Sunday, June 30, 2019

Books Read June 2019: 134 - 159


Pictured: June's 5-star Reads

134. The Flatshare by Beth O'Leary ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
135. When Wanderers Cease to Roam by Vivian Swift ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library copy, my review)
136. Good in Bed by Jennifer Weiner ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Audible audiobook; my review)
137. The Ash Family by Molly Dektar ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
138. If the Church Were Christian by Philip Gulley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
139. Condomnauts by Yoss ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
140. Passing Strange by Ellen Klages ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (free download from Tor.com; my review)
141. Split Level by Sandra Berger ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
142. Wild Horses of the Summer Sun by Tory Bilski ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
143. Lanny by Max Porter ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
144. How to Forget by Kate Mulgrew ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
145. Night of Cake and Puppets by Laini Taylor ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
146. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library copy; my review)
147. Arid Dreams by Duanwad Pimwana, translated by Mui Poopoksakul ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla eBook; my review)
148. On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
149. The Bobcat by Katherine Forbes Riley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from author; my review)
150. Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
151. Trust Exercise by Susan Choi ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library copy; my review)
152. Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
153. The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
154. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
155. 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism by Chavisa Woods ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
156. All City by Alex DiFrancesco ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
157. Magic for Beginners by Sarah Gailey ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
158. The Body Papers by Grace Talusan ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy via Restless Books subscription; my review)
159. Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)

Total books: 26

Audio: 5
eBook: 15
Print: 6

Purchased: 5
Library: 8
Review: 13

Asia 2019: 4
Camp ToB: 2
Joint Readalong: 1
TakePrideinReading: 6
TBR Explode: 3





Review: Patron Saints of Nothing

Patron Saints of Nothing Patron Saints of Nothing by Randy Ribay
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Jay is a Filipino-american youth with one semester left of high school when he finds out his cousin in the Philippines has been killed. He convinces his parents to send him back to his aunts and uncles so he can try to figure out what happened.

Before you think this is a white savior narrative (it really isn't), I must say I was impressed by how the author used this story of a somewhat uninformed teenager to tell this story. Like many immigrant narratives, Jay doesn't feel he belongs in America, especially when coming home every day feels like coming home to the Philippines in food and cultural expectations, but then his family has insisted he learn and speak English, so in other ways he isn't Filipino enough. Traveling back to Manila he hears frequent protests that he (and his father) are the "ones who left," meaning they can't know what it's like there, and also shouldn't be making any judgments.

Since Jay and his cousin Jun are close in age, it's like getting to examine the same life if he had stayed vs if he moved away. And things obviously didn't go well for his cousin, who seems to have suffered unfairly because of President Duterte's war on "drugs" that also seem to be taking out poor, homeless, and other passersby on the side. Jay has to work hard to uncover the truth, all while living with family members that are more on board with the current administration than he ever could have expected.

This is a YA novel, but the stakes are real stakes and the main character has a lot to work out between the various conflicting opinions in the family, the true dangers he confronts while trying to find the truth, and his own grief. There is also the family and friends he left at ... home? He isn't even sure where home is. I felt the ending was meaningful and realistic.

I had a copy from the publisher through NetGalley, but it fit perfectly into my Asian reading goals for 2019. The book came out 18 June 2019.

View all my reviews

Saturday, June 29, 2019

Review: All City

All City All City by Alex DiFrancesco
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When this novel begins, a storm is coming to New York, one bad enough that most of the people with resources have left to hole up in their "other homes," but it's New York and there are plenty who don't think any storm can really destroy the city. Superstorm Bernice hits, the waters travel farther than people expected, and don't recede. All of the sudden nobody is completely prepared to deal with the situation, and even though water is everywhere, you know the saying, not a drop to drink. And people with resources are not necessarily making humanitarian or ethical decisions, so violence and danger abound.

The story has alternating viewpoints, which is something I usually like, but there were some places where I felt it muddied the waters a little bit. I was most invested in the first character introduced - Makayla. There is a fair amount of diverse representation in this novel (racial, gender, sexuality, financial.) I like how the homeless characters are more prepared with the skills to survive in this kind of situation, ironic since their homelessness has at times been caused by the increasing gentrification of areas they can no longer afford. While we get some hints of the community that is being built moving forward, I'd actually like to see the next part of the story. I've always been more into the post than the apocalypse.

One more note - this could take place in the same universe as Severance, even if the disasters are slightly different.

I received a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss. It came out June 18th, 2019.

View all my reviews

Review: 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism

100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism 100 Times: A Memoir of Sexism by Chavisa Woods
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Chavisa Woods tells 100 stories of harassment, discrimination, and sexual assault from her own life (age 5 - now) to show the pervasive nature of these incidents in an average woman's life. It didn't matter if she was in a Midwestern small town or New York City, drunk or sober, walking alone at night or at her place of employment. I think all women could write their own collection. I think it should be required reading.

I had a copy from 7 stories press. I can also recommend her collection of short stories - Things to Do When You're Goth in the Country: and Other Stories.

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Review: The Right Swipe

The Right Swipe The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This isn't out until August so I kind of jumped the gun but I needed a quick romance read in my life! And a new series from Alisha Rai, no less. Like all Rai's works this has diverse characters that show how romance can deal with consent and trauma and still be steamy. It asks if there is space for a second chance in a swipe left culture, and also tackles #metoo plus CTE in professional football players. Very enjoyable!

And for the fans, these are tangentially connected to the characters in the Forbidden Hearts series.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Reading Envy 158: TBR Explode 2

Jenny kicks off a short bonus episode with a joint readalong announcement, and covers three months of her TBR Explode project. Then she goes out to see what you have all been reading for the Reading Envy Summer Reading Challenge.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 158: TBR Explode 2.

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Books mentioned:



Removed from list:


April
One Foot Wrong by Sofie Laguna
Paper Cities by Ekaterina Sedia
The Founding Fish by John McPhee
Overqualified by Joey Comeau
Wireless by Charles Stross
Nation by Terry Pratchett


May
The Illusion of Conscious Will by Daniel M. Wegner
The Discovery of Heaven by Harry Mulisch
Manhood for Amateurs by Michael Chabon
The Drowned World by J.G. Ballard
The Complete Short Stories by J.G. Ballard
The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill


June
Air by Geoff Ryman
The Alchemy of Stone by Ekaterina Sedia
Perdido Street Station (New Crobuzon, #1) by China MiƩville
A Voice Through a Cloud by Denton Welch
Chronic City by Jonathan Lethem
Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls  
Went ahead and read:
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman by Haruki Murakami (March/April)
Stitches by David Small (April)
Misconception by Ryan Boudinot (April)
Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians by Brandon Sanderson (May)


Kept on list to read - verified TBR!


Mountolive by Lawrence Durrell
Clea by Lawrence Durrell
Speak, Memory by Vladimir Nabokov
The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvan

Reading Envy Summer Reading Challenge Progress

Waterland by Graham Swift
Love by Hanne Orstavik, translated by Martin Aitken
Tentacle by Rita Indiana, translated by Achy Objeas
Space Unicorn Blues by T.J. Berry
Rising: Dispatches from the New American Shore by Elizabeth Rush
The Blue Hour by Alonso Cueto
River of Teeth  by Sarah Gailey
Passing Strange by Ellen Klages
What Did You Eat Yesterday? by Fumi Yoshinaga
What the Eyes Don't See by Mona Hanna-Attisha
Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt
The Murderer's Ape by Jakob Wegelius
Bluets by Maggie Nelson
Budapest by Chico Buarque
Arid Dreams by Duanwad Pimwana, translated by Mui Poopoksakul
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
Sea Monsters by Chloe Aridjis
The Years by Annie Ernaux
My Father's Wives by Jose Eduardo Agualusa
(his other book I mentioned is The General Theory of Oblivion)


Related Episodes:

Episode 021 - Amoebic Borders with guest Darin Bradley
Episode 069 - Evil Librarian/SFBRP Crossover Episode with Luke Burrage and Juliane Kunzendorf
Episode 131 - Tartan Noir and More with Claire Duffy
Episode 153 - Reading Envy Summer Reading Challenge


Stalk me online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Review: Orange World and Other Stories

Orange World and Other Stories Orange World and Other Stories by Karen Russell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is my second favorite Karen Russell (I will always hold St. Lucy's Home for Girls Raised by Wolves as one of my favorite books.) Top stories include The Bad Graft, Bog Girl: A Romance, and The Gondoliers. All of these have some kind of conflict between humans and the natural world, from infiltrating cacti to corpses to a Florida covered in toxic water.

Here is a link to The Bad Graft in the New Yorker if you want to try it out.

At ALA Midwinter, the publisher literally gave the last galley of this to the person in front of me, but then approved me to read the eARC in NetGalley. It came out May 14 from Knopf Doubleday.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous

On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous On Earth We're Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I knew this book would have an emotional wallop so I held off for a while. It's clear Ocean Vuong is drawing on his own experience in this novel, because it shares some of the sentiments and emotions I experienced in his poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds.

Oh how I love when a poet writes essays or novels. The language is powerful, the way some pieces are linear but others return to themes and core experiences is very moving. It starts out speaking to the violence in families, looks at language and belonging, moves to sexuality and connection (even when the other person is flawed,) all through the narration of "Little Dog" in a letter to his mama, one he doesn't believe she will ever read, so he can be honest.

I find some parallels with The Sympathizer by Viet Thanh Nguyen, in the sense that they both used fiction to explore their experiences leaving Vietnam and coming of age in America, but Nguyen's exploration is topical and political while Vuong explores the heart and mind. Both look at memory but the two novels are so very different.

The WaPo review by Ron Charles pointed me to the audio excerpt in SoundCloud read by the author. If your heart can take it, the audio sounds powerful, but I would have had to take even more time to listen because I find the emotional intensity a bit overwhelming. But, you know, more of that please.

I had a copy of this novel from the publisher through NetGalley. It came out June 4, 2019.

View all my reviews

Review: Arid Dreams

Arid Dreams Arid Dreams by Duanwad Pimwana
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

On the heels of reading Bright (Two Lines Press) by this same author/translator duo, I found this book of short stories that came out the same day from Feminist Press - I have to admit I was taken aback at first by how many stories featured a male character who was often obsessing over a woman, treating her like an object, or punishing her for not looking/acting like he thought she should. But there some subversion going on here where these characters are exposed for their thinking. "Kanda's Eyebrows" is probably the standout story for me in this collection, about a man who is angry that his wife has stopped wearing makeup.

While I understand the author's approach, I've probably read enough women filtered through men for a lifetime (even if in this case it is women through men through a woman) and I'd prefer to hear from the women in their own lives without the men as the filter or focus. The author seems to be trying to point out the difficulty when men believe they have a right to that control, and how quickly situations devolve. True, and yet.

I want to thank Two Lines Press for pointing me to this article by the translator of both Arid Dreams and Bright, addressing what Thai feminism looks like, and understanding how the author is seen and sees herself in relation to it. It really helped me understand the stories from a more Thai perspective.

Oh hey this counts for the Reading Envy Summer Challenge for "something translated." I found it in Hoopla.

View all my reviews

Reading Envy 157: Joint Readalong - Gone with the Wind with the Book Cougars

Jenny received Chris Wolak and Emily Fine (known as The Book Cougars) at the Reading Envy Pub for mint juleps and a discussion of Gone with the Wind, a book many of us have been reading along in May and June.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 157: Reading Envy Joint Readalong: Gone with the Wind, with the Book Cougars

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Book discussed:



Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell


Other mentions:

Reading Envy Goodreads Group - Gone with the Wind discussion
The Wind Done Gone by Alice Randall
Ruth's Journey by Donald McCaig
My Reading Life by Pat Conroy
Margaret Mitchell: American Rebel (documentary)
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
O Pioneers by Willa Cather
My Antonia by Willa Cather
Carol Burnett Show: "Went with the Wind" 
Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather (upcoming readalong over on Book Cougars!)

Book Cougars Goodreads Group - Sapphira and the Slave Girl discussion


Related Episodes:

Episode 085 - An Acquired Taste with Thomas Otto
Episode 090 - Reading Envy Readalong: East of Eden with Ellie and Jeff
Episode 099 - Readalong: The Secret History
Episode 118 - Reading Envy Readalong: To the Bright Edge of the World
Episode 137 - Reading Envy Readalong: The Golden Notebook


Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy
Book Cougars website/podcast
Book Cougars are @bookcougars in Instagram

Sunday, June 9, 2019

Review: The Ash Family

The Ash Family The Ash Family by Molly Dektar
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Berie is supposed to be heading to college but gets sidetracked by a cultish commune in the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Asheville. I read this for the setting since I live an hour south of Asheville and have driven around tiny mountain towns with lots of nooks and crannies, even stumbled on what looked like a commune outside Gerton at one point. There are a lot of culty tropes here - the powerful man who breaks the rules others have to follow, people who seem to know secrets that are never revealed, people who disappear, hard labor and hunger used as control. It's a bit of a twist because the core members take environmental "action" that end up being quite more than peaceful protests, creating a somewhat ominous backdrop to Berie/Harmony's understanding of what it is all about.

What I love about this book, and what to me sets it apart from other cult/commune novels, is how the author captures the internal emotional turmoil of someone who is being brainwashed. It's astounding and unnerving and kept me reading to the end.

This came out April 9 and I had a copy from the publisher through netgalley.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Reading Envy 156: Introvert Intentions with Scott

Jenny and Scott chat books they've read and liked lately, from travelogues to medical/cultural miscommunication, from introvert tales to science fiction short stories that are really more about philosophy than anything else. You'll have to excuse them as they nerd out over journaling and planners for a while (and Jenny deleted half that conversation, so you don't even know!)

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 156: Introvert Intentions with Scott

Subscribe to the podcast via this link: Feedburner
Or subscribe via Apple Podcasts by clicking: Subscribe
Or listen through TuneIn
Or listen on Google Play
Listen via Stitcher
Listen through Spotify


Books discussed:



Exhalation by Ted Chiang
The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman
Blue Highways by William Least Heat-Moon
Sorry I'm Late, I Didn't Want to Come by Jessica Pan
The Bullet Journal Method by Ryder Carroll
Sightseeing by Rattawut Lapcharoensap


Other mentions:

Dragonflight by Anne McCaffrey
Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can't Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Game of Thrones (tv show)
Arrival (film)
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang
Gardner Dezois
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande
The High Mountains of Portugal by Yann Martel
This is Paradise by Kristiana Khakauwila
Travels with Charley by John Steinbeck
Carrying the Fire by Michael Collins
Sixteen Ways to Defend a Walled City by K.J. Parker
Ordinary People by Diana Evans
Chronicles of a Radical Hag by Lorna Landvik


Related Episodes:

Episode 004 - Home, Frightening and Banned with guest Karen Acosta
Episode 014 - Flannery O'Connor with Zombies with Jason and Scott
Episode 052 - The Man with the Eyebrows with Philip and Scott
Episode 058 - Wishing for a Sequel with Scott
Episode 071 - Bad Priest, Good Priest, No Priest with Scott
Episode 082 - Reading Envy Envy with Scott
Episode 109 - Stuxnet Pancakes with Scott Danielson

Stalk us online:

Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Scott on A Good Story is Hard to Find (podcast)