What I Read: September 2016

I read 6 books in September. 3 were fiction, 3 were non-fiction. 2 were on the Kindle, 4 were in print. All but one were by authors of color.

Bring on the Blessings by Beverly Jenkins (2009).

The first book in Jenkins’ Blessings series. I was introduced the series when I got the 6th book through Early Reviewers. I read it back in January and thoroughly enjoyed. Just a feel-good, Maeve Binchy-esque series about a historically black town in Kansas, which is bankrupt and puts itself up for auction on eBay. Purchased by billionaire, Bernardine Brown, who wants to turn the town into a haven for foster children. Such a good, light read.

Confessions of a Failed Southern Lady by Florence King (1985).

A humorous memoir of growing up in DC in the 1940s & 1950s. I loved all the discussion of places I know in DC. The last third includes some very frank discussion of King’s sexual awakening and relationships with men and women.

The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks about Race edited by Jesmyn Ward (2016).

This book is fantastic. Not a weak essay in the bunch. I especially loved Daniel Jose Older’s. Read it, read it, read it.

Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee (2016).

Mercy Wong has an plan – to gain admission to an elite girl’s school in San Francisco in 1906 and then leverage that education and connections for business success. Such a great YA read!

It Ain’t So Awful, Falafel by Firoozeh Dumas (2016).

Middle schooler Zomorod (aka Cindy) Yousefzadeh moves to Newport Beach, California with her parents, and is soon faced with both the normal troubles of middle school and the Iranian Hostage Crisis. Her father, an engineer in the U.S. working on a U.S.-Iranian oil project loses her job. Despite the serious subjects in the book, it is funny and heartwarming. An enjoyable read.

March, Book Two by John Lewis (2015).

This graphic novel autobiography series by John Lewis is just fantastic. I can’t wait to read the third!

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What I Read: September 2016

What I Read: August

I read 11 books in August. 6 were fiction, 5 were non-fiction. 1 on Kindle, 1 on Audiobook, the rest in print. Only one was a writer of color, so clearly I need to work on this. Trying to make the majority of books I read by writers of color in the next few months.

Spider-Woman: Shifting Gears Vol. 1: Baby Talk by Dennis Hopeless (2016).

Here’s all you need to know about this book: Spider-Woman is a pregnant superhero. It is just as awesome as you are now imagining.

The Family Fletcher Takes Rock Island by Dana Alison Levy (2016).

So happy for a second offering of my new favorite middle grades family. The Family Fletcher is two (white) dads, and four sons – all adopted, two white and two black. In this book, the family goes on their annual summer vacation to Rock Island, but are surprised by the changes on the island (the lighthouse is closed! they have new neighbors!).

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest (2015).

A really interesting mystery about a girl whose childhood friend died in a car accident, who suddenly starts seeing around town, art featuring Princess X, a character she created with the (dead?) friend. A mix of comic and text and a total page turner.

Go-Go Live: The Musical Life and Death of a Chocolate City by Natalie Hopkinson (2012).

Go-Go is a musical style that originated (and remains most popular) in the DC area. This was an interesting look at both the music and the racial history of DC the second half of the 1900s.

Lumberjanes: Out of Time by Shannon Watters (2016).

Fourth volume of the Lumberjanes series. Always worth reading.

Sisters in Law: How Sandra Day O’Connor and Ruth Bader Ginsburg Went to the Supreme Court and Changed the World by Linda Hirshman (2015).

I listened to this book on audiobook for Task 6 of Read Harder 2016 (Read a biography). It was an interesting look at the education and legal careers of the first two women on the Supreme Court – and at the friendship between the two.

Moon Girl and Devil Dinosaur, Volume 1: BFF by Amy Reeder (2016).

Once I heard that 9 year old, Lunella Lafayette, aka Moon Girl, had been declared the smartest girl in the Marvel universe, I knew I had to read this book! A great addition to the strong, diverse cast of female superheroes these days!

Spectacles by Sue Perkins (2015).

A very funny memoir by one of the hosts of the Great British Bake Off. I totally enjoyed it. If you are interested in reading, let me know. I don’t think it was published here in the U.S. – I ordered by copy used off Amazon.

Prez Vol. 1 by Mark Russell (2016).

A satirical political comic about a teenager elected President at a time when voting on Twitter is allowed! Dark but weirdly hopeful.

Dimestore: A Writer’s Life by Lee Smith (2016).

Thoroughly enjoyable memoir of growing up in Appalachian Virginia, with parents who were “kindly nervous” and Smith’s development of herself as an author. Although I grew up in the “urban” rather than rural South, Smith really captured some truths about my own experience as a Southerner. I got this book through the LibraryThing Early Reviewer’s program.

Capitol Men: The Epic Story of Reconstruction Through the Lives of the First Black Congressmen by Philip Dray (2010).

I had been wanting to read this book for a while – Reconstruction is an era I probably haven’t read about since elementary school and I’m a bit of politics nerd – hazard of being a legislative researcher. It didn’t disappoint – really interesting look at the history of an era of hope and change and violence and regression. I counted this for Task 21 of Read Harder 2016.

What I Read: August

What I Read: July 2016

I read 7 books in July. 3 were non-fiction, 4 were fiction. 2 were on Kindle, 5 were in print. 2 were by writers of color.

How to Grow Up: A Memoir by Michelle Tea (2015).

I loved this book in a way that I think you only would if Tea’s earlier books had been important to you and you were so glad to see that she grew up to be totally okay. Tea is just a few years older than me and she was publishing books about being a broke, queer, 20-something feminist performance artist when I was in my 20s and also fairly broke and totally queer and going to a lot of spoken word performances. I’m older now and married and a mom and most days the only other queer person I see is my wife, but that history is still there and so to see this person who was (through her work) a part of that part of my life, a person who was struggling with addiction, whose life was hard be able to do things that are meaningful to her like go to Fashion Week in Paris, was pretty great. If you don’t have this sort of connection to Tea’s work though, I can see how the book would come off as sort of consumeristic. But like all of us, Tea deserves nice things. And I’m happy she’s got them!

Lumberjanes Vol. 3: A Terrible Plan by Noelle Stevenson (2016).

When you want to up the numbers of books completed for your library’s summer reading program, comics are really the way to go. I always enjoy Lumberjanes. This one did not disappoint.

SuperMutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki (2015).

Sort of weird, but good, but odd. Harry Potter, if Harry Potter was just about the general awfulness of high school and not about saving the world.

Gone Crazy in Alabama by Rita Williams-Garcia (2015).

In the last book in the Gaither Sisters trilogy, they go to visit Big Ma in Alabama for the summer. A good mix of the freedom of a country summer, the annoyance of sisters, and the danger of being black in the South in the 1960s. The whole trilogy is great and I highly recommend it.

Drama by Raina Telgemeier (2012).

Do you like graphic novels and books for children/tweens? You should read everything Telgemeier has ever written. The end.

Water Tossing Boulders: How a Family of Chinese Immigrants Led the First Fight to Desegregate Schools in the Jim Crow South by Adrienne Berard (2016).

A slim but fascinating book that I got through LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program about a desegregation case I knew nothing about – a challenge by the Lum family in the 1920s to school segregation in Mississippi. Berard does an especially great job of placing the case in context, tracing the line of Chinese immigration into the U.S. and to Mississippi, showing the changes attempted during Reconstruction and the crushing racism and segregation that existed in the South at that time. Really glad I read it!

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West (2016).

I loved this book SO much. As a feminist I sometimes find feminist books boring, because I don’t need convincing, I’m already there. This one was insightful and personal. Her ability to have both rightful feminist rage and to forgive makes her a total role model for me. I’ve loved Lindy’s writing since her Stranger days and this book made me love it more. You should read it. Yes, you.

What I Read: July 2016

What I Read: June 2016

So behind on my round-ups! I read 7 books in June. 5 were fiction, 2 were non-fiction. 5 were in print, one was an audiobook and one was on the Kindle. Four were by authors of color (making June the only month so far where I have exceeded my 50% goal)

The Truth About Twinkie Pie by Kat Yeh (2015).

There have been a lot of recent changes in 12-year-old GiGi’s life. First her sister and guardian won a million dollar prize in a baking contest, then they up and moved from SC to the North Shore of Long Island and GiGi started a fancy new school. Soon enough she is making new friends and unraveling family mysteries in this middle grade novel.

Negroland: A Memoir by Margo Jefferson (2015).

An interesting memoir from critic Margo Jefferson about growing up at the intersection of race and privilege. A glimpse at a black upper middle class childhood in Chicago in the 1940s, 50s & 60s. Well worth reading.

Superfluous Women by Carola Dunn (2015).

The 22nd book in the Daisy Dalrymple mystery series takes us to the countryside where Daisy is convalescing after an illness. While visiting a school friend, a body is discovered (of course). This series is fun and fluffy, just what the doctor ordered.

Bring Up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel (2012).

I listened to this one on audiobook. I loved Wolf Hall, although it was sometimes hard to follow all the Thomases, Marys and Janes, and I worried that I would be totally lost on audio, but it was really fine. Sometimes the names would float right over me, but mostly I kept up fine. I counted this one for Read Harder Task 15 (a book of historical fiction set before 1900).

The Language of Baklava by Diana Abu-Jaber (2006).

I am always on the look out for a good food memoir, and this did not disappoint. Diana Abu-Jaber tells of her life, growing up in America (and Jordan) with a Jordanian father, American mother, and lots of really delicious Jordanian food. She has a new food memoir out and I can’t wait to read it!

Akata Witch by Nnedi Okorafor (2011).

I picked this up because it was described as a read-alike for Harry Potter, and it did not disappoint! Sunny, a 12-year-old Nigerian girl with albinism, discovers she has magical powers and has to learn how to control them, while trying to stop a magical serial killer with her classmates. I CANNOT WAIT for the next book in the series to come out.

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl, Volume 2: Squirrel You Know It’s True by Ryan North (2015).

Squirrel Girl is my favorite Superhero. If you want to read a comic that makes you smile (and is appropriate for all ages), pick up Squirrel Girl!

What I Read: June 2016

What I Read: May 2016

I read 6 books in May. 5 were fiction, one was non-fiction. 4 were in print, 2 were on the Kindle. 3 were by writers of color – so I met my 50% goal.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson (2015).

Super fun graphic novel about a shapeshifter who apprentices herself to a villain (who is actually the good guy).

Saving Montgomery Sole by Mariko Tamaki (2016).

Picked up this YA novel by Mariko Tamaki (who has written some graphic novels that I enjoy) and was delighted to discover that Ms. Montgomery Sole had two moms. Best friends, cosmic mysteries, and homophobic ministers all play a part of this high school tale.

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli (2014).

Totally delightful, boy likes boy, nothing terrible happens YA novel. There should be more queer books with happy endings like this!

Fake ID by Lamar Giles (2015).

I’m probably not the target audience, but I enjoyed this YA novel about a teenaged boy whose family is in the witness protection program. Don’t know that I’ll read the next one in the series, but happy to have tried this one.

Journey to Munich by Jacqueline Winspear (2016).

The latest in the Maisie Dobbs series brings our heroine to Germany on a quest to save a valuable British citizen from a detention camp. Good, as always.

The Chicken Chronicles: Sitting with the Angels Who Have Returned with My Memories: Glorious, Rufus, Gertrude Stein, Splendor, Hortensia, Agnes of God, The Gladyses, & Babe: A Memoir by Alice Walker (2011).

My mom had been recommending this book to me for a while, and while I can see why it appeals to her (my parents retired to become farmers and raise 150ish chickens), I super hated it. I read Walker’s daughter’s memoir many years ago, and this book does nothing to dispel the impression that book gave of the elder Walker being kind of a crappy mother (she never mentions her daughter in this book, but does call herself Mommy when talking to/about her chickens). Not my cup of tea.

What I Read: May 2016

What I Read: April 2016

I read nine books in April. Seven were fiction and two were non-fiction. Three were on Kindle, five were in print, one was an audio book. Only three were by writers of color – so I failed in my 50% goal this month!

The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow (2015).

I picked this up because a friend recommended it and I needed a dystopian novel for Task 7 of Read Harder. It was fun – sucked you in the way a good dystopian book should. It was also (I think) the first book I’ve ever read with queer content that I didn’t know was queer going in. I usually seek out queer books, so to read a book and be surprised by “wait, I think these gals are going to make out” was kind of fun.

Hamster Princess: Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon (2015).

I read this book to Frances and we both loved it! A fun take on Sleeping Beauty (Harriet discovers that her curse renders her invincible until it happens, so she goes of to fight ogres and have adventures). Great early chapter book for those who still want a lot of pictures (and perhaps extra love princesses).

P.S. Be Eleven by Rita Williams-Garcia (2013).

This the second book in the Gaither Sisters trilogy and I liked it *almost* as much as One Crazy Summer. Great middle grades series set in the 1960s focused on a black family. Can’t wait to read the third book!

Princeless Volume 4: Be Yourself by Jeremy Whitley (2015).

Still love this comics series of Princess Adrienne and her adventures saving her sisters from the respective imprisonments.

How to Be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading too Much by Samantha Ellis (2014).

Both a memoir and a love story to books – I haven’t read anything like this and I loved it. Ellis combines the formative books of her life with the tale of growing up in an Iranian Jewish family in London.

Locally Laid: How We Built a Plucky, Industry-changing Egg Farm – from Scratch by Lucie B. Amundsen (2016)

I got this book from LibraryThing’s Early Reviewers program. It was probably more enjoyable to read than to live! Locally Laid tells the story of how Amundsen and her husband became midsized chicken farmers in Minnesota. A tale to root for! I read this book out loud to Jami, so this also counted as Task 4 for the Read Harder challenge.

The Grand Plan to Fix Everything by Uma Krishnaswami (2013).

Dini loves watching Bollywood movies, but she’s a little less thrilled that her mom’s great job opportunity will move her from Maryland to India! Enjoyable middle grades read.

The Hundred-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out of the Window and Disappeared by Jonas Jonasson (2009).

I don’t really know how to describe Jonasson’s writing. This is the second book of his that I’ve read, and they are just fantastical and fun. I was excited to learn while I was in the midst of listening to this on audiobook that it had been made into a movie, which meant I could use it for Task 18 of Read Harder. The book was better. 😉

We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson (1962).

I read this for Task 1 of Read Harder. Horror book was the task I was most scared of (so NOT my genre, I am a total wimp), but I have wanted to read a Shirley Jackson book for so many years and this was a reason to do so. I really enjoyed the book (and didn’t find it particularly) scary, but I don’t think I’ll be adding more horror books to my To Read list. Also, shout out to Jonathan Lethem who wrote an introductory essay in the version I read all about how the book is about Constance’s sublimated sexuality and her desire for escape (and presumably the sex) with the asinine Charles. Dear Mr. Lethem, not everything is about dudes and sex. Try again.

What I Read: April 2016

What I Read: March 2016

Hey! April is almost over. Not sure how that happened, but still plenty of time left to talk about what I read in March!

I read 8 books in March. Three were non-fiction, five were fiction. Two were on Kindle, one was an Overdrive ebook I read on my phone, two were audiobooks and the remaining three were good old print books. Four books were by writers of color, meeting my 50% goal!

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling (2015).
I “read” this on audiobook, and I highly recommend that route. Kaling reads it herself and I think that makes the tale extra humorous. An enjoyable memoir of Kaling’s personal and professional life. I really enjoy how she writes about her work. It’s always interesting to me to see folks relationships to their careers.

The Making of Asian America: A History by Erika Lee (2015).
It took me months to read this book, both because it is over 500 pages, and because I read it on my phone, since DCPL didn’t have Kindle version, but it was so worth it. Just an incredibly important piece of American history. I can see this being used in college history courses for years to come because it is academic, meticulously researched, and incredibly readable. I was aware of the Chinese Exclusion Acts because of research I’ve done at my job, but this country has treated its Asian immigrant abysmally way beyond those acts (which are horrifying enough). Well worth reading. I counted this for Task 10 (a book over 500 pages) of Read Harder 2016.

First Class: The Legacy of Dunbar, America’s First Black Public High School by Alison Stewart (2013).
Dunbar is a once lauded, now struggling public high school in DC. It started out as the city’s first academically oriented high school for black students and before integration, generations of high achieving African Americans graduated from Dunbar. Integration brought challenges to Dunbar (although not because it was ever truly integrated – but because it went from being a selective high school drawing students from the whole city to a neighborhood school). An interesting look at the history of public education in Washington, DC (and of course, at one school in particular).

How Tía Lola Came to Visit Stay by Julia Alvarez (2001).
The first book in a lovely children’s chapter book series by Julia Alvarez about a brother and sister who move (with their mom) from New York City to Vermont after their parents separate. As the title suggests, Tia Lola comes from the Dominican Republic to stay with the them and livens things up a bit. I read this for Task 16 (first book in a series by a writer of color) of Read Harder 2016.

Hostage Taker: A Novel by Stefanie Pintoff (2015).
If you like a thriller, pick this up. It was one of those books I didn’t want to put it down. Pintoff is a mystery writer you will be happy to discover (this is her third book. The others are historical – and equally good). This hostage drama would make an excellent beach read.

Fridays with the Wizards by Jessica Day George (2016).
I super duper love this children’s chapter series about Princess Celie and the magical, growing, rearranging Castle Glower. This is the fourth in the series and if magical happiness with strong female characters is your thing, you should start with Tuesday at the Castle!

I Am America (And So Can You!) by Stephen Colbert (2007).
I picked this out for Task 9 (Listen to an Audie Award Winner) of Read Harder 2016. I usually enjoy audiobooks by comedians, and Colbert did not disappoint, but I think I am just over Colbert’s conservative alter-ego. Hoping not to go back to a version of American politics where satire is the only thing getting me through.

The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason (2013).
This was my first steampunk book and it was fun. A reimagined, electricity free Victorian-era mystery featuring Mina Holmes (niece of Sherlock) and Evaline Stoker (sister of Bram). Fun, but I don’t know that I’ll seek out the next in the series.

What I Read: March 2016