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.

 

books read in January…

 

 

  • My Soul to Keep by Tananarive Due. The first in her African Immortals series. Eva asked me if this was her “vampire” book, and I was a bit confused because I never once thought vampire while reading it. But I guess once mentioned, I can see it. If this is Due’s take on vampires, its a very unique one. And it was a very enjoyable read for me. While I’m generally not a big fan of series, I suspect I’ll eventually continue on with this one. I think the territory we’ll be heading into will be quite fresh as there is really no going back. Due’s characters feel authentic, and the story moves along at a nice, if slightly uneven pace. The suspenseful parts of the story are great. If supernatural-type stories were my passion, she would almost certainly be one of my favorite authors.  This is the second of Due’s books that I’ve read (the other being The Between), and I think it’s safe to say that she’s an author I trust for a well-told, unique and interesting story.
  • Koko Be Good by Jen Wang. I loved the art in this book–Wang is amazing with facial expression. And the overall story was quite sweet and charming, but not in a sappy, saccharine way–in fact, it had quite a bit of bite to it, and I really appreciated that. But ultimately this was somewhat of a meh book for me. I found it hard to follow at times, and found myself wishing for a little more depth. While this might have been more of a miss than a hit for me, I suspect many others would completely disagree. (Used for #18–a comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
  • The Decagon House Murders by Yukito Ayatsuji, translated by Ho-Ling Wong. With a definite nod to Christie’s And Then There Were None, this was quite the fun little locked room murder mystery. A group of students from a university Mystery Club, all of whom go by nicknames of famous mystery writers from the past, set off to spend a week on an island with a notorious past. There is no way to contact the mainland (yep, pre-cell phone days), and sure enough, one by one, they’re picked off in various and sundry ways. And I fully admit that I did not figure it out. (Used for the “shape” category in the What’s in a Name? challenge and for #19–a book of genre fiction in translation–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
  • Becoming Naomi León by Pam Muñoz Ryan. Oh my goodness, this book is such a treasure! Loved it hard. I sometimes forget how much I can adore middle grade books. The characters, the story, the writing…all of it, just perfect in my opinion. (Used for yellow spine category for my Reading the Rainbow challenge.)
  • Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race by Reni Eddo-Lodge. This book was excellent! It begins with a chapter on race relations in the U.K. and illustrates how this history continues to inform the present. There are wonderful chapters on the intersections between race and gender and class. I highlighted so many passages in this book to return to. But honestly, I think it would be worth my while to read the entire book again. (Used for identity I don’t hold–black woman–of my identities reading challenge and for racism category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • The Enchanted by Rene Denfeld. After watching Amanda’s youtube video about her favorite read of 2017, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on this book. And I’m so grateful that I did. This is a book full of brutality. The brutality isn’t spelled out in graphic detail, but somehow that just makes it infinitely more powerful. It is a story of broken systems and broken people. Set in a prison, we meet death row inmates, a woman hired to help try to get death sentences commuted for inmates, the warden, a fallen priest. No one is whole and all are human. I think the author’s choice to leave the vast majority of the characters unnamed was also a powerful one. And all of it is told in such beautiful language…and this somehow makes the book all the more unsettling. (Used for prison category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson. Oh. My. Goodness. What a little treasure of a book. Thus far I’ve only read a few of Woodson’s books, but every single one I have read has been wonderful. A heart-breaking, heart-expanding story of first love. Honestly, I want to pick it right back up and read it again right now. (Used for #10–a romance novel by or about a person of color–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and for racism category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • Zodiac by Robert Graysmith. I don’t read nearly as much true crime as I once did. And quite honestly, this book didn’t make me want to change that. The first half of the book felt much stronger than the latter chapters. And to some extent that’s just the nature of the Zodiac story, where so much is still unknown to this day. But to some extent, it also felt to me that the writing in the later part of the book didn’t feel as tight and well-organized. I don’t know, maybe it’s just me. But overall the book just failed to wow me. (Used for the starts with the letter “z” category in the What’s in a Name? challenge and for #2–a book of true crime–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge and for serial killers category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
  • The Illustrated Treasury of Fairy Tales designed by Rita Marshall. This book collects a dozen fairly tales from a variety of sources (Grimm, Perrault, Andersen, and more) and pairs each with a different artist. The result is wonderful. I admit that I wasn’t fond of all of the art styles, but I think that is part of the charm–there’s bound to be selections to please nearly everyone. These are a few examples from my favorites:IMG_3003From “Beauty and the Beast” illustrated by Swiss artist Etienne Delessert.

IMG_3005From “Hansel & Gretel” illustrated by Swiss artist Monique Felix.

IMG_3007From “The Fisherman & His Wife” illustrated by Canadian illustrator John Howe.

IMG_3009From “The Fir Tree” with photographs by Swiss artist Marcel Imsand.

(Used for fairy tale category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)

  • Feed by Mira Grant. This book sucked me right in, I tell you. But then I’m a total sucker for post-apocolyptic/dystopian reads. I previously read Grant’s Parasitology trilogy, and figured it was time to give the Newsflesh trilogy a go. I adored this book every bit as much as I loved Parasite (the first book in the Parasitology trilogy)…and obviously this is a good thing. And I plan to continue with this series, but I do so with the realization that the following books may not hold up to the initial one, as that’s what happened for me with the Parasite books. (Not that I disliked the remainder of the series, just that I didn’t love them with a passion like I did the first book.) Grant writes a unique story, which probably isn’t easy to do in the wealth of zombie stories out there. And she makes me care deeply about her characters. There were tears. (Used for #17–a sci-fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. And for identity I do hold–bisexual–of my identities reading challenge.)
  • Rats: Observations on the History & Habitat of the City’s Most Unwanted Inhabitants by Robert Sullivan. While I largely enjoyed this book, it wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. Which is solely my fault, not the fault of the book. I was hoping for a lot more natural history, but if I’d have paid attention to the subtitle I should known better than to expect that. I certainly learned a lot about quirky little bits of NYC history. While I wouldn’t call the writing dry by any means, I also can’t claim that it possesses that engaging quality that makes some non-fiction so unputdownable. Overall, I’m not sorry I read it, but neither do I feel I would have been missing out had I not. (Used for the “word ‘the’ used twice” category in the What’s in a Name? challenge.)
  • The Beginning of the World in the Middle of the Night by Jen Campbell. I need a new word to describe the stories in this book. Because if the perfect word already exists, I simply don’t know it. These stories are magical and lyrical and whimsical and delightful…and yet. And yet there is a darkness to them. And sometimes a heartbreaking sadness. And that combination is so compelling. It’s been a while since I’ve loved a short story collection quite this much.
  • Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Books One-Three by Ta-Nehisi Coates and Brian Stelfreeze. I’m not extremely well-versed in the Marvel Universe, and have not before been introduced to Black Panther or Wakanda. But I enjoyed this series a lot, and would now like to go back and read some of the earlier chronology. (Used for #8–a comic written or illustrated by a person of color–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
  • Black Panther: World of Wakanda by Roxane Gay, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Alitha E. Martinez, and Roberto Poggi. Okay, as much as I enjoyed A Nation Under Our Feet, it doesn’t compare to the love I had for this one! Because Aneka and Ayo! *swoon* I’d like to say that I can’t believe that this series was cancelled…but yeah, sadly, of course I can.
  • “A Problem from Hell”: America and the Age of Genocide by Samantha Power. It probably goes without saying that this wasn’t the easiest book in the world. But it can be said that it’s an important book and a powerful book. It’s quite a well researched book and Power lays it out in a clear, accessible way. I’m grateful that I finally made the time to pick this book back up and read it in its entirety. (Used for #24–an assigned book you hated or never finished–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. And technically this is cheating–it’s a book I assigned to Gray for homeschooling but never finished myself because other things got in the way…but I’m pretty sure I finished all my assigned books from decades ago when I was in school.)
  • Deadline by Mira Grant. The second in the Newsflesh trilogy. Another fast-paced compelling read, but for me it ultimately fell short of the awesomeness of Feed. I found myself a little irritated by some of the repetition. And I literally rolled my eyes at the ending. If Grant doesn’t come through with a believable explanation of that in the third book, I am going to be seriously disappointed. And yes, I will be reading the third book.

Wow–I realize eighteen books read in a month is peanuts to some people, but it’s a stellar month for me! But of course what really made it stellar was the quality–I really read a lot of books I truly loved.

Random notes:

  • Marginalized voices made up more than half of my reading, and that definitely makes me happy…though I’d like it to make up even more. (10 books by authors of color, 5 by lgbtq+ authors, 1 by disabled/disfigured author–there is some overlap)
  • Four of my eighteen reads were non-fiction. I’m okay with that ratio.
  • I listened to three audiobooks, which might be a record for me. I often go months between audiobooks. I also read one ebook, which while not rare is not exactly common for me either.
  • Ten books were from my own shelves, and most of those I’ve owned for more than a couple years, so hooray for knocking down the physical TBR pile a bit. And I gave four of them away after reading them, so yay that too.
  • Five of the books were comics. One was a fairy tale collection. One was a short story collection.

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identity reading challenge…

This is another personal reading challenge I’m giving myself, inspired by a post at Book Riot. I am picking 10 personal identities that influence how I see the world and 10 identities that are not mine. And then hope to read a book by an author with each of those identities. Many of my potential reads are nonfiction, but there are some fiction choices mixed in as well. This might just be the challenge I’m most excited about.

Categories and potential reads:

Identities that influence how I see the world–

Anxiety sufferer: 

  • Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
  • Monkey Mind: A Memoir of Anxiety by Daniel Smith

Atheist:

  • Nothing: Something to Believe In by Nica Lalli
  • The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins

Bisexual: *completed*

  • An Untamed State by Roxane Gay
  • Feed by Mira Grant
  • Bi: Notes for a Bisexual Revolution by Shiri Eisner

Chronic illness/invisible illness sufferer *completed* (for me that is endometriosis, fibromyalgia, IBS, but author need not have same constellation of illnesses):

Environmentalist:

  • The Rarest of the Rare by Diane Ackerman
  • Arctic Voices edited by Subhankar Banerjee

Fat:

  • Dietland by Sarai Walker
  • Things No One Will Tell Fat Girls: A Handbook for Unapologetic Living by Jes Baker

Maker:

  • 52 Projects: Random Acts of Everyday Creativity by Jeffrey Yamaguchi
  • How to Be an Explorer of the World by Keri Smith

Mother:

  • Of Woman Born by Adrienne Rich
  • The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson

Rape victim/survivor:

  • All the Rage by Courtney Summers (I don’t know if Courtney Summers is a rape victim/survivor herself, but from all I’ve heard, this is a powerful book about rape culture, so I’m including it as a possible read.)
  • Lucky by Alice Sebold

Woman:

  • A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
  • I Feel Bad About My Neck: And Other Thoughts on Being a Woman by Nora Ephron

Identities I do not hold–

Asexual:

  • Viral Airwaves by Claudie Arseneault
  • The Bone People by Keri Hulme

Autistic:

  • Born on a Blue Day by Daniel Tammet
  • On the Edge of Gone by Corinne Duyvis

Black Woman: *completed*

Immigrant:

  • The Best We Could Do: An Illustrated Memoir by Thi Bui
  • The Beautiful Things that Heaven Bears by Dinaw Mengestu

Latinx:

  • When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
  • Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez

Muslim:

  • The Unquiet Dead by Ausma Zehanat Khan
  • The Reluctant Fundamentalist by Mohsin Hamid

Native American:

  • Food & Spirits by Beth Brant
  • Love Medicine by Louise Erdrich

Polyamorous:

  • Love You Two by Maria Pallotta-Chiarolli
  • Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Barker

Transgender:

  • Redefining Realness by Janet Mock
  • She’s Not There: A Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan
  • The Gender Games by Juno Dawson

Veteran:

  • Battling the Storm Within by Stephanie J. Shannon
  • Love My Rifle More than You: Young and Female in the U.S. Army by Kayla Williams