Jan 172022
 

I didn’t do anything fun to announce my fave reads of 2021 like I did for 2020 (see: no motivation; Zombie In January) but here is a list of my favorites in no particular order. Also, I already wrote up lame reviews for each one throughout the year, so this is literally just a list with maybe a few thoughts peppered throughout, but please note that if someone were to ask me, “SAY* ERIN, CAN YOU RECOMMEND A BOOK FOR ME TO READ” I would 100% refer them to this list. These were SOLID 5 star reads, you guys.

*(After I typed this the other day, I felt inspired to be more “1950s pure” in my blog writings. You’re welcome.)

  1. Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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(Pro Tip: You should also follow her on Instragram.

2. Writers & Lovers – Lily King

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I fell in love with Lily King while reading this. It was sublime.

3. The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

The Dutch House

Because of my own family sitch, I related a lot to this and it gave me big throat lumps and wet eyes.

4. Yolk – Mary H.K. Choi

Yolk

My third Mary H.K. Choi novel, and the one that solidified her as one of my current favorite writers. Please read this.

5. Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong

Goodbye, Vitamin

I laughed out loud but also cried out loud. Also, after reading this, I realized that whatever subgenre of literary fiction/contemporary fiction you would categorize this, it’s clearly my favorite genre/style. I should ask my library to match me with similar books, shouldn’t I?

6. Crying In H-Mart – Michelle Zauner

Crying in H Mart

Surely you’ve heard of this, if not already read it. It was one of the most hyped books of 2021 and deservedly so! Zauner is an exquisite writer, and her story is raw and real. Bonus: if you’re a Korean food aficionado like I am, you will really really really love all the references and food talk. But um, be prepared to cry at least a little. Unless you’re Henry. He is going to read this and I bet he won’t cry.

7. Anxious People – Fredrik Backman

Anxious People

I fully expected the follow-up to Backman’s “Beartown” to be in my top reads of 2021, but when I read Anxious People, it knocked “Us Against You” off the list. Backman is a master of writing an “assemble cast.” Every single person in this book was multi-dimensional, memorable, and loveable in spite of their flaws. I only just recently saw that this was turned into a Netflix mini-series and I’m excited to watch it, but also nervous because I could not get past the first episode of the Beartown series on HBO.

8. What Comes After – JoAnne Tompkins

What Comes After

If this book was on Facebook, its status should just be “It’s Complicated.” I read this while we were on our rollercoaster road trip over the summer and had to keep scrounging the car for napkins because I was crying so hard. Found family tropes always get me.

9. Razorblade Tears – S.A Crosby

Razorblade Tears

This was a wild, emotional, violent, funny, scary, intense, sad ride. Henry loved it too!

10. In My Dreams I Hold a Knife – Ashley Winstead

In My Dreams I Hold a Knife

OK Ashley Winstead. I see you. Looking forward to reading the one!

11. Cackle – Rachel Harrison

Cackle

I just had a straight-up bitchin’ time reading this. The writing was hilarious, the small town fall vibes are cozy, and the characters are v.memorable. (RALPH FOR BEST SUPPORTING CHARACTER.)

12. Build Your House Around My Body – Violet Kupersmith 

Build Your House Around My Body

This book has so much going on, it is so rich with culture and folklore, and something that I will never forget. It deserves a re-read.

13. Butter Honey Pig Bread – Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread

When I read books as intelligent and masterfully written as this one, I am so fucking glad that I never wanted to be a novelist because how?? This one blew my mind. I want to buy my own copy just so I can hug it and then re-read it until I can quote from it in my sleep.

***

Well, that’s a wrap. Best 13 from 2021. (I think I had 13 in my list last year too!?) Gotta use this as an excuse to repost a NCT127 “Favorite” video for the 87th time, lol:

 

Jan 152022
 

And here is the last half of the books I read in December. I almost forgot to come back and do this. #ASeriousBlogger

8. The Haunting of Ashburn House – Darcy Coates

The Haunting of Ashburn House

Um, I could not for the life of me remember reading this at first, but then I read the synopsis and was like, “Oh yeah, that book.” Despite the fact that it’s apparently not very memorable to me, I’m pretty sure I found it to be at least somewhat decent. There were creepy moments for sure (um, an entire upstairs without electricity and a hallway of old family portraits? Yeah, eff that noise) and a cat that I was pretty invested in. It was frustrating the amount of times the main character, who had just moved into this haunted house, went into the attic like it was no big deal. (OK maybe only two or three but that was two or three more times I would have, for sure).

Wait, more things about this book is coming back to me now and I remember that it actually had a pretty decent back story and that I loved the ending. Yeah, this book was good. Lol.

Did I sell it? Lol.

9. The Dead & the Dark – Courtney Gould

The Dead and the Dark

I really liked this YA supernatural mystery. Great small lake town vibes, catchy dialogue between the characters, and an interesting mystery that held my attention during a month where a million different things were on the sidelines screaming LOOK OVER HERE! I liked that the main character had two dads, if that makes a difference.

I don’t really have anything else to say about this one. It was good. I would read more from Courtney Gould. The end.

10. Butter Honey Pig Bread – Francesca Ekwuyasi

Butter Honey Pig Bread

OK seriously, the five-star reads came THROUGH in December, though. This book!!!!!!! It was exquisite. The chapters are split between two Nigerian twin sisters, and their mother, who is believed to be an Ogbanje (non-human spirit that brings the family bad luck). There is a lot of trauma-exploration in these pages, and it was quite painful to read at times. All three women are written with so much care and depth that I felt for each of them like they were my own family and just wanted them all to find peace and happiness.

It’s a real ride. I think Taiye was my favorite character to follow. It was fun to read about her culinary experiences in different countries.

I’ve read numerous novels now by Nigerian authors and I think this has become one of my favorite genres. I don’t know what else to say about this because it’s so layered and complicated, but just know that it is brilliant and will stick with you for a long time. I remember finishing it and just exhaling bigly and then of course I started to cry every time I thought about it afterward. Because that’s who I am!

11. Yearbook – Seth Rogen

Yearbook

I’m not some big diehard Seth Rogen fan by any means, and even for me, his memoir was wildly entertaining. Henry and I both listened to it on audio because it’s narrated by him and like, 100 other people. It’s not your standard “I was born in [insert date] in a small town in [insert country]” type of chronological bullshit. No, this is a collection of stories from his life, some from his childhood that have shaped him, some drug-related ones that make you wonder how he isn’t fucking dead, and some insider industry bullshit that definitely does not make me envy him at all. There were plenty of laugh-out-loud moments, but mostly, I was just smiling real big on my morning walks, feeling like I had friend along telling me outrageous stories.

Oh! I should note that the sole reason I was even inspired to pick this up was because MAGA freaks started leaving bad reviews on it before it was even published all because of his very public Twitter feud with Ted Cruz (lol) and his outspokenness about Trump. Had to give him my support, and I’m glad that I did because this was a real fun time!

12. Cursed Bunny – Chung Bora 

Cursed Bunny

First, let’s take a few seconds to appreciate this poppin’ cover. I want to decorate a room based on this palette.

Second, let’s remind this blog author that she should stop picking up short story collections because they just aren’t her cup of tea.

OK, only some of the stories weren’t for me this time around. The author has an MA in Russian and East European area studies from Yale University and a PhD in Slavic literature from Indiana University (per her Goodreads author profile) and you can reallllly tell. I do not say this in a bad way at all. There was a lot of folklore sprinkled in these pages, and those were sadly the ones that I liked the least which isn’t surprising to me because I generally just don’t like folklore all that much. I actually took an Indo-European Folklore class at Pitt because I thought it would be fucking cool, man, but it was kind of…not. Lots of boring-ass stories that all had the same meaning.

(I remember the first day of this class SO VIVIDLY because I had just super recently found out that I was pregnant and my friends were like, “OK but you are very early into the pregnancy so you shouldn’t make any announcement until you’re at least through the first trimester” and I was like, “Mmm, OK, I hear your sage advice” and then in my first class in the fall semester, when it was my turn to introduce myself, I was like, “HELLO I’M ERIN AND I’M PREGNANT” lol. My friend Sarah was in that class with me and was like, “OMG you did not. just….” lol. OH BUT I DID, Also, most of the students in that class were young – I was 25 – so they were like horrified and didn’t know if they were supposed to be happy for me or what. Say your name, but make it awkward, was the assignment right?)

So, there are some stories in this collection that have that same feel, but there were some that I was like, “WTF is happening, this is cray and I love it” like the very first story (The Head) had me laughing and also feeling disgusted at the same. I also loved “The Reunion,” which was a beautiful ghost story set in Poland, “Home Sweet Home,” about a couple who buy a haunted/cursed building, and the title story which was just a real solid revenge tale.

13. The Witch Elm – Tana French

The Witch Elm

I had always avoided Tana French because I didn’t feel like getting involved in a series, which I think is what she normally writes, right? Anyway, then I found out that The Witch Elm is a stand-alone so I gave it a shot. Oof, this was a big boy! And DENSE. The thing that happens doesn’t even happen until like, page 150 or something so it’s a lot of wondering, “OK but where are we going with this?” However, Tana French has a way of writing characters and their conversations that made me literally not even care if the thing happened or not because I was just generally invested in everyone by this point.

ESPECIALLY HUGO.

This was a solid mystery but also a strong family drama. I came so close to giving it five stars but I felt the ending was just a bit too dragged out. However, I will definitely be reading more from her and I guess at some point will dig into that Dublin Murder Squad series that is so beloved by many.

***

OK guys. That’ll do it for 2021 (except for one more post about my faves of the year) but my resolution for 2022 is to do one book wrap-up a month with just my rating and only go into more detail for the ones I REALLY SUPER LOVED or had otherwise some type of strong feeling for. Because reviewing books is not my jam, but I do like to memorialize here the ones I read.

Now I have to go assist Henry, who is currently attempting to cover the ceiling above our staircase with iridescent cellophane, lol, pray for us.

Jan 082022
 

Today we will be “chatting” about the first half of the books I read in December. We laughed, we cried, we wished some books weren’t owned by the library so we could burn them.

  1. You Should Have Left – Daniel Kehlmann

Loved it! I think this is translated from…German? I could look but, eh. I have January apathy. This book is very short and is a great take on the haunted house trope, which is my fave fave fave horror theme but also the one that gets ruined the most, IMO. For every great haunted house book out there, there are sure to be 500 shitty ones waiting in line behind it.

I actually saw a preview for the adaptation for this not too long, with Kevin Bacon. I mean, Kevin Bacon is IN it, I didn’t watch the trailer with him on my couch.

One of the booktubers I hate-watch totally bashed this book and was all, “Wah, I didn’t get it, this was dumb” but I thought it was great. The main character is an author who moves his wife and young kid to some semi-secluded airBNB situation so he can work on his book, parts of which are interspersed throughout. There are also sentences that abruptly cut off, and the booktuber was all THAT WAS SO ANNOYING I DIDN’T GET IT but it was pretty clear that the pages were suddenly (kapchugi) ending because something was going on in the house and the book was meant to be the writer’s journal.

If you like horror, and books similar to House of Leaves (which I never finished when I tried to read it years and years ago but now I own my own copy and am determined to try again this year!), then I think this would be a home run for you.

2. The Push – Ashley Audrain

If you like multi-generational takes on motherhood (pretty specific) then read this book. I had no idea what it was about when I picked it up other than it was considered a thriller (a little, sure) but it was riveting. It also contains a child character that I fucking despised about as much as the little bitch from Baby Teeth, the only difference being that The Push was a phenomenal read and Baby Teeth was trash.

OK, I just checked Goodreads and this is being touted as more of a psychological drama, and that I can get behind. I had so much empathy for Blythe, the mom in the present-day chapters, that it actually physically gave me a headache to read the bullshit she endured. There is some very uncomfortable honesty re: motherhood in these pages too and I am definitely looking forward to reading more from Ashley Audrain.

Also, I listened to the audio of this, which was narrated by Henry’s voice crush, Marin Ireland lol. But really, she is an awesome narrator and I wonder if I would have liked the book as much if I read it without the audio. I know a lot of people who say audiobooks don’t count as reading, and I think this is a huge slap to the face of the vision-impaired, and also sometimes, audio just makes a book pop. It’s comforting to have with me on my daily walks and I will continue to read books both ways.

3. Comfort Me With Apples – Catherynne M. Valente

This was OK. Very short and Stepford Wives-ish. A little bit of horror, and also gave me slight Alice in Wonderland vibes, where everything looks so shiny and perfect at a glance but is actually terrifying and uncomfortable and get-me-the-eff-out-of-here-y. I definitely didn’t get the hype though and just rated it a very pleasant and mediocre three-stars. Middle of the road for me, fam.

4. Nothing But Blackened Teeth – Cassandra Khaw

This is very short and not terrible, but not great. I would suggest just watching a Japanese horror movie if you’re looking for legit scares or even thrills because this was mostly just about a group of frenemies arguing and being jealous of each other..

Can you tell that I am burnt out from writing “reviews”? Lol.

5. The Good Lie – A.R. Torre

Real talk: I thought I would hate this based on the cover, lol. It just looks like something a housewife would buy in airport before getting on a plane to Orlando, you know?

But this hooked me straight from the first chapter. A great psychological thriller that kept me guessing. Two main characters (a psychiatrist who specializes in violent tendencies, and a high-profile defense attorney who has lost a son to a serial killer) who felt real and flawed and kept me totally invested in this story to the very end. This was my kind of thriller.

6. Build Your House Around My Body – Violet Kupersmith

Well. I’m impressed. Where to even start with this. It’s Vietnamese folklore, fantasy, horror, mystery, with a revenge tale woven in through it all. Officially a new favorite author.

The writing was graceful, witty, atmospheric, lush, and vivid. It was nearly impossible to not visualize every scene happening, and um, sometimes that wasn’t for the best, ha! It has some seriously creepy and gross moments too that had me shuddering (if you have a fear of snakes, pass on this one maybe).

I read this book and listened to it on audio simultaneously because it is really beneficial for me to hear how names are meant to be pronounced, and the narrator really did this story justice. Vietnamese is such a beautiful and intricate language and my eyes alone would never be able to replicate the full effect of actually hearing the words being said aloud. Yet another advantage of audiobooks!

It was such a great experience overall and I will be revisiting the characters in my mind for years to come. Every single character was fleshed out and popping with personality. I felt so immersed and couldn’t wait for the chance to keep reading.

Didn’t think I’d read another solid gem before the end of the year; love when a five-star read comes in at the buzzer! Highly recommend this!

7. Let It Snow – John Green / Maureen Johnson / Lauren Myracle

All I wanted was a Chrismas-y book to read in December and this one looked, dare I say, cute. I’ve read John Green before, and one Maureen Johnson book, and liked all so I thought this would be a good time. HA.

All three authors write their own story, and each are connected / have overlapping characters / same setting. The best story by far was Maureen Johnson’s. I’d give it a 3. John Green gets a 2. Whoever Lauren Myracle is gets a 1 because that last story was god awful, the characters were annoying AF and I have no idea what the actual point even was. Only the first story gave me even slight Christmas vibes and this story also had the most solid characters.

I heard that the book is way better than the Netflix movie adaptation, so we know what I will NOT be watching. Never ever ever. What a shitty time this was.

***

To summarize, I would recommend:

  • The Good Lie
  • You Should Have Left
  • The Push
  • Build Your House Around My Body

4 out of 7 ain’t bad! I’ll cover the remaining 6 sometime soon-ish. This weekend we are hopefully cleaning out the attic which is actually an entire third floor that could be used as an extra room which it was before HENRY MOVED IN and stored all his computer pieces and other assorted junk up there and then it just seamlessly turned into the room where things went to die. I just want to go up there with 89878678 garbage bags and throw everything out, to be honest. (Unless it’s something of mine, lol.)

Dec 192021
 

OK remember last week when I was being SO COOL and decided to talk about the last half of the books I read in November first? Well, you’re never going to believe this but it’s time to talk about  the first half now. Wow, who could ever even see that coming?

  1. Halloween Fiend – C.V. Hunt

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This is a novella about a small town held hostage by some creepy monster that comes around every night to claim the sacrifices that each resident leaves for it on their porch: cats, Guinea pigs, etc. So right away, I hated this book.

But then every year on Halloween, an actual townsperson is chosen through a lottery to be sacrificed to the monster. There was this one dumb bitch who gleefully presented a cat as a sacrifice every night and then watched from the window as it was devoured, and I really wanted to get dead. Stupid effing bitch.

It was a fast read but also kind of dumb. I don’t know, this is the first book I read in November coming off a shitty month of October reads and I was feeling pretty jaded.

2. Mary Jane – Jessica Anya Blau

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…but then came Mary Jane, a book I was not expecting to fall so hard for.

Mary Jane is a 15-year-old (I think) girl with extremely conservative parents who takes up a summer job nannying the 5-year-old (I think) daughter of a psychiatrist and his eccentric midlife-crising wife. Their family is VERY unconventional, affectionate, progressive, and also extremely scattered and unstructured. Mary Jane quickly finds herself not just nannying the little girl, but organizing the home and lives of the parents as well. She even starts cooking their dinners for them every evening when she discovers that most of the food in their fridge is spoiled and that they eat out for basically ever meal.

Things heat up when the dad’s super famous patient and his equally-famous wife come to live with them for the summer. Mary Jane starts learning A LOT about life, is convinced that she’s a sex addict, and really finds her own voice for the first time in her life, amidst all the dysfunction and chaos.

I saw a lot of reviews about how terrible it was that Mary Jane was put in this situation, how she had to be the adult while the actual adults where trashing the house, cheating on each other, smoking pot, how Mary Jane’s actual parents didn’t react the way that they should have upon finding out what their daughter was actually up to all summer, but I thought it was a very emotional and endearing coming of age story. I love found family tropes so much and this one had me so invested, that I wanted these people to be real and I was rooting so hard for Mary Jane and everyone under that roof. I sobbed when this book ended! It was such a beautiful story and I laughed out loud so many times too (the sex addict part is hilarious).

I’ll be reading more from Jessica Anya Blau, that’s for sure.

3. Dear Laura- Gemma Amor

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This is a novella about a girl – OMG LAURA, MAYBE? – whose boyfriend is kidnapped when they are both in high school and then the kidnapper starts sending Laura a letter every year on her birthday saying they he will tell her the location of her boyfriend’s body but she has to give him something first. It starts out as a pair of her unwashed underwear and gets progressively worse. Every other chapter goes back to present day, which finds a middle-aged Laura trekking through the wilderness.

There was a lot of hype around this book in the horror book circles but it didn’t hold up for me. It wasn’t terrible but I also was neither shocked nor awed. By the end, I’m pretty sure my reaction was to close the book and say, “ok” and then promptly wring its memory from my brain to make room for better things.

The cover is fantastic though.

4. The Burning Girls – C.J. Tudor

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My first CJ Tudor novel and will definitely not be my last. I was shocked at how much I really liked this, from the conversational and often humorous writing to the fleshed-out characters and believable, easy dialogue. There is a great mother/daughter dynamic going on here that felt very realistic and while the plot was a bit over the top (when aren’t they though, in thrillers) I loved the small British town setting and the mystery. Also, I kept picturing the daughter as a young Winona Ryder, for sure.

A certain point late into this story had me like OMG! which doesn’t happen very often with thrillers (I’ve been getting stuck with so many duds lately!). It was just wildly entertaining from start to finish, and the creepiness was extremely well done. Also, this book cover gives me sick tattoo vibes, bruh.

5. Under the Whispering Door – T.J. Klune

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It pains me to say this and if my blog had an actual readership I am sure I would get some hate for this opinion, but I absolutely fucking HATED this book and could NOT wait to finish it. First, I started to read the physical copy and literally couldn’t get through the first chapter. It was so boring and dry but I refused to accept this, having loved Klune’s previous book, House In the Cerulean Sea. While this isn’t a sequel, I expected to still love it because of Klune’s descriptive writing and ability to craft unforgettable and lovable characters – even the curmudgeonly ones.

I thought maybe getting the audio would help get me into the story but I think it actually made me hate the main character even more?

I knew going into this that it was a book about death. The primary setting is a tea shop run by a man who assists the recently deceased into, I dunno, Heaven I guess. There’s a grim reaper whose character was one of the better parts of the book, and the ghost grandfather and dog of the year owner. Then we have the main character, an ego-centric lawyer who dies young of a heart attack and refuses to accept his fate.

It was so heavy-handed. Conversations between two characters that dragged out for entire chapters, ALL OF THE DEATH TALK, and the fact that we rarely left the cafe just made it feel very claustrophobic and stifling. It was so long and repetitive and also we get it, Klune: you love the word “cerulean.”

But honestly, get over yourself.

Really hated this book a lot.

6. Skinship – Yoon Choi

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Oof, I went from one book about death to another book full of short stories about death but this one was so much better. Each story was a glimpse into the Korean American experience. It ran the gamut of many emotions, but depressing was the big winner here. It was often frustrating to read about these intimate struggles with cultural differences, the act of “settling,” the sacrifice some of these characters made in order to come to America for a “better life.”

For me, picking up this book was a no-brainer because I am perpetually on the hunt for Korean literature and for more doorways into Korean culture and history. But I truly think that if you enjoy reading short stories about strained, complicated, and complex interfamilial relationships, then this collection might be something of interest to you.

And also, can we admire that exquisite cover together for a sec? Dang.

Dec 152021
 

Guess what, Linda? We’re doing something different. We’re gonna talk about the books I read in second half of November first. Wow, this is…really ground-breaking. Much excite.

November was a decent book-reading month for me, better than October if I recall. I had at least two solid “NEW FAVORITES, FIVE STARS, WOULD READ AGAIN” selections that had me super exciting and oh, would you look, they’re actually IN THIS POST.

7. Witch Please – Ann Aguirre

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This was cute but not that memorable. The main couple was fine but the conflict was kind of “Eh.” Basically the girl is a witch and was told by her grandmother that if witches marry non-witches, they lose their power. And of course our main girl has INSTALOVE with a human baker man and it’s all, “OH NO DON’T LET GRAM FIND OUT” but honestly, the tension wasn’t there for me, it didn’t really feel “high stakes,” the chemistry wasn’t palpable. I thought there were entirely too many female characters and I could NOT keep them all sorted in my head.

The writing wasn’t bad by any means, but I think it just wasn’t really for me. It was a lot better than the other witch-centric romance I read in October though. I can’t even remember the name of that one, it was so, so, so, so bad except for the whole talking cat thing.

Basically, this was fine, light, and mildly entertaining, I never even once considered DNFing, but the only thing this book left me with was a painful craving for cinnamon rolls.

8. Nice Girls – Catherine Dang

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This was…fine. I really *was* wondering, “What did you do?” (as the book’s tag line asks) a lot of times while reading it because all you know is that the main girl, MARY (hey Mary), gets expelled from Cornell for fighting an underclassman and you know what? This book was kind of stupid, now that I think about it. Mary is kind of despicable and it’s hard to root for her, or even pity her to be honest.

And then the climax of the book just is so fucking over the top and also felt very rushed, while at the same time, I was doing the “let’s wrap shit up” toe-tap. I don’t feel like saying anything else. It wasn’t the worst book but it started out good enough that it made me have high hopes for it but then it just kind of spirals out.

9. In My Dreams I Hold a Knife – Ashley Winstead

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OK Brenda, this is in my Top 10 best books I read this year. Hear me out: Dawson’s Creek: The College Years BUT SINISTER. I was really hesitant to pick this up because it’s in the “dark academia” genre and I am famous for striking out with these types of books. Some of them can be SO PRETENTIOUS like, OK I get it. You’re a scholar. And now so are all of your characters. But this shit is dry and boring and NO ONE TALKS LIKE THIS.

(Looking at you, We Were Villains, or whatever the fuck that idiotic Shakespeare college book was called, god I hated that book.)

And  then some of the Booktubers I follow kept raving about this but they are also REALLY into that genre so I was doubly-nervous because I always hate those types of books that they love, but they were doing such a great job at selling it, so I requested it from the library. And then…I picked it up, and couldn’t put it back down. I mean, I did put it down, many times. I can’t read a book in one sitting – have you even seen my nervous energy? It’s palpable and I think if you look close enough, you can see the wavy air around me.

But yeah, this book is FANTASTIC. Believable dialogue. Realistic characters. An unordered timeline that references things that haven’t happened yet and will make you frantic to find out things like, “Wait, how did he break his arm??”

Like most dark academia books, there’s a murder. In this one, there are 7 friends but one doesn’t make it out of college. And the present day chapters follow the 6 remaining friends as they attend their 10 year reunion and are forced to face the truth of what happened to their murdered friend. Every time I thought for sure I knew what happened and why and who, etc etc., I’d get to the next chapter and new information would be revealed, discrediting my theory.

It was FUN. Just a solid, entertaining, fun romp of a CW-style whodunnit that you could easily picture the cast of Dawson’s Creek or Gossip Girl starring in. It was scandalous and sad, and it made me genuinely wish I had a friend group like that while also being thankful that I DON’T have a friend group like that.

I made Janna read it immediately after and she also loved it and Janna is smarter than me so that should count for something. Go read this. Per Janna’s multi-degree recommendation.

(MOVIE! MOVIE! MOVIE!)

10. This Thing Between Us – Gus Moreno

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Oh, what a weird, bizarre little horror book. It was a wild ride, had a mash-up of supernatural, haunted house, Pet Sematary vibes. I loved also that it put a sinister spin on a device modeled after Amazon Echo / Alexa. Those scenes were both frustrating (I call our own Alexa a ‘cunt’ constantly because she’s just a fucking moron, I swear to god) and also chilling. So basically, this dude’s wife is killed in a freak accident on her way to the subway and it sends her husband (who narrates this story), into a spiral. Weird shit is happening in their apartment (I actually jumped a few times, ngl) and he eventually is like “eff this noise” and moves to an isolated cabin.

There is a REALLY CREEPY scene in a diner, some real fucked up shit involving a dog (if you’re an animal lover like me, consider this a trigger warning), just a lot of anxiety-inducing scenes. I loved the voice of the protagonist and really just wanted everything to be ok for the poor guy. Like, Jesus Christ, let this guy move on with his life, you know?

This is translated from Spanish, I believe. A real solid horror novel, if you ask me. Better than most of that shit I read in October, le sigh. (El sigh?)

11. Cackle – Rachel Harrison

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First thing’s first: This book is considered “horror” – forget that. It’s not horror. If you pick this up expecting to be pulling your blanket up around your chin while shuddering in the dark with a flashlight, it’s not gon’ happen. That being said, this was another one of the best books I read this year. I think I have discovered somewhere along my bipolar, identity crisis reading journey that my style is “Gilmore Girls-meets-[insert literally anything here].” Which makes sense because the writing for Gilmore Girls, the snappy, try-to-keep-up dialogue, the pure and witty conversations between friends and family, was everything to me during the time that show was on the air. The small town appeal had me, the person who always says I would never want to live in a small town, dreaming about Stars Hollow.

Cackle is all of this, with a sprinkle of magical realism and a hearty helping of GIRL POWER. I loved this book so much that I have been getting violently indignant every time I see a “meh” review. It’s mostly from people going into this expecting horror. This was some bad, terrible, detrimental marketing. Go into this thinking of a newly single woman learning to love herself. Also, go into this for the character of RALPH. He was my favorite. That’s all I’ll say.

No wait, I’ll say this too: I hate when people use “cozy” to describe anything that’s not like, a thicc blanket or drinking a hot spiked bev in front of a fire pit. But this book, OK fine, it was fucking COZY. It made me FEEL COZY without being an afghan or an Irish coffee in front of flames.

I need this to be a movie. Or a TV series.

TV SERIES.

12. Rock Paper Scissors – Alice Feeney

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Am I dumb? What did I just read? This book was boring and confusing. I really liked “Sometimes I Lie” by this author but the twists in this one fell flat for me and I didn’t give a single shit about any of the characters. The writing itself was fine, it was just the, well, the actual story lol.

I think the book cover smashed it out of the park though.

Nov 122021
 

Oh what fun, more books that I read last month.

 7. That Weekend – Kara Thomas

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I think if I read this book as a teenager, it would have been Mind Blown City over here. Or, over there in my mom’s house, I guess. But even as an adult, I liked it good enough. It was goodly. Basically some teenage bitch wakes up on a mountain after being found by a hiker or whatever, and she realizes in the hospital that she can’t remember the events of the past day and also, where the fuck are her two friends she was with OMG the drama. There’s some narrative switching throughout which kept it fresh and I honestly wasn’t expecting some of the twists. I’m also the type of person who goes into thrillers not really wanting to know too much or trying to guess the twists. I want to be shocked and awed, you know?

This is really super far-fetched, but don’t we love that in a thriller? It was a pretty easy and entertaining read, but one complaint I have is that the characters just weren’t very compelling. I couldn’t:

  • visualize any of them
  • bring myself to care very much about any of them

I dunno, I didn’t hate it!

8. Clown in a Cornfield

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I thought this would be perfect to read during the month of haunted hayrides and corn mazes, lol. It was OK! I thought that this was an adult horror, and perhaps it’s meant to be, but it did read as more of YA, in my opinion.

I didn’t love this as much as I wanted to but it definitely is pretty gory at times. In fact, I was listening to the audio while going on a million walks on my HalloCation and there were parts that gave me legit jello-legs because it was so graphic. A quick summary: teenagers in a small town are terrorized by a killer clown while partying in a cornfield. One thought I had was that this would translate well to a Netflix movie, a la the recent Fear Street trilogy.

But in book-form, it felt kind of cartoonish if that makes sense? Like, I was literally picturing all the kids as illustrations, it was weird.

9. The Missing years – Lexie Elliott

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DUDE this book was pretty great! I actually had no idea what it was when I checked it out of the library although I must have heard about it from some Booktuber at some point. But it’s a very atmospheric haunted house story set in Scotland.

Our main character inherits her childhood home after her mom dies and she temporarily moves back to it with her half-sister while getting it in order and trying to decide what to do with it. While there, a revolving door of locals enter the picture, some creepy, some creepier, and we start to wonder if the house is haunted or if something more is happening. I REALLY liked it. The dialogue was natural and interesting, the characters were well-written, the house was fucking weird. And the whole time we’re wondering WTF HAPPENED TO MAIN GIRL’S DAD??

I think I would consider this more of a mystery than horror or thriller. It really, I dunno, hit the spot? It made me crave a cup of tea that’s for sure.

10. The Girls are Never Gone – Sarah Glenn Marsh

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I saw this being billed as “The Conjuring” meets the book “Sadie,” and I…disagree. The main girl up in this bitch has a podcast about haunted shit, but while the podcast is mentioned occasionally, it’s  not actually part of the book like the podcast was in “Sadie.” That was an epic podcast-within-a-book experience, especially from the audiobook perspective! So this girl is spending a few weeks helping some historical society restore an allegedly haunted house and she volunteers only so she can use the experience for her podcast on the low-low.

There are some creepy moments because this isn’t The Conjuring level of scares, Mary. It was an OK read. The main character was likeable, I learned a lot about Type 1 Diabetes, and there is a fucking adorable dog side-character who, IMO, totally carries this book.

11. The Last House on Needless Street – Catriona Ward

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UM THIS BOOK? Uh huh. This was IT. It’s being billed as “horror” – ignore that noise. Swat it away. This is not horror, although it’s definitely dark. But also…funny? I wasn’t expecting that. There are three POVs in this book:

  • Ted, a disturbed man who lives with his cat and a lot of secrets.
  • Ted’s cat!! She has her own chapters! She is religious and says “gd” instead of “goddamn”! I loved her so much!
  • Dee, a young woman who is determined to find her sister who went missing on her watch several years before.

This was NOT what I was expecting and it will make you learn some shit about yourself, such as: how easily we are swayed to believe certain things. I can’t really say too much about this one without giving a lot away but it was fantastic and made me feel a lot of emotions from disgust to dread, panic to hope. Out of all the books I read in October, this would be the one I would recommend. It is a true literary treat, but please try to avoid spoilers!

Oct 282021
 

I know that I usually wait until after the month ends to recap the books I read but I’m off this week and seriously running out of things to do. I’m not a “lounger and binger,” no matter how hard I try! October has been pretty hit or miss for me, book-wise. But I guess that’s really been every month this year. Am I that picky? Are my standards too high? I just want to be entertained and I’m having a hard time finding books that meet my high levels of criteria.

I don’t even remember what I read so far. Let’s check Goodreads, hold please.

  1. Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke – Eric LaRocca

Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke

LOL OK yeah now I remember what I read. This was, um, quite the way to start off a month that’s synonymous with horror, that is FOR SURE. This novella is written in a sort of epistolary format, except that it’s set in the early 2000s so we’re reading email correspondence between two women, initiated by one woman’s personal ad in which she is selling an antique apple peeler. The two women hit it off and take their e-relationship to the next level: instant messaging.

It escalates rather quickly, as they develop “feelings” for each other and take on somewhat of a cyber dom/sub situation where the one woman is essentially paying her to be her to do whatever she says, and then the sub woman is like LET’S HAVE A BABY TOGETHER and you guys, I can’t say what this entails, but it was fucking disgusting and I was straight up gagging in bed while reading it.

There was only one chapter that I ended up having to skip and that was the “Salamander in the Park” chapter, and that is all that I will say. But I just had a creeping sense of unease and OMG WHAT WILL HAPPEN feeling through the whole thing.

I don’t even know how to rate this book because it was SO FUCKING WEIRD but also compelling enough that I couldn’t stop reading it. Maybe 3.75 overall, but a 4.5 for the FUCKED UP factor. And a 5 for the cover.

2. Where the Truth Lies – Anna Bailey

Where the Truth Lies

Ugh, a classic story of a missing teenaged girl and all the people in the small, super religious and oppressive town who may know more than they’re letting on. I didn’t really care too much about anyone in this book, least of all the girl who went missing, but I will say the reveal was pretty disturbing. Not the worst book I’ve read this year, thriller-wise, but also pretty forgettable. Lots of despicable parents doing shitty things, really.

3. Neverworld Wake – Marisha Pessl

Neverworld Wake

Oh shit a book about sci-fi time bullshit that I ACTUALLY LIKED. Here we follow Beatrice and her four friends, still processing the death of Beatrice’s boyfriend a year prior, who get in a car accident and wake up in a thing called a “neverworld wake.” Essentially, they have to keep reliving the last day (not a full 24 hours though) over and over until they unanimously agree on JUST ONE OF THEM getting to live.

Eventually, they learn how to go back to different times, and they go on a mission to find out what really happened the night their friend died. I just thought this was really well-written and compelling, the characters were multi-faceted, and the sci-fi parts were actually interesting enough to retain my interest.

4. When the Reckoning Comes – LaTanya McQueen

When the Reckoning Comes

Pretty creepy horror novel about a plantation-cum-resort & wedding venue, haunted with the souls of those people who were enslaved there in the past. This was a classic haunted house tale with extremely relevant social commentary woven in. The real horror in the novel is rooted in the history of the American plantations, because we all know that shit was real and more fucked up than any fictional scary story.

Anyway, the premise of this book is that Mira, a Black woman in her late 20s, returns to her segregated, racist hometown to attend her childhood best friend’s wedding. The friend, who is white, is getting married at the newly renovated and repurposed site of an abandoned plantation, where Mira once thought she saw a ghost when she was a teenager. Mira struggles with attending the wedding because of the super tone-deaf “yeah, but it’s not a plantation anymore” choice of venues, but guilt wins over in the end and she finds herself confronting not just real ass motherfucking ghosts, but also her past.

More books like this please.

5. White Smoke – Tiffany D. Jackson

White Smoke

This is the third book I’ve read by this author and I can now safely say that she is incapable of writing a bad book. This is YA urban haunted house story with Get Out vibes. I LOVED the main character and her younger brother, and rooted for them so hard – they are going through some major blended family growing pains on top of moving into a new house in a new state. Our main character Marigold (I believe she is 16 or 17) is a recovering addict obsessed to a debilitating degree with bed bugs, and add to that the stress of a manipulative younger stepsister, navigating a new school, and being FUCKING HAUNTED IN HER NEW HOUSE, and you have a girl on the motherfucking edge, being gaslighted at every corner.

At the heart of all of this is gentrification, and White Smoke does a great job turning this into an urban horror trope. Shit is fucked up.

6. The Ex Hex – Erin Sterling

The Ex Hex

UGH THIS BOOK CAN FUCK RIGHT OFF. ONE STAR ONLY BECAUSE GOODREADS WON’T ACCEPT ZERO STARS. The Ex Hex is everywhere right now: all over Booktube, all up in my grill on Goodreads, in sponsored Instagram ads. It is so fucking over-hyped. Oh my god, so much. First of all, I know you’re like, “But Erin you don’t even like romances” and while this is mostly true, I do love books set in quirky small towns in October, and I am not adverse to books about witches. But oh Lord, these characters are more cardboardy than my actual cardboard cutout of Lee Taemin. Zero personality, no depth, no distinct voice. I truly didn’t care about the main couple at all, or the “plot” (something about ley lines and it goes haywire and magic gets all screwed up in this small Georgia town), or the sex. It was…not hot. I actually listened to this on audio because it was available before the actual book and like I said, it was SO IN MY FACE that I actually felt excited to read it, but the narrator only made the book WORSE. Oh my god, I hated her voice SO MUCH. She sounded like if a young Sally Struthers was a housewife on Wisteria Lane and I literally couldn’t stand it.

I went into this thinking we were going to get cute Stars Hollow vibes, some adorably quirky side characters, and just an overall October immersion, but it missed the mark on every single target. I sincerely hated this book so much and will not be picking up any future book by Erin Sterling. Sorry, I like to support other Erins (ever since I found out that other Erins existed when I was little, watching the opening credits to SILVER SPOONS, what up Erin Gray??) but this broad needs to just…not.

***

OK! I’ll end here. Gotta go obsess over squirrels, laugh over all the Facebook drama (no regrets jumping off that sinking ship in 2017, lol! Zuckerberg is trash.) and finish watching Season 3 of “You.” I might even start a photo album of all of the photos I’ve taken at haunted houses! MY LIFE IS SO EXCITING! It actually is though, if you’re an Erin.

Oct 062021
 

Here are the books I read in the last half of September, my book-dorks!

7. The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang 

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This book is a real chunker!! It’s book one in a series and wildly popular around the various bookish social media circles but I kept avoiding it because, well, fantasy. Right out of the gate, this book started out strong AF. We’re following a teenage orphan, Rin, who is about to be sold off to some fat old guy and either she can become his wife/concubine, or she can study her fucking ass and ace this super important test to get into the elite Sinegard military academy.

I was really into this book for about the first half. I thought the characters were great, the dialogue was punchy, there was perfectly-timed effortless humor, the tension was palpable. But then it got too political/war-y and I was lost. These are elements and themes in books that will almost ALWAYS lose me, so this is no slight against the author. That lady can WRITE. But I just had no idea what was going on for most of the second half and there were too many characters for me to keep straight. I’m not sure I will continue this series, but I would watch if it was ever adapted into movies or a mini-series for sure.

8. Razorblade Tears – S.A Crosby

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If there is only one book recommendation you take from me this year, it’s this one: READ THIS BOOK. NOW. RIGHT NOW. GO TO YOUR LIBRARY. GO TO YOUR LOCAL INDIE BOOKSHOP. GO TO YOUR LIBBY APP. You want to talk about two of the most compelling characters written this year, it’s Buddy and Ike. HOO BOY.

This is a classic Odd Couple-trope where two unlikely anti-heroes band together to avenge the deaths of their sons, who also happened to be married. One dad is Black, one is white, and the one thing they had in common prior to their sons being murdered is that neither of them could accept that their sons were gay. So there is a lot of powerful conversations about homosexuality, transphobia, racism, and classism in these pages, while maintaining the pulse-quickening, page-turning status of a crime thriller. This book was ACTION-PACKED. One of the booktubers I watch said she kept picturing Woody Harrelson as Buddy and holy shit, yes.

This book had me screaming. By the end, I was bawling. I just ready that Jerry Bruckheimer is apparently trying to buy the rights. I know it will eventually be turned into a movie because it literally reads like an action flick, and I hope that whoever takes the helm treats these characters with respect because they are some of the most memorable fictional people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.

I need to read more from S.A. Crosby, STAT.

9. One Last Stop – Casey McQuiston

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Ew I just realized that this book cover has the same color palette as the last book! But they couldn’t be more different lol.

I have to admit that I thought McQuiston’s previous book, Red White and Royal Blue, was way overrated. It was a cute political/royal queer romance and I enjoyed it but I also didn’t think it was THAT GREAT? This one, however, made me change my mind about McQuiston because I felt that it highlighted her quirky and fresh writing skills. This reads like a Netflix series, if that makes sense. I could 100% imagine this being a TV show and me being so fucking into it because it has a STRONG sense of found family and that is one of my favorite things in books and TV.

Our main character, August, has just moved to NYC to finish college but mostly to get away from her mom who has spent her entire adult life searching for her missing brother. August moves into an apartment already occupied by three other people, gets a job at a quirky and beloved diner, and….falls in love with a girl who has been stuck in a loop on the subway since the late 70s.

Yeah, it’s fucking weird. But the side characters!! Fuck the romance, I was here for the roommate escapades. Wes and his excruciating love for the drag queen who lives across the hall?? The snarky Russian diner manager?? Everyone in this book was big and bright and popped right off the pages. Also, I kept picturing a young Sara Rue as August and now I need a COMING SOON TO NETFLIX announcement or at the very least a spin-off with the roommates.

10. The Twisted Ones – T.Kingfisher

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I read The Hollow Place by this author last year and have the same opinion with this one: I love how T.Kingfisher writes. Both books were like reading about Lorelai Gilmore going on a paranormal adventure and bitching the whole time about how she didn’t sign up for this.

So, the main broad is in some super small southern town cleaning out her dead grandmother’s house who, surprise, was a hoarder, and also lives near the woods where weird deer-things keep flitting about and there’s a creepy effigy hanging from a tree and she finds her dead stepgrandfather’s diary that has lots of absurd shit written in it and she thinks he must have had dementia, etc etc etc.

And I loved being in the character’s head, I loved meeting the townspeople with her, I LOVED HER DOG. But like the last one, once the actual climax of the paranormal shit began, it lost me and I actually got bored. I think I would like her books better if it focused on more of the quirky small-town vibes and completely omitted the “horror.” Because it’s not really that scary.

11. Survive the Night – Riley Sager

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LOL, this book is trash. I was on the fence with Riley Sager prior to this. I had read three of his books, thought two of them were pretty good, didn’t care much for the third. But this is the book that made me finally admit that, you know what? This dude does not deserve the hype, man. This shit read like a Christopher Pike book from the 80s. And I loved Christopher Pike books…when I was in 5th and 6th grade.

Henry actually hates this guy and has DNFd him in the past, totally refuses to give him another chance. He is very happy that I have officially joined his sector of the Riley Sager is Trash club.

I don’t even want to talk about the plot because it’s dumb and also predictable and wow, the characters were like floppy cut-outs going “meep meep” and “moop moop” instead of having meaningful conversations or saying ANYTHING of substance. No one had depth! This was SO LAME. I didn’t care if ANYONE survived the night!! And the ending, the fuck was that?? I won’t spoil it but Riley Sager hates women I think.

12. Ace of Spades – Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

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This book is billed as “Gossip Girl” meets Get Out and I can’t argue with that at all. The only two Black students in a prestigious high school are suddenly the targets of anonymous text-blasts and it quickly becomes clear that someone wants them out of the school.

The main characters are so strong and while they are definitely flawed (thank you for writing real teenagers, Faridah!), you will still root for them until your chest hurts. And there were so many times when the audacity of the white kids in this book gave me fucking chest pains. But yeah, if you’re a fan of “Gossip Girl,” Get Out, and the dark academia genre, then this should be in your wheelhouse. Just be prepared to have your teeth set on edge at the injustice these kids face because of their skin color.

Also stick around for the author’s note at the end. She is amazing and I look forward to reading more from her in the future!

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OK that wraps up September! Can you believe I got this all done in the first week of October?! Pardon me while I go and treat myself to an episode of Hometown Cha Cha Cha now.

Oct 022021
 

My book-choosing skills improved drastically last month, like the library gods took pity upon me after the horrid reading month I had in August. So I am happy to report back to you, Internet Diary, all the books I was reading in September instead of writing here in you. Well, the first half, anyway.

  1. We Run the Tides – Vendela Vida

We Run the Tides

This was an EXCELLENT kick-off to month nine. I don’t even know what inspired me to pick it up because I hadn’t heard about it anywhere, but then it popped up on Scribd one day and I saved it for some reason.

The setting is 1980s San Francisco and we’re following Eulabee, a middle schooler, and three of her supposed best friends. I love me some good coming-of-age books and this one delivered. The girls in this book were SUCH BITCHES. Oh, and please don’t think this is some lame YA book because it’s definitely written as adult fiction and superbly at that.

2. The Lost Village – Camilla Sten

The Lost Village

This Swedish horror novel is GOOOOD. If you like Blair Witch-y things, and I surely do, then this might be something for you. It’s about a woman who is filming a documentary about what is literally a lost village in Sweden, where one day in 1959 everyone disappeared. The documentarian has familial ties to the village – her grandmother was born there but had moved away with her husband before the mysterious Disappearing happened, leaving behind her parents and younger sister.

What I liked about this is that it goes back and forth between the present day with the documentarian and her small crew as they are scouting the area, obtaining b-roll, etc.. and the days leading up to the mass disappearance.

There were times where I was REALLY creeped out (I was listening to this on audio over Labor Day weekend when we were in the car which was oftentimes AT NIGHT ooooh) and was actually very interested in the plot and invested in the characters. If you’re into slow burn, atmospheric horror and not so much gory, serial killer, monster shit, then maybe you’ll like this WHO AM I TO SAY?

Fun fact about Blair Witch, though: I was 100% convinced that it was real because I saw it several months before it was released – I don’t even think any previews had come out yet. I had a friend who was the manager of Eide’s Entertainment and he had somehow gotten his hands on an advanced copy of it. We watched it knowing NOTHING and then Janna and I were so scared driving back to my apartment late that night in the dark, lol. Then I remember that the website was set up to make it seem like it was literally found footage as well, and we were like OH MY GAWDDDDDD. Man, imagine how much longer they could have dragged that out if it had come out in the late 80s instead.

And FWIW, I still really love that film. It’s a legit pioneer of the found footage horror genre and was just done to perfection. The scene with Heather crying real-ass tears into the camera? Iconic.

That being said, if this was turned into a movie, I’d watch the shit out of it. In the dark. Holding my stuffed dog, Purple.

3. Zara Hossain is Here – Sabina Khan

Zara Hossain Is Here

Wanna get your blood boiling? Need extra motivation to punch a racist today? (Like we don’t have it in spades.) Then read this book and imagine for a second what it’s like for POC teens going to school every day and getting bullied, dragged, harassed, threatened, and terrorized by ignorant piece of shit white kids. And then imagine when it spills over and affects your entire family.

The rep is pretty good in this one too, as our main character is Pakistani and bisexual, and there are some great conversations about culture, race, ethnicity and sexuality in here. Zara is such a strong female lead too with a sweet and strong relationship with her parents that made my heart swell. This book has got to be so important for all the Muslim teens out there.

I think books of this nature should really be required reading in middle and high school. When white kids are consistently being forced to read classics written by, for, and about other white people, it’s just helping that cycle of systemic racism to continue right the hell along. These kids should be reading about the struggles that their very own neighbors are having because of their skin color, religious beliefs, gender identity, etc.

I am 99.999999999% confident in the fact that my kid is never going to walk into school and start slinging racial slurs or engage in blatant cultural appropriation, etc., but every time I read a book like this, I feel compelled to give him THE OL’ REMINDER of how we do and do not treat people in this house. I know he gets it but at the same time, I’m not going to just say it once and then sit back and assume that’s enough parenting. I actually just overheard him and two of his friends talking in the car last night about some white kid at school who claims it’s OK to use the n-word when gaming and Chooch was like, “NO IT’S NOT. IT’S LITERALLY NEVER OK FOR A WHITE PERSON TO SAY THAT” and his friends vehemently agreed and I was like, “Yesssss, Chooch. Educate.”

Fighting racism is FULL TIME and the more books out there with characters like Zara Hossain, the better.

4.  Malibu Rising – Taylor Jenkins Reid

Malibu Rising

This might be the only book in September that I just didn’t really like all that much. It wasn’t bad enough to DNF but it made me realize that this author might not actually be worth the hype? I read Daisy Jones and The Six and The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by her and really enjoyed both, and unwisely assumed that I would be super into this one as well, especially since it’s set around the children of one of the seven husbands in the author’s last book.

The story takes place over the span of 24 hours in the early 80s, where two brothers and two sisters are preparing to have their annual summer party. The problem is that none of the characters feel real, there are two many side characters that don’t add anything to the plot or even any interest in general, and it just feels like a lot of nothing. Like there is so much build up and then it’s just, “OK cool, who cares.” That’s how I felt, anyway.

Oh, and the dialogue was ROUGH. If I’m reading a book and I can’t hear the conversation in my head, then you’re not a good writer. It just felt so unnatural to me, like, did young adults really talk that way in the early 80s?

And then it occurred to me that the reason I liked the other two books was that I listened to them on audio. Daisy Jones had a full cast (some of the narratives were pretty big names too, like Jennifer Beals, Benjamin Bratt (even though I forgot he existed lol), and Judy Greer (love her and her voice). So those two books felt REALLY SPECIAL. Both were in interview format too (moreso Daisy Jones) and it was fast-paced and the characters were actually interesting.

I won’t recommend this one to anyone, but try the other two maybe! In Malibu Rising, everyone could have died at the end and I wouldn’t have shed a tear and I usually cry at everything, so.

5. Heartstopper, Vol. 3 – Alice Oseman

Heartstopper: Volume Three (Heartstopper, #3)

THIS SERIES IS FUCKING BEAUTIFUL. FIVE STARS. I have nothing more to add other than I can’t wait to read Vol. 4!

6. Jar of Hearts – Jennifer Hillier

Jar of Hearts

This thriller was middle-of-the-road for me. It’s about a woman who knew that her boyfriend-at-the-time murdered her best friend 14 years ago, when they were in high school. (Maybe 16 years ago?) They both end up going to jail and oh yeah it also turns out that the boyfriend was a serial killer, so that’s cool.

The book jumps back and forth between the time she’s in jail (hated those chapters, honestly; I just don’t like anything where the setting is a prison) and the time leading up to the murder of the friend so you don’t really know this whole time if she actually played a role in the murder or just the cover-up, why the friend was murdered, you know – thriller stuff.

It was OK, honestly! I didn’t hate it but I also didn’t scream at Henry to add it to his list, which is what I do after I finish something really good that I loved (unless it’s contemporary fiction because he usually doesn’t like those lol).

There were some parts during the climax that made me say, “Um wow OK you went there, Jennifer Hillier.” But overall I would give this the “airport book store” rating. As in, this would be a semi-solid pick if you were about to catch a flight but forgot to bring a book/pack your Kindle and needed something in a pinch. It’s entertaining enough to distract you for several hours, but it’s not really something I would confidently recommend to any of my friends…? Am I getting worse at reviewing books??

Oh shit, gotta go! One of my pet squirrels is at the window!!!!

Sep 242021
 

Been dreading this one because I have to start off with honest-to-god one of the worst books I’ve ever read. Henry told me to just type out the title and then put ANGRY as my review because he doesn’t want his night to be ruined by me getting all worked up again over how shitty this book was. OK, let’s just do. *band-aid ripping etc etc*

7. The Book of Accidents – Chuck Wendig

The Book of Accidents

Yeah this guy really thinks he’s a clever motherfucker, that’s crystal clear. I’ve known at least 8 different versions of this guy throughout my years. The ones who have the better record collection. The ones who don’t think you’re smart enough to learn how to play their stupid Viking nerd games. The ones who have first editions of On the Road. That’s this pretentious writer. I don’t ever annotate books because they’re 99.9% always from the library but I honestly wish I had least written down every time this book (NOT EVEN CLOSE TO BEING SCARY, BTW) pissed me off, made me roll my eyes, had me shrieking, “OK REALLY” at the ceiling. For example, early on in the book, he wrote something about some dude’s stare being so strong it was pinning the other person to the wall like a movie poster, but then he used it AGAIN several chapters later?!

This book was full of overreaching shit like that and the dialogue was like, wtf really, has this guy ever actually had a conversation with a person in real life before? Nothing felt natural!!

Then! This! Happened!

IN WHAT WORLD IS SHEETZ INFERIOR TO WAWA?

Also there was an entire paragraph describing the “fat women” in clothing they “shouldn’t wear” in Wal-Mart and I was like, “OK BUDDY, GROW UP.” I mean, I wrote stupid body-shaming shit like that in LiveJournal and probably on here too but then I grew up and also guess what I’m not a published author and no one gives a shit what I say on here anyway.

I just fucking hate this guy. I hate-read this book so hard that I’m actually surprised it didn’t go up into sizzling flames while in my hands.

I don’t even want to write a synopsis. Just click the link if you want to know. I have to close this chapter (LOL) and move on with my life now.

No wait….

FUCK OFF, CHUCK.

OK, now I’m done.

8. Almost Flying – Jake Maia Arlow

Almost Flying

This is just what I needed after that previous disaster. I heard about this book from one of the coaster YouTubers I follow and I am so glad for the heads up because this book was pure and genuine, with a shit ton of good ass coaster talk thrown in. It’s a middle-aged book about Dalia, a girl who is really going through it – it’s the summer before 8th grade (7th? some middle school grade) and her old BFF has started hanging out with the popular crown, leaving Dalia in the dust. Plus, Dalia’s parents recently divorced and she’s getting used to living with just her dad in a new apartment. All that’s keeping her going in her love of roller coasters, except she’s never ridden one! She just watches POVs on YouTube (been there, girl) and is working up the nerve to ask her dad to  take her to an amusement park. But then she makes a new friend at swim lessons – Rani – and gets her excited about coasters too.

Then a bunch of shit happens with her dad being all, “btw I have a gf” and Dalia is all “FML” but then she ends up going on a theme park road trip with her dad’s new gf daughter who’s in college and Rani gets to go too and it’s just…the emotions felt real to me. There is conflict that felt like, “Yes, this is how I would have reacted to this shit too when I was in middle school.”

And while all of this is going on, we also get to witness Dalia realize that she has feelings for Rani. The LGBTQ+ rep was so beautiful here and I can only imagine how awesome and comforting this book must be to younger, confused kids.

And also, the roller coasters!

Yes! Boulder Dash is fucking AMAZE and Outlaw Run is fucking sickening! I was so excited that they referenced an RMC in here!!

(Side note: I kept taking pictures of the pages and texting them to Chooch who was getting so pissed because he is way too cool and old for a middle grade book and he was extra-pissed when he went to the library and I said, “OH WHILE YOU ARE THERE PLEASE PICK UP MY BOOK FOR ME” and he didn’t know it was going to be this one so he had to check it out in front of his friends lololololololol.)

YOU GUYS: I AM OBSESSED WITH JOJO ROLLS! It’s even my current name on Twitter! It’s not even my favorite element on a coaster, I just like the name, lol.

STEVE!!!!! STEVE WAS IN THIS BOOK!!!!!!! Two RMCs repped!

My only critique is that the road trip tackled 5 parks, from Six Flags Great Adventure in NJ to Cedar Point in Ohio, and they even stopped in Pittsburgh but DIDN’T GO TO KENNYWOOD? They went to DORNEY but not KENNYWOOD? (Not knocking you Dorney, but nothing you have tops Phantom’s Revenge.) No, they stopped in Pittsburgh to go to the aviary. OK.

But yeah, if you know any kids who love coasters or are struggling with their sexuality or identity or place in the world or all of the above, then gently place this book on their pillow because it’s precious. <3

9. The Perfect Family – Robyn Harding

The Perfect Family

I’m not going to expound too much on this one. It’s a domestic thriller. It was middle-of-the-road for me. I listened to the audio book and was about 1/4 of the way through before realizing that I had read another of this author’s books and thought it was kind of dumb, but I needed something mindless to listen to on my walks and…well, it did its job, I guess. I didn’t hate or love it.

10. Supermarket – Bobby Hall 

Supermarket

I got this from one of the Little Free Libraries in my ‘hood and then also found the audio for it so I did the whole “reading along while being read to” thing which is probably the only way I would have been able to get through this one. I didn’t know it at the time, but Bobby Hall is aka Logic and once I figured that out, the fact that the audiobook had sound effects and each chapter had intro music suddenly made a lot more sense.

The first half of this book was pretty good! It’s almost entirely set in a Supermarket and while there were definitely some cringey racial stereotyping going on but the characters were so dynamic and the dialogue was fast and sappy….but then the second part happened and it quickly became apparently that I was 2 dumbz0rz to fully “get” this book. Super psychological and Palahniuk-esque.

I can’t really say much more than that without SPOILERS. But I think this dude is a great writer, for sure.

11. The Family Plot – Megan Collins

The Family Plot

OK this book was weird (in a good way). It’s a really great thriller/mystery (actually, yeah, it’s more of a mystery really) about a girl who is returning to her family home for the first time in, I dunno, 10 years, because her dad has died. This is the second book I read that month with a main character named Dahlia/Dalia, coincidentally. The whole family is super into true crime and the mom named them all after famous murder victims and used to reenact murder scenes as an actual class while home schooling her kids. Totally bonkers and also something that I could kind of seeing my mom doing, OK ME, I COULD TOTALLY SEE ME DOING THIS. Chooch got off easy, when you really think about it.

Yeah, I liked this one. It was creepy and also kind of sad, because Dahlia has spent the last 10 years of her life desperately trying to find her twin brother who left the house on their 16th birthday. She has an older sister and brother who aren’t twins but are like, obsessed with each other.

To me, though, it kind of read like a YA mystery even though I’m pretty sure this was meant for adults, so I dunno. It was entertaining but didn’t have me screaming it’s praises with a voice string enough to pin a movie poster against a wall.

No, nothing like that.

And that was it. August was not great. September has been much better. I just finished a book yesterday that had me clutching my chest and I will DEFINITELY be screaming about that one for years to come but I guess you will have to wait for my September book round-up! GOOD-BYE, AUGUST BOOKS.

Sep 142021
 

August was a shit month as far as books went for me. I don’t think I read a single book that I actually REALLY, REALLY liked. And I definitely read at least one book that I REALLY, REALLY hated. Like, a lot. Like if it wasn’t a library book, I’d have turned it into real kindle.

Ugh. Let’s get this over with. I read 11 books. Here are 6.

  1. Every Heart a Doorway – Seanan McGuire

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People fucking LOVE THIS MIDDLE GRADE SERIES. I thought it was boring and stupid. Kids go through doorways into different realms and then when they get dumped back home, they have to go to the Home for Wayward Children in order to rehabilitate or something, I don’t fucking even know. I was bored and hated every character. It was stupid. Will 100% not be continuing this series.

Bitch, bye.

2. Every Vow You Break – Peter Swanson

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1 star. Every character is irritating. The plot is ridiculous. Hated it. Piss off, Peter Swanson.

3. For Your Own Good – Samantha Downing

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OK. Things are looking up now, August. I didn’t enjoy it as much as her last book (He Started It), but this was fun and the characters were so over-the-top and ridiculous, but it worked in this setting and plot. It was actually pretty laugh-out-loud funny at times, for a thriller. It takes place in a prestigious high school and follows one super Type A teacher who truly goes above and beyond to make sure his students learn their lessons and stay on the right path. There’s lots of murder and mayhem in this one, which makes it super fast-paced. I gave it 3.5!

4. The Babysitter: My Summers with a Serial Killer: Liza Rodman & Jennifer Jordan

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OK I didn’t realize when I picked this up that it’s actually both a memoir and true crime non-fiction. The chapters vacillate between Liza Rodman recounting her childhood summers growing up in Cape Cod, where her mom ran a motel and she was often left in the care of a handyman who worked at a neighboring hotel. She and her little sister would get in his truck and take trips through town and to the garbage dump. The other chapters are a compilation of facts pulled from interviews and other resources, detailing the life of Tony Costa, a man who would eventually be arrested for murdering numerous women in the 60s.

Even though I literally make serial killer greeting cards, I had never heard of Tony Costa, so this…dare I say “exciting” to read? He seemed somewhat Ted Bundy-ish, in that he was extremely charming. But also a bit of a Manson-type, accumulating small groups of hangers-on and acolytes.

Pretty entertaining and interesting, and also chilling for Liza Rodman, as she later realized what kind of man her mom was putting her in the care of.

Actually, sounds like something like my own mom would have done. Haha…ugh.

5. All’s Well – Mona Awad

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Oof. I don’t know what to say about this one. I fucking adore Mona Awad’s writing style – she is like no other. So goddamn smart and quirky, the dialogue is sharp-tongued and natural, her characters are always so interesting and flawed. But I had to be honest with myself and admit that I had reservations about this one when the plot was released a while back because it revolves almost entirely around a college theater, the director’s hell-bent desire to put on All’s Well, and the actors’ stubborn resistance. (They want to perform MacBeth that year.)

Well all of this is happening, the theater director – Miranda – is also suffering from chronic pain. And not just from the pain, but also from the frustrating doctors and her colleagues’ skepticism that her pain is real and not just psychosomatic.

The problem for me is that I am a Shakespeare dunce and am well-aware that a ton of references and allusions in this book were lost on me. I just didn’t care about the play at all. And Miranda was not a likeable character so there were times when I just didn’t care about her that much either.

We are VERY MUCH prisoners to Miranda’s thoughts and imagination for the entire duration of All’s Well and it was exhausting. While I still think that Mona Awad is a phenomenal writer, this particular subject matter just wasn’t for me. Man, I was really bummed about that too. I wanted to LOVE this book, but instead I just KIND OF LIKED it.

6. It Happened One Summer – Tessa Bailey

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OK, I’m going to end it here on a good note and do the other half on another day so writing about THE WORST BOOK doesn’t ruin my day today. Because I’m already on the edge. I picked this one up because a Booktuber said that the main girl reminded her a lot of Alexis from Schitt’s Creek and that was enough to have me sold. Love Schitt’s Creek and Alexis was everything. Anyway, this is a light-hearted romance about Piper Bellinger, kind of a Paris Hilton-type from Beverly Hills who goes on a post-dumping bender and ends up in the slammer. Her step-dad is like SHIT’S GON’ CHANGE ‘ROUND HERE, LITTLE LADY and sends her to some small fishing town in Washington where her mom used to live with her fisherman bio-dad before he died at sea. Turns out, he owned a bar and the stepdad has been having it maintained (barely) all these years, and now he wants Piper to go  there and prove that she can be a responsible adult by going there and actually running the place.  Her younger sister accompanies her and of course everyone in the town is like WHO ARE THESE FANCY OUTLANDERS – some take a liking to them, and some definitely do not.

One of those who don’t is Brendan, some super surly fishing captain WHO I KEPT PICTURING AS HENRY because Henry has that fisherman and lumberjack aesthetic. Also, Henry is super low-maintenance and blue collar and while I’m certainly not cruising Rodeo Drive, I was definitely brought up with a silver spoon in my mouth so we have that RICH GIRL POOR MAN trope going on even though I’m not a rich girl anymore, sniff sniff.

So I definitely enjoyed this book but I didn’t like how quickly the “opposites attract”/”hate to love” effect happened. I wanted more tension. And I also hated how Brendan was like “Baby” this and “Baby” that, fucking constantly. It creeped me out. What I did like was Piper’s character growth. It happened naturally and fluidly, and I believed it! There are also several Town Elders who were absolutely adorable and I loved Piper’s relationship with them, A LOT.

I’m still not wild about romances in general, but I really liked Piper a lot. Also, I don’t care how much money those crab fishermen make, I’m glad Henry’s in the beverage industry and not out to sea for weeks at a time – who would make me my smoothie bowls!?

 

 

Aug 242021
 

Oh hey Mary, who’s that on the phone? Oh, it’s just the rest of the books I read in July? Tell them I’ll call them back. No, seriously, tell them I’m incapacitated and take a message. No, not decapitated—wait, yeah, tell them that. Oh for god’s sake, fine, tell them I’ll stop watching kpop videos and recap their damn asses on my dumb blog. UGH.

6. Good Neighbors – Sarah Langan

Good Neighbors

Never before has the word “bitumen” seen so much action. Also, thank god I read this as an audio book else I’d never know to pronounce it BITCHOOOMIN and apparently Henry, Man of the Earth, does not pronounce it as such because he had NO IDEA what I was talking about until I spelled it for him. Also, after hearing this word for approx. the 12th time, I figured it was time to stop being lazy and actually look it up. It is just this road-shit:

Oh but how was the book, you ask? Pretty fucking dumb. I hated every character. Literally, there was no one worth rooting for except for the one neighbor’s German shepherd. I kept picturing them all as Sims. Or like, one-dimensional people quickly drawn by Matt Groenig while he was on the commode. Anyway, there was a sinkhole and then this whole street basically goes nuts and then there’s lots of bullying between the kids and adults and it was just not that great. Sorry if it’s your fave.

7. The Last Tang Standing – Lauren Ho

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This was a cute book billed as “Crazy Rich Asians meets Bridget Jones’ Diary” and I can definitely get on board with this comparison. There’s not much else to say really aside from that I enjoyed it but it was kind of too long I thought? Also it made me glad that I only just WORK FOR attorneys and am NOT AN ATTORNEY because this broad was like all-consumed with making partner and nope, no thanks, that’s not the life for me. I like to be done working at the same time everyday so that I can eat my dinner, exercise, and then spend my evenings watching roller coaster or Korea or book videos on YouTube. Thanks.

8. How Lucky – Will Leitch 

How Lucky

Ooh, this book was good and suspenseful but also had a good amount of humor because we are very much inside the main character’s head, and he’s pretty sure he just witnessed, from the privacy of his front porch, a college student get abducted. I loved this guy, I loved the people around him, and I loved the writing.

Stephen King says, “A fantastic novel…you are going to like this a lot” and you know what? He ain’t wrong.

9. The Final Revival of Opal & Nev – Dawnie Walton

The Final Revival of Opal & Nev

This is basically if Daisy Jones and the Six had actual DEPTH to it and focused on REAL WORLD SHIT like racism. This is done interview-style much like Daisy Jones, where the interviewer is a Black journalist for some bigtime magazine, and she’s writing a history of this duo from 1970s, Opal and Nev, who experienced a flash-in-the-pan taste of fame together, before splitting up. Nev goes on to have a successful solo career and now, in the year (I think) 2016, they’re about to reunite for the first time, at some big music festival a la Woodstock.

The first part of the book was admittedly a bit slow and boring to me, focusing on Opal and Nev’s very very very different upbringings. But we know early on that the interviewer’s father was killed in the 70s and it was somehow because of Opal. So there is a lot of suspense and mystery that was built-up rather masterfully and I was fucking SICK when it finally got to the part in the book where the incident was talked about.

This book has way less fluff and goes so much deeper than Daisy Jones, which I did enjoy, don’t get me wrong but Daisy was just so unlikeable to me while Opal is a STRONG MOTHERFUCKING DIVA and goddamn I wish she was real. This book is great and I highly recommend the audiobook, it’s sensational.

10. What Comes After – JoAnne Tompkins

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Oh this fucker damn near ruined my vacation because it BROKE MY FUCKING HEART INTO A MILLION PIECES. First of all, it was NOTHING like what I thought it was going to be. I was thinking it was a thriller because it’s about two teenager boys who are killed and in the book, we’re slowly told exactly what happened. But it is so much more than that. The chapters rotate from the POV of three characters: the Quaker father of one of the slain teens, a mysterious homeless teenaged girl, and the thoughts of the second slain teenager on his last day of life.

The found family aspect of this story is so goddamn strong and beautiful and awkward and just violently sad that I found myself reaching for spare napkins in the glove compartment more than once while we were driving from one amusement park to the next. Also, the father is a Quaker and there was some really interesting Quaker shit in this that really taught me some things about that way of life. I would never willingly pick up a book about “being Quaker” so this was a good way to trick me into learning a little.

It took me three days after finishing reading this to finally be able to tell Henry about it and even then, I kept getting the SAD LUMP in my throat that caused me to choke on my synopsis like, 87 times. This book is beautiful. Just…so fucking beautiful. BUT SO FUCKING GUT-WRENCHING AND DEPRESSING. Also how stunning is that cover?! If this was made into a movie, I’m actually not sure if I would ever be able to watch it.

But MAJOR TRIGGER WARNING for pet stuff. I am crying right now thinking about it.

11. People We Meet On Vacation – Emily Henry

People We Meet on Vacation

This was a RULL GOOD chaser to the previous book, that’s for damn sure. It was light and fluffy for the most part but also tense and sad and written in a way where you’re like BUT WHAT HAPPENED TO THEIR FRIENDSHIP?? because all you know is that the main broad is a travel blogger who gets her Total Opposite Best Friend Who Is Also a Man to go on trips with her and I’ll tell you what, if I had read this last year during the height of covid, fuck that shit. My FOMO would have swallowed me whole. But as it were, I was actually on vacation while reading this so that took the edge off, lol.

I dunno, I think Emily Henry is an OK writer but I also think she is kind of overhyped? I will say that she writes relatively believable characters I guess, and she’s good for a good, quick read that’s not going to break your brain or your heart.

****

OK that’s all I read in July. A “light” reading month, lol. I was going to say that August is going well but then I flashed to one of the most recent books I just finished and how much I hated it and now my vision is slowly being coated in blood-red.

Aug 212021
 

Whoa, hold the phone, I only read eleven books in July! Lol. Vacation really slowed my roll and I’m cool with that. I needed a light reading month! Anyway, here are the first five books of July because it’s like 90 degrees in my house and I can’t promise that I have the strength to sit here and recap all eleven while my thighs are literally sticking to the computer chair, ugh.

  1. That Summer – Jennifer Weiner

That Summer

I genuinely like Jennifer Weiner. This was my 3rd book of hers and I really think she is a good writer who creates characters with depth. This book is super inspired by the #MeToo movement so get ready to be pissed. Also, the synopsis essentially says it’s about a woman who keeps emails meant for another woman and I was so excited because THIS COULD BE MY BOOK except that in this case, it’s much more insidious and not just me getting Home Depot receipts from some rando Erin Kelly in Florida.

Anyway, I truly enjoyed this book and there is a very healthy and #goals relationship that happens with a maintenance man and I kept picturing Henry and there is also a teenage daughter who is fierce and independent and…Jennifer Weiner is just very much my cup of tea and I will ALWAYS associate her with the fact that one of her books was one of the first ones I took out of the library in January of 2020 when I decided I wanted to make a conscious effort to start reading regularly like I used to, so I really give her a lot of credit because when I read Mrs. Everything that month, it reopened my heart to reading again.

2. Inconvenient Daughter – Lauren J. Sharkey

Inconvenient Daughter

I admittedly barely remember this book but it’s loosely based off the author’s experience of being adopted from South Korea by white people. There was some stuff in there about a really abusive relationship that the main character, Rowan, finds herself in after high school and it did kind of trigger me a little, I won’t lie. It wasn’t easy to read at times but I just really wanted her to be OK and to let her parents love her. Lauren J. Sharkey is a really great writer and there was some really well-placed humor in here too, so I will definitely pick up any book she may write in the future (this was her debut novel).

Interracial adoption is a very interesting topic to me and I have been trying to read more about it. As a white person born into a white family, attending predominantly white schools, I never had to think about how these types of adoptions literally strip a person of their identity, not just racially, but culturally as well.

3. Twelve Nights at Rotter House – J.W. Ocker

Twelve Nights at Rotter House

OK Mr. Ocker, I see you. Finally FINALLY FINALLY a haunted house book that I actually REALLY liked. The writing was fantastic – conversational, humorous – and the mood was set right from the get-go. I was tense. I legit jumped at times. I felt very uneasy when I was reading it alone downstairs on the couch at night. There are some classic tropes here that might be overdone but they worked in this case. I have had a really tough time lately finding good horror books  that don’t make me roll my eyes (Kill Creek, I’m looking at you, you piece of shit novel) but this one had me rooting for the main character, and the dialogue? Chef’s kiss. I could hear it in my head. I could see this playing out in my imagination. This is how I like my horror. Would watch this if it was adapted to film.

4. Anxious People – Fredrik Backman

Anxious People

You already know that I love Fredrik Backman because of his incredible Beartown series, so it should come as no surprise that I wanted to walk around and give out free hugs after reading this. I mean, if it wasn’t still pandemic times and I didn’t flinch at the thought of physical contact with strangers. It’s the thought that counts, ok?

All I knew going into this was that it involved a bank robbery and hostage situation, but in true Backman form, it’s about SO MUCH MORE. Humanity! Love! Second chances! Found family! I’m starting to cry as I think back to all of the characters in this book, a real motely crew, and the bonds formed by complete strangers during one afternoon.

Highly recommend. I cried SO MUCH but also laughed because Backman’s dialogue isn’t just good, it’s Gilmore Girls-good. Five stars. MUAH.

5. The Decagon House Murders – Yukito Ayatsuji

The Decagon House Murders

Oh boy, if you’re into classic mysteries in the vein of Agatha Christie, then this book is totally for you. I believe it was written in the early 80s in Japan and, as the book cover up there has already told you, it’s reached cult classic status over the years. I thought it was a pretty good whodunit! I don’t know what else you want me to say!

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

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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.