Feb 172021

Oh boy here are the books I read in the second half of January, and I also want to mention that Henry just read “In the Dream House” which was one of my faves from last year and I am SO PROUD of him for giving it a chance because this is decidedly not a Very Henry Book but he read it and HE LIKED IT. (He did admit that some parts went over his head though lolol.)

(I asked him if he even felt any emotions and he was so offended and scoffed, “YES. I’M NOT DEAD INSIDE.”)

7. Sigh, Gone: A Misfit’s Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In – Phuc Tran

Sigh, Gone: A Misfit's Memoir of Great Books, Punk Rock, and the Fight to Fit In

The tagline on the cover was enough to get me to pick me up but Phuc’s writing brought it to the next level. There was one part that stood out where he describes his immersion into the punk scene as a way to be considered a misfit or outcast for something other than the color of his skin.

Phuc’s humor & accounts of high school hijinx with his skater crew often made me feel like I was reading the script for an 80s teen movie and it was beyond entertaining, but then he would turn around and show us what he was going through at home with his Vietnamese parents who just wanted to provide the best life they could for their kids but didn’t always do that in the best ways.

Anyway, Phuc is currently a tattoo artist in Maine and I want a tattoo from him in the worst way now.

8. The Ghost Tree – Christina Henry


How is this the same person who wrote Alice, which I read in December and loved?! This book was not great!  Something about it reminded me of that guy Grady Hendrix who everyone thinks is such a great horror writer and I’m always just like, “THIS WAS SO CORNY!” That’s how this felt, except that it was targeted more for young adults, I think so Christina Henry can get away with that a bit more I guess.

I don’t even feel like discussing this, to be honest.

9. Weather – Jenny Offill 


OK excuse me please but this book was OFFILL.

Sorry, I had to.

But this book was really bad. It was like someone printed out random LiveJournal entries from 2002, bound them and then made some OK collage for a cover. I had absolutely no idea what was going on, what the point was, who the characters were…this was such a waste of time.

10. Moshi Moshi – Banana Yoshimoto 

Moshi Moshi

I think this book cover is so lovely.

Moshi, Moshi was a very short book yet it took me nearly the entire month to read it. First of all, it’s not broken up into chapters and books like that make me nervous. I need to have a solid place to end my reading sessions! Second, it’s just a very slow-moving, quiet exploration of the grieving process. The main character’s (Yoshie) father has been murdered and she moves out shortly thereafter, only to have her mother follow. Her mom claims that their old apartment is haunted now, which gives a false impression that this book is going to be a ghost story. It’s really not. It’s more about how Yoshie and her mother each find different ways to move forward from the death.

I didn’t NOT enjoy this book, but it wasn’t something that I am going to find myself ever thinking about again, if that makes sense. You know me and my wishy-washy book reviews. The best part about this book was that I learned from a Goodreads review that Japanese people say “Moshi moshi’ when they answer the phone because ghosts can only say it once. THAT IS THE COOLEST FACT I’VE LEARNED RECENTLY. (I don’t know very many cool Japan facts since Korea is my wheelhouse.)

Anyway, I don’t even know if that’s true.

11. The Music Shop – Rachel Joyce


I didn’t know how badly I needed to read this book. I had never even heard of it and then one day it was recommended on Scribd and I wanted something to listen to while working – UGH IT WAS SO TOUCHING. Anyone who loves music will relate to this.

The side characters are like a British Stars Hollow motley crew, and the two main characters (Frank, who owns a record shop in the 80s and is violently resisting the growing demand for CDs; and Ilse, a woman visiting from Germany who has her own love story with music) are so well-written and I was rooting for them bigly.

I cried like a baby at the end. This book was so sweet.

12.  You Say It First – Katie Cotugno


This was OK. We have a girl in Philly who is super into politics and works at a voter registration call center after school, where she cold-calls a house in Ohio and has a combative conversation with the teenage boy of the family who starts questioning her spiel and OMG HOW DARE HE and of course this turns into some kind of sketchy long-distance frenemy sitch until suddenly they realize that they’re more real with each other than they are with their actual friends. Yadda yadda yadda – we all know this story, but now add politics into the obligatory teen drama.

It actually reminded me of when I worked at Olan Mills as a telemarketer when I was 18 (can you imagine!? I was actually extremely great at it because this was back when I had a super outrageous personality before life and toxic work places beat me down into the bland, insecure pulp I am today. Anyway!! This one night, I ended up calling a guy who declined my offer for a photo package because he was actually a photography major at the Art Institute yet we hit it off for no reason other than we were both young and opposite sex and you know how when you’re young, it doesn’t take much. My manager was like majorly side-eying me for being on the phone for too long so we exchanged numbers and then when I got home that night we talked for HOURS to the point where our conversation took its natural course to us getting married, moving to Montana*, and getting a sheepdog.

*(Weird because I literally can’t imagine myself ever living there so he must have caught me in a good mood.)

I can’t even remember this guy’s name now – JOE?! – but we did end up meeting in real life at the mall. My friend Brian took me there and made sure I was OK before leaving and then JOE?! and I took the bus (literally the first and last time I was ever on a PAT bus) to his apartment in Southside, messed around (lol), and then he took me to a nearby cafe to meet his friends at which time he turned into a different person and I was like EW I DO NOT LIKE YOU ANYMORE and he was like “stay over” and I was like “NO THANK YOU” and had to call my mom to come pick me up at 2am because I didn’t have my license yet LOL.

I think we talked on the phone occasionally after that (I have a recollection of him moving out of state – I think he wasn’t from Pittsburgh and had moved home – and then moving back and getting in touch?) but I was like “Dude you can shove your Montana dreams, I was already in one shitty relationship and I will not be treated like common trash just because you’re trying to look cool in front of your friends” and this is the part that I related to in the book because they end up meeting up IRL and he takes her to a party and all his friends are total rural bros who make misogynistic jokes and think all women are meant to fetch beers, and now the dude isn’t acting like he normally does when they’re on the phone and I FELT THAT.

God, what was that guy’s name!?!? I used to have a picture of him too and now I don’t even know where that is. I just remember he wore JNCO pants and had several piercings because ART SCHOOL.

Anyway, those are the books I read in January. You’re welcome.

Feb 132021

Hey word-nerds. I figured I would keep up this book list on here because it’s fun and I don’t have much else going on. I decided at the end of my 2020 challenge that I definitely do not want to read over 200 books again. I mean – that was nuts and I would like to have more time like, watch a k-drama or something.

I think I set a goal of 50, which seems reasonable and not hyper-obsessive. Right? Except that I still have all this momentum and ended up reading 12 books in January regardless, but I am going to make a conscious effort to slow the eff down from here on out, I swear to myself.

Anyway, here are the first 6 books I read in January, which was an “OK” reading month.

  1. Pizza Girl – Jean Kyoung Frazier

Pizza Girl

What a weird little effing book this one was! Every so often, I take advantage of my library’s recommendation service and the librarian this time around gave me some right recs. We follow an 18-year-old pregnant Korean American, out of high school and lost, working at a pizza shop, when one day she takes a call from a frenzied mom begging for pickles to be added to her son’s pizza. Intrigued by this, the girl then goes out of her way to procure  the pickles and after delivering the pizza, she starts to become obsessed with the lady.

This book was so uncomfortable at times, funny, sad — there’s an underlying exploration of grief that I could relate to more than I wanted to, as it becomes clear that the girl never fully mourned the semi-recent death of her alcoholic father.

I don’t know, I really vibed with this and it was a great book to kick off the new year! Also, the cover is amaze.

2.  The Party – Robyn Harding

The Party

LOL this book was so bad. In regard to the blurb on the front cover: This was more like if a 12-year-old binged Big Little Lies and then tried to write her own version of it. Every single character was written SO POORLY.  The pizza in the book above had more personality than anyone in this book, which is a shame because it was multi-POV and I usually really enjoy books written that way.

Dumb dumb dumb. I hate being a shithead toward published authors because obviously what have I published, but not only was the plot just….huh??….but the writing was bland and unexceptional. Basically, this is something that a mom would grab at an airport bookstand last minute and forget about by the time the plane lands. Skip this!!

3. Us Against You (Beartown #2) – Fredrik Backman

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My friend Eve commented a few months ago and told me that she liked Beartown but she LOVED Us Against You. I thought these were strong words because I LOVED BEARTOWN and couldn’t even imagine how a sequel could best the original.

And then I read it and with saline-swollen eyes and a stuffy nose, I wailed, “SHE WAS RIGHHHHHHHT.” This book is everything. I have since also gotten Janna and Henry to read both and we are like a small little Pittsburgh chapter of the Beartown Bros.

We’re still following Hockey Lyfe in Beartown, most of the characters from the first book are back but we get some new ones too and I can’t stress enough how masterful Backman is at writing characters. Every character has a purpose. Every sentence matters. I sobbed my face off numerous times during my reading journey because the people in this book feel so fucking real to me, my heart aches anytime something bad happens to them.

Drew was actually staring at me with huge concerned eyeballs when I finished the last page because I was legit ugly-sobbing. Like, CRYING OUT LOUD.

You do not have to be a hockey person to enjoy these books. Please read them. A third one is coming out at some point and I am considering medication before I start reading it. Oof.

4. Little Fires Everywhere – Celeste Ng

Little Fires Everywhere

This one kept getting bumped off my TBR last year but I made a point of getting it read in 2021. By now, you probably have at least heard of this thanks to the Reese Witherspoon Hulu adaptation, which I have not seen.

I thought this book was OK! I enjoyed the references to Bethel Park, which isn’t shocking since the author grew up in Pittsburgh, but overall I didn’t really connect to it like I had hoped to. I read “Everything I Never Told You” last year and thought that one was INCREDIBLE. The emotions felt so tangible to me while reading it and I guess I had expected the same from Little Fires. I think if I had read this one first, I would have liked it more but I did think the plot was super interesting and really gave you a lot to think about (if you read this, I’m sure you will know which side I was on).

I needed more Izzy though. She was fucking amazing. Give Izzy her own story!!

5. All the Birds, Singing – Evie Wyld


HOLY.FUCKING.SHIT. Is Evie Wyld a master at timeline fuckery? Yes, I believe she is. After I read “The Bass Rock” last year, I was really eager to devour more of her words and All the Birds did not disappoint. It’s weird how I can handle the most gory horror, abuse, rape etc in books, but as soon as you start adding “animal stuff” I am like, THIS BOOK IS HARD TO READ. And that’s how it was this. Lots of sheep killing, there are some pretty graphic scenes, but everything matters. It didn’t feel gratuitous.

Like The Bass Rock, this one took me a bit to decode the timeline, but once I did, I kind of sat up straight and said out loud, “Wait…is this…did she really…wow.” It’s just….WYLD. Lol.

I actually need to re-read this one at some point, now that I have a better understanding of the timeline. I love it when you’re reading a book and it just suddenly clicks. This book is a treasure!

6. Harrow Lake – Kat Ellis 

Harrow Lake

I actually kind of liked this more than I thought I would considering it’s a YA thriller/mystery. The daughter of a famous horror movie director goes back to the town where his most famous film was set, and accidentally falls into a mission to find out what really happened to her mom. Is this something that I will remember years from now? Nope. Did it provide some entertainment via audiobook while I was slogging through a miserable workday? Yeah boi. And that’s really all I can ask for.

Feb 062021

Wow hi here I am on another thrilling [insert literally any day] with an update of no value or importance.

Earlier this week, I was reading Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (review/ thoughts will come later!) and for as short as the book was, two separate coincidences happened. There is another word I’m looking for too for what these things are and I can’t think of it…not idiosyncrasies…it will come to me at 3:00am probably.

Anyway, during one of my reading seshes, I had Depeche Mode playing gently in the background & just as I read the line gripping the steering wheel, not only was the song Behind the Wheel playing, but Dave Gahan was singing the verse “I’d rather not be the one behind the wheel.”

Then I picked the book back up one night right after Chooch & I finished our nightly exercise session with Jillian Michaels, when the character of “Omar” was introduced:

Which is whatever, except that I hadn’t turned off Jillian and it had gone to the next workout. Right as I read the name Omar, Jillian said Omar because she was talking to one of her Body Revolution people named OMAR.

I mean that’s kind of weird right because Omar isn’t like, I dunno, John.

SYNCRONICITY. That is the word I was thinking of: when you hear & read the same word at the same time.

To add to that, this morning I was listening to an audio book while helping Henry package greeting cards and one of the characters was called Gudman AND THAT WAS ALSO THE LAST NAME ON ONE OF THIS MORNING’S ORDERS.

Love that. Adds absolutely no value to my life but it sure is creepy good fun!