Monday, January 31, 2022

Best of the Bunch (January 2022)

Best of the Bunch header

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

Of the 16 books I read this month, I had three 5-star reads:

Good Talk by Mira Jacob

The Mysterious Howling by Maryrose Wood

Sing Anyway by Anita Kelly

These are all excellent books in their own way! For my Best of the Bunch, I'm going to go with the one that has spurred me to read the entire rest of the series...
The Mysterious Howling was just delightful, ably narrated in a posh English accent by Katherine Kellgren, which gave weight to the kind of Mary Poppins air this middle grade book seems to be meant to have. It requires a generous helping of suspension of disbelief, of course (that children ostensibly raised by wolves could learn English so quickly and be perfectly behaved pupils always ready to learn), but as the book doesn't take itself too seriously, it works. The characters are all over-the-top in just the right amount. This first book in the series doesn't end on a cliffhanger so much as leaving a number of unanswered questions that the central character will continue investigating through the rest of the series.

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: Red at the Bone, How to Be Ace, Listen, and Socks
Five years ago I was reading: Don Quixote, Good-Bye to All That, and Dangerous Girls
Ten years ago I was reading: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

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Monday, January 24, 2022

Ten New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

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

This week's topic is those authors we read for the first time in 2021, whether or not they published for the first time in 2021. Here are ten of mine!
1. Becky Chambers
This was the year I finally read the Wayfarers series and fell in love with Chambers' writing. I'm so happy that she's started a new series that will have its second book out this year!
2. Asia Citro
Citro's Zoey and Sassafras series was the one that I heard recommended from every corner when I was looking for a new chapter book series with my older kid. Sadly we are down to the ninth and last book that's been published so far, but I'm so glad we had the chance to read these wonderful books!
3. Jacqueline Jules
Jules' Zapato Power series, in contrast, was the first series that we read all the way through, and the combination of adventure, mystery, and diverse representation informed what I've been looking for ever since!
4. Ibram X. Kendi
It was beyond time for me to pick up How to Be an Antiracist, and I immediately saw why the book is a standout even among the many great antiracism books out there. It was the first of Kendi's books I had read, but it won't be the last.
5. Robert Kolker
Hidden Valley Road was recommended as a comp for The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and it successfully delivered the same blend of biography and science reporting that I found so compelling. When Who Is the Bad Art Friend? blew up the Internet a while ago, I wasn't surprised when I got to the end and found it was another stellar piece of reporting from Kolker.
6. Seanan McGuire
I picked up Every Heart a Doorway after hearing it recommended repeatedly on Get Booked, and I thought McGuire's entire approach to the story was clever and multi-layered. Although I opted not to continue with the series, I was glad to have experienced McGuire's excellent writing for the first time last year.
7. Rosamunde Pilcher
After having it on my to-read list for years, I finally read The Shell Seekers last year and absolutely loved it, and I'm so glad to know that Pilcher has an entire catalog of other books I can explore!
8. Nalini Singh
I would not have discovered Singh if my bibliologist hadn't recommended A Madness of Sunshine, a thriller that is apparently quite different from Singh's normal fare. I enjoyed reading a book set in New Zealand by someone who grew up there!
9. & 10. Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples
I finally started the Saga graphic novel series last year, and it is quite a trip! I've made it up to the eighth volume by now. Although the story's gotten quite convoluted and sometimes difficult to follow by now, there's no doubt that these two are talented!

Which authors did you read for the first time last year?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Concrete Rose, My Father's Dragon, and The Shell Seekers
Five years ago I was reading: Don Quixote, Good-Bye to All That, and The Bell Jar
Ten years ago I was reading: Some We Love, Some We Hate, Some We Eat

Monday, January 17, 2022

Ten 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To

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

This week we're talking about 2021 publications that we didn't read in 2021, but we're still hoping to get to eventually. Here are ten of mine!
1. Cultish by Amanda Montell
This book sounds like exactly the kind of journalistic nonfiction I enjoy — an exploration of things that aren't technically cults but share many of the same characteristics that traditional cults do. I'm interested to know more!
2. Detransition, Baby by Torrey Peters
I'm usually not that keen on books that are classified as very "literary" (and have the awards to prove it), but this one caught my attention because I keep hearing it described by trans people as a book that doesn't cater to a cis audience. That is definitely something I'd like to experience!
3. Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe
Another nonfiction pick that explores one topic deeply, which multiple people I follow on Goodreads have given 5 stars. It sounds fascinating, and I also feel like I should know a little more about the opioid crisis than I do.
4. Four Thousand Weeks by Oliver Burkeman
Being at a pivot point in my life right now, this seems like a good companion to one of my favorites, 168 Hours, for helping me think about how I most want to spend the time I have.
5. How the Word Is Passed by Clint Smith
I don't know if I heard any book more enthusiastically recommended from so many different corners last year than this one. I had the opportunity to hear the author talk about his book at the end of Ashley C. Ford's audiobook of Somebody's Daughter, where the two interviewed one another about their respective works. I will definitely be prioritizing this read.
6. Laundry Love by Patric Richardson
This book was enthusiastically recommended by Anne Bogel, and now that I'm solo parenting half the week and trying to spend that time only on work, my kids, and anything around the house that has to get done to care for them, I like the idea of finding joy in the daily tasks that need to get done.
7. Let the Record Show by Sarah Schulman
I heard an NPR podcast about this book and some of the history of ACT UP contained in it, and it was referenced again recently on another podcast. I'm especially interested in the any-and-every-strategy methods of the activist coalition and what that can teach us today.
8. Matrix by Lauren Groff
This book has been recommended on Get Booked multiple times now, and I'm intrigued by this badass feminist novel set in a 12th century abbey.
9. Sing Anyway by Anita Kelly
I haven't seen a ton of romances with non-binary characters, so I'm looking forward to reading this one!
10. You'll Never Believe What Happened to Lacey by Amber Ruffin and Lacey Lamar
I always appreciate when people of color and other folks from marginalized groups are willing to share their experiences of microaggressions because I learn better how not to put my foot in my mouth in my own daily life. Combine that with the framing of "let's laugh about how absolutely ridiculous white people can be," and I'm definitely here for it.

Which 2021 releases are you still hoping to read?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Bear and the Nightingale, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and The Shell Seekers
Five years ago I was reading: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Good-Bye to All That, and Mountains Beyond Mountains
Ten years ago I was reading: The Phantom Tollbooth

Saturday, January 15, 2022

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.

Here's what I read this past month, including what I've been reading to my older son!

Unicorns and Germs by Asia Citro: This sixth book was a great blend of the elements I like about the series — an accessible explanation of the scientific method, mini-problems that need to be solved to resolve the larger issue, and funny character interactions.

Shalom and the Community of Creation: An Indigenous Vision by Randy Woodley: This was a meaty book for being under 200 pages, and it took me a while to get through. I found Woodley's approach to Scripture to be both fresh and accessible, a good reminder of why a diversity of voices makes our collective understanding of God richer, though I found it to be heavily weighted toward male perspectives.

Saga, Vol. 6 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: This series continues to be simultaneously compelling and confusing. As certain character groups find one another (for good or ill), the number of independent plot lines to keep up with diminishes, which I hope will make for easier reading in future volumes.

To the End of June: The Intimate Life of American Foster Care by Cris Beam: Beam has managed to provide a comprehensive look of the many complexities of the foster care system in under 350 pages. Through a combination of both statistics and stories of a handful of kids and families followed over years, Beam shows how everyone is failed by the system as it functions currently.

Grumplets and Pests by Asia Citro: This one was clever, and I liked the exploration of different options for dealing with garden pests, but I thought the solution to the problem in this book was a little too easy and didn't include the usual trial and error that Zoey goes through in most books. My son was engaged in the story, though!

A Caribbean Mystery by Agatha Christie: This is another one where I figured out whodunnit early on, though the details of how and why weren't entirely clear until the end. The solution was slightly on the convoluted side, but not as bad as some, and I appreciated that there were more action scenes than in a lot of Miss Marple mysteries, lending some tension and suspense to the read.

Aristotle and Dante Dive into the Waters of the World by Benjamin Alire Sáenz: This was... honestly pretty terrible. This didn't read like a sequel. This read like Sáenz wanted to write an epilogue to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, but he couldn't decide which direction to go, so he went in all the directions, with no plot tying them together. The characters all went around being emotional and profound and serving as mouthpieces for Sáenz's various soapboxes, and nothing ever redeemed the book for me.

Saga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples: This was slightly better than Volume 4 but had the same feel of the characters being stuck in one place and not being their best badass selves. I liked the characters they met on Phang and wish we'd gotten a longer story arc with them.

Out of My Mind by Sharon M. Draper: This book, from the perspective of a nonverbal young girl with cerebral palsy, surprised me in the best way. Things that seem like simple solutions turn out not to be as straightforward as you might expect from a middle grade plot. It ends up being not a book about Melody successfully integrating into the rest of fifth grade but rather a story of Melody learning to accept herself as a full person.

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: The Bear and the Nightingale, The Mouse and the Motorcycle, and The Shell Seekers
Five years ago I was reading: The Picture of Dorian Gray, Good-Bye to All That, and Mountains Beyond Mountains
Ten years ago I was reading: The Phantom Tollbooth

Monday, January 3, 2022

Five Most Anticipated Books Releasing In 2022

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

This week's topic is supposed to be books releasing in just the first half of 2022, but since I rarely track what books are coming out anyway, I stretched it to include anything I'm interested in that's coming out or might be coming out in 2022. I still only came up with five!
1. I Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston (Release Date: May 3, 2022)
I don't know how McQuiston already has another one lined up after the fantastic One Last Stop from last year, but I'm here for it!
2. Kiss & Tell by Adib Khorram (Release Date: March 22, 2022)
I adored Khorram's Darius books, and I'm excited to see where he's gone next with this new one!
3. The No-Show by Beth O'Leary (Release Date: April 26, 2022)
O'Leary's books are such great rom-coms, and they make a nice break from the heavier books I tend to read.
4. A Prayer for the Crown-Shy by Becky Chambers (Release Date: July 11, 2022)
This is the sequel to the excellent A Prayer for the Wild-Built that came out last year.
5. Unknown (The Dreamer Trilogy, #3) by Maggie Stiefvater (Release Date: Fall 2022?)
Supposedly the yet-untitled third book in this trilogy will be out in fall 2022 — fingers crossed!

What are you looking forward to reading in 2022?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Autobiography of a Face and Feminist, Queer, Crip
Five years ago I was reading: Don Quixote, Good-Bye to All That, and Dracula
Ten years ago I was reading: The Fault in Our Stars

Saturday, January 1, 2022

Review of 2021 Bookish Goals

It's 2022! I've decided not to set any bookish goals for this year. I have enough else going on in my life right now! However, I did want to share how I did with my 2021 goals (which I intentionally made very squishy to keep it fun for me).

1. Read some books from my to-read list.
I drastically changed how I organize my books in Goodreads during 2021, so while I did successfully read four books from my original to-read list, that list is no more and my "might want to read" list has been cut down and I've added tags to it for the different reasons I'm interested in certain books.

2. Read some books published in 2021.
Yes — 20 of them! A number of my favorite authors had 2021 publications, and I also read several books that were newly released by people we interviewed on the podcast.

3. Read some books published in 2020.
Yep, I read nine of these.

4. Read some books from my "shelf of shame."
I read three that I recorded, though I usually take a book off this shelf when I start reading it so I may have forgotten some.

5. Continue with the Miss Marple series.
I got through several more books in the series, and I have five left to enjoy.

6. Read something my sister recommends.
So my sister didn't want to recommend me anything, and when I asked which of the books on her favorites list she thought I would like, she said I wouldn't. I persevered and picked one anyway, and she was correct — I did not like it very much! :D I may have to retire this goal until my sister finishes law school and starts reading for pleasure again, which I hope she does!

7. Read everything my bibliologist recommends.
I enjoyed my TBR subscription a lot! I read almost everything my bibliologist recommended, except that I have two books from the last quarter I haven't gotten to yet. But I plan to!

8. Read some books about race in America.
I read seven books that I think could fit into this category, some of which were stronger than others. How to Be an Antiracist was definitely the best of the bunch, but they each had something to offer.

9. Reread some books I've read before.
I read a number of childhood favorites to my older son before we started exploring some chapter book series that were new to both of us, and between my two book clubs I reread four books I'd read before. Now that I have a second kid, I also reread the excellent baby sleep resource Precious Little Sleep!

10. Participate in at least two TTT linkups each month.
Success! I actually managed to participate in three TTT linkups more months than not. And every month I also participated in the Quick Lit linkup and hosted the Best of the Bunch end-of-month linkup.

Did you make any bookish goals for 2021? How did you do?

Looking back:
One year ago I was reading: Strangers from a Different Shore and Feminist, Queer, Crip
Five years ago I was reading: Death in the Clouds, Good-Bye to All That, and Dracula
Ten years ago I was reading: The Fault in Our Stars