13 Books

Last year I only wrote one post about the books I had read. It was a pretty long post highlighting a few of my favorite reads from the first half of the year. I never did write about the second fifty of the year, but you can always check out my GoodReads situation to see what I read and what I thought about ’em.

After being behind in my Reading Challenge for quite some time, I am finally back on track and wanted to share my thoughts on my first 13 books of 2019!

Receipt - Belen

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. This was an amazing fantasy journey about an oppressive king who attempted to wipe out magic in his kingdom. An unlikely friendship forms between two young women who decide to rise up against an injust leader with MAGIC and FRIENDSHIP and JUSTICE. Plus there’s young love!! It’s not the focus on the story, but it’s there and I love it. My GoodReads review was, “Amazing wonderful great. This magical fantasy story means so many things.”

I am a princess, not a prop.
Do not treat me any differently.
– Children of Blood and Bone, Tomi Adeyemi

My Dear Hamilton: A Novel of Eliza Schuyler Hamilton by Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie. The story of Alexander Hamilton has obviously risen in popularity over the past couple of years with the genuis of Lin Manuel Miranda’s musical and I was not immune to the wonder. Reading the story from the perspective of Eliza, however, taught me so many new things! She was more than just Alexander Hamilton’s wife – she was a whole woman with a life who endured so much loss and still perservered. Historical fiction is my favorite way to learn about history. If you’re the same way, check this one out.

But any parent who has lost a child will tell you
that grief is a monster less vanquished than held at bay.
That, like love, survival is a choice
to be made anew every morning,
and sometimes one must pretend
at being healed just to get through the day.
My Dear Hamilton, Stephanie Dray & Laura Kamoie

There There by Tommy Orange. I didn’t love this book, but I definitely didn’t hate it. It’s a collection of stories about different Native Americans whose lives intersect in various ways. Because it was written as a collection of stories and not in a typical narrative style, it was hard for me to keep who was who straight. Someone mentioned in the first story might show up in the sixth story, for example, which had me asking myself, “Do I know this person? Is he the same..?” The ending was SUPER anticlimatic, but also very climatic? It’s stories about Natives written by a Native, so just read it and see for yourself.

Who you spend time with ends up mattering
more than what you do with that time.
– There There, Tommy Orange

Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple. My Facebook book club’s January theme was “books becoming movies in 2019.” I started with this one! It’s about an eccentric mother who disappears and her daughter’s quest to find her. I liked it a lot. It was different, easy to read, and had very interesting characters. I only wish there was more of it! Turns out the author wrote for Arrested Development (thanks for that info, Alise!), so it makes sense that I loved the book so much.

I felt so full of love for everything.
But at the same time, I felt so
hung out to dry there, like nobody could ever understand.
I felt so alone in this world,
and so loved at the same time.
Where’d You Go, Bernadette, Maria Semple

Still Lives by Maria Hummel. For a murder mystery this was pretty boring. It’s about an artist who goes missing and the museum worker (I don’t remember what she actually did – she worked at the museum where the artist’s work was displayed), Maggie, who is interested in where she went. There are plenty more interesting murder mystery crime thrillers. I don’t remember what happened to the artist, but I remember that it wasn’t very surprising or interesting. I gave this one two stars and skimmed through the last few chapters.

There’s a large class of men who can’t endure humor in a woman.
– Still Lives, Maria Hummel

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao. I LOVED this story!! I was even tempted to read the second one, but I don’t often get caught up in series, because I can never get ahold of the books I need in the order I need them. Anyway, this story reminded me of Queen of the Tearling, not that they’re simliar really in any way, except that the main character is a multi-faceted, very much flawed character and you’re never sure whether she’s going to give in to her good side or her bad side. The most boring thing a story can be is predictable, and this story was not predictable. It was different and magical and captivating. I’d highly recommend it for anyone who likes reading about tough young women and (dark) magic.

The hard decisions make us great.
They make us who we are.
– Forest of a Thousand Lanterns, Julie C. Dao

You by Caroline Kepnes. It was so interesting getting the story from the perspective of the predator. We assume the narrator is reliable in most stories, but there were times throughout that I thought, “Did Beck really react like that? Or is that how he is interpreting it?” It was a really thrilling story and even though it’s clear that things aren’t going to turn out all hunky dory, it’s still not a predictable tale. I will say there was A LOT of sex. It seems the show isn’t quite as graphic, if you’re interested.

People have to be careful
or they wind up with lives they didn’t want.
– You, Caroline Kepnes

Bird Box by Josh Malerman. It’s so interesting to me the books that make it to the big screen. Sometimes it’s a no brainer and sometimes I’m like, “What? Huh?” This book was so boring. I have read so many other dystopian futures that were similiar but so much better. The only thing I found exciting about this book was that in took place in my home state of Michigan. Instead of reading Bird Box read The Book of M by Peng Shepherd or Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel.

Girls Burn Brighter by Shobha Rao. This book follows two young women who come together and then find themselves flung apart. The GoodReads description ends like this, “In breathtaking prose, Shobha Rao tackles the most urgent issues facing women today: domestic abuse, human trafficking, immigration, and feminism.” And there it is. It’s heartbreaking and gorgeous and really is a story of the power of friendship and hope.

Everything else is so bland, so colorless, except you.
– Girls Burn Brighter, Shobha Rao

Minuk: Ashes in the Pathway by Kirkpatrick Hill. Apparently there is a series I missed out on as a girl called Girls of Many Lands and it turns out my school library has a bunch of them! This one was about an Eskimo girl and how having a white missionary family in the village affects them all. I love how the book is informative about the Yu’pik culture, but also a story about Munik and her family.

Neela: Victory Song by Chitra Banerjee Divakaruni. Back for more! This is another Girls of Many Lands book and I love how at least these two were written by women who know what they’re talking about when they write about these lands! Neela is a young Indian girl and so I thought, “Okay it’s going to be about her arranged marriage – blah blah blah.” But it wasn’t! It was about India’s freedom fighters fighting for independence from Britian! It was exciting and great.

Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward. A couple friends and I started a book club and this was our first book! If it weren’t for the book club I wouldn’t have kept reading past the first couple of chapters. Around the 40% mark I told my book club, “I hate this book.” Once I got into the second half I didn’t hate it anymore, but I definitely didn’t like it. Nothing really happens and the whole time I was reading it I felt tense and anxious. The book follows a family in the days leading up to Hurricane Katrina and then the day or so afterward. There is dog fighting and violence and casual teenage sex (that’s not actually casual). I know it’s going to spark a lot of conversation at our book club, but I did not enjoy reading it and wouldn’t recommend it to anybody.

What’s done in the dark always comes to the light.
– Salvage the Bones, Jesmyn Ward

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell. I read this book in two back to back sittings – last night before bed and this morning. You’ve probably heard about the movie… two moms become friends and then one mom disappears and it’s a mystery! The book was a quick and fascinating read that had me hooked. Right after I finished the book I watched the movie and really enjoyed that too, although there are quite a few differences between the two. If you like mysteries and intense women with secrets, give this one a go!

Maybe the only way to get along with another person
is to tell huge lies of omission.
– A Simple Favor, Darcey Bell

That’s it! Have you read any of these? What did you think? What have you been reading so far? What should I read next? As I did last year, I’m trying to be intentional about reading books written by men and women of color. My two knock-out favorites were Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie C. Dao and Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, both written by women of color. If you know of any more like those, please send them my way!

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