Books on books on books! That’s right, it’s time to talk about what I read in the second quarter of 2019. In these posts, I not only share what I read in the previous 3 months, but I also review them. I hope this helps you find your next read!
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Inheritance: A Memoir of Genealogy, Paternity, and Love (5/5) – I read Inheritance in probably 36 hours. It was incredible. It’s a memoir about what happens when you find out from one of the ancestry DNA sites that your father isn’t your father. Novelist and memoirist Dani Shapiro crafts a tale that makes you feel like you’re there with her when she finds out she isn’t related to her half-sister, when she receives a crushing email, when she reflects on off-hand comments her mother made in the past that may illuminate all. I immediately leant it to my mother, who is actually a genealogist, and then she leant it to friends. This story is told in around 50 short chapters, and between that and the writing, you, too, will cruise through it.
The Winter Mantle (3/5) – I’m super into historical fiction, and I’ve read so many of Elizabeth Chadwick’s books, but this is the first historical fiction book I’ve read that takes place right around the time of William the Conqueror, well, Conquering. It focuses first on the relationship of his niece, the Norman Lady Judith, and her relationship with Waltheof, an Anglo-Saxon earl. Then, it focuses on their elder daughter. I found this fascinating, as it’s the beginning of the time period when there’s a HUGE difference between the Norman ruling class and the English (aka Anglo-Saxons). However, it lagged a lot later in the book, and I think it could have ended earlier than it does.
Shadow and Bone (4/5) – This is the first in the Grisha Shadow and Bone trilogy by Leigh Bardugo! She wrote the Six of Crows duology set in the same universe and wow is she good. “Orphaned and expendable, Alina Starkov is a soldier who knows she may not survive her first trek across the Shadow Fold―a swath of unnatural darkness crawling with monsters. But when her regiment is attacked, Alina unleashes dormant magic not even she knew she possessed. Now Alina will enter a lavish world of royalty and intrigue as she trains with the Grisha, her country’s magical military elite―and falls under the spell of their notorious leader, the Darkling. He believes Alina can summon a force capable of destroying the Shadow Fold and reuniting their war-ravaged country, but only if she can master her untamed gift. As the threat to the kingdom mounts and Alina unlocks the secrets of her past, she will make a dangerous discovery that could threaten all she loves and the very future of a nation” (x).
Siege and Storm (5/5) – This is the second book in the Shadow and Bone trilogy! I absolutely loved it. “Alina Starkov’s power has grown, but not without a price. She is the Sun Summoner―hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Shadow Fold. But she and Mal can’t outrun their enemies for long. The Darkling is more determined than ever to claim Alina’s magic and use it to take the Ravkan throne. With nowhere else to turn, Alina enlists the help of an infamous privateer and sets out to lead the Grisha army. But as the truth of Alina’s destiny unfolds, she slips deeper into the Darkling’s deadly game of forbidden magic, and further away from her humanity. To save her country, Alina will have to choose between her power and the love she thought would always be her shelter. No victory can come without sacrifice―and only she can face the oncoming storm” (x).
The Devouring Grey (5/5) – This is a YA fantasy novel about a town, its monster, and the teens who try to protect the town from it. It’s the first half of a duology and I can’t wait for the sequel to come out next year! A quote on the front cover says fans of The Raven Boys and Stranger Things will love TDG, and while I haven’t read the former, I am a fan of the latter, and TDG does have similar vibes.
The Silent Patient (3/5) – Certain elements of it were good – I didn’t see the twists coming, it was enthralling, and it was certainly new. But there was an undercurrent of ableism that I, a disabled person, couldn’t help but see. The story features Theo, a psychotherapist who is incredibly unethical, including the fact that he seeks out this job at a criminal psychiatric center because of one patient in particular. (By the way, except in group therapy, we never see him work with another patient.) The plot is that Alicia hasn’t spoken a word since she killed her husband 6 years previously. Her psychiatrist – not Theo – is of the opinion that her decision not to speak isn’t an illness but a conscious choice by her. As someone who spent years seeing doctors who told me that my pain was all made up or I was trying to get out of class, that cut me to the core. In the end, it wasn’t entirely clear to me whether or not her silence was medical or not. The mental health professionals in this book also perpetuate stereotypes of people living with conditions like borderline personality disorder and bipolar disorder (such as they’re incapable of empathy). And I really think that I wouldn’t have been bothered so much if the book wasn’t told from the view of a mental health professional. It gives the implication that the stereotypes are true because a mental health professional, albeit a fictional one, condones them. For what it’s worth, it doesn’t look like the author has any professional mental health background. At the end of the day, these ableist undercurrents ruined the experience for me. In my opinion, this book spreads more misinformation about already misunderstood conditions that it spreads a good reading experience.
White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism (5/5) – This book should be required reading for all white people. It is an incredible read. I actually read it for a book club, and it has been really great to dig through it with others. I strongly, STRONGLY recommend it.
Circe (5/5) – I absolutely LOVED this book. I’m also a mythology nerd and first read The Odyssey in the 5th grade, so I’m definitely in the target demographic for this book. “In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child–not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power–the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves. Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus. But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. With unforgettably vivid characters, mesmerizing language and page-turning suspense, Circe is a triumph of storytelling, an intoxicating epic of family rivalry, palace intrigue, love and loss, as well as a celebration of indomitable female strength in a man’s world” (x).
Dracula (4/5) – I really enjoyed it! It’s a great example of Gothic literature, and I can see why it has affected pop culture the way it has. My only real complaint is that it felt very slow for parts of the book and then the ending happened very quickly. But otherwise, it’s a great read!
Where the Crawdads Sing (5/5) – This book, guys. You all said that it was amazing, and guess what? You were right. It was a slow start – I couldn’t listen to more than 30 minutes of it at a time – but by the end, I didn’t want to stop reading. It was absolutely amazing. The ending made me cry (in a good way). Trigger warnings for abuse and attempted rape.
Cleopatra: A Life (4/5) – Overall, it’s really good and fascinating. Here are some of my favorite lines from it. “A capable, clear-eyes sovereign, she knew how to build a fleet, suppress an insurrection, control a currency, alleviate a famine.” “Can anything good be said of a woman who slept with the two most powerful men of her time? Possibly, but not in an age when Rome controlled the narrative.” “Cleopatra stood at one of the most dangerous intersections in history: that of women and power.” “Behind every great fortune, it has been noted, is a crime.” “Half-starved and partly incapacitated, she is as feisty as ever.” “If you were looking for a date for the beginning of the modern world, her death would be the next to fix upon. With her she took both the four-hundred-year-old Roman Republic and the Hellenistic Age.”
What have you read recently?
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