I was thrilled to be invited to participate in the blog tour for The Dark Lord Clementine, by Sarah Jean Horowitz. Thank you to the folks at Algonquin Young Readers for providing the e-galley!
"Clementine Morcerous awoke one morning to discover that her father had no nose. This was not exactly unexpected. Several mornings previously, the Dark Lord Elithor Morcerous had greeted her with slightly less nose than usual, and a bit of a weaker chin. The difference was so small that Clementine, who was quite small herself, barely noticed it. She did notice something different about him—he was her father, after all—but she thought perhaps he had gotten a rather unflattering haircut."
This is how this middle grade fiction novel begins to tell the story of Clementine, who must take over for her father as he has been whittled away by the Whittle Witch!
As Interim Dark Lord, Clementine must pick up where her father left off, and figure out how to handle things which can get complicated in general, but things take an interesting turn when she thinks she might not want to be all evil all the time!
This book is a comedic romp of a magical tale, full of talking animals, clever sidekicks, engaging dialogue, and best of all Clementine is such a snarky fun joy to spend time with. The engaging writing captivates throughout the story and never lags.
As it surely must be, even the Dark Lord goes through family dramatics, and watching Clementine figure out her obligation to her family name and try to understand herself as an individual is a touching and clever examination of self-discovery, magic, secrets, and figuring out how to do The Right Thing when you're officially The Dark Lord.
I haven't read anything this imaginative in quite a while, and I absolutely loved this book. Perfect for fall and Halloween time reading.
The Dark Lord Clementine is out now and you can purchase it from Amazon, your local bookstore, or find it at your library.
Now I'm off to go find more of Horwitz's books! Happy Reading!
Oprah's Book Club - The Water Dancer, by Ta-Nehisi Coates
Belletrist (Emma Roberts) - Red at the Bone, by Jaqueline Woodson
Reese Witherspoon x Hello Sunshine - Fair Play, by Eve Rodsky
Read With Jenna (Jenna Bush Hager) - The Dutch House, by Ann Patchett
The Andrew Luck Book Club - Rookie - Echo, by Pam Nuñez Ryan, and Veteran - Good Omens, by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman
Our Shared Shelf (Emma Watson) - Beloved, by Toni Morrison
Book Club for Introverts (on Goodreads - lots of fun - I'm there so obviously you want to be there) - The Whisper Man, by Alex North
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!
August is here!
And so is the list of new selections from some of the most popular book clubs around the internet:
Reese Witherspoon - The Last House Guest, by Megan Miranda
Andrew Luck Book Club - Rookie pick: Nation, by Terry Pratchett and the Veteran pick: Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup, by John Carreyrou
Belletrist - Marilou is Everywhere, by Sarah Elaine Smith AND Family of Origin, by CJ Hauser
Our Shared Shelf - for July and August - Solito, Solita: Crossing Borders with Young Refugees from Central America, by Steven Mayers (Ed.) and Jonathan Freedman (Ed.), and Butterfly: From Refugee to Olympian - My Story of Rescue, Hope, and Triumph, by Yusra Mardini
Girls Night In - Very Nice, by Marcy Dermansky
Jenna Bush Hager's book club - Patsy, by Nicole Dennis-Benn
BuzzFeed book club - Trust Exercise, by Susan Choi
Book Club for Introverts - Recursion, by Blake Crouch
As usual, let me know if I've missed anything or if there are any book clubs you're interested in that you think I should feature! Happy Reading!
Our topic for August is Indigenous authors. I thought by 2019 that these would be easier to find, but to be honest, the lists that came up when I googled were much the same group of authors and titles. Still, it's a good place for me to start, but I really hope we get to see more Indigenous authors published soon.
Here are my top picks:
On every list was the work of Louise Erdrich. She wrote The Birchbark House series, The Round House, LaRose, Future Home of the Living God, and others, and I haven't read any of them. I own The Round House and think I'll give that a try first.
Braiding Sweetgrass, by Robin Wall Kimerer - I've heard about this in lots of places, and it sounds like a really lovely meditation on nature, science, and how our lives connect (for those of you local to the Stanislaus county library, they have an e-book, audio, and print copy of this title available).
Trail of Lightning, by Rebecca Roanhorse - This book was a Hugo Award Finalist and Nebula Award Finalist, which is a pretty solid pair of accolades.
More resources to explore:
A list of children's and teens books from the Seattle Public Library
A list of 8 of the best books by Indigenous authors selected by the people at Kobo
A list of female Indigenous authors picked by The Strand to put on your list
From LitHub, 10 recommended reads by Indigenous authors
A long list from Goodreads of Native American female authors
20 Native American authors to read (you should know - this list includes Sherman Alexie who has been accused of sexual misconduct by multiple women)
25 books by Indigenous authors you should be reading
Book Riot has a great list of 6 novels by Indigenous authors that is relatively recent
Another list from Goodreads with children's books by First Nations/Indigenous authors
Do you have any recommendations to share? I would love to have them. Happy reading!
June was such a busy month! We had some great adventures and spent a nice chunk of time outside which is always wonderful. Fortunately our summer heat hasn't been as extreme yet as it was last year. I both love and loathe summer but it is so much easier to love it when it stays below 100 degrees.
Here's what I read in June:
Glitch, by Sarah Graley - I follow Sarah on Instagram and enjoy her comics so I was excited to try this middle grade graphic novel. It's about a girl who gets sucked into a video game and has to figure out what to do next. Also, she has a bff who she's promised to play this game with and has to deal with that fallout from not waiting to play the new game with her. My kids both enjoyed this one also.
Just Jamie, by Terri Libenson - This is another middle grade graphic novel that discusses some middle school friendship conflicts. It is well illustrated and covers those very real feelings and situations that make middle school so treacherous. It made me a little anxious but might be just the thing a middle schooler in your life is needing to read to understand how to navigate the trickier subtleties of relationships in that age range.
Girl, Stop Apologizing, by Rachel Hollis - I read Hollis's other book, Girl, Wash Your Face, and feel like there's a very particular subgroup of ladies that devour this type of literature and pep. For me it can be a little hit or miss but also depends on what mood I'm in. This book differs from Girl, Wash Your Face in that it's a direct plan of action and pep talk combo, designed to help you achieve your goals. Some of the info in here was really helpful and uplifting and some still feels a little entitled and recycled. It's a bit of that duality between the "i've done this all by myself" and "be authentic and show all the help you get" which can get a little frustrating to see so often. I still think there is great advice in this book, but it's worth approaching with critical thinking in mind.
Maybe You Should Talk to Someone, by Lori Gottlieb - I loved this look behind the curtain of therapy. Gottlieb's journey towards becoming a therapist was fascinating and interesting to read, and her honesty is so refreshing and helpful from both a patient and a professional viewpoint. I hope more people will read this, it seems criminally under-hyped to me. Therapy is so helpful!
A Conspiracy in Belgravia, and The Hollow of Fear, by Sherry Thomas - These are the second and third installments in the Lady Sherlock series and they're all such fun. It's a delight to spend time with these characters and the plots are compelling and original. It's wonderful to read, and being in the mind and capable words of Thomas is such a fun joy to me, it's like how you can fall totally asleep when someone you really trust is driving. Weird example? Probably. I often worry about continuing a series that the rest of the books won't be any good, especially if I loved the first one. These just get better and better and I can't wait for the fourth one to come out later this year. *Excellent on audio if that's a format you enjoy*
Unicorn Bowling, by Dana Simson - This is one of my children's favorite graphic novel/comics series. Phoebe and her unicorn, Marigold Heavenly Nostrils, get up to all sorts of adventures and mischief and have another round of those wonderful things in this collection of comics. It's clever and charming, funny and creative, and perfect if you're in the mood for something different. I like reading these in between bigger books with heavier subjects or just as a brain cleanser. They're silly and sometimes I need more silly in my reading life, and in my brain!
Fix Her Up, by Tessa Bailey - This is a contemporary romance about a charming woman who has never been taken seriously, maybe because she's the youngest in her family and is a professional birthday clown. She has bigger plans than people expect and is quite a sassy lady. When a baseball phenom self-implodes and returns home who was also her childhood crush they strike up a deal in which she pretends to be his wholesome girlfriend to help land a job, and he in turn will get people to take her more seriously. This is a really fast read that is quite steamy on the page, so it will definitely make you blush. A LOT. But you're an adult (I'm assuming) and can turn the pages however and whenever you like. *For your consideration: some people give the side-eye to romance novels and romance readers. I sure used to. Here's what changed my mind and got me to give them a try - I would much rather read about a consensual relationship that I know is going to end happily - as they do in romance novels - than read about harmful and trauma inducing sexual assaults that are often described in more "high brow" literature. *
Follow me on Goodreads to keep up with what I'm reading now!
**Heads up friends! There's a $5 off book purchases of $15 or more on Amazon Prime right now with code "PRIMEBOOK19" and if you were to apply that to one of the books linked at the end of this post that would be just a little over $10 for a new hardcover which is a great deal!**
I went camping with family at the end of last week and am a little behind in my reading. It was a great time. We floated down a lazy river, got lots of bug bites, and didn't keep much of a schedule - in the best way - so I'm fine with it.
In light of that, and while I catch up with my books, I wanted to try something different for the start of this week.
In my notes app I have a very long list of articles I want to read but have to save for later so my browser doesn't crash under the load of all the tabs I have open. I thought it would be fun to share some of them with you!
Even if you just skim these, it's interesting and might spark a new idea. I've found that these types of reads always make me think about things differently, even if I only get through 3 paragraphs.
Here's some for today:
News of the new James Bond has me very excited. I really enjoy this franchise now that I'm a grown person. Daniel Craig's movies have been a lot of ridiculous fun to watch and I'm really excited to see how they use this new actor to change things up. I think it could be a really great way to broaden and update the entire category these Bond films rule over. I hope with all my fingers crossed that this announcement is legit.
A great roundup of books to look forward to for the second half of the year. I love these types of lists and enjoy filling out the library holds with them when they get into the system. As it is already halfway through July and - as my daughter pointed out today - Halloween is only 3.5 months away, it's about to become the season for the "best of" lists to appear. I enjoy lists of this type a bit more though, because the anticipation of things to come is great. I'm looking forward to this one, this one, and this one.
This list is just fun to file away the next time you are adding a new furry companion to your home. I've also found that naming one's automobile or method of transport is quite fun, and this would be a great list of ideas to consider. Do you name your car? Right now ours is named Jarvis.
And if you're looking for more long form articles, here is an excellent roundup of 25 of some of the greatest that I'm working my way through. A spectacular list.
Finally, here's what I've been reading lately:
Auntie Poldi and the Vineyards of Etna, by Mario Giordano - this was a sheer delight of a story, the second in the Auntie Poldi adventures. Translated from Italian, these almost cozy mysteries follow Auntie Poldi as she gets involved in one thing after the other. I love this character and the writing is phenomenal and funny. It's a wonderful summer book that's just as great as I'd hoped, but I'm in a bit of a slump right now because I just want more Poldi!
Recursion, by Blake Crouch - I read this right before Auntie Poldi and it was so good! No wonder I'm in a bit of a rut with two of my most anticipated books of the year being so great back to back! Ugh. I can't handle how much fun Blake Crouch's writing is. This book is worth the hype. I wrote an entire post here about what to read after you finish Recursion, except it doesn't help me much since I wrote it and read everything I recommended already!
How Not to Die Alone, by Richard Roper - This was much more charming in the darkly humorous way I enjoy than I was initially expecting. Dealing with a character who has invented himself a family and is clearly trying to ignore some heavy feelings. For work, he has to go to the homes of people who have died alone, go through their things to see if they have any belongings of value or relations to notify, and then he arranges for their funerals if there is no family to notify. It's a sweet story that I enjoyed a lot.
Have you read anything interesting lately?
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