June is Pride month here in the U.S. and myself, along with a bunch of other Bookstagrammers, started a reading challenge to help spread the word and raise awareness about queer authors characters and topics AND to celebrate just what this month truly means to so many of us. Here is how we’ve planned it out. Each week, there are 2 prompts. Our job is to read books that fit the prompts for the week, post about books that correlate, talk about books and authors that fit into each week, and/or post stacks of books that we pull from our shelves or pick up from the library that check the box for that week! It’s a fantastic way to read more queer lit, but also, it’s a great way to really think about our history, where we came from, how we got there, who helped us along the way, see where we stand now and to celebrate all there is to come. It’s only been a little over a week but it’s just been the BEST time! I love reading queer lit, but this has expanded my TBR pile exponentially and I couldn’t be more excited! So I wanted to make sure all of my blog friends knew about this challenge as well! Again, all the fun takes place over on Instagram-so find me there at bookishfolk and follow along using the hashtag #takeprideinreading. And bonus, I’ve seen SO many people over on Instagram talking about how they want to read more queer books and learn more about our history and I basically sob the majority of the day now just thinking about how something so small (like a reading challenge on Instagram) can have such an effect on so many people. It makes me the happiest.
Week 1: Voices Across the Spectrum, Breaking the Binary
Week 2: Community Classic, Unsung Classic
Week 3: Intersectional Voices, Know Our History
Week 4: LGBTQIA+ Genre Fiction, Personal Awakening
As you can see, we’re only on week 2, so we’ve still got a ways to go exploring these themes and celebrating the diversity of queer life! And please know, this is for all of us-you don’t have to be queer to participate. As long as you’re here to be respectful, ready to learn and grow, and read some fantastically queer books-we’re happy to have you along for the ride 🙂
In case you’re interested, here are the bookstagrammers that are hosting the challenge: These humans are wonderful people to follow for all sorts of reasons! Give them a look over on the gram!
@thefeministreader @readrunsea @allisonreadsdc @basiclandcave @bklnbooks @caseythereader @franniereads @hisreadingnook @inkoneverypage @lesbeebooks @lupita.reads @mina_reads @readingschmitt @readmollyread @shelfbyshelf @thealchemyofbooks @whatsjennareading @booksnblazers @bowtiesandbooks @caseythecanadianlesbrarian @djenneg.reads @khakipantsofsex @queerafricanreads @roams.and.reads @talialune @ultimatelybookish @bookishfolk
YAY PRIDE MONTH and YAY QUEER BOOKS! As always, find me on Instagram and please let me know what books you’re reading this month! I’d love to hear!
I participated in a book club last year at my local library and I get so many questions about it on Instagram, so I thought I’d write a post and share my wealth of knowledge with you all! JK about the ‘wealth of information,’ but I did think you might like to hear more about my book club in specific, how I liked the experience, and how we do things. I LOVED participating in this book club. This is the first time that I’ve stuck with and actually read all the books assigned to us in a book club and it made such a difference for me. I know, I know…you’re thinking, ‘duh Melissa. Actually reading the books makes a HUGE difference’ but what I mean is, reading the books, taking notes while reading, thinking critically, and then discussing the themes, authors and ideas the book brought up in me felt like I was an actual participant in the club not only that day, but all the weeks leading up to the book discussion. It felt like an enjoyable flashback to my college days (high five to all the English majors out there).
That’s the general details of how we set up the year’s worth of meetings and the process we took to get there.
When picking the books, we also have some criteria that the book must adhere to:
The person leading the discussion would give us a little background information about the author and/or book and then start the discussion off with a question or just a general, “How did you like this one?” or “What did you think?” and we would go from there. Many times there was a handout with whatever was needed for that discussion (character list, definitions, maps, etc.) or with thinking questions about the book. This was a group of diverse participants and we often had differing views a lot of the time, which led to some fantastic discussions. Periodically, the leader would have to get us back on track, but they really let us take the reigns of the discussion. I will say, I think it depends on how “spirited” your group is, but a group of adults should be able to talk, take turns and respect one another pretty well, but if not, that’s why there was always a designated leader for the day to drive the conversation back to the book and the current discussion. And there was always a snack (we had one person who was a great baker and always brought in delicious cookies. She moved away, so maybe I’ll step up next year? We’ll see-I don’t know if I’m ready for that commitment yet ;)) We had a lot of people, probably around 20-25 or so at each meeting, but it was never chaotic and always a really enjoyable conversation.
I really enjoyed each and every book and discussion, even when I thought for sure I was not going to like the book. In fact, each discussion opened my eyes to things I might not have thought about while reading, and made me enjoy the book even MORE-every single time. We have a wide range of ages, backgrounds and genders in this group (I think that is the great thing about joining a book club through your local library, or a public space rather than just having one with your friends) and I can’t wait for the next year’s to begin! In case you’re interested, here is the list of books we read this past year (click the title to get more info and purchase the book). Each and every one held up on it’s own merit and I feel like a better person after having read and discussed each one. Some I enjoyed more than others, but all provided to be fantastic for a discussion and I’m happy to have read them all.
I hope you have a chance to join a book club if that’s something you think you would enjoy or something you’ve been thinking about. Although there are 100’s of ways to go about starting, joining, or participating in a book club, this worked wonderfully for us! Plus, my wife and I joined it together last year and that made it even more fantastic 🙂
So, there you have it! Let me know if you participate in a book club and if so, what books you’ve read and how you like it. If you aren’t a part of one now, would you like to join one? As always, find me over on Instagram or comment here!
Author: Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Published: April 2, 2019
Publisher: One World
Where I picked up my book: My local indie
Key Words: short stories, Latina with indigenous ancestry, Denver/Colorado centric, feminist, heritage
My Rating: 5
This collection was everything I wanted it to be and more! It’s centered around Latina women of indigenous ancestry and that is definitely the shining star in all of these stories and BRAVOOOO for bringing this into the spotlight. It felt refreshing, and I feel honored to have these words.
These stories revolve around women, mostly working class women, who are strong, courageous and determined humans. Their ancestors were here before America was America and I think people (mostly white people) forget this or unfortunately, choose not to care. History books tell us certain stories about the wild West and how America was discovered, but this collection shows us the truth and gives us a lens to see the West from something other than a white person’s gaze. Halle-frigin-lujah. It helps us remember and honor those cultures that were here first-and that makes me feel like I’m holding literal magic in my hands.
There is a depth to each story and always a sense that although things might be tough or hard, or let’s be honest, just real, cause this shit isn’t always easy…but that there is a way to progress and move forward. BUT THEN, add women-centered stories, culture, intimate portrayals, gorgeous sentence structure and storytelling and characters you fall in love with immediately (for both good and bad)-yes please! BUT WAIT, you also get love, atmospheric descriptions where landscape and location plays a main character, thoughts about heritage and what that means, friendship, and family dynamics…screaming. BUT ALSO, most of the narrative takes place in Denver, Colorado (I’m only a short drive from Denver and so many references and places in the stories I could picture) and I nearly screamed with excitement as I frantically flipped pages while soaking it all in. This collection is that good.
These stories are tough, emotional and have a sense of sadness interwoven in each one. So when you read them, don’t expect happy, funny (although I laughed quite a few times), or a lighthearted read. What you need to expect is a connection with characters you may never make again (although I have high hopes we will start to see more of this from authors and from Fajardo-Anstine herself) and a sense that our true history is important and should be honored. This collection will make you laugh, cry, worry, think and ultimately, be a better person. I truly believe in the magic of this book.
Sabrina and Corina is beautiful collection of stories (even the cover is one of the most beautiful covers I have ever seen) and I would suggest you run and grab a copy of this book asap. I promise you, you won’t regret it!
P.S. I was lucky enough to meet Kali Fajardo-Anstine last week in Denver and I haven’t come down from the high since. I can’t wait to see what else she has to offer us-I know a book is in the works for sure and I’m thrilled!!!
As always, come find me on Instagram (@bookishfolk)!
Summary (via Penguin Random House):
Latinas of Indigenous descent living in the American West take center stage in this haunting debut story collection—a powerful meditation on friendship, mothers and daughters, and the deep-rooted truths of our homelands.
“Here are stories that blaze like wildfires, with characters who made me laugh and broke my heart.”—Sandra Cisneros
Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s magnetic story collection breathes life into her Latina characters of indigenous ancestry and the land they inhabit in the American West. Against the remarkable backdrop of Denver, Colorado—a place that is as fierce as it is exquisite—these women navigate the land the way they navigate their lives: with caution, grace, and quiet force.
In “Sugar Babies,” ancestry and heritage are hidden inside the earth but tend to rise during land disputes. “Any Further West” follows a sex worker and her daughter as they leave their ancestral home in southern Colorado only to find a foreign and hostile land in California. In “Tomi,” a woman leaves prison and finds herself in a gentrified city that is a shadow of the one she remembers from her childhood. And in the title story, “Sabrina & Corina,” a Denver family falls into a cycle of violence against women, coming together only through ritual.
Sabrina & Corina is a moving narrative of unrelenting feminine power and an exploration of the universal experiences of abandonment, heritage, and an eternal sense of home.
You might know that Pride Month takes place in June and that there are parades and celebrations all over the country and the world to celebrate LGBTQ+ rights. BUT, it’s also important to remember the history and origin story of Pride and why it is so important to celebrate, but to also be respectful and mindful of the story that is so often forgotten in a sea of rainbow flags, floats and liquor. Here is a great article that everyone should read all about the Stonewall Riots (yes, Pride started as a riot), it’s history and what it all means to us today. It makes me cry every time I think about it. This year is the 50th anniversary of that riot too, so send some extra love and let’s make sure that history is remembered, but never repeated. All that to say, please celebrate this month, go to the parties, hug your friends, be a good ally (if you’re straight), be a good queer (if you’re queer), drink the shots out of rainbow cups, but just make sure that you also take some time to research Pride’s history and give a virtual high five to all the people that came before us. They fought a good fight and brought us to where we are today and for that, I am forever grateful. AND ALSO!!!-use this wallpaper I created all the month through! As always, send me a message here and let me know what you think, or find me over on Instagram (@bookishfolk). And please share this website and blog, my Instagram and June’s wallpaper with your friends!
Author: Casey McQuiston
Published: May 14, 2019
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Where I picked up my book: my local indie
Key Words: queer, political, romance
My Rating: 5
Synopsis (via Macmillan website):
THE INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER that is a *MUST-READ BOOK* for US WEEKLY, VOGUE, NPR, OPRAHMAG.COM, BUZZFEED, and more!
What happens when America’s First Son falls in love with the Prince of Wales?
When his mother became President, Alex Claremont-Diaz was promptly cast as the American equivalent of a young royal. Handsome, charismatic, genius—his image is pure millennial-marketing gold for the White House. There’s only one problem: Alex has a beef with the actual prince, Henry, across the pond. And when the tabloids get hold of a photo involving an Alex-Henry altercation, U.S./British relations take a turn for the worse.
Heads of family, state, and other handlers devise a plan for damage control: staging a truce between the two rivals. What at first begins as a fake, Instragramable friendship grows deeper, and more dangerous, than either Alex or Henry could have imagined. Soon Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret romance with a surprisingly unstuffy Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations and begs the question: Can love save the world after all? Where do we find the courage, and the power, to be the people we are meant to be? And how can we learn to let our true colors shine through? Casey McQuiston’s Red, White & Royal Blue proves: true love isn’t always diplomatic.
Oooof…how do I put into words just how much I loved this book. I should start out by saying that at first, Red, White and Royal Blue wasn’t even on my radar. I thought it sounded a little too fluffy for my liking and maybe a little too youthful for my old lady status. BUT Ohhhh I was SO WRONG and anyone that might have these thoughts too-give this one a chance and I can pretty much guarantee, you won’t be disappointed!
First, I just can’t stop thinking about how gloriously queer this book is! When I think about representation in books or movies, I have trouble thinking of a single piece of fiction that I read or watched as a kid where I could see myself within the pages. Maybe that’s why it took me a long time to come out-to myself, or to my friends and family? Maybe that’s why in relationships, it always felt like something was missing from them? Maybe that’s why I felt like there was something off in my life, but I just didn’t know how to pinpoint what that was? After reading books as an adult, it’s so obvious-I was missing representation. I never saw myself in the books I was reading or the movies I was watching. I saw white, straight couples on a regular basis and that’s all I knew, so I set out to make that straight life happen. (I was already born white, and with that comes the privilege of seeing my color at least represented in books or on the screen, but that is definitely not the case for so many people.) So I tried living that straight life I thought I was suppose to live. I tried, and I failed. I realized who I was. THANK GOD! But I can’t help but wonder what path I would have taken if I was able to see a lesbian couple creating a life for themselves in fiction. Or a gay couple raising a family. Or a teen working through their sexuality and coming out to themselves. All of that to say, representation matters and I am so so SO happy to see books like this now popping up all over the place. We are seeing representation all across the spectrum now (in terms of race, culture, religion, body types, gender, family structure, sexuality, etc) and I could scream it from the rooftops how happy I am about that. It gives me such high hopes for the future generations!
Second, the political talk in this book is real. It’s far from fluff, but instead, it’s true political commentary on our past and current state of political affairs here in the US, as well as what the British monarchy looks like up close and personal. I took a deep dive into that aspect of the book and loved every second of it.
Third, the character development is fantastic. By the end, these characters were my friends and I still think about them on a daily basis. “How is Alex doing today?” is a regular thought of mine since finishing up this book. We get to immerse ourselves in a thought out and detailed relationship, we can imagine what it feels like to be the sister of a prince, we feel each character’s feels and have a good hold on their thoughts. Plus, the characters outside of the two main characters are not just there as props, but we know them equally as well, if not more, than the mail characters themselves. You will fall in love with them all-promise. Well…the maybe not the queen, but the rest of them, yes 🙂
Fourth, this book is seriously funny. I found myself laughing out loud multiple times while reading. All of the characters have a great sense of humor, banter and a deep friendship between each other and it was everything. I was lucky enough to hear McQuiston speak last week at my local indie and I’m happy to announce, she’s just as funny in person as she is in her writing. It shows in her writing and I couldn’t have loved that more if I tried.
Fifth, and maybe most importantly, this book gave me hope for our future. After a hell of a rough election in 2016, I’ve had a feeling of dread and fear settle into my life. All of a sudden, I find myself constantly worried for my friends and anyone of color in this country. I fear that my own marriage could be taken away or that my wife and I could be put in harms way because we love each other. I dread what our future looks like when someone like Trump could be elected in the first place. I am nervous for all of my queer friends to travel outside of the safety of our own bubbles we have created for ourselves. I fear for immigrants in this country that are being torn away from the only home they know and deserve and for children being separated from their families at the border. I get nervous for all of us women at our jobs and walking down the street. I could go on about my fears and anxieties that have risen up in me since 2016, but for the first time in a long time, I’ve read something that has given me hope and helps me see that the future might be brighter than I had once thought. I am surprised that I found this hope in a rom com, humorous book that at first glance I thought I was too old for, but that’s what is magical about this book. I’m so incredibly thankful to McQuiston for that.
All of this to say, run, don’t walk to grab Red, White and Royal Blue. You won’t be disappointed and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be screaming it from the rooftops to anyone that will listen…”CLAREMONT FOR PRESIDENT” and “HISTORY, HUH?”
Author: Nafissa Thompson-Spires
Published: April 10, 2018
Publisher: 37 Ink
Where I picked up my book: Audiobook from the library
Key Words: Short Stories, Diverse Reads, Black Stories, Debut Novel
My Rating: 4
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Longlisted for the National Book Award for Fiction and Kirkus Prize Finalist
Calling to mind the best works of Paul Beatty and Junot Díaz, this collection of moving, timely, and darkly funny stories examines the concept of black identity in this so-called post-racial era.
A stunning new talent in literary fiction, Nafissa Thompson-Spires grapples with black identity and the contemporary middle class in these compelling, boundary-pushing vignettes.
Each captivating story plunges headfirst into the lives of new, utterly original characters. Some are darkly humorous—from two mothers exchanging snide remarks through notes in their kids’ backpacks, to the young girl contemplating how best to notify her Facebook friends of her impending suicide—while others are devastatingly poignant—a new mother and funeral singer who is driven to madness with grief for the young black boys who have fallen victim to gun violence, or the teen who struggles between her upper middle class upbringing and her desire to fully connect with black culture.
Thompson-Spires fearlessly shines a light on the simmering tensions and precariousness of black citizenship. Her stories are exquisitely rendered, satirical, and captivating in turn, engaging in the ongoing conversations about race and identity politics, as well as the vulnerability of the black body. Boldly resisting categorization and easy answers, Nafissa Thompson-Spires is an original and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
Let me start off by saying, generally speaking, I am not a huge fan of short stories. There is something about diving into a story, being immersed in that world and staying there for a few days that I love. BUT...Heads of the Colored People may have changed my thinking! It was exactly what I never thought a short story collection could be.
First, each story truly has a life and feel of it’s own. As I said before, I don’t necessary like jumping around and having my soul flipped with each story and this seems like the opposite of what I like, but these stories almost warrant a need to flip. Some made me cry hard, some made me laugh, some made me tear up, some made me angry, but all were really powerful and shook me to my core.
Second, a few of these stories are connected by characters and by doing this, we get to see different sides of the story from different perspectives-which I LOVED. Maybe this helped me feel like I was on a journey while reading the book in it’s entirety, but either way-it was brilliant and I was happy to see some of the characters again when I thought I had to let them go in previous stories.
Third, the character development was out of this world. The personalities of most of these characters were so real, it was almost unreal and all I wanted to do was sit down and have a cup of coffee with them. Thompson-Spires wrote fantastic characters that made me feel all the feels.
Fourth, I learned more about what it is like to be Black and middle class. Yes, there are some commonalities in growing up with any skin color and middle class (I felt a connection having grown up in a relatively middle class home), but the ingrained insecurities and biases associated with being Black and middle class really come out in these stories. What does it feel like to be Black, middle class and female when there is a slight hostility against you simply for existing at this intersection? This question felt at the forefront of a lot of the stories and it was magnificent.
I’ve thought about this collection for weeks now and have attempted to write a raving review multiple times-but alas, I am failing at putting into words just how brilliant this collection is. Heads of the Colored People talks about Blackness, racial identity, middle class, our current digital age, personhood, privilege, politics, depression, parenting and so much more. It’s sure to make you more self-aware, see the world around you for what it is and what it isn’t, and see the quirks and intricacies of ourselves that we often dismiss or never even see. This is a fantastic collection that I would highly recommend!
Author: Amy Rose Capetta
Published: May 14, 2019
Where I picked up my book: Free from the publisher via NetGalley-THANK YOU! (this does not influence my options at all)
Key Words: Queer, witches, fantasy, YA, magical
My Rating: 5
Synopsis (via Candlewick Press website):
Danny didn’t know what she was looking for when she and her mother spread out a map of the United States and Danny put her finger down on Tempest, California. What she finds are the Grays: a group of friends who throw around terms like queer and witch like they’re ordinary and everyday, though they feel like an earthquake to Danny. But Danny didn’t just find the Grays. They cast a spell that calls her halfway across the country, because she has something they need: she can bring back Imogen, the most powerful of the Grays, missing since the summer night she wandered into the woods alone. But before Danny can find Imogen, she finds a dead boy with a redwood branch through his heart. Something is very wrong amid the trees and fog of the Lost Coast, and whatever it is, it can kill. Lush, eerie, and imaginative, Amy Rose Capetta’s tale overflows with the perils and power of discovery — and what it means to find your home, yourself, and your way forward.
Oh I really, REALLY loved this book. Witches, unapologetic queers, beautiful scenery, outsiders that stick together, a diverse group of friends, feminism and imperfectly perfect characters are just the beginning of why I loved this book so much. Let me break down my love a little bit more.
First, growing up, I didn’t get to see characters like these in books, or movies, or in real-life either, if I’m being perfectly honest. People that are unapologetically being themselves-whether that entails the color of their skin, their culture, their sexuality, what they like or how they like it, how they identify, or a combo of all of the above. I wasn’t seeing that anywhere. Here it is though! These characters showed us what it’s like to be different from mainstream culture and then how to embrace those differences. I found myself fist pumping for each of them every step of the way. They are the ones we all aspire to be. And after reading the author’s notes at the end where she made mention of this book being for those different ones, those who don’t know where they fit and those who live in places where being different is hard, it really solidified my thoughts. Basically, she wrote this book for the magical ones and I’m forever here for anything like that! I hope this one gets into the hands of as many young people as possible so they all know just how magical they really are.
Second, the scenery descriptions in this book were everything. I lived for a year in San Francisco and I remember those majestic redwoods and their smells and the fog surrounding life at times and it was all brought back to me through Capetta’s words. I could smell the woods, feel the fog on my face and walk in the soft earth below the trees. The writing alone in this book felt magical to me. Trees are truly my love language and right from the beginning, I knew I was set up to LOVE this book.
Third, the queer witch talk. Let me repeat…so much amazing, carefully crafted, inspiring, exciting queer witch talk. And I’m in for all of it! I’ve always thought of queers as a little bit witchy anyways (myself included in this) so all the YESES!
Fourth, I’ve always thought that we (those outside of “societal norms”) carry each other. Queers, witches, women, people of color, and any others living outside of the societal norm…we are all a part of each other and we hold each other up. We may not interact on a daily basis, but when you come for one of us, you come for all of us. I’ve always felt that whether it’s in politics, in a classroom, in a bar, or in my daily life. I will stand tall and strong behind my other weirdos and this book might be the one that has made me feel that the strongest. Throughout the book I kept thinking of that concept and it would make me so emotional I wanted to cry, or yell my loyalty from a mountaintop while pounding my chest. (side note: I stuck with crying for all of those waiting for the live mountaintop feed).
Lastly…my life goal is to now become a Gray.
There is so much more to talk about in this book, but I’ll leave you to go read it now. If you enjoy witches, magic, queers, YA literature and writing that you can taste-I would highly suggest this book. I don’t think you will be disappointed. As always, let me know what you think! You can find me over on Instagram at bookishfolk or right here on the blog! Happy reading and thanks again Candlewick Press for the free copy!
Author: Angie Kim
Published: April 16, 2019
Publisher: Sarah Crichton Books
Where I picked up my book: Book of the Month choice!
Key Words: courtroom thriller, mystery thriller, diverse books, #ownvoices
My Rating: 4.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
A literary courtroom drama about a Korean immigrant family and a young, single mother accused of murdering her eight-year-old autistic son
My husband asked me to lie. Not a big lie. He probably didn’t even consider it a lie, and neither did I, at first . . .
In the small town of Miracle Creek, Virginia, Young and Pak Yoo run an experimental medical treatment device known as the Miracle Submarine—a pressurized oxygen chamber that patients enter for therapeutic “dives” with the hopes of curing issues like autism or infertility. But when the Miracle Submarine mysteriously explodes, killing two people, a dramatic murder trial upends the Yoos’ small community.
Who or what caused the explosion? Was it the mother of one of the patients, who claimed to be sick that day but was smoking down by the creek? Or was it Young and Pak themselves, hoping to cash in on a big insurance payment and send their daughter to college? The ensuing trial uncovers unimaginable secrets from that night—trysts in the woods, mysterious notes, child-abuse charges—as well as tense rivalries and alliances among a group of people driven to extraordinary degrees of desperation and sacrifice.
Angie Kim’s Miracle Creek is a thoroughly contemporary take on the courtroom drama, drawing on the author’s own life as a Korean immigrant, former trial lawyer, and mother of a real-life “submarine” patient. An addictive debut novel for fans of Liane Moriarty and Celeste Ng, Miracle Creek is both a twisty page-turner and a deeply moving story about the way inconsequential lies and secrets can add up—with tragic consequences.
Miracle Creek was one of my Book of the Month picks for April, and I made a promise to myself that I would read my BOTM choice/s before the next book arrives (so as not to add to my ever growing TBR pile of books or feel like I was just spending money on a book subscription to spent money) and so far, so good 🙂 So I dug into this book once I finished Normal People (my other choice in April) and I really enjoyed it! My immediate thought when I cracked it open was…this is giving me To Kill a Mockingbird vibes, and I was totally IN for that ride! It didn’t disappoint and I was hooked from sentence one.
First, let’s talk about the fact that I had no idea that Hyperbaric Oxygen Therapy was an actual thing. Well…I knew it was a way to treat decompression sickness in scuba divers, but I had no idea that it was also a method used to treat a variety of other medical conditions. Don’t ask me where I’ve been…but I went down a deep rabbit hole researching this alternative method as a ways to treat things such as infections, embolisms, infertility, Alzeimer’s Disease, Lyme Disease and autism, to name a few. It’s a pretty controversial method and isn’t necessarily regulated by the FDA for these various health conditions or diseases, but the statistics are surprising and I’m so glad that Kim found it interesting enough to write a book about!
Second, this book delves into immigration, what it means to move your family to a different country, what it means to fit in, and what it means to make choices for your family in search for a “better life.” I was so engrossed by this part of the book and any book with #ownvoices at the forefront. This is when the magic happens and I felt it while reading this book for sure!
Third, the whodoneit portion of this book had me on a wild goose chase and I LOVED every second of it. I was passing blame on everyone I could and as quickly as I could flip the page. Kim did a really amazing job laying just enough guilt and innocence on each character, reminding us as readers, that no one is perfect and most of us have some secrets and skeletons in our closets.
Fourth, this is exactly what a debut novel should be. Kim did an amazing job developing each character, taking bits of her life and merging them with a highly creative, engrossing and teaching story. These characters are bound to stay with me for a long time to come and I regularly wonder how they are doing. I would highly recommend reading this book and I’m excited to see what else Kim has to offer to us!
Also-this article by Angie Kim is EVERYTHING. I have not only so much more appreciation for her as an author, but as a mother as well. Please give it a read and as always, find me over on Instagram (@bookishfolk).
Author: Sally Rooney
Published: April 16, 2019
Where I picked up my book: Book of the Month choice!
Key Words: growing up, Irish life, intricacies of relationships and family
My Rating: 4
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
At school Connell and Marianne pretend not to know each other. He’s popular and well-adjusted, star of the school soccer team while she is lonely, proud, and intensely private. But when Connell comes to pick his mother up from her housekeeping job at Marianne’s house, a strange and indelible connection grows between the two teenagers—one they are determined to conceal.
A year later, they’re both studying at Trinity College in Dublin. Marianne has found her feet in a new social world while Connell hangs at the sidelines, shy and uncertain. Throughout their years in college, Marianne and Connell circle one another, straying toward other people and possibilities but always magnetically, irresistibly drawn back together. Then, as she veers into self-destruction and he begins to search for meaning elsewhere, each must confront how far they are willing to go to save the other.
Sally Rooney brings her brilliant psychological acuity and perfectly spare prose to a story that explores the subtleties of class, the electricity of first love, and the complex entanglements of family and friendship.
First, I will say when I finished this book, I enjoyed it. I didn’t rave or cry when I read the last sentence, but I gave it a solid 3 stars. As soon as I finished the book I thought, ‘huh…I wonder what all the fuss is about. That didn’t blow me out of the water or anything.’ And then I gave it a few days to ruminate and I literally haven’t stopped thinking about it since. I’m still constantly thinking about Marianne and Connell (the main characters) and wondering how they are doing. I’m still reeling about things that went on in the book and wondering why these characters made some choices that they made. I’m still thinking about how class plays a role in my life, and my friends lives, on a daily basis and if we act according to our class. I literally can’t get these characters, or their story, out of my head. Because of all of this-I’m definitely bumping my rating up to a 4. So fair warning…keep this in mind when you read Normal People.
Second, Sally Rooney’s writing is amazing. This is the first Rooney book that I’ve read, but if they are all as well-thought out, intimate, and descriptive with well constructed characters and plot and scenery-I will read all of the Rooney books that make their way into this world.
Third, I just LOVE how flawed and real the characters in this book are. I’m telling you, they are almost so real to me, that I’m having trouble not worrying about them as I write this review. Both of the main characters are broken, misunderstood, often confused by themselves and the world around them. You will root for them, get angry at them, cry with them, wonder with them, and ultimately…fall in love with them. Again, all of this to say…Rooney’s writing is that good.
Fourth, this book takes all of our lives, all of our questions, all of our insecurities and achievements and puts them into this book. Through these characters, we learn a little bit more about the world around us and ultimately, ourselves. I would highly recommend giving this book a read! It might take you a minute to appreciate it, but once you do…I think you’ll be a better person for having read it.
Author: Molly Dektar
Published: April 9, 2019
Publisher: Katherine Simon & Schuster
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: family, coming of age, communal living (cult)
My Rating: 3
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
When a young woman leaves her family—and the civilized world—to join an off-the-grid community headed by an enigmatic leader, she discovers that belonging comes with a deadly cost, in this lush and searing debut novel.
At nineteen, Berie encounters a seductive and mysterious man at a bus station near her home in North Carolina. Shut off from the people around her, she finds herself compelled by his promise of a new life. He ferries her into a place of order and chaos: the Ash Family farm. There, she joins an intentional community living off the fertile land of the mountains, bound together by high ideals and through relationships she can’t untangle. Berie—now renamed Harmony—renounces her old life and settles into her new one on the farm. She begins to make friends. And then they start to disappear.
Thrilling and profound, The Ash Family explores what we will sacrifice in the search for happiness, and the beautiful and grotesque power of the human spirit as it seeks its ultimate place of belonging.
First I will say, this is the idea that has been spinning around in my head since I was a coffee-gulping, clove smoking, book loving English major who made her own clothes and had dreams of writing and reading for a living while living communally and off the land. Ohhhh to be a college kid again lol. I wrote a plot outline and bought a book to help me sketch out my ideas, but that’s about as far as I got. When I first read the synopsis of the book, I yelped, “this is THE book.” I was excited to dig in!
The good: I thought that the descriptions and writing itself was beautiful. I was in those woods, smelling those smells and experiencing those adventures. I also loved the idea of exploring communal living and the way Dektar wrote some of these characters was fantastic! Climate change is real and I loved how this was shown and America’s denial was mentioned. That’s using your author power for good 🙂 And sign me up for anything that has cult-y feels to it! I am completely enamored by cult stories.
The not so great: As for plot and actual story line, I think there was a bit more that could have been explored and it, at times, fell a bit flat for me. That is a big deal for me. There wasn’t much happening and I found my brain wandering a little bit as I was reading. Also, I am not always opposed to an unreliable narrator, but here it didn’t serve me in any way.
Overall, it was a good story line and one that I really wanted to love. With a bit more happening in the story, I think I would have LOVED this book, but as it stands-it was just an okay read for me. With that said, I’m really looking forward to what else Dektar has to offer us-I think she shows fantastic potential with this debut title.
Did you read The Ash Family? What did you think? Let me know here, or over on Instagram (bookishfolk). Also-throw any and all cult/communal living books my way! I am obsessed and still looking for the one that got away 😉
I LOVE Alice Hoffman’s books, but have a particular love for Practical Magic and The Rules of Magic. There’s feminism, witchy feels, gardens, soap-making, tea-drinking, family, love, potions, apothecary, beautiful language-I would live inside these books if I could 🙂 So it seemed like a quote, some drawing, and piece of watercolor art for the background was needed for this month…and maybe it’s time for a re-read too 🙂 I hope you enjoy and as always, find me on Instagram!
This Saturday is one of my favorite days of the year! It’s Independent Bookstore Day! Okay, I love the first snow of the year almost as much, and most holidays, and pizza nights…but you get my point 😉 This is a day to celebrate all things indie, visit your local bookstores, make purchases from local shops, put money back into your community, talk about the importance of independent bookstores, and celebrate all the reasons why local indies mean so much to you. I live in a great city, with a few fantastic independent bookstores, so I plan to visit those this year, but I was trying to think of other ways we can all celebrate the day! Here is a list of ways to show your love of independent bookstores on Saturday regardless of your location, ability, finances, work schedules, etc!
What really matters here folks is getting out, supporting your local indies any way you can and spreading the word that community matters, spending your dollars locally matters, and independent bookstores matter, not only on Saturday, but every day of the year! I hope you enjoy the day and please, let me know here or on Instagram, how you spent your day celebrating!
Author: Jacob Tobia
Published: March 5, 2019
Publisher: Katherine G.P. Putnam’s Sons
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: Memoir, Trans Lit, LGBTQ+, gender studies
My Rating: 3.75
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
A heart-wrenching, eye-opening, and giggle-inducing memoir about what it’s like to grow up not sure if you’re (a) a boy, (b) a girl, (c) something in between, or (d) all of the above.
“When the political reality facing this country seems dark, we need shinier, sparklier thinkers in the public eye. With a signature style matched only by their wit, Jacob fits that bill perfectly.” –Alan Cumming
From the moment a doctor in Raleigh, North Carolina, put “male” on Jacob Tobia’s birth certificate, everything went wrong. Alongside “male” came many other, far less neutral words: words that carried expectations about who Jacob was and who Jacob should be, words like “masculine” and “aggressive” and “cargo shorts” and “SPORTS!”
Naturally sensitive, playful, creative, and glitter-obsessed, as a child Jacob was given the label “sissy.” In the two decades that followed, “sissy” joined forces with “gay,” “trans,” “nonbinary,” and “too-queer-to-function” to become a source of pride and, today, a rallying cry for a much-needed gender revolution. Through revisiting their childhood and calling out the stereotypes that each of us have faced, Jacob invites us to rethink what we know about gender and offers a bold blueprint for a healed world–one free from gender-based trauma and bursting with trans-inclusive feminism.
From Jacob’s Methodist childhood and the hallowed halls of Duke University to the portrait-laden parlors of the White House, Sissy takes you on a gender odyssey you won’t soon forget. Writing with the fierce honesty, wildly irreverent humor, and wrenching vulnerability that have made them a media sensation, Jacob shatters the long-held notion that people are easily sortable into “men” and “women.” Sissy guarantees that you’ll never think about gender–both other people’s people’s and your own–the same way again.
It took me a minute to get my thoughts and feelings down about this book. Firstly, I will say this is an important book and one you should grab immediately to better understand yourself, gender, society and the world in general. Books like this one are pertinent in moving the narrative forward and I’m 100% in for all of them!
With that said, I have both things I loved about this book and didn’t so much love about the book. I’ll start with what I didn’t love so I can end on a high note.
THINGS I LOVED
Overall, I would highly recommend this book. Not just because it’s queer, but because books like this need to be read in order to understand society as a whole. With education comes learning and acceptance and I applaud books like Jacob’s.
Have you read this one yet? Let me know what you thought here in the comments or on Instagram (@bookishfolk).
Author: Tehlor Kay Mejia
Published: February 26, 2019
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: YA, Fantasy, Latinx, LGBTQ+, political
My Rating: 4.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.
On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?
I LOVED this book! When I heard it described as a YA version in the same vein as Red Clocks and The Handmaid’s Tale, I knew I was in! BUT it deserves SO MUCH MORE than that comparison. In my opinion, this is a book unto itself. It is is set in a LatinX dystopian world (YESSSSSS) and it’s gay (YESSSS) and deals with societal roles, feminism, fighting societal norms, politics, immigration, patriarchy (and how it needs to be taken down), diversity and so much more (YESSSSS). It’s a fantastic and timely commentary that will have you sucked in from page one. It’s right up my alley and it did not disappoint at all!
Mejia’s writing is fantastic and as I read it, I felt like I was walking the streets she described, eating the foods the characters were eating, and experiencing each character’s every action. When there was tension, I felt it and when there was love, I also felt it. At one point, I was reading outside and on the edge of my seat about a situation happening in the book. A neighborhood kid yelled and I literally jumped out of my chair spilling tea all over. I was that engrossed and that doesn’t happen to me very often. The writing is that good. And this is a debut novel-I can hardly believe that, but it’s true!
If you’re into dystopian #ownvoices, timly, YA novels-please run and grab this book immediately. But let me warn you…this is the first book in a series, so…you’ll have to wait to see where the plot goes long after you read the last sentence of this book. Just a warning, because I was totally taken off guard and almost wrote Mejia an email or at least DMed her and bunch of angry face emoji’s lol. I can’t WAIT to see what else this debut author has to offer us!
Have you read it? What did you think? If not, are you planning to? As always, find me on Instagram!
Libraries have always held a special place in my heart. It was one of the first places I remember visiting as a child. I used to go to “school” at the library (they had a class once or twice a week) and I would go with my brother and cousins. I remember really LOVING it. We would sing songs, work on a craft project, read, listen to the teacher read us a story and have snacks. Basically, it was an one hour preschool class at the library in the 80’s when kids didn’t really go to preschool and kindergarten was only a half day. I think my favorite part was getting to fill my bag with free books to take home and read til my heart’s content. I still get mildly giddy when I think about going to the library. All those books are free for me to read and take home and enjoy?! It still slightly blows my mind. I’ve always made it a point to explore the library first thing when I move somewhere. I even try to search out the local library when I go on vacation or somewhere to visit. It makes me feel grounded and I feel a sense of community around me. Plus, they are oftentimes beautiful places to explore. Einstein was right about a lot of things (you know, science-y stuff) but I think that the greatest words he spoke were, “The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” Here is a whole Wikipedia article about the history of libraries and I found it fascinating.
So I thought it would be fun to share some ways to celebrate in your own community.
Do you love your local library? Are you planning to/did you celebrate your libraries this week? Let me know here or over on Instagram!
“The only thing you absolutely have to know is the location of the library.” -Einstein
Author: Davis Grann
Published: April 18, 2017
Where I picked up my book: Book Club (Thank you Friends of the Library for donating)
Key Words: Osage Nation, Native American History, Oklahoma, True Crime
My Rating: 4.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
In the 1920s, the richest people per capita in the world were members of the Osage Indian Nation in Oklahoma. After oil was discovered beneath their land, the Osage rode in chauffeured automobiles, built mansions, and sent their children to study in Europe.
Then, one by one, they began to be killed off. One Osage woman, Mollie Burkhart, watched as her family was murdered. Her older sister was shot. Her mother was then slowly poisoned. And it was just the beginning, as more Osage began to die under mysterious circumstances.
In this last remnant of the Wild West—where oilmen like J. P. Getty made their fortunes and where desperadoes such as Al Spencer, “the Phantom Terror,” roamed – virtually anyone who dared to investigate the killings were themselves murdered. As the death toll surpassed more than twenty-four Osage, the newly created F.B.I. took up the case, in what became one of the organization’s first major homicide investigations. But the bureau was then notoriously corrupt and initially bungled the case. Eventually the young director, J. Edgar Hoover, turned to a former Texas Ranger named Tom White to try to unravel the mystery. White put together an undercover team, including one of the only Native American agents in the bureau. They infiltrated the region, struggling to adopt the latest modern techniques of detection. Together with the Osage they began to expose one of the most sinister conspiracies in American history.
A true-life murder mystery about one of the most monstrous crimes in American history.
This book gave me all the feels. Mostly anger, outrage, devastation and shame, if I’m being honest. This is a well-written, well-researched and compelling account of a horrific injustice.
First, I will say, I was quite ignorant about this part of history, although that shouldn’t surprise me. Our education system was set up to show white people in a good light, as pioneers and discoverers of lands that we live on and love today. As many of us now know, nothing could be farther from the truth, but that’s the story and schools and curriculum are sticking to, especially when I was growing up. (Side note: I really, really hope that children are being educated to know the real story of Christopher Columbus and what white people did to the Natives that were already living here long before he and his crew came and wreaked havoc. (Here is a pretty cut and dry telling of Christopher Columbus if you’re interested and here is another.)
Second, I have an enormous amount of additional information now as an adult, but I am embarrassed to say, this story of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma fell through the cracks for me. I am outraged and stunned by this history and I’m so thankful that David Grann chose to tell this story. It gives the members of the Osage Indian Nation the energy and attention they deserve and gives us, as readers, a better understanding of the atrocities that occurred in this part of the United States while it was being “discovered.” (Also know as, being taken away from the Osage Indian Nation and other Prairie tribes and being overtaken by white people).
Finally, this is a great book that will keep you riveted while reading and have you reeling for a long time to come. Grann gives voice to people who were murdered for greed, jealousy and pure racism, along with the families that were left wonder in fear as to what happened to their relatives. As a bonus, the book is full of photos throughout that adds that extra layer of understanding. It’s not an easy read, but I would highly recommend picking it up if you haven’t already. And…a movie is being filmed as we speak! As always, let me know your thoughts.
Author: Lydia Fitzpatrick
Published: April 2, 2019
Publisher: Penguin Random House
Where I picked up my book: Free from publisher for an honest review (THANK YOU!!)
Key Words: Coming of age, family dynamics (brothers), Russia
My Rating: 3.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Lights All Night Long is the stunning story of Ilya Alexandrovich Ekhlakov and his older brother, Vladimir. Two brothers who live in Berlozhniki, a refinery town on the edge of the arctic circle, where they spend their days watching bootleg American VHSs and their nights sleeping head-to-toe on the pull-out couch in their apartment. Ilya is a lingual prodigy; Vladimir the worst student at School #652 and an avid explorer of Berlozhniki’s seedier side. Still, the brothers are close, their love a careful balance of admiration and jealousy. When Ilya is tapped for an exchange program between Berlozhniki and an American refinery town, that balance is upset and Vladimir disappears into Berlozhniki’s underworld.
That winter, Ilya’s last in Russia, a new drug called krokodil surfaces in Berlozhniki and three women are murdered. Just as Ilya is about to depart for America, Vladimir is charged with the murders. Ilya arrives in Effie, Louisiana heartbroken, and in no mood to assimilate. But with the help of his host parents’ daughter – a local girl with secrets of her own – he embarks on a mission to prove Vladimir’s innocence. Lights All Night Long is a thrilling story of the fierce love between brothers, the sacrifices we make for family, and the power the past holds over the future.
There is not much that I love more than a fantastic, debut novel and I’m definitely here to say-this one checks that box! It is a well-written and intense read that will be sure to make you think about this family, and their story, long after you read the last sentence. Although it started a little slow for me, that didn’t take away from how much I enjoyed the book overall. Fitzpatrick has a way with her beautiful prose and character development that can’t help but hook you in as a reader and once that happened, I was in. The story is about brotherhood at the forefront, but it is intertwined with mystery, poverty, murder, a bit of religion, decisions, intentions, role models, drugs, friendship, family, loyalty and so much more. It’s a story full of wins, full of losses and ultimately, about what it’s like to love someone so much that fighting for them is your only option. It’s a story that will make your heart ache, make you think, make you laugh, make you understand humanity a bit better and is sure to bring you to tears a few times. I’m excited to see what else Fitzpatrick brings us. Happy Release Day Lights All Night Long! I think you will be impacting a few hearts with your words.
Hiiii! Another month is here! I love April because, at least here in Colorado, we start to open the windows during the day, my bike gets more action, we start seriously thinking about gardens and making some flower and seed purchases, and we take some small steps to check off our never-ending list of outdoor projects. It’s a good month! But the icing on the cake is….it’s the month we celebrate Indie Bookstore Day! (click here for some more info). It takes place on Saturday, April 27th this year and I’m pumped to see what my local bookstores have going on that day! So I thought I’d make you a wallpaper for your phone to celebrate! As always…use it, share it with friends, spread the word and let me know what you think here or on Instagram!
Author: Candice Carty-Williams
Published: March 19, 2019
Publisher: Scout Press (Simon and Schuster)
Where I picked up my book: My first Book of the Month Pick!
Key Words: Contemporary Fiction, Debut Novel, Personal Journey, Dating Life
My Rating: 4
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Queenie Jenkins is a 25-year-old Jamaican British woman living in London, straddling two cultures and slotting neatly into neither. She works at a national newspaper, where she’s constantly forced to compare herself to her white middle class peers. After a messy break up from her long-term white boyfriend, Queenie seeks comfort in all the wrong places…including several hazardous men who do a good job of occupying brain space and a bad job of affirming self-worth.
As Queenie careens from one questionable decision to another, she finds herself wondering, “What are you doing? Why are you doing it? Who do you want to be?”—all of the questions today’s woman must face in a world trying to answer them for her.
With “fresh and honest” (Jojo Moyes) prose, Queenie is a remarkably relatable exploration of what it means to be a modern woman searching for meaning in today’s world.
This was my first Book of the Month pick and when I saw Queenie as one of the choices, I knew I had to sign up for BOTM. Maybe I’ll give you all my thoughts on the subscription box after a few months of participating, but I just knew this was a perfect choice for my first box and it was!
Secondly, this book is being described as, “Bridget Jone’s Diary meets Americanah” and I think that’s a stretch, to say the least. Bridget Jone’s Diary, although somewhat entertaining, has NOTHING on this novel. Queenie takes it’s readers on a much deeper journey full of frank self-discovery, relationship issues, mental health and emotional struggles, interracial dating, commentary on today’s world, family history, and so much more. I guess the comparison may come when I think of the humor in Queenie, but the difference is, Carty-Williams takes the rom-com plot and turns it into something with some major depth to it. Oh and she’s also British Then to compare it to Americanah seems off to me too. This book is truly on a level of it’s own. I think if you go into it with that thinking instead, you’ll be much happier.
Third, I could relate to Queenie in so many ways. When you read this story, it’s easy to think, wow…Queenie is a wild one who makes poor life decisions. If you come at it from a different perspective though, (without judgement) I think you’ll see her in a different light-and probably see yourself in Queenie-just like I did. She is a strong, independent, honest woman who is political, set in her beliefs and paving her way in this world. Yes, just like all of us, she has some personal flaws and has to navigate some bumps along the way. She makes some questionable choices (who hasn’t?), she can be a bit self-destructive (also…who hasn’t been in their lifetime?). She is prone to anxiety (raises hand) and we catch her while in a personal spiral (again-my friends and I talk about our spiraling allll the time), but through these flaws-she is defining and taking charge of her life, finding herself and paving her own way as a Black woman in today’s society. She is a strong, independent and honest woman on a road to INTENTIONAL self-discovery and I found myself rooting hard for her (and sometimes myself if I’m being perfectly honest), the entire time. I think you will too! Give this one a read, I don’t think you’ll be disappointed.
Author: Lindy West
Published: May 17, 2016
Where I picked up my book: Audiobook from library
Key Words: Feminism, Women’s Rights, Memoir, Body Acceptance
My Rating: 4
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Coming of age in a culture that demands women be as small, quiet, and compliant as possible–like a porcelain dove that will also have sex with you–writer and humorist Lindy West quickly discovered that she was anything but.
From a painfully shy childhood in which she tried, unsuccessfully, to hide her big body and even bigger opinions; to her public war with stand-up comedians over rape jokes; to her struggle to convince herself, and then the world, that fat people have value; to her accidental activism and never-ending battle royale with Internet trolls, Lindy narrates her life with a blend of humor and pathos that manages to make a trip to the abortion clinic funny and wring tears out of a story about diarrhea.
With inimitable good humor, vulnerability, and boundless charm, Lindy boldly shares how to survive in a world where not all stories are created equal and not all bodies are treated with equal respect, and how to weather hatred, loneliness, harassment, and loss–and walk away laughing. Shrill provocatively dissects what it means to become self-aware the hard way, to go from wanting to be silent and invisible to earning a living defending the silenced in all caps.
I read this book back when it came out in 2016, but I thought it would be good to read it again now that the show is out on Hulu. Yep, I’m reallll glad I did. Not only because I wanted to watch the show, but I think I’ve grown a lot as a human in the past 3 years. I love myself more, I call people out more who don’t get it, and I am finding myself more confident in who I am and what I stand for than I’ve ever been in the past. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVED it 3 years ago when it first came out, but there was just something that resonated so strongly with me this second time around. I found myself fist pumping the air more times than I can count while listening and wanting to talk about it with everyone I ran into. My wife and I are taking the show slowly (one episode a night), but so far it’s REALLLLL good. And who doesn’t love a good dose of Aidy Bryant?!
In this book, Lindy covers (to name a few) fat shaming, feminism, internet trolls, marriage, sexism, rape jokes (and how they are definitely not funny), death and self-love with sharp and witty writing that is shockingly honest, real and truthful. I would highly recommend reading this one and then watching the Hulu show for an added bonus. This book will make you think, make you cry and laugh; it will empower you, and get you pumped to go out and fight the good fight all at the same time.
PS. Lindy West has a new book coming out on September 17th called, The Witches Are Coming and I’m SO excited to read it! A blurb I read states, “As much a celebration of America’s potential as a condemnation of our failures, some will call it a witch hunt. To which West would reply, so be it: “I’m a witch and I’m hunting you.” Yep…I’m here for it!
Author: Amy Feltman
Published: February 5, 2019
Publisher: Grand Central
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: Romance, LGBTQ+, family dynamics
My Rating: 3.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
In WILLA & HESPER, two young women fall in love. When they fall apart, they unwittingly take the same path to heal from their breakup, seeking answers in the lands of their ancestors. From Tbilisi, Georgia to the war sites of Germany, they discover what can break and what can mend when you look to the past to understand your present.
Willa’s darkness enters Hesper’s light late one night in Brooklyn. Theirs is a whirlwind romance until Willa starts to know Hesper too well, to crawl into her hidden spaces, and Hesper shuts her out. She runs, following her fractured family back to her grandfather’s hometown of Tbilisi, Georgia, looking for the origin story that he is no longer able to tell. But once in Tbilisi, cracks appear in her grandfather’s history-and a massive flood is heading toward Georgia, threatening any hope for repair.
Meanwhile, heartbroken Willa is desperate to leave New York that she joins a group trip for Jewish twentysomethings to visit Holocaust sites in Germany and Poland, hoping to override her emotional state. When it proves to be more fraught than home, she must come to terms with her past-the ancestral past, her romantic past, and the past that can lead her forward.
Told from alternating perspectives, and ending in the shadow of Trump’s presidency, WILLA & HESPER is a deeply moving, cerebral, and timely debut.
This book had a lot going on and it took me a few days to sort through all of my feelings before I could actually write anything down. First things first, I was ecstatic to find a book that depicts a lesbian relationship without a man involved as a part of the main plot AND, that doesn’t revolve the character’s coming out story. I’m not against a good coming out story (we all had to come out at one point or another and it’s usually not easy, has a story behind it and deserves to be told). BUT…I’m quite a bit past that point in my life and it’s so refreshing to just see queer characters living their authentic lives like the rest of society (fictional or not) does.
My second thought was that this book is a journey and in order to enjoy it, you need to be down for the ride. When I first heard about this book, I thought I was going to read about a pretty straight forward (no pun intended) lesbian romance, and although romance is not a genre I usually lean toward, I was in for a lesbian romance because we don’t see those very often in literature. So I picked it up and oof…I was happily mistaken. The romance that takes place is a relatively short part of the story and seems to only be there to act as the catalyst. It’s really there for each woman to individually explore themselves, their place in life, their faith, their family, their goals, aspirations and their fears. It’s really a sweeping observation of what it’s like to be a queer in your 20’s, just trying to figure out all the things in life. It’s quite a journey and as long as you’re in for that, you’ll love this book.
If I’m being honest, my main caveat with this book was that it was was sometimes hard to decipher between the two main characters, Willa and Hesper. I say this with caution, because I despise when people tell my wife and I that we look alike (we literally don’t look alike at all). Or they say that can’t tell the difference between out voices on the phone. Or they ask us if we are sisters. Here’s a little PSA-don’t do that to lesbian couples. Like, ever. It’s degrading and rude. BUT…this is fiction, so I will say this with a grain of salt. It’s not because it is two women that I couldn’t tell decipher these characters (although I will say that writing lesbian relationships-this is another challenge that we face). But…giving these characters more unique, and individual voices would have been a bit better for me as a reader and lead to a lot less confusion overall. I found myself flipping back quite a bit to figure out which one was which.
Besides that little caveat, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am really looking forward to seeing what else Feltman has to offer us! <<Please more lesbian literature. Please>>.
Author: Karen Thompson Walker
Published: January 15, 2019
Publisher: Random House
Where I picked up my book: Free book from publisher (THANK YOU!!)
Key Words: Science Fiction, Love, Crisis, Illness
My Rating: 3.5
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
In an isolated college town in the hills of Southern California, a freshman girl stumbles into her dorm room, falls asleep—and doesn’t wake up. She sleeps through the morning, into the evening. Her roommate, Mei, cannot rouse her. Neither can the paramedics who carry her away, nor the perplexed doctors at the hospital. Then a second girl falls asleep, and then another, and panic takes hold of the college and spreads to the town. As the number of cases multiplies, classes are canceled, and stores begin to run out of supplies. A quarantine is established. The National Guard is summoned.
Mei, an outsider in the cliquish hierarchy of dorm life, finds herself thrust together with an eccentric, idealistic classmate. Two visiting professors try to protect their newborn baby as the once-quiet streets descend into chaos. A father succumbs to the illness, leaving his daughters to fend for themselves. And at the hospital, a new life grows within a college girl, unbeknownst to her—even as she sleeps. A psychiatrist, summoned from Los Angeles, attempts to make sense of the illness as it spreads through the town. Those infected are displaying unusual levels of brain activity, more than has ever been recorded. They are dreaming heightened dreams—but of what?
From the first chapter, I was completely pulled into the story. Actually, from the description, I was enamored and couldn’t wait to dig in. There is something about a city-wide crisis situation (be in a disease, epidemic, natural disaster, etc.) that completely sucks me in. Now, don’t ask me WHY I like these sorts of novels. I’m terrified of major storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, and any major weather-related crisis. And I couldn’t live in California for more than a year due to earthquake panic. Plus, I’m a bit of a germ-a-phobe. So…I guess it’s one of those cases where I like to read about it, but if it were a real-life situation…I’d probably be curled up in a fetal position somewhere waiting the thing out. Anyways…I digress. This book checked that box for me and I was ecstatic to receive an advanced copy from Random House and get reading. Plus, I loved Age of Miracles, so I was doubly pumped and it didn’t disappoint.
First, Walker’s writing is fantastic! I’m starting to learn that I LOVE third person narratives. I often find myself thinking, “Oh…I loved that movie” when in fact, there isn’t even a movie made, I just visualize third person narrative so well in my head. Walker’s writing is concise, visual, descriptive (without being overly descriptive) and pulls you along quickly throughout the chapters.
Second, it was a good look into how a crisis is handled in a small town. I found myself feeling furious with the way the government and city were handling the situation. I don’t want to give anything away, but I just kept envisioning myself being in a town where a major crisis is happening, or myself being one of the people outside of the town, and I would expect there to be world-wide camaraderie to get to the bottom of the problem and find a solution. That wasn’t necessarily happening and it was making me furious. And I don’t think that it was the narration that was off. I think it’s a possible way to handle a crisis where people don’t know what to do. Is that a larger-picture problem in our society? Maybe so. That’s at least something I kept wondering about.
Third, I kept thinking that it read a bit like YA, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but there are different expectations for YA than adult fiction and that kept coming up for me during this book. I was in a buddy-read and people kept questioning why it happened, and aggravated that the author didn’t give us more explanations or reasons. I definitely heard their frustration, but in my head, it just read more similar to a YA novel. Young adult books, oftentimes, don’t need full explanations or reasons-they just exists for the readers to get sucked into the plot and to enjoy the story for what it is. That’s exactly what this book did for me. Plus, I sort of like unanswered questions in books. It leaves me to figure out what happened and it creates a perfect book to talk about with someone else!
My only caveat was that the middle of the book dragged a touch for me and then the ending seemed slightly abrupt, but it didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. If you’re into slightly magical, infection-related city wide epidemic books with fantastic writing, pick this one up! You won’t be disappointed!
Author: Rachel Lippincott
Published: November 20, 2018
Publisher: Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: YA Lit, Romance, Cystic Fibrosis
My Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
Can you love someone you can never touch?
Stella Grant likes to be in control—even though her totally out of control lungs have sent her in and out of the hospital most of her life. At this point, what Stella needs to control most is keeping herself away from anyone or anything that might pass along an infection and jeopardize the possibility of a lung transplant. Six feet apart. No exceptions.
The only thing Will Newman wants to be in control of is getting out of this hospital. He couldn’t care less about his treatments, or a fancy new clinical drug trial. Soon, he’ll turn eighteen and then he’ll be able to unplug all these machines and actually go see the world, not just its hospitals.
Will’s exactly what Stella needs to stay away from. If he so much as breathes on Stella she could lose her spot on the transplant list. Either one of them could die. The only way to stay alive is to stay apart. But suddenly six feet doesn’t feel like safety. It feels like punishment.
What if they could steal back just a little bit of the space their broken lungs have stolen from them? Would five feet apart really be so dangerous if it stops their hearts from breaking too?
I have to say, before I “met” @readwithkat on Instagram, I didn’t know much about Cystic Fibrosis (commonly referred to as CF). When I was little, we had close neighbors who had a daughter that passed away from CF before I was born. They were like grandparents to me, but it was painful for them to talk about what she died from, so we always just talked about HER, what she liked to do as a kid, and they were constantly giving me items that used to be hers. I think they wanted to make sure she wasn’t defined by her disease. My parents just said she had trouble breathing, and that was that. I remember being so curious, but I knew not to ask too many questions. I think CF was a very difference experience 60 years ago than it is now, but the fact of the matter is, even with all the medical advancements that have been made, CF it is a terminal disease. People with CF usually have a shorter life span than the average person, and as of right now, the disease does not have a cure. I’ve learned a lot from Katharine (@readwithkat) and I’d highly suggest you look her up on Instagram to learn more AND to get some rad book recommendations. For additional information, you can also go to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website.
In regards to this book, I really enjoyed it. I should preface this with saying, it’s YA and certainly reads like a YA novel. I wasn’t the intended audience for this book (it’s definitely written for middle grade-young adults), but I enjoyed it, learned a lot from it, and was completely sucked into the story from the beginning. And can we talk about that cover?! This book deals with what it’s like to live with CF (from these characters point of view. Let’s remember CF can present itself in completely different ways from person to person). It also deals with what it’s like to feel isolated-people with CF cannot be within 6 feet of another person with CF, what teenage love feels like and the fears that creep in, or in some cases, is constant, when you have an illness. It shows how friendships are affected, how nurses and doctors can play a role in an illness and what it feels like to need regular treatments to survive. It deals with a lot of emotions and situations I remember feeling and experiencing as a teen, but exacerbate it 1,000x’s over by putting a disease in the mix.
It was a whirlwind of emotions for me and definitely worth the read. There is a movie coming out this month and I’m looking forward to seeing it! Have you read it? What did you think?
Hello Hello! Welcome to my favorite month of the year! I love the weather that comes with March and that clock change that brings longer evenings. The flowers and leaves start to pop up and check out what’s going on after a long time in hibernation and every living thing seems to have a little more pep in their step. We start to think about our garden again and long walks happen more days than not. And…it’s St. Patrick’s Day, one of my favorite holidays for all sorts of reasons, but mostly because I don’t need to buy anything or do anything special besides wear green, make a corned beef and cabbage meal at home and hang out with my friends who love the holiday as much as I do.
With that all said, here is the free wallpaper for the month! As always, use it, share it with your friends, and let me know what you think here or on Instagram. Enjoy and happy March!
Author: Nancy Garden
Published: July 1982
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Where I picked up my book: Local Bookstore
Key Words: LGBTQ+, YA Lit, Romance
My Rating: 5 stars
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
This groundbreaking book is the story of two teenage girls whose friendship blossoms into love and who, despite pressures from family and school that threaten their relationship, promise to be true to each other and their feelings. The book has been banned from many school libraries and publicly burned in Kansas City.
Of the author and the book, the Margaret A. Edwards Award committee said, “Using a fluid, readable style, Garden opens a window through which readers can find courage to be true to themselves.
First, I have to say that I’m stunned it took me until almost 40 years old to read this book. As a lesbian, it feels like one of those books we talk about in our circles, we all say we need to read, we all rave about and one that all of our elder lesbians give us for birthdays and holidays and we see it on the ‘top LGBTQ+ book lists’-but somehow, as a lifelong reader, I never picked it up. WHAT?! I knew I needed to remedy this before someone came and took my lesbian card away (completely kidding here. Don’t @ me), so I purchased it back in June- for one of my Pride month purchases. Well…it is now February, but I finally picked it up and oh my gosh, I’m so glad I did. It is relevant (although thankfully, not as relevant as it was in the 80’s), it is magical, it is honest and so sincere, and it is spot on to what a lot of us went through as we were discovering our sexuality. I just keep telling everyone, it’s the book I wish I had read as a teen. It would have saved me from a lot of confusion, sadness, hurt and questions about whether I was “normal” and it would have allowed me to see myself in a piece of fiction. It might not seem like a big deal to a lot of people, but never seeing myself represented in movies, books, television, or if I’m perfectly honest, in real-life situations either, this book would have changed my world. I’m sure it did for many young lesbians and the thought just makes me cry happy tears.
I’m so thankful that more books with LGBTQ+ representation exists now, but this book should still remain right up there with these newer ones. It’s been one of the top banned books and still remains banned in many places today. So make sure you check with your local libraries to see if they have this one (and check it out so it stays on the shelves). Talk to your local schools and bookstores and make sure it is still a book available in your community. It’s a perfectly relatable book for lesbians and I’ll forever be grateful to Nancy Garden for providing the world with this gift, even if it took me a hot second to finally pick it up 🙂
Do you create a monthly TBR list at the beginning of the month and stick with it? I have so many good intentions to do so, but low and behold, the end of the month comes and generally speaking, I haven’t read a.single.one of the books in that pile. What is wrong with me?! That’s what I think every month when this happens. I see everyone’s TBR piles on Instagram at the beginning of the month and then their checked off lists at the end of the month and I’m all like, welp…another month bites the dust. And that’s not right. In fact, I’ve been reading fantastic books all month. I’ve been talking about books to everyone I see. I’ve been loving what I read. That’s where the focus should be but instead, this TBR piles staring at me from the dresser is where my focus often lands. So…this got me thinking about my personal reading habits, unique personality traits, the way I create intentions and why the heck I can’t seem to stick with a list of books to read to save my life. Here is what I came up with. If you are anything like me, this post might help you feel less guilty about your TBR list and instead, embrace the lack of that pile knowing you’re just doing you!
So…if anyone is like me and can’t seem to stick with a TBR list, here are some possible reasons why but also, the beauty of it. Thinking about it has helped me just acknowledge that I might not be that person who has a photo of a pretty pile of books at the beginning of the month to get through. And after working that out, that’s okay with me. I hope you find some solace with loving however it is that you read. And now…off to read a book that wasn’t part of this month’s TBR list and couldn’t be happier about that 🙂
Author: August Wilson
Published: June 1, 1986
Publisher: Plume Books
Where I picked up my book: Thrift store find
Key Words: play, drama, Black lit, family dynamics
My Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
From August Wilson, author of The Piano Lesson and the 1984-85 Broadway season’s best play, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom, is another powerful, stunning dramatic work that has won him numerous critical acclaim including the 1987 Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize. The protagonist of Fences (part of Wilson’s ten-part Pittsburgh Cycle plays), Troy Maxson, is a strong man, a hard man. He has had to be to survive. Troy Maxson has gone through life in an America where to be proud and black is to face pressures that could crush a man, body and soul. But the 1950s are yielding to the new spirit of liberation in the 1960s, a spirit that is changing the world Troy Maxson has learned to deal with the only way he can, a spirit that is making him a stranger, angry and afraid, in a world he never knew and to a wife and son he understands less and less.
I, 100%, thoroughly enjoyed reading this play. It explore themes of family dynamics, family values, misogyny, the African American experience, racism, death, love, responsibility and parenting…to name a few, but we sort of see it all through the veil of Troy. He is a character that I loved and hated at the same time. I rooted for him, and I wanted to see him disappear as he spoke the same sentence. He makes questionable decisions in his life, but he’s also a Black man just trying to survive and make it in the world that is not set up for him to succeed. He was real and one of the few characters in literature that I really feel represents what it feels like to be human, and more importantly, what it might feel like to be a Black human. (side note: I am not a Black human, just so we are clear. I don’t ever want to assume I fully comprehend the experiences of a race other than my own-that will never happen. Through this piece and other fantastic pieces of literature though, I am learning to empathize and better understand life through another lens other than my own). And Rose…oh, I couldn’t have loved Rose more or wanted someone to succeed more than Rose if I tried. I think this is an important piece of literature that you should run out and get a hold of asap. Recently, it’s been turned into a play starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis (both of whom I love) and that has just become a part of my weekend plan! Fences has earned its reputation as a classic and remains as relevant today, as it did when it was first performed. It feels like a piece that isn’t meant to be read and put down (or watched and put aside), but instead, it’s a piece that warrants discussion and some deep diving. If you read or watch it, I would love to talk about it with you.
What are some podcasts you’re loving right now? I work from home and podcasts are a fantastic way to work and listen to something, but not have to pay 100% attention. Sometimes I have trouble listening to an audio book, depending on the task I’m working on, but I always have a podcast in the queue and these are some of my favorites! I hope you enjoy and if you have any I should add to my list-give me a shout out here or on Instagram.
Author: Ling Ma
Published: August 14, 2018
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: Post Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Dystopia
My Rating: 4.5 stars
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
An offbeat office novel turns apocalyptic satire as a young woman transforms from orphan to worker bee to survivor.
Candace Chen, a millennial drone self-sequestered in a Manhattan office tower, is devoted to routine. With the recent passing of her Chinese immigrant parents, she’s had her fill of uncertainty. She’s content just to carry on: She goes to work, troubleshoots the teen-targeted Gemstone Bible, watches movies in a Greenpoint basement with her boyfriend.
So Candace barely notices when a plague of biblical proportions sweeps New York. Then Shen Fever spreads. Families flee. Companies halt operations. The subways squeak to a halt. Her bosses enlist her as part of a dwindling skeleton crew with a big end-date payoff. Soon entirely alone, still unfevered, she photographs the eerie, abandoned city as the anonymous blogger NY Ghost.
Candace won’t be able to make it on her own forever, though. Enter a group of survivors, led by the power-hungry IT tech Bob. They’re traveling to a place called the Facility, where, Bob promises, they will have everything they need to start society anew. But Candace is carrying a secret she knows Bob will exploit. Should she escape from her rescuers?
A send-up and takedown of the rituals, routines, and missed opportunities of contemporary life, Ling Ma’s Severance is a moving family story, a quirky coming-of-adulthood tale, and a hilarious, deadpan satire. Most important, it’s a heartfelt tribute to the connections that drive us to do more than survive.
I LOVED this book! Well written, apocalyptic/post apocalyptic books are right up my alley and this one made the top of the list for me! The entire time I was reading Severance, I was in these characters shoes. Would I be one of the people to survive this fever and then what? (side note: I’d probably NOT be one of the ones to survive the fever in the first place, but I like to think about the scenario that way). As I devoured the book, I was mentally collecting supplies, thinking about what necessary items from my home I would grab and what friends would be of upmost importance to my survival. I was (mentally) wandering around my neighborhood thinking about where I would go and where I would go to get water and food. I was planning my route out of town to the nearest city where I might be able to find a thriving community. I found myself getting excited to survive this apocalypse (wait, is ‘excited’ the right word? Probably not, but you get what I’m saying). I was completely enthralled with surviving this fevered world as I read through Ma’s book.
Let this fantastic plot suck you in, but also be on the look out for Ma’s exploration of immigration and the immigration system in America, human behavior, the millennial way of living life, capitalism, religion, corporate life, the exploitation of foreign labor and assimilation because those topics are here, loud and definitely worth exploring through this great piece of fiction.
I hope you pick up Severance and enjoy it as much as I did! Let me know your thoughts by leaving a comment here or over on Instagram (@bookishfolk).
Here’s my free February wallpaper! Use it, love it, and let me know what you think over on my Instagram (@bookishfolk). Hope you all have a fantastic month!
Our local library sale was this weekend and they are my absolute favorite. One, I volunteer with the Friends of the Library (who puts on the sale), so I get to see all the people that reap the benefits of our sorting, pricing, tagging and hauling. Two, we get to take home some fantastic books for a really low price. And three, public awareness is raised about how important public libraries are to our community. It’s a win, win, win, for everyone! So I thought I’d share my current book haul with all of you. See any good ones in this pile? I’m pumped to read them all, but particularly excited to read The Dog Stars, Witches of East End and Wildwood. I bought a few books that I’ve already read, and loved so it was great to find them and bring them home to be a part of my home library too! Does your local library have a book sale in your community? Have you found some treasures there? YAY for libraries and books!
I have always, always, always loved bookstores. When I was little, we mostly went to the library for our book browsing, but I can remember the magical moments when we got to go to a bookstore. Most of the time, I wasn’t going there to buy anything, but the browsing was top-notch, the book smells made me happy and the copious amounts of books with the potential to bring one home was enough to make me giddy. Plus…apparently my parents didn’t seem to think I was going to get into any trouble or stolen from a bookstore, so I had the independence to browse on my own, sit down and read in the aisles, and enjoy some first-time independence.
As I got older, I remember that same joy when I got to go to the the Scholastic book fair. If you’re reading this book blog…odds are you know EXACTLY what I’m talking about. This was book buying at it’s finest (to a 2nd grader at least). I would bring home that pamphlet with such pride and go through it probably 10 times before I got out the pencil and started circling and making decisions. I’d bring those circles of dreams to my mom and I usually got a few dollars to make them come true. Side note: how did a few dollars get me 2-3 books and a bookmark?! They were basically giving books away at that price point, but I digress…
Then, when I finally became a working young adult, all hell broke loose. I had a paycheck and I was determined to spend 80-90% of it on books. Man…I miss those days when my only financial responsibilities were coffee purchases, snacks and books. And don’t even get me started on the days when I was old enough to have my own credit card. The moral of the story is-I have always loved a bookstore. I have always valued books and writers and the idea that I could own a book as my very own. I have always found a peace inside a bookstore where books are a plenty, adventures are ready to be had, I’m surrounded by bookish, like-minded people…and the not so subtle smell of coffee is embedded in the walls.
Bookstores and libraries are truly my love language. So I thought it would be fun to take you on an adventure of some of my favorite bookstores in the US. Some I’ve been to, some I’ve only experienced through online purchases and/or Instagram…but all hold a special place in my heart.
There you have it! There are so many fantastic, independent bookstores in the US and I have a goal to visit them all! In the meantime, I’ll subtly stalk them on Instagram…and dream 🙂
Author: Lauren Groff
Published: June 5, 2018
Where I picked up my book: Library
Key Words: Short stories, Nature, Florida, Human nature
My Rating: 4 stars
Synopsis (via Goodreads):
The New York Times-bestselling author of Fates and Furies returns, bringing the reader into a physical world that is at once domestic and wild—a place where the hazards of the natural world lie waiting to pounce, yet the greatest threats and mysteries are still of an emotional, psychological nature. A family retreat can be derailed by a prowling panther, or by a sexual secret. Among those navigating this place are a resourceful pair of abandoned sisters; a lonely boy, grown up; a restless, childless couple, a searching, homeless woman; and an unforgettable, recurring character—a steely and conflicted wife and mother.
The stories in this collection span characters, towns, decades, even centuries, but Florida—its landscape, climate, history, and state of mind—becomes its gravitational center: an energy, a mood, as much as a place of residence. Groff transports the reader, then jolts us alert with a crackle of wit, a wave of sadness, a flash of cruelty, as she writes about loneliness, rage, family, and the passage of time. With shocking accuracy and effect, she pinpoints the moments and decisions and connections behind human pleasure and pain, hope and despair, love and fury—the moments that make us alive. Startling, precise, and affecting, Florida is a magnificent achievement.
In all honesty, I am usually not a huge fan of short story collections. It’s just my personal taste. I like to get deeply involved in characters and in a plot, and be spit out at the end of 300 pages or so after a saga-esk story has unfolded within the pages. For me, I always find short stories to be too short (go figure) and lacking the depth and descriptions and dialogue for me to become emotionally involved in the character’s lives or story. I’m also a fast reader, to my chagrin, so I tend to plow through a short story and only actually comprehend half of it. (I do this with books too sometimes…I’m working on it). With that said, when this book became available at the library, for the second time, I almost let the hold lapse without picking it up again. That would have been a huge mistake. Each one of these stories felt like I was reading an entire novel. I was engrossed, I felt a deep connection to each character, I found myself emotionally invested in each plot, and when each story was finished, I couldn’t help but dive into the next wondering where else Groff was going to take me. What was different from other short stories I have read? I’m not 100% sure, but here are a few things that I noticed Groff did brilliantly in Florida.
A. She provided me with a sense of place. A sense of how your surroundings play a major role in your life. In this case it was Florida, but in my case-I kept thinking about how Buffalo, NY (where I’m originally from), played a huge role in my life (for better or worse I’m not sure), how San Francisco played a MAJOR role for me when I lived there, and how Colorado is now a beautiful character in my story. Scenery and place is always so important to me when I read, and Groff wrote that into each story as a secondary character. It was beautiful.
b. With each story, I had a deep dive into human nature. Each character introduced to me showed me that life is about the experiences, both good and bad, and that human nature isn’t always a linear walk. Sometimes it’s messy, sometimes it’s ugly, sometimes it’s calm, sometimes it’s happy, sometimes it’s scary and other times it’s downright devastating. It’s always flawed…but there is a beauty to that.
c. An ambivalence to both motherhood and Florida itself seemed to sweep through almost all of these stories. I have always felt a true ambivalence to both of these ideas myself at different times throughout my life and it was interesting to explore my feelings through the lens of many different characters. (side note: For me, Florida=anywhere hot, sticky, buggy, without major season changes). And motherhood, well…me and motherhood have always had an interesting relationship. If you’re wondering-that dynamic is still going strong.
d. Each of these stories also seemed to explore the sense of danger and fear that women deal with on a regular basis. As women, we are taught to look into the back seat of our car, to always sleep with a phone by us in case something happens in the middle of the night, to always have a buddy with you when walking, to hold your keys a certain way in case of an attack, to dress “appropriately” so you don’t give off the wrong impression…I could go on and on. This has been a discussion in a lot of my circles lately, and I found it so appropriate and current to see it written in a compilation of short stories where I “experienced” that fear from different women’s perspectives.
d. Last, but certainly not least, Groff’s prose is so concise and beautiful, it almost made me cry multiple times throughout reading these stories.
I loved this collection and would encourage you to pick it up and read through it, slowly, savoring every bit. Or…if you’re like me and wanted to devour it as quickly as possible, do that, and then give it a slower re-read 🙂 If you’ve read it, let me know what you thought!