Due to the climate in our country, I don’t feel like I can do what I normally do on the first Wednesday of the month and talk about what I read last month. I will move that blog post to next week. There are so many really great resources being shared right now that help describe and explain that Black experience in America, white supremacy, and systemic racism. One link that was passed around on Facebook and other social media sites was this list of various articles, books, and documentaries which is a great start.
Last year, I read two of the books that are being suggested (one of which is on the above list). I’ve already shared my thoughts on these books, so I will link those reviews here.
Both of these books are excellent. There are also some really good Black Fiction writers that I would recommend if nonfiction isn’t your genre. Tomi Adeyemi has written two books in her series, the first being Children of Blood and Bone which is based on African mythology. There is also The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas and her second book (not a series but set in the same world), On The Come Up. And finally, If You Come Softly by Jacqueline Woodson, which I read with the Life’s Library book club. It’s not her most recent or most famous piece, but it is really good. Her backlist is definitely on my TBR list.
Whatever you decide, I hope you enjoy a fresh perspective on the world. Diversity brings creativity and beauty to the written word. It can help us grow in empathy and understanding, prodding us on to action.
So, the last two months, I’ve been reading 4 to 5 books a month on average, but this month, I barely read 3 books, and two of those books I started at the end of February.
I think that’s indicative of how much has changed in just four(ish) weeks. As I was trying to figure out why my reading amount had gone down, I realized some of the differences this social distancing due to COVID-19 has brought to my life.
Because my son no longer has outside activities, I no longer have that time to read, or really doing anything like write my blog, clean my house, plan meals, work out, etc. So, I have to pick and choose what I want to do during his nap times, or my early morning time or right before bed time.
All of the “free” time I just mentioned is subject to change. Sometimes my son sleeps longer, sometimes he doesn’t. So, I make a list as quickly as I can and chip away at it throughout the week. Reading tends to be pushed to the bottom of the list or left off completely.
And finally, the reason reading is such a low priority is that I simply don’t have the mental energy for it right now. There are bursts of time that I will read a lot, but the bursts are getting farther apart. It requires turning off the anxiety and the to-do lists that are constantly running in my head lately. Fiction seems to be a better fit for me at this time. Nonfiction can’t seem to keep my brain from wandering to a to-do list.
Now, overall, I’m doing okay, and I did manage to enjoy three books this month. Here they are:
All Systems Red by Martha Wells – This was the Life’s Library book club pick. I don’t usually read science fiction, especially set in space or dealing with half-human robots. The first half of the book (which was only 8 chapters) was a bit slow as it tried to build the world, history, and politics. But the second half of the book was amazing and well worth trudging through the first half. It follows a SecUnit who is assigned as security for a research team on an unknown planet. Several unexplained glitches happen and the team starts to realize that there may be someone or something trying to sabotage their mission. It was really good. I will definitely lend it to some of my science fiction friends who may not have read it yet.
The Hand on the Wall by Maureen Johnson – Excellent ending to this murder mystery trilogy. There were so many reveals, even at the beginning of the book. And so many plot twists. I got so invested with these characters that I was even mad at Stevie at one point because I just wanted to shake her for some of the assumptions and decisions based on those assumptions that she was making. Which, to me, indicates a good book. Highly recommend this trilogy.
Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi – So, this is the second book in her series based on African mythology. As always, I don’t want to give any spoilers, but this book definitely gave me that typical second movie in a trilogy feel. It had a lot of war, a lot of politics, and a lot of information about the world. And it ended on an excellent cliffhanger. I did struggle in this book as well with a desire to throttle characters who made prideful decisions that could have avoided certain outcomes. Of course, pride does that, but it was done so well in this book. Looking forward to the next one!
I learned a lot about myself through my reading experience this month, or lack thereof. I think I will be focusing this next month on more of my preferred genre, since we are living in strange times. Thankfully, I have a few on my shelf I haven’t read yet. Here’s hoping to a better reading life in my new rhythm in April!
Have you noticed a change to your reading life in this social distancing world? What books have you read lately? Do you have a preferred genre?
So this was the stack of books I set out to read in the month of February. I actually read more than just these books, and I didn’t completely finish the stack. However, I knew I would be reading at least a few of these into March. Here’s how the reading month went.
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler. This was a Life’s Library book club pick, and I knew nothing about it going into it. I had never read anything by this author before, but I knew that she was very respected and lots of people enjoyed her writing. I liked this book, but it gave me nightmares. It’s a dystopian novel set in 2024 (the book was written in 1993). It felt like our society would only have to take a couple of steps in the wrong direction to end up on the pages of this book. It’s a heavy book, full of violence, sexual assault, promiscuity, and language. But it will stretch you in much needed ways.
Followers by Megan Angelo. I think I found out about this book either by Instagram or my local library’s website. I believe this is a debut novel. It is also a kind of dystopian future, but I didn’t feel as deep into this story as I did with the Parable of the Sower. It follows two characters, Orla and Floss, in present day who are roommates chasing after fame and all the promises of being famous and then jumps every other chapter about forty years into the future after a big event called The Spill suddenly made people distrust the government and putting any of their information online (this reveal didn’t feel realistic, which it doesn’t have to, but it took me out of the story a bit). In the future, we follow Marlow who lives in a town that is watched by millions of people (like a Truman Show type of town) and she begins to question the life that has been written for her by the powers that be. All of the book centers around this idea of fame and the cost it takes to get it.
Burnout: The Secret to Unlocking the Stress Cycle by Emily and Amelia Nagoski. I loved this book. I heard about it on a podcast, and I’m so glad I picked it up. It addresses stress, the science behind it, and how we can survive it. It is directed to women and the stressors that most women face (including the patriarchy and the bikini industrial complex). Everything was fascinating and challenging, and I felt like the authors really tried to take on this subject as clearly and with as much data as they could. It’s definitely one that I will re-read at some point.
The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E Harrow. The book for the Modern Mrs Darcy Book Club. This was such a sweet story of fantasy and imagination. January Scaller lives with a rich bachelor while her father hunts for priceless treasures all over the world. One day, she manages to open a door into another world, but when she tells her guardian about this experience, she is locked away and convinced that she needs to put away such childish fantasies. But these doors keep coming back into her life, and with a door comes change, she just has to have the courage to step through them. Reminded me a bit of The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern.
Don’t Overthink It: Make Easier Decisions, Stop Second-Guessing, and Bring More Joy to Your Life by Anne Bogel. This is the third book I have read by this author, and I was able to be a part of the launch team for this book (which let me read the book before it came out). Anne is the kind of writer that makes you feel like you are chatting with a friend over coffee when you read her books. The kind of friend who does excellent research on a topic that she can’t wait to share with you. I made so many notes with this book, great points to remember and incorporate into my life. Highly recommend!
Rhythms of Renewal: Trading Stress and Anxiety for a Life of Peace and Purpose by Rebekah Lyons. This was a book recommended on Instagram by some other authors I follow. I had been wanting a book about stress coming from a Christian perspective. But I think I was expecting something a little different than what I read in this book. I thought I was going to get more of “when this happens, it’s good to remember this” kind of language, but the book seemed to be a list of self-care options that worked for the author throughout her life. Things that may help others. I think I preferred Burnout because there was more science of why things work which is what my brain really likes. It was still a good book, and the last couple of chapters raised my overall rating, but it wouldn’t be the first book I would recommend about stress or even Christian self-help.
Reading has slowed down significantly as the holiday season arrived. Plus, I’ve been spending a good portion of my time in November putting together furniture. Still, I thought it would be fun to look back over the books that received five stars. I definitely saw some trends that I thought I would share with you. All of the links will send you to my reviews of each book.
Favorite New Author: This year, I started following Victoria “V.E” Schwab on social media. I had heard of her books, and that people really loved them. So, I started with The Archived series, which I checked out of the library. I absolutely loved both The Archived and The Unbound. Which led me to pre-order her new middle-grade book, City of Ghosts, which I again, of course, loved.
Favorite YA Books: In addition to the above books, I also really loved a few newer authors, as well as a couple of authors I was already familiar with their writing. Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi introduced me to a new African mythology, and The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas was a poignant and beautiful contemporary novel about grief and racism.
I also thoroughly enjoyed Thunderhead (the second book in the Scythe series) by Neal Shusterman and Library of Souls (the third book in Mrs. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series) by Ransom Riggs. I’ve read Unwind by Shusterman many years ago, which I liked. I’ve also been reading Riggs’ series for a couple of years now and plan to read this next book (which I already own) Map of Days that continues the story of his Peculiar series.
Favorite Adult Books: All of the adult authors I enjoyed this year were new to me. The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern was an impulse buy that I really enjoyed and probably prompted more impulse buying this year than I have in a long time. How to Stop Time by Matt Haig made me tear up at the end. It actually answers the question of how to stop time through this fictional, magical story. And What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty was a surprise because it wasn’t the main story that made me love it so much, but the subplot of her sister and infertility that kept me turning the pages (and I think I cried at the end of this one, too).
Favorite Non-fiction/Memoir: Kathy Khang’s book Raise Your Voice is a perfect narrative of this moment in history. It challenged the reader to face the excuses used to stay quiet when we need to speak up. And on a completely different level, Anne Bogel’s book, I’d Rather Be Reading, was a perfect collection of essays for any reader to relate to.
All of these authors have inspired me in so many different ways and prompted me to see life from new perspectives. I think they have all taken a part in shaping me this year, and I look forward to seeing what new favorites will come into my life next year!
This was an incredibly entertaining and beautiful story set in African mythology (West African, I believe). I love mythology, but I had never really been exposed to mythology from this part of the world, so it was a real treat. Besides that aspect, the story itself is an epic quest adventure within a vibrant world with an amazing cast of characters.
The writing is told from three perspectives. Zelie, a diviner. Amari, a princess. And Inan, a prince, and brother to Amari. Diviners are known for their white hair and silver eyes. They would have inherited magic if it did not mysteriously disappear from this world. When magic disappeared, all of those who had already had magic when it disappeared were rounded up and killed – including Zelie’s mother – in the Raid. Amari and Inan grew up in the palace. Their father was the one who initiated the Raid and taught them that magic was evil.
The story begins when the magic starts to resurface, and the king is bent on snuffing magic out again, no matter the cost. There are themes of how power and strength are defined. As well as what is truly evil or not.
The characters in the story are so diverse and flawed. They each face their own cowardice and don’t always make the right choices, which can affect outcomes beyond themselves. Even when motivations and intentions are pure, decisions can still be wrong.
One aspect of the writing that I really enjoyed was the use of chapter lengths. The author would write longer chapters when deeper issues and themes or descriptions of worlds were being discussed. But, when the plot picked up or there were fight or action scenes, the chapters would get shorter. It felt like you were rushing with the characters themselves.
There wasn’t a lot of profanity as we know it. A diviner was referred to as a maggot which was a slur. They also had blasphemous words, like Skies or Oh my gods, which would be different words in our culture, but used the same way.
There was one sex scene toward the last third of the book, but it wasn’t graphic. A lot of it was implied, but it would not be hard to know what was implied.
There is a lot of violence in the book. Lots of people are killed, by sword or magic, and some of those deaths and fight scenes are pretty detailed. There is a lot of talk about scars that different characters had.
Overall, I definitely recommend this book. You don’t have to be knowledgeable in West African culture to understand what’s going on, what’s important, and what’s impactful. I can see some glimpses, some foreshadowing into the next book, which I’m not sure when that would come out, but I’m definitely going to put it on my list!