Hello, I’m Rogan and welcome to my wrap up for April books. This month, I read 13 books, but five were graphic novels. Let’s get right into it!
The first book I read this month was also the first of a new book club specifically for signers. If you’re interested, I’ll leave a link for their Instagram down below. The book we read was A Woman Is No Man. This mainly follows two different perspectives in two different times, Isra in 1990 and Deya in 2008. This is a story about Palestinian-American women who have experienced heavy oppression by their culture. Isra lived in Palestine until an arranged marriage had her moving to the US to live with the Ra’ad family. She saw this as an opportunity for a fresh start and freedom. Deya lives in her grandparents’ house in Brooklyn, dreaming of going to college. Her grandmother is insisting she get married first, and brings suitor after suitor, attempting to arrange a marriage. Isra struggles with the expectations placed on her to bear a child, especially a son. She has four daughters and no sons, so faces a lot of judgment from her community for “failing” her family. Deya struggles with the expectations that women are supposed to be good wives, keep house, bear children, and not be interested in things like college or working. As this goes on, we see how Isra and Deya are connected. We also get some of the grandmother’s perspective, which is also her struggling with her culture’s expectations for women. First, I’m obviously white, masculine-presenting, and US-born so I definitely do not share any of this experience. With that, I did enjoy this read. I’ve read several Muslim stories that have talked about the cultural views on women, some positive, some negative. This really went hard on it though, it didn’t hold back on “airing dirty laundry” and told it as it is for some people living with that experience. There is some abuse, and a brief scene of nonconsensual sex. Overall, this is good, but not easy to read. I want to quickly mention a quote I really liked from this. “She thinks about the stories stacked across the shelves, leaning against one another like burdened bodies, supporting the worlds within each other.” I thought that this was a beautiful way to describe a library and all of its books.
Next, I wanted something light and funny so I read something that I found on NetGalley, Ghosted in LA Vol 1. This book is out now! Daphne graduates high school and moves to L.A. for college, following her high school boyfriend. When she arrives, she finds a rude roommate and gets dumped by her sweetheart. Lost and alone, she’s wandering the streets sobbing her heart out when she runs into a light pole and notices a big old mansion, Rycroft Manor. Out of curiosity, she goes in and encounters ghosts! After the initial panic, she negotiates with them, and gets her own room in the mansion. Supernatural hijinks ensue! I enormously enjoyed this supernatural romp in Los Angeles! I loved the illustrations in this, the art is just gorgeous. The representation in this is great too with a bi/pan Jewish main character and several side characters that are queer. I’m definitely looking forward to the upcoming volumes, because in this, the focus was on introducing the characters, the backstories of each ghost, so the worldbuilding suffered a little for that. I can’t wait to learn more about how they came to be at Rycroft, a bit more about how the supernatural works, and their adventures together.
I was still in the mood for light reads so I went for a re-read of Bloom. This is an adorable story of two boys who meet because of a bakery. Ari’s family owns the bakery which is in a little coastal town, and he’s been working there his whole life. He wants to get out of town though, to the big city with his band. Ari’s trying to find a replacement, and one day Hector walks into the bakery and changes his life. I just love this cute queer story, and definitely would recommend it. The whole thing is in a gorgeous blue monochrome like the cover, and the illustrations of the food is amazing. I want this bakery to be a real place!
After a couple of light reads, I went on a N.K. Jemisin binge. I started this binge with How Long ’til Black Future Month? which is a collection of short stories Jemisin’s written over the years. A few of them went on to become full-length stories that are currently out. I love being able to see that part of someone’s process, what started as something little, a small idea that grew into something much bigger. For example, Stone Hunger is what eventually became The Fifth Season. There were some fundamental basics that were changed for the full-length novel, which I think were appropriate! But I liked seeing what Jemisin started with. Another one is The City Born Great, which became her most recent release, The City We Became. I haven’t read the full-length book yet, I have it on hold at my library. But! What I read in the short story made me even more excited to read the book. I know I haven’t really described any of the stories, but it’s so hard when they’re short stories and there’s so many of them. Instead, I’ll list a few of the ones that really stuck out to me. L’Alchimista, The Effluent Engine, Cloud Dragon Skies, The Trojan Girl, On the Banks of the River Lex, and Non-Zero Probabilities. Many of these are available online to read as stand-alones. I’d definitely recommend reading this collection!
Then I read the next two books in The Broken Earth trilogy, The Obelisk Gate and The Stone Sky. Since they’re the second and third in this series, I obviously can’t say too much without accidentally spoiling the first book. But I will say that the stakes get even higher, and it’s *so* worth the hype! If you like apocalyptic worlds with a touch of fantasy and science fiction, this is definitely a read to check out.
I decided I wanted to do a re-read of Red, White, & Royal Blue,in part because of where our world is today. This is like an alternate reality that I wish existed. In this universe, a white woman won the 2016 election for president. Her children are mixed race, and her son, Alex Claremont-Diaz, is bisexual. Of course, he doesn’t know this until later on. Alex is at the wedding of British royalty and causes an international incident with Prince Henry of Wales, his long-time rival. They’re forced to pretend they’re best friends and it was just a big misunderstanding. They eventually realize they actually have quite a lot in common, quickly falling into a romance that they struggle to keep hidden. This is just a wonderful hate-to-love story, and I *need* more people to read this! These two disaster boys are so adorable, and I live for their relationship.
Next was my book club’s second book, Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed. This is a memoir of a therapist, which is kind of obvious from the title. One day, Lori Gottlieb’s working with her patients as usual. The next, her life turns upside down and Lori realizes she needs a therapist for herself, and finds one in Wendell, a quirky and experienced therapist. While she learns the innermost parts of her patients—who include a self-centered Hollywood producer, a newlywed with a terminal illness, a senior who decided she’s going to end her life if things don’t get better by her birthday, and a twenty-something woman who keeps hooking up with the wrong guys—they make her wrestle with some of the same questions for herself in her own therapy. Lori doesn’t just talk about her patients, but also talks about her own life and how she arrived to therapy much later in her life. This was after being a TV writer on ER, deciding to pursue a medical career, while writing at the same time, until an advisor suggested she do psychotherapy. Lori was much more interested in the “helping people” part of the medical field anyway, so this is how she finally became a therapist. I enjoyed seeing inside a therapist’s head while she sat with her patients and worked with them on their problems. I thought this was an interesting read. Not blow-away-amazing, but interesting for sure.
I was browsing Hoopla to find something easy and quick to use up my remaining borrows for the month, and I spotted this book, I Will Judge You by Your Bookshelf. Of course, I had to read it! This is simply a love letter to bookworms, people who love books in all forms. It’s full of one or two page comics that explore bookishness in various forms. There are comics about reading spots, treatment of books, progression of reading habits, and so many more. It did get a little repetitive at times, and some were pretty stereotypical, but again this is short comic form so it’s hard to cram a lot into a small space. If you love books in any way, you’ll probably enjoy this quick read.
Still on Hoopla, I was looking for graphic novels to read, and I found Legend of Korra: Turf Wars. I read all three parts so I’ll sum them up together. This is set immediately after the TV series ends, where Korra and Asami are on a short vacation in the Spirit World. When they come back, they find Republic City in chaos with political scheming going on and human/spirit conflict. A snooty developer wants to turn the new spirit portal into an amusement park, angering the spirits. The triads are shifting and fighting over territory, while evacuees are clamoring for homes. There’s a new bid for the presidency, a kidnapping and sojourn into the Spirit Wilds, and of course, bending fights. I will always relish a chance to get back into this world and learn more about it. The illustrations are amazing, and the story arcs are engaging. One thing that did disappoint me was that these were SO short, or felt like it. I kept feeling like I wanted more story, more depth. I did enjoy this though! I also read the next trilogy of Korra graphic novels, but I read them in May so *clicks* you gotta wait. One more thing I want to add. Korra and Asami are for sure in a relationship. They’re a queer couple. I’m thrilled about that. They actually have more characters that are shown as queer. They couldn’t do it for the TV show, because… You know. Networks don’t like letting queer people be visible. Anyway.
Finally, the last book I read this month was Little Secrets which was a free copy I received from Minotaur Books for a review. This is a mystery thriller about Marin Machado who has the perfect life—married to her college sweetheart who has his own company, and she owns a chain of fancy hair salons. Then it’s turned upside down when their young son, Sebastian, is taken from her. There’s a huge hunt for him, but the trail goes cold and we meet Marin again a year later, where she’s a shadow of her former self. She clings to hope that Sebastian can be found, and she’s hired her own private investigator to keep up the search. The PI happens to discover that Derek’s having an affair on her with a young artist and grad student, McKenzie Li. Kenzie is deep in debt, but she’s also a professional girlfriend. She knows Derek is rich, and uses the perks that comes with dating him. He’s not the first, but she’s falling for him and that was never the plan. When Marin finds out about the affair, rage gets her going again. This is a problem she can *fix* and sets a plan in motion. The blurb gives away a thing that we don’t really learn until muuuuch later in the story, so I would suggest you avoid reading it if you want to keep the suspense. I think that might have ruined the tension for me a bit, though I kind of enjoyed this? I gave it a three out of five stars, not because it’s bad or good, but because I had mixed feelings about it. This was more focused on Marin and Kenzie, the whole affair, rather than the mother and her missing son. Sure, it’s a part of the story and the grief plays a big part in Marin and Derek’s behavior—even though I never liked Derek, and would have left him a long time ago. But this was definitely more about the affair and Marin’s actions to end it to preserve her perfect rich white lady life. Honestly, I don’t really care for stories like that. I felt more for Kenzie, who was struggling with being able to afford school while paying for care of her sick mother. Yeah, being a professional girlfriend and taking advantage of married rich men is gross, but she’s doing it to survive. #millennialproblems. Just so you know, there are zero “good” characters in this book. Some are still likable, but none of them are great or perfect. I saw several of the twists coming from miles off, one of them because it was given away in the blurb. So yeah, I clearly have very mixed feelings about this.
All in all, a pretty good month of reading! There were some fantastic books that I’d happily re-read. Have you read any of these? Leave it in the comments, or books that you would recommend.
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