Oct 172020
 

Hello. Today we will be discussing the second half of the books I thumbed my way through in September. You’re welcome.

9. Allegedly – Tiffany D. Jackson

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OK listen Linda, for a fucking YA novel, this book fucked me UP. In in, we follow a 16-year-old girl, Mary, who has been in the system since she was 9 (I think?) for allegedly killing the baby her mother was caring for. Sprinkled throughout the book is information from her case files, interviews, etc. and it is so frustrating reading the trials and tribs of this clearly very intelligent girl who may or may not have killed a person, as she is clandestinely studying for the SATs while being knocked down every step of the way by the other girls in Juvie and also the fucking staff members who are, naturally, hateful and pathetic at their jobs.

This was actually more chilling than I imagined it was going to be and I found myself shouting ARE YOU FUCKING KIDDING ME several times because Mary wasn’t likeable per se but she was written so well that I immediately felt super protective of her and was over here rooting for her until the end. This was a great, if not disturbing and depressing, book. BRB, I’m about to devour everything that Tiffany B. Jackson has written.

10. The Raven King – Maggie Stiefvater

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I finished an entire series this year! I didn’t think I would, but the Raven Boys cycle was pretty damn good, you guys. I have a disclaimer though: I didn’t really understand the actual plot, lol. “But Erin,” you ask, “isn’t that the whole point?” You would think! But I was SO INVESTED in every single fucking character of this book, you have no idea how much I loved them. Not quite Harry Potter levels of love, but Maggie Stiefvater really wrote so much life into these people, and….there are several love interests and one of them just kind of quietly happened and I was THERE.FOR.IT. Like, full-blown crying and cheering.

However, I really did find myself drifting off from time to time whenever it came to the thing that they were all there to do. So, as a series whole, I have to give that a 3.5 but the characters? Solid fucking 5. I will stan Gansey until the day I die.

(If you want to know about the plot, please just click the link up there because I’ll just be like, “I’unno. Raven King and magic forest, etc. Dreams & psychics. Whatever a ley line is.”

11. I’ll Be the One – Lyla Lee

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I mean, if you didn’t know who BTS is already, you sure will by the time you’ve made it past the first chapter. SO MANY BTS REFERENCES. Good lord.

All that aside, I thought this was a cute book with an important, body positive message, ESPECIALLY for Koreans. Man, have you checked out their beauty standards? Unattainable. So I loved that this book was about a Korean American who tries out for a kpop talent show in LA, like, “Look, I’m not skinny, but I can fucking sing and dance my ass off and you are going to give me a chance.”

I enjoyed it. And that cover gave me color palette inspo for the next room I redo in my house (sorry, Hen).

12. Luster – Raven Leilani

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OH SHIT this book was incredibly uncomfortable and made me so happy that I met Henry when I was 21 and settled down early because I can 100% guarantee my life would have been as sexually reckless and awkward as Edie’s, a young Black woman in between jobs and about to be homeless who becomes embroiled in a relationship with a man who is in an open marriage, and then accidentally becomes kinda/sorta friends with his wife and somewhat of a Big Sister to their adopted Black daughter.

There were times when I was actually cringing because it was SO UNCOMFORTABLE, I had secondhand embarrassment. But what I really want to remember about this is that Leilani’s writing IS SO GODDAMN BEAUTIFUL. It made me jealous. Every sentence has purpose and punch. Her prose is brilliant without an ounce of pretension. You will laugh out loud at times and also have your breath taken away by her effortless poignancy. Raven Leilani is the real deal, and it’s hard to swallow the fact that this is her DEBUT NOVEL.

Get ready to be uncomfortable.

13. Almond – Won-Pyun Sohn

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I have read a lot of translated Korean books this year and I think it’s safe to say that Korean authors are my favorites (I know, you are shocked). Almond is mean to be a YA book but I really think by American standards, it would be more considered adult even though it does follow a young boy, Yunjae, who was born with a brain condition called Alexithymia, which prevents him from being able to feel or process emotions like fear and sadness. It’s a very cold and chilling book, really, but it’s told from Yunjae’s POV, so it really should come off with no emotion.

At its core, this is a very inspiring coming of age story, but it has some really dark elements that reminded me of Korean dramas like Come & Hug Me and The Smile Has Left Your Eyes.

Also, can we talk about how lovely this cover is?! I see all colors as potential wall hues now, sorry Henry.

14. I Remember You – Yrsa Sigurðardóttir

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I hated this. Pure and simple. Not scary, it dragged, I hated the setting, everything was so cold and drab, blah blah, didn’t care a single speck about any of these goddamn insufferable characters except for the dog.

Oh, what’s it about? I don’t know, a ghost story, apparently. I wasted so much time reading it that I don’t want to waste another single second reviewing it. Go read Peter Straub’s Ghost Story instead. I just might do that as a palate cleanser.

***

And that’s it! My 14 books from September. October is half over and I’ve already devoured some real good ones that I’m excited to gush about on here!

Oct 042020
 

I had a slow book month in September, apparently – only 14! Here is how I felt about the first half.

  1. Then She Was Gone – Lisa Jewell

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OK Lisa Jewell, I see you. My second book of hers and I am now fully on board. I’m always down for a good thriller, and she’s delivered 2/2 times for so far, so I’m gonna be adding more from her oeuvre to my TBR queue, for sure.

I don’t even know where to start with this but it starts with the disappearance of a teenage daughter, and goes back and forth between that timeline and present day. There are your expected twists and turns, as with all thrillers, but I think what really grabbed me was the way the mom was written. She was a solid character and I felt her pain.

This was just a great escapist read. Would recommend. I think I have it 4/5.

2. The Seep – Chana Porter

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This book was so weird and made me feel so uncomfortable that I don’t even really want to recap it. It was VERY short though and that’s the only reason I didn’t DNF it.

I guess it’s sci-fi, sort of? An alien invasion had taken place and the survivors of the world’s population have kind of adopted the “if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em” policy by giving in to “The Seep,” which is what the aliens are called. It’s basically like doing psychedelics, where you let The Seep into your body and you can transcend to some bizarre utopia. For instance, the main character’s wife decides one day that, with the help of The Seep, she wants to be reborn again.

No, like literally. Reborn as a baby to a new family.

The main character, Trina, goes on a downward spiral after that, dealing with the loss of her wife. It’s just weird, but not the kind of weird I like, and not that I’m saying I wanted it to be longer because I honestly wasn’t into it at all, but it just felt like there wasn’t enough time in the pages provided to really hit the mark. I had a hard time even envisioning any of the characters or the world itself. I just kind of kept picturing Eisley Cantina for various scenes.

Even Henry was like, “This doesn’t seem like a book you would like,” when he read the synopsis inside the book. One of the many times Booktubers have lead me astray.

3. You Should See Me in a Crown – Leah Johnson

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This was cute but not as great as everyone on the Internet was saying (but again, I’m not an LGBTQ+ teenager, so this book definitely probably hits harder for them).

We follow Liz, a Black queer girl in a small town, as she runs for Homecoming Queen strictly because there is a large reward (her town is REALLY into homecoming) that she desperately needs in order to attend the college she got into. Liz is an extremely relatable, likable character, and it was fun reading about her stepping out of her comfort zone, and then my chest tightened when she was outed, and my face got second-hand redness when she had confrontations with other classmates, because ugh high school kids amirite.

I dunno, I had fun with this one even though it 100% was not for my demographic.

4. Burn Our Bodies Down – Rory Power

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I picked this up because people kept saying it gave them Children of the Corn vibes. That would be a negative, pals. I think that Rory Power has an interesting writing style, which I really liked, but the story itself was like….I was really in it for a bit, pretty hooked after a certain point, but it just didn’t really take me there. I needed more. I mean, the “creepy small town holding secrets” vibe was there, the stern and overbearing grandma in the weird farmhouse was written well, the “OMG DO THESE TWO GIRLS LIKE EACH OTHER” tension had me flipping the pages…but Rory Power never really drove any of this home for me.

Also, I don’t even know how to explain it. Girl finds out she has a family outside of her mom and runs away from home to meet her grandma, even though mom has spent the girl’s whole life hiding her origins from her. OMG but why? I don’t know, read the book. It’s pretty fucked.

5. The Great Believers – Rebecca Makkai

The Great Believers

OK hold on. I just started spontaneously crying as soon as I saw this book cover.

THIS BOOK.

SOLID 5/5.

Jesus Christ.

I know that I’m a pretty sensitive person in general, but I think even I wasn’t, I still would have full-on sobbed at times while reading this, and then I got all choked up while trying to explain it to Henry. I guess I have a sick fascination with reading books about the 1980s AIDS crisis, because that is LARGELY what this novel about and it is fucking heartbre—hold on, I’m crying again OMG.

In The Great Believers, we follow two separate timelines: one is in the 80s, where we meet Yale and his group of friends and watch as they navigate the murky waters in the beginning of the AIDS epidemic. At first, I was worried that too many characters were being introduced, but I felt that each one was so fleshed out, they practically jumped off the pages. I became extremely, uncomfortably, attached to Yale and rooted for him SO FUCKING HARD.

The second timeline is in the late 2010s, which finds us in Paris with the sister of one of Yale’s friends, as she tries to track down her estranged daughter. A lot of reviews I read said that they could have done without this timeline, and I can see that. I was definitely less into these chapters, but it does all tie together for one extra curb-stomp to the soul.

I have also seen this book likened to a lighter version of A Little Life, which I want to read but after how devastating THIS book was to me, I’m even more terrified of picking up A Little Life.

Earlier today in the car:

Me: I really want to read A Little Life but I’m afraid it’s going to make me want to die.

Henry: Then don’t read it.

Me: But I really want to read it.

Henry: Then read it.

Henry, being an ambivalent sounding board to Erin R. Kelly since 2001.

6. He Started It – Samantha Downing

He Started It

OH MAN this was a FUN THRILLER. A group of siblings can’t get their inheritance left to them by their recently deceased grandfather until they embark on and complete the exact same road trip he took them on as children, only this time he’s with them in the form of his ashes.

There are so many twists, so many laugh out loud moments, so many OH SHIT moments — I can’t stress how fun this book is. I mean, come on – a sibling road trip, and by the way, none of the siblings particularly like each other.

The ending is a little….controversial. I think I would have given this a solid 5 had it not been for that “huh” ending, but it was still good enough that I asked Henry if he wanted to read it before I had to return it to the library, AND HE DID. And he liked it too! Except for the ending. He was a little mad about it.

Man, this also made me REALLY want to go on a road trip :(

7. The Silence of Bones – June Hur

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I knew nothing about this going into it but wow, I really enjoyed it! It’s historical fiction, set in Joseon Dynasty-era Korea, about a 16-year-old orphan who is basically a servant to the police bureau, from what I understood it was so she didn’t have to live in an orphanage. She finds herself assisting the young police inspector when a noblewoman turns up murdered.

I’m not typically wild about historical fiction, but this was so dark and gritty, and I always enjoy learning more about the history of Korea (this one talks a lot about the persecution of Christians in 1800s Korea, which was scary & interesting). I would recommend this to anyone who enjoys learning about the history of Korea while also trying to solve a mystery.

8. The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendericks & Sarah Pekkanen

The Wife Between Us

OH.MY.FUCKING.GOD. This thriller is a motherfucking roller coaster track of twists and turns. My work friend Megan had recently read it and loved it so I was like OK I WILL READ IT TOO TWIST MY ARM. I kept sending her messages like “WTFFFFFFF I HATE RICHARD” and she would be like INORITE.

First of all, it’s always intriguing me to when a book has two authors. I feel like I would never be able to write a book with anyone because I’m one of those Type A megalomaniac people who will be like, “OK. I can see where that would be a great idea….but we’re doing it my way.”

Anyway, holy shit this book! Every time I thought for sure I knew what was going on, what people’s motives were, etc etc,. everything was turned on its head, giving me reader’s whiplash. Hopefully Henry never planned on reading because on one of our nightly walks, I asked, “Can I tell you about that book I just finished OK great here it goes…”

Read you a book that makes you excitedly vomit the plot all over the sidewalk.

****

On that note, I’m gonna go back to screaming at the news. FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP FUCK TRUMP.

 

 

Sep 222020
 

Like the title said, this is PART 2 of the August books. God, context clues, people! Pick them up!

9. Catherine House – Elizabeth Thomas

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I gave this 1 star only because Goodreads doesn’t allow ZERO OR NEGATIVE STAR RATINGS. What a shit book full of insufferable human beings. I was led to believe this was going to be a thriller or have at least SOME horror elements to it but it was so fucking dumb and I think I will never give “dark academia” another chance unless someone I actually know personally recommends it to me because the last 4 books I’ve read from that genre have made me absolutely mad.

I wanted Suspiria vibes! Or at least a main character to root for! But instead I had no idea wtf was happening except that all the students seemed to subsist on desserts which was actually the only appealing part of this piece of shit stack of words.

The worst part is that I listened to this on audio while I was painting my front door so now every time I look at my door, I think of how shitty this stupid book was.

Shame that such a beautiful book cover was wasted on this junk story.

10. Follow Me to the Ground – Sue Rainsford

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This (short) book is about a father and daughter duo who heal the people in their town. Doctors? Who needs ’em when you can go visit the creepy non-human family at the edge of the village and have them crack open your body and then bury you in the dirt.

The daughter, Ada, mostly goes through life not getting attached to the people in the village until one day she meets a boy, falls in love, and basically has to create a vagina on her non-human form in order to do the thing with him. And, as it usually does with LOVE, shit starts to get complicated.

I admittedly picked this up just because of the vagina part (it was talked about a lot on Booktube, OK?!) and to my surprise, I enjoyed this so much more than I thought I would. Every other chapter is a short little interview-esque thing from various villagers who have either been cured by Ada and her father, or are just generally suspicious of them.

Super bizarre and fun to read and wouldja get a load of that book cover!?

11. In the Miso Soup – Ryu Murakami 

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I was really afraid to read this because for one thing: Japanese horror scares me more than other kind of horror. I mean, I’m haunted by various scenes of Japanese horror movies that I watched 20+ years ago, but certain images are seared into my brain.

I think some parts of this book might be added to my nightmare mental vignette.

This book follows a young Japanese man who works as a red light district “guide” for foreigners. The book starts out with him being hired by “Frank,” an American businessman who is really trying to live his best life while in Japan.

I will admit, it takes A LONG time for anything to actually happen in this one, but that’s not to say it’s boring. The buildup is slow and steady, and it’s told from the perspective of the guide, and while there is dialogue and a small cast of characters that are introduced as the story progresses, most of the book is a running internal monologue. So if that’s not your thing, skip this one.

When shit finally hits the fan, the violence made me feel queasy. If this were a movie, I’d probably have had to look away and said, “tell me when it’s done,” to Henry, lol.

HOWEVER!!! This wasn’t *as* traumatizing or horrific as I had been bracing for. Still, it was a solid read for me and I got so attached to our main character and kept screaming, “RUN!! JUST RUN!!” I really love Japanese horror.

Oh, and when I realized why the book is called this, I was a full-blown version of the “hmmm” emoji.

12. Such a Fun Age – Kiley Reid

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This has to be one of the most-hyped books of the year, and it took me forever to get it from the library. But, I will say it was worth the wait.

There is a lot of race explorations here and it was interesting to see how differently people reacted to the same situation, which was that a young Black babysitter is asked to come to the house of her employer relatively late at night because there was a non-tragic disturbance at the house requiring police assistance, and the mother doesn’t want her three year old daughter Briar to get upset, so she asks the babysitter to take her to the uppity grocery store down the street.

While there, another shopper (some dumb Karen) alerts the security guard that the babysitter may have kidnapped the kid, because *GASP* the kid is WHITE and the babysitter is BLACK. I actually thought the whole book was going to be about this, but as it turned out, it was just a quick scene in the beginning of the book, but it was interesting to see the domino effect it had on everyone. The babysitter just wanted to forget it ever happened, a (white) bystander recorded the whole thing on his phone and keeps pressuring her to sue, the mom of the little girl decides she needs to become BFFs with the babysitter after this happened and has major WHITE GUILT over it and does a whole lot of really cringey things throughout the book and honestly, I hated her. There was a lot of really questionable behavior going on under the guise of good intentions, and I kept getting a lot of secondhand embarrassment.

Like, the bystander at the grocery store? All of his friends are Black and he actually says the “n-word” out loud in front of his Black girlfriend, and like, I just can’t imagine EVER thinking it’s OK for me to say that word because I have some Black friends. This book is full of moments like this and maybe there are white people out there reading this book right now who never really thought about these things before – but now they are.

The one character that I REALLY LOVED and rooted for SO HARD was that damn little girl Briar. I mean, she was EVERYTHING. The relationship the babysitter had with her was so fucking wholesome and pure and if you think I’m sitting here tearing up while I write this, I will punch you in the nose, because ERIN DOESN’T CRY OVER CHILDREN.

But Briar, man. If she were my kid, I would never neglect her!!

Anyway, I went into this thinking that it was going to be some sweeping, pretentious literary fiction but it’s written with a very light, airy vibe. Which is deceiving considering it’s largely a critique of white savior complexes. Honestly, fuck that dumb mom.

13. The Vanishing Half – Brit Bennett

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Unless you avoid anything having to do with books, you have probably heard of this book by now. It is follows, over several decades, twin sisters who are white-passing. They run away from from home together when they’re teenagers and then become estranged from each other. One lives her life as a Black woman, and the other marries a white man and proceeds to live her life pretending to be someone she’s not. I didn’t care for that twin much at all, but later in the book, they each have a daughter and I actually enjoyed their stories even more.

Brit Bennett is an incredible writer and storyteller. I was actually nervous to read this because I thought it was going to be super dry and pretentious for some reason but nope – these sisters will suck you right the fuck in.

14. Sleepwalking – Meg Wolitzer

Sleepwalking

Meh. Talk about pretentious. This is it. I couldn’t wait for it to end and don’t even feel like writing any more about it.

15. The Only Good Indians – Stephen Graham Jones

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Ughhhhh this fucker. It’s a horror story about these 4 Native American friends who have an…experience 10 years ago and then revenge is sought.

I haven’t read many (if any??) books written by Native Americans and I really enjoyed the little nuggets of culture that Jones tucked in through this story, and while it didn’t really scare me, the animal parts made me extremely upset and queasy so does that count as horror? Definite trigger warnings for dog death, hunting, etc. I was traumatized. And there was a LOT of human violence and gore in this book that didn’t bother me at all, so you know where my allegiance lies!

While the story was kind of “Eh” for me, I did really enjoy the writing and I have another book of his waiting for me at the library so I’ll keep you posted!

Jesus I am so bad at reviewing books lol.

Sep 202020
 

Halfway through September and it occurs to me that maybe I should do a book-dump for August in case someday in the future, I’m on a life or death dystopian THIS IS YOUR LIFE game show and one of the questions is NAME THREE BOOKS YOU READ IN AUGUST 2020 and I’m like, “CAN I USE THE ‘CHECK MY BLOG’ LIFELINE??” and they’re like, “No you already used that for the HOW MANY TIMES DID YOU AND HENRY FIGHT AT RIOT FEST 2014 question” so never mind, I’m dead. We had a good run.

Let’s get into it. (That’s what some of the Booktubers say! I’m a loser!)

  1. Black Flower – Kim Young-Ha

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I wanted to like this so much more than I did. On one hand, I wonder if historical fiction just isn’t for me, but I don’t think that’s it. So this is a Korean novel about the emigration of 1000s of South Koreans to Mexico in the early 1900s, after being promised land and a better life.

First of all, I never knew that this happened, so I really appreciated that aspect of the book. And while I also appreciated what was clearly a lot of research and work by the author, a large part of this book just read like a textbook. There were times when I forgot that I had picked this up for pleasure and not because it was some course requirement. So by the time the ship transporting the Koreans reached Mexico, it had turned into something that I was slogging through. And that’s never a good thing.

However! I was pretty invested in quite a few of the characters (I will warn you that there are a lot of characters and it became hard to keep track of everyone, especially once they reached Mexico and became divvied up amongst the farm owners) so I pushed through.

I think I gave this a three because my takeaway was that I learned about a part of history that I definitely never learned in school and that was actually pretty fascinating. There was some war-stuff that happened once they were in Mexico and I am notorious to zone out when it comes to war of any kind. Even in Game of Thrones, I always had to ask Henry wtf was happening.

2. No Exit – Taylor Adams

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I left on one of the Booktubers I religiously watch one night when I went to bed, and Chooch migrated from the computer to the couch and got sucked into one of her videos where she talks about thrillers and the next thing I know, I’m getting this text:

So I requested it from the library and of course he never fucking read it so then I read it out of compulsion because I feel like a failure if I take something out of the library and don’t read it ugh. The whole thing takes place at a highway rest stop in a blizzard and I don’t really like…snowy books? Is that a thing? I mean, it was summer when I read this and it felt weird to read about people crunching around in the snow, and it also just made me miss rest stops which I never thought would be a thing I’d be typing since Henry has to constantly stop and pee on road trips and it’s so frustrating.

Anyway, it was fine. A thriller that was mildly thrilling.

3. Circe – Madeline Miller

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Circe is a retelling of, well, Circe. Man, I didn’t know anything about Circe going into this but hoo boy was she was treated like SHIT. I’ve never been much into gods and goddesses of any sort (Roman, Greek, Nordic, take your pick) but this was pretty interesting and entertaining. I listened to this on audiobook and the narrator had such a beautiful voice that I’m not sure the book would have really done much for me if I had just read it with my eyeballs (I was also anti-audiobook but this year has REALLY CHANGED me).

However! I did start to lose interest midway through. I think I ended up giving this a three?

The general consensus in the book community is that Song of Achilles is far superior so perhaps I will give that a try too. Otherwise, I think it might be safe to say that I should just go back to my cave of mythological ignorance.

4. Another Brooklyn – Jacqueline Woodson

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I fell in love with this author’s latest book, Red at the Bone, and I powered through this one in less than a day. A really powerful coming-of-age tale, very short, written in elegant prose. I liked Red at the Bone a lot better, but I think that I need to keep reading more of Woodson’s work because her writing actually makes my eyes tear up.

5. Broken Things – Lauren Oliver

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A YA mystery that I actually didn’t guess and was moderately captivating. However, there was this one character that just seemed to be “there” and she was so annoying and served barely any purpose. I kept waiting for some big reveal but it never happened. It kind of made me laugh a little though because it’s about this group of 3 girls who were best friends in middle school and so obsessed with this fantasy novel that they started writing their own sequel for it and I was definitely in a friend group back in middle school with these girls Kim and Kelli and we were really into writing stories but everyone knew that I was the best writer (lol) and Kelli and I had a huge fight because we just couldn’t write well together and then we didn’t talk for months and it all culminated into one giant blow-out in the girls locker in 8th grade where I slapped her across the face and knocked her glasses off and then a few days later, I was at the Halloween dance and some girl came up to me and asked me if it was true that I did that and I said yes and she said, “WELL KELLI IS MY FRIEND AND IF YOU EVER DO THAT AGAIN, I’LL KICK YOUR ASS” and then flash forward two years to when that girl threatening to beat my ass became one of my best friends ever, LISA. Lol.

I never talked to Kelli again though. I BET I AM STILL A BETTER WRITER THAN HER.

Anyway, this is one of those YA books that I think I would have enjoyed a lot more 20 years ago.

6. All Boys Aren’t Blue – George M. Johnson 

All Boys Aren't Blue

I am super into LGBTQIA+ memoirs. Even if you think you have an open mind and you’re a “friend to all,” reading stories about what LGBTQIA+ people have had to overcome and are still fighting for is really one of the only ways we can truly have their backs.

George M. Johnson is a fucking DELIGHT. What I really enjoyed about this one is his relationship with his family. They are so loving and supportive of him, and even admit to not fully understanding a lot of the times, but they have his back nonetheless.

I usually choose the audiobook route for memoirs and it was even more impactful to hear these stories and essays read my George himself.

I am really bad at reviewing memoirs.

7. The Guest List – Lucy Foley

The Guest List

This is one of those super hyped books for 2020 and even though I started to see some mediocre reviews, I was really excited to finally get my hands on it (well, virtually, anyway). It was…not really that great.  There’s a wedding on some island. The entire wedding party is made up of fucking douchebags. There’s the wedding planner/owner of the property where the wedding is taking place. The “plus one” of a dude in the wedding party. The bride’s little sister. The chapters alternate between the POV of various characters and they are all pretty unlikeable.

Anyway, someone dies, OMG. But you don’t  know who it is until the end because the timeline alternates between the day before the wedding and the moment the person is murdered.

It wasn’t very thrilling.

8. Sodom Road Exit – Amber Dawn 

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I fucking adored this book. I don’t even know how to explain it but it’s a “going back home” story set in the late 80s about a Canadian girl – Starla – in her early 20s forced to leave Toronto because of debt and move back to her childhood home with her mom in a small town in Canada that happens to famous for its abandoned amusement park called Crystal Beach (IT’S REAL, I LOOKED IT UP AND AM NOW SO SAD THAT IT REALLY DID CLOSE IN THE 80S AND NOW I CAN NEVER EXPERIENCE IT).

She has a very strained relationship with mom and then starts being haunted by a ghost connected to the amusement park and now you’re thinking, “Oh OK this is a horror novel,” but IT IS NOT. It’s actually really dark contemporary, I guess? But also SO FUCKING FUNNY. Like, I should have counted the amount of times I said, “THE FUCK?” and laughed out loud, but I didn’t because I’m not a professional reader who takes notes, etc while reading.

Amber Dawn wrote the characters in this book so well that I felt a legit kindred with all of them. It’s the most rag-tag band of characters you can imagine, coming together in this fucking campground while the main character is being possessed by this ghost girl from a bygone era (some of the chapters are written from her perspective, too, and they are a real goddamn delight) and I swear to god, by the time I finished this, I hugged it to my chest and screamed, “WHAT DID I JUST READ?” and then laughed until I cried. I want a full series with these characters, do you hear me, Amber Dawn?

P.S. This book also taught me about Crystal Beach suckers which apparently is still being made from the original recipe!

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And that’s the first half! I think I only have 7 more books to recap – August was a light reading month, apparently, lol. I’m always looking for some books to request from the library (still cheering about it being semi-open again!) so please leave a comment if you’ve recently read something I’d like! My work friend Megan gives me lots of thriller recs, but I need some good, sick horror and contemporary lit too so fire away!

 

Aug 242020
 

Yikes, I guess I better finish this wrap-up before it’s September!

9. The Grip of It – Jac Jemc

The Grip of It

This is a horror novel about a married couple who buy a house for dirt cheap in some small town and shit starts happening to both of them, an old neighbor stares at them from his window, etc etc. The chapters alternate between the perspective of the husband and wife, and I really liked that, but…I also didn’t really care too much about them and therefore I didn’t really care about what happened? I think I gave this a 3 on Goodreads, and I remember (because a month was so fucking long ago) that I was really feeling the ambiance of this one in the beginning but then it just kind of lost steam for me. I wanted too much, I guess.

10. Big Summer – Jennifer Weiner 

Big Summer

My second Jennifer Weiner book, and wow was this one a lot different than “Mrs. Everything”! This was pretty unexpected because I went into it purposely not knowing too much and I honestly thought it was just going to be a fluffy beach read about a girl who reunites with an emotionally abusive ex-BFF just in time to be a bridesmaid in her wedding. It is SO MUCH MORE. I really adored the main character, her parents, the REAL best friend. This was just…another winner from Weiner, I guess you could say? Great summer read!

11. The Memory Police – Yoko Ogawa

The Memory Police

This one gutted me. There is nothing feel-good or happy about this book at all, it’s pretty bleak. The memories of certain things are gradually taken away from the inhabitants of this small town, for example: One day, they wake up and it’s like “the fuck is that?” and it’s a bird, but then all of the birds have to leave the town and the Memory Police go house to house to make sure everyone has removed all traces of birds, be it a painting or a book about birds.

But there are some people who keep remembering, and the Memory Police are always on the hunt for those special individuals, so some people will hide them in their houses.

That’s the gist of this book. It’s incredibly well-written, I fell in love with every character, I cried. This book is incredible but I don’t recommend it if you’re looking for something to lift you out of a depression.

Also, can we talk about how stunning that cover design is???

12. Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead – Olga Tokarczuk

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead

OK, OK, OK, listen. I was very on the fence with this book the whole time I was reading it. I kept losing interest and I think it’s because the main character was SUPER INTO astrology and I AM SUPER NOT so it would get way too detailed for me and I would be yawning into my palms. But then the book ended and I legitimately couldn’t stop thinking about it, for a good solid week I would say.

First of all, there is a great cast of characters here, and the main character herself, with all of her asides, observations, and palpable disdain for the local police (I feel ya, girl!), was SO LOVABLE and incredibly memorable.

Second of all, this is a quirky murder mystery that touched upon animal rights and vegetarianism, and ya’ll know I’m over here like “YES, TEAM ANIMAL!!”

I could see this being turned into a movie, with the Coen Brothers at the helm.

13. If I Had Your Face – Frances Cha

If I Had Your Face

I was on the waitlist for this Korean book for weeks upon weeks and I was getting so impatient, especially when a co-worker emailed me and said she was reading it and she thought I would like it and guess what? I FUCKING LOVED IT.

I mean, once I finally got it.

This book is about how much of an emphasis is placed on beauty in Korea. You know how much I love South Korea, but it’s 100% true and I can’t even white knight their society on that. I mean, as soon as you get off the subway in Gangnam, there are giant ads for plastic surgeons all over the place and people legit take “medical vacations” to Korea just to get some kind of cosmetic surgery done. Girls start getting eyelid surgery when they’re still in high school!

Anyway, this book follows a group of 4 girls in Seoul and shows how each of them struggle in different ways because of the ridiculous beauty standard. Each chapter switches over to a different girl and I really liked that, but only because each character was so interesting. Sometimes when a book does this, there always seems to be that one weak character whose chapters are a fucking drag to read.

I highly recommend this. I don’t think you need to be super into Korean culture or anything as prerequisite and just a heads up: anytime the book mentions a kpop star or actor, they’re fictional.

14. The Family Upstairs – Lisa Jewell 

The Family Upstairs

OK, Lisa Jewell. I see you. I love a good thriller and this one had me hooked pretty early on. At first I wasn’t sure I was going to like her writing style (it’s very much like “Karen sits down. Karen picks up the glass. Karen takes a drink.”) but it ended up not being as distracting as I thought it was going to be. This is another one where the chapters switch off and it also does a timeline jump too – I admittedly was way more invested in the “past” stuff that was happening.

Plus, there’s some cult shit going on in this story and I am all about cults, so my interest was piqued.

I’m definitely interested in checking out more of Jewell’s books, because I am so picky with thrillers and this gave me hope that maybe I actually haven’t grown out of the genre.

15. The Wicker King – K. Ancrum

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MAJOR DISAPPOINTMENT. I picked this up because a booktuber raved about it and the pages themselves are so pretty with a little bit of multi-media action thrown in. It’s a (sort of love) story between two high school boys who have been friends since they were kids when one of them saved the other and they stayed friends even though they’re in two totally different social circles, but one of them has some sort of hallucinations about a wicker king and sees an entirely separate and fantastic universe layered on top of the reality and drags the other one down with him into a dangerous spiral.

I liked the concept of this book and it was certainly a quick read since so many pages were taken up with sketches and maps. But the whole thing left me feeling very empty. I didn’t really care about either of the boys. I dunno. Don’t recommend.

16. Like a Love Story – Abdi Nazemian 

Like a Love Story

Can I recap this book without crying? I don’t think I can. I really thought this was going to be some lighthearted YA romp but nope nope nope. This book follows three teens, one of whom is an Iranian immigrant and very much in the closet; one is extremely out and a huge AIDS activist; and one is the straight girl friend with a gay uncle who has AIDS and honestly he was my favorite part of this whole book.

It’s set in NYC in the late 80s, at the height of the AIDS epidemic, and honestly it shocked me how little I actually know about this. I think I have already touched on this in another post, but I was in elementary school when all this was going on and for sure didn’t know that protests were happening because of the pharmaceutical companies inflating the cost of the medicine that HIV and AIDS patients needed.

So the book focuses a lot on this, and how the Iranian character (Reza) is terrified of even riding the subway with a hangnail because what if he gets AIDS. I mean, it was heartbreaking.

Madonna also plays a big part in the book. Another thing I never knew back then is what a powerful beacon of hope she was for the gay community and how she had all gay dancers on her Vogue tour. I haven’t given a shit about anything Madonna has done since like the mid-90s but this book had me powering through all her old videos from the 80s and missing my childhood hardcore. It also made me feel like I would have been a big-mouth AIDS activist if I had been older in the 80s.

The day after my birthday, I went for a walk around my neighborhood and listened to the tail-end of this on Scribd. Yo–I was crying so hard that I had to duck into an alley to hide my open weeps. Goddammit for a YA book, this one got me hard. I wish that it had been out when I was a teenager. I think all teens should read this.

I’ll end this book recap of a picture of me from….1st grade? when I was Madonna for Halloween. Man, I didn’t appreciate that blazer nearly as much as I should have, that’s for sure. And you can’t really tell from the picture, but that’s def a giant crucifix on my chain. Also, fun fact: I HATED Jellies. All of my friends had Jellies in like every color but I hated how they felt on my feet, ugh.

I was obsessed with Desperately Seeking Susan. OK, I’m signing off now before I really row my canoe over Memory Falls.

Aug 092020
 

I feel like July was a slow reading month for me because of all of the house bullshit we’ve been doing but I just counted 16 books so I guess it still pretty literary, lol. Anyway — let’s talk about the first half SHALL WE.

  1. Patsy – Nicole Y. Dennis-Benn

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I did not enjoy this book at all. I actually started it at the tailend of June but it wasn’t holding my attention enough for me to feel very inspired to power through it. It’s about a Jamaican woman who essentially abandons her small daughter (I think she’s 4? 6?) in order to go and start a new life in America. She leaves the daughter with her bio-dad and swears she’s going to send for her, but the real reason she’s gone off to America is to rekindle an old romance with her childhood best friend, who has moved on and gotten married and now Patsy has to start from scratch and newsflash, America AIN’T THAT GREAT.

The book goes back and forth between Patsy’s struggle in America and her daughter’s own struggles growing up in Jamaica with some major sexual identity crises. I wish we had gotten more from the daughter’s perspective because Patsy pissed me off and I truly didn’t care about her selfish ass.

2. Saints and Misfits – S.K. Ali

Saints and Misfits

I was excited to read this after buddy-reading the author’s latest book, Love from A to Z, with Henry last spring. This wasn’t *as good* but I still enjoyed it. It’s billed as a “modern day My So-Called Life, but with a Muslim teen” and I think that’s pretty accurate. The main character is all up in her head for the entire book and it can get tiresome at times, and there’s also a guy who sexually assaulted her but she won’t tell anyone and that was SO FUCKING FRUSTRATING to me because he was such a fucking creep and just kept appearing and I was like SCREAM IT LOUD, GIRLFRIEND.

I think I gave it a 4 but it’s definitely more of a 3 now that I think about it.

3. Rules For Vanishing – Kate Alice Marshall

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Man, this book was SO TRY-HARD. I’m not even sure I would have liked it when I was a teenager. I picked it up because I had been reading some heavier subjects and thought this would be a nice light supernatural mystery because it’s supposed to be urban legend-y with a disappearing teenager, but it was so poorly written with way too many characters, none of which I gave a shit about, and there were entire chunks of chapters that I ended up skimming toward the end because I wanted to know how it was going to end which was the only reason I didn’t DNF it, but it was pretty bad, and it had an open-ending so I’m sure we’ll get a sequel at some point and I promise you I won’t be reading it.

I wish I had listened to my Booktuber friends who said it was dumb but I always get swayed by a gimmick!

4. Felix Ever After – Kacen Callender

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This is another book that everyone has been hyping lately and while the main character was kind of unlikable (for me, anyway) I’m glad that I read it because I admittedly have not read many (if any) books with a trans main character and I actually learned A LOT about this, for instance: I never knew that calling a trans person by their old name is called Deadnaming and it’s incredibly offensive and triggering for them (that part I could have guessed, but I never knew it had a term).

Felix is already very much out but this book is more about the struggle they face with trying to bury the person they were before. For example, Felix goes through great lengths to hide all of their old photos, and confronts their dad at one point for consistently refusing to call them Felix.

So many things made me cringe and flinch though. I mean, there’s a HEAVY Catfishing plotline and Felix just makes so many shitty choices. I just really didn’t like them very much at all but I enjoyed the book? Just not as much as I hoped? I’m getting worse at book reviews, if that’s even possible.

5. Diary of a Murderer: And Other Stories – Kim Young-Ha

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This is, as the title suggests, a short story collection. The title story was SO GOOD, definitely the best one. Though I wonder: would I have enjoyed this book as much if I wasn’t super-absorbed in Korean culture? I’m not sure. But the vibe I got from this was reminiscent of one of my favorite Korean dramas, “Come & Hug Me,” which is about a serial killer and made me feel so tense and uncomfortable, much like this book did. Well, the first story, anyway. I already forgot the other ones.

I’m just not a lover of short stories, I think. I’m learning things about myself this year.

6. The Ghost Notebooks – Ben Dolnick

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SHIT I LOVED THIS BOOK. It got very mediocre reviews though and I guess I can of understand because it’s not a ghost story in the traditional sense, but it’s very much an exploration of a deteriorating relationship. The atmosphere in this was thick, I felt like I was really in some New York farm town, but the best part was Ben Dolnick’s writing. This book is written from the POV of the boyfriend and I just felt so sympathetic toward him and, when shit really starts to unravel, I was rooting for him so fucking hard to prevail. When I’m that invested in a character, I don’t care about anything else. Honestly.

Anyway, Nick’s gf Hannah gets a job at some small-town museum called the Wright House, but the catch is that they have to live in the old-timey house-cum-museum. Everything starts out fine, they’re excited to start a new life away from NYC, but then Hannah, who has a history of mental illness, starts acting weird. Do not go into this expecting a traditional haunted house story – this is a slow burn, and it’s very focused on the relationship between Nick and Hannah, so we get a lot of flash backs into the beginning of their relationship, as well.

I just thought it was so well-written and beautifully layered. There’s another “ghost-y” book that I read later on in the month that was a bit similar except that I didn’t care about the couple at all. But this one was a full-on chef’s kiss for me – now granted, my palate is probably very different than yours, so if you read this and hate this, don’t come knocking on my (goodreads) door.

7. Sawkill Girls – Claire Legrand 

Sawkill Girls

Another YA book that is well-lauded throughout the Booktube community but just fell flat for me. I liked that it had very strong female leads and featured a sapphic romance, but the story just felt convoluted and am I dense or something because this book is literally for young adults and I had a real hard time following the plot.

I don’t feel like writing anything else about this one. I’m bored just thinking about it. tbh.

8. Clap When You Land – Elizabeth Acevado 

Clap When You Land

OK, can we give it up for Elizabeth Acevado? SHIT SON she is definitely one of my favorite writers, having read two of her books now. This one, like Poet X, is also written in verse, but here we have alternating perspectives: two girls who will come to find out after their dad perishes in a plane crash, that they’re sisters. It’s actually based on the flight from NYC to the Dominican that crashed in November of 2001, two months after 9/11. I truthfully do not remember this which makes me feel like an asshole but I was 22 and quite honestly was definitely not watching the nightly news and this was pre-smartphones so I was getting tragic news alerts every hour like I do now, fml.

Anyway, this book goes back and forth between the two teenage sisters, exploring how their dad’s death affects each of them and how very different their lives are, one growing up in NYC and one in the Dominican.

(I’m actually tearing up as I write this because this story really hit differently for me, because I went 19 years of my life not knowing that my birth dad had other children. He died when I was 3, so meeting them was something I had to do on my own, without him, and…it was strange. I do not have a relationship with either of them.)

If you’ve never read an Elizebeth Acevado book, I HIGHLY recommend listening to the audio because she does her own narration, and especially for Poet X, it just feels like a PERFORMANCE. I never thought I would like a book written in prose, but Poet X turned me into a believer, and this book sealed the deal. I just got her other book from a local Little Library on my lunch break walk with Chooch on Friday, so I am stoked to compete the Acevado trifecta and then patiently await her next book like a good little reader.

Jul 122020
 

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.

9. Costalegre – Courtney Maum

Costalegre: A Novel Inspired By Peggy Guggenheim and Her Daughter

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

The Chestnut Man

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

In the Dream House: A Memoir

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

Get a Life, Chloe Brown (The Brown Sisters, #1)

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 

Freshwater

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

Queenie

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

How We Fight for Our Lives: A Memoir

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

Black Girl Unlimited

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.

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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!

Jul 052020
 

Another month of reading, in the books! Hahaha, get it? IN THE BOOKS? Ok.

I didn’t join any readathons this time around because I wanted to have a more relaxed TBR and have a more leisurely reading month; Asianreadathon brought out my internal competitor and without even consulting with myself, I embarked on some frantic race to try and read as many Asian-penned books as possible and it was v. stressful….

  1. A Good Girl’s Guide To Murder – Holly Jackson

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Unfortunately, my first book of the month was just so-so. This was young adult murder mystery (I think it’s book one in a series?) about a girl who chooses to focus her senior project on a local murder that she believes was solved incorrectly. Some YA books, if written well, can totally be awesome reads for adults, but this is one that I think only really works for the demographic it specifically targets. I just kept saying, “Oh yeah, sure OK, mmhmm, just like that” through so much of it. Like when our protagonist tails a drug dealer to his house—AT NIGHT—and goes inside to interrogate him and she tells him that she knows he was supplying the murdered girl with drugs to sell at school and he better give her the info she wants or she’s going to expose him and he’s all, “oh no, OK teenager, I will comply” because that is EXACTLY how it would happen IRL.

I didn’t care about any of the characters except for the brother of the boy accused of the murder. And then when you finally find out what really happened, it’s like…oh.

2. The Diviners – Libba Bray

The Diviners (The Diviners, #1)

THIS BOOK. I kept hearing so much about this series but put it off because it’s set in the 1920s and for some reason, I thought I wouldn’t like that, but then I got the audiobook for it and HOLY.FUCKING.SHIT. What a wild ride. Apparently, I guess I do like the flapper scene? This is also considered YA and people kept saying it was “so scary” and it is pretty chilling at times, but if you already like horror, you’re probably not going to be sleeping with the lights on after reading this or anything. But the story is very compelling, entertaining, and historically interesting (it touches on segregation and prohibition, and has a moderately diverse cast of characters).

Speaking of the characters, this cast is so fleshed-out, well-developed, stuffed with personality, you will find it hard to pick a favorite. (I personally oscillated between stanning Sam and Jericho!)

But yo, the audiobook is EVERYTHING. It’s narrated by January LeVoy and can we start a petition to have her narrate EVERYTHING IN EXISTENCE? Holy shit, her voice is versatile and there are parts where she sings and, unlike Will Patton shitting the narration bed for the Raven Boys series, it was 100% cringe-free. Her 1920s accents and cadence made me tear through this book in no time, and the book itself inspired me to want to know more about that flapper life. I also learned new (old?) slang, like “Everything’s jake” and “I’m on the trolley.”

Libba Bray clearly did a ton of research for this series (I can’t wait to start book 2!) and getting January to narrate it was a real Smartee move.

5 out of 5 for me. I would recommend this one to everyone! Don’t let the YA label deter you!

3. Fake Blood – Whitney Gardner

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I thought this was an actual novel when I got it from Libby, but it’s a graphic novel. Which is fine, but I just wanted a little more from it because the synopsis sounded so cute! A boy likes this girl in his class who is obsessed with vampires so he starts pretending that he is a vampire only to find out that she’s a vampire hunter, etc etc. It’s pretty quick, and the illustrations are cute, but had I probably wouldn’t have read this if it hadn’t been accidental, lol.

4. Turn of the Key – Ruth Ware

The Turn of the Key

I was anxious to get back to the thriller game and there have been so many on my list. But I had been hearing so much about Ruth Ware’s Turn of the Key, that I bumped it to the top of my TBR, after putting it off for months. Literally every booktuber I follow salivates over this book so I was excited! I also listened to this on audio (it’s easier for me to listen to thrillers on audio while I work; literary fiction, not so much!) and the narrator was wonderful – she has a beautiful voice and since this book is written in epistolary-style, it felt like she was talking straight to me which I really enjoyed!

So, this is evidently a retelling of Turn of the Screw, which I have never read. And I was unsure about it at first because the setting is a “smart house” in some remote area of the Scottish Highlands. The setting was creepy AF and the smart house actually did add more to the creepiness factor than I anticipated (I couldn’t imagine how something “modern” could work in a haunted house trope because my imagination is a petrified walnut at this point in the quarantine).

But yes, the mystery kept me 100% invested — I couldn’t wait to get to the end and find out WTF happened, how the hell this woman landed in jail for murdering a kid (not a spoiler – it’s how the book starts and is all over the synopsis). I shed legit tears at the end and said, “OH DA-YYYYYYUM” when it was revealed. This book lived up to the hype, IMO, and usually I’m anti-hype.

I heard this is the strongest of all of Ruth Ware’s books, but I think I will still check out her older books and see for myself.

5. Black Chalk – Christopher J. Yates

Black Chalk

Yeah, I fucking hated this book. I hated every character. This is the second “dark academia” book that completely bombed for me so I’m starting to think that maybe this genre isn’t for me? It all revolves a group of college friends in the UK and they start playing some game which I never even fully understood, and basically it just seemed like truth or dare where there are no truths, only dares, and the dares involved doing something embarrassing/racist/provocative with increasingly higher stakes and one of them goes insane and the ending is just like “are you kidding me?”

This is a hot pile. Steaming. I wish I had a physical copy so I could have chucked it across the room when I was done.

6. The Unhoneymooners – Christina Lauren

The Unhoneymooners

OK OK OK, I don’t usually get down with romance but I always hear about Christina Lauren (who is apparently a writing duo!) and this one seemed cute because it’s hate-to-love which, if I’m going to read a romance, I’ll choose that trope, please. Plus, it’s a Hawaii setting and I needed an escape.

SHIT YOU GUYS. I liked this book so much more than I was willing to admit at first, lol. It was FUN and cute and I liked both characters so much and rooted for both of them so damn hard. It’s about the sister and brother of a bride and groom who can’t go on their honeymoon because they, along with everyone but the brother and sister, get horrible food poisoning at the reception (he didn’t eat because he’s adverse to buffets and she doesn’t like seafood, so they were unscathed). Anyway, the bride is like, “Look, you have to go on this honeymoon for us because I won it and they won’t let us change the reservations, etc” and the guy and girl are like UGH THIS SUCKS WE HATE EACH OTHER SO MUCH but they agree and figured that they’ll just do their own thing once they arrive, but then something happens that forces them to have to stick together, and sure it’s a series of ridiculous follies & coincidences that would never happen IRL, but sometimes we need this escape, right?

And I cried at the end. (Happily!)

This is a GREAT summer read. Sit in a sandbox with it and drink something tropical or whatever. It’s a sweet read.

7. Shelter – Jun Yun 

Shelter

This was a carry-over from Asian Readathon and I was so excited when it was available on Libby, but it just didn’t really do it for me. It’s a family drama with a mystery element, but VERY QUIET and slow-moving, yet at the same time, it was very hard to connect to or really get to know any of the characters.

Or maybe I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind for this one at the time I read it. I didn’t think it was a bad book by any means, it just didn’t really have the impact that I expected it to have based on the reviews I read.

I do really enjoy books written by Korean authors though, and with this one, I liked that there was a bit of Korean culture strewn about even though the main character was American-born. I would give this author another try in the future.

8. Girl, Woman, Other – Bernardine Evaristo

Girl, Woman, Other

This was the best book I read in June (maybe even the whole year so far), I can’t stop thinking about it, imagining it in my head as a movie, trying to talk to Henry about it, reading reviews about it, recommending it….It was a journey. 

It follows 12 different people (mostly women, Black, and British) and I really have to tell you that there was not a single character I felt was empty, under-developed, or couldn’t get a clear picture of in my head. Evaristo is A BRILLIANT WRITER and there were numerous times when I was straight-up swooning at her turn of phrase. THIS is what I missed during the years I wasn’t regularly-reading. THIS is the stuff that inspires me to want to start writing again. THIS BOOK IS EVERYTHING.

Every time a character from earlier in the book showed up in another character’s chapter, I was so stoked and giddy!

I rooted for every character. I wanted them all to have the best lives ever. They felt so real to me and please please please please please can this be a movie? (The director better be a goddamned Black woman though!!)

Please, read this book. It’s incredible and there is no way for me to do it justice with my shoddy review skills. Just know that I will be buying a physical copy of this because I NEED IT and this author deserves to stuff my cash in her pocket.

***

This is the first half of the books I read in June! Pretty solid. I’ll be back later this week with the second half. Now I have to go and supervise Henry as he paints our kitchen and then pray some more that this project will be done soon-ish because right now our stove is living in the dining room and we have been eating pizza everyday. I can’t live like this. I mean, I love pizza, but I also love eating home-cooked meals and also we can’t go on the back porch because everything else from the kitchen is currently stashed back there and Penelope is very sad about this because the back porch is where she goes to sun bathe and she’s very confused about how it turned into a walk-in pantry in disarray overnight.

It will be worth it. It will be worth it. It will be worthit. It will beworthit. It willbeworthit. Itwillbeworthit. ITWILLBEWORTHITITWILLBEWORTHITITWILLBEWORTHIT.

Jun 082020
 

Before I get into the last week of what I read for Asian Readathon, I want to take a moment to share a list of Black-owned independent book stores. I know that a lot of my friends are on a mission to read more books by Black authors, but please consider patronizing these small businesses in lieu of Amazon or whatever big chain book store you’d normally turn to. It’s a small way we can show support & love to our Black bookish community members while also doing all the other actual hard work! And keep those shelves diverse, because lord knows we all can stand to fill our brains with perspectives and experiences that differ from our own. <3

(Credit: Instagram user worn_ware)

21. Devotion of Suspect X – Keigo Higashino 

The Devotion of Suspect X (Detective Galileo, #1)

This Japanese thriller was a wild ride! Henry and I listened to the audio book and then immediately watched the movie – the book was better. One of the characters is a math teacher and I thought I’d be deterred by the math elements but it made the story even more interesting. This is actually #3 in the “Professor Galileo” series, but the only one that’s been translated to English. From what I read, you don’t have to read them in order, which is good, because I had already started reading it when I found out, lol.

I highly recommend this to my thriller lovers who are looking for something different.

22. The Good Son – Jeong You-Jeong

The Good Son

Another psychological thriller, but this time we’re back in Korea, boyyyy. In this one, we’re following a boy in his 20s as he tries to figure out DA FUQ happened after he wakes up and finds his mom dead. It goes back and forth between present day and memories. It’s pretty effing chilling, and also….quiet.

23. Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed

Written in the Stars

Full disclosure, I picked this up thinking it was going to be some YA fluff and I kind of needed that after two back-to-back thrillers. Um, wow, no. This book is FUCKING HEAVY. Our main character Naila is Pakistani American and gets busted going to prom with her boyfriend Saif and shit really hits the fan because her immigrant parents are TRADITIONAL. So they arrange a family trip back to Pakistani that summer and first it’s just for like, two weeks, then it keeps getting extended, and eventually Naila realizes it’s because her parents and extended family are trying to marry her off.

This book….it gets SO REAL and I was actually terrified. I had no idea it would get as deep and dark as it did and I’m glad it did because this shit is the reality for lots of women and it really makes you have perspective.

Like, her family literally was like, “Marriage is more important than education” when all this poor girl cared about was getting back to the States in time for college orientation. It was crazy. Asian Readathon really took me on a lot of rides.

24. In Order to Live: A North Korean Girl’s Journey to Freedom – Park Yeonmi

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I wanted to read at least one non-fiction book for this readathon and I knew early on that it would be this one. Yeonmi lived in North Korea until she was 13 so not only does she provide a pretty detailed glimpse into what life was like in under the rule of the Kims, but her mother also helped provide an extensive family history, so you can see the ebb and flow of their living conditions. That’s scary enough as it is, but once it gets into the actual defecting portion of the book, I was biting my nails off. The shit she and her mother went through in China made me cry all of the tears I had inside me.

I’m not a big biography reader, but I would recommend this to anyone who is interested in learning more about North Korea from the perspective of a young defector, because there was a lot I didn’t know myself. For instance, did you know that in North Korean classrooms, elementary school kids learn math not with apples and oranges, but with propaganda. (From the book: “If you kill one American bastard and your comrade kills two, how many dead American bastards do you have?”)

Park Yeonmi is one brave lady. I wouldn’t have lasted a day in her shoes.

25. The Wrath & the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh 

The Wrath and the Dawn (The Wrath and the Dawn, #1)

I almost didn’t pick this one up off my Libby shelf but HOO BOY am I glad I did. It’s a retelling of 1001 Arabian Nights and it is LEGIT FIRE. When I read the synopsis, I was full shrug mode, but Renee Ahdieh can WRITE DIALOGUE, you guys. Holy shit, she wrote the most brilliant characters, the banter was edgy and real, and the personalities fucking sparkled.

Shazi infiltrates the palace to avenge the death of her best friend, killed by the young king who kills all of his wives. She is a strong lead, and her handmaiden is SASSY AF. I had a lot of fun reading this which was good since my last several books were so heavy and depressing.

There’s a sequel to this that I haven’t added to my list yet but you better believe I’ll read it this summer!

26. The Farm – Joanne Ramos

The Farm

Yeah, I didn’t like this much at all and I don’t really have much to say about it expect that I learned about some Filipino desserts that I want Henry to make now.

There wasn’t a single likable character in this book and it was just…not great. Unless you like reading about girls who get paid to have babies for super rich people but they have to live in this super strict and Big Brother-y facility. Then this book was made for you.

27. Severance – Ling Ma

Severance

Another post-apocalyptic novel! This one was about the “Shen Fever” which basically turned people into non-violent zombie-types who performed the same task over and over on a loop, like folding clothes, but they aren’t the focus here. The main character is a 20-something Chinese American living in NYC and working for a company that publishes Bibles, when the fever hits, and it alternates between her on the road with a small group of survivors, and her life preceding the fever. I gave this a 3 on Goodreads, but it’s more of a very solid 3.5 and ONLY because the ending is too….open.

I fell in love with Ling Ma’s writing and this was a different, fresh take on apocalyptic novels and I really needed that. The ending though, ugh.

28. The Majesties – Tiffany Tsao 

The Majesties

I finished this one on the very last day of the month and I’m really glad I was able to squeeze it in! It’s like a darker Crazy Rich Asians, following two Indonesian sisters and their, well, crazy rich family. Right away, it starts with one of the sisters mass-murdering 300 of their family and friends—not a spoiler—and the rest of the book follows the other sister, the sole survivor, as she tries to piece together what happened to make her sister do it.

I REALLY LIKED THIS BOOK and didn’t even see the (not too original, but still effective) twist coming.

***

So that’s it! I ended up reading 28 books, encompassing everything from literary fiction, YA, thrillers, dystopian novels, one graphic novel, and one non-fiction, and I DNFd two books (Guilded Wolves and The Terracotta Bride). I was going to make some graphics breaking down my stats even further, but who has time for that these days.

May 302020
 

Look, I’ve already read over 20 books this month so instead of waiting for May to end and cramming the last two week’s of books into one post, we’re gonna just talk about all of Week Three’s books here now. I managed to squeeze in 6 of ’em. I’m sorry I have been reading so much/fast, but this specific readathon has been igniting something inside of me, you guys! I’m getting so much out of (most of) these books—ask Janna, I’m always texting her face off about new things I’ve learned. She puts up with the unsolicited info-splooges though, bless her.

OK, I think we left off at book #14 on my last check-in, so let’s gooooooo.

15. Love From A to Z – S.K. Ali

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I went into this expecting some fluffy YA romance but this contained some heavy-hitting shit about Islamaphobia and multiple sclerosis. Henry and I listed to the audio book of this during our weekend cemetery strolls and even he was like, “OK this book is alright” although he was probably hoping for some sappy, sugary recreation of Sweet Valley High that he probably stashed under his bed in THE SERVICE.

A huge plot point of this book revolves around the main character, Zayneb, getting suspended from school because her Islamaphobic teacher has it out for her. (He even purposely mispronounces her name and WHY DO ASSHOLES LIKE THAT KEEP GETTING TEACHING JOBS?!) Her mom ends up sending her to Doha to spend time with her aunt, because her suspension happens to be the week before spring break, so nearly the entire book takes place there in Doha and I was living for it. I don’t know much about that part of the world so it Henry and me doing YouTube travel vlog deep-dives. It also gave us SO MUCH to talk about—I had to pause the audio every time Zayneb experienced yet another form of discrimination because it was making me so angry and frustrated.

And Adam’s character was so sweet—I stan!

I liked this book because it wasn’t saccharine or unrealistic. The romance wasn’t even the central theme, so it didn’t take away from the more important messages. I have another SK Ali book on my TBR for June and I’m so excited to read it!

(Also, I cried really hard at the hard. I loved this book!)

16. The Night Tiger – Yangsze Choo

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OK, I can’t remember why I added this to my Asian Readathon TBR, if I saw it recommended somewhere or what, but I very nearly nixed it because it didn’t seem like something that I was going to like, judging by the synopsis (something about a boy trying to get a finger returned to his dead boss, what?), but hoo-boy, this was a solid five star read for me. The characters were so fleshed-out and colorful, I was straight-up rooting for them through the entire damn book.

I don’t want to give too much away, but you should just take my word for it that this is a magical read and go buy a copy, get it from Libby, etc. This is going end  up in my Top 5 of books I read this month, I think. I GIVE IT FIVE CHEF’S KISSES, YOU GUYS. FIVE OF THEM.

17. I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn

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I don’t know how this book wound up on my TBR list and I kind of wish I could go back in time and take it off. I think I thought it was more of an adult contemporary but no, it was definitely YA and pretty hollow at that. Basically, the main character gets in a fight with her mom because after 17 years she has realized that she doesn’t want to follow in her mom’s footsteps by being an artist, and then randomly her grandparents she has never met send her a plane ticket to spend spring break in Japan with them, and they’re like, “Hey teenage blood relative we have never met and just paid a grand to come visit, why don’t you just spend all day, every day, entertaining yourself on the streets of a country you’ve never been to” so she does and wow, immediately A Boy, who decides he is going to help her solve this MAJOR TASK of FINDING HER PASSION, never mind the fact that all she does is talk about clothing design, sketches outfits, turns thrifted clothes and candy wrappers into dresses for her friends, etc etc and then OMG Japanese grandma also makes dresses, but it’s not until the very end of the book that she, spoiler alert, realizes THAT SHE WANTS TO SCHOOL FOR FASHION DESIGN. This book just felt so empty to me; however I did cry at the end because anything with grandparents is like a good swift kick to the heart for me, so when she eventually said goodbye I was like JUST STAY THERE AND LIVE WITH THEM! GO CANDY-SHOPPING WITH GRANDFATHER AND FABRIC SHOPPING WITH GRANDMA! YOU STUPID DUMBO!

Yeah, I think I gave this a 3 on Goodreads but I would round down to a 2.5. It just wasn’t that interesting, yet here I am, having strong feelings nevertheless, lol.

18. Your House Will Pay – Steph Cha

Your House Will Pay

My phone is next to me, blowing up with news alerts about the Black Lives Matter protests across our country, like I even need a reminder that nothing has changed in America since the Rodney King beating of 1991, which is what this book is loosely based on. I always thought that I wasn’t a big fan of historical fiction, but this was an exception. It’s about the riots that took place in LA in 1992, after the asshole police officers were acquitted in the beating of King, and how the Korean American community got swept up in the violence which, being 12 years old at the time, I had never known. Of course I remember Rodney King and the riots, but I had no idea about the Korean connection, and after reading this book, I fell down the rabbit hole because I needed to know more. This is how I ended up watching a documentary on YouTube specifically detailing how Korean got entangled in the riots, partially because so many of the stores where the riots were taking place were Korean-owned, but mostly because there was an incident during this time where a Korean woman shot and killed a black teenage girl in her store because she thought she was stealing juice. And the media and police used this to change the narrative into a “black vs Korean” conflict. One of the quotes from a Korean woman in the documentary was something like, “I don’t hate black people. I hate the white people for starting this.” And then another person said, “Michin nara!” which means “Crazy country” in Korean. Sing it.

So this book rewrites the story of the teenager being killed by the store owner, and then follows each family to the present day. It’s a heavy book and it made me extremely angry and sad because, you know, nothing has changed.

19. Anna K – Jenny Lee

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Out of all the books on my TBR for this month, this was one of the ones I was most stoked for and I cheered when it finally became available on Libby. It’s a retelling of Anna Karenina which I never read, but I saw a tagline that said it’s like Gossip Girl crossed with Crazy Rich Asians, so I was all in.

I thought that it was only OK, and I was also kind of squirmy because I’m 41 and essentially reading about a bunch of teenagers fucking, so…that was great. Honestly, most of the characters were insufferable and I never really understood what was so great about Anna K? Yet somehow, I was there for the ride. And I’m glad I didn’t know much about Anna Karenina because it made the end of this book way more of a WHOA DIDN’T SEE THAT COMING for me. I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I was reading it on the beach….in Busan.

Also, I know Eleanore is a fictional character, but man I wanted her to die. Or at least get an STD.

20. Rebel Seoul – Axie Oh

Rebel Seoul (Rebel Seoul, #1)

Last but not least for Week #3 is Rebel Seoul which was like reading the script for a Korean sci-fi drama, holy shit. And the casting I did in my head was impeccable, I must say. I’m kind of a dunce when it comes to anything relating to war, so the plot kind of lost me at times. There were too many political organizations to keep up with and then on top of that, let’s throw a major crime syndicate into the mix…but there was a lot of action and descriptions of parts of Seoul that I have been to so it made my heart feel warm and whole. I didn’t expect to like this one as much as I did —and actually, I added it at the same time as Wicked Fox, which I assumed I would like more and it ended up being the opposite!

************

One and a half days left to finish three more books! BYEEEE.

May 232020
 

Henry and I have a pandemic tradition where we go for walks in cemeteries every weekend while listening to an audio book together, which I am sure I already mentioned but everything just melts together lately like a clock in a Dali painting so who can be sure what I divulge anymore.

Last weekend, we went to this one cemetery in Greenfield called Calvary Cemetery, which I hadn’t been to since Chooch was a baby, like a fresh-ass BABY baby, and I just remember pushing him in his stroller and he was screaming his face off and I was probably wading through post-partum depression waters, if we’re being frank here, and I was like OMG SHUT UP I HATE YOU UGHHHHH and then never went back to that cemetery. I told Henry this cute little anecdote last weekend and he just stared at me. But look at our well-adjusted 14-year-old! I did ok! We moved past it!

Prior to that, there was this other time we went there, pre-Chooch. I vaguely remember it being winter because I tried to sled down a hill without a sled, and I was totally manic but not in the fun way, and then we came home and I tried to create a recipe by swirling peanut butter into scrambled eggs, and I think I got sick so maybe that’s why I never went back to that cemetery in all of these years? Bad associations?

Well, this time it was so lovely (and I honestly recognized NO PARTS of it) that we went both Saturday and Sunday! Usually we go to different ones but I was like, “Nah dude, let’s go back to the same one.” Maybe it was because I was really vibing with the book we were listening to (Love From A to Z), but wow, I was in a great mood on both days, the weather was beautiful, there were other people around but not enough to be alarmed, and it was just a really peaceful place.

I’m so excited that Henry has been so agreeable about listening to audio books together. I let him check out my Libby shelf during the week so he can choose one to start for the upcoming weekend, and it’s pretty adorable. He didn’t pick “Love From A to Z” though – I did because it was about to expire and this definitely isn’t something he would have chosen because it’s YA romance but also fairly heavy-hitting with Islamophobic themes.

Anyway, the majority of this book takes place in Doha so then we started watching Doha travel videos and OMG when will we ever be able to travel again. Sorry, sometimes I just have to get my meaningless complaints out of my system and let my perspective regenerate.

I had to pause the audio book numerous times while we were casually strolling around the cemetery because I was getting so angry about the way the Muslim character was treated and I kept screaming at Henry, “DOESN’T THIS PISS YOU OFF??” and he just mumbled something that sounded curiously like, “I’m a white privileged male.”

Honestly though, I have really been looking forward to these weekends because they are the only times I get out of the house (aside from casual walks around the neighborhood during the week) and it’s fun pretending like Henry and I are in a book club together even though he doesn’t usually bring much to the table opinion-wise…

Chooch won’t come with us because he doesn’t want to listen to books with his lame parents, fair enough lol.

This was a good book, you guys. I thought it was going to be a fluffy YA romance but nope, there’s substance here! I’ll include it in the next bunch of books I review for Asian Readathon, don’t you worry!

I don’t think anything else ground-breaking happened last weekend, except that I remembered the name of this one Japanese horror movie that Henry and I watched back in…2005?? And for years, the only thing I could remember was that there was something with a cello player and also there was a scene where a little girl was forced to watch her parents have sex and I thought it was from a locked closet, so I googled, “asian horror cello parents make girl watch them have sex” or something and I found it! It was called Strange Circus which you would think would ring a bell in my brain but it doesn’t, and also, the girl was forced to watch the parents from inside a cello case, so there’s the cello connection! I’m so happy I finally remembered!

But also I’m very sad because I know for sure that we rented this back then from Incredibly Strange Video still existed and Henry and I used to walk there because it was like 10 minutes away and we were bros with the owner who would automatically recommend new horror he obtained to us and that is how I watched some of the best foreign horror and bizarre student horror films in the early 2000s and sure everything is at our fingertips now thanks to the internet and hundreds of streaming services, but nothing can beat that feeling of walking into a small independent video store and bullshitting with the long-haired man behind the counter, renting shit that sometimes didn’t even have a cover.

Goddammit, I miss that. :(

 

May 162020
 

We’re two weeks into #asianreadathon and I have read some really solid books! Instead of waiting until the end, I’m breaking this up into several posts because I have already read like 14 books and, well, you can only imagine what my end tally will be. So here are the books I injected into my brain through my eyeballs (and in some cases, ears) for the first half of the readathon!

  1. Miracle Creek – Angie Kim

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If you like courtroom thrillers, this one is for you. Out of all the books on this list so far, this is the one that fits into the category of a book I’d be most likely to pick up, regardless of a reading prompt. It’s a multi-POV look into a tragic accident that occurred at a hyperbaric chamber facility run by a Korean family in Virginia. The book goes back and forth between the present-day trial and the weeks/days leading up to the accident. It’s emotionally gripping and the whole time I couldn’t wait to get to the end to find out WHO and WHY.

Each character is equally compelling, so I didn’t have that, “Ugh another chapter about THIS guy” feeling that I get sometimes with multiple-POV books. But I definitely had my favorites and there were times when I was stressed out because it was starting to look like maybe my favorites were to blame and I found myself shouting NO NO NO more than once.

I highly recommend this. It’s a winner.

2. Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa

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The faces I pulled while reading this must have been so ugly. I never read Fifty Shades, but I saw some reviews drawing that comparison so…yay. I didn’t LOVE this book, but I didn’t HATE it, and I think I want to read more from this author…just to see.

This is really short, I think it was less than 200 pages, but it really TAKES YOU THERE.

So far, all of the translated Japanese novels I have read in my life have had that same cold feeling to them. A quiet slow-burn. It’s all mundane then suddenly VERY DISGUSTING AND DEPRAVED.

And then the ending is like, what. And then you just kind of sit there silently, digesting, letting the words you read sink into your brain, heating your skin like the sweaty, filthy touch of an uncle.

Also, it made me think about how amazing it is that I never accidentally found myself stuck in some old man’s sex dungeon when I was a teenager.

3. The Stationery Shop – Marjan Kamali

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Before the library closed, I kept seeing this book being pimped out on the best sellers table in the front. I was drawn to the cover, of course, because would you just look at how beautiful it is?! But when I skimmed the synopsis, it just didn’t seem like something I’d be into. First of all, it’s historical fiction which I had myself convinced I didn’t like. It’s partially set in 1953 Tehran, during the Iranian Coup, which I knew nothing about, but when I was getting my TBR in order for the Asian readathon, I decided to take a chance on this because I wanted my selections to be as diverse as possible, and having Iranian representation on the list was definitely something I wanted.

Still, I expected it to be dry, too political, etc. But good lord, this book is, if I had to put it in abstract terms, like a fucking kaleidoscope of colors. The setting, the characters, the dialogue, the descriptions of the food – it was all so brilliant and sparkling and suddenly I was sending Henry links to recipes for Persian jeweled rice.

I UGLY-CRIED AT THE END OF THIS. I’m a sucker for a good love story I guess.

My Goodreads review was literally just “#brokenheartemoji” lol. I told you I’m basically a book-reviewing genius.

4. I Believe In a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo

I Believe in a Thing Called Love

A book about a Korean American girl who uses K-Drama tropes to help her land a boyfriend? Yes, please.

This book actually started off differently than I expected – our main character actually doesn’t like K-dramas, but her dad does and is always telling her to move her big head out of the way while she’s doing homework and he’s trying to watch them. She makes the mistake of calling them his “soap operas” which makes him get all defensive about how they’re NOT soap operas and I felt myself getting physically defensive on his behalf because LITERALLY a week prior to reading this, I was on a call at work and some of my co-workers were talking about the shows they’re currently bingeing and one of my work friends said, “Erin wanted me to watch some soap opera last year but it was in a foreign language so I never did….sorry Erin” and I was like, “IT WAS NOT A SOAP OPERA IT WAS A K-DRAMA” and I remember EXACTLY which one it was: Are You Human Too?

So, her loss for not watching it because it is one of the best ones I’ve ever seen and I still think about it a lot.

However, this book is probably definitely not something I will ever think about again. It just didn’t do it for me. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, and yes I realize that this is YA and they’re in high school but I have 100% related to other YA books before, if the writing is good. And not that the writing was BAD, but it just kind of fell flat, for me at least. I did get excited when specific K-Dramas were referenced but there was one part in particular, when our lead chooses the boy over something else, that didn’t sit well with me.

Verdict? Skip this book and watch a K-Drama instead. If you want a good high school drama, I recommend The Heirs.

5. Skim – Mariko Tamaki

Skim

I wanted to include a graphic novel on the list, and my favorite Booktuber, Kat from Paper Back Dreams, recently read Skim and gave it a great review. So I snagged it from Libby and finished it in one sitting before one of my late shifts. I’m not an avid graphic novel/manga reader so I don’t have much to compare this to, but I thought the illustrations were stunning and it was just a solid coming-of-age story. Would recommend.

6. This Time Will Be Different – Misa Siguira

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I liked this book way more than I anticipated. It seemed like it was going to be just another “unlucky in love” YA book but this tackled hypocrisy and racial themes stemming from the Japanese American internment during WWII and how grossly forgiving American history can be.

What I really loved was that this book was centrally-focused on the high school girl trying to win the guy, but actually fighting for something that matters. But yeah, there’s definitely romance in this book, lol. I liked this one better than I Believe in a Thing Called Love, which I hadn’t anticipated, but there you have it!

Also, that cover is gorge.

7. The Book of M – Peng Shepherd

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Ahhh! Henry and I “buddy-read” this together and by “buddy-read” I mean that it took us an entire week to listen to the audiobook which was v. frustrating since I’m on a schedule here. I mean, this book was over 500 pages long and it was kind of heavy, so I guess that should have been expected. It’s a dystopian thriller, about a pandemic-like phenomenon where people are mysteriously losing their shadows, and with their shadows go their memories, though not all at once.

It follows a variety of characters, and has a very strong The Walking Dead feel, in that a bunch of different groups are trying to get to the same place, and having to overcome obstacles (most being other Shadowed people who have taken to a “kill or be killed” survival tactic). It was slow-moving at first and I considered DNF’ing it after our first round of listening, but I’m really glad I stuck it out because some of the characters really grew on me and it was fascinating to watch this new world unfold as the shadowless began “re-remembering” things in different ways, creating odd new species of animals and flying death kites.

If this hasn’t already been picked up for a movie or TV series, I’d be shocked. Because this is such a winner and would translate SO WELL on screen, I think. Especially the battle scenes – I can never picture those in my head and would like to see how the author intended it to play out visually.

Several days later, Henry was reading someone’s synopsis of this book online and was so angry. He kept pointing at inaccuracies and yelling, “DID THEY EVEN READ IT?!” Henry really liked this book, clearly.

I would highly recommend this to anyone who likes The Walking Dead (Carrie, if you’re reading, this is the book I texted you about!), books about pandemics, and anything with dystopian, post-apocalyptic landscapes.

8. My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki 

My Year of Meats

Out of all the books I’ve read so far in May, this is my absolute favorite. I am obsessed with it. I added it on a whim, can’t remember where I saw it recommended, but I am so glad I added it to the list. From nearly the very beginning, I had a feeling that it was going to end up being a 5-star read and I was right.

This was published in 1998 I think and set in the early 90s. The premise is that there is a reality show being filmed in the US for the Japanese market about American wives and the meat-centric meals they cook for their families, so right away you’re like, “Erin, why did you like this book, you’re a vegetarian?” This book brilliantly weaves the SHITTY AND SHADY hand-holding between the US meat industry and pharmaceutical companies into an engaging narrative of a Japanese American woman, Jane, who aspires to be a legit documentarian while directing a reality show she feels morally conflicted about. It bounces back and forth between Jane and the wife of the Japanese man in charge of the show, who is dutifully cooking these American meals for him in spite of being constantly subjected to his abuse.

There are so many poignant stories being explored here and I fell in love with every single character (except for the abusive husband, he sucks obviously) and this was one the only books I’ve read ALL YEAR that I felt fully immersed in. And while I already knew a lot of the things explored here about the sickening US meat industry, it served as a great reminder that my last 24 meatless years have not been in vain.  I don’t think I will be able to stop thinking about it for a long time. It was funny, heart-warming, heart-BREAKING, and still relevant even in 2020. Please read this. It’s fantastic (and whoever the narrator of the audiobook was, she sounded like Jane Lynch and I was so into it).

[SIDE NOTE: Whoa, hold up. I Googled the narrator of the audiobook (Kate Fleming) and she apparently died in 2006 when a flashflood trapped her in her basement studio, and according to her Wiki page, at the hospital, her wife of 9 years—Charlene Strong—“was denied access to see Fleming until permission was granted by an out-of-state relative. The experience led Strong to advocate for legislation that was eventually passed as Washington’s Domestic Partnership Law.”]

9. Ghachar Ghochar – Vivek Shanbhag

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Please read this. It’s just a little, unassuming novella, but SO GOOD and poignant, giving a quick insight at how money and class change the dynamics within a family in Bangalore. Henry and I buddy-read this together in one day and the ending made us look at each other like, “OMG what.”

As someone who grew up with everything and then suddenly became an adult with nothing, I’m always interested in reading about the trials and tribs of other families with $$$ drama. It’s amazing how much money (or lack of) can change people, especially family.

10. Braised Pork – An Yu

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I still don’t know how I feel about this book and feel like it deserves a re-read at some point. It’s very quiet, mysterious. Kind of a thriller? Sort of a mystery? There’s a bit of fabulism? A woman finds her husband dead in the bathtub, leaving behind a drawing of a fish with a man’s head. She becomes obsessed with this image and embarks on a journey to find out what it all means.

All I can say is it’s weird and then it ends. Read it or don’t read it. It’s your life.

11. Tiny Pretty Things – Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton

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UGH this book, I don’t know why I was expecting something better. It’s just about how mean girls are to each other (and themselves) in some ballet academy in New York, except that I didn’t care about any of them, not even the “good” girl, and it just seemed like there was no point but I guess it was well-received by those who matter because it’s becoming a Netflix series. I hope the Korean representation is good in the series, because it’s kind of “meh” in this book.

12. Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam-Joo

Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982

Oh shit son, this book is where it’s at. It follows Kim Jiyoung, from when she’s a child, to an adult, and shows all the ways she’s been discriminated against for being a woman. It’s a quick read, and the ending is WOW JUST WOW. I can see why this book was a best-seller in Korea and I am so glad it’s recently been translated to English. I feel like every man should be required to read books like this.

I didn’t know this until now, but THIS HAS BEEN MADE INTO A MOVIE and one of my favorite Korean actors, Gong Yoo, plays the husband and I am so stoked for it!!

Please read this book. It includes real facts throughout the fictional narrative, which I loved. You know I love learning as much about Korea as possible!

13. Wicked Fox – Kat Cho

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Sadly, I followed that strong Korean pick with a super weak, disappointing YA supernatural romp. I really thought I would enjoy a book about a gumiho (9-tailed fox spirit) in Seoul, but it was sooooooo dumb. The only thing I liked was the quick shout-out to BIGBANG’s TOP, and the various mentions of Korean foods which made me super hungry and miss Korea so much. But yeah, this book was not that great and I was barely able to stay focused.

14. A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – multiple authors/anthology

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings

To round-out my first two weeks of Asian books, I read this anthology of popular Asian folklore retellings. I started it early into the readathon, but I only read one story a night because anthologies, as I’ve discovered, aren’t really for me. This one had a lot of duds but some really solid ones too, like the Korean one – “Land of the Morning Calm” by E.C.Myers based on the Chasa Bonpuli fable –  (I swear I wasn’t being biased, I just genuinely really liked it) and the last two in the book, one of which was a Japanese retelling of the kitsune legend (“Eyes Like Candlelight” – Julie Kagawa) and another was based on the Chinese legend The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl (“The Crimson Cloak” – Cindy Pon), made me cry like a baby.

***

Anyway, this has been the last two weeks of my life. Now I’m crying because I’m thinking about that Kim Jiyoung, Born 1982 movie and I just can’t handle my emotions right now. Also, I want ice cream.

May 092020
 

Oh boy, it’s part three of my April book round-up, on May 9th!

16. The Woman in the Window – A.J. Finn

The Woman in the Window

Um. This book wasn’t that great but soooo many people are so stoked for it, and now there’s going to be a movie, and I’m sorry but IT IS SO CLICHE AND DONE-TO-DEATH. The twist was 100% not shocking to me at all, I didn’t care about any of the characters, and the climax was just dumb. I gave it a three though because the writing itself wasn’t too shitty but I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone. Maybe like, a teenager who is just getting into adult thrillers.

17. Everything I Never Told You – Celeste Ng

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Nothing to do with the book itself, but I had no idea that Celeste Ng is from Pittsburgh, so that made me feel extra-connected to this book even though it was set in Ohio. It mostly takes place in the 1970s—and that’s tied with the 80s as my favorite era for novels—with some throwbacks to the 50s and 60s.

This is about a family really going through it after one of the three kids disappears and turns up dead. Both parents and remaining two siblings process their grief in very different ways, while trying to understand what happened to the daughter. Was she murdered? Did she kill herself? Was it an accident?

I was really attached to this family and I cried lots. I’m probably the only person left who hasn’t read Celeste Ng’s latest book, Little Fires Everywhere, but I promise that will happen soon. THIS is a book I would recommend.

18. Truly Devious – Maureen Johnson 

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Another Pittsburgh connection! The main character of this book is from Pittsburgh and I think this is the book where there is a reference to one of the characters pounding on the 57 on a bottle of Heinz ketchup (if it wasn’t this book, then it was Daisy Jones and The Six, because there are characters from that book that are from Pittsburgh too!) and I literally laughed out loud because that’s such a “how you know you’re from Pittsburgh” thing.

I remember when I worked at that shitty meat place, my boss came back from a cruise and the story he was most excited to tell all of us was how he taught a bunch of people that ketchup technique at dinner one time.

Anyway, this book! It’s a YA mystery about a girl who gets accepted into this eccentric art school where a kidnapping and murder happened in the 30s. The girl is super into crime and mysteries which is the main reason why she wanted to go to this school, and while she’s there, ANOTHER MURDER HAPPENS, DUN DUN DUNNNN.

Look, I loved the atmosphere of this book and the characters. It was a page-turner for me and of course it ended on cliffhanger because it’s part of a trilogy so now I have to wait for Asian Read-a-thon to end so I can grab the second book.

19. City of Ghosts – Victoria Schwab

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I, um, started reading this accidentally because I confused Victoria Schwab with her alias VE Schwab, and apparently Victoria is the name she uses to write her middle grade books. So yeah I read a middle grade book about a girl who died for a second but was brought back to life by a ghost so now she can enter a veil to the OTHER SIDE and the dead boy that saved her is like her sidekick that only she can see and it has such an adorable Casper feel to it, but I just can’t justify reading the rest of the series because I might like young shit but this was just too young. I think I would have LOVED it when I was in 5th grade though!

20. Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – Benjamin Alire Saenz

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The only reason I picked this up was because I saw that Lin Manuel Miranda narrates the audiobook and wow, I’m really glad that I did. Set in the late 80s, it’s about two Mexican American high school boys who form an unlikely friendship. I was just bracing myself through the entire thing, waiting for the other shoe to fall, like surely there is going to be some devastating episode, and of course there was but no dogs died or anything at least.

My only issue with it was that it’s a coming of age/coming out novel set in 1988 and there is no mention of AIDs. Like, none.

21. Six Stories – Matt Wesolowski

Six Stories (Six Stories, #1)

I came so close to DNFing this because the writing is pretty rough, but I am so glad I kept going. It’s about a teenage boy who was murdered during a camping trip with friends in the late 90s and now, present day, there is a podcast that is dissecting the cold case, interviewing the friends, parents, suspects. Because each “episode” features a different person of interest, it can get quite repetitive but I still found it compelling and couldn’t wait to finish it.

I ended up really enjoying it, and I will admit that there were numerous times when I had actual chills while reading it.

22. Daisy Jones & the Six – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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This book is soooo over-hyped, I’m sorry. I gave it 3 stars for the story, but the audio book bumps it up to a 4 because it’s a full cast with Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt, and Judy Greer (the character she voiced was my favorite) and it really made it feel like I was watching VH1 Behind the Music. It’s written interview-style, present-day, with the members of the band and people in their orbit talking about the rise and fall of Daisy Jones and the Six, so you get to see various situations from multiple perspectives which made me laugh several times because they don’t know what the others have already said so there’d be things like:

Pete: I remember I was wearing this orange suit. I looked so good.

Karen: Pete was wearing this ugly orange outfit. He looked hideous.

But honestly this could have been any band in the 70s. Drugs, drama, egos, secret band affairs. There was an unexpected “twist” thrown in there which I didn’t see coming and I thought it was well-done. But Daisy Jones and the other main character were so unlikeable and I was certainly not rooting for either of them.

The whole thing had big Fleetwood Mac vibes. If you’re into fictional band stuff, you would probably like this but I would only recommend reading it in tandem with the audio book! The audio book is PHENOMENAL.

23. Slay – Brittney Morris 

Slay

I don’t know what made me request this on Libby, some Booktuber’s recommendation, I guess. It really isn’t relevant to my interests at all because the plot centers around a game created by a high school senior but she goes through painstaking strides to keep her identity as the creator secret. As one of only three black students at her high school, she created this game as a safe haven for other black people, for a place where they can go and comfortably play without worrying about racism or discrimination. The game is really cool because it involves these battle cards, each of which are specific to black culture, history, sports, music, etc; for example, the Jordan card makes you outjump your opponent. One of the cards was about FUFU which is how this happened!

Meanwhile at school, our protagonist frequently finds herself in the middle of the race debates and it’s exhausting and she has to try and explain to her white friends that she is not the voice of all black people, so asking her, “Will it be offensive if I get dreadlocks?” really puts her in a tight spot.

I think the message conveyed in this book IS SO IMPORTANT and all white teens should be required to read it, honestly. I was very invested.

24. Red at the Bone – Jacqueline Woodson

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I started reading this on a whim after watching a video spotlighting the Women’s Prize for Fiction longlist. I didn’t know anything about it to be honest, sometimes I just compulsively add books to my “want to read” on Goodreads, all willy-nilly, and every so often, I find a diamond in the rought. This was one of those diamonds.

It starts out with a girl’s 16th birthday, and from there, the book is told in vignettes, from the POV of various family members of the 16-year-old, exploring race, class, sex, teenage pregnancy, death. There’s a lot of power packed into this small novel, and I cried heavily. I can’t even really summarize it here without starting to get all choked up again.

If you’re looking for beautiful literary fiction, this is it. I’m obsessed.

25. Roanoke Girls – Amy Engel 

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Oh shit, this cult-like family thriller is just flat out nasty. I could feel my visage setting in “stank-face” mode numerous times as I made my way through this one, and all of the characters are just straight-up despicable, but hoo-boy I couldn’t put it down. I recommend if you love digging through dirty laundry.

26. Girl Made of Stars – Ashley Herring Blake

This is one of the last actual library books I had left on my TBR shelf wheelchair. (Now I only have one left, but I keep putting it off because it will be last actual book to hold in my hands until the library reopens!!) I left this one for next-to-last because I wasn’t in the mood to cry and I knew going in that this would definitely trigger the tear ducts because I have seen it recommended in so many of my favorite Booktubers’ videos. It’s about these high school twins and the moral conflict that the sister twin goes through when her brother is accused of raping his girlfriend, who is also one of her best friends.

DANG. This book took me on an emotional ride, and it was not of the peaceful Sunday drive variety, either. Definitely a heavy-hitting YA that made me think of all kinds of uncomfortable hypotheticals.

I felt like it was almost perfect but there was something about the main character that made her unlikeable to me. Like, all of this shitty RAPE stuff was happening and she somehow kept making it about herself and I wanted to slap her.

***

OK, let’s bury the April books now. 26 was an insane amount of books to read and I promise once lockdown is lifted, I’ll probably be back to 10-books per month. I mean, as of this writing, I’ve read 77 books this year. 7-fucking-7. That’s ridiculous. Now I gotta get back to my #Asianreadathon, which is going swimmingly! One week in and I’ve already read one book that was so good, I had already known in my heart that I was going to give it 5 stars after the first 50 pages. May is going to be a good book month!

May 062020
 

I thought that I could just split my April round-up in half, but then I realized that I read, um, 26 books so we’re slicing this into thirds. I know, 26 books seems like bookhead status but FULL DISCLAIMER: a lot of these were audio books because I have quickly realized that listening to audio books while working from my home is saving my sanity. Obviously, once I return to the office, my monthly book count will go back down to sane person levels because I don’t like listening to things / wearing earpods at the office, so I’m really living it up and trying to get in as much good reads as possible while under lockdown. It’s giving me life and distracting me from all the chaos happening outside, OK? WOULD YOU RATHER I DO DRUGS?! God.

Anyway, let’s get into this second part of my book round-up. As always, I’m sucky at synopses, so click on those handy-dandy links to find out more about any book that seems interesting to you!

9. 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl – Mona Awad

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I picked this up because I read Mona Awad’s “Bunny” earlier this year and loved it. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this – each chapter is a different vignette from the life of this overweight girl, from the time she’s in high school, until an adult, with several chapters swapping out the POV with various men in her life. As someone who started obsessing over their weight in 5th Grade, this book slapped me hard. I can’t tell you how many times I looked up from it and yelled, “OMG RELATABLE” at Henry, who was like, “WAIT WHAT BOOK IS THAT I THOUGHT YOU WERE READING SOMETHING ELSE” and I just laughed, like, “bitch please, I been done with that one.”

At some point in the main character’s life, she manages to lose a ton of weight, and it made me take a good long look at myself because it’s like, “Oh look, you’re so skinny now but you’re no happier because now you’re terrified of food and everything is measured and you’re still self-conscious and everything feels weird on your skin and OMG UGH WHY.”

There’s a chapter from her husband’s POV and it is heartbreaking to see what it looks like from his eyes, how he’s walking on egg shells around her when it comes to food and she’s still comparing herself with women who are “skinnier” than her, and it’s just like, “OK I get it I will try harder to chill out.”

This book is definitely not for everyone but it resonated HARD with me, the writing was top notch, and also the author name-dropped the goth band London After Midnight which I hadn’t thought about for years.

I’m obsessed with Mona Awad.

10. Shadow & Bone – Leigh Bardugo

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I kept hearing so much about this Russian-flavored fantasy series on Booktube and apparently there is a TV series coming out at some point, so I bit the bullet and got the first book from Libby.

You know, it was OK. I didn’t really get a good feel for the world that Leigh Barduga is building here, and I didn’t feel very connected to the characters, but now this one expat I follow on YouTube who lives in Seoul has just gotten into this series and she loves it, so I guess I will give the second book a go? I actually had it on my Libby shelf but I returned it because my entire May TBR is dedicated to #asianreadathon, and THEN I FOUND OUT LEIGH BARDUGO WAS BORN IN ISRAEL. So it would have counted for Asian readathon. Goddammit.

11. Attachments – Rainbow Rowell

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People either love Rainbow Rowell or hate her. I think this was the first I’ve ever read of her though and you know? I really liked it. It was kind of slow at first but the characters were lovable and the story was SO CUTE. It reminded me of my old office job at MSA for some reason.

This would probably a good book to read on a plane or the beach WHICH IS MOOT RIGHT NOW.

I wasn’t very gung-ho about the end, it was wrapped up way too nicely and felt pretty implausible, but it still made me cry a little (the happy kind) because I’m very unbalanced right now.

12. China Rich Girlfriend – Kevin Kwan 

China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians, #2)

Yeah, I’m sorry, but I fucking love this series. And also, remember in my last wrap-up when I wrote about reading the first one and I said that I know this is wrong to think but I kept picturing Nick as Siwon from the legendary Kpop group Super Junior even though HE’S KOREAN AND NOT CHINESE, in this book, there is a scene where a bunch of Chinese ladies see Nick and start fawning over him because they think he looks like Kim Soo-Hyun WHO IS A KOREAN ACTOR THANK YOU VERY MUCH, KEVIN KWAN.

But yeah, if you want a fun and outrageous read, this series is it. I still have to read the third one!!

13. Blue Lily, Lily Blue – Maggie Stiefvater

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This is the third installment of the Raven Boys cycle and I fucked up big time with this one. I was able to snag the audiobook for it and it’s narrated by Will Patton whom I never had a strong opinion about before until now: FUCK YOU WILL PATTON. YOU RUINED THIS BOOK FOR ME.

OK, he didn’t fully ruin it. I still loved it because Raven Boys, but his narration was fucking awful. He did all of the voices so wrong and some of the female voices he did were so grating and obnoxious that I kept having to turn the volume way down.

Quick summary: 4 teen boys, 1 teen girl, a raven, and a bunch of middle-aged psychic ladies on a mission to find a thing.

I have one more book to read in this series and I am still very much a Gansey-stan, don’t think anything can change that for me at this point, and I would like to mention that I listened to this during a Thursday late shift and we had takeout from Mandy’s Pizza which has an entire separate vegan menu and I ordered a ham & cheese hoagie with vegan mayo and HOOOO BOY I will always associate this fantastic hoagie with this book and it feels like the warm essence of childhood in my belly.

14. After Dark – Haruki Murakami

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This is the book that inspired me to write my Denny’s Memories post a few weeks ago.

I really enjoyed this book a lot. There really isn’t any big climax or anything, it’s just a very quiet book about several people and how their stories intertwine throughout the middle of the night in Tokyo. I really enjoyed it. It’s a good ‘rainy day with a cup of tea’ book. I dunno why I said that because I rarely drink tea at home, but there you have it.

15. I’m Thinking of Ending Things – Iain Reid

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YES. So many big fat yeses on this one. Holy shit, I loved this so much. To the point of obsession. Henry and I listened to the audiobook together (lol, we’re That Couple). I always see this in videos for horror novel recommendations but back when I was going to the real library, none of the branches had a copy of it. But now that I’m on that online library tip, I found the ebook AND audiobook on Scribd, and since it’s pretty short, I thought it would be a good one to save for a weekend so that Henry could listen to it because our new pandemic past time is listening to audio books together while walking in a cemetery.

And even in broad daylight, almost from the very get-go with this book, listening to it while strolling through a cemetery gave me THE CHILLS. Henry was like, “No” when I asked him if he felt the same but he claims that nothing ever scares him which is a lie because one time he told me that he was scared of falling out of the sky and landing in the middle of a pile of mangled metal in a junkyard which sounds specific.

OK, quick: this book is about a couple several months into their relationship, on their way to meet his parents for the first time, and she is having this inner monologue with herself the whole way there about how she’s, you know, thinking about ending things. There is a lot of dialogue and story-telling between the couple, which really made me root for them, in some odd way. Like, I wanted her to change her mind because he seemed OK.

I’m not some big audiobook advocate (I’ve said before that I prefer to also have a print copy so I can read along), but I DEFINITELY RECOMMEND THE AUDIO BOOK for this one and you will see why but I can’t say because it’s a major spoiler.

We ended up finishing this later that night, sitting in the dark on the back porch and I WAS SO SPOOKED. Even Henry was like “That was good” and that is a big review for him!

There’s supposed to be a movie coming out for this, directed by Charlie Kaufman, and Toni Collette is in it, so this better actually fucking happen because I am this book’s number one fan.

************

OK, I’m ending this portion of the April round-up on that note, because what a solid read. Actually, a lot of the April books were solid. Stay tuned for part 3!

May 012020
 

Hi guys! I’m up bright and early to tell you about the readathon I joined for May! May, as some might know, is Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, and in honor of that Cindy from Read With Cindy has created a month-long readathon to get people inspired to read books written by Asian authors, includes Asian characters, or has some kind of Asian content.

Now more than ever with pandemic-fueled xenophobia and hate crimes happening all around, it’s important to show our Asian community some love and solidarity—which obviously should be happening on the daily and not just for a singular month—and this is a really great and fun way to not only support Asian authors, but also learn more about cultures and heritages that differ from our own, which is a huge reason why I gravitate to books written by POC in general. So when I found out about this readathon via Booktube, I was ALL IN. Henry and Chooch were like, “Oh my god, get out of her way.”

There are prompts/challenges that you can follow, or you can just be like me and compulsively add all of the Asian authors to your To Be Read shelf that are available!

I will post Cindy’s explanation video here, but I also wanted to list the books I chose, mostly to hold myself accountable to actually reading them but also to give some inspiration and recommendations to anyone considering maybe picking up one or two for themselves – come on, you know you want to get in on this!

The books that I currently have available, all queued up and ready to go:

  • Miracle Creek – Angie Kim (Korean American; currently reading)
  • Hotel Iris – Yoko Ogawa (Japanese; currently reading)
  • Life – Lu Yao (Chinese)
  • Braised Pork – An Yu (Chinese)
  • The Girl in the Tree – Sebnem Isiguzel (Turkish)
  • My Year of Meats – Ruth Ozeki (Japanese)
  • I Believe in a Thing Called Love – Maurene Goo (Korean American)
  • A Thousand Beginnings and Endings – multi-genre anthology of short stories by modern YA authors of Asian heritage.
  • The Book of M – Peng Shepherd (Indian/American)
  • Tiny Pretty Things – Sona Charaipotra (Indian)
  • This Time Will Be Different – Misa Sugiura (Japanese American)
  • Your House Will Pay – Steph Cha (Korean American)
  • The Stationery Shop – Marjan Kamali (Iranian)
  • Rebel Seoul – Axie Oh (Korean American)

Ones I have on hold:

  • I Love You So Mochi – Sarah Kuhn (Japanese)
  • Anna K – Jenny Lee (Korean American)
  • Kim Jinyoung, Born 1982 – Cho Nam-Joo (Korean)
  • Do Not Say We Have Nothing – Madeleine Thien (Chinese Canadian)
  • In Order to Live – Yeonmi Park (Korean)
  • Wrath & the Dawn – Renee Ahdieh (Korean American)
  • Written in the Stars – Aisha Saeed (Pakistani American)
  • Djinn Patrol on the Purple Line – Deepa Anappara (Indian, this one has like a 7 week wait so I likely won’t have it in time for the readathon, sadly)

Here’s a handy document of Asian authors and books that Cindy and others have compiled to give you that nudge you might need. 

And finally, here’s Cindy’s explanatory video:

If you’re thinking of participating, let me know! Maybe we can buddy-read one of these books together?!