If you’ve never watched The Killing, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT. I don’t think it’s on Netflix anymore, sadly, but I think Amazon Prime might have it? Fun fact: I automatically start crying when I hear the theme:
Oh for God’s sake, I just watched the last 4 minutes of the series finale on YouTube and I am full-on sobbing I hate myself.
11. In the Dream House – Carmen Maria Machado
This was one of the most creative suckerpunch of a memoir, I swear to god. Carmen (who also narrates the audiobook and I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT) uses a full arsenal of tropes and prompts to detail her years in an abusive same-sex relationship. There is even a Choose Your Own Adventure section of this book! It’s fun, which is strange to say given the extremely dark and triggering subject matter, but I kept finding myself doing the whole, “Just one more chapter. OK, one more” song-and-dance before bedtime, because I couldn’t wait to see what inventive narrative she was going to spring on me next.
I had a visceral reaction to this book, goosebumps through the whole thing. I bow down to Carmen Maria Machado. She makes me want to start writing again, and there is not much out there that does that for me anymore! All I could do was whisper “damn” when I read the last line, and then spent the next 30 minutes doing that post-cry body-racking sniffle.
Machado is a masterful writer, and I hate that she was exposed to such nastiness and abuse, but there was a moment toward the end of the book where I legit screamed OMG STFU and felt so goddamn happy for her. I can’t wait to read everything she writes.
Please read this. It’s, well, amazing. A solid 5-star for me.
12. Get a Life, Chloe Brown – Talia Hibbert
No. Romances in general aren’t my cuppa, but I gave this a shot because I kept seeing great reviews and there’s good representation in it, plus it’s British so I thought that would help. But I just DIDN’T CARE ABOUT EITHER OF THESE PEOPLE. And maybe I’m a dick, but the constant reminder that the guy had a long shiny curtain of red hair.
I hated this book. But I liked the cat. I wish there was more about the cat.
13. Freshwater – Akwaeke Emezi
Definitely not a book for everyone. I tried to explain it to Henry and he was like “………” It follows a young Nigerian woman with multiple personalities, starting from her birth. Ada’s story is actually told from the perspective of the others living inside her, the “brothersisters” called Ogbanje, which are reincarnating spirits hat causes grief or pain.
It’s eerie and sad, and I am so glad that I read it even though I’m positive that I didn’t actually understand a lot of what was happening, it was powerful and something that I’ll think about a lot.
14. Queenie – Candice Carty-Williams
YES QUEENIE. I wish I had skipped Chloe Brown and just read this twice instead. So, I didn’t know much about this at all, but then I saw that it was compared to Bridget Jones’ Diary and I was like, “Oh no, I might not like this.” But it is so much heavier than that and actually quite disturbing at times. It follows Queenie, a young Jamaican British woman, trying to get back on her feet after “going on a break” with her long-term boyfriend. Through a series of REALLY irresponsible sexual exploits, Queenie’s whole world starts to crumble and as a reader, you’re over here shouting, “QUEENIE, NO! YOU’RE BETTER THAN THAT! PLEASE RESPECT YOURSELF!” I actually saw a lot of reviews on YouTube calling this book problematic, but I thought it was kind of honest too. I mean, I can remember when I broke up with my first long-term boyfriend, Psycho Mike – I went wild, man. At the time, I thought I was filling a void, or “trying out what I couldn’t have before,” but looking back, I was like, “Shit, where was my self respect!?”
So I get where those people are coming from, but I also think that this kind of reaction to a huge life change is, well, not normal, but not uncommon and it shows that sometimes people truly need to hit rock bottom before they can begin their triumph ascent, and I felt that this is what happened with Queenie.
Sure, there were times when I wanted to slap her for being so obtuse and oblivious to her own well-being and the problems of her friends, but mostly, I loved her as a character and just wanted the best for her! And her friends (The Corgis) were all so different and hilarious, and they REALLY not only held Queenie up as a person, but also as a book. There is also a healthy dose of Black Lives Matter woven in as well, as Queenie’s ex-boyfriend is white and some of the interactions she had with his family…well. You can imagine.
I can’t wait for whatever Candice Carty-Williams does next!
15. How We Fight For Our Lives – Saeed Jones
I’ve been accidentally reading a lot of memoirs lately and I don’t know why! It’s hard to rate memoirs because it’s someone’s life, you know? But this was another really great and poignant read. Saeed Jones is a writer for Buzzread, I believe, and he details in this book what it’s like to not only grow up black in the south, but also gay. From the time he’s in elementary school to going off to college, you really get to watch him come out in increments. Definitely hard and uncomfortable to read at times as he details the ways he essentially seeks out derogation and abuse in the bedroom (he is nearly killed at one point), but the second half of the book focuses a lot on his relationship with his mother and BITCH I KNEW I WAS GONNA CRY.
Saeed Jones is a gift.
16. Black Girl Unlimited – Echo Brown
Another book that I had no idea what I was getting into when I started reading it but was pleasantly surprised! I just thought it was a YA novel about a girl who was training to be a wizard but OH SHIT SON this book is apparently semi-autobiographical and it is at most times dark AF and hits HARD in nearly every chapter. At a certain point, you realize that the wizardry aspect of the book is how the main character, her mother, and several other female characters cope with trauma.
And there is a lot a trauma in this book. Drugs, sexual abuse, poverty. Echo spent so much of her childhood trying to keep her mom alive, protect her younger brothers, and maintain good grades—I rooted for hard for her. This book *might* be considered YA but I think it’s an important read for adults too.
Well that’s what I read in June. Sorry if these book posts are boring but I like to do this because I always forget what I read and if I liked it and for some reason I never feel like writing reviews on Goodreads, oh right, because I’m not good at writing reviews!