Hello again, book readers! I’ve got a wrap-up for May coming your way.
I’ve also been reading and reviewing several books with BookishFirst this past month, so I’ll be posting individual reviews as I have time.
1. Harold and the Purple Crayon, Crockett Johnson
“One night, after thinking it over for some time, Harold decided to go for a walk in the moonlight.” So begins this gentle story that shows just how far your imagination can take you. Armed only with an oversized purple crayon, young Harold draws himself a landscape full of beauty and excitement. But this is no hare-brained, impulsive flight of fantasy. Cherubic, round-headed Harold conducts his adventure with the utmost prudence, letting his imagination run free, but keeping his wits about him all the while. He takes the necessary purple-crayon precautions: drawing landmarks to ensure he won’t get lost; sketching a boat when he finds himself in deep water; and creating a purple pie picnic when he feels the first pangs of hunger.
I know what you’re thinking, and the answer is yes–I did read a children’s book to get an easy checkmark on the POPSUGAR challenge for “A book with your favorite color in the title.” Don’t judge me!
But seriously, who doesn’t love Harold and his wild imagination? I greatly enjoyed revisiting this one and all the wonder it shares. And everyone should read a picture book every once in a while!
2. The ABC’s of LGBT+, Ashley Mardell (Ash Hardell)
Hello and welcome to the ABC’s of LGBT. Ashley Mardell, one of the most trusted voices on YouTube presents a detailed look at all things LGBT+. Along with in-depth written definitions, personal anecdotes, helpful infographics, links to online videos, and more, Mardell aims to provide a friendly voice to a community looking for information.
Beyond those searching for a label, this book is also for allies and LGBT+ people simply looking to pack in some extra knowledge! Knowledge is a critical part of acceptance, learning about new identities broadens our understanding of humanity, heightens our empathy, and allows us different, valuable perspectives. These words also provide greater precision when describing attractions and identities. There is never anything wrong with having and efficient, expansive vocabulary!
I absolutely love Ash’s YouTube channel, which is where I first discovered them. The topics discussed on YouTube and in this book are so important. As an ally, I’ve been working to deepen my understanding of all things LGBT+, and Ash provides the perfect introductory dose. This book focuses on the lesser-understood terms and identities, like the ace spectrum. I feel like I learned so much, and I also “met” so many wonderful young people through the stories they share in this book.
This is not a novel, and it reads a lot like a textbook. It was actually a little difficult to just “read through,” so I took it in small doses and read it in between other books. Yet, it remains one of the most broad and inclusive collections of terms and explanations we have to date on this subject, so I encourage anyone interested to definitely check it out!
(And if you want to see some absolutely wonderful adorableness, watch Ash and their wife, Grace, on YouTube!)
3. They We Came to the End, Joshua Ferris
This wickedly funny, big-hearted novel about life in the office signals the arrival of a gloriously talented new writer.
The characters in Then We Came To The End cope with a business downturn in the time-honored way: through gossip, secret romance, elaborate pranks, and increasingly frequent coffee breaks. By day they compete for the best office furniture left behind and try to make sense of the mysterious pro-bono ad campaign that is their only remaining “work.”
This book was… well, weird. I think it’s an excellent book for fans of “The Office” to indulge in, but it’s got some pretty quirky bits. I liked the fact that the reader is actually one of the characters in the story. The novel is written in “first person,” but the narrator uses “we,” so you, as the reader, are drawn into the drama around the office, too. Speaking of the drama, it sometimes felt too real, as in holy moly, this is my office! But overall, it was a great little book with some very different writing elements. A good read for fans of the weird and mundane.
4. Lies You Never Told Me, Jennifer Donaldson
Gabe and Elyse have never met. But they both have something to hide.
Quiet, shy Elyse can’t believe it when she’s cast as the lead in her Portland high school’s production of Romeo and Juliet. Her best friend, Brynn, is usually the star, and Elyse isn’t sure she’s up to the task. But when someone at rehearsals starts to catch her eye–someone she knows she absolutely shouldn’t be with–she can’t help but be pulled into the spotlight.
Austin native Gabe is contemplating the unthinkable–breaking up with Sasha, his headstrong, popular girlfriend. She’s not going to let him slip through her fingers, though, and when rumors start to circulate around school, he knows she has the power to change his life forever.
Gabe and Elyse both make the mistake of falling for the wrong person, and falling hard. Told in parallel narratives, this twisty, shocking story shows how one bad choice can lead to a spiral of unforeseen consequences that not everyone will survive.
This is another book I have written a review for, so I’ll once again keep it brief:
I LOVED this book! So creepy, twisty-turny, and dark. I called the plot twist, but that shouldn’t have been possible. Gritty, edgy, mind-blowing, and haunting–all those awfully wonderful words to describe one of my favorite thrillers of the year, if not of all time!
5. The Snowman, Jo Nesbo
Internationally acclaimed crime writer Jo Nesbø’s antihero police investigator, Harry Hole, is back: in a bone-chilling thriller that will take Hole to the brink of insanity.
Oslo in November. The first snow of the season has fallen. A boy named Jonas wakes in the night to find his mother gone. Out his window, in the cold moonlight, he sees the snowman that inexplicably appeared in the yard earlier in the day. Around its neck is his mother’s pink scarf.
Hole suspects a link between a menacing letter he’s received and the disappearance of Jonas’s mother—and of perhaps a dozen other women, all of whom went missing on the day of a first snowfall. As his investigation deepens, something else emerges: he is becoming a pawn in an increasingly terrifying game whose rules are devised—and constantly revised—by the killer.
Fiercely suspenseful, its characters brilliantly realized, its atmosphere permeated with evil, The Snowman is the electrifying work of one of the best crime writers of our time.
Every month ends up with a stinker, and this has to be the one for May 2018. I really gave this book a go–I made it through the entire thing (although, I will admit, I listened to the audiobook and had the speed cranked way up to get through it as quickly as possible). And, I’m sorry, but I just couldn’t enjoy it.
My issue with this story was not the mystery or the detective story, but the blatant misogyny present in every. man. in. this. book. The sexism was so ingrained, it was literally part of their thoughts. Every time a woman entered a room, the man in it considered what it might be like to have sex with her. And if a woman was attractive, it was absolutely astonishing to the men that she may also have a brain.
And let’s not even talk about how “loose women” played into the actual motivation for our homegrown serial killer…
All I’m saying is, the violence against women this book’s hero seems to be fighting against is only propitiated by his own treatment of the women in his life. And I do not recommend this book to anyone.
6. Allegedly, Tiffany D. Jackson
Mary B. Addison killed a baby.
Allegedly. She didn’t say much in that first interview with detectives, and the media filled in the only blanks that mattered: A white baby had died while under the care of a churchgoing black woman and her nine-year-old daughter. The public convicted Mary and the jury made it official. But did she do it? She wouldn’t say.
Mary survived six years in baby jail before being dumped in a group home. The house isn’t really “home”—no place where you fear for your life can be considered a home. Home is Ted, who she meets on assignment at a nursing home.
There wasn’t a point to setting the record straight before, but now she’s got Ted—and their unborn child—to think about. When the state threatens to take her baby, Mary must find the voice to fight her past. And her fate lies in the hands of the one person she distrusts the most: her Momma. No one knows the real Momma. But who really knows the real Mary?
It’s been a couple weeks, and I still don’t really know how to feel about this one. On the one hand, it’s a stellar book. The portrayal of a young, black, pregnant girl in “The System” speaks volumes to the corruption present in our law enforcement and government. My mom works with girls like Mary, and she agrees that what Jackson describes in this book is extremely, extremely accurate. It was uncomfortable to read, in that way that is good for you, because it forces you to look outside your own bubble and challenge the truth in the world.
But that ending! I just really don’t know, y’all…
7. Bingo Love, Tee Franklin
Bingo Love is a story of a same-sex romance that spans over 60 years. A chance meeting at church bingo in 1963 brings Hazel Johnson and Mari McCray together. Through their formative years, these two women develop feelings for each other and finally profess their love for one another.
Forced apart by their families and society, Hazel and Mari both married young men and had families. Decades later, now in their mid 60’s, Hazel and Mari are reunited again at a bingo hall. Realizing their love for each other is still alive, what these grandmothers do next takes absolute strength and courage.
I’ve waited almost a year to read this short graphic novel, and it was SO ADORABLE! The story is heartbreaking, but the love is conveyed beautifully. I’m glad to see this one is so accessible to young readers, but I have a feeling the age of the characters and the content of the book will also speak to older people who read it. I finished it in one sitting and wanted to immediately start it over again. Everyone should take an hour and breeze through this important tale!
8. Still the Candle Burns, Michayla Roth
Berwynn is no ordinary girl. She sees too much, knows too much, for that. Gifted with the power to see and command devils, her lot in life is an uncomfortable one, to say the least. Rylen they call her, if they call her anything at all, for few know of her importance in the fate of the world.
But soon her time must come. Finding herself pitted against forces stronger than any she’s ever faced before, she joins a small band of mortals in pursuit of reclaiming a world quickly falling to ash. The might of the enemy, evidenced in the bestial army of the Menuri and the spiritual army of the eidolans, is far greater than any they can muster, however, even with a rylen in their midst.
Hope fades to hopelessness, and grey skies fade to black. Only when the last defenses are fallen will victory come, and only then through the power of a simple man the entire world has overlooked.
This book was another “meet the criteria” one, as I had to read “A book by an author with the same first or last name as you.” Well, Michayla, thank you for being an author and making this relatively painless!
Because I only read this book to meet that criteria, and because Roth is a young author with a small following, I’m withholding an actual review. This story was outside my genre comfort zone (although I appreciated the correlations to the Christian gospel), so it’s not one I feel I need to critique and/or applaud. But, if anyone is interested in a fantasy from a small-town author, you should give it a go!
9. The High Season, Judy Blundell
In a beach town overrun with vacationers and newly colonized by socialites, one woman goes to extreme lengths when the life she loves is upended. The ultimate summer read, this novel of money, class, and family is perfect for fans of Meg Wolitzer, Curtis Sittenfeld, and Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney’s The Nest.
No matter what the world throws her way, at least Ruthie Beamish has the house. Lovingly renovated, located by the sea in a quiet village two ferry rides from the glitzier Hamptons, the house is Ruthie’s nest egg–the retirement account shared with her ex-husband, Mike, and the college fund for their teenage daughter, Jem. The catch? To afford the house, Ruthie must let it go during the best part of the year.
It’s Memorial Day weekend and Ruthie has packed up their belongings for what Jem calls “the summer bummer” the family’s annual exodus to make way for renters. This year, the Hamptons set has arrived. Adeline Clay is elegant, connected, and accompanied by a “gorgeous satellite” stepson.
The widow of a blue-chip artist, in a world defined by luxury and ease, Adeline demonstrates an uncanny ability to help herself to Ruthie’s life. Is Adeline just being her fabulous self, or is she out to take what she wants?
When an eccentric billionaire, his wayward daughter, a coterie of social climbers, and Ruthie’s old flame are thrown into the mix, the entire town finds itself on the verge of tumultuous change. But as Ruthie loses her grasp on her job, her home, and her family, she discovers a new talent for pushing back. By the end of one unhinged, unforgettable summer, nothing will be the same–least of all Ruthie.
In a novel packed with indelible characters, crackling wit, and upstairs/downstairs drama, Judy Blundell emerges as a voice for all seasons–a wry and original storyteller who knows how the most disruptive events in our lives can twist endings into new beginnings.
Beach Read Alert!
This is a book I read to review for BookishFirst, so I may be posting a more full review of it here at some point. For now, I will say that this is also not my genre, but I enjoyed the complexity of the characters. The storyline was not my favorite and somewhat predictable, but I think it’s a good fit for its genre. Those who love women’s fiction and summer reads will surely enjoy this book.
10. There’s Someone Inside Your House, Stephanie Perkins
Makani Young thought she’d left her dark past behind her in Hawaii, settling in with her grandmother in landlocked Nebraska. She’s found new friends and has even started to fall for mysterious outsider Ollie Larsson. But her past isn’t far behind.
Then, one by one, the students of Osborne Hugh begin to die in a series of gruesome murders, each with increasingly grotesque flair. As the terror grows closer and her feelings for Ollie intensify, Makani is forced to confront her own dark secrets.
This book was not what I had expected it to be. As a romance, it worked pretty well. The main characters have an engaging and lively relationship. I also appreciated a lot of the diverse representation this book tries to tackle. On the topic of slash fiction and thriller, however, I think this one fell really short. I don’t believe in the antagonist, or the murders he carries out. His motives and theories are weak, at best. I also didn’t care for the fact that his identity isn’t even a mystery after the second killing. I read books like this for the Big Reveal at the end, but all of that shock value was lost in this particular tale. If you like romance and want an edgy book, this is a good fit for you. However, if you’re looking for the book equivalent of “Scream,” I’d advise you look elsewhere.
11. In Real Life, Cory Doctorow & Jen Wang
Anda loves Coarsegold Online, the massively-multiplayer role-playing game where she spends most of her free time. It’s a place where she can be a leader, a fighter, a hero. It’s a place where she can meet people from all over the world, and make friends.
But things become a lot more complicated when Anda befriends a gold farmer–a poor Chinese kid whose avatar in the game illegally collects valuable objects and then sells them to players from developed countries with money to burn. This behavior is strictly against the rules in Coarsegold, but Anda soon comes to realize that questions of right and wrong are a lot less straightforward when a real person’s real livelihood is at stake.
From acclaimed teen author (Little Brother, For the Win) and Boing Boing editor Cory Doctorow and Koko Be Good creator Jen Wang, In Real Life is a perceptive and high-stakes look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture clash.
Another book I had to hurry up and finish in a single sitting! I absolutely loved this one. The story is super simple, but I think that makes it perfectly accessible to its target audience. I’ve read a couple of Doctorow’s books, and I love that he doesn’t shy away from tough issues in the things he writes for teens. This offers a great perspective into the world of online gaming, gold mining (in the virtual sense), and work environments. I think it’s as educational as it is beautiful–seriously, I love this artwork! All around, a great read and one I would definitely recommend!
12. Rosemary’s Baby, Ira Levin
Rosemary and Guy Woodhouse, an ordinary young couple, settle into a New York City apartment, unaware that the elderly neighbors and their bizarre group of friends have taken a disturbing interest in them. But by the time Rosemary discovers the horrifying truth, it may be far too late!
I do not watch horror movies, but every once in a while I’ll torture myself with a horror book. This story was super creepy and well done. I don’t think it’s going to be my favorite nightmare-inducing tale ever, but I appreciate what it accomplished in the time it was written. You have to hand it to Levin, this book and its story have withstood the test of time, and people are still drawn to its darkness.
And, I can honestly say, I was guessing clear until the end!
There you have it! Another month in the books (ha!).
Like I’ve said, keep and eye out for a few individual reviews in the near future. Otherwise, I’ll see you in July!