Here is December’s wallpaper-better late than never, right? Sorry about that but here you go! Enjoy, share and happy holidays!
Here is December’s wallpaper-better late than never, right? Sorry about that but here you go! Enjoy, share and happy holidays!
November’s wallpaper is out in the wild! We had our first major accumulation here in our city and it got me all pumped for hot chocolate, cheesy holiday movies, gift giving, playing with the dog outside (it’s her absolute favorite tine of the year), heating blankets…and then I had to walk outside in it and it was freezing and wet and I had different thoughts 😉 BUT I still love the first snow so it inspired me to create this wallpaper! Enjoy it and spread the word to all your friends!
Come chat books with my on Instagram (@bookishfolk)!
Author: Kim Liggett
Published: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Where I picked up my book: Pre-order from Indie
Key Words: Young Adult, Dystopian, Feminist
My Rating: 4 stars
If a young adult mix between The Handmaid’s Tale, The Power, Hunger Games, Wilder Girls with a touch of Swiss Family Robinson vibes sounds good to you, then this book has your name written all over it! I LOVED it and was completely immersed in the world that Liggett created for us. Recently, I have found myself soaking in as many dystopian thrillers as I can get my hands on (and I don’t even understand why because it feels like we are actually LIVING a dystopian thriller right now with the state of the government…but I digress). So when I saw this one popping up on my Bookstagram account, I thought yep, and immediately ordered it. I’m so glad I did. I usually delve more into the book a bit when I write a review, but sometimes things like plot, characters, action, etc. are better left unsaid. I think that is the case for this book. The only thing I will say is it’s feminist, witchy, full of friendship, relationships and adventure, apocalyptic, has a survivalist aspect, deceitful, freedom fighting and so much more. I was completely hooked from square one (let’s be honest, I was completely hooked from the cover alone) and it did not disappoint! The writing is smart and fast-paced (it’s one of those books I found myself frantically flipping through into the night) and the characters are so clearly written it feels like I know them days after finishing the book. I’m going through a lot of changes with work and life and this was a perfect book to snuggle up with after a long day and escape into. I’d highly recommend it!
As always, come find me on Instagram and let’s talk books!
Author: Rachael Craw
Published: October 8, 2019
Publisher: Candewick Press
Where I picked up my book: From the publisher (THANK YOU!)
Key Words: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, Fantasy
My Rating: 3.5 stars
I should preface this review by saying that I’ve never read urban fantasy before. I know…how in the world have I gotten to be my age and never read urban fantasy before?! Well…I have no idea but I’m glad this was my introduction to the genre. I was completely swept up into the world and spit out when I read the last sentence.
First, the atmosphere of this island was so well written, I felt like I was on the island myself (and I didn’t steer away when my thoughts drifted to wanting to actually live on Black Water Island myself from time to time throughout the reading). Minus the rabid dogs, lack of technology, and slight creepiness that is 😉 What I really liked was that this is an island where people come together for one cause, and that wasn’t lost on me. But don’t be fooled by that description, it’s also an unsettling island full of intrigue and THAT is what made me take a deep dive into this book.
Second, the relationship between the two main characters, Meg and Cal, reminded me of those young adult feelings that most of us have experienced. I rooted for them, felt nervous for them and wanted to cheer them along from my seat on the couch. Craw wrote these two characters so well (really all of the characters so well), I felt like I knew them by the end of the book. And bonues, the ‘childhood friends getting together later in life’ troupe is always a favorite of mine and here it was!
Third, corporate greed and interests were an underlying theme in The Rift and I’m ALWAYS here for talking about that more, seeing how it impacts all of us little ones, and how it will affect us in the future. Corporate greed is my nemesis (especially as a small business owner regularly affected by corporate greed) so for this reason alone-I was completely enamored by this book. More.talk.about.corporate.greed.in.novels.please.
Fourth, magical animals…need I say more?!
If you love adventure stories (especially island stories) mixed with sci-fi, fantasy and folklore along with strong characters, nature, mystery, relationships and a bit of scary-you’re going to enjoy this book! I kept thinking it contained a sort of fantasy, mysterious, Swiss Family Robinson vibes and I’m 100% in for that. The Rift has made me want to read more urban fantasy/fantasy books and I’m so thankful that this one came in my mailbox!
As always, let me know what you thought if you’ve read this one! Find me over on Instagram (@bookishfolk).
Author: Margaret Atwood
Published: September 10, 2019
Where I picked up my book: Local Indie
Key Words: dystopian, feminist, science fiction
My Rating: 4.5 stars
I LOVEDDDDDDD this book! I was slightly hesitant when I heard that Atwood was coming out with a book and it promised to give us some answers to the long awaited questions that rose from The Handmaid’s Tale. Did I need answers? Would the answers hold up today? Could Atwood write this new book as well as she wrote The Handmaid’s Tale? If not, are we at risk of not liking The Handmaid’s Tale as much as we once did? Will the show on Hulu ruin this book or vice versa? Well…I’m here to tell you to just go into this The Testaments and know you’re going to love every second of it. No, I don’t think it’s on par with The Handmaid’s Tale per say. The Handmaid’s Tale was a once in a lifetime book that has gone down in history as a work of tremendous fiction that is considered to be a part of the literary canon. The Testaments isn’t necessarily on par with that, but it’s an amazing work that takes you on a final journey to Gilead where you’ll be sucked in and spit back out when you’re done. It takes a broader look at the world and I really enjoyed that view. It’s brilliant, terrifyingly relevant, answers the questions that have haunted you since you read The Handmaid’s Tale and just like the first, will leave you wanting more.
I don’t want to give away too much. I literally put my blinders on with every social media post, book blog or book review that I came across before I read the book and I’m so happy that I did that! Going in completely blind left me to just go into the world that Atwood created and enjoy it on it’s own merit and that made my experience exponentially better and more raw. I was taken away for a few days and I feel honored that we were given that gift. Thank you Margaret Atwood for creating another unforgettable piece of fiction.
Author: Colson Whitehead
Published: July 16, 2019
Where I picked up my book: Purchased from an Indie
Key Words: Reform school, Historical Fiction, The Black Experience in Jim Crow/Civil Right Era
My Rating: 5 stars
I LOVED this book and because of the content, that feels hard to say…but I did. This is based on a real reform school in Marianna, Florida that was operated for 111 years and “warped the lives of thousands of children.” Here is more detail if you’re interested. You should definitely be interested-it’s harrowing, but we should all know what happened there, so please give that article a read. To top it off, the school only just closed in 2011?! What in the actual hell?! Whitehead, after hearing about the devastation that occurred behind those school walls including beatings, deaths, rape and other atrocious things, decided to write a book about it and The Nickel Boys is what it turned into. It is magnificent, telling, devastating…and truly a masterpiece. I finished it over a week ago and I’m still thinking about those boys and their story (and frantically googling about the real school in Florida every chance I get).
I don’t want to say too much because honestly, you just need to read it to appreciate it. And then probably read it again to appreciate it even more. That’s where I’m at. Although I have zero experience with reform school, or being Black in a white world, I did go to an all-women, Catholic school (which I should preface by saying it was NOTHING, NOTHING, NOTHING like this) and I have some thoughts. There is a sense of discipline and control in schools like this. There are structures that must be adhered to and yes, scholastics are very important (in my school at least), but discipline and structure are almost top of the list. There are laws that don’t apply to us as students in a Catholic school and I remember knowing that very well. Nothing ever happened when I was there, but I remember stories of past generations and the types of punishments that were allowed. Again, NOTHING like this, but knuckle slapping with rulers and things of that nature happened in the past. There is a control that the adults in charge think they need to get a handle on early, and rules and discipline are there “for a reason.” Keep in mind-this is only coming from my experience at a relatively well-off, Catholic school that my parents were invested in (both actually with their presence, but also with their wallets). But I could see how a disciplinary reform school could turn into this something horrible really quickly. Although my experience was nothing like the experiences in this book, I can understand what it must have been like for children, especially Black children, to be sent to a reform school that is full of racism and bigotry, into the height on the Civil Rights and Jim Crow Movement in the 1960’s where the school (and world) is segregated, where teachers have formed a corruption circle among themselves with no outside monitoring?! Plus add the dimension that these are “bad kids” in need of discipline. This school is what you get. What ACTUALLY went on in this school? What laws were being broken? What boy’s souls were being crushed for the rest of their lives? In this book, you’ll get those answers and more. I will never be the same after reading it. It truly crushed me.
The Nickel Boys is not for the faint of heart, but the writing is genius, the plot is immaculate, the details are truthful and succinct and overall, this book will make you think long after you read the last page.
I hope you read this one and if so, come chat with me on Instagram! Find me at @bookishfolk
Author: Kassandra Montag
Published: September 19, 2019
Publisher: William Morrow
Where I picked up my book: Won in a giveaway
Key Words: post apocalyptic/dystopian, mother/daughter dynamics, adventure
My Rating: 4 star
I’m still in awe that this is Montag’s first novel. This is a fantastic literary debut that is full of scenery, slight panicked stomach feelings the entire time I was reading, hope, fear and gripping prose. I was hooked from the very beginning and am slowly learning that post apocalyptic/dystopian literature might be my favorite genre. Who knew?! But after a few dystopian books…I am completely sucked in to the genre and found myself frantically googling, “must read dystopian books” like it was my job the other day.
One of the major things that struck me in this book is the idea of motherhood. I am not a mother myself, but that didn’t matter. I kept picturing myself in Myra’s sitation (the mother), with a daughter to keep alive, no medical care to speak of, people out to get you, a fend for yourself attitude among a lot of the survivors of the flood, being surrounded by water and what that means for safety, how to get food to provide for your child…the list goes on and on. I already think a lot of moms are superheros, but this just solidified that idea in me. I mean…my wife and I spent a lot of time discussing how we would properly care for our dog should this situation arise, so how in the world would I protect and care for my child?! I had nothing but admiration for Myra.
But also…can we talk about climate change for a minute? I heard someone discuss this book in biblical terms and I was like…nah. I’m not going there. I don’t see this as a biblical flood at all. What I do see this as is a cry for help due to the shit storm that our world has gotten themselves into with climate change. It’s real folks-our sea levels are rising, our lands are burning, we are seeing more drought situations and our oceans are warming. It’s not good and although I’m not sure what Montag’s position is on how the Earth flooded in her novel-I’m going with global warming because that’s a real, legit concern for me, and probably a lot of you. It should make you furious and do as much as you can to help prevent exactly what After the Flood is about.
I loved this book! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. It took me on a saga that was full of heartbreak and hope all wrapped into one. It was one of those books where I just kept flipping pages to find out what else was going to happen. I could vividly picture every scene and I’m soooo excited to see what Montag give us next. I think there are big things coming from here in the literary world!
As always, come find me on Instagram (@bookishfolk) and let’s chat books!
Author: Angie Cruz
Published: September 3, 2019
Publisher: Flatiron Books
Where I picked up my book: My Book of the Month pick
Key Words: immigration, NYC, arranged marriage, love
My Rating: 4 star
This is one of those books that held my heart and didn’t release it until the last page. It’s heart-wrenching, startling at times, powerful, heartwarming, and will have you thinking long after you read the last sentence.
I have a lot of thoughts, but I think it’s better if you go into this book relatively blind. So here are some things that I will say about it.
1. Some families will do just about anything for their family. I wasn’t born into one of those families, but at times, I wish I had been. I had friends that were part of that type of family and sure, it can be a slippery slope into some negative or toxic situations, but it can also lead you to some beautiful situations as well. You always know someone has your back and it allows you to make decisions based on something besides just yourself. This book had me thinking long and hard about that.
2. Dominicana was based on Cruz’s mother’s story and now I am obsessed with finding out exactly how. I haven’t found out yet-I’ll keep you posted if I do 🙂
3. 15 year olds are very, very young. They can do a lot, but they are, truthfully, still babies. We get to see Ana taking on the role of an adult woman and wife, but my favorite parts of the book were when we saw her acting her age. Cruz didn’t just dismiss her age and she didn’t let us dismiss it either and I appreciated that so much.
4. Apparently, I am obsessed with books based in old NYC. I like to think about what it was like to walk those streets, be excited about who the characters might bump into, what the atmosphere was like then, what a city that is a bit rough around the edges feels like—all of it! This book gives me a feel of that and I LOVEDDD every second of it!
5. Resiliency is amazing and I’ve been thinking about it ever since I read this book. No matter what life throws at Ana (the main character), she shakes it off and creates a new goal and a new dream for herself. This is something that I’ve been working on in my own life. Life throws curve balls at us all the time; the magic happens when we choose how to handle those curve balls. I learned a lot from Ana in this regard.
6. Loneliness is one of the saddest things a human can experience (in my opinion). As an introvert, I like to have a lot of alone time, but true loneliness can be so isolating, depressing and eventually lead to major problems for most people. Dominicana really describes what loneliness feels like through the eyes of Ana and it made me remember to reach out to people in my life more often that might experience loneliness and to not take for granted how many beautiful people I have in my own life.
At it’s core, this book is as much about marriage and family and immigration as it is about finding yourself amidst chaos and confusion. It’s a beautiful book and one that I promise you, will stick with you for a long time to come.
Have you read this one yet? If so, reach out and let’s chat!
Author: Garrett M. Graff
Published: September 10, 2019
Publisher: Avid Reader Press
Where I picked up my book: From publisher (THANK YOU!!!)
Key Words: 9/11, Oral History, non-fiction, terrorism
My Rating: 5
It’s hard to put into words how much this book means to me. I was in college in 2001 and I can remember that day like it was yesterday. The sky was blue in Buffalo, New York that morning and there was a nice, crisp feel in the air. We were listening to NPR in our art studio class and I was finishing up a linocut project on a back table. I remember hearing them say that a plane had stuck a building in NYC and I thought it must have been a prop plane pilot error. I remember thinking, who the hell doesn’t see a huge building from their plane?! I remember wondering if the pilot had a heart attack or maybe there was something wrong with the plane. And then the second plane hit and it didn’t take long for pure chaos to ensue in our classroom and on campus. I can remember what I was wearing, what part of the project I was working on and even the smell of paint and chemicals in the classroom at the time. I vividly remember the frantic feeling that surrounded so many of us that morning as we heard loudspeakers come on to tell us to leave campus immediately. I can still feel a professor’s hand where he grabbed my arm and told me to get home immediately and stay away from downtown (we are the second largest city in New York and there was a nervousness that we might be a target with Niagara Falls so close by). I can vividly remember the sirens going off in the streets and the frantic faces on my fellow students as we all left classes and campus to get home. I remember watching the news with my roommate for days in a row, only leaving the living room for short stints. I can recall the look on my friend’s faces when they said they now had to go to NYC because the President called in the National Guard and they were chosen to go. Like it’s yesterday, I remember the weeping and frenzied voices I heard in the halls that day as students frantically tried to get a hold of family and friends in NYC. Our city, state, country and world was forever changed that day and I immediately recognized that in myself, and saw it on the faces of everyone I passed that day and the weeks to come.
I also remember as the days passed, thinking that I wanted more. I wanted to know what was actually happening in the towers when the plane stuck the building. I wanted to know what the firefighters were thinking as they ran into the burning building and I wanted to know what it felt like to see so many of your friends not come home that night. I wanted to better understand what it was like to get a call from your partner, as they were up in the air, saying that they were on a plane that was hijacked. For better or worse, I wanted to know what it was like in those stairwells that day and just how it worked if you were on the 50th floor. I wanted to know what the streets were like in the following days and what exactly the flight attendants knew or didn’t know that day. I remember wanting to know how everyone got out of Manhattan and what it was like, if you survived, to get back to your apartment and realize what exactly had gone on. I was left with so many questions and truly, until I read this book, I felt like I was never going to get those answers. The Only Plane in the Sky gave me those answers and so many more. This book is not only packed full of information and first hand accounts, but the way it is set up is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. You walk through that day with precision, minute by minute, and if you’re anything like me, I think you will feel a bit more healed after reading it.
It’s really hard to put into words how important this book is for the world to read and just how much it meant to me as a reader. It’s a harrowing, educational, tragic, yet hopeful account of a day is history that has forever changed the course of the world. Please, read this book and let’s never forget the events of that day, the people we lost and the courage of so many. Come find me on Instagram and let’s talk about this one.
Here is next month’s free wallpaper! I had so much fun creating this one…and JK Rowling is the icing on the cake! Hope you enjoy and as always, share it with family, friends and on all your social media accounts! Tag me too @bookishfolk!
Author: Aarti Namdev Shahani
Published: October 1, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
Where I picked up my book: From publisher (THANK YOU!!!)
Key Words: immigration, family dynamics, memoir
My Rating: 3.75
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. I felt like I was given a front seat at a table that I have never sat at before…and I truly felt honored to be there. This is the story of the Shahani family, who came from India, through Casablanca, to Queens, New York. It’s a first hand, poignant account of what happens when undocumented people land on US soil, how undocumented people are treated, what is at risk for undocumented people, what happens to become documented, what life is like after you are documented, and everything in between. Yes, this is a first and account and is unique from this particular woman, but from what I hear and from what I have read, this story resonates with many families trying who are trying to call the United States home. We see the struggles, the pitfalls, the risks, the desires, the stresses, the intense fears…but we also see the hope, the laughter, the strength and the determination. Here We Are opened my eyes to not only what the process is like and specifically, how this family dealt with the good, the bad and the ugly of coming to America.
Here are some of my takeaways about our immigration system:
1. Immigrating to the US is not for the faint of heart and why in the world do we make it so complicated and corrupt?!
2. It seems like the story for every immigrant family is struggle. Struggling in their home country, and then struggling when they get to the US. As a country, we can do better to help with the transition. No one should have to live in cockroach infested homes, or a home that has a water leak causing toxic mold to grow because they are afraid to report it to a landlord who could report them as undocumented. No one should have to live with broken windows or broken heat in the middle of winter because they are nervous to set off someone’s radar and potentially get deported. It’s infuriating and we need a better system to support families that want to come to the US.
3. Our justice system is broken and corrupt and toxic, especially when dealing with immigrants. We can, and need to, do better!
4. In conclusion-WE CAN DO BETTER!
There is soooo much more in this memoir to talk about and discuss, but I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I went in pretty blind and was completely taken by Shahani’s journey. This is an articulate memoir that is sure to infuriate you, make you cry, make you laugh, help you better understand the role of family in many cultures and ultimately…I hope, lead you to talk more about immigration and our role in it all. Our country is intrinsically tied to the immigration experience and I think this book will not only help give a voice to many immigrants who are currently voiceless, but help to shine a brighter light on a highly relevant topic of today. It’s an honor to have read Aarti Namdev Shahani’s story and I’m thankful for her courage to write it. I will definitely be on the lookout for anything else Shahani offers us!
Author: Kate Davies
Published: June 4, 2019
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Where I picked up my book: gift from publisher (THANK YOU!!!)
Key Words: LGBTQ+, Romance, Adult themes
My Rating: 3
Wow this was a steamy book. I mean, for me-this might have been the steamiest book I’ve ever read. BUT the cherry on top is-this is a queer, steamy novel and as a queer myself…I ‘m ALWAYS here for more representation! Just a quick note: when reading this, I think it’s good to keep in mind that all people are different, relationships are different, what goes on behind closed doors is different and if you like what is going on in your life behind those closed doors-keep doing you! This is an example of one person’s, fictional, sex life, so don’t get concerned that your life might not look like this. You do you. And if it does look like this-that’s great too! I’ve talked to a few other queer bookstagrammers and we all kind of had the same slight panic of, “are we doing something wrong?!” when reading this book. I’m here to tell you that no, no you’re not. In any relationship, if you and your partner are happy-you’re doing it right!
First, ‘let’s talk about sex ba-by’ (Salt-N-Pepa fans unite. Wait, am I showing my age?! I digress…). In at the Deep End is full of sex, so you’ve been warned. Think, a queer Fifty shades of Grey sort of book maybe? I don’t really know-I never read any of the Fifty Shades of Grey books, but from what I’ve read ABOUT them, this one is up there with those descriptions. I’m not opposed to it. I don’t think woman talk about sex enough, let alone queer sex-in a frank way, without shame and with free abandon. So bring it and let’s make it part of the mainstream discussion.
Second, this book brings up some thoughts about consensual versus non-consensual sex and/or relationships dynamics. Not only should both parties be comfortable with the sex they are having (or not having for that matter) between themselves, but they should also both be comfortable about what goes on in all aspects of their relationship. So maybe S&M might be something you want to experiment with, but you’re not okay with bringing another partner into their relationship or having an open relationship. Talk, talk, talk and talk some more. Communication is the key to life and this book rode that point home for me. Not necessarily in the character’s actions, but in what I was thinking while reading it.
Third, family and friends can be important compass points for you in all aspects of your life, but especially when it comes to relationships. You might be all-consumed with those love feels that come when you’re in a new relationships, so hopefully you have good people around you to check in with. If not, find some good people that will check in with you. I think the idea of “it takes a village” pertains to all aspects of life. Find your village, listen to your village, and trust your village. If your village is warning you that a relationship doesn’t look healthy, trust them.
Fourth, coming out can be (and should be) exhilarating and freeing. Granted, that’s not the case for everyone, but most people get to feel a sense of relief and excitement when they finally find and admit their truth. I still remember collecting all things rainbow because that rainbow now belonged to me. I remember experimenting with clothes, biking home with a pile of LGBTQ+ books to use as research, and listening to the queer artists I always loved, but this time on full volume! The thrill of holding a woman’s hand in public equally excited me and scared me a little, but I was here for it. I couldn’t wait to visit the gay mecca of the world (San Francisco, where I later moved to with my now wife-dreams do come true) and call it my own. I remember thinking with all the pride in the world, that I was now part of the lesbian club. A group of people who walked their own walk and went against the grain and I was wanted and loved and embraced by that community. It was the best feeling in the world and I got to feel it all over again with Julia’s (the main character’s) coming out. It was, hands down, my favorite part of the book.
Yea, this book might have been a bit more steamy than what I am used to, and isn’t as literary as I might usually read, but it is a unique, frank, funny, energetic book, with a positive plot and I think if you go into it with the proper expectations and knowledge…you will enjoy the ride. Side note: There is a scene where one of the characters role plays being Mexican, and it felt problematic to me. I just wanted to put that out there in case you think it feels the same to you too. Have you read it yet? What did you think? I’m really excited to see what else Davies writes. I will definitely be on the look out or it! As always, come and find me on Instagram and let’s chat books!
Author: Mira Jacob
Published: March 26, 2019
Publisher: One World (Random House)
Where I picked up my book: Purchased from local bookstore
Key Words: graphic novel, memoir, identity, interracial families, politics
My Rating: 5 (ALL THE STARS!!)
I LOVED THIS BOOK!!! At first, if I’m being honest, I wasn’t sure about the fact that it was a graphic novel. I remember lovinggggg Maus by Art Spiegelman though when I read it in high school, so I thought I might enjoy this one too. And I was wrong. I didn’t just enjoy it, I LOVED LOVED LOVED this one and I am officially a convert to the graphic novel and will forever and always choose a graphic novel without hesitation from now on. In fact, I got so excited reading it-I started working on a graphic novel myself. I am an artist and a writer (nothing official, but in my heart-that’s what I am) and I can’t even believe I hadn’t thought of combining those two loves and created something powerful. It’s all talk on my end right now, but I’m excited about it! There are some things that I want to say and I want the world to hear, but creating something with only words didn’t seem quite right for me, or for the subject I wanted to talk about. Once I read Good Talk though, I had my ah-ha! moment and I’m excited. But…I digress. SO-if you’re anything like me, do not hesitate for one second to pick this one up. It’s powerful (probably even more powerful as a graphic novel) and I promise, you will not be disappointed!
Second, the amount of topics that Jacob covers is bewildering to me! I should say, the amount of topics she thoroughly covers in a beautiful, thought-provoking, intimate way… is bewildering to me! She delves into immigration, American identity, interracial families, politics, our divided nation (and sometimes, divided friendships and families), Obama’s election (YAY), the 2016 election (BOO), love, racism, sexuality and so much more. Somehow, she does it in a beautiful, thought-provoking, non-rushed, powerful way that will have you gushing to everyone you come in contact with.
Third, the artwork in here is fantastic! Humans are hard to draw…but Jacob does it brilliantly! And then to put the drawings on top of photographs?! Brilliant! I would LOVE LOVE LOVE to see Jacob’s process, how it worked, understand how much time this took, and what it took to get this amazing piece of art published. I am in awe.
Fourth-please get this book! You will not regret it for one second. It’s funny and sad, heart-wrenching and beautiful all at the same time. It’s the exact book that America needs right now and I feel privileged to have read it. I think it’s one you will come back to again and again. (Thank you for coming to my Ted Talk 😉 )
As always, come find me on Instagram!
Author: Lisa Taddeo
Published: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Avis Press (Simon and Schuster)
Where I picked up my book: Book of the Month choice!
Key Words: nonfiction, sex lives of women, journalistic approach
I was completely, 100% sucked into this book from the very first sentence. To be honest, from the description alone, I was sold! So when Book of the Month chose it as one of their picks, I didn’t hesitate to grab a copy! I went into the book thinking that I was going to get an insiders view into 3 women’s sexual lives and the idea of desire…and I was pumped. I’ve long since realized that there is a barrier when it comes to women and talking about our sex lives. Yes, when we get together with our friends, we might talk about sex a bit, or acknowledge that we are in fact having, or not having, sex, but I wanted some more detail, more insight, just more of ANYTHING from a female perspective. So when I started reading this book and then realized that I wasn’t necessarily getting an insiders view on sex lives, or a feminist, empowered perspective, or any sexual awakening vibes, at first…I was caught off guard. But after I realized exactly what I was reading-I was in. Allow me be a fly on the wall in any situation, and I’m in, 100%, and that’s what this book feels like. You’re a fly on the wall, listening and observing, while these women talk about their lives, intimate details of their day to day and the sex they are, or are not, having. We see what goes on behind closed doors, how men play a huge role in some women’s lives* (*straight women), and how the past affects our present and future. We see their insecurities, what goes on in their heads, how they walk through life and the choices they make and why. We see things that pain them and things that shouldn’t ever take place, take place. We read about their intimate feelings and the raw hurt that is present in a lot of women’s lives. After I adjusted my sail, I was not able to put it down. Trust me when I say, it’s not an easy book to read and I often left the pages with a pit in my stomach, but it was truly the most unique book I may have ever read. Here are a few of my thoughts (I could probably go to 100 and not be finished, but this is the condensed list):
1. Yes, there is definitely sex in this book…but I didn’t see it as the sex positive, feminist, empowering book I thought I was going to read. It doesn’t change that I was completely engrossed, but if you were like me…you’ve been warned. Go into it with correct expectations and I think you’ll enjoy it a lot more.
2. We, as women, carry baggage with us from our past trauma and it shows up, plain and simple, in our present lives. We need to work through our past before we can be good to ourselves in the present and the future.
3. Sometimes, other people (in this case, men) will try to control you, your sexual being and your sex life-don’t let them!
4. This is only a teeeeeny snippet of the population of women. These are 3 straight, white, cis, relatively affluent women that we see represented. It’s called ‘Three Women’ and that’s a really good thing to keep in mind. I would have liked to see more diversity and if I ever get a chance to talk to Taddeo, I’d love to know how these three women came to the front of her research (because I read somewhere her research actually involved a ton of women and eight years). We always need more diversity in literature (and everywhere else), and I would have liked to see that in this one.
5. I am still thinking about all three of these women, but specifically Maggie, on a daily basis. Ugh…her story absolutely broke my heart and I saw myself in her-it scared me a bit and brought up some tough things for me too.
6. You are going to feel every emotion you know how to feel when reading this one…and maybe some others you didn’t even know you knew how to feel. I had to learn to slow down and reflect on all of those emotions as they came up. It was cathartic.
7. This book is raw. It’s not one that will wrap up with a pretty bow. It’s non-fiction…these are real lives we’re dealing with here. Keep that in mind and keep your judgements in check.
8. I’ve truly never read anything like this before.
9. Victim-blaming is never okay. Please don’t blame victims.
10. Ultimately, I don’t think this book dealt with ‘desire.’ I think it was a portrayal of what women feel, think and how they respond when our past affects our present. And when men are jerks. Was that too much? 😉
11. Three Women will make you think and is bound to be a book you talk about with your friends. Ultimately, I think this book might help women feel more open to talk about our sex lives with each other and with professionals, to stand up for ourselves and against jerks in our lives, and to see how our past, and especially past trauma, affects our present. I think that’s a good thing.
12. This book won’t be for everyone, but if you’re a fly on the wall type of person like I am, I think you will dive into this one and pop out when you finish the last sentence.
Have you read Three Women yet? What did you think? Let me know here or over at @bookishfolk. As always, happy reading!
Even though the title of this post might make you think that I’ve got my shit together and I’m going to provide you with a list of 1-10 steps to review a book…you’d be mistaken. I have no idea what I’m doing when (and if) I review a book, and the more I talk to people over on Bookstagram about this, the more I’m learning there is no right or wrong way to go about reviewing books. When I first started this Bookstagram, I spent time only periodically mentioning books, what I was reading, or books I was buying, and that was pretty much it. Taking pretty photos was the name of the game. Then, once I started receiving books from publishers in the mail, I started thinking that I needed to up my game and write more reviews on my blog and Instagram and interact more professionally on Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, my blog, or wherever else book reviews are valued. These publishers are reaching out because they want to generate some buzz about a book and we are the ones to do it. I wouldn’t call us smaller accounts ‘influencers,’ but publishers are definitely looking for some buzz when they send you a book and there is some responsibility associated with this. So, after about a year or so of being pretty serious on Bookstagram, I got my shit together and I created a spreadsheet where I itemized books I received from publishers, took note of what was asked of me, marked where and how I shared about the book, gave a star review, marked if I had mentioned it in Bookstagram yet, etc. All was good and I was feeling like I was finally in control of this thing called Bookstagram (PS this is a hobby. No one pays me to do this. Sometimes, I receive a free book in the mail, but that’s it. I think I forget that sometimes). Anyways, I digress…So all felt more organized and less chaotic for this hobby of mine and that felt good. That is…until I received a book in the mail from a publisher that I thought I was going to love, but ultimately, I found problematic parts that rubbed me the wrong way. I was all prepared to create that perfectly honest post, but all of a sudden, I went down a spiral of slight panic (if I’m being honest). Here is my dilemma (also-completely 1st world problems so take this anxiety with a grain of salt but still…). 1, I want to have good relationships with publishers who send me a free book and hopefully, generate more good buzz to get the word out 2, I want to make sure I never dissuade anyone from reading a book they may like and 3, I want to review books in a 100% authentic way for all of you reading my reviews. Is there a formula for that? Is there a way to organize my reading life that will accommodate all of that? The odds of me buying a book I don’t love are slimmer, but being given a book by a publisher that I wind up not loving is more possible. Will I piss off a publisher if I give their book a negative review and that’s it for my time of receiving books to read and review? Will a reader be turned off from a book that I didn’t love but they might?! I’m telling you-I went down a crazy rabbit hole of insecurity and a bit of anxiety with this one. BUT, my best end result from a lot of thinking was this…You do you Boo. A friend of mine on Instagram (@caseythereader) mentioned that publishers know that not all books are for everyone. And that’s so true. We all know that. I might recommend a book to a friend and they wind up reading it and not liking it. It’s a bit of a bummer, but we all move on (hopefully after a good discussion if it’s your friend). Obviously, this discussion doesn’t usually happen with a publisher, but still-I’m positive Casey was right. They know not every book is for everyone. Secondly, I never want to be dishonest in a book review. Or be deceitful in any way just to save face with a publisher and therefore continue to get free books. That was the overwhelming advice I received when I threw this question out to the Bookstagram community. Be honest! Thirdly, find some good things to mention in your review. There is always some good things in every book and they are worth mentioning. After all, this book is someone’s pride and joy that they created and it’s been through a lot of eyes before it got to me. If it’s published, odds are, there are some good things worth mentioning. Fourth, if there are problematic things in a book, they are worth mentioning in a constructive way too. And lastly, I don’t have to review every book I read. That’s probably not even possible anyways, and also-most books I receive from publishers do not mention HAVING to write a review about the book anyways. In fact, they oftentimes say, if you liked the book, feel free to rate and review it. ‘Liked’ being the key word. So there you have it folks! I have come up with a plan for myself in terms of how and when I rate, review and post about books. Here is it if you’re interested:
So that’s my plan from now on. Praise the good, possibly mention the problematic and leave the meh alone. *this may all change tomorrow and I’m okay with that too 🙂 But also-this is a hobby and I need to stop worrying so much about this and start reading! That’s what brought me here to begin with.
What is your method of reviewing books? Do you feel you need to review every book you read? Are you more choosy with book reviews? Is my anxiety at fault for all of this?! 😉 Head over to Instagram and let’s chat! Find me @bookishfolk
Happy August! It’s my wife’s birthday this month and we both love to read so this one is for her! If you know her in real-life-wish her a HAPPY BIRTHDAY! Hope your month is going well! Check back for a few book reviews coming soon and as always, come over to bookishfolk on Instagram and say hi.
Author: R.L. Maizes
Published: July 23, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
Where I picked up my book: Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU and then I bought a final copy at my local Indie 🙂
Key Words: short stories, outsider POV, Jewish Lit, Magical Realism
My Rating: 4
I loved this debut collection so much! As someone who has always felt like a bit of an outsider, and as a part of the LGBTQ+ community, these stories particularly resonated with me, made me feel seen and had a lasting effect of, “Huh. Life can be pretty great as an outsider and actually, when you think about it-there are a lot of us walking around as outsiders and that means I’m never really alone” and that feels good.
First, this collection had me thinking long and hard about the idea of being a part of the “other.” In this collection, these characters are treated as outsiders because of how they look, their sexual orientation, religious affiliation or race. As I read this collection, I kept thinking about how it felt fitting to read a book geared toward this topic with today’s political climate. There seems to be a huge backwards jump to this sort of segregation mindset where the idea of the ‘us versus them’ is running rampant from the person on top and then trickling on down. I should probably say, it’s always been a part of our narrative (unfortunately) but now, it seems like there is this sense of permission happening and I can’t think of anything scarier. I’m not going to beat around the bush here-our political climate, and hence the nation in general, feels vulnerable and on the brink of disaster and I think those of us that have always felt like outsiders are feeling that awareness even more. Families are being separated and put into cages, Black and Brown people are being discriminated against and killed and it feels like no one is doing anything about it. Rights are being taken away from women, queer folx are being discriminated against and the government is tolerating it, and at times, initiating it. Outsiders are being put at risk and it’s truly terrifying to me. On the plus side, we’re seeing a battle cry rising from so many of us and again-just like in this book, it makes me feel less alone. There’s a whole, beautiful group of us ready to stand up for, and with, the ‘outsider’ and it’s truly the rainbow after (in this case, during) the storm. R.L. Maizes puts all of those thoughts and real-life scenarios, into enjoyable, relatable and amazing fiction and it’s a breath of fresh air.
Second, each short story has it’s own life and personality, but they are all funny, moving, thought-provoking and full of empathy. Truly, each story is full of this and that seems like a huge feat. I think some people tend to shy away from reading short stories because they can feel choppy or just as you start to get into the story, it ends-but that isn’t the case here! Each story provides a unique plot and story, but the themes are the same and it makes for a beautiful flow.
Third, people always ask me what my favorite stories in a collection are and although that can sometimes be hard to say, and it’s particularly hard in this case because I truly enjoyed all of the stories, I REALLY loved Tattoo, We Love Anderson Cooper and Couch. Seriously though-I thoroughly enjoyed them all…but this third point is for all of you who like itemization 😉
Lastly, I was lucky enough to hear R.L. Maizes speak at my local bookstore last week here in Colorado and I was completely enamored by her backstory, her motivation to write, how she writes and the path she took to get to where she is today. What she has to say carries a lot of merit and depth and I’m excited to see what else she has to offer us! And BONUS, she signed a book deal at the same time as this short story collection, so her book will be coming out in the near future. Woohoo!! Here is a great write up from NPR too about this book! It’s a great review!
As always, find me over on Instagram at bookishfolk and let’s chat books!
Author: Alex North
Published: August 20, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
Where I picked up my book: Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!
Key Words: thriller, father/son relationship, serial killer
My Rating: 4
If you’re like me and the Summer/early Fall is for psychological thrillers full of creepy feels…then The Whisper Man is coming out just in time! I don’t read a ton of thrillers, but I LOVE to pick up a good one, during the longer daytime hours ;), and get totally engrossed, flipping through the pages as fast as I can, until A. I finish, or B. I hear a noise somewhere in the house and I literally cannot deal with reading it anymore. God forbid the sun has gone down and I’m still engrossed lol. That happened a few times with this one (as you might be able to tell, I’m a bit of a wuss when it comes to thrillers…but listen to this and you might see why I may never read a thriller at night again)!! One evening I got sucked in and was reading The Whisper Man long into the night, completely creeped out with the idea of a serial killer whispering outside of a child’s bedrooms to lure them outside the safety of their home. WHAT?! My wife was sound asleep-never helpful when reading a creepy book I finally exhausted myself and fell asleep. A few hours later, I woke up to my dog growling (she NEVER does that) and I heard a little girl sing-songy whispering in another room in my house. I nearly sh*t my pants. I’m not kidding. I’ll get to the point because I’m starting to sweat just thinking about this-after some investigation where I turned every light on in the house, had my phone dialed up to 91 and ready to hit the other 1 at a moments notice, and forcing my dog to come with me even though she was all of a sudden terrified to move from the bed (side note: wife is still sound asleep), I realized what was going on and sighed a sigh of relief like I’ve never sighed before. The publisher included a card introducing the book to us that when opened, it was a little girls voice whispering the catchphrase of the book. The card must have gotten cracked open and low and behold, it was what I was hearing. I’m not even kidding. Lord have mercy. So that’s how creepy I found this book and also…why I will forever read thrillers in the daytime or with every light in the house on (but then I can’t see out the windows so, Oyyyyye). But I digress…
This was a creepy, heart-pounding, unsettling and well-paced read that is full of character development, family dynamics, imagination and quite detailed, beautiful writing. I don’t want to give too much of the plot or my thoughts away because I think going in relatively blind is always more fun with thrillers, but just know The Whisper Man is sure to keep you up long into the night flipping pages, ferociously trying to find out what is going on. It’s a page-turner that is sure to give you all those creepy vibes and BONUS! I just read that it’s been snapped up by the same production company that created various Marvel films and Arrested Development. So read the book before movie comes out and let’s all be completely creeped out together!!
As always, find me over on Instagram and let’s chat books! The Whisper Man comes out on August 20th-don’t miss it for your end of summer/beginning of Fall, perfect, creepy read!
In this dark, suspenseful thriller, Alex North weaves a multi-generational tale of a father and son caught in the crosshairs of an investigation to catch a serial killer preying on a small town.
After the sudden death of his wife, Tom Kennedy believes a fresh start will help him and his young son Jake heal. A new beginning, a new house, a new town. Featherbank.
But the town has a dark past. Twenty years ago, a serial killer abducted and murdered five residents. Until Frank Carter was finally caught, he was nicknamed “The Whisper Man,” for he would lure his victims out by whispering at their windows at night.
Just as Tom and Jake settle into their new home, a young boy vanishes. His disappearance bears an unnerving resemblance to Frank Carter’s crimes, reigniting old rumors that he preyed with an accomplice. Now, detectives Amanda Beck and Pete Willis must find the boy before it is too late, even if that means Pete has to revisit his great foe in prison: The Whisper Man.
And then Jake begins acting strangely. He hears a whispering at his window…
Author: Rory Power
Published: July 9, 2019
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Where I picked up my book: Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!
Key Words: feminist, mysterious illness, YA lit, survival
My Rating: 4
I really enjoyed this book! It checked so many boxes for me-a gripping story line, strong female friendships, feminism, queer feels, a beautiful cover (come on…we all judge a book by it’s cover sometimes and this one completely wrangled me in), an island under quarantine, and add in a plague-I’m sold!
First off, I don’t want to give too much away in this review. I went into the book kind of blind, and I think that made it that much more fantastic! So I’d avoid reading too many reviews and just go for it and get emerged in the story-I think you’ll enjoy it so much more that way! But just know-there are girls who get a plague called The Tox and the story continues on from there.
Secondly, this book revolves around female friendships and I’m ALWAYS here for that! These girls go to an all-girl school called the Raxter School for Girls and it brought up some fond memories for me. I also went to an all-girl high school and I could imagine the relationships and friendships (and possibly more than friendships, wink, wink) happening as if it was yesterday (side note: it was a longgggg time ago for me). We were a close-knit group of young women who walked through life, and the halls of our school, in a do or die sort of way. Maybe all high school girls feel this way, but for us, it was legit. I would have done just about anything for the ladies I went to school with, so I could 100% relate and I loved every second of it!
Third, this story is so atmospheric that I could literally feel myself in the plot. I was walking in those woods, tasting the food, feeling the feels, angry at certain points, feeling lonely at other times and getting my game face on to prep for the future right along side these characters. I was completely immersed and that’s saying something for a 40 year old reading YA lit.
The only problem (and by problem, I mean slight annoyance) I had with this book was the ending. Apparently, I like a final conclusion and you won’t find that here. BUT it also allows the reader to surmise and let their imagination run a bit wild and alas…isn’t that the point of good fiction?!
All in all, I really enjoyed this unique book and I’m excited to see what else Power has in store for us. Wilder Girls is full of female friendships and female empowerment. It’s a dark book, but uplifting at the same time full of atmospheric writing that is sure to put you right in the characters shoes. I will definitely be reading more of what Power releases out into the world.
Summary (via Goodreads):
It’s been eighteen months since the Raxter School for Girls was put under quarantine. Since the Tox hit and pulled Hetty’s life out from under her.
It started slow. First the teachers died one by one. Then it began to infect the students, turning their bodies strange and foreign. Now, cut off from the rest of the world and left to fend for themselves on their island home, the girls don’t dare wander outside the school’s fence, where the Tox has made the woods wild and dangerous. They wait for the cure they were promised as the Tox seeps into everything.
But when Byatt goes missing, Hetty will do anything to find her, even if it means breaking quarantine and braving the horrors that lie beyond the fence. And when she does, Hetty learns that there’s more to their story, to their life at Raxter, than she could have ever thought true.
Happy summer and happy summer reading! I created this one for those warm summer months, full of hammocks, ice cold drinks, summer books, flowers and trees galore and the faint smell of sunscreen in the air. I hope you enjoy! Please share with your friends and on your social media and don’t forget to tag me on Instagram so I can see your wallpaper out in the wild!
Author: Abbi Waxman
Published:July 9, 2019
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Where I picked up my book: Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!
Key Words: family dynamics, likeable characters, wry humor, bookish life
My Rating: 5
I mean…I absolutely LOVED this book! It was everything I wanted it to be and more. It not only has a bookish vibe (always, always, ALWAYS a winner for me), but I found myself wanting to be friends with Nina throughout the entire read. That doesn’t happen all the time for me, but when it does-it’s truly something magical 🙂 Here’s a little about Nina- She works in a bookstore, has a great little apartment and a slightly snarky and jealous cat named Phil. She is full of schedules, keeps to herself for the most part and has a distanced relationship with her free-spirited and neglectful Mother. She plays trivia at local bars and seems to love her life the way it is. She has a confidence in herself that I admired but a realness to her that that says, “I know I’m not perfect, but I like myself this way.” Personally, I’m not looking for crazy adventures or to travel to far away places. I’m not looking to hit up the bars late at night with drinks and a constant litany of friends in tow. I’m more of a cup of tea at night with a good book in my hand, curled up with my dog on the couch and my wife doing the same thing next to me. I love my friends and enjoy a night out once in a while, but I would have zero problem saying no to an event because I already had plans that night—to read. I seriously think Nina and I would be friends and could picture us both participating in a silent book club together 🙂 Side note: Abbi Waxman, if you wrote your character to be anything like yourself, or if you know someone like Nina, send them my info 😉
This book was truly magical for me. I haven’t enjoyed reading a book like I enjoyed The Bookish Life of Nina Hill in a long time. (and that’s saying a lot, because I usually enjoy most books I pick up). The bookish references were everything, I found myself laughing out loud many, many times, and I just kept thinking that Nina was speaking my language. I am going to miss Nina and a lot of the characters that Waxman created so much and imagine myself thinking of them for a long time to come. If you liked Eleanor Oliphant (I loveddd Eleanor) and books about books are your jam, definitely go out and grab this one right away! You won’t be disappointed. It filled my bookish heart with joy! And bonus, it comes out today!!
Summary (via Goodreads):
The only child of a single mother, Nina has her life just as she wants it: a job in a bookstore, a kick-butt trivia team, a world-class planner and a cat named Phil. If she sometimes suspects there might be more to life than reading, she just shrugs and picks up a new book.
When the father Nina never knew existed suddenly dies, leaving behind innumerable sisters, brothers, nieces, and nephews, Nina is horrified. They all live close by! They’re all—or mostly all—excited to meet her! She’ll have to Speak. To. Strangers. It’s a disaster! And as if that wasn’t enough, Tom, her trivia nemesis, has turned out to be cute, funny, and deeply interested in getting to know her. Doesn’t he realize what a terrible idea that is?
Nina considers her options.
1. Completely change her name and appearance. (Too drastic, plus she likes her hair.)
2. Flee to a deserted island. (Hard pass, see: coffee).
3. Hide in a corner of her apartment and rock back and forth. (Already doing it.)
It’s time for Nina to come out of her comfortable shell, but she isn’t convinced real life could ever live up to fiction. It’s going to take a brand-new family, a persistent suitor, and the combined effects of ice cream and trivia to make her turn her own fresh page.
Author: Ask Again, Yes
Published: May 28, 2019
Where I picked up my book: My Book of the Month Pick
Key Words: family dynamics, tragedy, mental illness, forgiveness
My Rating: 4
I have always loved books that take me on a journey, span a length of time, introduce me to characters that I get to know in-depth and hit all of my emotions. Ask Again, Yes is exactly that.
First, let’s talk about the idea of flawed characters because this book is full of them! I have always thought that there is something really special about a flawed character because we, as humans, are all flawed. It’s in our nature to be flawed, so whenever I’m reading characters that aren’t perfect, don’t say the perfect things, or have some major character flaws, I’m sold. These characters might think one thing and then do another, or think about someone they love in a negative way. They might actually do something that is hurtful or negative to someone and I’m always like…THANK THE BABY JESUS (not literally, I’m not religious, but you get my point). To me, flawed characters are relatable and I’m always here for them. This book is full of characters that are flawed (or I like to call, human) and I loved every second of it.
Second, the emotional roller coaster that this book takes you on is intense. It was a serious emotional whammy for me that I still might be recovering from, so prepare yourself for that when you pick up this book. You’re bound to laugh, cry, feel happy, feel angry, feel frustrated and at the same time-you’ll forgive, you’ll forget, you’ll love and you’ll hate all in a matter of minutes, or possibly…at the same time. Ultimately, it will make you think about your life and touch you in a way that goes beyond words, at least it did for me. It’s that sort of book-so come prepared.
Third, it had me thinking so much about forgiveness and tragedy, or more specifically, forgiveness within tragedy and this is hard for me. I would say I’m a forgiving person, but I don’t forget. I’m more of a, “you did me wrong and I’ll move on and give you a hug when I see you in person and laugh and hang with you as if it’s old times, but the odds of me calling you to hang out, inviting you to a small party or really thinking of you in a positive way without thinking about the hurt you caused me from here on out are slim to none.” So…I have a lot of work to do with forgiveness as you can see lol. Add tragedy to this and oof. This book walked me through what it takes to be a forgiving person, when forgiveness is necessary to move on with your life and when forgiveness gets in the way. It had me questioning whether it’s better to always forgive and if being a forgiving person always ends up well. I had a lot of feels around this and I’m still struggling a little bit to come up with the right answers to most of these questions. I love a book that does that to me.
All in all, I loved this book. It got me thinking, it gave me one hundred and one emotions and then some, and ultimately…it made me think about my life, forgiveness, how my past affects my present and future and how intense and complicated the idea of family really is. If you like books that span a long length of time, are character driven and full of things that will make you think long after you close the book, this one is for you!
As always, let me know what you thought when you read it and come find me over on Instagram!
Author: M.T. Edvardsson
Published: June 25, 2019
Publisher: Celadon Books
Where I picked up my book: Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!
Key Words: legal thriller, family dynamics, fast-paced read
My Rating: 3.5
I really enjoyed this book and it kept me on the edge of my seat for the majority of my reading. Granted, I don’t read a lot of thrillers, so they usually do this to me…but the way this one was set up (split into 3 sections/perspectives-Father, Daughter, Mother) really kept me enthralled. It would be a perfect summer read, beach read, airplane read, or in my case, an up all night, go to the gym just to read, sort of read 🙂
First, it’s a family drama and I really love those. Family dynamics are always interesting to me, but add in a murder and how parents would cope with that, I’m all in! I kept thinking about how my family would cope with something like this and it totally brought a whole different perspective to the book. I was completely wrapped up in thinking about the family dynamics, not only in this plot, but in my own family life as well.
Second, the multiple perspective approach where the novel is broken up into 3 sections and each section tells a different perspective from each family member is fantastic. There are always multiple perspectives to a story and we don’t always get to hear about how others feel, or we are told how others feel from the bias of the narrator. In this story, we are given a first hand look at how each family member deals with the murder as well as it’s aftermath. We see their individual strengths, weaknesses, secrets and truths and it was like reading about a study in human behavior. I was hooked!
Third, it reminded me a bit of Miracle Creek and I really enjoyed that book. With that said, it made me think about what lengths I would go to in order to protect my child or a member of my family. I don’t know if I have an easy answer for that, but this book is sure to make you think about it.
I do have two small things that I didn’t necessarily love about the book that I think are worth mentioning. One, the father (his perspective is the first section) is a pastor and anything religious, even a slight mention of religion, is usually a trigger warning/turn off for me. I found myself feeling kinda weird about his character and the religious talk. There is a lot more to him than just his religion and job, but it was definitely there and a focus of his perspective and wasn’t my favorite. BUT, it does lead to some good questions-do religious leaders hold a moral compass? Should we take religious leaders at face value? ect. so that was something to think about. Second, I kind of guessed the ending-but again, that didn’t affect my enjoyment of the book at all, and I’ve read reviews where that was not the case for many people, but just something to keep that in mind!
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I wasn’t necessarily blown away, but I was completely sucked in throughout the entire reading and personally, that is the purpose of a thriller! I would recommend it to anyone that enjoys a great, face-paced thriller full of family drama, moral and ethical thinking and decision making in the plot and is told from multiple perspectives. I’ll be thinking about this family for a while.
Summary (via Goodreads):
M.T. Edvardsson’s A Nearly Normal Family is a gripping legal thriller that forces the reader to consider: How far would you go to protect the ones you love? In this twisted narrative of love and murder, a horrific crime makes a seemingly normal family question everything they thought they knew about their life—and one another.
Eighteen-year-old Stella Sandell stands accused of the brutal murder of a man almost fifteen years her senior. She is an ordinary teenager from an upstanding local family. What reason could she have to know a shady businessman, let alone to kill him?
Stella’s father, a pastor, and mother, a criminal defense attorney, find their moral compasses tested as they defend their daughter, while struggling to understand why she is a suspect. Told in an unusual three-part structure, A Nearly Normal Family asks the questions: How well do you know your own children? How far would you go to protect them?
Author: Roselle Lim
Published: June 6, 2019
Publisher: Berkley Publishing
Where I picked up my book: Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU!
Key Words: food lover, community, family dynamics, magical realism, heritage
My Rating: 3.5
I enjoyed Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune and after I sat with it for a bit, I enjoyed it even more. I originally went into this book wanting to read an easy, fluffier read, but this one had some depth that left me pleasantly surprised-so keep that in mind when you pick it up!
First, the writing is lyrical and lovely. Lim’s words and descriptions are full of detail and metaphors and create an atmosphere that I could literally feel myself taking part in. I could smell the smells, hear the words, touch the walls of the restaurant and walk the streets, all from the couch in my living room. Lim has a talent that she describes as, “painting with words” and that is literally how her writing feels. It’s beautiful.
Second, there is magical realism involved in the plot and I’m always here for that! I’m not sure what it is, but somehow, Lim made me feel like this is the reason to read fiction. Fiction doesn’t always have to make perfect sense-that’s the luxury of writing magical realism…and when it’s there in a book, it can add something beautiful to a story. That’s how I felt when while reading.
Third, family and friend dynamics are front and center. Sometimes reading about perfect families that love each other and are there for each other can be tough for me because of personal reasons, but this story was relatable, truthful and felt uniquely honest to some of what I deal with in my own family. It was a breath of fresh air. And the friend and community aspect-that was golden and almost made me cry happy tears. There is nothing that I value more than friends and community, so reading about these dynamics in this story was fantastic and right up my alley.
Fourth, Chinatown in San Francisco is almost like a character in this book and I couldn’t have loved that more. I used to live in San Francisco and a friend and I used to take the bus to Chinatown sometimes after work. We would buy dumplings from a window and look for cool pens in a stationery store. We’d walk by shops just to smell the smells, talk to friends that lived there as their aunt yelled for them out of a window above us to grab the mail, and I’d watch little kids play on the stoop next door. We’d go to the grocery store where you can buy authentic Asian ingredients and even though I knew nothing about most of them, I touched each one as if I was going home to make the most delicious meal I’ve ever made. It’s a beautifully unique place and always made me feel like I had left the hustle of the city when we went there. I felt that feeling again while reading this book and it made me the happiest.
Natalie Tan’s Book of Luck and Fortune made me think long and hard about family, where we come from, mental illness, small business and what it means to support small and local shops, how important neighborhood and community can be, and how gentrification affects all aspects of a city. This isn’t necessarily a deep look at any of these themes, but if you let your mind go and do some work, I think you’ll close this book and still think about it days later. I know I have been. Oh, and also…this book is for all of my fellow food lovers out there too. I found myself feeling hungry through the majority of it. Good thing recipes are involved 🙂 Than you @berkleypub for the copy! #partner
P.S. THAT COVER!!
Summary (via Goodreads):
At the news of her mother’s death, Natalie Tan returns home. The two women hadn’t spoken since Natalie left in anger seven years ago, when her mother refused to support her chosen career as a chef. Natalie is shocked to discover the vibrant neighborhood of San Francisco’s Chinatown that she remembers from her childhood is fading, with businesses failing and families moving out. She’s even more surprised to learn she has inherited her grandmother’s restaurant.
The neighborhood seer reads the restaurant’s fortune in the leaves: Natalie must cook three recipes from her grandmother’s cookbook to aid her struggling neighbors before the restaurant will succeed. Unfortunately, Natalie has no desire to help them try to turn things around–she resents the local shopkeepers for leaving her alone to take care of her agoraphobic mother when she was growing up. But with the support of a surprising new friend and a budding romance, Natalie starts to realize that maybe her neighbors really have been there for her all along.
I thought I’d give you a little update on my reading life, what I’ve been up to in the literary world, and some exciting things coming down the pipe! The last few months have been a fantastic time for me and my reading life. I’ve read some great books, heard some fantastic authors speak, received some wonderful books in the mail and signed up to participate in some exciting literary events! Here is a little synopsis of a few of those things!
What I’ve been reading recently:
-Loads of queer books and I’ve never felt so at home as I do within this genre. Representation matters and I’ve always know that concept, but reading so many books this past month where I can recognize myself-that has made me feel more whole. A few fantastic books I’ve read are: Red, White and Royal Blue, Rubyfruit Jungle, The Lost Coast, Annie on My Mind and Tomorrow Will Be Different, to name a few.
What I’ve been up to (literary version):
-I saw Casey McQuiston (author of Red, White and Royal Blue) speak and it was fantastic! I honestly couldn’t love this book more if I tried, but listening to her speak about it was the icing on the cake!
-I also heard Kali Fajardo-Anstine speak (author of Sabrina and Corina) and she was real, honest and SO inspiring! Her book is magical and I highly recommend grabbing a copy!
What’s coming up for me:
-I just purchased tickets to Literary Sojourn Festival of Authors and I’m so excited I can hardly contain myself! Andrew Sean Greer, John Burnham Schwartz, Madeline Miller, Jennifer Clement, Esi Edugyan and Rebecca Makkai will be there and I might pee myself just thinking about all of those amazing authors in one place and that I get to hear them speak! Now I better get reading the large reading list ahead of me 🙂
-I also volunteer with the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association for their trade show and I’m absurdly excited for that as well!
-I purchased a Little Free Library and I’m pumped to build it and put it up in the front yard! I’m equally terrified to see how my dog will handle the extra foot traffic in the front of the house, but we’ll have to wait and see how that part goes.
What books I’m excited to dig into:
That’s it folks! If I could just surround myself with books, bookish friends, bookstagram and book events 24/7, I’d be a happy human. So far, I’m doing a pretty good job of making that a reality 😉
Happy reading! As always…come find me on Instagram or comment here with what your reading life looks like!
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