Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Review: Travels with a Tangerine: From Morocco to Turkey in the Footsteps of Islam's Greatest Traveler

Travels with a Tangerine: From Morocco to Turkey in the Footsteps of Islam's Greatest Traveler Travels with a Tangerine: From Morocco to Turkey in the Footsteps of Islam's Greatest Traveler by Tim Mackintosh-Smith
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Tim Mackintosh-Smith traces some of the travels of Ibn Battuta, an avid traveler of North Africa and the Middle East in the Middle Ages. The writing is dense (he loves a good turn of phrase) but I enjoyed reading it, visiting the late 1990s version of some of these places, with the underlying current of the 14th century - Tangiers, Alexandria, Aleppo, Sur, etc. Some of these locations have been forever changed in the 21st century so this was a bit of time traveling. The author talks about how the world feels like it contracts or expands depending on how easy it is to travel - Ibn Battuta did most of his travels as the Black Plague started, which reduced travel and trade worldwide. Funny how we are in a similar situation right now!

I've read books set so many of these places that this connected to many of my reads from the last year. The author has lived in Yemen for decades and I may want to read his book about that country too.

View all my reviews

Monday, October 26, 2020

Review: Memorial

Memorial Memorial by Bryan Washington
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I love a literary relationship novel full of nuance and Memorial is just that - Benson and Mike have been together a few years but it has started to stagnate. Then Mike's mother comes to stay just as he is leaving for Osaka to be with his father who is dying. The story is told first from Benson's perspective as he works his low-wage preschool type job (which he is impressively good at) and deals with Mitsuko in their small apartment; the story shifts to Mike in Osaka. Their backstory fills in along the way. I like how much of the internal narrative we are given, the placeness of both settings (Houston's Third Ward and Osaka), and the feeling of a relationship hanging in the balance.

This came out October 6th and I had a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss.

View all my reviews

Review: Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska

Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska Silences So Deep: Music, Solitude, Alaska by John Luther Adams
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I've experienced one of John Luther Adams's works before - Inuksuit - which was performed by over 50 percussionists outdoors at Furman. The audience walks around inside of it, and the music interacts with the sounds naturally in the space. I remember the ending fading into birdsong, which was very cool.

Hearing from the author, about his connections to other artists (including Lou Harrison, one of my great loves) and how he has been inspired by the natural landscape of Alaska (or maybe his creative impulses aligned with Alaskan landscapes, an idea he explores near the end) - for me this was a fascinating read.

I had a copy of this from the publisher through Edelweiss; it came out September 22nd, 2020.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Reading Envy 203: Backlist with Marion Hill

Marion and I talk about the rich possibilities of exploring author backlists and catch up on recent reads.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 203: Backlist

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
Or listen via Stitcher
Or listen through Spotify 
New! Listen through Google Podcasts

Books discussed:

White Pages by Ran Walker
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Face of an Angel by Denise Chavez
The Writer's Library by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwanger
Alburguerque by Rudolfo Anaya

Other mentions:

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Loving Pedro Infante by Denise Chavez
Maybe Esther by Katja Petrowskaja
Pain by Zerula Shalev
Book of Mutter by Kate Zambreno
Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Dona Flor and her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado
Gabriela, Clove and Cinnamon by Jorge Amado
Captains of the Sands by Jordge Amado
North American Lake Monsters by Nathan Ballingrud
Monsterland (tv show on Hulu)
Empire of Wild by Cherie Dimaline

Related episodes:

Episode 041 - Grotesque Beauty with Nathan Ballingrud
Episode 175 - Reading on Impulse with Marion Hill
Episode 202 - Jacket Flap with Chris and Emily

Stalk us online:

Marion Hill's website
Marion on Goodreads
Marion on Instagram
Jenny at Goodreads
Jenny on Twitter
Jenny is @readingenvy on Instagram and Litsy

All links to books are through, where I am an affiliate. I wanted more money to go to the actual publishers and authors, and less to Jeff Bezos. I only link to Amazon in cases where does not carry a backlist title, which took place a few times for this list.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Review: Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger: A Memoir

Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger: A Memoir Our Lady of Perpetual Hunger: A Memoir by Lisa Donovan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I can count the number of pastry chef memoirs I have read on one finger - this one! And Lisa Donovan is my kind of chef, "uncomplicated and thoughtfully prepared - nothing flashy, just good, just delicious, and ultimately, just comforting." She writes about her life starting with an unexpected pregnancy and an abusive partner, struggling to make ends meet, how she found her pastry feet in Nashville, and how she pulled elements of her family background into her craft.

For those that love chef gossip there is some about Sean Brock and the Husk years as that's what she is most known for, but she has had significant experiences before and after. (You can watch her make her most known dish on The Mind of a Chef.)

I actually think what will be most interesting is what she does next. There is a sense in the book that she is only now really stepping into claiming her power.

The memoir came out August 4 and I had a copy from the publisher through Edelweiss. I also saw the author speak at the Southern Festival of Books.

View all my reviews

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Review: How Long 'til Black Future Month?

How Long 'til Black Future Month? How Long 'til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"I am writing the stories that I wish someone had written for me when I was younger." - N.K. Jemisin on the video for her fresh and well deserved MacArthur Fellowship. This collection shows so much of the range of the mind of N.K. Jemisin, and I can't wait to see what she does next.

I purchased this book as part of a bundle of speculative fiction by black women writers from Sistah Scifi and I have been reading it since July. I set it beside my working space and would read a story when I needed to take a brain break. Some stories connect to the worlds she has written novels in, while others stand alone. Some are in conversation with previous stories, and some are more of a reflection on the world we know. I can't rate each one individually but overall my experience was five stars.

The links to stories when I can find them is not meant to take away from the sales of this book! Please buy it. But sometimes there are audio versions and sometimes it's nice to re-read a story by listening.

The Ones Who Stay and Fight on Lightspeed Magazine
This is in direct conversation with The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas by Ursula K. Le Guin and if you haven't read that one first, this one just won't make as much sense. It's like the old science fiction short story landscape, or so I've been told, where people wrote them to respond to others. They go together. So I guess the question has become, are you one who walks away, or do you stay and fight? Or do you just... stay?

The City Born Great on
This is the idea that became The City We Became but honestly the voice in this story is my favorite. "Yooooo no." Ha! And with the added layer of homeless/poverty plus Blackness plus the appearance of mental illness for a man wandering the city.

Red Dirt Witch
Witchy ways in Alabama, through dreaming, the coming of the White Woman and future racial strife, lead a mother to make a sacrifice.

A cook gets a new gig. (Listen on EscapePod)

The Effluent Engine (read on Lightspeed Magazine)
Steampunk New Orleans, lady inventors who might have potential for more, Haitian spies, white supremacist secret orgs

Cloud Dragon Skies (read on Strange Horizons)
"I was not so very different from other women. I wanted to be touched with tenderness...I wanted someone to talk to who would ... not think, "How do I control such a woman?" That did not seem so very much to ask, to me. Nor to this strange young man from the sky.

The Trojan Girl (Read on the author's website or listen on EscapePod)
Virtual reality, the perfect girl, amorphous wolves...

The Valedictorian (listen to the story as read by LeVar Burton)
This is a followup story to The Trojan Girl, a bit later in time.

The Storyteller's Replacement
Men and virility, daughters and dragons. (2019 Locus Award Finalist)

The Brides of Heaven
Well *that's* an interesting interpretation of a first contact story.

The Evaluators
When the first crew disappears, a new inquiry is captured through reports and interview transcriptions and the reader helps figure it out too.

Walking Awake (on Lightspeed Magazine)
Examines complicity and complacency in a earth where humans are bred for their alien masters.

The Elevator Dancer
A very short story about freedom.

Cuisine des Mémoires (read by Levar Burton)
A restaurant in New Orleans that can recreate any meal. (2019 Locus Award Finalist)

Stone Hunger (listen to the audio on Clarkesworld Magazine)
In the world of the Broken Earth trilogy, and simultaneous with part of it.

On the Banks of the River Lex (On Clarkesworld Magazine)
"So Death walked into town every day."
A post-human world filled with the beings known to humans, but also the rest of the biological landscape. Also very New York.

The Narcomancer (audio from PodCastle
Originally written as proof of concept for the world of the Dreaming Moon, which might be my favorite of Jemisin's universes. You can read more about that process and her thinking in this interview.

Henosis (available at Uncanny Magazine)
A brief story about the price of fame, and what sets your legacy.

Too Many Yesterdays, Not Enough Tomorrows
Something has happened to reset the world every day, except the virtual world, which is where continuity is found among a group of people who can only interact that way. (I have many questions.)

The You Train (listen on YouTube
I'm positive this came from daydreaming while waiting for a train!

Non-Zero Probabilities (read on Clarkesworld Magazine)
Basically the author predicted the outside of probability 2020. Ha.

Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Under the Still Waters (read it at Uncanny Magazine
Katrina or a Katrina-like hurricane, and a man encounters different creatures in the aftermath.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Reading Envy 202: Jacket Flap with Chris and Emily of the Book Cougars

Chris and Emily, known fondly as Book Cougars, join me to discuss books we've read and liked recently. We address the controversy of one of the books selected, new books by well-loved authors, and authors that we're just discovering (and whose back files we need to read.) Links to Book Cougars are included at the end of the shownotes so check out their podcast too.

Download or listen via this link: Reading Envy 202: Jacket Flap

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
Or listen via Stitcher
Or listen through Spotify 
New! Listen through Google Podcasts

Books discussed:


All the Devils are Here by Louise Penny
Rage Baking edited by Kathy Gunst and Katherine Alford
Tides by Jonathan White
The Marrow Thieves by Cherie Dimaline
Transcendent Kingdom by Yaa Gyasi

Other mentions:

Celestial Bodies by Jokha Alharthi
Book Cougars Goodreads Group - Sapphira and the Slave Girl discussion
Hurma by Ali Al-Muqri (book mentioned from Yemen)
Booktopia (at Northshire Bookstore)
Ann Kingman
Michael Kindness
Books on the Nightstand podcast (no new episodes)
Powells City of Books
Library of Congress - National Book Festival
Bloody Scotland Festival
Decatur Book Festival
Beowulf by Maria Dahvana Headley
The Odyssey by Homer, translated by Emily Wilson
Circe by Madeline Miller*
Emily's Lists
Tangerine Jones @ragebaking
Jenny's video playlist to accompany Tides
Empire of Wild
by Cherie Dimaline
Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice
Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
Bestiary by K. Ming Chang
Trumbull Park by Frank London Brown
Magic Lessons by Alice Hoffman

*I kept referring to Madeline Miller as a translator. I do think she has the scholarly chops to translate, but her works that I've read and loved are novels that are retellings of myths. I know this, but misspoke during our discussion. Sorry!

Related episodes:

Episode 037 - Breakdancing to Bach with Juliane Kunzendorf
Episode 131
- Tartan Noir and More with Claire Duffy
Episode 133 - To Understand the World with Lauren Weinhold
Episode 157 - Joint Readalong of Gone with the Wind with Book Cougars

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

Monday, October 5, 2020

Review: Just Us: An American Conversation

Just Us: An American Conversation Just Us: An American Conversation by Claudia Rankine
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

"Among white people, black people are allowed to talk about their precarious lives, but they are not allowed to implicate the present create discomfort by pointing out the facts is seen as socially unacceptable. Let's get over ourselves, it's structural not personal...."

In Just Us, Claudia Rankine pokes into areas of discomfort surrounding issues of race - in airplane lines and dinner parties, friendships and theater audiences, meet the teacher night and discussions on hair color. She calls up white friends/colleagues to try to understand how they are seeing or experiencing differently. She doesn't play nice during a faculty dinner. She documents the places where she fact checks her own statements. She does not provide easy answers, she is instead modeling the kinds of conversations we need to be able to have with one another if we are to move forward.

There is some poetic language in this volume, but I feel like it is much more essay focused than Citizen: An American Lyric.

One thing I appreciate about Claudia Rankine is her thoughtfulness, the way she pauses and considers what she thinks and why she thinks it. I was really reminded of this in the panel she participated in at the Brooklyn Book Festival.

I had a copy from Graywolf through their Galley Club, and also from the publisher through NetGalley, since I didn't realize I'd be getting it in the mail. It came out September 8th but I've been taking it slow.

View all my reviews

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Books Read September 2020: 229-257

This was a strange reading month because I started out refocusing on my 2020 reading goals, plus reading challenges from Instagram to read your own books, read books about science, and read Latinx heritage books (which goes September 15 - October 15.) But the eARC backlog started to feel overwhelming, and you can almost see the shift in my list. I also had to give myself permission to bail on a few books I was stuck on, and that freed up my reading flow. I don't know why I can't learn that lesson better; it's one I learn over and over again. But this month I found a lot of great reads, particularly in non-fiction, which is unusual for me. I read a lot of one-word title books, which was just a strange thing I observed. I also read books from the library for the first time since March (that I hadn't already checked out or accessed electronically) - I utilized curbside pickup. I hope doing so is in support of wanting my libraries to do what they feel is safe and not putting anyone at risk There are a lot of conflicting opinions about this topic.


Pictured: 5-star reads for September

229. Oranges in No Man's Land by Elizabeth Laird ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
230. Whale Day by Billy Collins, read by Billy Collins ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (review copy audiobook; my review)
231. The Blind Owl by Sadegh Hadeyat, translated by Naveed Noori ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
232. Blizzard: Poems by Henri Cole ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC in Edelweiss; my review)
233. The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC in NetGalley; my review)
234. Hurma by Ali Al-Muqri, translated by T.M. Aplin ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
235. Earth Almanac by Ted Williams, illustrated by John Burgoyne ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC in NetGalley; my review)
236. Ordinary Girls by Jaquira Díaz, narrated by Almarie Guerra ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
237. Glory and Its Litany of Horrors by Fernanda Torres, translated by Eric M.B. Becker ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
238. Homesick by Nino Cipri ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (review copy; my review)
239. Before You Say I Do Clare Lydon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
240. Eat a Peach by David Chang and Gabe Ulla, narrated by David Chang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (review copy audiobook; my review)
241. Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library book; my review)
242. Tides by Jonathan White ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
243. Igifu by Scholastique Mukasonga, translated by Jordan Stump ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
244. Bestiary by K-Ming Chang ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
245. Iwigara by Enrique Salmon ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
246. No Offense by Meg Cabot ⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
247. A Highlander is Coming to Town by Laura Trentham ⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
248. Guillotine by Eduardo C. Corral ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from publisher; my review)
249. The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix Harrow, narrated by January LaVoy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy audiobook; my review)
250. What Are You Going Through by Sigrid Nunez ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
251. The Selected Works of Audre Lorde by Audre Lorde ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (print galley from publisher; my review)
252. The Writer's Library by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from NetGalley; my review)
253. Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (library copy; my review)
254. Our Women on the Ground by Zahra Hankir, ed. ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)
255. Headscarves and Hymens by Mona Eltahawy, narrated by Mona Eltahawy ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (Hoopla audiobook; my review)
256. Farewell, Ghosts by Nadia Terranova, translated by Ann Goldstein ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (eARC from Edelweiss; my review)
257. Nine Moons by Gabriela Wiener, translated by Jessica Powell ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ (personal copy; my review)

Books read: 29 

Audiobooks: 5
eBooks: 13
Print books: 11

Library: 4
Personal: 8
Review: 17

LatinxHeritage 2
readwhatyouown 9
scienceseptember 3
readtheworld21 2

Middle East 5
Indigenous writers 3
Around the World 13

Fantasy 2
Foodie 2
Horror 2
Memoir 2
Poetry 4
Romance 2