Category Archives: Book Reviews

Tepper Isn’t Going Out by Calvin Trillin

This book reminded me of the play, Waiting for Godot. It seemed to be a book about nothing, really. The main character, Murphy Tepper, likes to park legally on the streets of New York after work and read his newspaper. This confounds and annoys others looking for a spot to park, but at first it is seen as nothing more than just being an inconvenience.

That is, until people start to visit with Tepper during his parking experiences. While he doesn’t say much, really listens more than speaks, people walk away encouraged and enlightened. He grows in popularity, much to the chagrin of the Mayor whose losing in popularity.

Even the reader will walk away with their own opinions of Tepper and why he chose this unconventional hobby. Regardless of what you think his true intentions actually were, the story is filled with comical scenarios and heartfelt interactions. It is a light, fast paced read that was both hilarious and sweet. I would recommend it to anyone who wants something quick and light to read, as well so those who enjoy books about community or New York City streets.


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Gallant by VE Schwab

V.E. Schwab is one of my favorite authors. I have read almost everything she has written, with a few outlying short stories and graphic novels still on my TBR list. When I hear that she has a new book coming out, I preorder it as soon as I can because I want to support her writing (books do better when they are preordered) as well as I want to read whatever she writes as soon as I possibly can.

Gallant is a gothic ghost story. It follows the story of Olivia Prior, a young girl who was left as a baby on the steps of an all girls school with only her mother’s journal. Her life changes when she gets a letter from an unknown uncle asking her to come live at the family estate, Gallant. But when she arrives, she finds out that this uncle has been dead for over a year, and there was no way that this letter would have come from him.

There are a lot of themes throughout the book. Communication is an obstacle for Olivia as she is mute, but she is able to mentally connect with the ghouls she encounters which is a bit of foreshadowing to how everything is connected. In true gothic tradition, the house, itself, becomes a character that reveals her own history, and eventually reveals the family secret hidden behind a door in a wall that is falling apart.

The use of senses, what Olivia hears, smells, tastes really brings the story to life. It’s paced well and the character arcs are easy to follow. However, it’s not this author’s strongest book. It seems to fall between middle grade and ya at times. It feels more like a short story than a novel. The plot is pretty predictable, similar to ghost stories shared around the campfire. It’s eerie, for sure, and not something I would read with the lights off, but it was simpler than I expected, plot-wise.

It’s a fun read. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys this author or enjoys a good ghost story.


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All My Rage by Sabaa Tahir

This book is heavy and complicated and stunning. There are some trigger warnings, which the author includes at the beginning of the book. Some of them are abuse, sexual assault, and prejudice. It doesn’t get detailed or graphic, but you know what is happening, and you go through the journey with the characters as they come to terms with them.

The two main characters, Sal and Noor, are seniors in high school. Sal is an amazing writer who lives with his parents at the motel that they run. His mother is sick and his father is an alcoholic and their motel is not doing well. Noor lives with her uncle after her entire family dies in an earthquake in Pakistan. While she wants to study to be a doctor, her uncle would rather she stay at home and work in his liquor store.

The book switches between each of their points of view and also Sal’s mother, Misbah, who has a few chapters dedicated to her history and perspective. It deals with so many different kinds of loss and the way people deal with it. The writing is fluid between the different points of view, which keeps the pacing steady as you move from one twist to another. Even when things are revealed, they are not tied up neatly.

It’s really easy to get invested in the characters, even to the point of frustration in their choices. While the ending does bring closure, it is messy and complicated which makes it more real. Noor’s character arc is difficult and my favorite as she deals with abuses in her life, including prejudice at school being an immigrant. The way she comes to terms with different aspects in her life in her own time is really beautiful.

I also liked how faith played a part in all of their lives. They spoke about prayer and faith and how it played a part in their culture and family. It was fascinating to learn about the Muslim faith and how imperfect and yet steady it could be in their lives. This coming of age story is definitely a great recommendation for teen and young adult audiences with the trigger warnings that were mentioned.


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The Light of the World: a memoir by Elizabeth Alexander

This book is both a beautiful, heartbreaking journey of grief and a celebration of the love.  It’s an intimate look at the sudden loss of her husband and yet so relatable to anyone who has lost someone they love. Her ability to harness language and imagery through poetry translates throughout this book, even though this book is mostly written in prose.

The book is separated into parts, almost thought pieces, not necessarily in chronological order, but instead in the wild process of grief. We walk through that grief with her as she remembers how they met, the moments and days leading up to his death, and the aftermath of finding his body after he passed. She moves backwards and forwards in time which can be a little disorienting at times, but very accurate in the way the brain processes the pain of loss.

The imagery of smells and tastes were especially evocative because her husband was a chef but also because these senses connect with memory so strongly. She shares a couple of recipes in the book as well, ones that shared a part of who her husband was, giving the reader a chance to connect with this man that she loved. She also talks about his paintings, but the book doesn’t include any of them, which I wish it had, especially the one she references towards the end, Visitation, which you can google.

There are also books he read, music he listened, especially all the last things he did, frozen in this time capsule that honors him. It is a work of grief, and an accurate portrayal of it in different mediums and timelines, moving back and forth between talking to the reader to talking to her husband. It is intimate and raw and beautiful. An excellent book for anyone who has loved and lost, or who knows someone who has loved and lost recently.


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Caste by Isabel Wilkerson

Caste is a fascinating comparison between the Indian religious caste system and the American social caste system with some references to the caste created by the Third Reich during World War II. Isabel Wilkerson makes a thorough argument that we live in a caste system based on race which she supports with the history of our country. She then uses more recent examples of different political and social situations to show the influence this system still has today. And she ends the book with steps we can take to end this system no matter where we may fall on the spectrum.

Even if you have read How to Be An Anti-racist by Ibram X Kendi or the Color of Compromise by Jemar Tisby, this book comes from a slightly different perspective. It looks at the situations in America from a more global standpoint. Yes, it includes the atrocities of slavery and the Jim Crow era, along with redlining and other policies that left people of color out of the benefits. But it focused on motive, and it even showed how caste has even negatively affected white people in lower economic statuses. As long as there was a group below them, it was easier to keep them satiated in their role in the machine. And the machine’s ultimate purpose was to keep those at the top in power and wealth.

While it uses the function of the Indian caste system as a guide to show the same system in America, it doesn’t go into incredible detail about the Indian caste system. It does mention a few differences and includes anecdotes from people she knows during her travels to India, and some history of the lowest caste trying to break away from their function in society. Most of the book focuses on America.

Also, I felt like the Third Reich references of caste were a little distracting but also interesting. She references one historian who said that as they were trying to build their caste, they used America’s model as a prototype to their own oppressive system. It serves more as a warning of what the darkest parts of a caste system can accomplish and implies that those parts of the system are present in our country as well, both in history and more recent times.

In the more recent examples Wilkerson uses, most of them were easy to follow the line of thinking from historical practices and policies now manifesting to the struggles and racism of today. Some were not so easy. My immediate reaction was to want to clarify the situation with more nuance, but ultimately, I realized that I had to sit with the discomfort and learn how to listen. While I still feel some of the events that she mentioned are more than just another example of caste oppression and racism, I can see how caste and oppressive systems can also play a part in those same situations.

My favorite part was about the need for radical empathy. Having a kindred connection that allows us all to open up to the pain of others from their perspective. Just like so many have moved away from the Indian caste systems, we too can move away from the racist systems that have been placed in our society as well. It ends on a hopeful and challenging note. I highly recommend this book to anyone wanting to continue their education on the Black history and experience.


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I wrote this for You: PLEASEFINDTHIS by Iain S. Thomas

I Wrote This For You is a poetry collection by Iain S. Thomas. This was gifted to me by a friend, so I didn’t know much about the author before picking up the book. The author started this compilation of free verse and photography as an online project which resulted in this book. Perhaps if I had followed the online project first, I would have better understood the rhythms and meanings behind a lot of this book.

The book is divided into four parts – Sun, Moon, Stars, and Rain. The premise of the book seems to be that it was written for one particular person, someone in his life who passed away, maybe. For the first three sections, the poems seem to move quickly back and forth between romantic love and obsessive behavior. It gave me a bit of whiplash.

With each poem, there is a picture accompany the verse.  Sometimes the connection seemed clear, other times it did not. It included both black and white pictures and ones in color. I kept thinking that maybe this was a clue to what he was trying to communicate, but for the most part it just seemed jumbled with no clear order.

But the last section was my favorite. It made observations on social justice and community, how we are not meant to be alone, and how people are made up of everything that has happened to them. I marked several of the poems in the last section that meant more to me than the ones in the first three sections.

Whether it was a puzzle I wasn’t able to crack, or just a collection of poems meant for someone else completely, this book was fascinating. It may not be a book I would pick up again, but some of the poems were enjoyable and thought-provoking.  I would recommend this book to people who enjoy connecting poetry to visual art, and there really is a poem in there that someone could connect with, whether it was heartbreak or finding new love or longing for community or remembering the past.


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Home Body by Rupi Kaur

Home Body is the third collection of poetry written by Rupi Kaur. I haven’t read any of her other collections, though they are now on my list. This collection is personal, raw, intimate, and beautiful.

It’s divided into four parts – mind, body, rest, and awake. Each section surrounds a different theme. Mind is about trauma and mental health. Body is more about relationships, particularly romantic relationships with the opposite sex. Rest is about productivity and how we spend our energy. Awake is about community and social justice.

There is some triggering content, especially in the first section around her trauma.  Sexual assault is mentioned, particularly from a young age. But throughout the book, we see how she reconnects to her body and mind despite the abuse she endured. It isn’t just left in the darkness of that part of her life, but there are glimmers of hope and resilience there as well.

All of the poems are in free verse, some as small as only a line or two, similar to a thought or a tweet. But there are some longer poems that are also included. Productivity Anxiety really resonated with me, and it was probably the longest written poem at over three pages. However, all of the poems are connected by theme, by thought. Nothing stands completely alone on its own.

There are so many good ones. Ones that I related to, ones that encouraged me, and ones that challenged me to be inclusive particularly in communal aspects. I would recommend this to any woman, particularly those who struggle with trauma, anxiety, or depression. It would be a great gift for someone graduating from college or anyone who is facing the world on their own for the first time.


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Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach: A Review

Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Anti-Diet Approach by Evelyn Tribole and Elyse Resch
My rating: 4 of 5 star

This book was recommended by a dietitian on Tiktok, which is probably not the last time Tiktok will be the source of a recommendation. I liked the idea of a holistic look to nutrition, that it requires both a healing of the mind and the body. And that was really what this book was about.

Basically, there are ten principles to follow (though they are not to be thought of as rules but more reminders). Principles like “Honor Your Hunger” and “Respect Your Body.” The introduction touched on the white supremacy and patriarchal influences that led to European standard of fat phobia.

It focuses the majority of the book on mental health and overcoming that instead of following some nutritional rules. It even has a chapter dedicated to eating disorders and another one dedicated to raising intuitive eaters. It was really helpful and encouraging to learn that nutritional health won’t get better until the relationship with food heals.

So if you are tired of diet culture and food police, and want another book that encourages body positivity and a healthy mental and physical lifestyles, this book is a must for your reference shelf. I know that it will be staying on mine.

There is no profanity, sexual content or violent content. There is a lot of discussion on physical attractiveness and eating disorders, so be aware of those triggers.

Their Eyes Were Watching God: A Review

Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
My rating: 4 of 5 star

This was the Life’s Library community book choice at the end of 2020. It is classic from the 1930s by Zora Neale Hurston. It is thought to be feminist literature because the main character is presented as a strong female character.

The story follows a woman named Janie. Raised by her grandmother who was a former slave, Janie was the product of a probable rape, which leads her mother to want very little to do with her. Janie grows up and marries the man who her grandmother sets her up to marry, but the marriage doesn’t last long. She gets married another two times in her life, and this book follows her life throughout those marriages.

People around her like to put her in boxes that she doesn’t quite fit into. While at first, she tries hard to meet the expectations of others, she eventually learns to trust herself and find contentment in the choices she makes, no longer caring about what other people may think. It is empowering, but also heartbreaking, as near the end of the book, she has to make very hard decisions that bring sad consequences. But her resilience through everything is beautiful.

This book wasn’t what I expected. Most of the classics I know are flowery in their descriptions, but Hurston really focuses on dialect, conversation, and moves the plot forward this way. This would definitely be a good audiobook to listen to (I actually listened to parts of this book instead of reading it completely). The story is meant to be read out loud. Very entertaining and definitely recommend.

There is a profanity in the book. Sexual content includes mentions of rape and kissing. Violence includes mentions of rape, whippings, there is a gun involved in a skirmish that ends up pointing in Janie’s face, and there are deaths and descriptions of dead bodies being buried after a hurricane.

The Fifth Season: A Review

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 star

Last year, in 2020, N.K. Jemisin showed up on my radar with her book “The City We Became” which was a big hit among some of the readers I follow online. But before I read that book, I wanted to read something off of her backlist first. So, this is why I picked up The Fifth Season trilogy.

I’ve only read the first book, but so far I am hooked. To be honest, I wasn’t quite hooked until after 100 pages. There is a bit of a learning curve with this book. It is a science fiction that is based in geology and seismology. The world keeps have these cataclysmic events that set everyone back to a more primitive time. If they prepare for it well enough, then they or their children might survive the dark years when the dust from volcanos cover the entire earth.

Not only does it have a vocabulary learning curve, but it’s a book that throws its reader into the middle of the story. There are different types of people in this world. Stills, who are just normal, every day people. Orogenes (or the derogatory name Rogga) who can create, quell, or monitor the earth’s movements and volcanos by using the energy and heat around them. This makes them dangerous to stills because that energy and heat could come from them, leaving them dead. Finally, we have the Guardians, a strange group of people who care for, train, and monitor the Orogenes.

The story follows three women (whose connection is revealed toward the end of the book). Damaya is a young girl whose powers have gotten the attention of the Fulcrum (a training facility for Orogenes). When a child shows orogene abilities, there is fear in the community. Some parents or community members can kill the child, though they are encouraged to contact the Fulcrum and have the child removed and trained. Damaya’s point of view is one who is new to the Fulcrum and to training.

Syenite is an orogene Fulcrum member who has been attached to a mentor, Alabaster. Not only does Alabaster continue her training, but they are also supposed to breed together. It really exemplifies the animal type treatment that these people receive.

Finally, Essun (her story is written in the second person which was jarring at first since each chapter basically changed POV) is a middle aged woman who is an orogene but hides her abilities. She lives in a small town with her husband and two kids. Her kids are both orogenes, but she hides that fact as well, until one day she comes home to find her son murdered and her husband and daughter disappeared. She knows that her husband killed her son and kidnapped her daughter, possibly not knowing that her daughter was also an orogene, which means she is in danger. Essun sets out on a quest to find her daughter.

It touches on dehumanization in a hierarchal society, something that evolved over time through each of the cataclysmic events (called seasons). In addition to all of the story and character development, there is also the mystery of these huge obelisks in the sky and the stone eaters, something that will probably be revealed and discussed in the following two books.

The book is excellent. There was no real information dump. The reader is just dropped into the middle of everything and must patiently pay attention to the details in order to catch up. But it is well worth it. Looking forward to the next books.

There is a profanity in the book. Sex is used for the purpose of breeding, especially among orogenes, further dehumanizing them. There are some hints to child abuse. Also there are multiple sex scenes, some described in detail, but I wouldn’t say they were steamy. There is also a lot of death. The son of Essun is very young when he is killed. There are stabbings, death by losing the heat in your body, mentions of cannibalism and turning to stone. This book is heartbreaking. I originally thought it was YA, but after reading it, it definitely felt more of an adult genre book.