Friday, April 30, 2021

Best of the Bunch (April 2021)

Best of the Bunch header

Today I'm sharing the best book I read in April.

Of the 12 books I read this month, I had one 5-star read, so that's my Best of the Bunch!

Rick felt like a warm hug. I'm very impressed how Alex Gino writes books about queer kids that 1) are accessible to elementary school and 2) express the love and joy of being part of the queer community even while tackling difficult topics. The way that they wrote a character who is questioning and may be asexual and/or aromantic was pitch-perfect — framing it in terms that are relevant to a 6th grader (having crushes, hearing sexual jokes), and acknowledging that sexuality is still in discovery at that age but verbalizing the importance of having labels to feel valid, even if those labels could eventually change. There's little enough ace rep in books in general, and having one that can introduce the identity to a younger audience is much appreciated.

What is the best book you read this month? Let me know in comments, or write your own post and link up below!

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Autobiography of Malcolm X and Team of Rivals
Five years ago I was reading: The Church of Mercy and The Fellowship of the Ring
Ten years ago I was reading: The Bermudez Triangle

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Monday, April 19, 2021

Ten Colorful Book Covers

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

Check out these colorful book covers!

1. The Anthropocene Reviewed by John Green
2. I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson
3. Happier at Home by Gretchen Rubin
4. A Mango-Shaped Space by Wendy Mass
5. More More More Said the Baby by Vera B. Williams
6. MWF Seeking BFF by Rachel Bertsche
7. Red at the Bone by Jacqueline Woodson
8. Untamed by Glennon Doyle
9. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennet
10. Whistling Vivaldi by Claude M. Steele

What colorful books have you read?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: We Need to Talk About Kevin, The Murder at the Vicarage, and Team of Rivals
Five years ago I was reading: The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry and A People's History of the United States
Ten years ago I was reading: The Help

Thursday, April 15, 2021

What I've Been Reading Lately (Quick Lit)

Today I'm linking up with Modern Mrs. Darcy's Quick Lit to bring you some short and sweet reviews of what I've read in the past month. For longer reviews, you can always find me on Goodreads.

As expected, I have had a lot less time for reading since going back to work, but I'm still fitting in books where I can!

I Shall Be Near to You by Erin Lindsay McCabe: I think I set a record for how many times I rolled my eyes while listening to the audiobook. The plot was predictable, the writing was clunky, and the main character was whiny and immature. I appreciate the research the author did, but I was not a fan of the end result.

The Body Keeps the Score: Brain, Mind, and Body in the Healing of Trauma by Bessel van der Kolk: This was stellar. van der Kolk uses extensive research citations, as well as accounts of his own research and his work with patients, to outline the ways that trauma affects the brain and body. I don't know that I'd recommend this to people who have themselves had traumatic experiences, but it could be valuable for their loved ones to read to get a better understanding of what's going on in their bodies.

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman: Among other things, Hartman is asking the question, "What would it look like for someone with PTSD to live and recover from trauma in a medieval fantasy-type setting?" I had a hard time getting into this book at first and thought about abandoning it because Tess was such an unlikable character, but I'm glad I stuck with it and got to see her transformation into confidence and healing.

How the Irish Became White by Noel Ignatiev: This contained a lot of interesting history, though unfortunately I don't think Ignatiev's central point got across. As an overview of the relationship between Irish immigrants to the United States and Black Americans (enslaved and free) in the early 19th century, it does a great job; as an argument about Irish Americans' relationship to whiteness, it meanders all over the place and seems to contradict itself at times.

Something to Talk About by Meryl Wilsner: I was highly skeptical about this book near the beginning — there's a 14-year age difference between the two leads and a power differential. However, Wilsner doesn't wave away the power imbalance but takes it incredibly seriously, and they show how it's possible for a boss and assistant to transition into a relationship in a thoughtful, ethical, fully consensual way. By the time I got to the halfway point, I was no longer side-eying the plot and was instead devouring the pages.

The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore: This was a reread, and I felt similarly to the first time — it's interesting as two personal stories, but the book falls short of having a central thesis that could propel any meaningful action. I think it leans a little heavily on individual choice to explain the two Wes Moores' fates and doesn't dig deep enough into systems, but that doesn't mean it's not a good combination memoir/biography.

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: We Need to Talk About Kevin and Team of Rivals
Five years ago I was reading: Ragtime, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and A People's History of the United States
Ten years ago I was reading: Ask for It

Monday, April 12, 2021

Ten Book Titles that Could Be Crayola Crayons

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

This was a fun topic! I ended up choosing quite a few children's books for this one. See what you think!

1. Ballet Shoes by Noel Streatfeild

2. Bearshadow by Frank Asch

3. Black Coffee by Charles Osborne

4. Blonde by Joyce Carol Oates

5. Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

6. Corduroy by Don Freeman

7. Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury

8. Freckle Juice by Judy Blume

9. Monster Blood by R.L. Stine

10. Red Azalea by Anchee Min

Which books have you read that they could name crayons after?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: We Need to Talk About Kevin and Paradise Lost
Five years ago I was reading: Ragtime, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and A People's History of the United States
Ten years ago I was reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle

Monday, April 5, 2021

Ten Books I'd Gladly Throw Into the Ocean

I'm linking up with That Artsy Reader Girl for another Top Ten Tuesday.

I originally thought this week's topic was simply going to be another list of my lowest-rated books, but I realized that there are plenty of books I gave 1 or 2 stars to that I have no interest in angrily chucking into the ocean (or some other, more eco-friendly imaginary scenario). For example, Postern of Fate is an absolutely incomprehensible mess of a book, but I hold no rage about the fact that Agatha Christie's mind was mostly gone at the end of her life and her publisher knew people would still buy the book if they printed it. These books, however, bring up a visceral reaction in me when I see them, and I would get great satisfaction from sinking them down to the bottom of the ocean.
1. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
The intention behind this book was "It's not your fault if someone you love takes their own life," but the way Niven goes about that basically sends the message, "If you're suicidal, literally nothing anyone does will help in the end, but maybe your death can help someone else!" OMG NO NO NO NO.
2. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. Thompson
I know, I know, it's a "cult classic" and exemplifies the genre of "gonzo journalism" but from the perspective of the 21st century this just reads like two guys being super racist, sexist, and homophobic while doing a lot of drugs, causing immense property damage, running up bills they don't pay for, and terrorizing innocent people. In today's America, the fact that they got off with a warning after trying to outrun a cop with a car full of drugs isn't hilarious, it's just a screaming example of white privilege. No thank you.
3. A General Theory of Love by Dr. Thomas Lewis, Dr. Fari Amini, and Dr. Richard Lannon
This book was a collection of sweeping conclusions based on minimal evidence that in some cases could actually be harmful if their word is taken as gospel simply because they're three doctors. For example, they somehow extrapolate that because having zero interactions with a loving caregiver causes mammals to become dysfunctional or die, babies must need as much time as physically possible in direct contact with their biological mother. (Their father is apparently unimportant.) I do not think anyone should get advice about love from this book.
4. Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by Jack Thorne
If we leave aside for a second the ways that J.K. Rowling has turned out to be a trash human — she had the option to either stop after seven books and let the Harry Potter universe stand as it was or to write an actual eighth book with all of the nuance and thorough planning of the first seven. Instead, we got this "official" eighth Harry Potter book that is actually a play and written by someone else and reads mostly like fanfiction from someone who wanted to capitalize on Potter nostalgia but not take any risks outside of the existing universe. Can we steal a Time Turner and make this never happen?
5. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
It irritates me that this book is so beloved and frequently recommended. It basically centers on a guy who sexually assaults a bunch of people (including multiple teenage girls) and violently attacks a bunch of other people, and it's supposed to be stirring literature because there are historical events involved or something. I'm over it.
6. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold
In this case, I would specifically like to throw the last 10% of this book in the ocean. The first 90% of the book is a beautifully written work about death and grief and relationships, albeit with some clich├ęs. Then Sebold inexplicably throws in a completely bizarre and problematic chapter that changes the entire tone of the book, and the whole thing goes downhill from there. I might not even be so angry if the rest of the book wasn't so good, but it's like she decided to light the whole thing on fire for no reason!
7. The Millionaire Next Door by Dr. Thomas J. Stanley and Dr. Williams D. Danko
I picked up this book for the interesting statistics on how "real" millionaires spend their money vs. the people who spend all their money to appear rich to others. However, what I got was the message that you should live really frugally so that you can amass a huge fortune (with specific dollar amounts included), you shouldn't spend the money on your kids because they'll become dependent, and then you should donate your money before you die so the government doesn't get it. What kind of life is that? I much prefer I Will Teach You to Be Rich, where the philosophy is that you decide what gives your life value and then intentionally plan your saving and spending around that.
8. None of the Above by I.W. Gregorio
I was so happy to see that someone had written a book with an intersex protagonist, but then it turned out the actual book was a poorly written, predictable, transphobic, intersexphobic, slur-filled pile of garbage that is now, unfortunately, the go-to book for people to learn about intersex conditions. Grrrr.
9. Washed and Waiting by Wesley Hill
As a long-time member of Q Christian Fellowship, I have LGBTQ+ Christian friends who are in committed same-gender relationships as well as LGBTQ+ Christian friends who have chosen celibacy, and I have frequently heard this book mentioned as the book to explain the latter approach. Unfortunately, unlike my friends' very thoughtful and beautiful explanations of their calls to celibacy, Hill does not have a positive spin to share on celibacy. He instead makes a surface-level argument for why the Bible requires this of gay people, and then basically talks about how lonely and miserable he is but that he has to deal with it. It upset me that this is held up as the exemplar of gay celibacy when there are so many more nuanced and affirming perspectives out there (not to mention how this aligns perfectly with those who want to weaponize the Bible to force celibacy on all gay people).
10. The Younger Gods by David and Leigh Eddings
This was the last book of the Eddingses' last series, and it was awful. It takes everything that happens in the rest of the series and throws it all away with a plot that makes no sense at all. It would have been bad enough as a standalone, but after reading hundreds of pages about these characters and getting invested in their story, it was infuriating to have it all undone with this last mess of a book.

Which books would you throw in the ocean?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Sea of Tranquility, The Left Hand of Darkness, V for Vendetta, and Paradise Lost
Five years ago I was reading: Ragtime, The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, and A People's History of the United States
Ten years ago I was reading: Animal, Vegetable, Miracle