Jul 172021
 

I can’t remember if that’s what Part 1 was titled and I’m too emotionally exhausted to go back and look because I just watched a new special Taemin video that SM Entertainment released today in an effort to feed the starving Taemints and now I’m weak and have pressure behind my eyeballs from crying so please leave me alone.

8. The King of Crows – Libba Bray

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Hey, speaking of crying – finishing the Diviners series really did it to me. I can honestly say that I haven’t loved a book series this much since Harry Potter (you know, back before we knew that its author was a disgusting TERF). It’s really got it all: a ragtag, diverse cast of characters that will steal your heart, snappy dialogue, an exciting and original supernatural plot, and a historical setting that might actually teach you some things while also making you run to the nearest Party City for some flapper accessories.

And if you’re an audio book type of person (fuck it, even if you’re NOT), January Lavoy narrates all 4 books and she is a TREASURE. I’ve raved about all 4 of these books and will continue to do so until my deathbed days, probably. Oh, and I even got Henry into them – he just finished the fourth book recently too and we had a full five minute book club about it because, you know, Henry.

Oh! The only complaint I have about these books, if I have to have one, is that the book covers are terrible. Well, the first one is nice, but they all go downhill from there. The publisher did Libba Bray dirty.

9. Umma’s Table – Hong Yeon-Sik

Umma's Table

Don’t let the adorably whimsical cover fool you – this is one depressing graphic novel. I read it in the car in our drive to Cedar Point last month and had to keep putting it down because it was making me so sad. If aging parents is a trigger for you, skip this one. I just kept thinking about mortality, fear of getting older, of being a future burden to Chooch, all of these things that we really love to think about while in a car driving to a place where we’re supposed to be have fun, lol. It was a real downer, but also very beautiful. It will make you want to slow down and appreciate what you have, while you have it.

10. The Other Black Girl – Zakiya Dalila Harris

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OK this was a wild thriller! Nella works at a book publisher and is the token black girl until one day when another black girl is hired. At first, Nella is like THANK GOD but this new broad – Hazel – quickly becomes super popular in the office and eventually gets opportunities that Nella feels should be hers. But then there’s this crazy sci-fi twist to it that takes it the next level and I couldn’t imagine how the hell this thing was going to end. I thought it was super smart, witty, and fraught with tension.

There was also a part that I low-key related to where Nella is training Hazel and the whole time, Hazel is questioning the process and saying things like, “Yeah, but, shouldn’t we do it this way instead…” and then she criticizes a spreadsheet that isn’t alphabetized and laminated and I was like OH SHIT THIS SOUNDS FAMILIAR because I recently went through a similar sitch with a new person I was training and I gotta say, I felt a bit triggered lol.

11. The Last Thing He Told Me – Laura Dave

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One day, Hannah’s husband goes missing and the last thing she heard from him was a written note that says “protect her.” So now she and her teenage step-daughter, with whom she has a very strained relationship, set out to try and figure out what the hell happened. I would say it’s more of a mystery than a thriller, and I found it to be pretty interesting. I really didn’t expect this book to make me burst into tears at the end, but there we were!

12. The New Husband – DJ Palmer

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A very middle-of-the-road thriller. Pretty predictable. I liked that the book alternated between the POV of the wife and the teenage daughter, and definitely much preferred the daughter’s chapters. This book wasn’t terrible by any means, but it also didn’t blow me away. Lots of gaslighting though so I basically felt like I had an entire nest of hornets buzzing through my veins.

13. Meet Cute Diary – Emery Lee

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Hey, you knew there was gonna be a YA book in here somewhere! Noah is a high school trans boy who writes a blog about meet cute stories for the trans community, except that they’re all made up by him and then he gets exposed for being a fake so some dude offers to fake-date him so that Noah can save his blog (and face). There’s a lot of toxic behavior going on in this book, and it also taught me about the “eir” community – look, I am way behind on this stuff but I am learning slowly OK!?

The main character, Noah, is actually quite insufferable, but Devin is the one who saves this book in my opinion.

14. Astrid Sees All – Natalie Standiford

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Um. I picked this up because it was set in NYC club scene in the early 80s but…what? Huh? This book had NO VIBES. The only 80s bones that were thrown were sporadic mentions of Andy Warhol walking by, or JFK Jr being at a college party. And the plot, was even was that? The timeline kept jumping around too and it made no sense to me. Too many characters that I couldn’t keep up with. Drugs. A dad died. Yeah, this book was pretty much a waste of time.

****

Well, that’s all for June. I’m going to try and get Henry to guest post next week for his summer book recs since he has been tearing through the audiobooks at work. Don’t hold your breath!

Jul 082021
 

OK that title is pushing it because not all of the books I read in June were winners, let me tell you that right now. Well, here is the first half of the stack!

  1. The Divines – Ellie Eaton

The Divines

I guess this is dark academia? Maybe? Except that I actually liked it? Also, I’m not actually sure I know what the dark academia genre actually entails, but it’s about a girl in some private girls’ school in England. I mean, isn’t that how most of these synopses start out, lol. We bounce back and forth between the girl’s experience at school, to present day where she’s an adult and trying to come to terms with AN INCIDENT that we don’t really get the full picture of until toward the end of the book. Honestly, I thought that the writing was great and engaging, and I really liked this – the ending made me go “wow” and laugh.

I don’t know. This was good!

2. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – Taylor Jenkins Reid

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STOP WHAT YOU’RE DOING. NOW GO AND READ THIS BOOK. (Actually, finish reading this blog post first, I’m desperate for readers lololol.) Just like with Daisy Jones & the Six by the same author, I kept putting this off because I was sick and tired of Booktube qtipping their dick holes over it but then audio book became available on Scribd, and well….I fucking fell hard for this damn book. Similar to Daisy Jones, a fictional actress in her 70s is giving an exclusive tell-all to a writer, in which she reveals the history and stories behind all 7 of her husbands. You guys, how is Evelyn Hugo not real?? Taylor Jenkins Reid writes her characters SO FUCKING WELL that you will honestly forget you’re reading a fictional account of a fake actress’s life.

There isn’t a single boring part of this book and I lost my mind by the time it ended. And by that I mean it came oozing out of my eyeholes in the form of TEARS. Solid 5 star book, please someone make this into a TV show or movie (TV show would honestly be so good).

3. True Story – Kate Reed Petty

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Man, I already forgot most of this lololol. I remember thinking that it was very ambitious and ALMOST well-done, but also very repetitive and too long. There was an entire chapter about a guy in a cabin that literally made me want to scratch through my skin because it was so dull. Also, every man in this book can get fucked by a barbed wire ice pick, for real.

4. Finlay Donovan is Killing It – Elle Cosimano

Finlay Donovan Is Killing It (Finlay Donovan, #1)

YOU GUYS if you’re one of those “beach reads” people, I would recommend this one. It was so entertaining, the dialogue was snappy, the plot was cute but dark, and the characters were so delightful, even when they weren’t supposed to be. Basically, Finlay is a crime novelist who gets mistaken for a hit lady and every other chapter had me shouting, “No no no that’s a terrible idea!” but then cracking up because oh, Finlay, how will you get out of *this* mess?

I’m so glad that this is going to be a series!!

5. Crying in H-Mart – Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart

Crying in H-Mart is lodged in my heart like a bullet of sadness. I knew that this had a lot of hype surrounding it but I would have picked it up anyway because it has H-Mart in the title and hello, that’s my favorite grocery store in the world.

I don’t even know how to talk about this book without crying like a bitch, but in it, Michelle Zauner writes about her relationship with her Korean mother, specifically what it was like to watch her succumb to cancer and scramble for ways to maintain the Korean side of her identity. If you’re into Korean culture (specifically Korean food), you are going to latch on hard to this book, the reading of which will be soundtracked by the sinister rumble of your stomach as Michelle describes food in PRISTINE DETAIL. But even if you know nothing about Korean things, this is still an amazing book that speaks honestly and from the sad bullet-lodged heart about strained and complicated relations between a mother and her daughter. I just thought it was so raw and beautiful and also, Michelle Zauner is the front woman of Japanese Breakfast, so if none of the other endorsements I gave you made you want to pick this up, maybe that will because Japanese Breakfast is A++++++++++.

6. The Girls – Emma Cline 

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This is essentially a retelling of the Manson murders. I would recommend just reading Helter Skelter or something. I mean, this book was fine, but also kind of boring.

It did make me want to read more  coming-of-age books set in the 60s specifically during the FREE LOVE era but make it interesting, you know? I do think the book cover is striking. I give that a higher rating than the actual book, which again was FINE but just…not as graphic and bloody as I wanted it to be, I guess

7. What’s Mine is Yours – Naima Coster

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Oh ho ho ho fuck this book so hard. I have debated whether or not to even spend a single second giving any type of review of this because I hated it so much. Like, I gave it a 1-star on Goodreads only because Goodreads doesn’t let you give you zero.

I only picked this up because TIME told me in the was one of the books so far in 2021. Well, fuck you TIME, you have SHITTY taste.

First, let’s talk about the characters. They could have all died in quicksand for all I cared. Not a single redeeming quality to ANY OF THEM. Every single person – UNLIKEABLE. And I get that sometimes we’re actually not supposed to like a character; OK cool but at least make that person INTERESTING. None of these people were!! They were like FUCKING SIMS. Two entire families we followed and not a single person to root for except for the FAMILY DOG and don’t even get me started on that!!

Now, how about the SLOPPY TIMELINE JUMPING. Wow. Some writers can really pull this off with aplomb (looking at you, Evie Wyld, my love). But this book had the most confusing timeline switches and it really didn’t even make that much sense to me. I had a really hard time following along (and I was eye-ball reading this, not doing the audiobook, so I can’t even blame it on the narration or zoning out), and if the whole reason behind this was just to be able to have a “reveal” or “twist,” well it wasn’t necessary because I thought it was pretty obvious very early on what was going on. But again – didn’t care.

And the matriarch of one of the two families was so shitty and trashy that I absolutely loathed every chapter that featured her. LACEY MAY  – what a fucking name. This is not a spoiler at all but the writing was so shitty that there were numerous mentions of LACEY MAY kicking the family dog in the ribs, but then in one of the later timelines, there’s a mention of her spending a lot of time at her daughter’s dog kennel because being around dogs made her think of their old family dog.

….oh you mean THE ONE THAT SHE KICKED???

It made no sense to me. I fucking hated this book so bad. Could not even picture a single character in my mind, that’s how one-dimensionally written they all were.

Oh and the book cover is ugly too.

Sorry if this is your fave, but I vacillated between being glad I read a library copy, and actually kind of wishing I owned the copy I read so that I could have ripped it apart and burnt it when I finished.

WOW I’M GLAD I’M ENDING THIS BLOG POST ON THIS NOTE BECAUSE NOW I AM ANGRY ALL OVER AGAIN AND REQUIRE A COOL-OFF WALK AT…9:57PM GREAT.

Jun 232021
 

Hello. Here you will find the last half of the books I read for Asian Read-a-Thon. I hope that you will look at this and find a book or 8 to read. OK I’m out. Cook on, mothercheffers.

10. The Last Story of Mina Lee – Nancy Jooyoun Kim

The Last Story of Mina Lee

Holy shit is this book depressing. Girl finds mom dead in her apartment. From there, the chapters alternate between the daughter trying to figure out what happened to her mom, to the mom in a past timeline where we see her journey & transition from Korea to America in the 80s. It’s your classic “children can’t see their parents as people with their own lives and history until it’s too late” type of storyline, and it hits hard. I liked the mom’s chapters better because she was such an interesting character and the daughter was just kind of like, “Oh darn, mom was a person I had no idea and now she’s dead oops.”

11. Yolk – Mary H.K. Choi 

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This is the third book I’ve read by Mary H.K. Choi now and dare I say she has become one of my favorite authors? The voices she feeds into her characters feel so real and effortless that they are real people you know, and you can HEAR their voices. The dialogue is punchy and realistic, and even when the characters show shittier, darker sides of themselves, you still can’t help but root for them. You have probably not watched the Korean drama Reply 1988, but two sisters in that show reminded me SO MUCH of our main characters in Yolk. To say they’re estranged is maybe a bit too drastic, but they definitely, as two young women in their early 20s, are not regular fixtures in each other’s lives. Until one finds out she may or may not have cancer. But even with subject matter that heavy, Choi manages to bring levity and humor into the situation and you can’t help but fall hard for these people. Or maybe you can, Henry probably could. But he’s heartless and not easily moved by much.

12. All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know

This is a memoir about a Korean woman who was adopted as an infant by a white American couple. One of the Goodread reviews said something along the lines of “this was good but should have just been an essay” and I agree with this because it did feel very repetitive at times, though it’s so very important for us to read about and try to gain more of an understanding of how difficult it is for minorities to grow up in America, let alone ADOPTED minorities. These children essentially have their culture and heritage robbed from them and, as an American bystander, it might seem like “the prospect of a ‘better’ life” is all that matters here but imagine how lonely it is to be the only one in a family who looks different, to the point where you feel like you don’t fit in there but then you’re also not “x”-enough to fit in with people of your own ethnicity.

13. American Betiya – Anuradha D. Rajurkar

American Betiya

Oh the anger I felt while reading this (not because the book was bad). Basically this cool Indian girl starts clandestinely dating some cringey, clingy, super problematic white kid because her traditional family has a strict no-dating policy while she’s in school, but she’s like eff that this creepy toxic asshole is totally into me and who cares if his friends are mildly racist and they all call me Princess Jasmine and then he makes me wear traditional Indian wedding garments before fucking me what he’s so not fetishizing my culture AT ALL.

You guys, I was screaming. Fuck that guy. This girl had the sweetest, most caring family and her grandma is visiting from India and all her mom wants is for her betiya to set up a goddamn Zoom call so they can talk to the grandfather in India but she’s too busy trying to make her emotionally abuse boyfriend happy and ew, just ew. I hated him so much.

This book is meant to make you burn up inside and it did its job.

14. A Very Large Expanse of Sea – Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

Another book to get the blood boiling! This one takes place shortly after 911 and our main character here is a Muslim girl – Shirin – starting a new high school, but same ol’ racism and microaggressions. Oh and not just from the students – hoo boy no no no.

There is also a romance in this one but the love interest, Ocean, is actually not a fetishizer and his feelings for her are fucking pure.

Oh, this book pumped up my heart to Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade balloon proportions.

15. The Hole – Hye-Young Pyun

The Hole

This was a quietly creepy psychological thriller about a Korean man, Ogi, who is recovering from a car accident in which his wife was killed, and now her mom is acting as his caregiver. He’s basically confined to his room and left to ruminate upon his marriage while the mother-in-law neglects him and starts digging holes in the garden.

I don’t really know what else to say about it. It was OK! But I think I was expecting it to be more scary.

16. Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong 

Goodbye, Vitamin

OK not only was this one of the best books I read for Asian Read-a-Thon, it was also one of the best books I read all year and is a new instant favorite. As someone who reads a lot of different voices and genres, it’s sometimes hard for me to pinpoint exactly what KIND of book I like, and this is it. This writing. This is my JAM.

(LOL shit here I am the day after I posted this, realizing that I never even explained why I like this book or what it’s even about. Oh well, click the link I guess?! According to Goodreads, I updated twice during the reading process to say “This book is 100% my style” and “My soul had left my body.” So, there you go!)

17. Year of the Rabbit – Tian Veasna

Year of the Rabbit

This graphic novel is HEAVY AF. Just looking at the cover of it is making my eyes well up. It’s horrifying and actually scarier than any horror novel I’ve read because this was TRUE. REAL LIFE. HISTORY. I didn’t know much about the genocide in Cambodia in the 70s, but now I do. This graphic novel did not hold back. It follows various members of the author’s family and the unreal horrors they endured (and not all overcame) in their efforts to escape Phnom Penh and start a new life as refugees. Totally sobering and heartbreaking, and especially infuriating to find out that only recently – nearly 5 decades later – have the people involved in the Khmer Rouge takeover been convicted and sentenced to life in prison—most of them are already dead and the ones who are still alive are already in their 80s.

I guess justice is justice, but damn.

This was definitely the heaviest, saddest graphic novel I have ever read.

18. Anna K: Away – Jenny Lee

Anna K: Away (Anna K, #2)

I needed to end the read-a-thon with something light and luckily my copy of the Anna K sequel came in just in time. Anna K is a modern retelling of Anna Karenina mashed up with some Gossip Girl vibes. I mean,  it’s OK, but I don’t really think it’s AS GREAT as the hype claims. However, I did like this one because Anna K is, well, away. And not just away anywhere – she’s in Seoul! So I really enjoyed those chapters but I gotta admit, the side characters are so vapid and I know, I know – that’s the point, but they can be vapid while still being interesting. As it stands, I just really don’t “love” anyone in this series except for Vronsky, but well, if you know you know.

My other issue with this book isn’t with the book itself but the narrator of the audiobook, Jenna Ushkowitz (of “Glee” fame). Because the main character Anna is Korean American, there are some basic Korean words tossed around, ESPECIALLY when she is in Seoul. Jenna’s pronunciations are extremely jarring and took me out of the story every time. Now, I understand that Jenna is Korean, but adopted when she was a baby by an American couple, so I don’t hold this against her but I’m kind of wondering how this was allowed to pass. Am I being nitpicky? I promise you, I fucking PINKY SWEAR, that I am not trying to be all know-it-all-y about this, I mean, my knowledge of the Korean language is BASE LEVEL. But!!!! I watch A LOT of Korean programming to the point where I know what it sounds like when someone is saying an extremely basic word like “halmeoni” which means grandma, and I have never heard it pronounced the way this narrator says it and it bothered me so much. It was like listening to Henry try to say “gochujang” on repeat. Am I being dramatic? Probably! But this really kind of brought the book down a coupla stars for me.

Jun 102021
 

I don’t think anyone is surprised to know that I read a ton of books by Asian authors on regular days, no prompt needed, but there is something about the challenge to read ONLY these types of books for an entire month that makes me stupidly giddy because I am a simple, simple person. And with May being Asian American Pacific Islander month, it’s the perfect time to broaden your horizons, learn about other cultures, and open your eyes to the FUCKING MADDENING RACISM AND MICROAGGRESSIONS that other people live through every day.

There are various readathons out there with an array of prompts, but I honestly just like to try and jam in books from as many different Asian countries as possible, translated works, memoirs, graphic novels, horror, thriller, romance. Gimme it all.

I went hard this year, reaching 18 books by the end, but not as hard as last year which had me finishing something like 26 or 28 books by the end!? HOW!? SRSLY HOW DID I DO THAT.

Anyway, here are the first nine books I read in May!

  1. Leave the World Behind – Rumaan Alam

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Um, what a wild start to the readathon. So, this is a thriller but it’s a slow motherfucking burn. There was so much build-up and tension, the kind that gives you a kink in your neck because you were sitting in a weirdly contorted, bracing-for-things-to-take-a-turn position.

I can’t really say if I liked it as a whole but the way it ended really satisfied my literary side but I bet Rumaan Alam would think I was an uncultured dumbo if we ever sat down for a conversation, that’s for dam sure.

2. No One Can Pronounce My Name – Rakesh Satyal

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I LOVED THIS BOOK. I LOVED EVERY FUCKING CHARACTER. We follow two leads: Harit and Ranjana, two unrelated Indian Americans whose lives eventually cross paths and their friendship is everything. I LAUGHED, I CRIED, ETC ETC. But honestly – white people need to get a fucking grip when it comes to pronouncing names, honestly. People of different ethnicities should not have to change their real name to fucking BOBBY or JOHNNY in order to make it easier for dumb white people. We need to put in the fucking effort.

3. Rent a Boyfriend – Gloria Chao

Rent a Boyfriend

This was very predictable but really charming, and all the food references made me so hungry. But basically, our main girl is going home to visit her Taiwanese parents and hires a fake boyfriend through a legit service called Rent for your ‘Rents, in an effort to get them off her back in regards to  the REALLY SHITTY GUY they want her to marry. But evidently, renting a boyfriend is a very real thing in some Asian countries to alleviate the pressure put upon women by their parents to marry.

4. The Way of the Househusband Vol. 1

The Way of the Househusband, Vol. 1

I’m not a big manga person, but this one was so fucking cute and I loved the illustrations. It’s about a former Yakuza (Japanese gangster) who is now a househusband and it was just so pure. Again, I’m not a big manga person but I could see myself continuing on with this series!

5. Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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Hi. I started crying just by typing out the title of this fucking powerful, strong, beautiful, sad, maddening, depressing, empowering, fierce, inspiring memoir. Good lord, if you haven’t already read this, please do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.

In case you don’t know who Chanel Miller is, she is the “Emily Doe” read out loud in court a letter she wrote to the motherfucking Stanford swimmer who sexually assaulted her and left her next to a dumpster. Chanel Miller is a hell of a writer and she will be your tour guide into the depths of hell she experienced during the trial. The way she was dragged and pushed around was nearly as bad as the crime itself. Just so infuriating to read and you know I’m not a hugger, but I wanted to hug Chanel a million different times while reading this. If you pick it up, be prepared to want to set men on fire, to openly weep, and to march up to your teenager’s room and scream reminders at his face about how you will not have his back if he EVER DOES ANYTHING LIKE THIS TO ANOTHER PERSON REGARDLESS OF GENDER, CONSENT CONSENT CONSENT.

Also, I listened to this on audio because Chanel narrates it herself and Henry listened to parts of it too when we were in the car and even Henry, milquetoast white man, was like WTF IS THIS INJUSTICE and I was like WELCOME TO BEING A WOMAN, HENRY.

Alsox2, do not read the one star reviews. Just, if you have even a sliver of feminism & girl power in your being, avoid the negative reviews because it is VICTIMEBLAMEVILLE up in there.

6. Interior Chinatown – Charles Yu 

Interior Chinatown

Seriously one of the most creative books I’ve read. It’s written as a screenplay for a procedural cop show called Black and White, where the two main cops are, you know, Black and white, and our protagonist Willis is desperate to become a character greater than Generic Asian Guy. It plays on Hollywood tropes and Asian stereotypes to illustrate what it really feels like to be Asian American, in a super inventive way. Definitely will be picking up more by Charles Yu.

7. Days of Distraction – Alexandra Chang 

Days of Distraction

Not to be stupidly punny here but while I enjoyed this book overall, I did oftentimes find myself distracted/losing interest. It’s about a woman in her early 20s, working in the tech field (her job sounded so fucking stressful and terrible and I have actually been more grateful to be working at a law firm TBH) and then deciding to dump her job and move cross country with her boyfriend. I think I would have found this extremely relatable if I were younger and less settled in my life, but I did enjoy the way this book was written – almost in LiveJournal-esque vignettes. There is also some exploration on biracial dating (the boyfriend is a white guy) that was really interesting from an outsiders viewpoint, how he just wasn’t able to see the racism where it was so obvious to her.

But yeah, if you’re looking for a book full of action, this is not it. If you like reading lots of internal monologues while you’re living through your own quarterlife crisis, you gon’ like this one.

8. A Sweet Mess – Jayci Lee

A Sweet Mess

Man, I’m so mad that I didn’t like this as much as I thought I would and I spent more time thinking about all the ways it could have been better instead of actually enjoying the story. Also, it’s a romance and I’m not a big romance reader and can be super picky about that shit. But the gist of this is that our main lady owns a bakery in a small town in California, and then, by way of a SWITCHEROO, some very famous food critic passes through town and eats a disgusting cake from said bakery and eviscerates the baker in whatever famous magazine he writes for and now the bakery is losing business and even though the critic has since realized there was a mistake, he refuses to renege his review because he has never before done that and has to KEEP HIS INTREGITY, PEOPLE. It’s such a weak storyline. Anyway he finds a different way to make it up to her by getting her a spot on his famous friend’s cooking show that is about to start production but oh yeah did I tell you that he had a one-night stand with the baker before he wrote the review (they didn’t know who each other were at the time) and so now they have to FIGHT THEIR FEELINGS for each other because HIS CAREER WILL BE RUINED if the public finds out he SLEPT WITH HER and then gave her a spot on the show.

It was pretty….lame.

Weirdly though, they go to some place called Moonstone Beach which apparently is a real place that I had never heard of and then I recently read another book that also mentioned it so now I guess I need to go to Moonstone Beach, let’s go.

9. Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

How beautiful is this cover, tho. And also a historical fiction that’s actually interesting and informative with a Sapphic coming-of-age romance? Bro, put my name on that sign-up sheet behind Todd’s desk, which is where the sign-up sheets always were when we worked in an office and had food parties.

Anyway, this is set in SF’s Chinatown during the Red Scare and centers around a lesbian club called the Telegraph Club, and it was fucking wonderful.

***

OK there’s the first 9. I’m tired of typing and I really suck at book reviews, but I liked all of these except for A Sweet Mess and if I had to recommend one it would be Know My Name – support Chanel Miller. She is really making an impact, so fuck you, Brock Turner, you piece of shit.

 

May 172021
 

Herein lies the second half of the books I read in April. May they rest in peace.

8. The Ex Talk – Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Ex Talk

The premise of this one sounded so PROMISING: two rivals at a radio station are forced by their shady-ass producer into pretending to be exes in order to host a new show called The Ex Talk, in hopes of saving ratings. The rival arc didn’t feel very fleshed out to me but I really did like both of the characters and when they inevitably fall in love (not a spoiler), I had already been shipping them.

I read contemporary romances occasionally as a palate cleanser and they usually do the trick because I go into them with the lowest expectations possible, lol.

9. The Leavers – Lisa Ko

The Leavers

HEAVY. This wasn’t an easy read but it was rewarding. We follow the story of an undocumented immigrant Chinese woman who may have abandoned her young son in NYC (I think he was 10 or 11 at the time?) and we watch as he’s eventually adopted by a fairly well-off white couple and is forced to assimilate in a new town and school while wondering wtf happened to his mom, and we get to find out in the mom’s own chapters.

I just thought this was a wonderfully written deep exploration into family and race and I cared so much for Polly, the mother, especially.

10. Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars

Oh man, what a quirky, sometimes uncomfortable, coming-of-age fantasy romp of a trans Asian girl who runs away from an abusive household. There were parts that made me laugh out loud, but also moments of transphobic violence that quickly stomped you back down to reality and reminded you that while this book may be wildly and fantastically written, the underlying conflicts are very, very much rooted in reality.

My favorite parts were the letters she wrote to her little sister.

11. The Other Americans – Laila Lalami 

The Other Americans

The way this book is set up reminded me a bit of Miracle Creek. It revolves around a Moroccan immigrant who is killed in a hit-and-run, which is initially written off as an accident but his daughter is all HOLD UP WAIT A MINUTE and start pressuring the police to investigate. She gets her own chapters, the deceased father gets his own chapters where we get to learn more about who he was when he lived in Morocco. The mom gets her own chapters, as does the lone witness – an undocumented Mexican whose wife is all YOU NEED TO TALK TO THE POLICE and he is all I DO WANT TO GET DEPORTED.

I really loved how this was written. It was a slow burn of a multi-character study, culminating in the finding out exactly what happened that night and why.

If you’re a decent human being, it will have you seething about racists more than once.

12. The Wife Stalker – Liv Constantine

The Wife Stalker

Just a domestic thriller. It was OK. I don’t feel like recapping it because I have literally no thoughts or feelings, but I guess I could say, “This would be a nice book to read on the beach.”

13. Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

This is a quirkily-written YA book about a teenage girl with some rare disease that keeps her confined inside the house with only her mom and nurse allowed near her.

I figured out what was going on pretty early and it got VERY FAR-FETCHED toward the end, but it was entertaining and endearing (of course there is A BOY) and I fucking cried in real life while reading it in the car on the way to the Columbus Zoo last month.

The nurse was the best character and I was obsessed with her.

14. Milk fed- Melissa Broder

Milk Fed

UM…Melissa Broder is my new obsession. Her writing is so my style. This book was SO WEIRD, and sad, and funny, and creepily erotic that I was screaming out loud during some parts of it. It was also relatable in a way because the main character’s (Rachel) life is driven by a crippling obsession with counting calories brought on by being fat-shamed as a child by her mother.

Now, Rachel’s in her early 20s and the book starts off with her therapist recommending a 90-day detox from her mother.

Around the same time, the boy at the froyo store – who never questions the Rachel’s insistence on never filling the cup past the top and her staunch refusal to add toppings – is replaced one day by his sister, who pressures Rachel into splurging, which sets Rachel into a bingeing spiral of doom. I FELT THAT.

Anyway, this book is much more than that and I want to recommend it to everyone but I have a feeling it won’t be for everyone but if you do pick it up, prepare for some uncomfortable fantasies and super fucking real moments. I mean, her other book is about a woman who fucks a fish, so…

15. Before the Devil Breaks You – Libba Bray

Before the Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3)

What a way to end another reading month of April. I cannot recommend the Diviners series enough (Henry just finished the first book and is hooked!). It’s set in the 20s, the characters are so fleshed out and each one adds their own flavor to the story, the writing is perfect (not too hokey for a YA fantasy series and not too try-hard either), and the banter IS SO FUCKING QUICK AND WITTY. I highly highly highly recommend the audio book for this series because it’s narrated by January Lavoy and she is MASTERFUL at voicing these characters. She breathes so much life into each one of them!

Anyway, this book has Umbrella Academy vibes, government conspiracies, a bit of history woven in for the Realness, some spooky goodness, believable love lines, and a bunch of teenagers with super diverse backgrounds coming together all found family-like.

SAM IS MY FAVORITE CHARACTER. EVIE IS HENRY’S FAVORITE CHARACTER.

I AM TRYING TO GET JANNA TO READ THESE BOOKS.

May 082021
 

I read 15 books in April. Some were super shiny gems! Some were just OK pebbles good for tossing into a pond.

  1. Oona Out of Order – Margarita Montimore

Oona Out of Order

I really wanted to love this book about Oona, a girl who wakes up in a random year of her life every New Year’s Eve. It starts in the early 80s, at a New Year’s Eve party in her friend’s basement, when she’s….18? I think? About to turn 19? I can’t remember, but because we start the book with her as a sprightly young thing, we get to suffer through her freaking out each time she wakes up as a much older version of herself when she’s internally still a young adult.

I should have known that I wouldn’t like this because “time travel” tropes NEVER WORK FOR ME. Probably because I’m a dumbo who just can’t understand and/or follow along but the whole time I just wanted to know: why. Only her mom and one other character in the book know that this happens to her and they try to protect her from doing stupid shit but I just could never really get a good feel for anyone in the book and thought that Oona was actually quite unlikeable but I don’t think that was the intention. I’m not just saying this because I stan Korea but the best fucking character in the book was the Korean American guitar teacher she has in one of the timelines and that plotline is just completely tossed aside. Good job, Margarita Montimore. Dumbo.

Oh also she’s super rich because of time travel / stock market, etc.

Cool cover, tho bro.

2. On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous – Ocean Vuong

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

My heart is aching at the very memory of reading this tragic, heartwrenching, poetic, violent, painful, sweet book written as a letter from a Vietnamese American son to his mother, who cannot read. I’ve seen a lot of people complain that it lacks a plot, but it’s literally about…life. It’s a book of personal reflection. This is a tough one to explain because it’s SO EMOTIONAL and left my face slick with tears multiple times. If you want action or a neatly packaged plot-climax-closure, then skip this.

But if you’re looking to feast upon some exquisitely crafted turns of phrase while having your heart fisted because you’re a glutton for punishment, then don’t just pick this book up, but grab the audio to really elevate the experience, as it’s narrated by Vuong himself.

One review on Goodreads summarizes my thoughts perfectly: “The author didn’t write this book; he opened his heart and just let it bleed all over the pages. Reading it cracked mine open and turned me inside out.”

OMG my sinuses are burning just thinking about the emotional journey this one took me on, lol ugh help.

3. The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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Maybe the best book I read in April? I kept putting this one off because I think I assumed it was going to be some dry, historical fiction but then I FINALLY read the synopsis (only after hearing someone rave about how the audiobook is narrated by Tom Hanks) and I thought, “OK. Maybe.”

HOLY SHIT, WHATTA RIDE. I cared so deeply for the brother and sister that this book revolves around. It’s from the POV of the younger brother, Danny, and spans the course of five decades, with THE DUTCH HOUSE firmly at the center. The Dutch House was the name of the grand estate Danny and Maeve’s father purchased for the family in the suburbs of Philly, but the mom hated the house and one day, seemingly out of the blue, leaves the family. The dad eventually remarries a woman who seems to be more into the house than him, and then eventually kicks out Danny and Maeve. They, Maeve especially, spend most of their lives obsessing over the house, and it becomes a habit for them to park their car outside of it and just…watch.

So many things about this book immediately called to mind my grandparent’s house, which Corey and I affectionately called “Gillcrest” or “116” to the point where I have often thought about getting the numbers 116 in a heart tattooed on me somewhere. And the relationship of Danny and Maeve was so real and pure, it made me so happy that Corey and I are talking again because this book probably would have destroyed me otherwise.

(I’m crying right now, lol.)

This was a solid 5 stars for me. Reading it along with Tom Hanks (when I do opt for audiobooks, I usually have the book too so I can read along) enhanced the experience because I could picture everything in my mind, like watching a movie so thank you Tom, for elevating Ann Patchett’s beautiful story to the next level. I love this book so much and I don’t often re-read things but I think this one deserves to be read more than once for sure. MAYBE AS A BUDDY-READ WITH HENRY!?!?!?

4. The Upstairs House – Julia Fine

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Oh this was a weird one!! A story-within-a-story and also one of the most creative and interesting takes on the haunted house trope that I’ve experienced (haunted house tropes are my faves but I have read some really shitty ones!). This is a giant metaphor for post-partum depression and I thought it was executed skillfully and thoughtfully. It’s told from the perspective of Megan, who has just given birth to her daughter, and almost immediately she becomes haunted by the ghost of Margaret Wise Brown, a children’s book author. I loved this! Some of the chapters in the book were about Margaret’s relationship with poet/actress/socialite Michael Strange. I didn’t realize it at first because I’m an uncultured dumbass, but both of these women were real, not fictional, and the author’s note at the end even encourages readers to explore more of their works.

If you go into this expecting a legit horror story, you’ll likely be disappointed. But I thought it was poignant, candid, and laugh out loud funny at times. Julia Fine is a wonderful writer and this really worked for me. Maybe because I can remember how fucking nuts I felt after having a baby.

5. The Honey-Don’t List – Christina Lauren

The Honey-Don't List

Sometimes I need to break up all the hard, emotional reads with a nice, light, quirky romance, and Christina Lauren books always seems to do the trick. Nothing revolutionary here, just a good, entertaining novel about the unraveling of a famous DIY couple’s marriage and their assistants (Carey is the wife’s assistant and James is the husband’s) trying desperately to keep everything from publicly imploding. Of course, Carey and James are like oil and water, AND OMG NOW THEY HAVE TO WORK TOGETHER, GROSS.

It was cute and light and perfect for what I needed at the time.

6. The House In the Cerulean Sea – T.J.  Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea

Why did I put off reading this book for so long?!?! Oh, I know why – because I mistakenly thought it was middle grade. IT IS NOT. This is the purest, most magical, precious adult book about FITTING IN and FOUND FAMILY that has ever been written, I am not kidding. It was charming, sweet, funny, sad, JUST PERFECT.

It’s about an orphanage of misunderstood magical children and the caseworker who is assigned to spend a month there and basically write the report that will determine the future of the orphanage and the children.

My friend Sadishika called it “Umbrella Academy but make it wholesome” and I can see that! I mean, I gave it five million stars, so…

(Also, Henry read it  before me and kept saying, “WHERE ARE YOU IN THE BOOK? WHERE ARE YOU NOW? HOW ABOUT NOW? DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHO MY FAVORITE CHARACTER WAS? WHO IS YOUR FAVORITE?” Henry really liked it, lol.)

7. Foolish Hearts – Emma Mills

Foolish Hearts

This is totally YA but I enjoyed it so much! Apparently it’s a retelling of Midsummer Night’s Dream but I am not well-versed in Shakespeare so probably even the most blatant nods were lost on me. However, I really liked the protagonist, Claudia, and really rooted for her. It just gave me all-around good, swirly feelings and actually kind of made me miss high school a little bit too.

Someone on Goodreads recommended it for “ppl who would kill Voldemort in a fuck, marry, kill game” so do with that what you will.

Apr 182021
 

Hello and welcome back to the Erin Can Read Bookz show. In this episode, we’ll be recapping the second half of March which I can’t even remember anymore, but here we go!


9. Charming as a Verb – Ben Phillipe

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I apparently gave this a 4 but after having some time to let it simmer, I think it was more of a 3. Main dude Henri is trying hard to get into Columbia because he hasn’t yet realized that this is really his dad’s dream. Meanwhile, his school nemesis who also lives in his building blackmails him into helping her become more “social” because one of their teachers wrote her a college recommendation letter that mentioned her lack of social skills. Yadda yadda yadda, you know the drill. Of COURSE there is a conflict and I don’t want to give it away but it gave me so much anxiety and also has me dreading the college application process which is fast-approaching since freezing Chooch in a block of ember to keep him a smol child did not work.

10. Writers & Lovers – Lily King

Writers & Lovers

Completely blown away by this book. Legit gave a shit about the main character. Rooted for her so hard that I gave myself a headache. The writing IS SO RAW AND BEAUTIFUL. We’re following Casey, who I believe is in her early 30s, mourning the recent death of her mom, drowning in debt, working an emotionally abusive and toxic job as a waitress in some fancy restaurant in Boston, all while struggling to write a novel. There were parts of this book that gave me a visceral reaction, and by the end, I just put my head down and cried. Like C-R-I-E-D. Not because it was depressing or tragic, per se, but just…it was so real and I FELT THAT. I just want Casey to be happy, you know?

Also, this takes place in 1997 and it gave me strong pre-mumblecore vibes. I could picture it as an indie movie starring, I don’t know, Parker Posie or Hope Davis.

This book was totally my style.

11. Elatsoe – Darcie Little Badger

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This book was all over Booktube and it sounded interesting – it’s set in a world where the supernatural is present and known and our main character Elatsoe is tasked with solving the murder of her cousin and I liked that her parents were involved too!  I thought it was cute and the dialogue was sweet and snappy and even made me laugh a few times, but I was also kind of bored. I think I would have loved this a lot if I read it as a young teen though! The ghost dog was e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g.

We get a lot of Native American mythology taught to us in this, which was interesting. Also, the main character is a 17-year girl who is asexual and I think that is fucking amazing. But at the end of the day, I was just the wrong demographic for this book.

12.  Too Good to Be True – Carola Lovering

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Oh shit this hooked me from the start and I was so excited about it! I love books with multiple narratives, especially when it’s not immediately clear how everyone is connected, and one of the narratives was even set in the past so that was extra intriguing!

I have a pretty low bar for domestic thrillers because I don’t really go into that genre expecting to be blown away by the writing. I just want to be entertained! And this one did entertain me, until the last quarter. I absolutely hated how it ended. It was so unbelievable (and I know, most thrillers are super far-fetched!) but this one was even far-fetched in the way some of the characters reacted to/handled the conflict. I really just didn’t buy it at all.

Also, I pretty much hated everyone in this book, so I really didn’t care who came out on top.

13. Memorial – Bryan Washington 

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We’re following two guys, Mike and Benson, who are at a crossroads in their relationship. The book is split into two parts: Mike’s POV and Benson’s POV. It’s uncomfortable, sad, sometimes light-hearted, but by the end of the book, I was kind underwhelmed. I don’t necessarily need novels to be wrapped up nicely with a bow and a gift tag by the last page, but this one was just kind of like…pointless to me? I really really really loved Mike’s mom who visits from Japan, and the quiet relationship she forms with Benson while Mike is back in Japan spending time with his dad. I really thought that that part of the book would have been my favorite, because I love when books are set outside of the US, but Memorial just didn’t leave a lasting impression on me and I am sad because I really expected to LOVE IT LOVE IT.

14. The Project – Courtney Summers

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After obsessing over Summers’ last book, Sadie, I was highly anticipating the release of The Project. SADLY, it was a dud for me. The writing itself was wonderful – Summers is a fantastic writing – but the characters and story just wasn’t it, sir. And I was shocked by how bored I was because it was about A CULT and one girl trying to save her older sister from their hold on her.

The cover is pure art though, isn’t it??

15. A Pho Love Story – Loan Le

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This is a very modern Romeo & Juliet retelling: the son and daughter of two rival pho restaurants meet in high school and fall in love, but have to keep it a secret from their families. Turns out, the rivalry predates the restaurants and the reveal was actually my favorite part of the book because the adults were fascinating characters and I would LOVE to read a spin-off featuring both sets of parents!

This book was just really cute with perfectly placed dollops of heaviness, Vietnamese culture, and LOTS OF FOOD DESCRIPTIONS so get a snack ready before you sit down with this one!

16. They Never Learn – Layne Fargo

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A book about a female serial killer? OH HELL YES. Told from dual POVs, this was wonderfully fast-paced, infuriating, with a twist I wasn’t expecting. Super entertaining and a quick read. I was so happy I ended the month on a high note and it also gave me a much-needed booster shot of GIRL POWER.

Apr 122021
 

Hello. I read a bunch of books in March. These are the books that I read.

  1. Super Fake Love Song – David Yoon

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I love David Yoon. I read his book “Frankly In Love” last year and adored it so I could not WAIT to pick this one up. Classic “boy likes girl, girl thinks boy is someone he’s not, hilarity and cringe ensues” young adult romp but David Yoon writes characters that feel so real, it makes the trope feel fresh.

2. If I Disappear – Eliza Jane Brazier

If I Disappear

I was really excited for this. I mean, get a load of that cover! And the plot? A true crime podcast host goes off the grid and her number one fan GOES TO HER HOMETOWN to search for her? Unfortunately, it just didn’t do it for me. I did not feel thrilled, nor did I care about a single character. It just lacked tension. However, it’s being developed into a series, I guess, so maybe I will check that out because like I said, the synopsis seemed very compelling to me.

3. Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

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OK, speaking of books-to-TV, this one was recently made into a Netflix show and I am super glad I read it before watching it because this was a motherfucking TRIP. I mean, you have got to REALLY suspend disbelief with this one or else you will probably just hate it. But I was really into this and by the time I got to to the end, I was laughing out loud and screaming WHAT? Not because it was hilarious, but because it was a WILD RIDE. I was thoroughly entertained!

I did start to watch the series but it was so similar to the book that it felt kind of like I was just wasting my time since I had *just* finished reading the book. Although, I might just go ahead and skip to the last episode because I’m interested in how that was lifted from page to screen.

Anyway, if you like super cray domestic thrillers, try this one lol.

4. Smash It! – Francina Simone

Smash It! (Smash It! #1)

A fresh take on the classic “bucket list” trope, written by a well-loved Booktuber. I needed a fun and upbeat audiobook to listen to one weekend when I was going out for a walk and this book did a fine job of distracting and entertaining me but I have to tell you a secret. The day I started listening to this book, it was a windy but super sunny and beautiful Saturday. Henry and Chooch had left to go pick up takeout from a new African restaurant and I was like I AM GOING TO GO FOR A NICE LONG WALK AND ENJOY THIS EARLY SPRING WEATHER, BITCHES so I left the house for a good hour at least and when I came back, THE FRONT DOOR WAS WIDE OPEN. And we do not  have a screen door anymore so if the front door is open, WELCOME TO MY HOUSE, STEP RIGHT UP, COME ON IN! I have no idea how long the door was open, but after I tentatively stepped in and yelled HELLO IS ANYONE HERE, the cats came out of the basement looking scared as hell, like, “OMG LADY A GHOSTESS BLEW OPEN THE DOOR WHILE YOU WERE GONE AND WE HERE ALL ALONE WITH IT AHHHHH!!!”

Of course this happened because I do not have a house key (Henry had a new one made for me and I lost it and then I found it and then I lost it again lol) so when I leave the house I have to leave it unlocked and apparently I also did not shut the door all the way either so, that’s how that happened.  Anyway, I 100% did not tell Henry about this but then the secret was causing me physical pain so one night last week when we were on a walk, I blurted out, “SOMETHING HAPPENED.” And then I told him and he just murmured, “ohmygod.”

So now I will always associate this book with that. Lol. I’m so good at book reviews!

5. The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

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When I was in elementary school, I was obsessed with this book called The Westing Game, which was about a millionaire who died and named a bunch of seemingly unrelated people in his Will, but they had to play a game in order to win the inheritance. LOVED that book and to this day, I still have an urge to swish with Bourbon when I have a toothache. This was a super valuable lesson I learned at the ripe age of like….8.

Anyway! This book is similar: super fucking rich guy kicks it and leaves everything to some rando teenager but of course there is a game involved and four super hot grandsons to work with. Not as good as The Westing Game by any means, but this was FUN and basically just what I  needed at that time – a nice, fun read that wasn’t going to add additional stress or heartache to my life. Evidently, this is going to be a series so I will definitely pick up book two when it comes out!

6. & 7. Heartstopper, Vol. 1 & 2

I’m not an avid graphic novel reader but I am always hearing about how great this series is, and having read Oseman’s “Radio Silence,” I’m already moderately familiar with her.  So finally, I requested Volume 1 from the library and proceeded to accidentally devour it in one sitting. THE HYPE IS REAL. If something like this was available when I was in high school, wow. I would have loved it even more but even as a crusty old broad, I was basically swooning as I flipped my way through this. What an adorable, realistic exploration of sexual identity and love for teenagers.

Charlie and Nick for-fucking-ever. I can’t wait to read Volumes  3 and 4!

Oh!! And this is also being turned into a series!! I CAN’T WAIT.

8. The Lost Apothecary – Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary

The book cover and concept of The Lost Apothecary are fabulous, but the actual book was…it just wasn’t it for me. Basically we have some broad who catches her husband in an affair right before they’re set to take a 10-year anniversary trip to London so she’s like “fuck it, I’m going by myself” and while there she goes “mudding” in the Thames and unearths a super old apothecary jar and then sets off to find out more about it while rediscovering her dreams that were “lost” after she was married.

Then we travel back in time to some Victorian era where we follow the broad who runs the secret apothecary that exists for women to kill the shitty men in their lives. I really wanted more from this book. The characters were so flat to me and the chapters where we went back in time were so boring where I expected them to be the juicy parts, you know?

I just didn’t care for this book, sadly. But maybe you will!


OK, that’s the first half. I think I read about 6 more book in March so I will recap those ones later this week because right now my stomach hurts and I want to watch some coaster videos before hopefully being well enough to exercise and probably watching the new SHINee video 18 more times, wow, now you know my Monday evening agenda.

Mar 082021
 

I am really a great blogger and book reviewer, don’t you think?

Anyway, here are the remaining 5 books i read last month while they’re still fresh on my mind, LOL,  that’s a joke, nothing stays fresh on my mind longer than 20  minutes these days.


8. Theme Music – T. Marie Vandelly

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Hot damn, I was REALLY looking for a legit creepy horror novel and this bitch served. The premise is that the main character, in her 20s, discovers that her childhood home is for sale. Oh yeah, this is also the place where her father ax-murdered her entire family in the kitchen when she was a baby, sparing her. So she does what ANY of us would do and…you know, buys it.

Her boyfriend is like THE FUCK OUTTA HERE when she finally fesses up and tells him the history of the house, so he won’t move in and now their relationship is strained and oh yeah, her dead family is all “yo welcome home” and walking around with their heads caved in and shit. The descriptions were SICKENING and GORY and painted a gloriously grotesque scene for me. Also, it’s narrated by the main character and her thoughts are twisted and often HILARIOUS. I love when a horror story can effortlessly weave humor into the narrative without coming off as cheesy or slapstick.

It kept me guessing all  the way to the end – REALLY enjoyed this one a lot!

9. In a Holidaze – Christina Lauren

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After Theme Music’s carnage, I was looking for some levity and Scribd had “Holidaze” by Christina Lauren available. I’m not a super big romance person but I did read another one of their books last year and LOVED IT.

This is kind of like a Groundhog Day-style scenario where a young woman (I think she is in her mid-20s) keeps reliving the same day except that she’s able to make changes, but anytime she makes the wrong choice, something inevitably falls from the sky and lands on her head, causing er to once again wake up on Day One.

What I loved the most about this book is that the main character, her younger brother and her divorced parents have decades-old tradition where they spend Christmas vacation with family friends in a cabin owned by one of the families, and that dynamic is EVERYTHING. It makes me so sad that I don’t have anything like this in my life! Anyway, the book starts with the owners of the cabin telling the rest of the crew on the last day that they can no longer afford the upkeep of the cabin and are going to sell it.

Yes, there’s a romance involved, but what I enjoyed the most is the effort that goes into trying to change the timeline in order to keep the tradition from dying.

I’m actually crying as I remember how it ends. It was so pure. This book is wonderful. I think I’m obsessed with Christina Lauren and I have two more books by them waving to me from my Scribd shelf so I gotta get on that shit soon.

10. These Vengeful Hearts – Katherine Laurin 

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Is it weird that I can almost never remember characters’ names, even if it’s only been like a week since I read the book? Because I can’t remember a single person in this book and also this book was not great. Like, I think even if I was 14, I’d be like, “This book is not great.”

There’s a secret society at this high school called The Red Court and students can ask them for “favors” (eg. “make me homecoming queen;” “publicly shame my cheating girlfriend” etc) but then they eventually have to “pay” by carrying out usually really half past-bullying more toward legit crimes against a “target.” Our main girl has a plan to infiltrate the court and find out who the Red Queen is in an effort to take them down for paralyzing her older sister.

But then OMG is she ENJOYING the power? Dun dun dunnnn.

It was dumb. Sometimes I crave a good YA thriller and this wasn’t it.

11. The Winter People – Jennifer McMahon

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I kept seeing people compare this to Pet Sematary except that it was really boring, the writing was kind of bad, and not a single character had any, well, character. It’s a split timeline and I surprisingly liked the one set in the 1800s better than present day.

But yeah, this wasn’t scary and then the present day characters were soooooo annoying and I 100% just wanted everyone to die. It was also shockingly difficult for me to follow the present day story line. I couldn’t keep track of who everyone was and then when the big “reveal” happened, I was like “Huh?” because I couldn’t follow how everyone was supposedly connected.

This one booktuber that I think is so lame gave this a 5 and that should have been the biggest indication for me to run far away from this book.

12. Eight Perfect Murders – Peter Swanson

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This was pretty fun! I didn’t enjoy it as much as his other book, The Kind Worth Killing, but it’s perfect for anyone who loves a good murder mystery! The premise is that a string of murders have been connected to a blog post written on a book store’s website about EIGHT books featuring PERFECT MURDERS, try to keep up, guys.

The book is told from the POV of the man who wrote the blog post, who is also the co-owner of the book store. I kept picturing Joe from the TV adaption of the book “You” – if you know, you know. I gave it a 3 – it was fun, immersive, but it didn’t BLOW ME AWAY. His other aforementioned book had me screaming, but this one had me politely clapping.

I feel like this would be a great book to read on a plane. Sigh.


And that was how my February went. Henry has been obsessed with audio books lately so he tore through a bunch of books too but I’mnot even going to ask him to review any because we all know how that will go:

“I liked it.”

“It was good.”

“Eh.”

“I can’t remember.”

“To [sic] many big words.”

“Yes.”

Mar 072021
 

February was a really bad reading month for me. I got duped and double-crossed left and right by booktubers and book covers — it was not a fun  time. There was some good ones, but no 5 stars, that’s for sure! Here is the first half of what I read because I still read a lot even though I said I wouldn’t but I have clearly needed the escape so back off OKAY?? Everything sucks.

  1. Siege & Storm – Leigh Bardugo

Siege and Storm (The Grisha, #2)

OK, I’m just going to say it: Leigh Bardugo’s writing is not great. This was book two in the Grishaverse series and while I moderately enjoyed the first one, now I’m wondering how much of that was actually my subconscious attempting to convince myself that I liked it because this series is SO HYPED in the book world and has recently been adapted into a Netflix series.

This was a fucking CHORE TO READ. Books should not be a chore to read! Not even the ones assigned to us in school! I realized that not only do I not give a shit about a single character (like, some of them die and I just continued reading, unfazed), but I also HAD NO IDEA WHAT WAS GOING ON. I only JUST read the first book last year and my memory is not THAT bad, but I was like, “Who dat? What now?”

One of my FAVORITE YouTubers, this American girl who lives in Korea, LOVES this series and I DON’T GET IT. Cari was the inspiration for me to get back into reading last year because she had a video of her favorite Korean authors, and she has never steered me wrong before, but SO MANY BOOKTUBERS were also in cahoots with this one because I was completely pulled down into their insidious hype.

Cari, I’ll stick with your Seoul cafe suggestions and skip the book recs from now on, I think, THANKYOUV.MUCH.

2. Fever Dream – Samanta Schweblin

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Uhhhhh. This was WEIRD. Fever Dream indeed. It’s translated from Spanish (the author is Argentinian, I believe) and we’re basically just reading someone’s novella-length novella. The whole book is told from the perspective of a woman in a hospital bed, talking to a young boy who is coaxing her to describe her interactions with who is presumably his mother. It’s one of those books that, even for its short length, is NOT an easy read. I felt really tense and uncomfortable and also confused, but it was definitely something that will stick with me. It was unique, to say the least, and a great example of environmental issues masked as horror.

3. None Shall Sleep – Ellie Marney

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Silence of the Lambs for kids. 100%. I have nothing else to say.

4. What Happens At Night – Peter Cameron

LOL, this was when I was trying to take actual pictures of the books I was reading so I wouldn’t have to copy/paste from Goodreads because that part of the process really irritates me for some reason. Anyway, I did this for two books then forgot to do it again oh well.

But this book was wonderful!!! The ambiance was CREEPY without anything overtly CREEPY even happening?! It gave me big Twin Peaks vibes, because this American couple is visiting some other country in the dead of winter in order to adopt a baby. I don’t think they ever specify the location, but I got a very Russian/Eastern European flavor from the details, and the locals they encounter are basically emitting SOMETIMES MY ARMS BEND BACK vibes – if you know, you know.

The names of the couple are never revealed, they are known only as “the man” and “the woman” and you get a sense of marital discord straight away. They’re staying in a super sus hotel, inhabited by a bartender who stares into space, an old woman who is fancy AF and all up in your biz, a bizarrely boisterous businessman….and the longer the couple stays in the hotel, the more estranged they become. I just can’t really explain it but I had goosebumps while reading it and whisper-laughed “wtf?” when I finished it. Recommended to me through my local library’s recommendation service and I’m starting to feel like these librarians know me too well.

David Lynch-meets-Wes Anderson, kind of?

5. Heiress Apparently – Diana Ma

I wanted to like this one so much more than I did. It was fun, but just didn’t really fulfill the wanderlust hole in my heart.

6. The Little Stranger – Sarah Waters

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If you’re looking for a balls-to-the-wall haunted house book, this ain’t it, boo. But if you’re looking for gloriously sweeping writing that you can really immerse yourself in, pick this up. I was worried because this is set in postwar England and I’m just not usually interested in that, but it ended up not mattering at all because I was super swept up in the story of the Ayres family, and their crumbling estate obviously tugged at my heart and reminded me of my own grandparents’ house and the state it was in and how hard we tried to fix it. I felt a huge connection with this stupid house!!

Anyway, this book is pretty long but it’s not dry at all. I enjoyed every second of it, never felt bored, and actually became so engrossed in the relationships between the family and their doctor that anytime sometime creepy would happen, I would be totally caught off guard. There was one moment when I was sitting on the couch, broad daylight, reading it when an envelope slowly slid off the back of the couch and tapped my shoulder, nearly sending me into cardiac arrest.

Sarah Waters is a masterful writer!

After I finished it, I saw that there was a movie adaptation from several years ago, with Ruth Wilson who I like, so I put it on and lost interest pretty quickly. The book is better.

7. Ice Cream Man, Vol. 1: Rainbow Sprinkles – W. Maxwell Prince, Martin Morazzo (illustrator)

Ice Cream Man, Vol. 1: Rainbow Sprinkles

After The Little Stranger, I needed to cleanse my palate with something light and short, so I picked up this horror graphic novel. The illustrations were EVERYTHING and totally my style, and the stories were decent too. I think I will definitely continue this series, especially because I always say I want to read more graphic novels and then I never do.


I don’t feel like recapping the other 5 so I guess look forward to part 2? Lol. Lemme know what you’ve read recently that you really loved!

I got really caught up in watching Ginny&Georgia and I’m itching to get back into that so peace out, pee spout.

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

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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 

Weather

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

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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

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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

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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!