Oy. January 2017. You have been a jerk of a month, haven’t you?
I’ve been lost in frustration, disheartened, overwhelmed, ashamed and really damn angry. I won’t make this into a political post, I promise. Like many people, I’ve been heavily emotionally affected by the last eleven days (This is where I gasp as I realize that it really only has been eleven days) and when I’ve felt myself getting a little lost in a dark cloud, I’ve been reading more. I managed to read quite a bit. Yay for running away from reality! So this post is long because there are twelve books here.
So here we are, a January Wrap Up on what I read this month. I’ll probably be lazy and not import cover photos so I’ll put the titles in bold for a quick scan. Yes, I’m that lazy today. I put a little star rating after each. These are more reactions than reviews or in-depth descriptions of what the books are about. No major spoilers. Some of these are ARCs.
Before we get into it, I’m sending extra love to everyone that are POC, Muslim, LGBT, Latinx, immigrants, those dealing with depression or anxiety made worse this month, and anyone else. DM me whenever! We love and care about you. We’re here. We’re with you. I mean, white folks feel free to hit me up too but let’s be honest about who is getting hit the hardest this week. We’re not feeling nearly as much as marginalized groups. #NotThisTimeMotherf*cker
Onto the books…
First up, I read The Elephant in the Room by Jon Ronson and The Heart of the Haiku by Jane Hirschfield. These were two little Kindle Singles that I sped through to get back in the swing of things after a reading slump. The Elephant in the Room claimed to be “inside look” at the T*ump campaign (I can’t bring myself to say his name), but it was more about Ronson’s fascination with Alex Jones and the way he spun his whackjob ways into a profit with Infowars. It’s really not worth the time. The Heart of Haiku was fine. Just fine. Nothing special there.
The Elephant in the Room ** (closer to 1.5)
The Heart of the Haiku ** (closer to 2.5)
The Small Ghost by Trista Mateer was next. This is a quick little poetry book with the running narrative of The Small Ghost being the presence of depression and anxiety, its ever looming presence, and its effects the writer. Since I released a poetry book in the fall of 2016, I’ve been making it a point to read more poetry collections as well. ****
When I’m Gone by Emily Bleeker was number four on the list in January. This was decent to good. It was a good first book into fiction after spending a long time away from it in the trenches of non-fiction reading and mostly writing. *** (closer to 3.5)
The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida. I feel that this is really an important read for a lot of people. If you have someone in your life that is special needs or even if you don’t, pick this up and give it a read. Written be a thirteen-year-old non-verbal Japanese boy with autism, it’s a very rare look into the thoughts of someone on the autism spectrum. He communicates strictly through a letter board and computer system and was still able to illustrate his thoughts and behaviors so eloquently. I have a niece and nephew who are on the spectrum. While both are high functioning (what we’d formerly call Asperger’s) and not nearly as severe as the writer, there were definitely bits throughout that I recognized from their behaviors and helped give me a better understanding of what the world may be look through their eyes – from writing letters in the air, to the reasons they may not hear you until you say their names, to sensory issues, to why we (incorrectly) believe they like to be alone a lot. It’s less than 200 pages and won’t take you but 1.5-2 hours to read. Those of us who are neurotypical can gain a lot of this little book. ****
Mercer Girls by Libbie Hawker. This is historical fiction set mainly in Civil War era Seattle. It was a surprising read and much more feminist (a very good thing) writing than I expected from the description. Weaving real life historical events and people into the story made it even more intriguing. Mercer and his Mercer Girls weren’t a subject I knew about going in but was intrigued enough to do a little research upon finishing this book. ****
Lost Soul (Harbinger P.I. #1) by Adam J. Wright. Eh. I was trying to branch out and read more fantasy type stuff. This one wasn’t for me. I hate dogging self-published authors too. Womp womp. **
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West. I’ve been a fan of Lindy’s twitter presence for a long while (before she made the understandable choice to stop giving trolls so much access to her and deactivated her account late in 2016) and finally got around to reading her book. There were parts that I loved and parts that I didn’t care about all that much, but overall I was found it to be an enjoyable and important read for all women. Pick it up if you haven’t yet. ****
Zombies, Migrants, and Queers: Race and Crisis Capitalism in Pop Culture by Camilla Fojas. Oh book, I had such high hopes for you! Pop culture and social issues? SIGN ME UP. Oh man, talk about a disappointment. Title, description and cover convey a less academic feel than the texts actually provide. The title captures your attention and the cover is great, but they both betray the actual contents. it seem like it’s going to be more connecting the fictional dots and tying them to the “real world” than is demonstrated. And some of the choices? DEAR GOD NO. Case in point: We need to reference people jumping from the World Trade Center on 9/11 to understand the meaning of “free falling”? I won’t even link to the photo because if someone has seen it they will never forget it. And if by some chance they haven’t, I will spare them that ghost. Do not do this. No. No no no. “Yet his arrested fall is hopeful, an uncertain future that has yet to be written— in contradistinction to the hyperdeterminism of social life for those outside of the frame.” 100% NO. DO NOT DO THIS EVER. With an introduction that troublesome (and making up over 10% of the book), my expectations were considerably low. It didn’t get any better. The author attempts to drawn connections and symbolism where there are none, likely putting more effort into metaphor than the creators of the source materials referenced. One star. One lonely little star. *
Forever Is the Worst Long Time by Camille Pagan. Yes, child. I need this after the previous book. I sort of didn’t see this one coming. I wasn’t so sure I was going to enjoy the book until about the 40% mark when the whole feel changed and really pulled me in. Normally first person POV isn’t my favorite thing but this one worked really well. Pagan did a great job nailing the distinctively male voice of the narrator, something that is often a struggle for writers when writing a different gender. Overall, I stayed up to three in the morning, crying from 1:00 on. As soon as the first hint at THE THING (trying to avoid spoilers!) happened, I sort of gasped because I knew then what was coming. Having dealt with this matter personally in my family, I had a very real reaction to it. For someone unfamiliar with THE THING, the impact it had on James in its initial stages may not seem as significant as they should be. Though maybe the coverage THE THING has received over the last two years will help. This book takes a hard and honest look at love, adulting, and a myriad of relationships in a very real way. What becomes of friendship when things shift dramatically? What happens when the person we idealize as perfect makes us realize they’re just as human as we are? When are we settling? When are we foolishly holding out for dreams that aren’t attainable? How do we define love and what happens when we redefine it? What constitutes family and who decides? Pagan covered each of these in a brilliant and incredibly real way that left the feeling like we’re discovering those answers along with James.This was the first I’ve read by Camille Pagan and I’ll be picking up more in the future. ****
The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace – This was much better than I expected, if I’m being honest. Short bursts of poetry tell a running narrative over the course of the pages, covering loss, grief, love and more. Don’t let the snobbery in other reviews put you off. Writing, like all art, is subjective and the meaning of poetry covers a wide range, despite some reviewers wanting to keep it within a very narrow category. Overall, the work was raw at times, poignant at others and a really satisfying emotional read. **** (closer to 4.5)
The last completed book is One of the Boys by Daniel Magariel. This is his debut novel and I expect to see big things coming from him in the future. If you’re not ok with reading about abuse, do not read this book. One of the Boys is the story of two young brothers and their emotionally, verbally, and physically abusive father. He refers to the divorce as “The War,” manipulates his sons to turn against their mother to an extreme point, and sucks every bit of good out of their lives. The book is a short one at 176 pages but packs a lot inside. We often think of abuse in a general way and this book pushed beyond that, getting into the very real, very harsh intricacies and details of abuse in all its forms. Its length is not a detriment. So much is in here, yet it’s still a clear and simple read, that you’re almost relieved for the boys when the book finally ends. It’s a powerful little read. I didn’t realize until I finished it and went back to look it up that none of the three main characters were given names. Somehow that makes it more powerful. Ruminating on themes of love, loyalty, and survival, One of the Boys is a simple and straight forward read that still manages to punch you in the gut more than a few times. **** 3.99999 stars. Probably would’ve been four if there was a little more to the ending and the epilogue wasn’t included.
That’s it! Phew! We made it! What did you read this month? Have you read any of the books above? Thoughts?
I’m currently reading far too many things at once:
- The Radius of Us by Marie Marquardt
- My Life, My Love, My Legacy by Coretta Scott King
- They Can’t Kill Us All: Ferguson, Baltimore, and a New Era in America’s Racial Justice Movement by Wesley Lowery
- Nasty Women – a collection of essays edited by 404 Ink
If my reading list looks like it’s going to be as long in February as it was this month, maybe I’ll do a mid-month wrap up instead of one long post like this.
Happy reading, everyone!