Down the TBR Hole #1

Down the TBR Hole was originally created over at Lost in a Story.

Most of you probably know this feeling, you’re Goodreads TBR pile keeps growing and growing and it seems like there is no light at the end of the tunnel. You keep adding, but you add more than you actually read. And then when you’re scrolling through your list, you realize that you have no idea what half the books are about and why you added them. Well that’s going to change!

It works like this:

  • Go to your goodreads to-read shelf.
  • Order on ascending date added.
  • Take the first 5 (or 10, if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or should it go?
  • Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Current “to-read” shelf: 934 titles
An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science – Edward J. Larson
Published: May 31, 2011
On TBR Since: April 7, 2011

I’ve mentioned my fascination with the Heroic Age of Exploration before, and this has been on my TBR a long, long time. When I was in New York in January, I visited the Strand and purchased a very nice copy for myself.

Stay or Go? Stay

Remarkable Creatures – Tracy Chevalier
Published: August 24, 2009
On TBR Since: May 4, 2011

Early 19th-century lady fossil-hunter. Yes, please.

Stay or Go? Stay

The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths – Michael Shermer
Published: May 15, 2011
On TBR Since: May 24, 2011

As much as I like reading about the brain and how it does the things it does, there are newer books I’m more excited about.

Stay or Go? Go

Ghost in the Wires: My Adventures as the World’s Most Wanted Hacker – Kevin D. Mitnick
Published: August 15, 2011
On TBR Since: May 24, 2011

This sounded like an interesting Internet History/True Crime/Memoir blend, but I’m just not that interested in it anymore.

Stay or Go? Go

The Story of Charlotte’s Web: E.B. White’s Eccentric Life in Nature and the Birth of an American Classic – Michael Sims
Published: January 1, 2011
On TBR Since: June 1, 2011

I’ve mentioned that I’m a Children’s Librarian, right? I’m a little annoyed at myself that this got buried on the list.

Stay or Go? Stay

The Wilder Life: My Adventures in the Lost World of Little House on the Prairie – Wendy McClure
Published: April 1, 2011
On TBR Since: June 1, 2011

I want to read this more because I enjoy McClure’s writing than because of the particular subject

Stay or Go? Stay

A More Perfect Heaven: How Copernicus Revolutionized the Cosmos – Dava Sobel
Published: October 4, 2011
On TBR Since: September 8, 2011

I wanted to read this because I enjoyed Galileo’s Daughter (which I seem to have neglected to put into my GoodReads), but I don’t think I’m going to get to this one.

Stay or Go? Go

Knitting Lessons – Lela Nargi
Published: April 14, 2003
On TBR Since: September 23, 2011

A book of knitting essays that I completely forgot about? I’m interested to see how this compares to Clara Parkes’ Knitlandia.

Stay or Go? Stay

Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void – Mary Roach
Published:: August 2, 2010
On TBR Since:: September 23, 2011

Space travel + Mary Roach = Why haven’t I read this yet??

Stay or Go? Stay

Almost Astronauts: 13 Women Who Dared to Dream – Tanya Lee Stone
Published: February 24, 2009
On TBR Since: September 23, 2011

The 2010 Sibert Award winner, women’s history, and the space program. Another one that just got buried on the list!

Stay or Go? Stay

Related Posts:

#BookishBloggersUnite – Women’s History Month Kick-Off

Bookish Bloggers Unite was formed when a group of like-minded writers decided they want to talk about books together.

This week’s #BookishBloggersUnite is hosted by Doddy About Books, and the topic is:

Favourite Women Writers Across Multiple Genres. Pick your favourite genres and tell us about your favourite female authors writing within them (or around them or across them!)


Lyndsay Faye

I heard Lyndsay Faye speak before I actually read her work. She was at the 2013 Sub-librarians Scion meeting in Chicago, and she gave the toast to Kitty Winter. Her Holmes stories are my first recommendation to new readers looking to explore pastiche. Her Timothy Wilde trilogy is a fantastic read, and Jane Steele is just so clever. Her writing is atmospheric and detail-rich, with characters who seem ready to step right off the page.

Graphic Novel

Alison Bechdel

Okay, I know that “graphic novel” is a format, not a genre. Alison Bechdel’s work covers fiction and non-fiction in her singular style. I fell in love with Bechdel’s long-running “Dykes to Watch Out For” comics series in college, collecting the paperback compilations over the years. I was a little sad to see the end of the regular run, but, of course, Fun Home and Are You My Mother? are excellent memoirs.

Children’s Fiction

Madeleine L’Engle

A Wrinkle in Time is one of the beloved books of my childhood. In elementary school, a friend and I must have spent hours talking about how to “square the squared square”. I’m looking forward to seeing the movie with my daughter, who is just about the age I was when I read the book (and her teacher read the book to her class this year).

Historical Fiction

Sarah Waters

Waters’s novels are full of period detail and fascinating characters. Among her books, my favorites are the ones set in the Victorian era, with Affinity perhaps just edging out the others.

(Lyndsay Faye could have gone in this category, too!)


Emma Donoghue

I will read almost anything Emma Donoghue writes. (I say “almost” because I cannot bring myself to read Room. Which is all to do with me, not with her.) I especially enjoy her historical fiction, but I have her new children’s series on my TBR, as well as some non-fiction.

Jeanette Winterson

Oranges Are Not The Only Fruit is one of my desert island books. I found my copy at a flea market in Florida when I was in college. I fell in love with the narrative voice. It’s a book I’ve gone back to again and again over the years. Winterson plays with style and structure in her writing, creating a distinctive voice that I find really appealing.

(I maybe cheated a little bit, putting two authors in here, but Fiction is a broad field.)

So, who are your favorite women authors who I’ve missed here?

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Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds

Long Way DownLong Way Down by Jason Reynolds
My rating: 3 of 5 stars


Blood soaking into a
T-shirt, blue jeans, and boots
looks a lot like chocolate syrup
when the glow from the streetlights hit it.

But I know ain’t
nothing sweet about blood.
I know it ain’t like chocolate syrup

at all.

At 15 years old, Will knows the rules: Never cry. Never snitch. Always get revenge. And that’s what he’s going to do. His brother was shot last night, and Will is sure he knows the guy who did it. So, he’s got his brother’s gun tucked in the back of his pants and he’s waiting for the elevator to get down to the lobby. But before he gets there, he has to deal with some ghosts – in a very literal sense.

There was a lot of buzz about this novel-in-verse last year – it was nominated for a National Book Award and an Edgar award – so it wasn’t too surprising to see it get some attention from the ALA Youth Media Awards.

It’s a very timely, powerful book. The verse format makes it a quicker read than it looks at first, but those few words pack some serious punches. The main action takes place in a very short period of time and in one location, and the style brings us right into Will’s thoughts. The subject is serious, but there are moments of humor that remind you that Will is still just a teenage boy.

There’s a lot a food for thought in this novel – questions about responsibility and loyalty, right and wrong, choices and consequences. It would be good for a teen book group prepared to wrestle with those questions.

Source: Checked out from the public library

Reading Challenges: Counts for the Newbery Reading Challenge (Honor: 2 points)

Related Posts:

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in March

Ten of the books on my TBR coming out in March that I’m especially looking forward to:

1. The Case for Jamie by Brittany Cavallaro (March 6)

The hotly anticipated final book in the New York Times bestselling Charlotte Holmes trilogy, in which Charlotte and Jamie finally face their longtime enemy…and their true feelings for each other.

The third book in Cavallaro’s Charlotte Holmes trilogy is due out next month, and I still haven’t read the second book. That just means I will now get to read books two and three back-to-back, which sounds like an excellent idea.

2. Broad Band: The Untold Story of the Women Who Made the Internet by Claire L. Evans (March 6)

Join the ranks of the pioneers who defied social convention and the longest odds to become database poets, information-wranglers, hypertext dreamers, and glass ceiling-shattering dot com-era entrepreneurs. This inspiring call to action is a revelation: women have embraced technology from the start. It shines a light on the bright minds whom history forgot, and shows us how they will continue to shape our world in ways we can no longer ignore.

Ada Lovelace and Grace Hopper have been getting some long-overdue attention in the kid-lit world, but I’m super-interested in the women I haven’t yet heard of.

3. Camp Austen: My Life as an Accidental Jane Austen Superfan by Ted Scheinman (March 6)

In a haze of morning crumpets and restrictive tights, Scheinman delivers a hilarious and poignant survey of one of the most enduring and passionate literary coteries in history. Combining clandestine journalism with frank memoir, academic savvy with insider knowledge, Camp Austen is perhaps the most comprehensive study of Austen that can also be read in a single sitting.

True confession: I have never read Austen. I will most certainly be reading some this year.

4. Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination, From Da Vinci and Darwin to You and Me by Andrew Santella (March 13)

Like so many of us, including most of America’s workforce, and nearly two-thirds of all university students, Andrew Santella procrastinates. Concerned about his habit, but not quite ready to give it up, he set out to learn all he could about the human tendency to delay. He studied history’s greatest procrastinators to gain insights into human behavior, and also, he writes, to kill time, “research being the best way to avoid real work.”

Now I’m pondering whether reading about procrastination is just going to be another way to procrastinate.

5. To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration by Edward J. Larson (March 13)

In 1909, three daring expeditions pushed to the edges of the globe, bringing within reach, for the first time, a complete accounting of all the earth’s surface. In January, Douglas Mawson, as part of Ernest Shackleton’s Nimrod Expedition to Antarctica, became the first man to reach the South Magnetic Pole. Soon after, Shackleton himself set a new farthest south record in pursuit of the Geographic South Pole. In April, American Robert Peary, with Matthew Henson, claimed to be the first to reach the North Pole. And in the Himalayas—the so-called “Third Pole,” the pole of altitude— a team led by legendary mountaineer and dashing Italian Prince Luigi Amedeo, the Duke of Abruzzi, reached 24,600 feet, setting a world altitude record that would stand for a generation.

I’m fascinated by the Antarctic and the Heroic Age of Exploration, and I’m familiar with Mawson and Shackleton, but I haven’t read much about Arctic exploration, and nothing at all about the Himalayas.

6. Searcher of the Dead (A Bess Ellyott Mystery #1) by Nancy Herriman (March 13)

Living amid the cultural flowering, religious strife, and political storms of Tudor England, Bess Ellyott is an herbalist, a widow, and a hunted woman. She fled London after her husband was brutally murdered, but the bucolic town in the countryside where she lands will offer her no solace. She still doesn’t know who killed her husband, but she knows one thing: The murderer is still out there.

First book in a new historical mystery series!

7. The Curse of the Boyfriend Sweater: Essays on Crafting by Alanna Okun (March 20)

Alanna Okun knows that crafting keeps her anxiety at bay. She knows that no one will ever be as good a knitting teacher as her beloved grandmother. And she knows that even when we can’t control anything else, we can at least control the sticks, string, and fabric right in front of us.

The reader reviews say this is more memoir than essays, which is fine with me.

8. Semitism: Being Jewish in America in the Age of Trump by Jonathan Weisman  (March 20)

Anti-Semitism has always been present in American culture, but with the rise of the Alt Right and an uptick of threats to Jewish communities since Trump took office, New York Times editor Jonathan Weisman has produced a book that could not be more important or timely. When Weisman was attacked on Twitter by a wave of neo-Nazis and anti-Semites, witnessing tropes such as the Jew as a leftist anarchist; as a rapacious, Wall Street profiteer; and as a money-bags financier orchestrating war for Israel, he stopped to wonder: How has the Jewish experience changed, especially under a leader like Donald Trump?

I expect this to be informative, terrifying, and important.

9. Inventing Ourselves: The Secret Life of the Teenage Brain by Sarah-Jayne Blakemore (March 22)

Drawing upon her cutting-edge research in her London laboratory, award-winning neuroscientist, Sarah-Jayne Blakemore explains what happens inside the adolescent brain, and what her team’s experiments have revealed about our behaviour, and how we relate to each other and our environment as we go through this period of our lives. She shows that while adolescence is a period of vulnerability, it is also a time of enormous creativity – one that should be acknowledged, nurtured and celebrated.

A peek at the neurobiology behind teenage behavior? Yes, please.

10. Sherlock Holmes and the Disappearing Diamond (Baker Street Academy #1) by Sam Hearn (March 27)

Told through Watson’s blog, detective notes, school assignments, media reports, and energetic comic-strip illustrations, this introduction to Arthur Conan Doyle’s classic characters will have every young super-sleuth hooked!

I am always here for a new children’s adaptation of the Holmes stories. It looks like this may have come out in the UK a couple years ago, but I haven’t heard anything about it yet.

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Round-Up Review: Gethsemane Brown Mysteries

Murder in G Major (Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, #1) Death in D Minor (Gethsemane Brown Mysteries, #2)Killing in C Sharp (Gethsemane Brown Mysteries #3)

Murder in G Major by Alexia Gordon
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Death in D Minor by Alexia Gordon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Killing in C Sharp by Alexia Gordon
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m putting up one review for all three of these books, partly because I read them all in a span of about 4 days, and partly because it’s difficult to talk about the second and third books without spoiling the first (and second).

I stumbled across this series looking for books to fulfill the Read Harder Challenge Task #21: A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author. A cozy mystery series about an African American musician stranded in rural Ireland and recruited by a ghost (and she doesn’t believe in ghosts) to solve his murder, which was written off as a suicide decades ago? Yes, please.

Early on, I was a little skeptical about the ghost thing. (Ha! See what I did there?) But Eamon is an absolutely perfect foil for Gethsemane, and their interactions are thoroughly charming.

Of the three books, I liked the second one, Death in D Minor the best. The book introduces Gethsemane’s brother-in-law, an interesting character in his own right as well as a window into Gethsemane’s life before Dunmullach. There’s also a new ghost in town, which is just fun. And there’s a needlework sampler that plays a major role, which I found even more appealing than the music angle (but that’s me).

I liked the second book so much I immediately downloaded the e-ARC of the third book, Killing in C Sharp, from NetGalley rather than wait for the book to be published next month. When the crew of a ghost-hunting television show arrives on Gethsemane’s doorstep, you know things are about to get interesting. In fact, they get downright bizarre. There’s another new ghost, and this one is not at all friendly.

As much as I enjoyed the books, though, I am troubled by the representation of queer (apologies to those who dislike that word, but it’s really the best catch-all in this case) characters – there are a few, but none of them seem quite okay. I don’t need every queer character to be good, but when every one is evil and/or mentally ill, that’s a problem. The representation of mental illness is a little problematic, too, especially in the first book.

Overall, I found the series entertaining and engaging, which is what I want in a cozy mystery. I’ll be keeping an eye out for a fourth book in the series.

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#BookishBloggersUnite – Introduction

Welcome to #BookishBloggersUnite!

In the words of Katy @ The Bookish Cronk, this week’s host:

Bookish Bloggers Unite was formed when a group of like-minded writers decided they wanted to talk about books together. We hope you’ll join us!

This is the first week, so it’s only natural that our topic this week is introductions. Katy answers the full list of questions on her blog; I’ve selected some of them to answer myself.

Who/What got you into reading?

I’ve been reading as long as I can remember. One of my earliest memories is of sitting in our basement, reading a tiny little book of Peanuts comics.

My parents were (are) both readers, and our house was full of books of all kinds.

There’s a photo of me as a toddler, sitting on the floor, “reading” a copy of Ringer’s Winning Through Intimidation. I also happen to have a washcloth on my head, proving that I have always loved books and always had questionable fashion sense.

What are your favorite genres?

Historical fiction, mystery, and some fantasy. I’ve been on a cozy mystery kick of late. I used to be slightly obsessed with Arthurian-inspired tales. And, of course, I’m completely obsessed with Sherlock Holmes.

On the non-fiction side, I enjoy memoir, social science, and history, especially the Heroic Age of Antarctic Exploration.

What are your least favorite genres?

As a teen, I was really into horror, but I’ve found that as an adult (and particularly since becoming a parent), I just can’t read it anymore. The big-name thriller novels are also generally out for me. I like my mysteries cozy, historical, and/or “soft-boiled”, as I once heard them described.

If you had to choose between bringing a mediocre book series or one great standalone book to a deserted island, which would you pick?

One great stand-alone, please. Something I can read again and again and keep finding interesting things to think about.

How do you organize your bookshelves? Do you even have any organizational system?

As a Librarian, I am deeply horrified at the idea of not having an organizational system for my books. (Just kidding. Mostly.)

My books are loosely organized by subject, and sometimes then organized by author. My knitting/crochet/spinning books are all together and usually alphabetized. I have a small(-ish) bookcase that is all Sherlock Holmes books, with scholarship and pastiches in their own sections, plus another shelf with books about Arthur Conan Doyle and Victorian England, and a small shelf of Holmes adaptations/pastiches in graphic novel format.

When I have a lot of books by one author, I put them together and organize them by title.

What’s the next book on your TBR that you’re excited about?

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor – I heard about this a while back, thought it sounded interesting, and then kind of forgot about it until it was named a Printz Honor book.

Have you ever gone to any book signings? Which was your favorite?

I’ve been to several signings for Neil Gaiman, including one at ALA Annual Conference first thing in the morning the day after the Newbery/Caldecott Award Dinner in 2009. He was scheduled to sign at the publisher’s booth at 9am, when the Exhibits Hall opened for the day.

I got to the Convention Center and was waiting outside the closest door to the booth at 7am. (At 7:05, the girl next to me in that photo arrived with her mom. The first thing she said was something like, “See! I told you there’d be people waiting!”)

Around 8:30, one of the HarperCollins employees brought out signs for the beginning and end of the line that was by then quite long. The one I’m holding says, “Neil Gaiman line starts here”. He signed it for me (along with my book); it has been under the glass top on my desk ever since.

Another ALA signing with a special place in my heart was in 2012, when Jeanette Winterson was in the Exhibit Hall signing ARCs of her memoir, Why Be Happy When You Could Be Normal? Her first book, Oranges are not the Only Fruit, is one of my absolute all-time favorite books. Of course, I didn’t manage to bring my beloved original copy with me to the conference, so I had to buy a new copy there. (Yes, “had to”.) Which is why I now have two copies of Oranges (I used to have three, actually – my original copy, a second copy I picked up at my local used bookshop, and the copy I bought that day and had signed) and two copies of Why Be Normal (the signed ARC and the hardback that I got as soon as it published).

Hardcovers or Paperbacks or eBooks or Audiobooks?

Yes, please! I will have all the books, thanks. I love a nice hardback book, but library ebooks might be stealing my heart.

What is the ideal reading day for you look like?

Me, a pot of tea, some yummy snacks, and a cozy spot under a blanket on the couch. (I actually did this on a day off work, while my daughter was at school, and read Dan Brown’s Origin. It was lovely.)

What book are you most excited about in 2018?

All the Perverse Angels, by Sarah Marr, which released yesterday!

I got to read the book when it was still in manuscript. I’m so excited that it’s finally out in the world!

(Full disclosure: I got to read the book pre-publication because Sarah is a good friend of mine. She is also a fantastic writer, and the book is amazing.)

This is a beautiful book about love and loss and art and feelings and stories. It is powerful and smart and original, and you should read it.


Now, I’m off to read some more #BookishBloggersUnite via the link-up in Katy’s post.

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2018 Reading Challenge Check-In #1

We’re one month into 2018, so how are those Reading Challenges going?

I’ve fallen a bit behind, though not as much as I thought before I went and put together this post! I went to New York in early January, then came home and promptly got a massive cold. Which I attempted to ignore while catching up at work.

The cold would not be ignored. So, that went well.

On to the Challenges!

Mount TBR (hosted at My Reader’s Block for 2018)

Goal: 24 books
End of January Progress: 16% (target pace: 8%)

Ahead of schedule, and I even posted reviews of three out of the four. Of course, the one I liked the most, The Dollhouse, is the one that I didn’t get around to actually reviewing.


The Official 2018 TBR Pile Challenge at Roof Beam Reader

Goal: 12 books
End of January Progress: 8% (target pace: 8%)

This is the only Challenge that required a list at the beginning of the year. I’m right on target pace-wise, but I’ve discovered that I might have actually gotten rid of one of the books on my list! Oops.


Newbery Reading Challenge at Smiling Shelves

Goal: Konigsburg (75+ points)
End of January Progress: 4% (target pace: 8%)

  • Sounder by William Armstrong: 3 points (Newbery winner, 1970)

A bit behind on this one, but no reason to think I won’t catch up soon – probably later this month, once the 2018 YMAs are announced.


Old School Kidlit Reading Challenge 2018 at Read-at-Home Mom

Goal: 12 books
End of January Progress: 8% (target pace: 8%)

  • Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969

Right on target with this one. I’m also planning to re-read A Wrinkle in Time, which wasn’t on my original list, but qualifies, since it was published in 1962.

Book Riot Read Harder 2018

End of January Progress: 12.5% (target pace: 8%)

  • A children’s classic published before 1980: Sounder by William Armstrong, published in 1969
  • A one-sitting book: The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series: Chasing Vermeer by Blue Balliett

My next challenge will probably be the celebrity memoir one, just as soon as my library hold on Jenifer Lewis’s The Mother of Black Hollywood comes through.

2018 Book Blog Discussion Challenge

Goal: Creative Conversationalist (11-20 posts – aiming for 12)
End of January Progress: 8% (target pace: 8%)

2018 Share-a-Tea Reading Challenge at Becky’s Book Reviews

I’ve fallen down on this one and not posted about any teas in January. I’ll have to get to work on that!

So, how’s your 2018 reading going?

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Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in February

There are a lot of great books coming out next month. These are just 10 that I’m especially looking forward to reading. (Plus a bonus at the end of the list!)

1. The Art of Vanishing: A Memoir of Wanderlust by Laura Smith (February 6)

Part memoir, part real-life mystery, this looks like a really interesting read, examining the choices we make and the sacrifices we choose. The publisher says it’s “a riveting mystery and a piercing exploration of marriage and convention that asks deep and uncomfortable questions: Why do we give up on our childhood dreams? Is marriage a golden noose? Must we find ourselves in the same row houses with Pottery Barn lamps telling our kids to behave? Searingly honest and written with a raw intensity, it will challenge you to rethink your most intimate decisions and may just upend your life.”


2. Feel Free by Zadie Smith (February 6)

The publisher’s blurb characterizes Smith as “[e]qually at home in the world of good books and bad politics, Brooklyn-born rappers and the work of Swiss novelists, she is by turns wry, heartfelt, indignant, and incisive–and never any less than perfect company.” I enjoyed Swing Time, and this essay collection sounds great.


3. Becoming Madeleine: A Biography of the Author of A Wrinkle in Time by Her Granddaughters by Charlotte Jones Voiklis (February 6)

With the movie of A Wrinkle in Time coming out this year, I’m looking forward to re-reading a favorite of my elementary school years. I’m also looking forward to this biography of L’Engle, written by her granddaughters.


4. The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore by Kim Fu (February 13)

I’m looking forward to this novel, which promises to follow five women from girlhood “through successes and failures, loving relationships and heartbreaks; we see what it means to find, and define, oneself, and the ways in which the same experience is refracted through different people. In diamond-sharp prose, Kim Fu gives us a portrait of friendship and of the families we build for ourselves—and the pasts we can’t escape.”

5. The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang (February 13)

This looks like a super-cute comic for middle grade readers. It features a French Prince with a secret identity – “the fabulous Lady Crystallia―the hottest fashion icon in the world capital of fashion!” His best friend is a talented dressmaker, but her own dreams must be kept on the back burner as long as she keeps his secret. I’m trying to read more comics in 2018, and this is a great addition to my TBR.


6. Dreadful Young Ladies and Other Stories by Kelly Barnhill (February 20)

A short-story collection from the winner of the 2017 Newbery Award. The Minneapolis Star Tribune calls Barnhill “a fantasist on the order of Neil Gaiman” – one of my favorite authors. The blurb also says “the stories in Dreadful Young Ladies feature bold, reality-bending invention underscored by richly illuminated universal themes of love, death, jealousy, hope, and more.”


7. Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper (February 20)

The publisher’s description says: “With the election of Donald Trump and the massive step backward this signals for both African Americans and women, Eloquent Rage offers a way forward, one that encourages us all not to be cowed or silenced by fear. It looks to the lives of Black women — one of the nation’s most maligned subjects — for direction. For it is Black women who model critical dissent as a practice of prophetic love not for who America is, but for who she can be.” I expect this book to make me uncomfortable and challenge me in necessary ways.


8. Don’t Call Me Princess: Essays on Girls, Women, Sex, and Life by Peggy Orenstein (February 27)

I’ve been meaning to read Orenstein’s Cinderella Ate My Daughter for ages. This collection of essays is super-timely; the publisher says they’ve been “updated with both an original introduction and personal reflections on each piece. Her takes on reproductive justice, the infertility industry, tensions between working and stay-at-home moms, pink ribbon fear-mongering and the complications of girl culture are not merely timeless—they have, like Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, become more urgent in our contemporary political climate. Don’t Call Me Princess offers a crucial evaluation of where we stand today as women—in our work lives, sex lives, as mothers, as partners—illuminating both how far we’ve come and how far we still have to go.”


9. Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress by Steven Pinker (February 27)

I’m really hoping this one will, well, give me some hope. In a very rationalistic, practical way. The description says it “makes the case for reason, science, and humanism: the ideals we need to confront our problems and continue our progress.”



10. Enough As She Is: How to Help Girls Move Beyond Impossible Standards of Success to Live Healthy, Happy, and Fulfilling Lives by Rachel Simmons (February 27)

My daughter is on the verge of teenagerhood, and this book claims to offer “practical parenting advice — including teaching girls self-compassion as an alternative to self-criticism, how to manage overthinking, resist the constant urge to compare themselves to peers, take healthy risks, navigate toxic elements of social media, prioritize self-care, and seek support when they need it.”


And a bonus: All the Perverse Angels by Sarah K Marr (February 22)

I actually already have a copy of this book, and I’m so thrilled that it’s finally going to be available to everyone! I’m just going to put the whole description here:

Anna, an art curator, leaves a psychiatric hospital and finds herself in an English village, sharing a rented cottage with her partner. Seeking refuge from the aftermath of past infidelities, she constructs a personal reality from the brushstrokes and histories of her favourite artworks.

A chance discovery in the cottage’s attic leads Anna on a journey back to the late nineteenth century and the complicated relationships of two women studying at Oxford University.

As Anna’s investigations blend with the students’ story, and the threads of her life intertwine with those of a century earlier, she finds a way to run ever farther from her pain. But the past is not all it seems, and Anna’s escape routes are taken from her, one by one, until she must face the truth of her present.

All the Perverse Angels is a breathtaking novel about the nature of loss and the confusion of love, about the stories we are told and the stories we tell ourselves.

Related Posts:

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

The Grownup

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I didn’t stop giving hand jobs because I wasn’t good at it. I stopped giving hand jobs because I was the best at it.

That’s our introduction to our unnamed narrator, who has recently started posing as a fortune-teller who reads auras (in the front room of the same establishment where she has been providing orgasms to lonely men in the back room). She’s a clever young woman who grew up a grifter and relies on her keen observation skills to provide just the right story to the right person to part them from their money. But her skills at reading people might not be quite enough in this creepy, twisty tale.

This is a skinny little book at just 62 pages, a hardback the size of a thin paperback. It was originally published as a short story in George R. R. Martin’s Rogues anthology under the title “What Do You Do?” (Which is a really excellent title for this story, actually.) It won the 2015 Best Short Story Edgar.

The narrator (I really wish she had a name) is a compelling character. She’s so sure of herself – a confidence woman in multiple senses. I was reminded a bit of Selina Dawes in Sarah Waters’ Affinity, brought up into the 21st century. She’s flawed in ways she recognizes and in ways she doesn’t. She should be one of those “unlikeable” characters, but you want to like her.

I haven’t read Gone Girl, even though it seems like everyone else has. I really enjoyed this little taste of her writing, so I can see why everyone’s been buzzing about her novels.

Source: Book of the Month club

Reading Challenges: Counts for Read Harder (Task 15: A one-sitting book), Mount TBR

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Sounder by William H. Armstrong


Sounder by William H. Armstrong
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The tall man stood at the edge of the porch. The roof sagged from the two rough posts which held it, almost closing the gap between his head and the rafters.

Somewhere in the deep South, a young black boy lives with his family in a small cabin. One morning, he is surprised to discover pork sausage and ham cooking. For a family of impoverished sharecroppers, this is an unexpected luxury. Even their hound/bulldog mix, Sounder, gets a treat. The joy is short-lived, however, as the white Sheriff and his deputies arrive at their door and take the boy’s father away in chains. The boy grows into a young man with Sounder by his side.

I’ll start by noting the elephant in the room: this book, published in 1969 (and winner of the 1970 Newbery Medal), is a story about a black family written by a white man. The book opens with an author’s note beginning, “Fifty years ago, I learned to read at a round table in the center of a large, sweet-smelling, steam-softened kitchen. My teacher was a gray-haired black man who taught the one-room Negro school several miles away from where we lived in the Green Hill district of the county.” This would have been in the late 1910s; Armstrong was born in Virginia in 1911. He goes on to explain that his teacher told him many stories, including “the story of Sounder, a coon dog.” This book is, says Armstrong, “the black man’s story, not mine.”

Perhaps that is why none of the characters, other than the dog, are given names. For that matter, the place is never specified. Or maybe the vagueness is intended to leave as much as possible to the reader’s imagination.  In any case, our protagonist is always referred to as simply “the boy” – which feels a little awkward and uncomfortable. The particular racist use of the term is touched on in the novel itself: “‘Stick out your hands, boy,’ ordered the second man. The boy started to raise his hands, but the man was already reaching over the stove, snapping handcuffs on the outstretched wrists of his father.”

Throughout the short novel, we see the institutional and casual racism of the place and time through the boy’s eyes. He’s led a fairly sheltered life, rarely leaving the warm circle of his own family. His interactions with the people he encounters over the years reflect the prevailing attitudes.

I think this would be a great book to read with a group (a classroom or a book group) paired with an Own Voices book like Linda Williams Jackson’s Midnight without a Moon or Sharon M. Draper’s Stella by Starlight.

Source: Checked out from the public library

Reading Challenges: Counts for the Old School Kidlit Challenge (published 1969), the Newbery Reading Challenge (Medal Winner: 3 points), and Read Harder (Task 11: A children’s classic published before 1980).

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