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book thoughts: A Burning by Megha Majumdar

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The backstory: A Burning is the debut novel of Mega Majumdar, who was born and raised in Kolkata, India. She moved to the United States to attend college at Harvard University, followed by graduate school in social anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She works as an editor at Catapult, and lives in New York City.

The basics:  "An electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise--to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies--and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.

Jivan is a Muslim girl from the slums, determined to move up in life, who is accused of executing a terrorist attack on a train because of a careless comment on Facebook. PT Sir is an opportunistic gym teacher who hitches his aspirations to a right-wing political party, and finds that his own ascent becomes linked to Jivan's fall. Lovely--an irresistible outcast whose exuberant voice and dreams of glory fill the novel wit…

Introducing: A Very Cromwell Summer Readalong

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Y'all: I have not read Wolf Hall. Or Bring Up the Bodies. Or The Mirror and the Light. I started Wolf Hall more than once. I liked it even. But I didn't even make it half-way. I'm intimidated by big books. I'm a little intimidated by Hilary Mantel (I did read one of her short story collections, which wasn't intimidating.) But I decided: this is the summer of doing hard things. I'm aiming to read the rest of the Women's Prize shortlist this summer (the winner will be announced Sept. 8). The Mirror and the Light made the shortlist (no surprise, as both Wolf Hall and Bring Up the Bodies did in 2010 and 2013, respectively), and I can't start with the third book in the trilogy, especially when I have the other two on my Kindle. To help keep myself accountable (and I hope have some company), I'm hosting A Very Cromwell Summer Readalong!


My goal is to read one of the novels each month. Personally, because I am intimidated by big, long books, I'm planni…

book thoughts: These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling

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The backstory: Young adult paranormal is not usually by thing, but lesbian witches in contemporary Salem, Massachusetts most definitely are. I picked this as a Book of the Month add-on last year, but I finally got around to reading it this month.

The basics: The first in a duology (series of two--how refreshing to not have a trilogy!), this novel introduces Hannah, "Hannah's a witch, but not the kind you're thinking of. She's the real deal, an Elemental with the power to control fire, earth, water, and air. But even though she lives in Salem, Massachusetts, her magic is a secret she has to keep to herself. If she's ever caught using it in front of a Reg (read: non-witch), she could lose it. For good. So, Hannah spends most of her time avoiding her ex-girlfriend (and fellow Elemental Witch) Veronica, hanging out with her best friend, and working at the Fly by Night Cauldron selling candles and crystals to tourists, goths, and local Wiccans." (publisher)

My thoug…

book thoughts: Fair Warning by Michael Connelly

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The backstory: Michael Connelly is my favorite mystery writer. I've read all thirty-six of his novels (so far), and I read through most of those in 2014 when I was pregnant with Hawthorne.

The basics: Fair Warning brings back journalist Jack McEvoy, whom we haven't seen in more than ten years (in The Scarecrow). He finds himself a suspect when a woman he had a one-night stand with is murdered. He takes on the story as a reporter.

My thoughts: Connelly started has a newspaper reporter, and he uses this opportunity to showcase how the profession has changed since we last saw Jack McEvoy: "I was proud of what we had accomplished and proud to call myself a journalist in a time when the profession was constantly under attack." Connelly has written most of his novels featuring LAPD detective Harry Bosch, but his two other series (The Lincoln Lawyer--Mickey Haller and this one, featuring McEvoy) have always featured mysteries that couldn't or wouldn't be solved by the…

Wrapping Up My May Challenge Reading & Planning for June

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In late April, I shared my ideas and thoughts about what to read for the May prompts for the Around the Year in 52 Books Challenge. Now it's time to think about what to read in June:
23.  A book featuring an LGBTQIA+ character or by an LGBTQIA+ author

This category has SO MANY choices, but the timing aligns perfectly for the fourth mystery in the Roxane Weary series. Weary is a bisexual private detective, and it releases July 7. Plenty of time to read the first three, if you haven't already! Start with The Last Place You Look. Another option I plan to read soon anyway: This Coven Won't Break, the sequel to These Witches Don't Burn, which I read earlier this month. 
24. A book with an emotion in the title
I have quite a few options on my shelf that would work for this one, and I'll likely choose on of these titles with love in it:

I only have one Taylor Jenkins Reid book I haven't read, and I've been saving it: One True Loves. I've also had Merritt Tierce…

comics interludes: Stepping Stones, Killing and Dying, and Intro to Alien Invasion

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As I've been home for more than two months, I've found myself (finally) reading through my backlog of comics I've checked out from the library (thank you extended due dates!) It's fun to dip into a book I can read in a single sitting, and it helps keep my reading momentum going. Here are three I've read this month:

Stepping Stones by Lucy Knisley

Y'all know I love Lucy Knisley's graphic memoirs and comics, so I was excited to read her debut middle-grade graphic novel, which is inspired by her childhood. When Jen's parents get divorced, she has to leave New York City and moves to an upstate farm with her mom and her mom's boyfriend. His two daughters only live with them every other weekend. All three help sell at the farmer's market. As always, Knisley's art is lovely. I struggled with this graphic novel because I found it to be very sad. Because we only see things from Jen's perspective, and she's so young, the wisdom and perspective …

book thoughts: The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon

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The backstory: The Boyfriend Project was one of the May Book of the Month picks. Before that, I'd never heard of it, but it sounded so fun, I added it to my box. Most of the books I pick from Book of the Month are titles I already wanted, but I love when it introduces me to new things.

The basics:  "Samiah Brooks never thought she would be "that" girl. But a live tweet of a horrific date just revealed the painful truth: she's been catfished by a three-timing jerk of a boyfriend. Suddenly Samiah-along with his two other "girlfriends," London and Taylor-have gone viral online. Now the three new besties are making a pact to spend the next six months investing in themselves. No men and no dating."--publisher

My thoughts: This book is filled with fun, friendship, romance, and just the right amount of drama. It manages to be fun and made me feel good, but it also manages to feel real. It's the right combination of real and escapist. I loved the charac…

book thoughts: Stray by Stephanie Danler

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The backstory: Stephanie Danler's debut novel, Sweetbitter, is one of my all-time favorites.

The basics: Stray is a memoir "of growing up in a family shattered by lies and addiction, and of one woman’s attempts to find a life beyond the limits of her past."

My thoughts: One of the reasons I loved Sweetbitter so much is that it's the rare trifecta of a novel that has a great plot/characters, great writing, and great wisdom. Stray is filled with great writing and great wisdom, but those looking for a traditional memoir may find the book's construction a bit confusing. It's broken into three thematic sections: Mother, Father, and The Monster (the married man with whom she has an affair), but the three characters overlap across all three sections. The vignettes also move across geography and time. Stray is a writer's memoir. I'm grateful I had the time and space to read it in twenty-four (non-consecutive) hours. Many of the vignettes or essays would work we…

book thoughts: Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld

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The backstory: Curtis Sittenfeld is one of my favorite writers. I've read and loved all of her books. American Wife, a fictionalization of Laura Bush's life, is one of my all-time favorite novels (and the first one I loved so much I rated it 6 stars out of 5.) When she announced she was writing a novel imagining what might have happened if Hillary Clinton never married Bill Clinton (she famously said no twice in real life), it immediately became the most anticipated novel of the year.
My thoughts: This novel is best enjoyed the less you know about it. Of course, as I read, I kept wondering: will Hillary become president? That is a compelling plot point, for sure, but it's also a deceptively simple question in what is a brilliantly complex novel. This novel is both the story of the life of one woman and the ways in which her life would be similar or different if she didn't marry Bill Clinton. As the story of the life of a fascinating, if sometimes frustrating, person, it…

April 2020 reading recap

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April may have been the month my reading came back to earth. I still managed eight books, which is about two a week. Interestingly, that's what I typically average for print/ebook reading in a month. What's missing? I didn't finish a single audiobook in April, when I have been finishing four a month. I've been listening to my current audiobook since mid-March. Since I spend most of my waking hours with my spouse and kid or working, I've lost most of my solo audiobook time. I have no problem reading a book when we're hanging out together, but somehow it seems odd to put on my headphones on when we're all in the same room together! Honestly, given how stressful work is during the week, I'm amazed I managed to read eight books. I read erratically during the week and then read most of the weekend. I think it's a testament to how important choosing the right book for the right time is for me now. All eight books were at least a four star read, but two we…

graphic novel thoughts: Pollock Confidential by Onofrio Catacchio

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The basics: "This vivid graphic novel delves into his pioneering physical approach to making art, highlights the key characters surrounding the New York mid-century art scene, and reveals the intriguing relationship between Pollock's painting and the covert activities of the Cold War."--publisher

My thoughts: I majored in Art History in college (and Journalism and Women's Studies), and I have a particular fondness for Abstract Expressionism and Jackson Pollock. I will never forget the feeling of seeing my first Pollock in person. The scope and scale and texture took my breath away and made me understand art in new ways. I was curious to see how this graphic novel (it is fiction, albeit very closely tied--for the most part--to history) told his story. I read this fascinating graphic novel in a single sitting. It has it all: history, art, drama, romance, politics, spies, and death. The visuals are stunning and capture the scale of Abstract Expressionism well. It's a…

Happy Book Birthday to All Adults Here!

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The backstory: I've read and enjoyed all of Emma Straub's books. All Adults Here is one of the novels I was most excited for in 2020. I'm thrilled to see it's the May Read with Jenna pick.

The basics:  "When Astrid Strick witnesses a school bus accident in the center of town, it jostles loose a repressed memory from her young parenting days decades earlier. Suddenly, Astrid realizes she was not quite the parent she thought she'd been to her three, now-grown children. But to what consequence?"--publisher

My thoughts: I have realized, particularly since I had a child, how much I appreciate the writing of women around my age who also have children around the age of my kid. The experience of parenthood changes so much day to day and week to week and month to month, that there is a particular kind of comfort for those who can articulate the experience that aligns with mine. Emma Straub and I were born the same year, and Hawthorne is half-way in between her two k…

Planning my May Challenge Reading

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One of my favorite things has become the Around the Year in 52 Books Reading Challenge. From June through December 2019, we nominated and voted on the prompts for this challenge, and each week (or so), we each read a book for that week's prompt. In 2019, I participated in the challenge, but I didn't read the prompts in order. I'm having more fun reading in order this year. In May, there are four prompts, and I welcome your suggestions for ideas of what to read. I'm limited by books on my own shelves or books I can get from the library digitally, as our public libraries and the academic library I work at are both closed until further notice.

19. A fantasy book

I don't read fantasy very often, but I do have a few Book of the Month options on my shelf: These Witches Don't Burn by Isabel Sterling and Ninth Houseby Leigh Bardugo.



Both are the first in a series and sound entertaining. Have you read either of them?

20. The 20th book (eg. on your TBR, in a series, by an …

March 2020 reading recap

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March continued my fantastic reading of 2020. As I did in February, I read twelve books, which brought my yearly total to 35. In 2019, I didn't hit 35 books until July.

Comics



Everything Is Teeth by Evie Wyld 
I've read one of Evie Wyld's novels before, and I've had this graphic memoir checked out from the the library for years (art by Joe Sumner.) I finally read it, and like All the Birds, Singing (my review), it left me wanting more. The prose is sparse and focused on Wyld's fascination with sharks. It's an interesting, quick read. (3 stars)

The Encyclopedia of Early Earth by Isabel Greenberg
I didn't know what to expect from this graphic novel, and after reading it, it's both hard to describe and better if you go in with no expectations, so I'll simply say: it's a delightful, fascinating fictional history and mythology. (4 stars)

Mysteries & Thrillers



Blessed are the Peacemakers and Blessed are the Merciful by Kristi Belcamino
Blessed are the P…