books read in April…

 

  • Children of Blood and Bone by Toni Adeyemi. I often avoid hyped books, at least until the initial frenzy dies down. But I was way too excited for this one to wait. And I’m glad I didn’t! Adeyemi’s prose isn’t flowery or lyrical, her storytelling is more straightforward in style. And it suits this tale perfectly. A story that is so agonizingly heartbreaking, but not just in itself. No, even more so in the unmistakable parallels this story has with the unjust society we live in. It’s a beautiful fantasy influenced by Adeyemi’s West African heritage. And I so love fantasy that breaks free of the European-based norm that permeates most fantasy sections in bookstores and libraries.
  • Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor. Yes, this was the sequel I was craving! I felt somehow “bigger” and “more” than Binti. Which is a really pathetic way to put it, but I can’t seem to find the words for what I mean. This story felt more fleshed out. Spending time with Binti as she battles to be the person she needs to be, despite what everyone else expects from her is a privilege. And I’m so eager to get my hands on the final volume of this trilogy. Yeah me, who claims not to be a fan of trilogies. lol
  • Don’t Call Us Dead by Danez Smith. This may well be the best poetry collection I’ve ever read. I haven’t read massive amounts of poetry. I don’t really know shit about critiquing poetry. But I don’t have to know anything at all about poetry to know that Danez Smith can write with overwhelming intensity and complexity and compassion. That they can communicate the experiences of being in a black body, a queer body, an HIV positive body with such force and fire. Seemingly simple, straight-forward lines were anything but, and filled my eyes with tears on more than one occasion. Starting on page one. Listen for yourself to Smith reading one of their poems here.
  • On Tyranny by Timothy Snyder. I really thought this was a worthwhile read. The 20 points he expounds on to help us fight tyranny were helpful, and I admit that some of these are things I hadn’t previously thought of. However, there were a few times when I wished he’d acknowledged the privilege he was speaking from. One example was his point that everyone should have a passport, without acknowledging that not everyone can afford a passport. Or “make eye contact and small talk”…ummm, yeah, try telling that to my autistic son. But despite these issues, I think this book makes a lot of good points, points we’d all be wise to pay attention to.
  • Just Mercy by Bryan Stevenson. It’s hard to put my feelings about this book into words. It was heart-breaking and yet filled with moments of monumental joy. The real people and the horrific injustices they faced at the hands of our so-called justice system were at the heart of this book, and it was for them that I shed many tears of sadness. But I think I shed even more tears in anger. And on the other hand, I feel as if I got to spend time with a true hero. Because I can think of no more fitting a word for Bryan Stevenson.
  • The Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie. I haven’t read a lot of Agatha Christie’s books, and this is the first of the Miss Marple series that I’ve read. I enjoyed it quite a bit, I must say. But I was surprised by how little Miss Marple actually appeared in the story. As this is the first in the series, it has me wondering if in later books, she gets more more page time. I can say that I’m looking forward to finding out.
  • Simon vs. the Homo sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli. Oh my goodness. Did this book steal my heart? Why yes, yes it did. I can’t believe I hadn’t read it sooner, but am sort of glad for that because it was just the book I needed right now. I gulped this one right down, let me tell you. And it was one of those books that just left me wanting to hug it tight.
  • Zone One by Colson Whitehead. Got this book from the library a few months ago, but only got about a third of the way through before I had to return it. It wasn’t because I wasn’t enjoying it, but more that it was just a reeeeally slow read for me. It’s sort of what you’d call a literary fiction story of the zombie apocalypse, and it’s that literary fiction aspect that made it a slow read for me. When I saw that it was available on Scribd as an audiobook, I knew I needed to give it another go. And even as a listen, it was a slow go. But well worth it. You know how you can sometimes appreciate a book but not really enjoy it. I sort of wondered if that was going to be one of those books for me…but it wasn’t. I really ended up both appreciating and enjoying it.
  • Bygone Badass Broads: 52 Forgotten Women Who Changed the World by Mackenzi Lee. Okay, this was another “I bloody well adored this book!!!” for me. Everything about it! The writing, which is conversational and funny and down-to-earth. The art by Petra Ericsson, which sort of has me wanting to buy yet another copy just to cut out the portraits and make a gallery wall. (I already bought a second copy to give to Annie because I knew she’d love it as much as I did, because how could you not?!!) The diversity. ❤ ❤ ❤ And, most of all, the women featured. I knew of a handful of these women before reading the book, but the vast majority were unknown to me. And they all are truly freaking badass. I sort of wish that Netflix would make a movie about each and every one of them. If I get a vote, I’d like them to start with Stagecoach Mary Fields, Noor Inayat Khan, and Doña Ana Lezuma de Urinza and Doña Eustaquia de Sonza.
  • The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss. This book tickled me to pieces! Probably more than it should have, but what can I say. It brings together many of the horror/sci-fi classics. Stories I have a soft spot for. The Island of Dr. MoreauDracula, Frankenstein, “Rappaccini’s Daughter” (one of my favorite short stories of all time), The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (which shame on me, I have not read). Even Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson play their parts. It’s written in such a fun style, with meta elements. Catherine Moreau is writing the story of how this group of young women met and solved the mystery of the Whitechapel murders (a solution not found in any other Jack the Ripper theories I’ve read–lol) and ended up forming a family of sorts. But the other young women frequently interrupt and inject their own opinions, etc. This element does at first make it a bit confusing when listening to the audiobook, so I was happy I had a physical copy from the library to refer to at first. Once I understood how it was structured I had no further trouble understanding the audio. It is a fun and humorous book with small snippets of social commentary. It stole my heart.
  • Dawn by Octavia Butler. Yep, she did it again. Butler confirmed why she is one of my favorite authors. Though this isn’t my favorite book of hers, I still adored it. I wouldn’t call sci-fi one of my go-to genres, but in her hands I know I can’t go wrong. She writes compelling stories with characters that feel so very authentic (even when they’re aliens).
  • The Earth Moved: On the Remarkable Achievements of Earthworms by Amy Stewart. While I wasn’t over the top blown away by this book, I can say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It was a short, quick read, but one I learned from. And I appreciated Stewart’s passion for her subject.
  • Good Bones and Simple Murders by Margaret Atwood. While I was no means enthralled by every story in this collection, there were a handful that I loved with a passion! “Unpopular Gals,” “The Little Red Hen Tells All,” and “Happy Endings” (the only one of the stories in this book that I’d previously read) were my favorites. One of these days, I really do need to get around to reading more of her novels, having only read The Handmaid’s Tale thus far.
  • Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. This was a reread, and not the first time I’ve reread it. But this is as far as I’ve ever gotten in the series. Shocking, I know. And it’s not that I don’t love these books–I do! The Prisoner of Azkaban is hands down my favorite of the first three. And I will continue this time–really, I will! I have extra incentive to not get distracted from the mission this time because Rich and I are reading them aloud together. (He’s read them all a number of times.)
  • I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina, Stacey Robinson, and John Jennings. Absolutely the best graphic novel I’ve read all year. One of the best, maybe the best, I’ve ever read. It has so very much to say, and it says it in such powerful ways. It is about the systemic racism in this country, in our textbooks, in the media, and focusing a lot on our policing policies. It’s a work of fiction, but is filled with the ghosts of real people killed for being Black. It is beautifully written and beautifully illustrated. It is shattering.
  • The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks by E. Lockhart. I think I may have had my expectations of this book set too high. Which is not to say I didn’t like this book, because I definitely did. I generally didn’t want to put it down. But I think I had wished it was going to be one of those omg-I-love-this-book-so-much-I-could-just-hug-it-forever books, and it just wasn’t. Very glad I *finally* got around to reading it though.
  • Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani. First off, I just have to say how beautiful the art in this book is. Like seriously, seriously beautiful. Both the black and white portions and even more the color portions. The story itself is quite touching. Priyanka is a teenage girl whose mother left India before Priyanka was born. Her mother refuses to answer her questions about India, and even about her father. One day Priyanka finds a magical pashmina, though she doesn’t understand what the pashmina is showing her. It’s a story of cultures, yes. And it’s a story about the choices we must make about our lives.
  • Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them by J.K. Rowling. Not much to say about this one. I honestly only read it because I really wanted to complete the “Care of Magical Creatures” requirement for the O.W.L.s reading challenge. Quick and fun, but certainly not one of my favorite reads this month.
  • The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. I read Jen Wang’s other book, Koko Be Good, back in January, and while I didn’t dislike it, I didn’t really connect with it either. Though I did adore her art in both that book and in In Real Life which she did with Cory Doctorow. But this book…oh my. All the love for this book. Her beautiful art continues to shine, and this time it’s with a story that stole my heart. I so love when a book makes me cry happy tears. There really is so much to love about this book. A prince who loves to wear dresses. No need to be labeled. Parents who don’t suck. Friendship. And more.

Nineteen books…now that is one stellar month for me! Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon certainly didn’t hurt, of course. But what really qualifies this as a stellar reading month for me is the sheer amount of books I head-over-heels loved! Nine of these books would get 5 stars from me. Often for extremely different reasons. NINE!!! Seriously, I’d consider reading nine books in a month not at all shabby for me. But to read nine books that each in their own ways added so much to my life–well, what can I say, I feel blessed.

Some sort of random thoughts:

  • Marginalized voices made up 10/19 of my reading (9 books by authors of color, 3 by lgbtq+ authors, and 1 disabled+ author, obviously with some overlap). I think I say this every month, but I would like this to be higher. I obviously need to put in more effort.
  • Last month was heavy on non-fiction, but that wasn’t the case this month with only five. Social justice, politics, poetry, biography, natural history.
  • Most were physical books. One was an ebook. Two were exclusively audiobooks, and another four I switched between the audiobook and the physical version. Having rejoined Scribd has definitely upped my audiobook game!
  • Almost perfect split between books I owned, and books from the either the library or Scribd.
  • Three comics. One poetry collection. One short story collection. And one collection of mini biographies.
  • I think the longest book this month was Children of Blood and Bone at 544 pages, and the shortest was Don’t Call Us Dead at 96 pages.
  • Fictional genres included sci-fi, fantasy, dystopian/horror, magical realism, historical fiction, mystery, and realistic fiction.
  • Middle grade, YA, and adult fiction all represented. More YA than I’ve read in a while.

books read in February…

 

 

  • The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. I enjoyed this book, as I enjoyed Red Dragon when I read it last year. The stories are well told and compelling and suspenseful. At times I found myself caught off guard by a the beautiful way Harris would write something. Surprised because I don’t really expect beautiful writing in a suspense/thriller/serial killer type of book. All that said, I have a big problem with these stories–between the two books, there have been three different serial killers. And two of them had some sort of deformity. This is just NOT okay. This linking of “bad/evil/etc.” with deformity or disfigurement or disability needs to effing stop. So yeah, I enjoyed these books, but they are also extremely problematic. (I used this for the serial killers category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur Volume 1: BFF, Volume 2: Cosmic Cooties, and Volume 3: The Smartest There Is by Amy Reeder, Brandon Montclare, and Natacha Bustos. Oh my gosh–I can’t believe I haven’t heard more about this comic. I found it positively delightful! Lunella Lafayette is a brilliant nine-year-old girl with spunk and determination…and a major worry. She knows she carries the Inhuman gene and wants nothing more than to find a way to avoid being turned into Inhuman. She finds a device that she thinks could possibly stop it, but when it is accidentally activated I time portal is opened and her new best friend arrives. Though it is not clear at all to Lunella (tauntingly called Moon Girl by her classmates) at first that Devil Dinosaur is anything but a terrifying trouble-maker. This comic has pretty much completely charmed me, and I cannot wait to see what adventures these new best friends will encounter.
  • Saga Volume Eight by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Not sure what else to say about this series, other than I think it just gets better and better. My only complaint is that I have to wait for the next volume…
  • The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander. This book floored me. The breadth of my ignorance about how completely fucked up our criminal justice system and the War on Drugs is astounded me. Of all those books we tend to label “should be required reading,” this book should be at the top of that list. I honestly believe every person in the United States, if they care even one iota about justice, should make this book a priority. (Yay–first book knocked off my Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge list. Also used this as my book for #14–a book of social science–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and for the prison category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. This book was the perfect companion to The New Jim Crow. In a personal letter written to his son, we get a glimpse of what it is like to be a black man in a country that refuses to see black men as human. I know that I cannot truly know what it is like to live in skin that isn’t “white,” and that makes it all the more important for me to listen to as many black and brown voices that I can. (Used this for the racism category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • Tender Points by Amy Berkowitz. This is a painful book. And a book about pain. Chronic physical pain. And emotional traumatic pain. Fibromyalgia, rape, patriarchy. Prose poetry. Small vignettes. Her story is my story, but her story is very different from my story. A reminder of the importance of many stories. (Using this for the indigo spine in my reading the rainbow challenge, for the chronic/invisible illness sufferer category in my identities reading challenge, and for the invisible illnesses category in my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • Blackout by Mira Grant. The final in the Newsflesh trilogy. While I am glad to have finished the series, I can’t claim to have loved this volume as much as the first. Though I did enjoy it more than the second. The excessive repetition that got to me in the second book continued to annoy me in Blackout, but I found myself more drawn into the story again. Grant definitely writes a unique, compelling story, but as with the Parasitology trilogy, I think she drags them out too much. But that is very likely just me–while there are definitely series I adore (hello, Chaos Walking trilogy), I generally tend to prefer stand-alone books…and my feelings about both these trilogies may well be a consequence of that preference.
  • Hallowed Murder by Ellen Hart. Okay, so if I’m not a fan of series, why the hell did I go and start another one? lol. But this is not the trilogy sort of series that tells one bigger story, but is more of an episodic mystery type series. Overall, I really enjoyed this book and hope to read more. I love Jane Lawless, our amateur lesbian sleuth. And her best friend Cordelia is the sort of person who would completely intimidate me in real life, but I found her sort of fun despite her grouchiness. Not without its problematic moments, however: selling humps to be worn at a Richard III party and some fat stereotyping. Also, Trigger Warning for rape. I *truly* wish someone would have spoken up a bit more vehemently when it came to the aftermath of this rape (don’t want to say more for fear of spoilers). So yeah, it definitely wasn’t perfect, but I enjoyed it and am hopeful that some of these types of problems will disappear in later books. *fingers crossed* (Used this for #21–a mystery by a person of color or an lgbtq+ author–of Book Riot’s Read Harder challenge.)
  • An American Marriage by Tayari Jones. Oh my god–I loved this book! I don’t tend to read a lot of general/realistic/literary fiction, but this book might just change that. I certainly want to pick up every book Jones has written! It’s a story of injustice and a story of love and a story of heartache and a story of family and a story of people trying so hard not to hurt people they love but finding no way around it and a story of trying to hold onto the past and a story of looking ahead to the future and a story of maybe just maybe learning to live in the present. (Used for the “nationality” category in the What’s in a Name? challenge, for #13–an Oprah Book Club selection–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, and for the prison category of my dig deeper challenge.)
  • Orange: The Complete Collection, Volumes 1 and 2 by Ichigo Takano. This was such a sweet, sweet manga. I seriously just wanted to hug these books. The group of six friends in this story were just so easy to love, so kind and caring of one another. It was not a story without sadness, however. Trigger warning for suicide. (Used for the “fruit or vegetable” category of the What’s in a Name? challenge and the “orange” title in my reading the rainbow challenge.)
  • Vital Lies by Ellen Hart. The second in the Jane Lawless series. Again, I very much enjoyed. In this episode, Jane and Cordelia are spending the week of the winter solstice and Christmas at an old restored Victorian style inn owned by an old friend of Jane’s. Odd, frightening events have been occurring at the inn for the last two months, and her friend Leigh is hoping that Jane can help her get to the bottom of things.
  • Ghost World by Daniel Clowes. I can’t be the only person silly enough to hoard away books they’re sure they will love until that “perfect moment.” Or maybe I am. Who knows. Anyway, the reasonable portion of my brain tries to tell me that this is downright ridiculous, that I should read those books that I’m sure I’ll love now instead of saving them for some mythical perfect time. This book gave that reasonable brain portion more ammunition…but in a totally unexpected way. Turns out that I haven’t been denying myself the pleasure of this book for all those years it sat on my shelves–instead I found that I’ve been letting it take up valuable real estate for no good reason. It may be that I just had this book so built up in my mind, but damn, talk about disappointed! I was completely underwhelmed. Oh well, you win some-you love lose some, right?

Fifteen books. That’s a pretty high number for me. Granted almost half were comics as it was #comicsfebruary. Two months in a row with much higher than usual number of books read. And again, the thing that really matters–quality–was definitely not lacking. The New Jim Crow is possibly the most important book I’ve ever read; it’s definitely in the very top few. I discovered Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, a comic series that totally makes my heart happy. And also discovered, thanks to Memory, a fun new mystery series featuring lesbian sleuth Jane Lawless. I became an instant fan of Tayari Jones with An American Marriage. So yeah, I’m feeling good about February’s reading.

Sort of random notes:

  • Marginalized voices made up far more than half of my reading, so hooray for that! (8 books by authors or artists of color, 3 by lqbtq+ authors, 1 disabled+ author)
  • Three of the books I read were nonfiction. I’m a terribly slow reader, and tend to read nonfiction even slower, so I’m okay with this ratio. Honestly I guess I don’t care how much nonfiction I read, as long as I’m reading some.
  • I listened to one audiobook and read four ebooks (which includes the three Dino Girl comic collections)–I will probably always lean more towards the physical book.
  • Only six of the books I read were from my own shelves–I would really like that percentage to be higher. I did at least give away two of the books from my shelves after reading them so that’s something.
  • Seven comics, one book of prose-poetry, one book a letter from a father to his son.
  • I sort of suck at assigning genre, but of the fiction–mystery, sci-fi, dystopia, and general fiction were all represented. Nonfiction was largely social justice.
  • Seven new-to-me authors.