Five on my Backlog – 3

Five on my Backlog

Due to years of browsing overstock stores, used book stores, library sales, and yard sales I’ve acquired more books than any person needs. I also didn’t really read anything outside of school for two years. The backlog is real and I really want to get through them but sometimes I just don’t know what to pick next. I often use a random number generator to choose but I’m curious if there are any books you guys can give me any thoughts about. 

In order to do this, once or twice a month I want to make a post where I feature five books on my backlog and see if you guys suggest I prioritize some or warn me about others – anything! I read from a ton of genres and will just be working across my shelves to gather some thoughts. In the past two entries, people have really pushed for Flowers in the Attic and Jane Eyre so I’m interested to see what else is recommended to me.

First, I have The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros. I got this from my partner for our anniversary and I can’t remember if I read this in school or not but I do love Caramelo by the same author. This looks like a short, fun read and I seriously can’t wait to pick it up one afternoon.

I also picked up The Mothers by Brit Bennett on sale not too long ago. I’ve heard people talking about The Vanishing Half by the same author and a few mention The Mothers but I don’t really know a ton about the plot of this book but I do know it’s contemporary literary fiction and that’s a genre that I generally tend to love so I have high hopes!

The next book I have is one I picked up a few years ago as a “blind date with a book” choice. It’s The Spy by Paulo Coelho and I’ve since learned that spy books don’t really work for me so I’m a little nervous about picking it up and not really enjoying it but I want to try to not have too many negative thoughts going in so that I give it a fair chance.

Another relatively recent purchase for me is All the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr. I used to read a ton of historical fiction and much of it was centered around both world wars because that was a research interest of mine but I have since took a break from reading them. I have been having a bit of FOMO with hearing people talk about this particular book. I want to pick it up but I am a bit nervous that I won’t enjoy that genre as much as I used to.

The last book I have this month is a classic – Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky. I am intimidated. I have read and enjoyed Tolstoy and Chekov so I have experience with Russian classics but I’m always nervous going into bigger classics. I have enjoyed both Tolstoy and Chekov (ESPECIALLY The Cherry Orchard) so I have high hopes but I know it’s going to be a commitment and take some real time to get through.

So, there’s a few books that are on my backlog. Have you read any of these and enjoyed them? Did you read and hate any of these? Are there any that you’re interested in but want me to read so I can report back? Let me know in the comments!!

September 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups, Uncategorized

September felt like the longest month in the world. I was able to continue teaching online and I was able to spend a little time with my family and it made me feel a lot better. I did have some struggles with my ability to focus on much of anything and that was difficult but I’ve been trying to get back to using organization methods and checklists to stay on top of things and feel a little more in control. October is my birthday month and I don’t want to spend the whole time unable to focus or enjoy it so towards the end of September, I made conscious efforts to get my life back in order.

I talked about the music I was listening to last month in my wrap-up and I am here to report that I’m still constantly listening to Arctic Monkeys but I was also incredibly surprised by Machine Gun Kelly’s new pop-punk album, Tickets to My Downfall. The song, “title track” feels really nostalgic for some reason (Travis Barker’s drumming) and I definitely recommend it if you were into pop-punk in the early 2000s.

Now for the books! I read a variety of genres this month and many of them were ebooks from my library so essentially, my TBR went out the window but that’s okay. I still read some fantastic books I’d been wanting to pick up anyway. I will say that I did listen to some Arthur Miller plays via audio and read some Oscar Wilde short stories but since there were so many and they were short, I’m not really going to talk about them specifically or include them in my stats, but I do want to say that All My Sons by Arthur Miller and “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde are both fantastic and I want to recommend them generally.

Ratings:

3 five-star reads

6 four-star reads

1 unrated read

Format:

1 audiobook

7 ebooks

2 physical books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Much like August, I started September by listening to whatever audiobooks my library had available to me that also happened to be on my physical TBR. I listened to Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach over the course of two cleaning sessions and I’ll admit, it was a great time. This book follows James whose parents have been killed and he has to live with his two less-than-likable aunts. They treat him like Cinderella before the ball but when a magical, mysterious man brings him a bag of weird crawly things and one crawls into a peach, magic ensues and James goes on an exciting journey. Unlike my listening experience with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as soon as I started this audiobook, I immediately felt nostalgic for the movie (HAVE YOU HEARD THIS SONG FROM THE 1996 HIT FILM?). I don’t think I ever read this book as a child and I was really interested in the parts that were left out of the movie, particularly the cloud men. I also can’t quite remember what happened to the ladybug at the end of the movie but I think book-ladybug’s ending was interesting to think about. Dahl’s ever-present characterization of fat people is an issue to be aware of when picking this up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was lucky enough to be sent Trust Me by the author, Nell Grey. I posted a dedicated review for this book here so head over and check that out! We love a good mystery/romance here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Early in the month, I had a hold come through from my library for Camp by L. C. Rosen. This book is a YA contemporary that takes place at a summer camp for queer teens. Randy has been going to this camp for a few years and has a crush on a guy named, Hudson. Hudson definitely has a type and it’s masculine. Randy reinvents himself as “Del” to try and get Hudson’s attention and we follow their relationship over the summer. This story is definitely messy but there’s so much more to it than that. Both characters really grow over the course of the story and I really appreciate that. I also think Rosen is able to tackle a variety of issues in this story and that gives Camp so much depth. Not only does Rosen deal with the issue of some people thinking there’s a right and wrong way to be queer, but they also tackle supportive and unsupportive parents, homophobia and bullying, and the importance of “queer-only” spaces. I think the biggest conversation surrounding queer-only spaces is the fact that while they are important and can build confidence to be yourself at all times, some people, especially teens living with unsupportive parents, don’t have the luxury of or are safe in being their true selves at all times. It’s unfortunate but I’m glad this was talked about. While this is a YA book, there is one fairly descriptive sex scene so if that’s not your jam, I just wanted to give that warning. Also, here’s a link for trigger warnings, if you need them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Since I’m currently four books into this series, I won’t say a lot but The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan is action-packed and a great time. It was glad to see more of Nico and his journey and the tension between Percy and Annabeth is fun to read about even though I usually don’t care about romance at all in books that aren’t specifically in the romance genre. I was having a really hard time focusing and read along with the audiobook but that wasn’t because the book wasn’t interesting. My brain has just been all over the place. I am nervous and excited to see how this series will end and then hopefully pick up the other books in this universe early next year. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I got A Song Below Water from Libby after waiting for ages and I’m so glad I got a chance to read it. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I heard it was fantasy but that it wasn’t really or that it was confusing. I am so glad I didn’t let that deter me. This book follows Tavia and Effie, one is a siren and one pretends to be one at the Ren faire. When a suspected siren is murdered, things become dangerous and tensions run high as Tavia tries to keep her identity a secret and Effie is trying to figure out who she really is. This book takes place in our world but there are magical and fantastical elements revealed as if it’s completely normal. It reminded me of my recent read-through of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go; I was given pieces of world-building and had to put things together for myself. I loved that aspect of the experience. Ultimately, this is a story about black girls finding and using their voices to stand up for themselves and bring awareness and justice to their community and I highly recommend it. Here’s a link to the trigger warnings, if you need them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I know that I should be prioritizing my physical TBR but I’ve had to ebook for Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender for a few months and it was calling to me so I put it on my TBR for September. I don’t typically give five stars to contemporaries but this one certainly deserved it. Going in, I knew this book followed a black, trans, teen named Felix, and someone at his school posts old pictures of him as well as his deadname for everyone to see. There is so much more to this story, though. This is a story about acceptance and privilege and identity and love between friends, family, and partners. This book is emotional and funny and so much more than I expected. I know if you’ve seen anyone talk about this book, you’ve probably seen a lot of praise and I’m not sure that I have anything unique to add so I will just say that I highly recommend this beautiful book. Here’s a link to trigger warnings.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ever since I read Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert earlier this year, I’ve wanted to pick up the sequel. Plus, I’ve been listening to a ton of Arctic Monkeys and have been in the mood for a romance. Thankfully, Take a Hint, Dani Brown came through from the library and I was able to read it before the mood for a romance passed. As much as I loved Chloe’s story, I think I loved Dani’s even more. Dani teaches college English (I can relate) and has sworn off romance after some bad experiences but when a video of her being carried out of a building by a gruff security guard goes viral, they decide to fake a relationship and reap the benefits. The banter and pining were so fantastic in this story and I also appreciated the discussions surrounding grief and anxiety. It isn’t just a romance; Hibbert tackles some more serious topics and that’s what keeps me coming back to her romances. I’ll definitely be checking out Eve Brown’s story when it comes out. Here’s a link to trigger warnings.

This is another book I got from my library and I’m going to be honest, I’m still processing my feelings. This book follows Vanessa in the present day as she finds out her English teacher from about fifteen years ago is being accused of sexually assaulting his students. The chapters alternate to show what happened between Vanessa and her teacher when she was fifteen years old. I won’t say that I enjoyed this book but I do think it is incredibly well written and gives the reader a lot to think about. There were many times where I was frustrated with “present day” Vanessa and I had to stop and think about why she was doing the things she was doing. Kate Elizabeth Russell doesn’t shy away from showing not only what happens in the moment, but also the mental turmoil that lasts for years after it’s over. It gives a view that books such as Lolita don’t offer. There were times that I had to sit back and think about things that have happened to me and the way I responded to those things. I also appreciated the perspective and discussion about the trauma that comes with women speaking out against abusers and that many times, there’s not any/much justice served. This is a heavy read, for sure and I had to stop many times to really think about what was going on. I sometimes find myself reading books and not really thinking about the broader applications and implications to real life but this one certainly made me think constantly. There are quite a few heavy trigger warnings for this book, so here’s a link.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The last library book I read this month was Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson. This book follows Claudia who is concerned because her best friend, Monday, hasn’t contacted her all summer and hasn’t shown up to the new school year, and no one seems to care. That’s all I knew about the book going in but I will say that this is not just a simple mystery story. I think it is pretty clear early on what the general nature of what happened to Monday, but there is another twist that I didn’t see coming, so there is still an element of mystery. Even though I did have an idea about Monday’s mystery, reading the description and the way it impacted Claudia really punched me in the gut. I had to put the book down and just breathe for a minute. Even if you don’t normally check trigger warnings, I would definitely consider checking them before going into this book. Something about this one is particularly unsettling but it does shine a light on how systems that are put into place to protect people can fall short in the most horrifying ways and I appreciate this book for being able to do that. I have also seen some people talking about the structure of this book and that it can sometimes be confusing and I agree that it takes a while to get used to and doesn’t fully make sense until the less obvious reveal. That’s why I didn’t give it 5 stars but I still think it’s totally readable and makes sense if you just stick with it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This Bridge Called My Back is a collection edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua and was BY FAR my favorite read of the month. This is a collection of poems, speeches, and essays written by women of color that deal with topics such as intersectionality and the dangers and failure of white feminism among other things. Even though many of these pieces were written in the 80s, there are points that are still totally relevant today and sometimes it’s frustrating that we are still fighting the same fight, but that’s definitely part of the process of reading TBCMB in 2020. Part of why I wanted to (and had to) take my time reading this collection is because I constantly wanted to stop and make notes and underline sections while I read. I’m not really sure yet how to best review collections of work by various authors but I do want to end this review by mentioning a few of my favorite pieces from the collection. One piece I really enjoy is the introduction to the fifth section, “Speaking in Tongues” which is written by Gloria Anzaldua. This is a letter to women of color writers that discusses the importance of women of color to continue to write and take control of their stories. She also acknowledges the danger and difficulty that can come with that. It is a fantastic letter and really makes you think about the importance of writing. Another piece I really enjoyed was Pat Parker’s “Revolution: It’s Not Neat or Pretty or Quick.” This speech talks about the fact that real change takes a ton of time and you can’t give up quickly. This piece feels incredibly relevant now and I’ll just leave this review with a quote from this piece. “To end Klan or Nazi activity doesn’t end imperialism. It doesn’t end institutional racism; it doesn’t end sexism; it does not bring this monster down, and we must not forget what our goals are and who our enemies are. To simply label these people as lunatic fringes and not accurately assess their roles as part of this system is a dangerous error. These people do the dirty work. They are the arms and legs of the congressmen, the businessmen, the Tri-lateral Commission.”

If you read the whole thing, thanks! I appreciate you for putting up with my rambling. So, come chat with me about any of these books in the comments!

Stay safe!

Sam

WWW Wednesday – September 30, 2020

WWW Wednesday

I think I’m finally back into some semblance of a blogging schedule and I am glad to be in a place where I can create content and talk to you guys. So here I am with the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I only have about forty pages left in This Bridge Called My Back and I’m really hoping to finish it today so that I can talk about it in my September wrap-up. I am still really enjoying it and savoring it and I’m certain that it will be my favorite read this month. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and I think that pairing certain pieces from it with Hood Feminism would be interesting and hopefully I can get my hands on that book, too.

I am also reading The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. This is the final book in the Percy Jackson series which I’ve been reading through them for the past few months for the very first time. I can’t say much because it would spoil parts of the series but the beginning of this final book feels more intense and dark than other beginnings in the series. I am very excited to see where this book goes and what ultimately happens at the end of the series. I hope to have a spoilery blog post about the entire series in October so if you’re interested, keep a look-out for that.

Since last week, I finished two really dark books. The first is My Dark Vanessa. I’ve been really thinking about this book since I finished it. It was heavy. I found myself disgusted by the teacher, obviously, but I also found myself fighting frustration with the main character in the present day timeline over a decade after her initial abuse took place. I don’t want to talk too much about my specific frustrations, but I will say that the author does not shy away from the reality of what life is like after being sexually abused as a child and sometimes that means making bad decisions. She also starts a conversation about whether or not it’s always worth it for women to relive trauma in order to speak up in these situations. I found myself having to stop reading and reflect on my own life and experiences and sit with some discomfort so if anything, this book really has me thinking. My Dark Vanessa also references Nabokov’s Lolita quite a bit and I think there’s something to be said about the point of view of that story in comparison to this one and it might be worth picking up and exploring but I definitely can’t do that right now because this was a tough read.

After My Dark Vanessa, I had another library book come through Libby called Monday’s Not Coming. This book is written by Tiffany D. Jackson and I’ve been hearing people talk about her and her books for a while now. After finishing Monday’s Not Coming, I definitely see why and I want more. This book follows a girl named Claudia and her best friend, Monday, is missing but no one – her parents, Monday’s family, the school – seem to care so Claudia takes the investigation into her own hands. I think early on, the general idea of what’s happened to Monday is clear but even having an idea did not prepare me for that particular reveal. I truly felt like I’d been punched in the gut and I kept thinking about it for days after. There is another reveal that I definitely didn’t see coming and I think it was cleverly done even if it makes the timeline a little confusing at first. Because this book was so shocking to me, I will leave a link here to trigger warnings if you want to check it out.

I’m truly not sure what I’m going to pick up next and probably won’t for the next two months or so. I plan to randomly select all of my reads for October and November from my backlog of spooky reads but you can check out the potential list here!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

WWW Wednesday – September 23, 2020

WWW Wednesday

You might have noticed that I took a week or so off from writing on my blog but things have been pretty stressful and chaotic for me so I just needed some time step back and rest for a bit but I’m back in some capacity now. So here I am with the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently continuing to read through The Bridge Called My Back which is a collection of letters, poems, and essays written by women of color and deal heavily with intersectional feminism. I find myself constantly underlining and making notes and just thinking about each piece. It takes me a while to get through each piece because of that, but it’s completely worth it.

I am also reading My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. I am about halfway through this book and it’s really heavy. It follows two timelines – one when Vanessa was fifteen and being abused by her English teacher and the other seventeen years later and new allegations are coming out against the same man. This book does not shy away from the subject matter in any way so I would be cautious going into this but it is very well written and heartbreaking.

I won’t go through everything I’ve read since the last time I posted one of these but I will talk about my last two reads. This is the month of library holds and throwing my TBR out the window so I picked up Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert recently. I really enjoyed Chloe Brown and didn’t think it could get better but it did. This romance has fake dating, an English PhD student, and a grumpy security guard. It’s fun and sweet and steamy and just a really great time. I usually don’t care about romance but something about Talia Hibbert gets me every time.

I was also able to finally read Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. I usually feel pretty average about YA contemporaries but this one truly surprised me. It wasn’t just about Felix being trans and trying to deal with the aftermath of someone posting old photos and his deadname at school. It’s also about love between friends, romantic love, acceptance, and identity. I don’t have anything unique to add to all the praise this book has been given but just pick it up if you can!

Next, I’m going to pick up Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson because it’s currently waiting for me in the Libby app. This is a mystery about a girl named Claudia who is looking for her friend, Monday, who is missing and no one else seems to notice. I have had this on my wishlist for a while and am excited to get to it and see if it’s something I definitely want to own.

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

WWW Wednesday – September 9, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Since I’m really enjoying checking in here weekly, I’m going to continue doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently in the middle of three books. First, I am continuing my read-through of This Bridge Called My Back. I only annotate my books when it feels right and this book just feels right. Each piece I’ve read so far is so powerful and I find myself underlining and writing notes in the margins and I definitely recommend it especially if you’re wanting to learn more about intersectional feminism. The pieces also use really accessible language so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get into.

I’m also reading The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan. I’m only a couple of chapters in because I got distracted by playing Mario Odyssey for a few hours yesterday. As always, there’s a lot of action in the opening chapters and I love that. I was supposed to pick up Felix Ever After next but I was really up for some action and adventure.

Lastly, I’m listening to another Arthur Miller play – Broken Glass. I’m only in scene three as I just started it this morning but I’m intrigued. The main character is constantly reading news from Germany during WW2 and she suddenly can’t walk anymore. I’m not sure where this is going to go but so far, I’m interested.

Since last week, I finished three books. First, I finished Trust Me by Nell Grey. This was kindly sent to me by the author and I have a full review scheduled to go up on the 18th but I will say that I really enjoyed the mix of romance and mystery aspects and I am really excited to pick up the sequel in October!

I also finished James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. This was magical and fun to listen to and I liked the parts that weren’t in the movie quite a bit, especially the cloud people. I also recommend the audio version that has the added sound effects. It makes for a really fun experience. I still haven’t had a chance to watch the movie again but I do still want to.

Lastly, I finished Camp by L. C. Rosen. I got this from my library and I have a ton of thoughts. I will save my rambling for my wrap-up but I think this story does so much. This story takes place at a camp for queer teens and there’s a messy romance between two campers but Rosen also tackles themes of toxic masculinity, homophobia, supportive and unsupportive parents, the importance of queer-only spaces, and the unfortunate reality that once they leave this space, they have to look out for their own safety. There is a fairly descriptive sex scene, so if that’s not your thing, I’d maybe skip but I do think this book does some important work.

I’m going to say that I’ll pick up Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender next for the second week in a row. I definitely want to get to it since it’s on my TBR and Percy Jackson should quench my action/adventure thirst so I shouldn’t have a problem flying through Felix next!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

August 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

August was… a lot. I spent the first half planning courses and the second half teaching college English face to face. I talk more about what that’s been like in the context of a pandemic in this blog post. There has definitely been an update on that front, though. At the end of the second week, cases really began to spike on campus (obviously) so I was able to move my class online. It’s taken a ton of stress off of me and some of my students. We all meet on Zoom and talk about the same things we’d normally talk about in the classroom and getting comfortable talking that way will be an adjustment for some but I think most of them are understanding of the complexity of this situation. Also there was a hurricane last month! It felt like it happened ages ago.

Love is a Laserquest – Arctic Monkeys

Another thing that happened this month is that I’ve rediscovered how much I love Arctic Monkeys. I’ve been listening to them nonstop and really reliving my best college life through music. “Love is a Laserquest” has been a real favorite lately. It’s put me in the mood to read more romance so that’s been an interesting development.

But let’s talk about books! Audiobooks really saved the day while I was working this month so while I own most of these books physically, I ended up listening to so many of them.

Ratings:

4 five-star books

7 four-star books

1 three-star book

2 two-star books

1 one-star book

Formats:

7 physical books

1 eBooks

7 audiobooks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The first book I read this month was The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva. I was lucky enough to be sent this book by the author to review and since I wrote a full review of this book on my blog, I will be brief but you can read more here. This book follows Amy throughout her average life but shows readers the ways her OCD and depression can change the ways in which she goes about her everyday life. Though there is a bit of a plot involving international travel and romantic relationships, this book definitely feels, at times, like a character study. In this way, Riva accomplishes her goal of showing what maintaining a regular office job and a social life can look like with OCD. I definitely think this book picks up in the second half as Amy starts to really have to deal with the things in her life that she feels are holding her back from being happy. Overall, a fairly quick read which I enjoyed.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I know that I was hoping to not really have any holds from my library come through this month but I did get Hunger by Roxane Gay in early August. It also came the day of Hurricane Isaias so I found myself with plenty of time to read. Hunger is a memoir that discusses Gay’s relationship with her body and how past trauma shaped that relationship. This is a powerful and real look at what it means to be a fat woman in this world and also gets into what it means to be a fat, Black woman. Though it does deal with weight and eating and is titled “hunger,” it is not just about being literally hungry; it’s also about being hungry for affection, attention, and other desires Gay has denied herself over the years because of her weight and trauma. “Enjoyed” isn’t the right word but I definitely recommend this book. I would suggest looking for trigger warnings as this book covers topics including rape and disordered eating.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After reading and adoring Daisy Jones and the Six, I knew I wanted to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This story begins with Monique, a journalist at a magazine. Her magazine is contacted by the famous actress, Evelyn Hugo who wants Monique (and only Monique) to tell her story after she dies. I don’t want to say much more because that’s about all I knew going into it and I loved reading this book. Since the book spans from the 1950s to the present day, Reid is able to cover such much history and touches on it as it becomes relevant to Evelyn’s story. The writing is beautiful and Reid keeps the reader interested as she describes Evelyn’s life with each of her seven husbands. The last 100 pages or so were definitely emotional and had me close to tears many times. We all know I like sad books so it’s no surprise that I adore this one. I do think I like Daisy Jones a little more though, but that’s simply because I have always been a sucker for the 70s rock aesthetic.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I’m pretty sure I got this book from a box at a yard sale once. I was going through my spreadsheet of books looking for something I wouldn’t mind listening to on audio while I worked so I found this available through my library. The Bridges of Madison County is a book that follows Francesca who isn’t really happy in her marriage. When a photographer comes to town to take photos of the covered bridges, she begins a short affair with him. The whole time I was listening to this book, I kept thinking maybe she should just talk to her husband about the things she doesn’t like but he didn’t really seem to matter at all to anyone. Since this book is less than 200 pages, there was little to no development in the relationship so it just felt… fake. Not a fan.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Due to last-minute changes with my job, I found that I needed to be at a computer for 12+ hours a day and needed something to listen to on audio. I own a collection of every Arthur Miller play and found myself listening to a few of them on Scribd while I was working. I listened to both After the Fall and The Man Who Had All the Luck. I found After the Fall to be really pretentious and self-serving. It’s semi-autobiographical and really made Marilyn Monroe look awful and made him look like an angel. The Man Who Had All the Luck, on the other hand, was really enjoyable. It’s about a man who has so much good luck and he’s just waiting for the luck to run out. I definitely recommend listening to this if you have the chance.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was nervous going into Never Let Me Go because I don’t usually connect with science-fiction but Ishiguro created something different from any other sci-fi I’ve ever tried before. This story follows Kathy as she reminiscences and pieces together the truth about the boarding school she used to attend. Switching from the past to present-day timelines, Kathy has the help of her childhood friends, Ruth and Tommy. Ishiguro creates a beautiful and atmospheric story that slowly drops information for the reader to piece together. Nothing is spelled out until the very end which means this is a world where everything feels almost normal but something is just a little off (aka the plot of all my dreams). I can’t really say anything about the social commentary without spoiling it but I read another book this year that has similar themes and I really appreciated that. The ending is pretty sad and we like sad endings in this house so definitely one I will come back to.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

My Lobotomy by Howard Dully is a book I’ve had for ages and just never got around to picking up. As I was going through my spreadsheet, I found that this was available with no wait through my library so I decided I’d listen to it while I continued setting up my courses for the new semester. This book is a true account of the horrifying experience Howard faced when he was given a lobotomy at just twelve years old. I have a difficult time assigning a star rating to this book because his experiences were so traumatizing; much of the “reasoning” behind his step-mother wanting this procedure was just Howard being a regular child and it’s important to bring attention to the fact that that happened at least as late as 1960. That being said, I just thought this story as a book was just okay. The writing was pretty average and I really didn’t enjoy the way Dully talked about other people in the asylum he lived in for a while – he kept making sure the reader knew he wasn’t like them. I haven’t listened to the NPR documentary that was released before the book but that might be a better way to take in this story. Overall, a powerful and important story but this format just didn’t work for me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Somewhere in my mom’s house, there’s a low-quality VHS animated film adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz that I didn’t really like but still watched quite a bit and that’s the movie’s problem because I really enjoy this story. In this story, Tip lives with the evil Mombi until he has to escape so that she doesn’t turn him to stone. He travels Oz and meets the Scarecrow while he’s in the middle of a crisis. Adventure ensues. This book is definitely less iconic than the first and a little more silly but I still appreciate the sense of adventure and magic. I also think there were a lot of strong women in this story and the reveal at the end could bring up an interesting conversation but because it’s the twist, I can’t really say much here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Percy Jackson series really is just fantastic book after fantastic book, isn’t it? I read The Titan’s Curse this month and the magic from the first books is still there. This one was a bit longer than The Sea of Monsters and I appreciated that. We got to spend a bit more time with each of the characters, old and new. There were some really sad and intense moments that I also really enjoyed. I also think the commentary about humans being willing to do whatever the gods ask, especially if there’s money involved was an interesting idea to drop in a middle grade. That makes room for some big conversations. Also, if Nico is a recurring character (which after that reveal, he HAS to be) I think I’m really going to like him. I can’t wait to see what happens next and I think The Battle of the Labyrinth will be one of my first reads for September!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was a reread for me but it’s been over 10 years since I first read it and that made it like a fresh book for me. This is the first of Maya Angelou’s memoirs and recalls her life from early childhood to the birth of her child. This memoir contains stories of trauma and joy and family and what it was like to grow up predominantly in the south as a black woman in the 30s and 40s. I think the story about her graduation is particularly interesting and important to understanding her and her classmates’ experience with education during this time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I don’t often pick up short story collections but I am glad I picked up Zora Neale Hurston’s complete collection. I read a story each day throughout the month and finished it a little early. The types of stories in this collection vary drastically in content and style and it took me a while to be able to read the dialect at my usual reading pace but there were certainly some standouts here including ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Sweat.’ I also loved the slang dictionary she created to go along with her stories. It made me think a lot about linguistics and how certain languages can be seen as less-than or nonsensical but there are rules whether people want to see it or not.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a literary fiction book. It used to be one of my favorite genres but for some reason, I’ve been reading less of them. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi reminded me of the power this genre has to make me feel and to make me think. This story begins in 1990s Nigeria when Vivek’s mother finds her son’s body wrapped in cloth at her door. From here we explore a timeline of Vivek’s life as well as the time after where his mother, Kavita desperately seeks answers about what happened. We also see Vivek’s father, aunt, uncle, cousin, and friends process this grief in different ways. This story also deals with themes of reincarnation which I thought were incredibly interesting and done really well. Additionally there is queer and trans rep. I will definitely be picking up more works by Emezi as their writing is phenomenal. There are trigger warnings for violence and abuse in this book so just be aware going in. Additionally, there was one particular aspect of the book that made me stop and think for a minute and I initially had a bad reaction but I found that this interview with Emezi and Rivers Solomon was helpful in thinking about that. I don’t want to be too specific and spoil anything.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have owned Amy Tan’s memoir, Where the Past Begins since it came out but have just gotten around to picking it up. It was available through my library via audio so I alternated between listening to the book while doing household chores and reading along while listening to the book. First, I think Tan is a fantastic writer and I love the way she explains pieces of her life are often so beautiful. It made for an interesting experience reading her memoir but I do think there were some times where I’d have liked a more straightforward approach. I do think that as the memoir went on, it became more interesting and her writing style lent itself to the story. The section where she talks about learning to read was so beautiful and insightful. My favorite part was the end where she talked about linguistics and related it to the immigrant experience and, ultimately, her mother. It was heartbreaking, beautiful and insightful. I’ll probably find myself revisiting those last sections of the book again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

On the last day of August I listened to the audiobook of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while catching up on some work and it was a pretty fun experience. This story is fun and whimsical but also a little dark and I think that’s a theme throughout so much of Dahl’s work. It is important to point out the flaws, though. The way the Oompa Loompas are handled is definitely problematic given the imperialistic notion of how they came to the factory. The ways Dahl talks about fat characters isn’t all that great either so just knowing that and recognizing the implications of those elements is crucial if you’re going to pick up and talk about this particular text.

I’m starting to think I need to split my wrap-ups into two parts because this was ridiculously lengthy. As always, thanks for reading and come chat!

Stay safe!

Sam

WWW Wednesday – September 2, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Since I’m really enjoying checking in here weekly, I’m going to continue doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Because I’ve finished a lot of books and reading a ton of books, I have a lot to talk about today so I am going to try and be brief. I’m currently in the middle of four books for absolutely no reason. First, I’m reading Trust Me by Nell Grey. She kindly sent me this book and the next in the series for review. Trust Me is equal parts thriller/mystery and romance. I’m not totally sure where this book is going and I’m having a really good time.

I’m also currently reading Camp by L. C. Rosen. This book takes place at a queer camp for teens and that’s really all I know about it. I am only two chapters in since I just got it from my library yesterday, but I’ve heard there’s some romance and drama so I’ll enjoy reading it.

Like I did last month with The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston, I’ve picked up This Bridge Called My Back edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua to read throughout the month. This is a collection of poems, letters, speeches, and other kinds of texts all written by women of color. They really get at the heart of intersectional feminism. I’ve read selections from it for school but wanted to come back and read the whole thing. I’ve read a couple of poems so far and I’m liking it a lot.

Last, I’m listening to James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl on audio. This was available with no wait from my library and it’s been fun to listen to this story while taking bookstagram photos and folding laundry. It really has me itching to watch the movie again and maybe I can convince my partner to join me this weekend ❤

Somehow (audiobooks) I was able to finish five books since I last checked in. If you want to know more of my thoughts about any of them, look out for my wrap-up on Friday. First, I finished I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I was almost done with it last week and finished it later in the day. I liked getting a glimpse into different moments in Angelou’s life and each chapter ranged from heartbreaking to exciting to fun. So much to offer here!

I was also able to finish The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. Like Angelou, Hurston is able to tell stories with a variety of emotions. What interested me the most were the dictionaries of slang terms she created to show that her writing wasn’t nonsensical. From a linguistic standpoint, this was important and fascinating to look at.

Speaking of linguistics, I was also able to finish Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan. I alternated between listening to this on audio and reading along with the audio. I love Tan’s writing and think she has such a compelling way of giving readers information. I sometimes wanted things to be a little more straightforward but she doesn’t give us that. I was particularly interested in the final sections talking about reading and linguistics as it applies to the immigrant experience.

I also finished The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi this week. This book opens with Vivek’s mother finding his body wrapped in cloth at her door. From there it is about figuring out what happened to him but it also is an exploration of grief. Emezi is able to pack a lot into a book that’s less than 250 pages and it doesn’t feel rushed. They did a fantastic job telling this story and it’s definitely my favorite read of August.

Lastly, I listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl on audio. This was a short, fun listen and made me miss Gene Wilder. There are definitely some issues with the story especially regarding the Oompa Loompas that people should be aware of and think about but otherwise it’s just as fun of a story as it’s always been.

Who knows what audiobook I’ll find next but I know that as far as physical reading, I’d like to get to Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. I’m finding it way easier to fly through ebooks right now and this is another from my September TBR I have digitally. Plus it has a gorgeous cover and I’ve heard SO MUCH praise for this book.

Thanks for sticking with me through this longer WWW post! Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

September 2020 TBR

TBRs

Now that I’m back at work, my reading is a lot more unfocused and truly depends on what’s available through my library at the time so my TBRs are going to be a bit more like “September possibilities.” I definitely have some books I really want to prioritize so I’ll talk about those first and then go from there.

First, I have Trust Me by Nell Grey. I was kindly sent this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I don’t know a ton about this apart from that there’s thriller and romance elements which sounds like a fun time. I’m always down for a thriller and lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys so I’m in the mood to also read a romance so I’m thinking this book will really do it for me.

Next, I am continuing my read of the Percy Jackson series with The Battle of the Labyrinth. I can’t say much without spoiling the other books in the series but I’ve been loving these so far and I have a feeling (and have heard) that Nico is going to have more page time and he’s becoming one of my favorite characters in the series. 

I also want to read Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol. 1 this month. A friend of mine asked if I’d like to buddy read the series together because we both love Sailor Moon and want more magical girl content. I might also try to watch the show on Netflix as we read through the series so keep a lookout for some blog posts about that experience in the future.

Those are the books I definitely need to read this month but I also have three that I’m really hoping to get to. The first is The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color which is a collection edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. I have read writings by both of these women and loved them. I’ve also already read sections of this book for school but I want to go back and read the entire anthology. This will likely be one that I start at the beginning of the month and read throughout the entire month much like I did last month with The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. 

Next, I’d really like to catch up on my backlog of Book of the Month books. I just have two sitting on my shelves right now and the one I’m hoping to pick up this month is November Road by Lou Berney. All I know about this book is that it’s a historical fiction set around the time of the JFK assassination. I have no idea how I’m going to feel about this because, while I do like historical fiction, I don’t usually read from this time period so we’ll see!

Additionally, I’d like to finally read Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. This YA contemporary follows a black, queer, trans boy named Felix who wants to be in love, but when another student starts sending him transphobic messages and posting old pictures of Felix and posts his deadname, things start to get really difficult and complicated for Felix. I’ve heard so many people praise this book and I’ve had the ebook for a while and I want to stop neglecting my ebooks as much as I have been, so I feel like this would be a good place to start.

This might be a stretch but I’d also be down for participating in BooksAndLaLa’s final Buzzwordathon at the end of September. The word this time is “night” and I have two books on my backlog that will word for this prompt. First, is Night by Elie Wiesel. I’ve somehow never read this book and maybe September is the time I finally read it. I also have Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I’m not usually one for magical realism and this book is chunky but I’ve already seen the movie and would like to compare the experience. 

That’s everything that’s on my radar for September. We’ll see if I get to everything but if I don’t, I’m not going to feel too bad about it since I’ve been having to rely on audiobooks a lot more than usual. 

What are you reading next? Have you read any of these and what were your thoughts? Come chat with me!

Stay safe!

Sam

Book Review – The Existence of Amy – Lana Grace Riva

Reviews

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Not the jokey kind of OCD where someone might occasionally double check they’ve locked the door and say ‘I’m so OCD about that door!’. There’s nothing remotely jokey about the kind I have.

Lana Grace Riva

Release date: August 2, 2019

Genre(s): Contemporary fiction

Pages: 283

Goodreads Synopsis

Amy has a normal life. That is, if you were to go by a definition of ‘no immediate obvious indicators of peculiarity’, and you didn’t know her very well. She has good friends, a good job, a nice enough home. This normality, however, is precariously plastered on top of a different life. A life that is Amy’s real life. The only one her brain will let her lead.

Review

I had the honor of being sent this book by the author in exchange for a review.

I want to stary this review by talking a little bit more about the plot of this book because the Goodreads synopsis doesn’t really do it justice. The Existence of Amy follows our title character through her everyday life – she rides the bus to and from her office job, talks to her work friends, navigates a life many of us might be totally familiar with. The only difference is that Amy struggles with OCD and depression which makes all of these things a little more complicated. When she is faced with the possibility of leaving the country for a work trip, Amy must decide how to handle this.

Lana Grace Riva gives readers a look at how simple tasks can be a bit more difficult for people who struggle with mental health issues. This character study even shows readers the conversations Amy is having with her own brain and I really appreciated that. I have anxiety and depression and felt that these conversations really captured the frustration I sometimes feel with myself because logically, I know my brain is sabotaging me but I don’t always know how to stop it. 

I also appreciated that Riva had the characters in this book talk about the importance of being able to talk about mental health professionals. It is good to open up to friends about your struggles if you can, but they can only do so much. Riva also makes readers aware that there is a certain privilege that allows people to be able to get adequate access to therapy. 

Something that didn’t really work for me with this book is that the first half felt a little slow compared to the second half. In showing what mundane tasks are like for Amy, the story itself became a little mundane. The second half really picks up, though, as Amy is forced to have to confront her struggles a little more head-on.

Overall, I think this book offers a view of what life with OCD and depression can be like for some people, and seeing Amy’s character growth was interesting to see. It gave me a lot to think about when it comes to the way I converse with my own mind.

WWW Wednesday – August 5, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Since I’m really enjoying checking in here weekly, I’m going to continue doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I haven’t read too much but I am really enjoying the format most of all. I like having the sort of news clippings between chapters. I really like that Reid incorporates interesting elements to the format of her narratives. That was one of the reasons I love Daisy Jones & the Six so much.

Like last week, I finished three books since last Wednesday and DNFd an audiobook. First, I finished Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I think this book was SUPER creepy and I really appreciated the commentary on imperialism. I *almost* wish I was still in school and had an opportunity to write an entire paper on this novel. Having horror intersect with imperialism is so fascinating to me.

I also finished The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva. This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for a review that I plan to post Monday so I’ll keep my discussion here brief. This book follows Amy in what appears to be a normal life but readers get insight into the ways OCD and depression can make normal things such as an office job and public transit so much more difficult. I think the first half reads a bit like a character study but the plot really picks up in the second half and has some important conversations about mental health that might also be applied to other “invisible illnesses.”

I know I said this month that I didn’t think I’d have any library holds coming through but just before Hurricane Isaias hit, I was blessed with Hunger by Roxane Gay. Since we lost power and my tablet was charged, I was able to read this through the night. Hunger is a powerful memoir about trauma, food, weight, and so many other topics – not just literal hunger, but hunger for affection, attention, and being able to indulge in femininity. I highly recommend this powerful read. I would check trigger warnings since this book deals with rape and disordered eating among other difficult topics.

Lastly, I DNFd the audiobook for Lost by Gregory Maguire. I thought the Wicked series was decent but everything else I’ve picked up by Maguire just hasn’t done it for me. I found myself bored and confused around 20% through the audiobook and just decided to call it a wash. I have a ton of other things to read on my shelves.

I think next I will pick up The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. I want to be able to finish all of my longer books on my TBR before I go back to work on the 20th. As long as no other library holds come in *knock on wood*, I think this will be manageable.

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!