I was super busy/distracted this month but somehow managed to read 9 books. I read a great mix of nonfiction, YA, graphic novels, LGBT fiction, and fantasy! Here’s a breakdown of my ratings:
The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For by Alison Bechdel (graphic novel): 5/5 stars
The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (fantasy): 3/5 stars
Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (fantasy): 4/5 stars
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler (YA): 2/5 stars
Redefining Realness by Janet Mock (memoir): 5/5 stars
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters (LGBT historical fiction): 5/5 stars
Room by Emma Donoghue (fiction): 3/5 stars
Annie On My Mind by Nancy Garden (LGBT YA): 5/5 stars
The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien (fantasy): 4/5 stars
Redefining Realness: My Path to Womanhood, Identity, Love & So Much More by Janet Mock
Rating: 5/5 stars
“We all fulfill our quota of misfortune at some point on our life. This is what I believed when I was a ten year old. It was a belief system of my own creation, part of a silent theory based on fairness and balance.”
This book truly opened up my eyes. I pride myself on knowing a lot about LGBT culture and understanding the oppression put on those who identify as such. But, wow, did I learn a lot through this book. Through her words and heartbreaking childhood events, Janet Mock shows the reader what it’s really like growing up as a TWoC.
The first several chapters of this book are extremely hard to get through. I felt sick to my stomach after reading about Mock’s childhood. I appreciate that she was honest in her writing and that it must have been extremely, extremely difficult to share intimate details with the world. That’s not to say that the rest of the book was cheerful, it just took me a few chapters to get used to the rawness.
I think that, often, trans and LGBT folks in general are misrepresented in the media. Yes, there are a few gay and lesbian characters on TV now, but they are primarily white and upper middle class. This is not the reality of life for most LGBT people. It’s almost as if the non-white, disabled, and poor LGBT people simply do not exist to the media. I’m so happy that Janet Mock wrote this book because it gives us a glimpse at some of these windows that are otherwise closed to viewers.
Nonfiction is not a genre I usually pick. I am so glad that I prioritized Janet Mock’s book because it has certainly had a great impact on me.
Inferno by Dan Brown
It’s inevitable that one of my recommendations is going to be a Dan Brown book. Like all of his Robert Langdon books, this one is a bit formulaic (if you’ve read any of Brown’s books you’ll know what I mean). Still, this was a fantastic story with a great connection to Dante’s Inferno if you’re interested in the classics like I am.
I read this book about 2 years ago and I honestly can’t remember exactly the plot line, except that it involves Robert Langdon (yet again!) confused and caught in the middle of a deadly plan. It is incredibly fast-paced and definitely grabs the reader’s attention from the very beginning.
Out of the few Brown books that I’ve read, this one is my favorite. I’m minoring in the classics at my university and, consequentially, have great respect for Dante’s work. Dan Brown does a great job working text and illusions from Dante’s original Inferno into his book. If you’re craving a thriller that’ll have you reading until 3am, this is it.
Fingersmith by Sarah Waters
Rating: 5/5 stars
“When I feel his mouth upon my wrist, I flinch. ‘Now, now’ he says. ‘Be good for a moment. Excuse my whiskers. Imagine my mouth hers.'”
Sue is an orphan living in the home of Mrs. Sucksby, a petty thief of watches, purses, and children. Although Mrs. Sucksby treats her well, Sue gets sent off to be a maid to the lady Miss Lilly. She becomes part of an elaborate scheme of the orphanage with a plan to steal Miss Lilly’s fortune. As Sue becomes more comfortable serving, bathing, and feeding Miss Lilly, the two young women find themselves struggling to be truthful with one another.
To be honest, I prioritized this book on my TBR because one Goodreads review said “lesbian Dickens!”. I wish I had coined the phrase first because it certainly fits this book. This was such a lovely and captivating story and the writing is absolutely beautiful. Sarah Waters leaves out no detail when describing Miss Lilly’s extravagant mansion, but does so without boring the reader.
I felt like I was slowly becoming one of Sue’s close friends throughout this book. I was angry when she was wronged and was giddy when she was fighting her oppressors. Throughout my time as a reader I have yet to come across another character like Sue (and doubt I’ll find one soon). Although the book was not told entirely from her POV, her character development had the most depth and thus she became easy to love.
I’m looking forward to reading more books by Sarah Waters (perhaps Tipping the Velvet next?).
Second Glance by Jodi Picoult
Oops, I forgot to publish this yesterday so this is more of a Monday Book Recommendation. Sorry about that!
Jodi Picoult has SO many books, everyone knows that. Almost every reader owns at least one of her books, especially after My Sister’s Keeper became a movie. Second Glance is definitely one of her lesser-known novels and it pains me that more people haven’t read it. It’s by far my favorite of her books (and I’ve read almost all of them!).
cw: suicidal ideation
Like her usual writing style, Picoult switches between many different points of view that range from children a man over 100 years old. Also, like many of her novels, this book touches on rare and controversial subjects. The ‘ultimate’ main character, Ross Wakeman, has struggled with suicidal ideation since the loss of his wife. As a compensation, he becomes a ghost hunter and lives off of the adrenaline rush that his career gives him. Ross has never actually found a ghost, but he continues searching for the sake of meeting his wife in the afterlife.
This book is about love and its boundaries. Yes, love is unconditional; but can it pass through time? I believe this is Jodi Picoult’s only paranormal romance, and it’s a fantastic one. I know Picoult’s style is love or hate, but if you love her books then please give this one a try!
Annie on My Mind by Nancy Garden
Rating: 5/5 stars
“I tried so hard to think– but there was only one word on my mind and that word was ‘Annie'”
Liza Winthrop is a high school senior busy with student council, college applications, and attending an extremely Catholic school. While visiting a museum, she runs into a girl, Annie, who completely turns her life around. Annie shares her world, a low-income town and a room full of flowers, while Liza shares hers, a love for architecture and a caring younger brother. These two girls become inseparable and somewhere along the way find themselves with deeper feelings for each other.
I cannot express how important this book is. This is the book to read for adolescent girls trying to discover their sexualities. The story of Liza and Annie is so touching and real that it can really speak to young adults experiencing the same feelings, questions, and confusion. Every time I hear of a girl struggling to come to terms with her sexuality, I just want to shove this book in her face and say “it’s okay! Stop beating yourself up for something you have no control over”.
Not only is this an important LGBT novel, but it’s such a cute story. It’s a story about two people discovering what it means to love someone and seeing how powerful that emotion can be. Annie on My Mind may be about two girls, but has nothing to do with the fact that it’s like every other novel written about teenagers falling in love. I loved everything about this book and found myself in a good mood every time I picked it up.
Room by Emma Donohgue
Rating: 3.4/5 stars
Jack has just turned 5 years old, and his world consists of an 11×11 foot room. This doesn’t bother him much because he knows nothing of the outside world. Now that he’s 5, Ma begins to tell Jack that grass, ice cream, and other kids actually exist on the other side of Wall and Roof and not just in the TV. Jack and Ma create a plan to escape Room, but it’s extremely risky. If they were able to escape, how would Jack cope with being outside in the fresh air, with other people for the first time?
This book was just okay. There was nothing really special about it and I honestly don’t understand what all the hype is around it. I didn’t feel attached to any of the characters, so I was really ambivalent to any of the big events that happened to Ma or Jack. There were horrible, traumatic, and sad things that occurred throughout the book, but I didn’t have that emotional attachment to care about them enough.
I think the problem with Room is that its entirely narrated by a five year old kid. This, obviously, makes his world very bias. The book would have been so much deeper if it had switched between Ma and Jacks POVs. By sticking only to Jack’s POV, it’s almost like Donoghue was taking the easy road. Ma could have been such a complex character, but we merely got a glimpse into how she was feeling.
I understand that this is a great bookclub book– there are a lot of controversial issues to discuss. Despite this, as a pleasure read, I’m disappointed with it. I was really hoping for better.
The Light Between Oceans by M.L. Stedman
This book was one of my favorites that I read in 2014. It’s actually rumored to become a movie in late 2015, so I recommend reading it before the film comes out! It’s definitely a really heavy story and it will stay with you for a while.
This book focuses around a lighthouse keeper, Tom Shelbourne, and his wife Isabel. The two live alone on the island of the town’s lighthouse, but are effortlessly in love and don’t mind the isolation. The couple is struck by grief after Isabel has multiple miscarriages after trying for a baby for years. As if fate is answering Isabel’s prayers, a baby washes up in a tiny boat on their shore without a note or identification. Tom suggests that they alert the mainland about the child, but Isabel persuades him to keep quiet. This is a story about Tom and Isabel living with both the joy of having a child and the grief of knowing that the baby is not their’s to keep.
Like I said, this is not a light-hearted story–it’s very dark and heavy. Nonetheless, I’m excited for it to become a film and encourage everyone to read the novel before it’s out in theaters!
Why We Broke Up by Daniel Handler
Rating: 2.5/5 stars
“After the sugar caper I never want to see it again.
Here it is, Ed. Nor I, you.”
Min Green has left a box of random objects on her ex-boyfriend, Ed Slaterton’s, doorstep. Each item signifies some event in their relationship that explains why they eventually broke up. It was love at first beer, chasing down an elderly movie star, and coffee with three creams and one sugar. But somehow, Ed blew it, and this is Min telling him exactly how he blew it.
I really wanted to like this book. I have a soft spot in my heart for Daniel Handler after reading “The Series of Unfortunate Events” in elementary school. In 5th grade, we had to write a report on our favorite author and I, of course, chose Daniel Handler. That series taught me to love reading. That being said, this book felt like a waste of my time.
We’ve all heard it before– a quiet girl gets asked out by a jock who says “that’s so gay” and is embarrassed to do well in math class. I can’t count the amount of times Ed tells Min she’s “not like other girls”. What is that even supposed to mean? What is soincredibly wrong with the general population of girls that one must try to dissociate from the entire gender?
I guess I was just annoyed while I read this book. The story wasn’t necessarily boring, just full of stereotypes that made me roll my eyes every few pages. Maybe I just expected too much out of this book.
I promise you that you’ve read or seen this story before–an early 2000’s movie or any other YA romance. This just happens to be told after the happily ever after.
January was a good reading month for me! I read 8 physical books and 1 eBook (A Time to Reap by Jonas Lee). Instead of a Sunday Book Rec, I decided that I would just give a brief wrap up of this month’s books for me.
Nine Stories by JD Salinger– 3/5 stars
Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children– 3.4/5 stars
Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman– 5/5 stars
Sci-Fi Stories by Women– 2/5 stars
A Time to Reap by Jonas Lee– 4.5/5 stars
Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach– 5/5 stars
The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Faber– 4.5/5 stars
Rubyfruit Jungle by Rita Mae Brown– 5/5 stars
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins– 4/5 stars