Friday Fives | Books to Read in February

As per usual, I started Friday Fives back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to Friday Fives instead to have more room for topics.

One of my reading goals is to make a significant dent into my owned TBR pile. So in that vein I’m trying to think about what books I’d like to read at the end of each month for the next month. I’m not going to be posting this at the end of each month, but it will be something I write in my journal for myself. Here are some of the books I hope to get to in February.

This is the book club pick for one of the clubs I’m in, and it’s one of the Austen books I haven’t read yet. So I’m really excited to get to read it.

I bought this book last summer, and I’m only now getting to it, seems about right. I’ve been getting into other religious for a few years, and I’m starting to read into paganism (specifically Celtic paganism). This one and others are on my TBR.

I’m kind of glad I didn’t read this one till now, so that way when the second one comes out in May, I hopefully won’t have forgotten what happened.

If you have not seen the book without the book jacket, go find one and look at it. It’s gorgeous! Besides that I’m super happy to start reading this one.

I preordered this! I’m halfway done with Hang the Moon, and I cannot wait to read this one!

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Notorious RBG

Title: Notorious RBG: The Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Authors: Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

Publisher: Dey Street Books

Published: 27 October 2015

Pages: 240

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I sometimes will peruse other reviews of a book that I’m reviewing because of the subject matter or to see how to appropriately review a book. For this review, I’m torn due to the subject hence why I looked at reviews. I’m reiterating what some wrote in theirs: 5 stars for the woman, 3.5 stars for the book.

I’ve known about RBG before she had this cult-following. (This is not meant to be a flex by any means. I’m just interested in politics. I’m not superior to anyone for this knowledge). I absolutely loved seeing how many more women, especially young adults, teens, and children have found their voices and spoke up for themselves due to RBG’s role in their lives.

This book is co-written by two women, Carmon (journalist) & Knizhnik (lawyer) that delves into the life, relationships, career of only our 2nd woman on the Supreme Court Bench, Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I was a little confused when I started reading, as I was trying to figure out how the authors were presenting their information. It wasn’t until around chapter 3 (“I Got a Story to Tell”) that I began to understand that this was not a typical biography. As someone who has a masters in English (again this does not make me superior, all it means is I did a shit-ton of reading), when reading biographies I’m expecting a chronological flow to the book. This usually entails a brief history of the person’s parents, then on to birth, early years, teens, university, career, legacy. Maybe a few more things sprinkled in, but overall this is the common structure. The way Carmon & Knizhnik set up their book was through subjects instead, so a chapter on RBG’s marriage, one on her relationships with other justices, and so on. There wasn’t anything particularly wrong about this, but it just read weird to me.

I do appreciate the authors’ attempts to make law more interesting through annotating RBG’s dissents or opinions of the court. There was also historical context provided that made it easier to place where we were in history. I really loved the inclusion of the timeline, that was helpful to see where we were in history and in RBG’s life. The pictures and images of letters throughout just felt more personal and real while reading.

RBG dedicated her life to serving those who didn’t have a voice and she did so with grace and passion. I want that on the table first before I say what I’m going to say next. I’m still a little perturbed by RBG not retiring from the court. I understand that appointments to the court are for life (and should be) and justices shouldn’t be forced or compelled to leave for any reason. Yet, I did cry the night that RBG died, not just for the amazing life this woman led but for all the people who may lose their own rights in the following years due to newer appointments to the court. After reading this book, some of my anger and frustration has dissipated after reading about RBG’s life and values and why she wouldn’t step down. I’m still a little miffed but not as much as I was.

Final thought, this was definitely a book more geared towards high school or college aged students rather than myself, but no matter what age it is still enjoyable.

Happy Reading Darlings!

TTT | New-to-Me Authors I Discovered in 2021

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

TJ Klune: Most everyone has heard about Klune’s The House in the Cerulean Sea. I didn’t realize until after I finished that a lot of his books are on my TBR pile. Hopefully, I get to read his other books soon.

Daisy Johnson: Read Johnson’s Everything Under for a class I audited last fall. I was entranced with the language and world she created, while not perfect by any means, it was still a wonderful read and I’m excited to see what else she writes in the future.

Pamela N. Harris: Her debut novel, When You Look Like Us, was beautiful and poignant and everyone needs to read it!!

Taylor Jenkins Reid: I’ve probably said this before, but I don’t care. I’m not a fan of TJR. There I said it, come at me! I did finally read 3 of her books last year and had such high expectations that I think that’s why the books themselves fell flat for me.

Lee Mandelo: Another debut author I read last year. Mandelo’s Summer Sons was a gritty, American Gothic novel, and their another author that I’m excited to see what they come up with next.

Lisa Jenn Bigelow: Hazel’s Theory of Evolution was such a fun middle-school read that approached difficult topics in a great way for kids, so this author is definitely on my radar now.

Heather Walter: I think we all fell in love with Malice and Heather Walter in 2021….no, just me, well okay than.

Becky Chambers: I absolutely fell in love with the world and characters Becky Chambers created in The Wayfarer Series and she’s become one of those automatic buy authors.

Kekla Magoon: I had never heard of Kekla Magoon until reading How It Went Down, a tragic story told with beautiful prose. I definitely want to pick up her other books.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | I Hope This Finds You Well

Title: I Hope This Finds You Well: Poems

Author: Kate Baer

Publisher: Harper Perennial

Published Date: 9 November 2021

Pages: 80

TW: misogyny, sexism

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This review might be all over the place but please stay with me. Okay, so the book of poems starts with a little introduction about how Baer came to the idea of writing this collection of poems. She talks about her first blog 13 years ago and receiving a misogynistic comment from some boy who thought this was a great way to spend his time (it wasn’t). These comments never went over over Baer’s writing career. Last year, (I’m assuming as she was writing this in 2021, she means 2020 as last year) she decided to look a little closely at these comments/messages/spam letters. Specifically, she took a comment from a woman who disagreed with Baer politically, blotted out some words, and posted her original comment and the blotted out one to Instagram. Since then Baer has seen poems in all her exchanges, not just on the internet. In I Hope This Finds You Well, she takes the comments/messages/email spam from her corner of the interest and juxtaposes those with her erasure poem next to it.

First off, and this may be me reading too much into this, but this isn’t a new way to do poetry. I’m not trying to take shots or make any negative digs at her but the phrasing of the author’s note at the beginning makes it seem like this is something new or at least new-ish. We’ve been doing this for years and you can read an interesting history of blackout poetry here. (I know Baer calls what she does erasure poems but its the same thing as blackout poetry just flipped, so I’m calling a duck a duck).

For the actual poems, I really have no problem with them. That ends up being my issue. Even now, I cannot tell you a memorable poem, one that I loved or hated or had huge emotions with. There is nothing there. I know I enjoyed it while reading them, but I found that they were statements that I could overall agree with and get behind. There wasn’t anything that needed any deep thoughts or struggles. (Side note, I do not mean struggle as in hard to understand or being frustrated. When I use struggle in conjunction with poetry, I mean that the author just threw a curve ball at me and now I have to rethink something about myself, what I believe, or the world. I hope this makes sense). I have read many reviews and comments from Amazon and Goodreads on Baer’s book of poetry, both this one and her first, and I totally understand why people like her poems. They are thoughts that a lot of us agree with and can get behind given to us in an easily digestible way. I also have to say that blackout or erasure poetry can be more difficult than creating your own poems because you only have the words in front of you to use, so major props there.

I want to end by saying that none of this is attacking her specifically, or her poetry. It’s just not my cup of tea nor the kind of poetry I want to read. If you enjoy her poems, go forth and read. We all should read more poetry!

Happy Reading Darlings!

Friday Fives | Casting the Marauders

As per usual, I started Friday Fives back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to Friday Fives instead to have more room for topics.

Along with most people in the world, I have a love/hate relationship with She-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named, and I’ve been having a difficult time reading and/or watching anything Harry Potter related (fanfiction not included because the best way to piss off her is to read Drarry fanfic). But I also don’t want her to ruin the books that I grew up with and what they mean to me. Easier said than done. And at this point, I may have to accept that they’ll always be ruined. For today, I’m going to think about who I would cast if we had a Marauders era movie/series.

Sophie Lillis, known for IT & I am Not Okay With This

I definitely think she could pull of Lily Evans fiery attitude and she also has blue eyes like Daniel Radcliffe keeping with the whole “you have your mother’s eyes.”

Finn Wolfhard, known for Stranger Things

If he doesn’t give off Sirius Black vibes, I don’t know who does!

Rohan Chand, known for Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle

Yes, I am one of those people who has the headcanon that Harry (and his dad) are Indian and you’re not going to convince me otherwise.

Jacob Tremblay, known for Room & Wonder

Jacob is an amazing actor and could play Remus so well!! And he just has that adorable, geeky vibe that Remus has too.

Jaeden Martell, known for Defending Jacob, IT, and The Book of Henry

Martell just has that thing of being able to play a morally grey character.

Okay, yes some of these actors are not British, don’t at me, I went mostly with actors that I knew. Also, I wanted to keep the actors ages to at the oldest 19 because let’s all remember that James and Lily were 21 when they died. THEY WERE LITERAL CHILDREN THAT WAS THE WHOLE POINT OF THEIR TRAGIC DEATHS! So, what do you think of my casting? What would be your casting for a Marauders era series/movie.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | The Whispering House

Title: The Whispering House

Author: Elizabeth Brooks

Publisher: Doubleday

Date: 6 August 2020

Pages: 352

Content Warnings: emotional abuse, suicide, chronic illness, self-harm, and physical abuse

Rating: 2 out of 5.

If I can do one good thing for people it would be telling them to not read this book. It is a waste of time, and I want those hours back. The story starts off with Freya (and her dad) at a cousin’s wedding. Freya is still reeling from her sister’s death (suicide) and is pretty drunk when she goes into the house: Byrne Hall. The house is forbidden from being entered by the guests but Freya just ignores that. Once in she sees a portrait that evokes her late sister, Stella. Several weeks later Freya as this inexplicable longing to go back to Byrne Hall. Once there she meets Cory, a young artist (the summary on most sites say he’s handsome and enigmatic but I think he’s just weird and creepy). Freya plans to stay for a few days but this leads to a longer and longer stay, driven to remain not just by Byrne Hall itself, but this strange mother-and-son who inhabit it. Freya’s decision to stay at Byrne Hall sets off an “unexpected” chain of events.

The part that frustrates me the most about the book is the fact that Freya is still reeling from her sister’s death five years later. I understand and am not in any way saying that there is a timeline on grief but I also think there does need to be healthy coping mechanisms which are not in place for Freya or her dad. Most of the time I had to remind myself that Freya was in her late 20s, and not late teens or early 20s because many of her decisions felt like from a woman who is much younger.

The other characters in the book are just not really developed, more like caricatures. For instance, Freya’s dad is an art critic and that’s basically his entire personality even when he’s not critiquing art. Cory is not an enigmatic person, he’s a rich (I know him and his mom are not rich anymore but he still has the air of someone who is titled gentry), entitled, white boy who can’t figure out what he wants to do with his life, so he ran back home to mommy. The most we ever know of Cory’s mom is that she’s ill, as she really is just a plot device for the book, the old (and maybe mad) woman in the attic of a gothic novel.

The plot really fell flat for me. Again, many of the decisions from Freya felt way to immature for her age and even for someone in grief. The whole gothic/haunted house plot was pretty thin and didn’t really go anywhere as you find out that it was just Cory’s mom the whole time. Then the ending is pretty blasé, the readers find out what happened to Stella but there is never any indication that Freya finds out. Freya goes back home and it seems forms a romantic relationship with her long-term friend, Tom (the only decent character in the book), but it’s never clear. I’m not someone who hates murky books, but I like my books to make sense and be interesting and this did not his the mark.

Happy (Not) Reading Darlings!

TTT | 2021 Releases I Was Excited to Read But Didn’t Get To

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

I always say I’m going to read my TBR that I actually own and yet, I always end the year with the same or more books that I own and haven’t read. Life just keeps getting in the way of my reading! I’m hoping to actually change this now that I’m officially done with school now.

As a librarian, I review children’s and young adults’ books for a journal. These are the ones I picked for my December checkout that I was hoping to have them finished by the end of the new year. Instead, I got lost in re-watching (then watching) Criminal Minds and reading didn’t happen. These are obviously going to be at the top of my TBR since the reviews for them are due in soon.

I own this book. I remember buying this book and being so excited that I found a hardcover on the discount shelf. Why have I not read this? That is a question for past Darcy!

I specifically went to the store on the day of it’s release to buy it. I paid full price. Still have not read it.

This book sounds amazing and then I saw the book without the cover jacket and needed by own copy. We had a retreat for my job in August (before school started) and before making the 3 hour car ride back home, I stopped at a local bookshop. This was a book I purchased. I think I’m subconsciously thinking about the work retreat when looking at this book.

A book I was supposed to read for one of the book clubs I’m in. I’ve heard from the book club and other friends that it’s great. The few chapters I’ve read have been hilarious and completely relatable. Yet, I always have a hard time (I guess you could say love/hate relationship) with self-help books.

I only recently got really into the romance genre, but that’s only because I like romances that aren’t just straight, white people. I absolutely loved Written in the Stars, and I recently re-read it, so I definitely want to read Hang the Moon now!

I mean one, this cover is gorgeous, and two, what else do I need in life besides a girl who can grow plants from a single touch. The answer is nothing!

Confession time, I still have not read The Henna Wars. I know, I’m ashamed of myself! Part of me is so afraid to read my owned TBR because that means I’ll need to buy more books and my bank account cannot handle that at this point.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Friday Fives | Teas to Drink While Reading

As per usual, I started Friday Fives back when I started up the blog again and wanted to make sure I kept at least one regular post a week. This was, of course, before I knew there were others out there. But I decided to keep it, especially since I have the whole year planned out. In December, I decided to change it to Friday Fives instead to have more room for topics.

The end of a super long week and part of me just wants to run away to an abandoned island. Alas, I’ll just escape through books. I absolutely love drinking tea while reading and here are some of my favorites.

Earl Grey-It’s been a class for a reason. The tea is robust and just gives you that warm, fog-like feeling while reading. I like mine with a splash of milk. This is the tea I like to drink when it’s raining or cloudy outside or if I’m reading a classic or dark academia book.

Double Spice Chai Black-I love a good spice chai!! This is one I read with a fantasy/sci-fi novel.

Chamomile Herbal-Everyone needs a good caffeine free tea and having this while reading something relaxing like poetry or romance just fills me with so much peace.

Ruby Oolong-This tea has flavors of cacao, raisins, and black cherry, which gives off a red color making it perfect when reading a romance book.

Irish Breakfast-I can’t not include Irish Breakfast tea on here. It’s probably my favorite tea! I love drinking this when reading nonfiction books.

Happy Reading Darlings!

Book Review | Everything Under

Title: Everything Under

Author: Daisy Johnson

Publisher: Jonathan Cape

Published Date: 12 July 2018

Pages: 264

Content Warnings: incest, suicide, and death (explicit); dementia and animal death (moderate); addiction, adult/child relationship, and rape (minor)

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I go back and forth on if this is a 4 star or 5 star book. On one hand, I absolutely loved it. I thought it was gripping and intriguing, and I had to keep turning the page. On the other hand, there were moments were I was wondering if what Johnson was doing narratively (because she’s doing something interesting that is an uncommon narrative style) missed the mark.

I’m going to try to summarize the book, but I may miss the mark because this book is complicated. Also, throughout this review, I will be spoiling the book, which I think is okay with this book because you can figure out close to the beginning the frame of the story; spoiling this book doesn’t take away from the story, discussion, ideas that are presented here either. The book is mainly told through the point of view of Gretel, a young woman who works as a lexicographer updating dictionary entries for words. She spends her days alone and to herself, to the point where she actually states “No one but the postman knew I was here. I was protective of my solitude. I gave it space the way others gave space to their religion or politics” (10). This is due to the fact that Gretel grew up in a canal boat with her mom, Sarah, in the Oxford river areas. They had created their own language, community, and even monster: the bonak. The Bonak represents what they are afraid of, and the bonak could be small fears or even a big one.

The novel goes back and forth between the present and the past, as Gretel is trying to find her mom who left her alone at 16. It also goes to the past of a boy, Marcus, who stayed with Gretel and Sarah for a month in the winter and Gretel’s memories keep coming back to this moment and a creature who was stalking them.

To get one thing out of the way, this is a retelling of Oedipus Rex the Greek tragedy of Oedipus killing his dad and having sex with his mom. The chapters for Everything Under are divided into 3 time periods/sections: “The Cottage,” which is present day adult Gretel who is living with her mom who has dementia/Alzheimer’s; “The Hunt” is the section of Gretel looking back at her past as she is trying to find her mom; “The River” is Margot/Marcus experience of their life before they left home and after. There is another section titled “Sarah,” again Gretel’s mom, but there are only 2 (maybe 3) chapters labelled that.

So, you may be wondering why did I write Margot/Marcus that way. Well, because you find out pretty soon in the book (and it’s also kind of obvious when you start reading Margot’s section) that Marcus, the runaway teenager that Gretel and Sarah took in, is Margot. (Sidenote: I’m going to go back and forth between using he/she/they pronouns for Marcus, as there are no clear indications of how Marcus themselves identify). She was adopted by her parents, Roger and Laura, who decide not to tell her that she was adopted. Margot doesn’t have the easiest childhood as she pretty much spends her time alone, the limp they have doesn’t help this, but soon a next door neighbor, Fiona, becomes an important person to Margot and her parents. Fiona is a transgender woman and also a psychic. She tells Margot that Margot will grow up to kill her dad and have sex with her mom, just like the seers told Oedipus’ parents. Margot decides to leave in the middle of the night at 16.

From here, Marcus wanders the canal and finds a community before having to leave again, then finding Gretel and Margot. It’s funny because even though I said I’m going to spoil the book and the fact that you can probably figure out that Margot/Marcus is the Oedipus character, I’m still tiptoeing around the fact that Marcus kills his dad (another canal boat person) and has sex with his mom (Sarah).

As stated previously, the way Gretel grew up was very different from most people. There are many statements made throughout the book about how river people are different: “They have their own communities down there, their own rules. They don’t call the police or child services when something goes wrong. They have their own authority. It’s a different world” (85). Also this one: “We don’t call the fire engines or the ambulances. It’s always been that way. They don’t know anything about us and we know all we need to about them. But what happens when something goes wrong? We look after it, she replied” (194). I’ve heard similar things said in the real world about those who decide to live on boats (whether canal or another kind) as well. Gretel grew up with a community of her and her mom, but now looking back as an adult she sees that this did not set her up well, as she is a stranger to those around her, an alien. This quote from Gretel sums it up well and it’s probably my favorite from the book: “If – in any sense -language determined how we thought then I could never have been any other way than the way I am. And the language I grew up speaking was one no one else spoke. So I was always going to be isolated, lonely, uncomfortable in the presence of others. It was in my language. It was in the language you gave me” (136).

There are many ideas that Johnson brings up in this book. The obvious ones are the debate between fate and free will, gender fluidity, and fractured family relationships. There are also the ideas of monsters and what constitutes the monsters or something monstrous, along with the idea of language and communication (which is being tied to the debate between free will and fate). But something Gretel brings up quite a lot during her present day and past self is this idea of memory and how are memories are formed: “I’ve been thinking about the trace of our memories, whether the trace stays the same or changes as we rewrite them over time. If they are stable as houses and cliffs or decay fast and are replaced, overlaid. Everything we remember is passed down, thought over, is never the way that it was in reality” (8). This is stated in the first chapter and then we are brought into the story and I think at the end this is the point, is trying to figure out what was true and what isn’t true and what is past and what is present.

I know this review was rambling and kind of all over the place but so was this book. I definitely, definitely recommend it because one, it is a great story with lush and gorgeous language, and two because I still need to talk about this book with someone.

Happy Reading Darlings

TTT | Most Recent Additions to My Book Collection

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly topic hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. Each week she provide a topic and you are free to use that topic and/or variations of that topic to make your top ten list. A full list of the weekly themes can be found here.

This week’s topic covers the most recent books to my collection. I’m interpreting this as ones I (or someone) bought for my collection.

Books I received as Christmas gifts from others

Books I bought myself in the past few weeks because I needed them

The book I needed to buy so I could finally finish the series

Happy Reading Darlings!