- I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Women’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara. While I don’t read loads of true crime anymore, it used to be a main staple in my reading diet. This was definitely a solid addition to the genre. I loved the combination of true crime with memoir. And like everyone else, I’m saddened by the fact that Michelle McNamara did not live to see the object of her obsession arrested.
- Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Ahmed. Already wrote about this wonderful, wonderful book here.
- Fruits Basket Collector’s Edition, Volume 1 by Natsuki Takaya. I know this is a beloved series to many, but I have to admit that I wasn’t thrilled with it. It’s not that I actually disliked it. But after just shy of 400 pages, the fact that it still hasn’t wowed me makes me pause at the idea of continuing on with the series. And you know, that’s okay–it’s not like there aren’t thousands of other books out there that I’d really like to read.
- The Girls by Emma Cline. Hmmm, how do I even describe my feelings about this book… I have to admit that I didn’t love it. But it is not the book’s nor the author’s fault. I found it very well written with interesting insights, and I suspect I would have loved it…if not for my past obsession with the Manson family story. I was in high school in the summer of 1979 or 1980 when I bought the paperback of Helter Skelter at Kmart. And I lounged on a blanket in our back yard devouring it. I’ve since read it at least 7 more times. And watched the movie at least that many times. And read other books, including Child of Satan, Child of God about Susan Atkins. The Girls is a fictionalized story of the Manson family, especially focused on Susan. And that’s where I found the fault–though it’s not a fault at all, of course. But to me, every storytelling choice she made that veered from the facts pulled me right out of the story. There was nothing wrong with these choices, and honestly the voice of Evie that she used to narrate the story was great. And yet all my brain kept saying to me was, “You should just go read Helter Skelter again.” Yeah, I really don’t even want to know what that says about me… Bottom line: I think this a probably a pretty awesome book, but my baggage just got in the way.
- The Girl With All the Gifts by M.R. Carey. It seems utterly bizarre to me that with all the hype that came with this book, I somehow didn’t know it was a zombie story. Not that knowing that would have affected, one way or the other, whether or not I read it. There were people whose tastes often align with with mine who enjoyed, so I was more than happy to finally get to it. And I fully expected I would enjoy it. What I didn’t expect was how it would rip my heart out, or how intelligent and thought-provoking it would be, or how it would offer hope in a hopeless situation. Yes, I expected to enjoy it, but I don’t think I expected to love it quite as much as I did. This is a book that I can actually see myself rereading down the road (and I don’t say that often with my road getting ever shorter and the pile of unread books only getting bigger).
- The Awakening by Kate Chopin. OMG–I read a classic! And enjoyed it! It was a little bit of a slow start for me, but I was totally on board before too long. I can see why this short novel has stood the test of time. I’d like to believe that today’s generation of young women has ditched the “put everyone else’s needs ahead of my own” mentality, but I know that’s not entirely the case, however. And still I see signs of hope in some of the young women I’m honored to call friends.
I know there are still a couple days left in May, but I don’t foresee me finishing any more books before the end of the month, so I decided to just finish up this post. What a tremendous nosedive my reading took this month! I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later. I don’t even feel like there’s enough reading there to talk about trends.
But what I can talk about is the MASSIVE FAIL on my “tbr takedown” goal. Instead of knocking off this month’s goal of 14 books off my physical tbr pile, I added to it. *sigh* My Librarything “unread” tag now stands at 1,513–which means I added 8 books! *double sigh* As per my rules, this means I now have to get rid of 22 books. Even though I culled my books a few months back, I’m still hopeful that this won’t hurt too much…
Well that turned out to be a lot harder than I’d anticipated, partly due to my carelessness at keeping my Librarything library precisely accurate. After pulling 22 books to donate, I discovered that 12 of them didn’t even count–one had been marked as “unfinished” as opposed to “unread” and the other eleven had never made it onto my library at all. Argh!!! Which means I’ll be getting rid of 34 books now:
- The Out-of-Sync Child: Recognizing and Coping with Sensory Processing Disorder by Carol Stock Kranowitz
- A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain
- But I Trusted You and Other True Cases by Ann Rule
- Books That Cook: The Making of a Literary Meal edited by Jennifer Cognard-Black and Melissa A. Goldthwaite
- The National Wildlife Federation Book of Family Nature Activities by Page Chichester
- Six American Poets: An Anthology edited by Joel Conarroe
- A Creepy Company by Joan Aiken
- Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan
- The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan
- The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
- The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan
- The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
- The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
- The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
- The Red Pyramid by Rick Riordan
- Divergent by Veronica Roth
- Drinking the Rain by Alix Kates Shulman
- Sea of Poppies by Amitav Ghosh
- The River by Mary Jane Beaufrand
- The Dress Lodger by Sheri Holman
- Zoology by Ben Dolnick
- Just Ella by Margaret Peterson Haddix
- In the Woods by Tana French
- Speaker for the Dead by Orson Scott Card
- A War of Gifts by Orson Scott Card
- The Turn of the Screw and Other Stories by Henry James
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
- Book Crush For Kids and Teens by Nancy Pearl
- Panic in Level 4 by Richard Preston
- Morning Glories Volume Seven by Nick Spenser
- The Sex Lives of Cannibals by J. Maarten Troost
- Getting Stoned with Savages by J. Maarten Troost
- Lost on Planet China by J. Maarten Troost
- Babylon’s Ark: The Incredible Wartime Rescue of the Baghdad Zoo by Lawrence Anthony
- Into the Woods by Lyn Gardner
Let this be a lesson, Debra Anne: READ THE BOOKS YOU ALREADY OWN!!!
- 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. Moreau, Dracula, 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.
- Deadly Beautiful: Vanishing Killers of the Animal Kingdom by Liana Joy Christensen. Definitely enjoyed this book. I usually prefer my natural history type book a little more focused and in-depth, but sometimes a book like this really hits the spot. Christensen divides the book into nine chapters, each focusing on a category of animals that people tend to think of as dangerous. For example, there’s a chapter on snakes and a chapter on bears and so on. And each chapter contains many small sections, each a page or two or three long, which focus on one aspect of the animal(s) in question. It’s immensely readable, light natural history, and yet still contains a lot of important information. And she is extremely respectful of all the animals, including us humans. (I’m using this book for #6–a book about nature–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
- My Lesbian Experience With Loneliness by Nagata Kabi. This manga memoir has an almost painful innocence to it. The author shares her story dealing with depression and eating disorders and her sexuality and her need to break away from the expectations of her parents with such openness and honesty.
- So you want to talk about race by Ijeoma Oluo. There are so many outstanding books about race these days. Living steeped in white privilege, I don’t think it’s possible for me to read enough of them. Because honestly, the more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. I borrowed this from the library, but will *definitely* be buying a copy to own. Because not only would I like to read it again from start to finish, but Ijeoma Oluo wrote this book not just to educate but as a real practical guide to help us all be able to talk about race and racial oppression. And then she shares ways to go beyond talk to begin to dismantle the systemic racism and white supremacy in our country. I feel confident in saying this will make my best books list at the end of the year, no matter how I choose to define best, be it “favorites” or “most important” or “unputdownable.” (I’m using this for the racism category of my dig deeper reading challenge.) A quote that I think will stick with me forever:
Often, being a person of color in white-dominated society is like being in an abusive relationship with the world. Every day is a new little hurt, a new little dehumanization. We walk around flinching, still in pain from the last hurt and dreading the next.
- Survival in Auschwitz by Primo Levi. It’s hard to know what to say about this sort of memoir, a memoir by someone who witnessed and lived through such horror. While books about the inhumanity that humans are capable of are never easy to read, they are so profoundly important. Primo Levi shares meaningful insights about human nature in sharing the stories of his time in Auschwitz. And at times his writing is just so beautiful, and thus is so incongruous with the subject.
- Ready Player One by Ernest Cline. This is the first fiction book I read this month, which is a bit odd. It’s also odd that I made it this far into the month before deviating from my monthly tbr pool. I’ve meant to read this since it first came out and everyone was raving about it, but well, there’s that whole too-many-books-too-little-time thing. I picked it up now because Max really wants to go to the movie when it comes out. (This is one of the very few books that that reluctant reader offspring of mine has voluntarily read in the past few years.) Anyway, it was really what I needed after a string of less than happy nonfiction. I was sucked in completely by the story. And while I wouldn’t say it was perfect, I will say that I loved it in spite of the few moments that made me cringe.
- A Human Being Died That Night: A South African Story of Forgiveness by Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela. I honestly don’t know what to say about this book, but I am glad I finally read it. And I suspect much of what Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela discussed will stick with me and leave me pondering for a long time. She writes this book from the perspective of a clinical psychologist and a person who served on South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission and a black woman who grew up under apartheid and a human being. She tells of her meetings in prison with Eugene de Kock, who commanded the state-sanctioned death squads. But it’s not really a book about his horrendous actions so much as it’s a book about how people move forward after overwhelming atrocities. She makes a case for empathy and forgiveness. As unfathomable as that sounds on the surface. (I’m using this book for #5–a book set in one of the five BRICS countries–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
…There were times when he described details of his violent past with a vividness that was frightening. He had belonged to a world that created violence, I to a world that was the object of this violence; he belonged to a world where morality meant the same thing as hate, and I to a world that knew the difference. Our worlds were the black and white of lies and truth, and yet as de Kock spoke, the boundaries of our worlds did not always seem so clear.
- Good Bones by Maggie Smith. A collection of poetry that shares the fierce, protective nature of motherhood and the anxiety that comes from living in this world. As is the case with most poetry collections, not every poem resonated with me in quite the same way or with quite the same intensity. Yet still this collection felt so very cohesive. A few of these poems will sit in my soul for eternity, and to ask any more from a poetry collection seems greedy. A few lines from one of my favorites, “Let’s Not Begin”:
I’m trying, I am. For her.
If list everything I love
about the world, and if the list
is long and heavy enough,
I can lift it over and over–
repetitions, they’re called, reps—
to keep my heart on, to keep
the dirt off. Let’s begin
with bees, and the hum,
and the honey singing
on my tongue, and the child
sleeping at last, and, and, and—
- Revolutionary Mothering: Love on the Front Lines edited by Alexis Pauline Gumbs, China Martens, and Mai’a Williams. This essay anthology was so awesome. Written by a variety of marginalized women, every essay had something to teach me. I found myself in turns awed and broken-hearted and humbled. There were points made and stories told that I so very much related to, but there were more times when I found myself schooled about things that my white privilege had allowed me not to see. While it’s true that I am a mother, I don’t think one needs to be to benefit from these essays. I truly loved this book hard. Thanks Bina, for bringing it to my attention! (I’m using this book for #22–an essay anthology–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
- Queer: A Graphic History by Meg-John Baker and Julia Scheele. An excellent introductory book on queer theory. While it contains a lot of information, it is extremely accessible. I not only enjoyed this a great deal, I definitely also learned quite a bit. (I’m using this for the red spine of my reading the rainbow challenge, and for the racism category of my dig deeper reading challenge.)
- 11/22/63 by Stephen King. Enjoyed this one more than I expected to. Honestly not sure why, but this is one of King’s books that never called out to me. I think it’s the time travel thing–I tend to let my head get tied up in tangled knots when it comes to time travel. Anyway, I ended up loving this book! As is always the case with King’s books, it’s the characters who steal the show for me. He writes what I usually consider thoroughly compelling, page-turning stories…but still it’s the authentic, flawed, lovable or hatable characters who make me treasure his books. I cried probably half a dozen times for the characters in 11/22/63. Not that this is unusual for me, but a book that makes me care enough to bring tears generally earns a few extra points from me. (Thank you, Michelle, for urging me to pick this one up this month!)
- Binti by Nnedi Okorafor. This little novella was a taste of pure sci-fi fun. It felt so fresh. Sometimes a novella feels more like a short novel and sometimes more like a long short story. This felt more like the latter to me. I’m not even sure if that makes sense outside my head. Anyway, I am looking forward to spending more time with Binti in the next two books in the series. (Using this for #15–a one-sitting book–of Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge.)
Eleven books for March, down from the both January and February, but still pretty good for me. For some reason my reading really slowed down toward the end of the month. So You Want to Talk About Race and Revolutionary Mothering were my favorites, and in a very different way, I really loved 11/22/63 as well. And there wasn’t a single book that I didn’t enjoy, so I’m calling it another great month!
Some random thoughts:
- Marginalized voices made up just over half of my reading, which disappoints me a bit, as I’d like that percentage to be higher. (5 books by authors of color, 3 by lgbtq+ authors, and one disabled+ author, obviously with some overlap)
- I seem to have been on a non-fiction kick this month, though it wasn’t deliberate. 8 of the 11 books I read were non-fiction. Nature, memoir, poetry, social justice.
- One audiobook. Nine physical books. And 11/22/63 I read partly as a physical book, but then broke down and bought the ebook because I was having too hard a time holding the massive hardback.
- Five were from my own shelves, one I borrowed from Max, four were from the library, and the audiobook of Binti was from Scribd (which I just rejoined when I heard they’d gone back to unlimited books).
- A book of poetry and a book of essays this month. Two graphic nonfictions.
- As I’ve mentioned before, I sort of suck at assigning genre, but I think all three of the fiction books I read this month could be classified as sci-fi. That is definitely not the norm for me.
- The longest book for me this month was 11/22/63, at 849 pages in the hardback version. And the shortest was Binti, at 96 pages in the paperback version (though I listened to the audiobook).