Sunday, September 20, 2020

The Fires of Vesuvius: Pompeii Lost and Found (by Mary Beard)

I read this for the category "a book about a natural disaster." I picked this up after our visit to Pompeii a few years ago, but hadn't read it before. 

It is this weird mix of very interesting and very disappointing. Beard is one of the foremost experts on Pompeii, and it's chock-full of fascinating tidbits about the life of the city. I'm glad to have read it on paper too; the illustrations and colored plates really bring everything to life.

But the title ("fires of Vesuvius") implied a focus on the actual disaster that the book didn't pay off. Other than a prologue about some of the bodies found by archeologists, there was very little about the disaster itself, which was a bummer. I would have second thoughts about counting this at all given the lack of focus on the disaster for the "about a disaster" category, except that 1) it took me a long time to read; and 2) it's a particularly awful month in a particularly awful year, so I'm cutting myself some slack.

I also was looking forward to reading about the meaning of the phalluses and the experiences of the brothels but she kind of didn't cover that in much detail. I was like "yay the penis chapter is coming up" (er, no pun intended) but she was kind of snide about tourists not spending that much time in the brothel? Her authorial voice didn't quite win me over. 

Anyway it was okay, the topic was interesting, but I'd rather read another book about Pompeii, to be perfectly honest.

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Friday, September 18, 2020

LGBTQ Young Adult Romance

Updating this post because a daily dose of LGBTQ YA is my current comfort reading, and I will probably read another one today to be quite honest.

Girl Crushed (by Katie Heaney)

I was going to highly recommend this, as it was a sweet queer romance with excellent writing. Also there was a bisexual character, which I always appreciate! But it turns out the author has made some biphobic statements in the past, particularly attacking "bisexual women married to straight men" which happens to include me. This made me see the bisexual character (and her commitmentphobia) through a new lens, as this does play into bisexual stereotypes. So I'm disappointed.  Yay amazing writing writing! Boo biphobia.

The Summer of Impossibilities (by Rachael Allen) 

This suffered a tiny bit by having some overly black-and-white characters and wrapped up a bit too neatly but still enjoyed this. Also had some similarities to my own YA in Amelia Grace's story (and makes me think I should potentially make my villains less black and white). 

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Thursday, September 17, 2020

Date Me, Bryson Keller (by Kevin Van Whye)

 This book of young gay love has a fun premise and great messaging! But it falls short in comparison of Love, Simon, for me. 

I loved Bryson as a character, but found his overall arc not fully believable. I also loved Kai, but found the idea that he, a deeply closeted person, would out himself as part of an extremely public challenge and then be like "but it's secret!" did not quite track. Maybe his subconscious was nudging him to do it, but the opportunities he had to back out and didn't, rang false. 

 There was also a bit of didacticism (didactic-ness?) around the fact that being gay is AOK even if you're religious, but my own similarly themed young adult novel does this too, so I shouldn't throw stones. I see it as aimed towards the young adult audience moreso than adults who are reading young adult, if this makes sense.

Overall I liked it and found it charming! Just not quite a five-star read for me.

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Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Murderbot and Meal

Here are two completely unrelated books that I read this week. (Well, one thing they have in common is that they are both short.)

Artificial Condition: The Murderbot Diaries (by Martha Wells) 

The second book in the delightful Murderbot series! I was actually halfway through the third one and then my library checkout expired, so it will take a bit for it to come back around. But I love Murderbot and am excited to keep reading the series. If you know, then you know. 

Meal (by Blue Delliquanti and Soleil Ho)

Allow me to take a moment to point out how annoying it is when Bookriot creates a category for the RHC and then recommends books that don't fit.  The category is "A food book about a cuisine you’ve never tried before" and they suggest Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat? How does that make any sense? I hold myself to a higher standard.

It turns out I've tried a lot of cuisines so was stuck for a bit, until the Goodreads group recommended Meal, a graphic novel about entomophagy, aka eating insects. I once sat across from my husband as he ate crickets in a Oaxacan restaurant, and I had delicious chicken mole instead, because no. I enjoyed learning more about the tradition of entomophagy, even if I have a very typical White westerner reaction to the whole thing. The book was a quick read and the romance was cute.

I find it impossible to believe any restaurant would have a crowd outside excited to eat whole tarantulas, though.

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Saturday, September 12, 2020

Gmorning, Gnight!: Little Pep Talks for Me & You (by Lin-Manuel Miranda)

This was for the "audiobook of poetry" category of the RHC, which means it was narrated by Lin-Manuel Miranda.  It seems to be a compilation of bookended tweets, which start off with a "gmorning" and ends with a "gnight" and expresses love, affirmation, and optimism. Here's an example:

This moment will pass.
This fatigue will pass.
Tonight will pass.
But look at you, with the gift of imagination.
You can teleport to where you're happiest just by closing your eyes and breathing.
Then come right back to now, check in with the present.
You magic thing, you.

I'm considering buying the audiobook (this was a library loan) because he's so positive and uplifting, and his messages are so great, I think Mina could use this in her rotation as well. LMM is a treasure. (And, I will never neglect to mention, called me "sweetheart" once outside the Richard Rodgers theater.)

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Monday, August 31, 2020

Final August Books

I finished up two books at the end of August in my quest to catch up on my reading goal; they were my 44th and 45th books of the year.

Midnight Sun (by Stephenie Meyer)

I bought this (yes, with money) so I could livetweet it with Jen, except she gave up on it but I couldn't stop so I livetweeted anyway. It was honestly so fun. Meyer retconned some of the more egregious moments, and there was a whole section with Edward talking about the importance of consent, lol okay Stephenie. But being in his emo brain made the book so much more enjoyable. My ironic love of Twilight continues. It's definitely ironic, okay.  Ironic love.

Real Queer America (by Samantha Allen)

Now here is a book I can wholeheartedly recommend, the memoir of a transgender journalist exploring rural America and kind of hating on coastal LGBTQ liberal elites, of which I am one, in the process. Her take gave me a new appreciation of the strength of queer communities when those communities are smaller and more endangered. It also made me want to take a roadtrip across America (sniffle) immediately. I appreciated her acknowledgement of intersectionality, the breadth of folks she interviewed, and the new perspective on rural America. And the writing, which is wonderful! A great read. 

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Friday, August 28, 2020

One to Watch (by Kate Stayman-London)

Such an awesome, fun, body-positive book! About a fat-positive blogger (omg I was one of those!) who goes on a Bachelor-type reality show as the "Main Squeeze." She faces fatphobia, insecurity, and romantic complications. I can't imagine a character I would root for more! And I immediately recommended it to my other plus-size friends. 

Just look at the cover! Really loved it.

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Monday, August 24, 2020

Austenland and Midnight in Austenland (by Shanon Hale)

As soon as I found out this book existed, I immediately had to read it, then watch the movie, then read the sequel. This is the kind of escapism that 2020 is crying out for.  Plus, Midnight in Austenland turns out to be a romance about a single parent (she is divorced) so it qualifies for Read Harder also! Score!

Both books are about an immersive Jane Austen-esque vacation house in England called Austenland; both books feature American women who go there for different reasons - Jane in the first book because she is Austen-obsessed and no man can live up to Mr. Darcy; Charlotte in the second book because she feels trapped in her life post-divorce.

I loved both of these romances (and incidentally also the movie) and all the delightful Jane Austen shoutouts along the way. Pure delightfulness to read, and based on the ending of the second book I would love to read a third one. Shannon Hale, are you listening?

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Saturday, August 22, 2020

New York 2140 (by Kim Stanley Robinson)

This was okay. I read it for the "book about climate change" category and it took me a long time to get through it. By the end I wasn't really enjoying any of the characters, and I wanted more of a clear plot.  It's about New York in the year 2140 (as you may have guessed) when half the island is underwater due to climate change. The worldbuilding is good. The narrative jumps back and forth among multiple characters and none of them have a particularly compelling emotional throughline.

I generally love speculative fiction, but something about this made it a slog for me. 

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Tuesday, August 11, 2020

Two RHC Books

Two quick reads that both qualified for the RHC this year: a debut novel by a queer author, and a sci-fi novella. Except I see I've already checked off sci-fi novella.  I'm bad at keeping track this year!

At any rate, I read two books and here are my thoughts:

London Calling (by Clare Lydon)

I enjoyed Before You Say I Do,  so I decided to check out Lydon's debut. This is about Jess, a woman living in Australia who gets cheated on and then moves back to London, and then has some lesbian adventures. This had the same problem for me as Before You Say I Do, minus the strength of having a strong plot. Namely, the two main characters fall for each other seemingly because they're both very attractive, and then that's kind of it. It definitely feels like infactuation rather than love, so the emotional stakes are missing. And then there's also no real plot to speak of. Add in a slur for transgender people and some editing mistakes, and it isn't something I'd recommend. It is a light read, and not terrible, but very forgettable.

All Systems Red (by Martha Wells)

Hearing great things about this series and as a sci-fi fan, I had this in mind for the RHC from day one and then I kept checking it out from the library and then forgetting to actually read it. As soon as I started it this time around I realized why: it opens with scenery description.  You know me and scenery description. But I pressed on and found a delightful story about Murderbot, a sentient, humanoid security robot whose "governor module" breaks and thus finds itself with free will.  I will definitely continue with this series because it is, indeed, really good.

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Wednesday, August 05, 2020

Two Books

I realized I was (gasp) behind on my reading goal this year since I'm once again reading a long book for the Read Harder Challenge, so I immediately checked out some romance and young adult from the library and started zooming my way through them. It didn't even occur to me until after the fact that Five Feet Apart is about kids with cystic fibrosis and therefore qualifies for a book where a main character has a disability. Anyway, here are some quick thoughts,

Before You Say I Do by Clare Lyons I is a lesbian romance about a "professional bridesmaid" who falls in love with the bride. So basically The Wedding Planner, but gay. One problem is that "professional bridesmaid with fake backstory" makes no sense as a premise. (Like, just be a personal wedding assistant without the lying and stuff?) The other problem is that I bought the characters' physical chemistry way more than their intellectual chemistry. But weddings and hot lesbians? It was super easy to let that go and enjoy the story! I bought Lyons' first novel, which qualifies for the RHC as the debut novel by a queer author and am reading that right now.

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippencott was turned into a movie and compared a lot with The Fault in Our Stars, a book that I absolutely love.  Plus, it won the Goodreads Choice award for young adult last year. I didn't quite buy the romance here either because I really hated Will at first, and didn't  understand why Stella decided she liked him. Once it got past that, their romance was sweet and Stella's emotional arc was satisfying. And it helped me understand CF a bit better, which I will now go learn some more about.

(I should note that her deciding that Will, who is, let's be clear, kind of a dickhead, was worth giving up her entire life for was enraging in the extreme, but in keeping with the stupidity of teenagers

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Monday, August 03, 2020

He Must Like You (by Danielle Younge-Ullman)

This is about a high school girl working as a server, dealing with sexual harassment and less-than-consensual sexual experiences from her past, as well as a mentally ill father.  I was thinking about how to review this book since I read it with this horrible feeling in the pit of my stomach the whole time, but I think it's just that it was triggering, as this hits really close to the experience of a loved one.

I found the father the most difficult character to deal with in many ways, and probably my therapist could walk me through it and tell me why. It's a good book and does a great job tackling these issues in very real and complex ways.  It was a hard read for me though.

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Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Parker Looks Up (by Jessica Curry)

I don't normally blog about (or count) children's picture books, but in this case it's a category of the Read Harder Challenge! This is the book about a little girl, Parker Curry, who saw and was mesmerized by Michelle Obama's portrait in the National Portrait Gallery.

They did a good job turning this into a picture book, I thought! The illustrations are lovely and it's a sweet message of empowerment. Cute book!


Saturday, July 11, 2020

Social Bubble Vacation Books

I read three books while on a staycation with our seven-person social bubble.  These are those books!
The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes (by Suzanne Collins)
A Hunger Games prequel about Coriolanus Snow. I wasn't going to read this (was very disappointed in how the trilogy turned out) but my bestie David highly recommended it, and I stuffed the hardback into my suitcase and then of course devoured it. What Collins does here is so subtle and interesting, taking you from sympathizing with Snow to, well, seeing what he will become.
Oona Out of Order (by Margarita Montimore)
This is a novel with a fun conceit: on her 19th birthday, Oona begins to live her life out of order. That is, she is still mentally 19 but has jumped into her 51-year-old self. Every year, she jumps somewhere else in her life. This results in some fun twists and turns and of course some infuriating moments. (If she can warn herself about the future, why are her warnings never actually helpful?) But I cried through the final quarter of this book anyway. (Not because it is tragic but because it is moving.) Perfect vacation read.
Such a Fun Age (by Kiley Reid)
Read for Camp ToB (side note: why is their website so poorly designed; you can never just go to a homepage and find a list of recent posts; it's dumb) but it strikes me as too light to actually win the summer.  There's something about it that's too entertaining and easy to read for a book about race (the premise is that a black babysitter is confronted while sitting for a white child in a grocery store). I loved the main character, Emira, and loved the skewering of well-meaning, liberal whiteness by way of the character of Alix. Thoroughly entertaining litfic with a highly satisfying ending.

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Friday, June 26, 2020

Juneteenth Reading

Part of my Juneteenth observance this year was some reading. First, Mina and I read Not My Idea: A Book About Whiteness. This is "a picture book about racism and racial justice, inviting white children and parents to become curious about racism, accept that it's real, and cultivate justice." We read through it twice and had a good conversation, which of course will be ongoing. 

Ian also recommended Just Mercy. It's hard for me to consume media like this, because it makes me so angry and helpless feeling. But I realize that's just another aspect of white fragility, and Not My Idea really did a good job of helping me confront that in myself. Just Mercy was great, too. Not hopeless but still so heartbreaking. Bryan Stevenson is truly an American hero for the work that he does. This is his organization.

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Monday, June 15, 2020

Story of Your Life (by Ted Chiang)

This novella by Ted Chiang was turned into the movie Arrival.(which I never saw). A fast read that packs a huge emotional punch. I've never read any Chiang before that I can remember and I really enjoyed the harder sci-fi aspects (the linguistics details) coupled with the personal story here, of a linguist who has to decipher an alien language and also recounting the story of her daughter's life.

Would love to read more Ted Chiang based on this!

P.S. The new Blogger now inserts insane spaces between paragraphs. Why. Help. What?

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Monday, June 08, 2020

If I Die Tonight (by Alison Gaylin)

Decided I needed a quick read after The Mirror and the Light and went for this domestic murder mystery. A fun page-turner, some unexpected twists, and a satisfying solution.
The book has multiple narrators and I felt this worked quite well. Pearl Maze, the police officer, was a particularly good one, but I liked them all.
I'm not necessarily running out to read all her other books, but I definitely enjoyed this one.

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Saturday, June 06, 2020

The Mirror and the Light (by Hilary Mantel)

The third book in the Wolf Hall trilogy! I think Bring Up the Bodies is still my favorite, but this is an amazing story, elegantly told. It begins with Anne Boleyn's beheading and ends with Cromwell's, and you really feel for him by the end despite everything. Oh that capricious Henry VIII!

This qualifies for three categories in the Read Harder Challenge, but for now I think I'm going to use it as "A doorstopper (over 500 pages) published after 1950, written by a woman."

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Saturday, May 30, 2020

The Interdependency Trilogy (by John Scalzi)

My latest book was actually three books: the Interdependency trilogy by John Scalzi. My review is largely about the structure of these books, so let me open by saying they are as funny, smart, and entertaining as always. I particularly appreciate how many strong female characters are here, and the dedication on the last book ("To the women who are done with other people's shit") is a lovely touch.

I waited to read the trilogy all at once because I suspected reading one at a time would be unsatisfying, although the reviews saying the first one "ends on a cliffhanger" were overblown. I actually think books one and two each have satisfying endings, while leaving plenty open for the second and third, respectively. If anything, reading three at once emphasized that Scalzi really does design them to be read as standalones, because he cleverly (and organically) weaves in the backstory in each subsequent book.

My only real complaint is that while the third book does have a satisfying ending, to me it actually feels less final than the other two. Spoilers coming in white text: He never explains what happens with Cardenia and Rachela, how it's even possible, and what the nature of memory room existence then is. I thought for sure we'd go back to End since the book opened with the political machinations there, and the series would end (no pun intended) with a final showdown there, but instead it was anticlimactic and felt rushed. I didn't mind Marce's storyline ending because I think that would definitely be a separate book in this universe (one which I'd love to read). But the lack of resolution about Cardenia and about End particularly makes me think this could have easily (and arguably should have) been four books. 

Overall, though, an extremely enjoyable series!

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Friday, April 10, 2020

The Office: The Untold Story of the Greatest Sitcom of the 2000s (by Andy Greene)

I love The Office, both the UK and US iterations. Revisiting the show via this oral history was an absolute delight. (And my sister worked on the show, so I enjoyed texting her for the gossip that was just alluded to.)

This was perfect comfort reading although it actually took me a surprising while to get through it. I'm now past the young adult phase and the comedy phase and back to the Serious Literature Phase, reading Hillary Mantel for the Read Harder Challenge.

I had downloaded a bunch of audiobooks but I don't drive anywhere anymore, so. They will have to wait I guess. 

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Friday, March 27, 2020

The Magical Art of Tidying Up (by Marie Kondo)

Okay yes, some of this is a little woo for my tastes. But I already did the KonMari method on my bags and it really did work! I got rid of almost all of them and I could absolutely tell which did and did not spark joy.

The teardowns on Goodreds are priceless though, like this one from Laurie Notaro:

I laughed out loud four times reading this book. Otherwise, it's the ravings of a lunatic. Funniest moments include the author bursting into tears when she discovers a smudge of bathroom slime on the bottom of her shampoo bottle and that she believes if you have 80 rolls of toilet paper in your house, you are a hoarder instead of a Coscto member. This is a woman who has her entire bookshelf in her clothes closet; if I walk into your house and you do not have 200 books laying around that you haven't read yet, I simply don't trust you as a human being.

I do want (and need) to do some decluttering, but I solemnly swear to take Kondo with a grain of Japanese sea salt.

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Monday, March 23, 2020

Opposite of Always (by Justin A. Reynolds)

Groundhog Day, except that Jack (our the lead character) keeps going back in time in order to save the love of his life, Kate, from dying of sickle cell anemia.

It's very charming, I love that both Jack and Kate are Black and most of the other characters are POC, but it doesn't define the story. I really loved Jack and Kate as individuals and as a couple. It's super cute!

 Just pretend this is an addendum to my last post, because I don't have a whole lot else to say!

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Monday, March 16, 2020

YA Romcom Trio

So I don't know if you've heard but there's this pandemic thing happening. Which means more time for reading, I guess? This weekend I got on a young adult kick and ended up reading three books, which were:

Amelia Westlake Was Never Here (by Erin Gough)

The best of the three. The best writing and the best romance! It's Australian, told in alternating first person, between a super uptight overachiever named Harriet and a rebellious troublemaker named Will (short for Wilhemina). They go to a fancy schmancy school with a secret Big Little Lies-esque underbelly and together they create a fictonal schoolmate named Amelia Westlake. Highly recommend!

Going Off Script (by Jen Wilde)

I didn't realize until the end that this is by the author of Queens of Geek, but that makes sense. It's cute, queer, and quirky, and I loved the setting (the production of a supernatural TV show) but I feel like I know too much about the industry (I have family members who have worked on supernatural TV shows) to fully buy it. No teenager would get this internship, no teenager would be kept on after overstepping bounds, no teenager would get a writing credit, and no studio head would be a black woman.  Unfortunate, but true! Otherwise, it was cute and pop-culturey.

Again, But Better (by Christine Riccio)

Shane goes to study abroad in London, things go horribly wrong, she gets a second chance to put them right. The lead character is 20 (and then in a flash-forward, 26) but reads like a much younger teenager, obsessed with pop culture and unable to take ownership of her life. I did enjoy the dialogue, and Shane as a character, and the idea of exploring a late bloomer. As someone who also didn't get the full college experience (and tried to make up for it in grad school) this really resonated. But Shane seems immature throughout, the names are absolutely ridiculous (her love interest is named Pilot Penn and her best friend's name is Babe) and I would rather not have had the jump in time / magical conceit since it kind of ruins what is otherwise a cute romance.

So ultimately I rate these books A, B, and C, in the above order.

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Saturday, March 07, 2020

Catfishing on CatNet (by Naomi Kritzer)

This book was the palate cleanser to a crappy week, and did its job perfectly. A speculative fiction young adult novel about a teen girl and her mom on the run, and an AI who befriends her.  Suspenseful, page-turning, and fun. And apparently there's a sequel, which I could really use right now, so type faster, Naomi!

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Wednesday, March 04, 2020

Something That May Shock and Discredit You (by Daniel M. Lavery)

My experience of Danny Lavery: loved his work on the feminist website The Toast, find his newsletter The Shatner Chatner alternately brilliant and impenetrable, quit reading Dear Prudence, and enjoy interacting with him on Instagram. As a person and a writer and a thinker and a humorist, he is a delightful presence in the world.

There are occasional misses among the chapters here, for me, but someone on Goodreads nailed it when they called this "so wonderfully idiosyncratic that it's impossible to imagine anyone else writing it." I often wanted more of the traditional trans memoir, but the way the trans experience is here filtered through literary and Biblical referents really, really worked for me most of the time. It's not possible to really "explain" this "book" in a way that makes sense. All I can do is point you to an excerpt and say if it makes you want to read more, I highly recommend it.

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Sunday, March 01, 2020

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story (by Debbie Tung)

As an introvert, this graphic memoir really spoke to me. I screenshotted a bunch of pages and sent them to Ian and then said "just read it, it explains me so well!" I've embraced my introvert tendencies more as an adult and sometimes feel guilty about them, but this memoir and it's message of "you're perfect just the way you are" was a comfort.

The illustration style is also incredibly charming. You can see some of her work (and Debbie herself) on her Instagram account. A great find (and not too annoying to read on my phone's Kindle either) thanks to the Read Harder Challenge.

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Thursday, February 20, 2020

Truckee Books

I finished three books while on vacation:

Horrorstör (by Grady Hendricks) 

RHC category: A horror book published by an indie press. This is an enjoyable and darkly humorous horror novel. It's horror meets IKEA, and is a breezy (and creepily fun) read. I wasn't anticipating enjoying this category, because other than Shirley Jackson and the best of Stephen King, I'm not into horror. But this was fun.

All This Could Be Yours (by Jami Attenberg)

RHC: None; this is in the Tournament of Books. My first Attenberg! (She's a friend of a friend, so I've always felt vaguely guilty about not reading anything of hers.) This was just a pleasure to read. The Corrections meets Big Little Lies; super well-written literary entertainment.  It's a #2 seed in the Tournament, going up against the play-in winner. I think it has a good chance.

A Lady's Guide to Etiquette and Murder (by Dianne Freeman) 

RHC category: A mystery where the victim(s) is not a woman. This was recommended by Book Riot and sounded like the start of a fun series. And indeed it is super fun!  I enjoy Victorian England and the main character is delightfully self-actualized for a Victorian Countess. Needless to say, I'm already halfway through the next book in this series.

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Monday, February 10, 2020

The Borden Murders: Lizzie Borden and the Trial of the Century (by Sarah Miller)

Category is: a YA nonfiction book. This didn't feel specifically young adult to me, it simply struck me (no pun intended) as a very readable account of the Borden murders and the evidence both for and against Lizzie's guilt. I keep going back and forth but my current theory is that she and the maid were in on it together somehow. Otherwise how could it even have been done?

Anyway, made me want to go back to the Borden house. (I was there 13 years ago and took this picture.) Definitely a fascinating crime, and a gripping read.

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Saturday, February 08, 2020

Yellow Face (by David Henry Hwang)

One of the Read Harder Challenges this year was to read a play by an author of color, so I chose Yellow Face by David Henry Hwang.

It's a comic, metatextual play about, among other things, the casting of Jonathan Pryce as an Asian man in a production of Miss Saigon, and it mixes real-life incidents and characters with fictional ones. I would love to see this performed, but reading it was hugely enjoyable as well.

Hwang also wrote M. Butterfly, which sticks in my head because of the movie version. I watched it when I was in high school so god knows how I oversimplified it, but I would love to experience more of Hwang's work.

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Sunday, January 26, 2020

Followers (by Megan Angelo) plus bonus

I read This Is How You Lose the Time War last year, and realized I completely forgot to blog it or put it on my list, so here it is now: this sci-fi novella by Amal-El Mohtar and Max Gladstone is an amazing, strange, beautiful, romantic story about warring time travelers. It's strange but great.

And Followers is also strange and great; speculative fiction featuring storylines from 2016 and 2051 that ultimately intersect. It's funny and wise about the ways in which technology controls our lives and relationships. I'm not sure how I feel about the ending but I keep turning it over in my mind

I may as well also toss in here that I started Oval for the Tournament of Books, a speculative fiction novel that did not compel me, so I gave it up. It's in the play-in against two books I liked better, so I feel good about my choices there.

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