This has been a very busy season of life. As such I've been gravitating towards my "easy brain" reading.
More graphic novels, fluffy romantic comedies, and nothing with too much emotional struggle.
Here's what I've read lately:
Guts, by Raina Telgemeir - A middle grade graphic novel that's about the author's own struggles with anxiety and being in middle school. Dealing with friends is hard, being a sibling is hard, figuring out what's expected of you, and how to control what you can is also hard. In this book Raina explores how she experienced stomach troubles that were prompted by anxious thoughts and discusses how she was able to (and in some cases not able to) confront them and figure them out. One of the best parts of this book, and there are a lot, is the lovely discussion and honest presentation of therapy. It is such a great book and I highly recommend it if you have a kid in your life period, but it would be especially helpful for a kid around 4th - 6th grade dealing with any friendship or emotional anxiousness. It's phenomenal.
Witches in Training, by Sam Davies - picked this one up at the kids most recent book fair and it is a cute story. Very short, it goes over one day at a veterinarian's office, except the vets and their assistants are also witches, so the creatures and animals they are dealing with are also monsters and spooky spooks. It's a delightful read that I enjoyed and I'm looking forward to the second one in the series.
The Unicorn Whisperer, by Dana Simpson - I was given an e-galley of this one (thanks to NetGalley) and it was just as great as all the other Phoebe and Her Unicorn books have been. I loved it. It was such fun to continue to see Phoebe and Marigold out for a romp, dealing with each others quirks in their evolving unicorn/human being friendship, and see Phoebe learn more about the world. It was just cute and made me happy to spend time in that world. Highly recommend. Not necessary to read the others in the series or to read the series in order, but it would inform some of the plot points in the other books if you do read them in order. This is the 10th book in the series and it will be out soon.
Sheets, by Brenna Thummler - This book is a phenomenally plotted and illustrated graphic novel. I'd heard a lot about it from all over the internet for a long time, but picked it up at the book fair recently. It blends two stories, the first of a very stressed out girl in middle school who has to keep her family's laundry business afloat while also managing a frustrating and isolating school experience, and the second of a ghost who's afterlife intertwines and happens to interfere at times with our main character's struggles. Ultimately the way these plots merge and help each other is incredibly moving. The illustrations in this book really hit me in the feels. Perhaps because I have a daughter who looks like the main character, but you could feel the anxiety and stress of the situation. Even while it works out by the end, it might be something to read first before you give it to your kid to read if they struggle with anxious thoughts of are going through a rough time. It would be a great one to discuss together.
Wonton Terror, by Vivien Chien - The newest installment in one of my favorite cozy mystery series, this book's plot for Lana Lee to solve involves the bombing of a food truck, and who knows what will be a target next! It is a joy to spend time in this world, I love the characters, though I did wish there was more Lana/Adam interaction in this one, and the plot is high stakes enough to stay involved and interested but not high enough that you're stressed out and nervous from it. A wonderful balance, but it will make you very hungry to read! Be prepared and make sure you have snacks.
The Wedding Party, by Jasmine Guillory - The most recent romance novel from the author of The Proposal, this is a cute contemporary romance that is fun to read because you know things will turn out alright by the end of the book. I found this to be a really charming read that felt different in tone to Guillory's other romance books. It spans more time, and the doors aren't as open as they are in The Proposal, so if that's something you like to know there it is. Perfect if you want to watch a romantic comedy by reading it. It's just right to take to the pool or the beach or read on the plane. ALso, the cover has actual glitter on it and that's always fun.
Best Friends, by Shannon Hale - Another graphic novel and from one of my favorite children's writers. Shannon Hale discusses the tricky parts of growing up and how difficult it can be to figure out the rules of school, church, parents, and to then balance those with your own personal expectations. Hale also confronts directly how those rules and expectations are often counterproductive and sometimes even hypocritical. I immediately gave this book to my daughter and wish it had existed when I was younger. I feel like these are things all women have dealt with and it is great to have representation of those discussions in books that are engaging so those conversations can become more normalized and frequently had. Loved it.
Evvie Drake Starts Over, by Linda Holmes - This book surprised me and I went into it very skeptical. Written by Linda Holmes who works in public radio, I was expecting this Read with Jenna book club pick to be frothy and not worth much time. Boy howdy was I wrong. This was an incredibly written, well paced, and entertainingly quiet book about a woman who starts over. I loved the relationships described in the story, the respect with which Holmes writes these characters and the time she took to build what feels like a reality based progression that you don't always see in fiction or in contemporary romances. It hit lots of feels for me in the best way and has a huge place in my heart. I am thinking of doing a reread which I almost never do because I want to spend more time in that world and with those people and with the thoughtful and attentive care of Holmes' writing. I listened to this on audio and the narration was wonderful. A lovely listening experience you'll find more chores for so you can keep listening.
The Okay Witch, by Emma Steinkellner - This book came out at the beginning of the month and is another graphic novel about a group of witches that flee the Salem Witch trials by creating their own reality. Specifically, the plot and immediate story deal with the one daughter from that group who chose to stay in the real world alongside other humans. She has a daughter who one day discovers she has some magical abilities. From there personal history is confronted, as is the history of the town and it's deeps roots that have implications much farther than imagined. To complicate matters, the daughter is performing a play about these witches for school and her best friend is related directly to the arch nemesis of the witches. It is lovely and perfect for reading during the upcoming Halloween season or anytime during the fall when there's a chill in the air. I loved it a lot.
Do you notice any patterns in your reading life? I'd love to know what they are if you have them, and as usual, feel free to tell me what you're reading these days!
Sometimes I'll mention in a comment or during a recommendation that "this book is definitely in my personal top 10 list."
I was thinking the other day, past me, is that even true?? Do you even have a top 10 list??
The real answer is irrelevant because, reader, I HAVE ONE NOW!
The list will change (probably as soon as I read more things). Requirements are fast and loose. Is it one of my favorite books that's better than all except maybe 9 of the others? Then it's on the list.
Additionally, these are the books that have made such an impact that they've become part of me. I carry them around (figuratively), and they weigh more to me than other books.
So in the name of vindicating my past self, and for your interest, I present the top 10 books of my life.
1. The Elegance of the Hedgehog, by Muriel Barberry
2. Goodbye, Vitamin, by Rachel Khong
3. Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes
4. The Dog Stars, by Peter Heller
5. The Woman Next Door, by Yewande Omotoso
6. Spaceman of Bohemia, by Jaroslav Kalfar
7. French Exit, by Patrick deWitt
8. An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth: What Going to Space Taught Me About Ingenuity, Determination, and Being Prepared for Anything, by Colonel Chris Hadfield
9. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, by Stephen King
10. The Book of Delights, by Ross Gay
Now, what I really want to know is WHAT'S ON YOUR LIST?!
Thank all the gods in the sky and the cosmos that fall is on it's way (even if it is still too close to triple digits for real comfort). I am a true fan of the Autumn season; give me Halloween, all the pumpkin treats, a chill in the air, leaves to crunch and a logical reason to use seven blankets at a time (maybe a slight exaggeration) and I'm living my best life in a sweater and some gloves. Love it.
Here's what people around the internet are reading this month!
Reese Witherspoon - The Secrets We Kept, by Lara Prescott
Andrew Luck Book Club - Rookie Selection - Save Me A Seat, by Sarah Weeks and Gita Varadarajan, and the Veteran Selection - Dark Star Safari, by Paul Theroux
Belletrist (Emma Roberts) - What Red Was, by Rosie Price
Read With Jenna (Jenna Bush Hager) - The Dearly Beloved, by Cara Wall
Our Shared Shelf (Emma Watson) - for September and October - Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Girl's Night In - Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion, by Jia Tolentino
Book Club for Introverts (you can find us on Goodreads here - I help moderate the group and it's a lot of fun) - The Beekeeper of Aleppo, by Christy Lefteri
My IRL Book Club - Hispanic and Latino Authors is our theme for September. You can see this post for suggestions.
Happy reading, friends!
For the month of September my IRL book club's theme is to read books written by Hispanic authors. This is another great chance to enhance the diversity in your reading life. Publishing tends to heavily publish books by white authors, and when you're more intentional about what you read, you gain a better reading experience, and a better empathy for a larger portion of the people who live on this planet along side us all. Basically, we should read widely and diversely and this is a good way to do it or at least take a look at your reading and make an effort to be more intentional about reading things by people who don't like like you every once in a while or more often than usual.
In my own research for this theme, I noticed there's a lot more to choose from for Hispanic authors than there was to pick from for Indigenous authors, but it's still not a very large group. Hello, publishing? Let's go! We need more books by these groups of people. We need their stories. Vote with your dollars if you can, even using the library to get these books helps. Go read them! Anyway.
Here's a few places to start. Please leave me your suggestions in the comments at the end of the post:
The Book of Unknown Americans, by Christina Henriquez - this book is one that is on my Be A Better Person syllabus (not actually a real thing - yet), and was really crucial in opening my world view. It tells the heart wrenching story of a family who has a daughter in need of specific medical care and the lengths they go to in order to find help for her. It forces you to think about what you wouldn't do for your family, your loved ones, your children. It presents a reality that is lived by many people in our nation today. It made me cry, made me necessarily uncomfortable, and my heart grew three sizes when I finished reading it. It's worth every page and will make you think more critically about how policies impact real people.
Don Quixote, by Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra - one of my favorite books of all time and one that I need to re-read ASAP. This book blew my mind so much, to realize the whimsy and delight that stories carry across languages, decades, and continents was magic to me when I read it in high school. I resonated with it's weirdness and I was so not expecting to. I'm excited to read it again.
Echo, by Pam Muñoz Ryan - such a beautiful middle grade book that weaves time so well. Ryan writes with a musical tone in this book that actual deals quite a lot with a harmonica. I devoured it as an adult and have heard great things about the audiobook. It's touching and exquisitely written.
On My List:
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, by Erika L. Sánchez
One Hundred Years of Solitude, by Gabriel García Márquez
The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros
Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel
The House of the Spirits, by Isabel Allende
Esperanza Rising, by Pam Muñoz Ryan (middle grade)
The Shadow of the Wind, by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
Merci Suárez Changes Gears, by Meg Medina (winner of the 2019 Newbery Medal)
A Dash of Trouble, by Anna Meriano (middle grade)
Gods of Jade and Shadow, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros
Something I recently learned, that I should've already known, is the difference between the words Hispanic and Latino. Often these terms are used interchangeably, and I've definitely made the mistake and assumption that they could be used to mean the same thing. They actually mean two very different things. Hispanic refers to people to are from Spanish-speaking populations and/or speak Spanish themselves, and Latino refers to people who are from or descend from people who are from Latin America. I apologize for not learning this sooner!
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