Oct 062021
 

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

7. The Poppy War – R.F. Kuang 

Book Cover

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

Book Cover

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

Book Cover

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!

***

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

Book Cover

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

Book Cover

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

3. For Your Own Good – Samantha Downing

Book Cover

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

Book Cover

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

Book Cover

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

Book Cover

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

Crying in H Mart

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

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

6. The Girls – Emma Cline 

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

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

7. What’s Mine is Yours – Naima Coster

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Oh and the book cover is ugly too.

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

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

Jun 232021
 

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

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

The Last Story of Mina Lee

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

11. Yolk – Mary H.K. Choi 

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

12. All You Can Ever Know – Nicole Chung

All You Can Ever Know

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

13. American Betiya – Anuradha D. Rajurkar

American Betiya

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

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

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

14. A Very Large Expanse of Sea – Tahereh Mafi

A Very Large Expanse of Sea

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

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

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

15. The Hole – Hye-Young Pyun

The Hole

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

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

16. Goodbye, Vitamin – Rachel Khong 

Goodbye, Vitamin

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

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

17. Year of the Rabbit – Tian Veasna

Year of the Rabbit

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

I guess justice is justice, but damn.

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

18. Anna K: Away – Jenny Lee

Anna K: Away (Anna K, #2)

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

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

Jun 102021
 

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

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

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

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

  1. Leave the World Behind – Rumaan Alam

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

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

2. No One Can Pronounce My Name – Rakesh Satyal

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

3. Rent a Boyfriend – Gloria Chao

Rent a Boyfriend

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

4. The Way of the Househusband Vol. 1

The Way of the Househusband, Vol. 1

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

5. Know My Name – Chanel Miller

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

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

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

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

6. Interior Chinatown – Charles Yu 

Interior Chinatown

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

7. Days of Distraction – Alexandra Chang 

Days of Distraction

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

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

8. A Sweet Mess – Jayci Lee

A Sweet Mess

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

It was pretty….lame.

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

9. Last Night at the Telegraph Club – Malinda Lo

Last Night at the Telegraph Club

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

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

***

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

 

May 172021
 

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

8. The Ex Talk – Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Ex Talk

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

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

9. The Leavers – Lisa Ko

The Leavers

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

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

10. Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars

Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars

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

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

11. The Other Americans – Laila Lalami 

The Other Americans

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

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

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

12. The Wife Stalker – Liv Constantine

The Wife Stalker

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

13. Everything, Everything – Nicola Yoon

Everything, Everything

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

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

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

14. Milk fed- Melissa Broder

Milk Fed

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

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

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

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

15. Before the Devil Breaks You – Libba Bray

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

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

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

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

I AM TRYING TO GET JANNA TO READ THESE BOOKS.

May 082021
 

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

  1. Oona Out of Order – Margarita Montimore

Oona Out of Order

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

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

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

Cool cover, tho bro.

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

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

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

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

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

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

3. The Dutch House – Ann Patchett

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

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

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

(I’m crying right now, lol.)

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

4. The Upstairs House – Julia Fine

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

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

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

The Honey-Don't List

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

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

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

The House in the Cerulean Sea

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

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

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

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

7. Foolish Hearts – Emma Mills

Foolish Hearts

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

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

Apr 182021
 

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


9. Charming as a Verb – Ben Phillipe

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

10. Writers & Lovers – Lily King

Writers & Lovers

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

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

This book was totally my style.

11. Elatsoe – Darcie Little Badger

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

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

12.  Too Good to Be True – Carola Lovering

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

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

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

13. Memorial – Bryan Washington 

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

14. The Project – Courtney Summers

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

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

15. A Pho Love Story – Loan Le

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

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

16. They Never Learn – Layne Fargo

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

Apr 122021
 

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

  1. Super Fake Love Song – David Yoon

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

2. If I Disappear – Eliza Jane Brazier

If I Disappear

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

3. Behind Her Eyes – Sarah Pinborough

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

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

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

4. Smash It! – Francina Simone

Smash It! (Smash It! #1)

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

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

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

5. The Inheritance Games – Jennifer Lynn Barnes 

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

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

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

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

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

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

8. The Lost Apothecary – Sarah Penner

The Lost Apothecary

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

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

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


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

Mar 082021
 

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

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


8. Theme Music – T. Marie Vandelly

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

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

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

9. In a Holidaze – Christina Lauren

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

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

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

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

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

10. These Vengeful Hearts – Katherine Laurin 

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

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

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

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

11. The Winter People – Jennifer McMahon

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

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

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

12. Eight Perfect Murders – Peter Swanson

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

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

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


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

“I liked it.”

“It was good.”

“Eh.”

“I can’t remember.”

“To [sic] many big words.”

“Yes.”