Top Five Books on my TBR (eBooks)

A few weeks ago, I talked about some books on my physical TBR that I was most excited about. I didn’t include the books on my ereader in that post but there are DEFINITELY some exciting books there too and I’d like to talk about. As always, library books are preventing me from picking up the books I own, but I think about the books on my ereader all the time. These are in no particular but I tried to pick books from different genres so I can offer a mix.

The Poppy War

Without even looking at my ebooks, the first one that comes to mind is The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang. I think this will be everything I love. It’s based on actual historical events, namely the Second Sino-Japanese War. I know a bit about this time period and I think reading this book will be the catalyst to help me learn more. It also deals with shamanism and that is where the fantasy elements come in. I think the reason I keep putting this off is because it sounds so perfectly matched to my tastes. I love interesting takes on historical events and morally grey characters and just generally dark stories so if I don’t like it, I’ll be really sad and start to question my taste in books.

Sister Outsider

Most of my nonfiction is in ebook format so I definitely have to include one of them in this list. The one I’m most excited about is Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. This is a collection of essays and speeches by Lorde, a Black poet and activist. I’ve read from her before in my favorite nonfiction of all time, This Bridge Called My Back and I’m so excited to read more from her. I have been a little detached from nonfiction recently but I want to get back into reading it. This might be the one to get me back into that genre.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

In my last TBR post, I talked about wanting to get back into thrillers and a lighter thriller/mystery on my ereader that I think will help reinvigorate my interest is Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano. An author is overheard talking about her new book and someone thinks she’s a hitman so she gets caught up in this world. It just sounds fun! Like Arsenic and Adobo, which I talked about last time, I am hoping for something a little different from the thrillers or mysteries that I normally pick up. I’ve also just heard some great reviews for this story and I think it will make me laugh. That’s what I’m looking for in these warmer months.

The Only Good Indians

There are also quite a few horror novels on my ereader and it is really difficult to just choose one but I think I’m going to choose The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. This is a horror novel written by an indigenous author and follow a group of men who are being hunted by a spirit. I have a certain idea about what the social commentary will be and if that’s the case, I am excited to see how it is woven into the horror narrative. I am a really big fan of horror that offers some sort of social commentary and I think Jones will deliver on that want for me.

Parachutes

Lastly, I want to talk about a YA Contemporary that I’m really excited about. I’ve seen Ashley from Bookish Realm on Youtube discuss Parachutes by Kelly Yang a number of times and I really trust her taste in books so I’m excited to read this one. This follows Claire who is sent from China to American to live after getting in some trouble. The daughter of her host family, Dani, resents Claire’s privileged background and I think they will end up having to learn from each other. I know that the cover is really cute but I’ve been told it isn’t a super light story and that really intrigues me. I am participating in a readathon next month and I’m hoping that I can work this into my TBR since contemporary is usually good for readathons.

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I’d love to be able to read these soon because I’m just so excited about them. My library holds are still coming through constantly so I haven’t been able to pick up my own books but I’m going to try and use the “deliver later” feature on Libby especially in June during the Clear Ur Shit readathon. What are you excited to read that you just haven’t been able to get to yet? Let me know!

Recent Reads 6

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! This time I’ll be talking about an adult contemporary fiction about immigration, a YA contemporary with a thriller twist, and the conclusion to my new favorite series. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Release Date: March 2, 2021

Genre: Adult contemporary/literary fiction

Pages: 191

Trigger warnings include: animal abuse, racism, violence, mention of forced sterilization, rape, loss of a loved one

Goodreads Synopsis

For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.

At the dawn of the new millennium, Colombia is a country devastated by half a century of violence. Elena and Mauro are teenagers when they meet, their blooming love an antidote to the mounting brutality of life in Bogotá. Once their first daughter is born, and facing grim economic prospects, they set their sights on the United States.

They travel to Houston and send wages back to Elena’s mother, all the while weighing whether to risk overstaying their tourist visas or to return to Bogotá. As their family expands, and they move again and again, their decision to ignore their exit dates plunges the young family into the precariousness of undocumented status, the threat of discovery menacing a life already strained. When Mauro is deported, Elena, now tasked with caring for their three small children, makes a difficult choice that will ease her burdens but splinter the family even further.

Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself the daughter of Colombian immigrants and a dual citizen, gives voice to Mauro and Elena, as well as their children, Karina, Nando, and Talia—each one navigating a divided existence, weighing their allegiance to the past, the future, to one another, and to themselves. Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality for the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.

Brief Review

“She told them her mother was abroad and sent her back to Colombia when she was a baby. But this particular family condition was so common it couldn’t possibly be considered trauma.”

While this book is less than 200 pages, it tells a powerful and important story that I found myself wanting to take my time with and that I think will stick with me for a long time. I was most struck by Engel’s writing. She sometimes is very straightforward and sometimes takes a few pages to give readers some folklore or legends that paint a picture of Colombia and its people and that adds greater significance and context to what the characters are experiencing. There are certainly some heartbreaking moments with this family and the fact that Engel is able to show the complicated dynamics of a family separated in so few pages is amazing. Something that my eyes were especially opened to through this story is the ways so many programs and opportunities in the US set up for immigrants can pose such a risk to those same people and their families. By trying to enter that system, they are bringing attention to themselves and those around them and that increases the risk of splitting up their families even more. I can’t say much else since this book is so short but I do want to end this with some recommendations of books I thought of while reading this one: Native Country of the Heart by Cherrie Moraga & Create Dangerously by Edwidge Danticat. These recommendations are partly to do with themes but mostly to do with the writing style.

One of the Good Ones by Maika Moulite and Maritza Moulite

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: YA Contemporary, Thriller

Pages: 384

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

The Hate U Give meets Get Out in this honest and powerful exploration of prejudice in the stunning novel from sister-writer duo Maika and Maritza Moulite, authors of Dear Haiti, Love Alaine.

ISN’T BEING HUMAN ENOUGH?

When teen social activist and history buff Kezi Smith is killed under mysterious circumstances after attending a social justice rally, her devastated sister Happi and their family are left reeling in the aftermath. As Kezi becomes another immortalized victim in the fight against police brutality, Happi begins to question the idealized way her sister is remembered. Perfect. Angelic.

One of the good ones.

Even as the phrase rings wrong in her mind—why are only certain people deemed worthy to be missed?—Happi and her sister Genny embark on a journey to honor Kezi in their own way, using an heirloom copy of The Negro Motorist Green Book as their guide. But there’s a twist to Kezi’s story that no one could’ve ever expected—one that will change everything all over again.

Brief Thoughts

“I know that existing as a human on this Earth should be enough to deserve respect and justice. But it isn’t. Instead, we focus on those who we deem worthy, for whom we allow ourselves to feel the weight of their loss.”

*I received this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.*

The only thing I knew about this book before going in was that it was pitched as “The Hate U Give meets Get Out” and that was enough to get me excited. I dropped everything as soon as I got a notification from Netgalley and found a compelling story and characters I really loved but aspects of the structure and writing didn’t work as much for me. I really liked the set-up of this story. Getting to know all the key players and their pasts that would become important later caught my attention and I especially enjoyed getting to know Kezi and her girlfriend. I also liked the multi-generational aspect of the story. You get to learn about Kezi’s family history and what sparked the road trip in the first place. There is also a mystery element that REALLY picks up in part three and was especially gripping. The ending provided some powerful commentary on how the media portrays Black people when they are killed and how they decide who is worth mourning – who is “one of the good ones” – and the impacts of those decisions.

The main aspect of the book that brought down my reading experience was down to transitions between scenes. Sometimes scenes would end and there was not really an indication we were moving to something else apart from a paragraph break and sometimes it took me a bit to realize what was happening. I would quickly get back on track but there were a few times when I felt like a couple of sentences might have been missing. I also felt like I wanted a little more from the ending. The peak of the action was very late in the story and then it was just over.

Overall, I still recommend this story as it deals with important themes of police brutality, who we decide is worth mourning, and what can happen when racism is passed down through generations. Even though I had some issues with the writing, I think the positives definitely outweigh any of that.

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

Release Date: August 15, 2017

Genre: Adult fantasy

Pages: 416

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Since this is a series, here’s a link to the synopsis of the first book, and this one.

Brief Thoughts

“But for a society build on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.”


About halfway through this book, I knew that this would be my favorite series and that I would do a journal spread commemorating it. The stakes were so high and I loved and cared about all of these characters and while a ton of world-building isn’t exactly something that interests me, the way Jemisin does it kept me hooked until the end. I have been on a journey trying to learn what I like in fantasy and am so thankful for this series existing and showing me what I enjoy. What I really appreciate about this series are all of the real-world themes Jemisin covers in this fantasy world. This story is very much about surviving but it also contains discussions of environmentalism, blood relations vs. found family, prejudices, and slavery and exploitation. I was constantly thinking about current events and because of the intersection between environmentalism and oppression, I started thinking about how climate change disproportionately impacts communities of color and there are so many other topics to think about in relation to this story and that is something that usually comes along with books that I consider to be favorites. I don’t think I’ll stop talking about this series for a while and I definitely recommend it if you’re into adult fantasy and want something a bit different and complex to try. I’ll certainly be reading Jemisin’s Inheritance Trilogy in the future.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 3

Before I took a break from blogging, I did monthly wrap-ups and they were really long and took ages to write and put together so I wanted to try something different. I want to put out mini-reviews every time I complete three books. I think this will be more manageable for me and more readable for you guys so let’s get started! Find my last “Recent Reads” here.

All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson

Release Date: April 28, 2020

Genre: Memoir

Pages: 304

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

In a series of personal essays, prominent journalist and LGBTQIA+ activist George M. Johnson explores his childhood, adolescence, and college years in New Jersey and Virginia. From the memories of getting his teeth kicked out by bullies at age five, to flea marketing with his loving grandmother, to his first sexual relationships, this young-adult memoir weaves together the trials and triumphs faced by Black queer boys.

Both a primer for teens eager to be allies as well as a reassuring testimony for young queer men of color, All Boys Aren’t Blue covers topics such as gender identity, toxic masculinity, brotherhood, family, structural marginalization, consent, and Black joy. Johnson’s emotionally frank style of writing will appeal directly to young adults.

Brief Review

I am so appreciative of the themes Johnson discusses in this essay collection. It is so important to talk about and reflect on the intersectionality of Blackness and queerness and how those marginalizations come together and can create a completely different lived experience. I think Johnson had so many smart and important observations surrounding topics ranging from they way the school system teaching American history to the safety that comes with remaining closeted and how that causes inner turmoil. I was highlighting and rereading certain quotes that really gripped me.

That being said, there were some places where the writing didn’t do it for me. I sometimes felt that there were a lot of themes being tackled in a single essay and I knew what Johnson was getting at but the connections weren’t super clear. It took me out of the story a bit sometimes. If the essays were a little longer, that might have helped as there would be more room to really explore the connections between the ideas. I still think this is a really solid book and can be incredibly impactful and important especially for the YA audience it’s targeted towards especially if those readers are queer, Black, or both.

Me by Elton John

Release Date: October 15, 2019

Genre: Autobiography

Pages: 416

Trigger warnings include bulimia, drug use, and addiction

Goodreads Synopsis

Elton John is the most enduringly successful singer-songwriter of all time. His life is extraordinary, packed with incredible highs and lows, from a troubled childhood to chart-topping superstardom, from cocaine addiction to friendships with John Lennon, George Michael and Princess Diana, from outrageous excess to finding happiness as a husband and father. Now, in his own words and with his usual honesty, he shares his story–every hilarious, heartbreaking moment. 

Brief Thoughts

I won this book and it was sent by the publisher but this has no bearing on my review. I don’t even like movies but I’ve seen Rocketman twice and think about it all the time. Even before that, I was interested in reading Elton John’s autobiography and was thrilled when I got the chance to read it. I have always enjoyed autobiographies from musicians. I like learning about music in this way but Me does some specific things I truly appreciate. For one, it does not shy away from showing John in a less than flattering light. From his temper to his eating disorder to his drug abuse, readers are brought along for the ride. It isn’t just a “look at me I’m so great” type of story. I also greatly appreciate John acknowledging the true roots of the music he became famous for. He talks about Black artists he played with and looked up to and celebrates them. Many stories about rock and pop music conveniently don’t talk about Black people who pioneered the genre unless it’s Hendrix. Maybe Chuck Berry. Hearing John talk multiple times at length about Black pioneers in music was refreshing. I went back and forth between physically reading and listening to the audiobook on my walks. The audiobook is read by Taron Egerton who plays him in the Rocketman film. His acting and use of different voices really added to the experience.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

Release Date: September 1, 2020

Genre: Adult Thriller

Pages: 352

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

The gentrification of a Brooklyn neighborhood takes on a sinister new meaning…

Sydney Green is Brooklyn born and raised, but her beloved neighborhood seems to change every time she blinks. Condos are sprouting like weeds, FOR SALE signs are popping up overnight, and the neighbors she’s known all her life are disappearing. To hold onto her community’s past and present, Sydney channels her frustration into a walking tour and finds an unlikely and unwanted assistant in one of the new arrivals to the block—her neighbor Theo.

But Sydney and Theo’s deep dive into history quickly becomes a dizzying descent into paranoia and fear. Their neighbors may not have moved to the suburbs after all, and the push to revitalize the community may be more deadly than advertised.

When does coincidence become conspiracy? Where do people go when gentrification pushes them out? Can Sydney and Theo trust each other—or themselves—long enough to find out before they too disappear?

Brief Thoughts

I’ve seen conversations surrounding this book claiming that it isn’t really a thriller or it isn’t scary but I’m going to have to disrespectfully disagree. This story is incredibly unsettling. Alyssa Cole’s writing creates a sense of unease throughout the narrative and the pacing adds to a constant feeling of something incredibly menacing. Themes of gentrification, community, and others I can’t mention without spoiling the ending, come together to create a book that I haven’t seen more deserving of the “thriller” genre in years.

Additionally, I appreciated sections between chapters that showed posts and comments about things going on in the community from members that have been there forever and newcomers. You can see the tension rising in those sections. The climax of this story also left my heart pounding. I just had to know what would happen next. If reviews claiming this isn’t really a thriller have put you off, please give it a chance. This book is phenomenal.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

September 2020 Wrap-up

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

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!

October 2020 TBR

It’s almost my birthday month and time for all things spooky! While I know it won’t really be cool where I am for a while, I’m still in full fall mode and have a bit of a different idea for my TBR for the next two months. I want to read all things dark and spooky while still working towards my goal of getting through my embarrassing backlog of owned books, but I don’t want the pressure of selecting a few out of the many books I already own that fit the criteria.

The solution? I made a list of all the mystery/thriller/horror/generally dark books I already own and put each title in a jar and I’ll randomly select and read as many as I can over the next two months. I do have a couple of reads I’m already obligated to pick up (Find Me by Nell Grey and The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan) and some library holds are likely to come in but apart those, it’s going to be all spooky, all the time.

There is absolutely no way I can talk about each of these books in one blog post but I will leave a list with links to Goodreads to just show all of the options I have in my fall TBR jar.

This is clearly a long list that I definitely won’t complete in two months but I am looking forward to see how much I can knock off. I will definitely update my progress on my WWW Wednesday posts and at the beginning of November so I hope you’ll join me on this journey to get through my ridiculous backlog of books!

Book Review – Trust Me – Nell Grey

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Release date: June 27, 2020

Genre: Romance, Mystery/Thriller

Pages: 266

Trigger warnings: suicide and abuse

Goodreads Synopsis

A powerful love story with a dark underbelly full of unexpected twists. Glyn Evans’ death is clearly a tragic suicide. An open and shut case. And yet something about it feels off…In a single day, Annie Evans’ life is blown to bits. It’s a huge mess and she desperately needs to escape from London. Her father’s died and she needs to go home. The place she’s been avoiding for years. Jac Jones is back home too. Annie’s vowed to ghost him. Whatever possessed her parents to let this ex special forces soldier rent their farm? Is he playing her again? For Sion Edwards, his old army buddy’s place is the perfect bolt hole. A safe place to hide from the people who want to make him pay for what he’s done. And they won’t rest until he’s dead. The detective is right. In this sleepy Welsh valley, not everything is as it seems…An addictive and compelling exploration of trust and betrayal.

Review

I was sent this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Annie is having issues with work and with romance when she learns of her father’s death. When she first returns to her childhood home, she is quick to accept the suicide ruling but is it that clear-cut? In addition to taking care of that, she discovers that someone she used to be romantically involved with is working on her family’s farm and she definitely doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.

I’ve never read a book that was both a romance and a mystery/thriller so I didn’t know what to expect. I typically read a lot of thrillers but I don’t read romance that often but this book definitely made me want more. We follow two story lines – one with Annie and Jac and another with one of Jac’s friends from the army. The whole time I wasn’t sure how the stories were going to come together and at a few points, I was nervous that it wouldn’t feel connected but I was definitely wrong. I had so much fun trying to figure out what these plots had to do with each other.

Something else I really enjoyed about this book was that it was clearly well-researched. This book takes place, in part, on a sheep farm and I didn’t really know what that entailed but seeing Annie and Jac get closer while having to do all of the work involved with the sheep was interesting to read about and made for a unique setting.

I will say that there was one place early on where I wasn’t sure if I was reading about the present or if it was a flashback but it was short and didn’t really hinder my overall enjoyment of the story.

The ending of Trust Me definitely gave me enough closure while still leaving things open enough for the sequel, Find Me. From what I understand, Find Me follows some of the side characters from Trust Me. I am excited to read and review the sequel in October!

WWW Wednesday – September 9, 2020

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!

WWW Wednesday – September 2, 2020

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

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