I am trying a new thing this year. I am going to draft this blog post as I move along in my readings to jot down my summaries and thoughts while they’re still fresh and to try to write a little every day. As I said in a past post, my biggest reading goal for this year is to shop my own shelf. Thus far, 4 books into it, I have utterly failed as only one of them came from my own shelf. :p To put more pressure on myself and to keep me accountable, I will now indicate which of the books I read every month I actually own (the titles will be underlined). So here goes nothing … .
Sleeping Beauties (The Kings!) ♠♠♠♠♠
First of all, the cover art is absolutely to die for. But even better is the content. Feminism in books is utterly important. Feminism by male authors is plainly surprising. Feminism done by the two Kings is mind-boggling. How is it possible that they get women like that? How is it possible to craft such relatable, strong, and complex female leads?
The concept of this book is profound – what would the world be like without women?! The two authors set the scene in a realistic way albeit creating a fantastical world of two realms – one without women and one with only women. Each realm has their trial and tribulations, each their advantages and disadvantages. One woman might be at the center of it all – or is that just another ploy?
I loved reading this book. It took me a while. In fact, I started it in 2017. But besides the Dark Tower series, I haven’t read a Stephen King book that didn’t take me a while. You need to digest his storied, savor them, think about them, and best talk about them.
My Favorite Thing Is Monsters (Emil Ferris) ♠♠♠♠♠
I can’t begin to describe how beautiful the illustrations in this graphic novel are. The detail and the color choices really define this book. On top of it, the concept of it being a notebook made me truly feel I am getting a glimpse into someone’s private thoughts and experiences. Karen’s struggles and ideas about the world seemed real. I could relate to her and her idea that being an immortal monster protects you from the harshness of real life. She’s not a reliable narrator which kept me engaged in the story. I saw everything through her eyes and felt everything the moment she felt it. This is a book I’d like to own one day. It’s a piece of art through and through. I can’t wait for the second installment as that ending is really a cliffhanger!
The Snow Child (Eowyn Ivey) ♠♠♠♠♠
This novel had everything: magical descriptions, fairytale stories, strong characters, and beautiful language. The fact that the author never reveals whether or not the snow child was human or some fantastical being makes this story even more special. This is not a book with a surprise ending or really a lot of action. This is a book that lives on emotions, experiences, and the mundane all wrapped in a cocoon of poetic writing. Read it on a winter night. Read it when the world feels melancholic. Read it when you’re sad. Read it when you want to feel all the feels. This book is not the answer to life’s questions but it is an answer. It is one of those novels that you can read during any stage of your life and you will find something to relate to. This is a book in which you can get lost. It is a hopeful book, a wise one, a steady companion, and a friend to turn to. Eowyn Ivey has talent and we need more of it in our lives.
The Last Boyfriend (Nora Roberts) ♠♠♠♠
This is the second book in Roberts’ Inn BoonsBoro series. Take all my reviews of her work with a grain of salt as I have a total soft spot for her in my heart. I quite enjoyed this book although I liked Clare and Beckett’s love story better than Avery and Owen’s. Don’t get me wrong, it felt real and believable but it didn’t feel magical. And when I read a romance novel, I am looking for magic and over-the-top love. Some of the side stories in this book were really good though – they were extremely relatable (for me) and gave the character’s complexity. We also get a glimpse into the third love story with that delicious kiss between Hope and Ryder – who are my favorites. The interplay of broody and uptight really makes for good entertainment. I can’t wait for my library copy of the third book to come through.
Lovely, Dark and Deep (Amy McNamara) ♠♠
I was so excited to read this book. The cover art immediately drew me in. The topic is hands-down one of my favorites – grief! The author is a trained poet. It sounds like a winning combination. In reality, unfortunately, this was painful to get through. The protagonist was so whiny (and spoiled) that not even grief could explain it. I just cannot imagine that is how teenagers experience loss and adversity. The references to poetry and the attempt at poetic writing didn’t feel organic at all. I seriously would have given this novel 1 star hadn’t the last like 40 or so pages sucked me in a bit. Maybe by that time I had gotten used to the hours of inner monologue and the over-the-top “why is this happening to me” attitude of Wren but at least a plot had emerged. Her love interest, Cal was a much, much more interesting character and I wish the author would have chosen to switch between viewpoints so he could’ve had an actual voice. Honestly, I would not recommend this book to a young person in grief.
Bossypants (Tina Fey) ♠♠♠♠♠
I love Tina Fey. She is smart, funny, and sexy. I think she wrote Liz Lemon for me. “Working on my night cheese” is my mantra. I can’t believe it took me this long to read her book. In fact, I didn’t even read it – I listened to it. And if you know me at all, that says something. Audiobooks aren’t my thing – most of the time I miss stuff because I get too distracted doing other things and when I finish an audiobook, I feel like I cheated because I actually didn’t read. Thus far, I’ve seen audiobooks as a utilitarian device – a Popsugar category called for it or I needed to finish a book but just couldn’t find the time to sit down with it. But I really, really wanted to like audiobooks because I could increase the number of books I can “read” per year substantially. Someone suggested “memoirs” to me because it wouldn’t matter so much if I missed a portion and that I should find some that are read by the author. Tina Fey it was! And I had to admit, I enjoyed every minute of it. She kept me engaged aka I didn’t get distracted and she made me laugh so many times I lost count. In fact, I truly believe that I hadn’t enjoyed her book as much had I read it – her reading it really made it! I, of course, immediately downloaded multiple other books by comedians I love – Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, and Mindy Kaling just to name a few – and I am really looking forward to listening to them tell their stories uncomfortable that note, the cover of her book makes me feel so deliciously uncomfortable that I want to look away but I can’t 😉
Carrie (Stephen King) ♠♠♠♠♠♠
I loved this book. It’s all kinds of special to me. I was talking to a friend about Sleeping Beauties. We were discussing how Stephen King became to be so in tune with women. One idea I had was that his wife might be a strong influence (citing Neil Gaiman and Amanda Fucking Palmer as an example). Well, now I know King must just have an innate capability to get women (or his mother taught him well whichever). Carrie was his debut and what a fucking debut it was! It came out in 1972 when men (and women) didn’t talk much about coming-of-age and menstruation (in fact, sadly, that’s still kinda true today). To me, Carrie is all of us during puberty (and probably later in life). I know I was confused, my hormones were rampant, I was way too sensitive, and all I wanted was for others to understand me, to feel what I felt, to suffer when I suffered (don’t roll your eyes teenagers are petty 😉 ). It blows my mind, like for realz, how King was able to harvest these emotions and put them into a horror story. Genius! That man truly is amazing! I am sad I didn’t read Carrie earlier in my life. But I also love that I can read a story today that allows me to travel back in time.
The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (C.S. Lewis) ♠♠♠♠
The second book in the series (yes, I am going chronologically in the story, not by publication date). This was a fun and quick read. I would’ve devoured this as a youngun. I am looking forward to the next book. And, hey, maybe I’ll even watch the movie one day. I don’t even mind all the Christian undertones as C.S. Lewis makes up for it (in my mind) by also having strong female (and male) characters, fantastical beings, and lots and lots of action.
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance (Ruth Emmie Lang) ♠♠♠♠
I meant to read this novel last year. The concept was just so intriguing to me. Yes, Ruth Emmie Lang delivered. This was a lovely debut. I loved that the story was told through snippets from different characters as they encountered the protagonist Weylyn. We have to wait until the very end to hear any of his thoughts. The story takes you through the life of this mystical person and his magical capabilities – we see him grow up from a young boy who lived with wolves to a middle-aged man who finally accepts who he is. To me, this also was a coming-of-age story, one that took a little bit longer than going through puberty. Certain excerpts from his life held me more captive than others – I loved, loved, loved all his interactions with animals, specifically the wolves. I was less interested in his stint in North Carolina where he battled a hurricane, but that was really only one small story of the book. I think the author has a unique imagination and I am looking forward to more books by her.
The Perfect Hope (Nora Roberts) ♠♠♠♠
The last book in this trilogy. I was really looking forward to Ryder and Hope’s story as they seemed to be the most complex of all the characters. This was again a very solid book by Roberts. I was hoping for a bit more sulking, brooding, and misunderstandings and conflicts but overall I liked the love story. We finally also find out who Billy is and his connection to the three brothers. I have to say Nora Roberts is the queen of romance trilogies. They’re never boring or repetitive.
Megg & Mogg in Amsterdam (Simon Hanselmann) ♠♠♠
Um, this was disturbing and oh so weird. It made me feel uncomfortable on several occasions but I truly believe that is the point of this series. Heads up to Hanselmann for portraying mental illness so raw. I think we need to be confronted with it like that! We need to finally face what people go through and start to, as a society, take steps to be more open about it and to support individuals with mental illness. I am giving this three spades because I didn’t quite enjoy the style of illustrations. Graphic novels to me are highly visually driven and I didn’t get that from this book. I will for sure check out some of Hanselmann’s other work though.
A Conjuring of Light (V.E. Schwab) ♠♠♠♠♠
All the feels!!!! This series is just so damn good. It has a very strong, lovable, flawed female lead, a believable love story, friendship, brotherhood, adventure, and an evil villain. In this third installment, we finally get to learn about some of the backstories making the protagonists who they are. I didn’t realize how much I wanted to know about those histories until I read them. Everything flowed together so seamlessly, and I really admire V.E. Schwab for being able to write that. The Shadow King is an amazing evil spirit. He’s the perfect adversary to Kell and Lilah, to the Maresh family, to Alucard, and yes even to Holland. I thought the way the three Antari had to come together to defeat him was a brilliant twist in the series and Holland sort of redeemed himself with that. In fact, learning about his past, made me relate to him more and made me understand why he acts the way he acts. Lilah and Kell’s love story is also great. It feels natural and not too YA-ish. This series is definitely worth reading. The world building feels complete and the story feels whole! A big plus is that I really, really like the cover art (and I am not even a fan of black-white-red combos).
Yes Please (Amy Poehler) ♠♠♠♠
I made it through a second audiobook in one month! Go me! As I said earlier, audiobooks rarely work for me, but this “listening to comedians read their memoirs” thing appears to be really working for me. Amy Poehler’s book was quite different from Tina Fey’s. It had a lot more serious and emotional content and felt really written from the heart. Amy reading it made it very personal and I could tell that there were several subjects she struggled with. Of course, there were many funny parts, too. Amy Poehler is fantastically sarcastic – a type of humor that I can very much relate to. Tina’s book kept me more engaged but I enjoyed how real Amy’s book felt.
The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky (Jana Casale) ♠♠
This one was a struggle bus for me. I loved the concept of it – so raw, so honest. But the execution was just completely meh! Or maybe even less than meh. I feel this was a huge missed opportunity for a self-empowering, superwoman kind of book! I think the author has a unique way of thinking and I really hope she writes another book and she’ll grow with that.
The Pisces (Melissa Broder) ♠♠♠♠
Um, yes, merman erotica is a think and Melissa Broder made it come to life in this novel dealing with the multiple facets of depression. This was a fast read for me but I did find myself bored at times, specifically when the very relatable protagonist became unlikable and all she did was obsess over a (sort of) unattainable mythic creature. And the sex scenes – they were crass and very, very explicit. Honestly, there was only so much merman sex I could take before the novelty factor wore off. Creating a relationship between a human and a fantastical being as a metaphor for depression though was absolutely brilliant. So, if you don’t shy away from reading about bloody intercourse or the million ways a merman can please a human vagina, you should definitely read this book.