Reviews: 8/6-8/20

Hangman
by Daniel Cole

This was the sequel to Ragdoll, last year’s debut. It was just as intense and page-turning as the first one. I actually read it about the end of July, but I forgot to log it then. It’s well-paced and takes you on a wild adventure of bodies and terrorist attacks.

Diary of a Haunting
by M. Verano

This was interestingly done. It was written in an online diary format. I wasn’t really a fan of the “twist” ending. Still, it was eerie enough, especially with duplicating entries and slight changes in text.

Campfire
by Shawn Sarles

This started a bit slow, then went balls to the wall hectic in a matter of chapters. After two days of relatively peaceful camping, bodies start dropping. I liked how this one ended a lot.

The Mere Wife
by Maria Dahvana Headley

This was an interesting one.  It actually took me a long time to finish reading it, because the switching between Gren’s mom and Dylan’s mom gets dizzying.  Like Beowulf, it doesn’t have a happy ending (if, like me, you were especially rooting for Grendel and his Mom), but it’s sort of satisfying?  I just wish Gren and Dylan had had their happy ending, because it’s just another novel where queer people get dead.  Spoiler. Alert.

An Unwanted Guest
by Shari Lapena

I finished this in one afternoon. It definitely harks back to the old school mysteries where everyone’s trapped in one place with a murderer. I really enjoyed it. The ending reveal was a bit typical for Lapena (you might remember me not being a fan of her first book The Couple Next Door and it’s bullshit ending). But on the whole, the mystery was solid and the journey through the book was good enough I recommend it as a quick read.

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Reviews: 8/1-8/5

The Outsider
by Stephen King

I was really impressed at how good this book was. It’s probably the closest thing to a standard police procedural King has ever written, which is probably why I enjoyed it so much. It’s a very typical mystery with some very untypical supernatural elements in it. This is also the longest book I’ve read in a while (560 pages), but I devoured it in one day, so you know that’s a fast-paced book. I don’t want to spoil too much, but let me say, the first part of the book went by so fast you wondered just how he was gonna fill out the rest of it.

There are some spoilers for his Bill Hodges trilogy in this book, so if you care about that and you haven’t read them yet, I suggest you do before you get into this one. On the other hand, if spoilers don’t bother you or you have no plans to read them (as I don’t), go for it and dive into The Outsider full on. I promise it won’t disappoint.

The Book of Leon
by Leon Black (JB Smoove)

I listened to the audio book of this, because the library doesn’t have a copy and I bought the audio book on sale one time, so I thought, why not?, and went ahead on. It was hilarious. If you aren’t familiar with Leon Black the character, he’s from Curb Your Enthusiasm. However, you don’t really need to know his character from that to enjoy this book. It’s 90 short chapters, the average coming in at about 3 minutes long, so it covers a lot of topics. It’s definitely not safe for work or for children, but it’s funny as hell. I recommend it if you need a laugh and don’t mind copious swearing or sexual references.

How Not to Get Shot
by D. L. Hughley

Pitch black satire about taking advice from White people about how not to get shot by police. It’s funny as hell, but in a very darkly comedic way. It contains advice from such pinnacles of wisdom like Megyn Kelly and Bill O’Reilly, suggesting such great advice like, “Comply with police” and “Don’t wear hoodies”, or, what it basically comes down to, “Don’t be Black”. It’s so worth a read, especially in the current political climate, and it might help White people understand exactly what your Black friends, neighbors, and strangers are going through right now.

Barracoon
by Zora Neale Hurston

Wow, this book was powerful. Told pretty much verbatim by Kossula Cudjo Lewis (and in dialect, so if you have trouble with that, be prepared), the story of his life back in Africa and being brought here as a slave at the end of the slave trade in America, and his life here. It’s a tragic tale, but one told willingly and fully. Hurston spent a lot of time getting the full story of Kossula’s life and it’s such an important read to hear first-hand what the slave trade was like from the point of view of a former slave, unlike so much of the history we learned from the slave traders.

 

One book I DNF, Hope Never Dies, the really promising Obama Biden team up fanfic that got published. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to the hype. I’m glad I just borrowed it from the library instead of ordering it, because that would’ve been an extreme disappointment. It starts, unbelievably, with Biden whining that Obama never writes, calls, or sees him anymore, which is hilarious coming off of a week where they were both spotted happily having lunch together. It tries too hard to be something dark and edgy when neither of the people involved are dark and edgy types. Believe me, I’ve written better fanfic than this, but I didn’t have the gall to have it published.

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Reviews: 7/16-7/31

Bone Game
by Louis Owens

I read Bone Game after seeing it on a indigenous reading list. It’s about a centuries-old mystery, prophetic dreams, and new murders. The author himself is Cherokee-Choctaw-Irish and his lead character is Choctaw-Irish. It’s an odd sort of rambling tale, with frequent flashes to the past, to dreams, and later to other characters. Each chapter follows its own path, all of which wind up together for a rather startling climax.

Over all, I recommend it. Don’t go into it expecting it to be a traditional murder mystery, but let it flow around you and flow with it. You’ll find it’s a very good read.

Stay Hidden
by Paul Doiron

This is a more classic mystery, with a twist I can give away because it’s given away on the blurb, so nyah. Ariel Evans has been found murdered by person or persons unknown on a small Maine island. Except the next day, Ariel turns up alive and well. It’s a small mystery to figure out who the victim is, but finding the killer is the real challenge, especially on an island where no one is willing to talk.

I really love the Mike Bowditch series. The writing style is very natural, impressive for being in first-person imo, and flows easily. Every book is a unique mystery and you learn quite a lot about Maine, the wildlife, and some Maine slang. The voices are distinct and the characters are all pretty well fleshed out.
Currently, I’m in the middle (OK, first third) of The Outsider by Stephen King. It’s the closest to a typical detective story I think he’s ever written, which is what made me pick it up, but I already know we’re about to get into some kind of strange Stephen King twist. More on that next week.

Also!  If you like what I do here, check out my Patreon here or sign up for my brand new Facebook page Fleet’s Reviews.  That’s where all my reviews will be going from now on.

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Reviews: 7/1-7/15

No, you didn’t skip a page.  It’s been almost a month since I last did reviews, but I was in the middle of a reading slump, so bear with me. There’s not a lot of books (these were spread out by weeks), but I’m going to review them the best I remember them.

Broken Ice
by Matt Goldman

The second in the Nils Shapiro series, and it’s just as good as his first, Gone to Dust. Broken Ice is about a missing girl, a dead girl, and two arrow murders. Our hero Nils gets shot with an arrow in the first or second chapter, so you know things are going down fast in this book. It’s really readable, with likable characters and a solid mystery (or two, as it turns out). I definitely recommend it. It can be read as a standalone, but it does make mention of the previous book (no spoilers, though).

Ask a Manager
by Alison Green

This was a very informative, and sometimes funny, book. I definitely recommend it to have on hand if you work in an office, because it gives very good tips on how to navigate an office job with bosses and coworkers. It covers a wide variety of topics, from how to get along with your boss, how to ask for a raise, to how to get along with coworkers, and even how to get along in interviews.

Over the Garden Wall Vol. 4

Our quest for the dread Pirate Croaker continues. We’ve found the Hero Frog, but something suspicious is happening. But Greg and Jason Funderburker (the frog) are on the case! Meanwhile, Wirt and Sarah are on the trail of a shapeshifter who steals candy. It all culminates in a wild ending I won’t spoil for you.

This series is unfathomably adorable and I definitely recommend it to fans of the show.

Unbound: Transgender Men and the Remaking of Identity
by Arlene Stein

I have a lot of opinions on this book, so be prepared. First, the good. It follows several trans men and one woman (though it spends almost no time talking to her, so) getting top surgery. It does a good job explaining to the layman what top surgery is about and how these different men came to be there to get it. And here’s where we get to the bad.

Arlene Stein is a cis lesbian. She really has no business writing a book about trans men, especially when she frequently undermines them by asking if they’d “would have been butch lesbians 20 years ago”. No, because they’re men. Lesbians do this a lot to trans men, acting as though we’re “taking away” lesbians by… somehow convincing them to be men, instead of just being men to begin with. She talks about one man who gains passing privilege (she claims gaining cis white male privilege), without acknowledging that that privilege is solely dependent on “passing” as a cis man, something which can be lost in an instant the moment someone learns you’re trans.

While she admits at the very end of the book that she brought her own judgements to her writing this, she claims that she learned better. However, there’s enough in the way she talks about trans men that makes us seem like some sort of inversion to the natural order. Clearly, objectivity is not her strong suit. Fucking TERF.

Neverworld Wake
by Marisha Pessl

Moving on to a good book, now, we reach Neverworld Wake, a book about five teenagers who become stuck in time following a car crash. They must solve the mystery surrounding the death of their other friend to escape the Wake. But only one can survive.

This was a quick read that made me keep reading to finish it in a day. The pacing was just right and the story itself was worth diving into. The repetition of the same day was a fascinating device, which kind of asked the question of what you would do if you kept living the same day over and over with no consequences. The pursuit of the mystery was a solid journey that revealed secrets about everyone, even people you thought were innocent. Also, there’s a fictitious book mentioned in the story that I so want to read, it’s not even funny. I definitely recommend this for a quick, fun read.

Awakened
by James S. Murray and Darren Wearmouth

Awakened is a fast-paced horror adventure that I ended up so caught up in, I legitimately forgot about time and what I was doing while reading it. It starts with a train pulling up to a new underwater platform with its car covered in blood. It then escalates to a global conspiracy and a fight for survival against a race of unspeakable creatures.

I’m going to spoil something now, so stick forks in your eyes if you want to avoid that.

Continue reading

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Reviews: 6/4-6/17

Caged
by Ellison Cooper

What a thrilling ride! The search for a serial killer in DC leads Senior Special Agent Sayer Altair on a hunt through mythology and science. One great thing I really loved this book for is when a transgender character was introduced, no one misgendered him even after they found out. I give major brownie points to an author who understands the right way to gender people. The mystery itself is a wild chase, with twist after twist that are all worth it. There’s no sudden out-of-nowhere plot device that figures in this book. Everything is based on deduction and science. I definitely recommend it if you’re not a big serial killer reader like me; it hits the right balance of mystery and thrills without feeling overly reliant on serial killer tropes.

Nickel and Dimed
by Barbara Ehrenreich

This book was the result of an experiment to see how long she could live on minimum wage jobs. It’s a really good look into the world of waitressing, housework, and Wal-Mart workers. A surprise to few of us, wages were too low often to cover rent plus food and other expenses. But the reason she did this was not to tell people like us, the minimum wage workers of the world, but to explain to her middle class peers what life is truly like for the bottom percent of the country. It’s a fascinating read (and one that’ll make you hate Wal-Mart even more than you probably already do).

Death Notice
by Zhou Haohui

Oh god, I could talk for days about this book. Just… everyone go out to your library and get a copy. I’ll wait.

….

Are you back? Good. Now we can dish.

The plot revolves around the return of a vigilante named Eumenides, who goes around killing those who have gotten away with crimes the police can’t touch (either because they were acquitted or never caught). Before each killing, Eumenides sends a death notice, a paper saying who is going to die, what their crimes are, and when they’re going to die. Even when the police try and protect the victim, somehow Eumenides reaches them.

But there’s more going on than just Eumenides. Each member of the newly reformed 4/18 task force has something to hide, and something to find. With secrets hidden just below the surface, ones that could bring the task force down from the inside, plus the connection between cases old and new, Death Notice has twists and turns that’ll throw you for a loop, but will keep you completely enthralled. Just beware: this is only part one.

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Reviews: 5/28-6/3

Julian is a Mermaid
by Jessica Love

This was really cute. Julian sees three mermaids on the train and decides he’s a mermaid, too. Instead of punishing him for taking down the curtains for his mermaid tail, his abuela takes him to the parade where the mermaids were going.

The art is very lush, full of color and movement. Most of the story is told through the art, but the writing is solid, too. Definitely a good book for kids.

Undead Girl Gang
by Lily Anderson

The fat Latinx witch tale I never knew I wanted. I can’t say enough good things about it. It’s a solid mystery with a genuinely warranted twist. The friendships are solid and form naturally, and the dialogue is well done. There’s a bit of romance for those who like that, and a lot of zombies (well, three, but that’s three more than most YA novels), and a good murder mystery to be solved. Definitely check it out if you’re looking for a fun, fast read.

Bright-Sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking has Undermined America
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I’ve now read two books by Barbara Ehrenreich and I’ve enjoyed both of them immensely. Not one to pull punches, she takes on the “positive psychology” and “positivity” world with wit and a good dose of skepticism. She talks about the history of positivity as an opposite of Calvinism, its rise through the middle and upper-classes as a way to win over illnesses, and its inevitable destruction of the economy (the housing bubble and crash of the mid-’00s). She tackles the megachurches and The Secret, the faulty science behind “positive psychology”, and the almost cult-like approach to positivity among breast cancer patients.

There’s a dark side to positivity, with its brand of “cutting out the negative” in your life and its shaky claims to give you all you want, which leads to victim blaming once things don’t go as planned. This is a brilliant book I think everyone should read. I know it’s going on my shelf.

I Really Didn’t Think This Through
by Beth Evans

In the style of Hyperbole and a Half, Beth Evans takes us through the process of adulthood, with all its fears, trials, and strengths. From not knowing exactly how to be an adult to working through mental illness, Evans intersperses her writing with comics to illustrate her points. It’s a good little book. I found it similar to a lot of that kind (particularly Everyone’s an Aliebn when You’re an Aliebn Too), but it’s unique to Evans’ experiences. Worth a read, especially if you are someone who deals with anxiety.

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Reviews: 5/21-5/27

Blanky
by Kealan Patrick Burke

A short (73 page) story about ghosts or murderers, you get to decide. It’s a good little story with a decent, if somewhat predictable twist, that does leave an open ending as to what is real and what’s not. It was worth the money.

Sour Candy
by Kealan Patrick Burke

Another 70-odd page short story, this time about a man whose life is suddenly and abruptly changed by the appearance of a young boy. There’s more supernatural horror in this one, so if you’re down for mysterious cults of supernatural beings, this is the one for you.

Crooked: Outwitting the Back Pain Industry and Getting on the Road to Recovery
by Cathryn Jakobson Ramin

A long book, but one full of information, this book tells the story of how back pain became the hottest health care issue through startling amounts of fraud, money changing, and ignorance that led to all kinds of spinal surgeries and injections. The first half of the book tells the history and corruption of the back pain industry, while the second half focuses on what can actually be done for those in pain. She has great resources for those looking to manage their back pain. I highly recommend this one.

Tin Man
by Sarah Winman

Ugh, this one made me cry, and I’m so not a crier. It’s about Michael and Ellis, two best friends and one-time lovers, and Annie, Ellis’s wife, and their relationship. It starts with Ellis alone, both of them gone, dead, as we come to find out. Then it takes us back to Michael’s diary and we learn about his life. Finally, it cuts back to Ellis to finish out the story. It’s beautiful and tragic and bittersweet all at once. It’s also short, so if you’re looking for a nice, if heartbreaking, quick read, this is the one for you.

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Reviews: 5/14-5/20

Kwaidan
by Lafcadio Hearn

This was an interesting set of Japanese ghost stories collected back in the early 1900s by Lafcadio Hearn, a British man who moved to Japan and devoted himself to all things Japanese (the original otaku!). There were some really good ones in here, and I recommend checking it out. It’s not too Orientalist, which is a good thing, but he does explain some things that wouldn’t be known to his audience. I’m looking forward to finding more (possibly more authentic?) stories in the future.

Ghost Boys
by Jewell Parker Rhodes

This made me cry. It starts with a young Black boy getting killed by the police. You follow him as a ghost as he watches his family grieve, and goes through to meet the daughter of the cop who shot him (she’s the only one alive who can see him), and meets Emmett Till, who guides him through this new world he inhabits. It’s heart-wrenching and brutal, but it’s such an important read. I definitely recommend this one.

Natural Causes
by Barbara Ehrenreich

I really enjoyed this book. It’s a look at medical practices and how we’re sometimes killing ourselves to live longer. She talks about all the unnecessary tests doctors put patients through, the lack of understanding we have of ourselves even down to the cellular level, and the way wellness has become some kind of societal marker, all of which stems from a fear of death. It was really fascinating to read, and I definitely recommend it to anyone questioning the rationale of the new wellness trends.

White Rabbit
by Caleb Roehrig

I’ve seen two one-star reviews of this that both center on a throwaway set of lines from a pining teenage boy, that addressed absolutely nothing else about the book. The book itself is about murder, and boy is there going to be a lot of it. Rufus (our lead) gets a call from his half-sister telling him he’s the only one who can help her. When he and his ex arrive at the cabin she called from, they find her bloodsoaked and holding the knife that killed her boyfriend (and, of course, her boyfriend’s body at her feet). What follows is an all-night chase across town to find out who really is guilty, and to do so quickly, before more people are killed.

It was a solid mystery with enough clues that you could follow along easily. I recommend it for a good queer mystery that has a great balance of both romance and mystery.

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Reviews: 5/7-5/13

Word by Word
by Kory Stamper

This was a very enlightening look into how dictionaries are made (particularly Merriam-Webster). It introduces you to lexicography, to the editing process of dictionaries, to the vetting process of words, and to the mind-boggling task of defining such words as “take” and “run”. I found it super interesting, if a little heavy at times. It’s especially good for anyone interested in words and how they work, especially how they’re defined. I recommend it to any word nerd.

The Gunners
by Rebecca Kauffman

This was an interesting novel about a group of friends whose friendship ended when one member of their group suddenly broke away from them. They come together at her funeral and one by one, secrets come out, secrets that might have had to do with her leaving. It’s a very human book full of foibles and changes. I actually really enjoyed it, which was surprising to me, since I’m mostly into books with a plot. This didn’t really have one, just a selection of life moments one after another.

We Should All Be Feminists
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The print version of her TED talk, it was very inspiring and very interesting. I can definitely see it being a staple on any feminist shelf. While she focuses strictly on cis relationships, don’t hold that against her. It’s a very good introduction to feminism.

The Princess Saves Herself in This One
by Amanda Lovelace

This was an interesting poetry collection. It deals with a lot of heavy issues, like child abuse, intimate partner abuse, death, and eating disorders, but at the end there’s a light of happiness that shines through to make it tolerable.

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One
by Amanda Lovelace

This is the second in her poetry series. There’s a thread of hope that runs through this whole collection that was missing in the first one, a fierceness and a fire that keeps you going through the heartbreak inside. This is anger at the society we live in, and very righteous anger. I enjoyed this one a lot, and I look forward to her next collection.

Passing Strange
by Ellen Klages

A historical queer novel that ends happy? I almost couldn’t believe it. While there is plenty of period-typical racism, it’s always called out and shown as being wrong, not just a *shrug* part of life thing. The queerphobia in here is treated the same way, shown to be wrong. The little bits of magic in here are weaved in very well. The characters are very well rounded and lovely to read about. I enjoyed this one very much.

Dictionary Stories
by Jez Burrows

This was interesting collection of short stories. Some were a little random with the connecting sentences, and yet some were very poignant. There was a good selection of comedy in there as well. It’s a long way through the alphabet, but worth it for some of the stories.

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Reviews: 5/1-5/6

Countdown City
by Ben Winters

This is the second of the Last Policeman trilogy. Doomsday is coming closer and Henry is asked to find the husband of his past babysitter. No longer officially a policeman, he does his best to track him down, with the help of his sister Nico. Nico tries to convince him of her secret plan to save the planet through a wild conspiracy. This becomes more relevant in the third book. This series was really fun. I like a detective who works because he believes in justice for everyone, even the dead in a pre-apocalyptic situation.

World of Trouble
by Ben Winters

Henry leaves safety and goes in search of his sister. I won’t lie, this was the weakest of the books, I felt, in part because it’s in the last days leading up to the meteor strike, but mostly because by the time he reaches her, his sister is already dead. There’s no real closure on that. I’d say spoiler alert, but it’s pretty obvious from the get go. Still, I recommend the whole series because once you read one, you’ll want to finish them all. I finished this one in a single day after finishing number two, so it’s a quick read.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

I really enjoyed this. It’s a short essay (in relation to others), but it’s a good primer on feminism. I found it very refreshing and challenging, as it requires you to unlearn some of your own internal biases. It’s a good reference to have on hand when you need a refresher, or want to look up an answer to a tricky situation. I particularly liked the way she called out Feminism Lite, the so-called feminism that still puts women second to men. I definitely recommend this book. It’s short, a quick read, but a very important one.

My Brother’s Husband
by Gengoroh Tagame

This was super cute. It was written to show changing thoughts about gay people and to challenge homophobia. Every character is written so well (and Kana, the little girl, is adorable). I really recommend this one for the art (Mike is such a bear) and the story.

Bring Me Back
by B. A. Paris

Oh, how I wanted to like this one. I really, really wanted to like it. After his girlfriend disappears twelve years before, Finn begins receiving messages that she might not be dead. But what is she back for? Oh, and he’s getting married to her sister. At first, I was just a little bored, which I often find when I’m stuck reading a male perspective, especially one so caught up in himself. Then, oh god, then the ending happened.

I’m going down to spoiler town now, so follow me below the cut only if you don’t mind spoilers. Don’t tell me I didn’t warn you.

Continue reading

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Reviews: 4/23-4/30

Miniature Mysteries: 100 Malicious Little Mysteries
by Various Writers, edited by Isaac Asimov

This amazing collection was the 1981 (I think) version (there’s a 1990s version that might be updated) and the stories were deliciously ’70s. There are, as it says on the tin, 100 short stories in this anthology, making for a very big book! Stories range from two to five pages each, a good size for short mysteries. There were some mediocre ones, of course, but there were some spectacular stories in there, most of them with a darkly comic twist. I highly recommend seeing if your library has a copy. They’re great stories to read when you’re short on time or want something bite-sized before bed.

The Story of Be
by David Crystal

Ugh, this man. If I could take a class under him, I’d do it in a heartbeat. He’s renewed my interest in linguistics once again. This is a history of the word “Be” in all its forms (is, am, are, were, was, etc.). It’s a fascinating read, especially when he goes back to Old English to show you where all these different forms come from, and then shows regional dialectical forms in Modern English. He goes over a number of forms of “be” (and also explains the “he is risen” phrasing and why that’s so particular). Honestly, I loved it. If you’re a word nerd, you’ll love it too.

Dr. Coo and the Pigeon Protest
by Sarah Hampson

This was a cute children’s book about taking things for granted and promoting peace and happiness between people. The pigeons believe it’s been too long that they’ve been harassed and forgotten and shooed away, and they’re ready to protest. This results in a day without pigeons, which turns out to be a very sad day indeed. There’s some solid history in here about the use of pigeons as messengers in wartime, and in the end they’re appreciated as they are. It’s really cute, the art is precious, and it’s a good fit for kids, especially once in cities where pigeons are everywhere.

Macbeth
by Jo Nesbo

I won’t lie to you, I got to where Banquo’s ghost showed up and called it quits. It’s a bit too on-the-nose a Macbeth retelling for me. It’s also, for my tastes, rather dry in places. The first two chapters are the hardest to get through, with paragraphs focused on raindrops and seagulls, respectively. I wish I was kidding.

Maybe one day I’ll finish it. If someone got it for me as a gift, I definitely would. But my library copy is due tomorrow, so it’s going back unfinished.

The Best Kind of People
by Zoe Whittall

This was an interesting one. Ostensibly, it’s about an accusation of rape against a male teacher, but it’s actually about what his family goes through during the accusation, imprisonment, and subsequent trial. It never answers the question of what actually happened, but it doesn’t need to. The story focuses on the family falling apart and how they survive what’s going on. It’s interesting enough to warrant a read, though I can tell you it might be triggering for some for talks about child abuse/molestation/rape.

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Reviews: 4/16-22 (Belated)

The Atrocities
by Jeremy Shipp

This was a short little novella about a woman who comes to tutor what turns out to be a dead girl. But is that all of what’s going on? I really enjoyed this. You slip in and out of dreams in the narrative without warning, meaning you need to be paying pretty close attention to what’s going on. The twist was well done and the descriptions of the twisted art throughout the story were very good. I definitely recommend this if you like short horror.

Long Way Down
by Jason Reynolds

What can I say about this except that I was blown away and I definitely cried. A boy’s brother has been shot and he’s determined to go and shoot the guy he thinks did it. As he takes the elevator down from his apartment, dead people close to him get on at each floor, talking to him about what he’s going to do and how they died (all by gun violence). It ends with his brother getting on and let me just say, if you’re not crying by then there’s something wrong because it is just that powerful.

I definitely recommend this to everyone. It’s all in verse, which makes the story even more stunning.

The Last Policeman
by Ben Winters

There’s a meteor headed for Earth and we have six months to live. That’s the premise of the Last Policeman series. He’s a cop who finds a death by hanging (the most popular suicide type in their city) that he just feels is wrong somehow. He investigates it as a murder and stirs up all kinds of trouble. It’s really well done with how the world might start functioning with a literal deadline and the kinds of things people might start to do. Hospitals still work, but are understaffed due to people going out to “find themselves” and do what they’ve always wanted to do before it hits.

It’s a solid murder mystery and I really recommend it. It’s fast, readable, and with good clues to help you figure out what’s going on.

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Reviews: 4/9-4/15

I’ve had a busy week this past one, so I didn’t get as much read as I wished. That said, I did finish two books, so that’s better than none.

The Perfect Nanny
by Leila Slimani

What to say about this book? For starters, you know how it ends when it begins, which is an interesting take. The story is less about the crime that happened and more about how it got to that point. While it’s not exactly a hard read, I found I had difficulty getting through it. I came into it expecting more of a focus on the crime as opposed to the real focus, which is on motherhood, societal expectations, and class. That’s not so say it’s a bad read! I just was going in expecting something else. It’s a short read, and if you’re looking for something you can read in an afternoon, you can’t go wrong with it.

The Poet X
by Elizabeth Acevedo

This is the first novel I’ve read that’s entirely in verse, which was a very cool experience for me. Mixed in with the narrative poems are poems about Xiomara’s family, her first feelings for a guy, and her thoughts on religion. The one about her father hit me hard, because yikes if I don’t feel that in a big way. I definitely recommend it. It’s a fast read if you want another one to crank out in an afternoon, and you will cry, but you’ll end up hopeful. At least, that’s how it went for me.

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Reviews: 4/1 – 4/8

A Perilous Path
by Sherrilyn Ifill, Loretta Lynch, Bryan Stevenson, Anthony C. Thompson

This is a transcription of what was a very interesting conversation on race, equality, and the law. It talked about where the inequalities come from, how they’re in our laws (especially after the gutting of the Voting Rights Act), and how we can use the law to fight against them. It’s a really fascinating (and quick) read that I definitely recommend to people looking to be more active in civil rights.

The Silent Companions
by Laura Purcell

A spooky ghost book, to be sure, but I found it dragged a bit to much for me to get really into it. There are three timelines going on at once: the present, the past, and the far past. Jumping between them became taxing when I just wanted to follow one storyline over another. Still, it’s atmospheric and Gothic, and you can never go wrong with sinister figurines.

The Astonishing Color of After
by Emily X. R. Pan

I really didn’t expect to enjoy this book as much as I did, but it’s a very touching story on family, love, and loss. This is surprisingly bigger than you think it is, but it keeps you reading so it doesn’t feel like a drag. Our lead is very identifiable and there’s an element of magic running through the story that keeps things interesting. I definitely recommend reading it, but I can’t guarantee you won’t cry. I did, and I’m not an easy crier.

Groucho Marx, Master Detective
by Ron Goulart

I just found out about this series the day before I requested it from the library. I don’t even remember how I found it now, but I’m so glad I did. We go back to the 1930s when studios ran Hollywood and the Marx Brothers had just come off of some of their most popular movies. Groucho is about to do a radio show in which he plays a bumbling detective, only to have a murder fall into his lap like a cheap date. The writing style fits perfectly with the patter of the Marx Brothers, and our second lead, the writer of said radio show, can keep up with Groucho like the best of them.

The murder mystery is solid (with two bodies by the time we’re through) and the book moves fast, really keeping your attention with each passing chapter. There’s six books in the series and if anyone can find me copies of them I will be forever grateful to you (my library has exactly 0 copies of book number two ;__; ).

People Like Us
by Dana Mele

Oh boy, it’s another scholarship kid at a boarding house murder mystery. I seem to be tripping over these in my quest to read every mystery ever. This was all right, though. The mystery is delectable and twisty enough to keep your attention and the chapters don’t drag on, so the pace is quick (though not as quick as GM,MD above). While I am getting tired of this setting (oh, the scholarship girl makes friends with the bitchy clique, now she’s One Of Them but not really because scholarship) and the general plot (revenge against Them), it didn’t stop the book from being readable. I recommend it if you like these kinds of books, or are looking for a fast thriller.

Aru Shah and the End of Time
by Roshani Chokshi

Ugh, this was so good. Aru is too adorable for words. When Aru accidentally awakens the being known as The Sleeper, which sets off the process for the end of the world, she and a new friend must journey to the realm of the Gods to find the weapons to defeat the Sleeper. Layered with Hindu legends (and sporting a very full and very helpful glossary), Aru Shah is a story about becoming who you were meant to be, even if you don’t feel special. Aru’s confidence in herself is inspiring, and even when she has doubt, she’s got a friend to bring her right back up. The friendship between Aru and Mini is perfect; they complement each other so well, with Aru’s confidence and imagination, and Mini’s smarts and preparedness.

I really can’t recommend this enough if you’re in the market for a diverse middle grade read. Sometimes it was painful, because we all remember being twelve and the middle school torment that entailed, but the book is full of heart. I can’t wait for the next book in the series, although it won’t be out until ;___; next year.

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Reviews: 3/19-3/31

Let Me Lie
by Clare Mackintosh

I won’t lie, I had a hard time getting through this. Once the major twist was revealed, it was pretty easy to solve the overall mystery, so I ended up skimming the second half of the book. It’s a slow build, which isn’t bad, but just wasn’t what I was looking for at the time.

I Am, I Am, I Am
by Maggie O’Farrell

This was a really interesting collection of near death experiences as a memoir. Her experiences showed things I’ve encountered in my own life: doctors who don’t believe in women’s illnesses, the constant pain and changes that come from having a chronic illness. Her stories were heartbreaking and inspiring, because no matter what, she’s still here and so are we.

Bone
by Yrsa Daley-Ward

I finally read this collection after having it for months because I am lazy af lost it for a while and finally found it after my cat knocked over the book stack it was in. The poems are very powerful and I definitely recommend it.

Truly, Devious
by Maureen Johnson

I got this back in January and never finished it, so in a fit of pique late one night I dragged it back out and finished it. I enjoyed the flashback crime the most, I won’t lie. I’m not a huge fan of high school activities anyway (even when I was in high school, I didn’t give a damn about high school) so the story kind of dragged for me when it wasn’t about the original crime. But as soon as things started getting hairy for the modern story, I was back into it.

I recommend it, even though it ends on a cliffhanger with ABSOLUTELY FUCKING NOTHING resolved. Here’s hoping the next book comes out soon and solves at least one of the crimes.

Was the Cat in the Hat Black?
by Philip Nel

This was an interesting read. On one hand, he does a good job of showing how societal racism has affected children’s books and their creation. On the other, one whole chapter seemed to be “how many times can I use the n-word and still be believed that it makes me uncomfortable, but it’s totally necessary for the book”. I wasn’t buying that, especially not from a white guy. It’s also so damn academic he says the same things about five times in each chapter, a thing I really can’t stand about academic writing.

Do I recommend this? I’m not sure. On one hand, it is very informative, but on the other, it’s everything above.

The Snowy Day
by Ezra Jack Keats

A frankly adorable children’s book about a young boy experiencing a snow day. The art is bright and colorful and the character of Peter is simply adorable (I know, I used adorable twice, but he pokes the snow on the branches with a stick and it falls on his head and if that’s not adorable, I don’t know what is). What made this book remarkable was that it was the first children’s book to feature a black child as the lead without making him a stereotype. Peter is simply the everychild experiencing his snowy day. The story still holds up and is sure to delight children today.

Shiver
by Junji Ito

This was a collection of horror shorts by one of the masters of the horror manga, Junji Ito. The art is terrifying and so are the stories. I think my favorite was one about a song that is only sung by the recently dead. It was also the least viscerally terrifying, so that may have something to do with it. One of the most memorable is about a man who lives with the minds of his ancestors attached to him, and another about a monster of a model and her bloody endings.

Trust No Aunty
by Maria Qamar

This was hilarious and insightful. I love learning about other cultures and this one was a great into to the world of the aunties, related or otherwise. (As someone who once had a Filipino aunty, I very much feel the “You’re so skinny, you need more food, MARRY MY SON, YES” of the various aunties.) She also has some great recipes in here you can make on the cheap, so definitely check those out. Her art pops and is full of color and very expressive. It’s no wonder she has such a following.

A Poem for Peter
by Andrea Davis Pinkney

This was written in response to The Snowy Day as a poem to little Peter. The poem tells about the creator, Ezra Jack Keats, and his life growing up a poor immigrant boy in the 20s-30s New York. The illustrations match his style very well, and show him growing as an artist through his life up until he created The Snowy Day.

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