Posted at 2:15 pm , on January 2, 2020
(featured photo credit)
Sorry for my unannounced extended hiatus . . . but life happens (e.g. two teaching preps, new curriculum, remodeling the kitchen, traveling for the holidays, and obsessively listening to Taylor Swift’s Red and Lover albums whilst procrastinating). But I’M BAAAAACCCCKKKK on the 2020 blogging train with one of my favorite yearly posts–my favorite reads of 2019.
And choosing my favorite reads this year proved more difficult than it was the previous year. I’m #sorrynotsorry for the lack of book reviews for my faves, but trying to decide which of the 153 books I read deserved to be ranked sucked my time for this post dry. Quite frankly, there are nearly 40 more books that I’d recommend; if you want to see a full list of my 2019 reads and how I rated them, check out my 2019 book challenge on Goodreads.
Anyway, drumroll please . . . here are my favorite books read in 2019:
- Not That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture edited by Roxane Gay–nonfiction essays–five stars–published 2018
- Recursion by Black Crouch–science fiction–five stars–published 2019
- Arc of a Scythe series (Scythe, Thunderhead, and The Toll) by Neal Shusterman–dystopian YAL–five stars–published 2016-2019
- A Place for Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza–contemporary fiction–five stars–published 2019
- Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid–historical/contemporary fiction–five stars–published 2019
- Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy–political nonfiction–five stars–published 2018
- The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander–political nonfiction–five stars–published 2010
- The Library Book by Susan Orlean–historical nonfiction–five stars–published 2018
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill–middle grade fantasy–five stars–published 2016
- The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate–middle grade–five stars–published 2012
- The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman–chick lit/books about books–five stars–published 2019
- Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai–middle grade poetry/historical fiction–five stars–published 2011
- The Common Good by Robert B. Reich–political nonfiction–five stars–published 2018
- The Trouble with Poetry – And Other Poems by Billy Collins–poetry–five stars–published 2007
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid–historical/contemporary fiction–four stars–published 2017
- Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed by Lori Gottlieb–autobiographical nonfiction–four stars–published 2019
- On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong–fiction/poetry–four stars–published 2019
- Ask Again, Yes by Mary Beth Keane–contemporary fiction–four stars–published 2019
- The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead–historical fiction–four stars–published 2019
- Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou–business nonfiction–four stars–published 2018
There you have it! I’ll be back next week with my New Year’s resolutions post.
(All book art taken from Goodreads.com)
Posted at 2:28 pm , on September 7, 2019
Because August means back to school for me, it’s always a hard reading month, so I declared it read nothing of substance, the more royals in books the better, and bonus points if books are set in Europe month.
- Ghost Kisses by Kellie Babineaux–paranormal romance–two stars–This is my coworker’s second self-published novel. Despite some major editing issues, the storyline is compelling, and Babineaux’s love of New Orleans and Louisiana culture take on a life of their own.
- The Little Book of Hygge: The Danish Way to Live Well by Meik Wiking–nonfiction–two stars–My biggest takeaways are candles, Christmas, and lamps make for a happy life.
- 99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne–romance–two stars–I couldn’t remember the premise of this book while typing in its name nor while reading its synopsis. I only picked it up because I loved Thorne’s The Hating Game.
- The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan–chick lit/romance–three stars–I made the mistake of recommending this book to a couple of people before finishing it. It’s loosely based on Prince William and Kate’s love story, but it takes a ludicrous turn towards the end, detracting from how promising it was at the beginning.
- The Royal Runaway by Lindsay Emory–chick lit/romance–two stars–Terrible but readable.
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill–middle grade fantasy–five stars–Everything I’ve ever wanted in a middle grade fantasy read. Witches? Check. A tiny dragon who thinks he’s gigantic? Check. A Swamp Monster? Check. A young girl who doesn’t know how to control her magic? Check. Stunning language and message? Check.
- My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan–contemporary fiction/romance–two stars–Ella, an educational policy political advisor, receives a Rhodes Scholarship and falls in love with her professor during her time in Oxford. I liked Ella’s eclectic friend group more than her.
- How Not to Die Alone by Richard Roper–contemporary fiction–four stars–Funny and touching while being mildly dark.
- Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes–contemporary fiction–four stars–Evvie’s husband died on the day she was going to leave him. Still grappling with guilt a year later, she takes on a tenant, a former MLB pitcher who suddenly started throwing wild pitches instead of strikes, to get a little extra money. The dialogue is funny and well-done.
- Royals (Royals, #1) by Rachel Hawkins–YAL–four stars–READ THIS INSTEAD OF THE ROYAL WE.
- The Bookish Life of Nina Hill by Abbi Waxman–contemporary fiction/chick lit–five stars–This is by far the best book set in a bookshop that I’ve read all year.
- Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune by Roselle Lim–magical realism–3 stars–When Natalie’s agoraphobic mother dies suddenly in San Francisco, Natalie comes home and discovers that Chinatown has changed. With the intent of reopening her grandmother’s restaurant, Natalie tries to breathe life back into the dying community by cooking magical meals for her neighbors.
As always discussion is welcome, and I’m always looking for recommendations.
All cover jacket art courtesy of Goodreads.
Posted at 1:41 pm , on August 10, 2019
(All book jacket art is taken from Goodreads.)
I’m a week late with my mini book reviews for July because Little Thing’s rhyming gone wrong debacle needed internet publishing ASAP. And since I NEVER have anything written before my self imposed weekly Saturday deadline (and this week coincides with my first week back to school), these mini-reviews might be semi-coherent. My priorities were elsewhere this week, like getting to know the kids I’m in charge of for the whole year and fighting off back-to-school-teacher-tired exhaustion.
Posted at 9:32 pm , on July 6, 2019
I had high expectations for my June reading month. Read more nonfiction! Read less fantasy! Read less YAL! Read sixteen-twenty books!
Then I made a rookie mistake–I fell down a Sarah J. Maas hole named the Throne of Glass series–shattering my June reading hopes and dreams because the books are fiction, fantasy, YAL, and tomes.
If you’ve ever found yourself at the bottom of a Maas rabbit hole, please please please tell me how you extracted yourself from it. When I realized the depth of my addiction, I resorted to alternating one of the books from the series with an adult, non-fantasy venture in a bizarre attempt at self-preservation, quitting after book four cold turkey.
Here’s what I read in June:
- The Other Woman by Sandie Jones–3 stars–mystery/thriller–I keep reading this genre despite my low expectations. Emily meets Adam. He’s a catch but a total mommy’s boy. I saw the ending coming from about halfway through the book.
- The Book of Three (The Chronicles of Prydain, #1) by Lloyd Alexander–4 stars–middle grade/fantasy–Not my favorite fantasy read, but I see why it would appeal to middle grade readers. It’s no Narnia; the world building is blasé. However, it does feature a sassy, soothsaying pig, a welcome addition to ANY novel if you ask me.
- Throne of Glass (Throne of Glass, #1) by Sarah J. Maas–4 stars–YAL/fantasy–Ahhhhh. Welcome to my demise’s advent. Celaena Sardothien, an former assassin and current slave, gets offered her freedom in exchange for becoming her mortal enemy’s champion in a world where magic is banned. I like this series more than Maas’s A Court of Thorn and Roses series.
- The Au Pair by Emma Rous–3 stars–mystery/thriller–Mehhhhhhhhh. Of course there’s au pair drama. Cliché cheating with the nanny and unrealistic falling action drag this book down.
- Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass, #2) by Sarah J. Maas–4 stars–YAL/fantasy–Just as entertaining as book one.
- One Day in December by Josie Silver–3 stars–contemporary fiction/romance– I found this Reese Witherspoon pick frustrating; the self-absorbed characters grated my nerves.
- Heir of Fire (Throne of Glass, #3) by Sarah J. Maas–4 stars–YAL/fantasy–Book 3 isn’t nearly as good as the first two. Too many Harry Potter/Lord of the Rings/Twilight parallels for it to be original. My least favorite word in all of YAL (“chuckle”) made hefty appearances, too. Insert eye roll here.
- The Thirteenth Tale by Diane Setterfield–4 stars–contemporary fiction–This novel has been on my TBR for awhile. It’s eerie and keenly written, a mashup of The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo and Jane Eyre.
- Finale (Caraval, #3) by Stephanie Garber–4 stars–YAL/fantasy–If you love YAL and fantasy and haven’t picked up the Caraval series yet, you should. The trilogy finished too neatly and lovey dovie, but overall, I’ll remember Garber’s Caraval, a teenage version of The Night Circus, fondly.
- My Lovely Wife by Samantha Downing–3 stars–mystery/thriller–A married couple tackles serial killing together. Take a look at this book jacket. Little Thing gave me major side eye the whole time I was reading this book.
- Dopesick: Dealers, Doctors, and the Drug Company that Addicted America by Beth Macy–5 stars–nonfiction prose–Read this book. It will change the way you view drug addiction and treatment.
- Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4) by Sarah J. Maas–4 stars–YAL/fantasy–I’m a fan of this series–I swear–but these books keep getting longer as the series progresses (This one clocked in at 648 pages.) and are wordy, wordy, wordy. To reach my read-150-books-in-2019 goal, I’m taking a Throne of Glass hiatus because there are three more books in this series, the last one housing nearly 1,000 pages. I wish Maas would consider writing trilogies.
- The Lost Man by Jane Harper–4 stars–mystery/thriller–I heart Jane Harper’s Australian outback mystery novels so hard.
- Factfullness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World–and Why Things Are Better Than You Think by Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, and Anna Rosling Rönnlund–4 stars–nonfiction prose–Approach this nonfiction read with an open mind and consider that the data collection method is mildly flawed. The authors present an interesting argument that the world is “better but still bad,” iterating the mass gains that civilization has made over the years through examining our outdated knowledge of the world.
Bright side: at least I managed two nonfiction reads?
(All cover art taken from Goodreads.com)
Posted at 11:28 pm , on May 31, 2019
End of my thirteenth year of teaching? Check. (P.S. How the hell did that happen?)
End of musical theater and soccer season for Little Thing? Check.
End of physical therapy? Check.
End of the house being on the market? No check. But we’re hopeful.
End of Mrs. Ram’s Jams’s blog pause? CHECK!
Here’s what I’ve read during my absence. Since nada writing happened during my break, these reviews are bare bones (and I skipped reviewing a few *wink wink*). After all, I crammed in 39 books in March, April, and May. The ones I highly recommend are in bold with their book jackets (All book jacket art is taken from Goodreads.).
- Thunderhead (Arc of a Scythe #2) by Neal Shusterman, YAL/science fiction, five stars: This series has yet to disappoint me. I can’t wait until book three comes out in September.
- The Light We Lost by Jill Santopolo, romance/contemporary fiction, three stars: I hate it when book reviews/blubs tell you that a book is like another book when it completely gives away the story’s ending. That happened to me with this one, and I might have enjoyed this read a bit more if it hadn’t been totally predictable.
- The City of Brass (The Daevabad Trilogy #1) by S.A. Chakraborty, YAL/fantasy, three stars: It drew me in but couldn’t hold my attention. It felt breathy. What happened to conciseness as opposed to needlessly drawn out pages?
- The Kiss Quotient (The Kiss Quotient #1) by Helen Hoang, romance/contemporary fiction, three stars: I liked this a lot better than The Light We Lost, but this one was way more what I consider to be true romance/erotica. However, it was not anywhere as close to good as The Hating Game.
- The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth #1) by N.K. Jemisin, fantasy, four stars: Okay, I get it. One of the characteristics of fantasy is a long story, but damnnnnnnnn. I lose interest in a book around the 400 page mark if it’s not phenomenally written. However, this was still a good read.
- An Unwanted Guest by Shari Lapena, mystery, one star: I don’t think I’ve ever ranked a book with one measly star. This was awful. Lapena tried to emulate Agatha Christy, and it came off like a poorly written book version of the game Clue.
- Something in the Water by Catherine Steadman, thriller/mystery, three stars: Please someone recommend a more than decent thriller/mystery for me. This genre hasn’t been doing it for me lately.
- An Anonymous Girl by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen, thriller, three stars: Read The Wife Between Us instead; it was a much better collaboration than this one they put out.
- The Library Book by Susan Orlean, nonfiction, five stars: One of the coolest things I’ve ever read. It’s the story of a Los Angeles library fire, a love letter to books, and an homage to libraries.
- The Passage (The Passage #1) by Justin Cronin, horror/apocalyptic, three stars: At first, I was captivated by this vampire apocalypse story, but it’s gargantuan without needing to be. I will not be picking up book 2.
- The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black, YAL/fantasy, four stars: A YAL faerie and mortal love story done right. Book 3 is out in November.
- The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) by Rick Riordan, middle grade/fantasy, three stars: I didn’t see what all the hype was about.
- More Than Words by Jill Santopolo, romance/contemporary fiction, four stars: So much better than The Light We Lost.
- Queenie by Candice Carty-Williams, contemporary fiction, four stars: I love me a good Brit lit read. This was Jojo Moyes-esque but with a narrator who makes terrible decisions.
- The Bird King by G. Willow Wilson, fantasy, four stars: Read this instead of City of Brass.
- On the Come Up by Angie Thomas, YAL/contemporary, four stars: Not as good as The Hate U Give. The dialogue and the narration cheese so hard, but ‘tis to be expected with YAL.
- Maid: Hard Work, Low Pay, and a Mother’s Will to Survive by Stephanie Land, memoir, four stars: The title explains it all.
- The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray, contemporary fiction, three stars: Boring, but nicely penned.
- The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid, contemporary fiction, four stars: Where has Taylor Jenkins Reid been all my life? A fledgling magazine writer gets the chance of a lifetime to interview an old school movie star, Evelyn Hugo, and gets the juicy scoop on each of her husbands.
- Coraline by Neil Gaiman, middle grade/horror, four stars: I’m trying to tackle the entire Gaiman cannon, and while I thoroughly enjoyed this middle grade read, I liked The Graveyard Book more. The characters in Coraline looked blurry and read blurry, and that’s probably Gaiman’s point, but The Graveyard Book felt more concrete.
- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore (Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore #1) by Robin Sloan, contemporary fiction, five stars: I honestly don’t think this book will be everyone’s cup of tea, but I adored the blend of humor, intrigue, and nerdiness.
- The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue (Montague Siblings #1) by Mackenzi Lee, YAL/historical fiction, four stars: A swashbuckling adventure that I didn’t know I was missing.
- American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson, contemporary fiction, four stars: A solid, albeit, slow paced, spy story.
- Good Riddance by Elinor Lipman, chick lit/contemporary fiction, two stars: Bleck. Bleck. Bleck. Good riddance Good Riddance.
- The Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden, fantasy, four stars: So, I adored this entire series. It’s Russian folklore meets history clashing with Christianity. The first two books were lyrical and magical, and this last one had a very satisfying ending but lost its poetical syntax.
- A Midsummer Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare, classics/plays, four stars: I love teaching this play to 8th graders. A love triangle, plays within plays, and fairies. What’s not to love?
- The Library of Lost and Found by Phaedra Patrick, contemporary fiction, two stars:
- The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin, contemporary fiction, four stars:
- His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire #1) by Naomi Novik, fantasy, three stars: Can anyone recommend a good dragon story? I thought for sure Novik wouldn’t disappoint, but this wasn’t nearly as compelling as Uprooted.
- Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare, classics/plays, four stars: I hate teaching Romeo and Juliet. I know it’s poetry, but I can’t stand Benvolio. Everytime he gets on stage he repeats EVERYTHING that has just transpired.
- What If It’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera, YAL/contemporary fiction, four stars:
- Confessions of a Domestic Failure by Bunmi Laditan, chick lit/contemporary fiction, two stars: This was supposed to be funny, but it missed its mark. The humor relied on overplayed mommy situations instead of wit. Read How to Party with an Infant instead.
- Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid, historical-ish fiction, five stars: A sixties rock band story told in an interview format. It has an Almost Famous vibe.
- The Witch’s Daughter (The Witch’s Daughter #1) by Paula Brackston, fantasy/historical fiction, four stars:
- How to Party with an Infant by Kaui Hart Hemmings, chick lit/contemporary fiction, four stars: Hilarious, but the narration could use a little tweaking for cleanliness.
- Kitchens of the Great Midwest by J. Ryan Stradal, contemporary fiction, four stars:
- The Girl Who Chased the Moon by Sarah Addison Allen, magical realism, three stars:
- Year One (Chronicles of The One #1) by Nora Roberts, fantasy/apocalyptic, two stars: My first venture into Nora Roberts’s prolific writings crashed and burned. You’ve got your standard apocalypse scenario: a virus knocks out most of the world’s population. Then you throw in fairies, witches, elves, etc. and the worst written dialogue I’ve ever seen on a page (and it’s dialogue heavy y’all) to ultimately reveal a good vs. evil/the chosen one archetype. The ONLY reason I didn’t rate this book as one star is because it was TERRIBLY readable (emphasis on the terribly). I kind of hate myself for even finishing this book and ranking it this highly.
- The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman, fantasy/horror, four stars: Normally I staunchly eschew from assigning ½ ratings to books, but this book is more deserving of 4 ½ stars. I would have rated it five, but it’s a loosely adult parallel of Coraline. Gaiman’s ability to weave a fantasy, make it seem so real, and write subtle truths into his fiction makes him one of my favorite authors.
And as always, any and all discussion about these books is welcome. I’ve missed y’all.
Posted at 12:39 pm , on March 2, 2019
Well. It’s happened. I screwed up my I-must-write-my-mini-book-reviews-as-soon-as-I-finish-books New Year’s resolution. I didn’t pen a single one in February. I blame the flu-like virus that made me miserable last week, Little Thing’s flu bout, two out-of-town friends coming to visit, and sheer laziness.
Oh well. At least I read 13 books? And February is a short month. Huzzah!
Here’s my February reading list:
- All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin: Easy peasy breezy read. I’ve always enjoyed Giffin.
- Bird Box by Josh Malerman: Do I even need to review the book since everyone’s seen it on Netflix? I refuse to watch it, but I sure as hell loved reading it.
- The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton: This. Book. Killed. Mrs. Ram’s. Jams. Seven. Times. I hated it. It was 200 pages pages too long and hard to follow.
- The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan: The best thing about this book is its gorgeous cover. I love magical realism, but I haven’t encountered a spectacular YA one yet. After Leigh’s mother commits suicide, Leigh’s convinced her mom has turned into a bird. Leigh also talks and thinks in colors. Her best friend constantly asks her, “What color”? By the end, I was color blind and gagged at every pretentious color mention.
- The Common Good by Robert B. Reich: Reich argues that America has lost sight of its founding ideals. I wholeheartedly agree with him.
- Always and Forever, Lara Jean (To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before #3) by Jenny Han: Lara Jean for life! Book 3 was better than book 2 but super predictable.
- Without Merit by Colleen Hoover: I’ve not had much luck with Hoover. I picked this up because I thought it was her rather well-reviewed suspense novel, but it wasn’t. Sigh.
- Inside Out & Back Again by Thanhha Lai: This middle grade poetry read stunned me. Ha and her family evacuate Saigon during the Vietnam War and find safe harbor in Alabama.
- The Trouble With Poetry–And Other Poems by Billy Collins
- The Hating Game by Sally Thorne: Romance is my least favorite genre, but I loved this book. Lucy and Joshua’s repartee was hysterical.
- Scythe (Arc of a Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman: YAL gold. For realz. In the dystopian future, people live forever, but for population control, scythes select people to be killed.I haven’t had this much fun reading a dystopian novel since Red Rising.
- My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren: After finishing The Hating Game, I thought to myself: Hey maybe I do like romance novels. I’m going to try another one out. Bad choice Mrs. Ram’s Jams. Bad choice.
- The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne: It’s no secret that I eschew reading World War II and Holocaust literature, but I teach this novel in 8th grade ELA. And it breaks my heart every damn time.
What are you reading? And as always, conversations are welcome!
(All book art is taken from Goodreads.com.)
Posted at 1:17 am , on January 12, 2019
I sucked to the ninth power at sticking to my 2018 new year’s resolutions.
Did I reacquaint myself with the Russian language? Nyet. Did I perform 365 days of yoga? Namaste no. Did I read less and write more? Bahahahahahahah! That’s rich, considering I read 136 books last year compared to 119 the previous year.
At least I semi-mastered the art of not spacing twice after a period. I’ll take that as a minor success in the face of failing my previous year’s resolutions.
Here are my 2019 New Year’s resolutions. (P.S. I always wait to start my new year’s resolutions until after my birthday, which is January 7th, hence the delay.)
- Lose my foot injury weight. Remember all my foot issues from last February? I JUST got released from physical therapy last month, and at this point, I’m unsure if my foot will ever be 100 percent again. And listen, I’m used to being chronically ill, but foot injuries are a whole other pain animal. And because I spent 2017 hobbled, I packed on 15 pounds due to decreased mobility. Let me throw it at you like this: in 2017, I had about 4.2 million steps. Last year, I only had around 3 million. That’s the equivalent of not moving at all for three months last year as compared to the previous year. I walked . . . wait for it . . . 500 miles less last year than I did the previous year. Seriously. 500 miles less. Since my pain is now managed, I need to suck it up buttercup and lose the extra pounds. If anyone has any exercise suggestions for me, I’ll take them. Yoga’s off the table. My feet simply can’t handle it. I can’t run, plank, or lunge. No jumping jacks. The elliptical machine is a no go either. I might just have to briskly walk in my orthopedic, old lady footwear for cardio and then do modified pilates. Or suck it up and fork out the money for a personal trainer.
- Read more diverse authors. I thought I was doing a decent job, but when I look at what I read last year, it’s not nearly as representative as it should be. Another book loving friend of mine shared a kick-ass premade reading log spreadsheet (find it here on Bookriot.com) with me that tracks all kinds of reading stats, including an option to help me keep tabs on author diversity. This spreadsheet is my new best friend.
- Write the damn mini book reviews immediately upon finishing a book. This. Will. Happen. I’m four for four already this year. Go me! I’ve promised myself I can’t start a new book until I’ve written a review for the recently finished one. I’ve added a tab on my reading spreadsheet to keep them all in one place for easy fluffing up prior to publishing.
- Get “Baby Shark” off repeat in my head. Send help!
- Stop being a chicken and try to get a literary agent. I finished writing a children’s book last year. Have I done anything to try to get in published? Uhhhhhhhhhhhh, does half-heartedly researching literary agents and sending it off to some friends for feedback count? I could have been using my foot injury downtime to make serious headway, but I’m terrified it’s not good enough and hid behind reading books instead. Putting it in writing here leaves me panic-stricken but holds me accountable. I’ll need all the happy thoughts I can get because I know rejection lurks around the corner. Rejection sucks, but it’s part of the process and will make me a better writer in the long run even if I never get published.
Happy New Year to you and yours, and I apologize profusely for getting “Baby Shark” stuck in your head again. (You know you sang it to yourself at least once since I mentioned it.) I thought it would be a diversionary tactic to get it to ooze out of my head permanently.
Sorry shark? Doo doo doo doo doo doo . . .
Posted at 12:48 am , on January 5, 2019
Because I struggle getting into the Christmas spirit (Yes, I detest most Christmas music and refuse to decorate prior to Black Friday.), I figured my Scrooge-laden soul could benefit from some holiday reads in December.
I binged Elin Hilderbrand’s holiday series Winter suggested by a Facebook friend, and it did inspire me to be less bah humbug-ish. Promise. Don’t believe me? I played Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” and “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” while hanging ornaments and adorning the fireplace mantle with fake poinsettias and glittery snowflakes. Huzzah! The Ram-a-grinch’s holiday heart grew a seasonal three sizes. It has since returned to its nonholiday appropriate size.
Here’s what I read in December with some mini reviews thrown in. (One of my new year’s resolutions is to write my mini reviews as soon as I’m done reading the books. It’s just too hard to write them a month after I’ve read them anymore, especially when some of the books are part of a series read in succession. Be prepared for some cop-out reviews.):
- The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert–YAL; Despite some negative Goodreads reviews, I really enjoyed this fantasy novel.
- Winter Street (Winter #1) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction
- Winter Stroll (Winter #2) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction
- Winter Storms (Winter #3) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction
- Winter Solstice (Winter #4) by Elin Hilderbrand–contemporary fiction; These books chronicle Kelley Quinn, the owner of Winter Street Inn on Nantucket, and his flawed adult children, his Santa cheating wife, and his CBS news anchor ex-wife Margaret Quinn during the Christmas season. It’s dishy, dysfunctional, and soap opera-esque. While a total guilty pleasure, I did give the last book four stars because by the end of the series I loved these crazy characters.
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari–nonfiction; Harari’s portrayal of the human race’s history is sweeping and mind-boggling. He starts at the beginning of human evolution and then tackles the agricultural revolution, imperialism, industrialization, and capitalism (to name a few). His logic is thought-provoking, and you might not agree with everything he has to say. While I understand the limits of covering humankind’s history in a 443 page book, I thought it was neglectful of him to essentially ignore the historical implications of how women have been treated. Despite this, Sapiens earned a spot on my top twenty reads of 2018. (Side note: The world conspired against me reading this book. I had it on hold for two months, it came in while I was out of town over the summer for two weeks, so it got sent back. Then I placed it on hold again and waited eons for it. Chunks of pages were falling from the binding when I finally got my hands on it, and the library took it out of circulation upon its return.)
- Vicious (Villians #1) by V.E. Schwab–YAL
- Vengeful (Villians #2) by V.E. Schwab–YAL; The Shades of Magic Series by Schwab is one of my favorite fantasy reads ever so I had to pick up this young adult series by her as well. The first one left me a bit underwhelmed. Victor and Eli’s story begins in college, where they discover the ability to become extraordinary–by killing themselves and then coming back to life. Eli awakens from death with regenerative powers while Victor can cause pain. They end up nemeses and more nefarious than heroic, picking up a motley crew of extraordinaries along the way. The second book more than made up for the slow pacing of the first, and I ended up rating the second four stars.
- The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy–suspense/mystery; Ummmm, it’s okay? I keep reading suspense even though most of it is less than stellar in hopes that one will finally wow me with brilliantly written prose. Am I asking too much from this genre?
- Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage–horror/thriller; A nonverbal little girl, who idolizes her daddy, fantasizes about killing her mother and then tries to do so. It’s fucked up, but I was never genuinely scared during this book. It alternated between both Suzette’s (the mother’s) and Hanna’s (the daughter’s) perspectives. The more I read, the more I dislike authors trying to narrate from the “now” perspective of children; in this case, Hanna’s perspective is over-developed and the diction too rich for that of a seven-year-old.
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo–nonfiction; Read it. Digest it. Then, like Oluo beseeches, stop talking about it and start taking action. It’s a must read, making my top three of books read in 2018.
- Gunpowder Moon by David Pedreira–Science Fiction; I liked Pedreira’s style, but in the midst of all the science fiction jargon, it was hard to keep track of the characters and the plot.
- Dear Martin by Nic Stone–YAL; Much in the same vein as Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give, Justyce, an ivy league bound African American student who goes to a mostly upper class white school, witnesses the gun death of his best friend by an off-duty white police officer. Throughout the novel, Justyce writes letters to Martin Luther King, Jr., explaining the everyday microaggressions and full-blown racism he faces from society, ultimately writing rhetorical questions as an outlet for his frustrations. This is joining my recommendation list for my students.
- Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay–nonfiction: I had published my top twenty books read in 2018 before I read this novel, and dammit, I would add this book to it if I could. I love Gay’s personal critique of feminism, and her essays are the shit. Her writing style is enviable. Slapping me in the face, her sentences left me raw and awakened the bad feminist in me too. Also through close examination, she offers cinematic and literary critique of women’s tropes and race portrayal in artistic mediums.
As always, any discussion is welcome, and I’m always taking recommendations.
Happy New Year. My resolutions post is slated for next week.
(All cover art taken from Goodreads.)
Posted at 12:19 am , on December 29, 2018
(All book art taken from Goodreads.)
As per requested, here are my top twenty reads of the year.
I’m currently sitting at 132 books under my belt and am hoping to hit 135 before year’s end. Not only did I read more than I did last year, but I made an effort to read more nonfiction. And because I’ve already reviewed most of these books on this list, I’m taking the laziest route possible and not re-reviewing them. (Please feel free to check out my previously posted book reviews. Next week’s post will be reviews of my reads from December.) However, I did rank them from most favorite to not-my-favorite-but-still-really-good.
- The Great Alone by Kristin Hannah–five stars–published 2018–historical fiction
- Uprooted by Naomi Novik–five stars–published 2015–fantasy
- So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo–five stars–published 2018–nonfiction
- Ready Player One (Ready Player One, #1) by Ernest Cline–five stars–published 2011–science fiction
- The Bear and the Nightingale (Winternight Trilogy, #1) by Katherine Arden–five stars–published 2017–fantasy
- The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #1) by Katherine Arden–five stars–published 2017–fantasy
- Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo–five stars–published 2015–fantasy/YAL
- Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2) by Leigh Bardugo–five stars–published 2016–fantasy/YAL
- Stardust by Neil Gaiman–five stars–published 1999–fantasy/YAL
- Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari–five stars– published 2011–nonfiction
- The Martian by Andy Weir–five stars–published 2011–science fiction
- Tell Me More: Stories about the 12 Hardest Things I’m Learning to Say by Kelly Corrigan–five stars–published 2018–nonfiction/memoir-ish
- Furiously Happy: A Funny Book About Horrible Things by Jenny Lawson–five stars–published 2015–nonfiction/memoir-ish
- An American Marriage by Tayari Jones–five stars–published 2018–contemporary fiction
- Red Rising (Red Rising, #1) by Pierce Brown–five stars–published 2014–science fiction
- Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal–four stars–published 2017–contemporary fiction
- Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain–four stars–published 2014–nonfiction
- Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn–four stars–published 2006–mystery/thriller
- Circe by Madeline Miller–four stars–published 2018—fantasy
- Less by Andrew Sean Greer–four stars–published 2017–contemporary fiction
As always, I’d love to hear what you have to say about these books if you’ve read them. Cheers!