Before we even get into today’s post, for every post I make this month, I’ll be shouting out Black creators, authors, etc., that I personally follow and enjoy. For this post, here’s a few books by Black queer authors.
- You Should See Me In a Crown by Leah Johnson
- How to Be Remy Cameron by Julian Winters
- All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
- The Deep by Rivers Solomon
- Meet Cute Club by Jack Harbon
- Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender.
Of course, there are many more that I have read and will be reading, this is just a starting place.
Hello I’m Rogan and welcome to my wrap up of January books. I tried to join in on Read Your Shelves, but I ended up not reading *that* much this month, certainly not as much as December! I had two library holds come in, so I read those. I am working on the books on my shelf, I promise! Let’s get into it.
Lobizona by Romina Garber. This is the first in a new series, and I am SO excited to see where this goes! Manuela Azul has grown up being confined to a small apartment in Miami, Florida due to her undocumented status and her unusual eyes. She’s felt crammed and stuck, until her life is turned upside down. Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, her mother gets arrested by ICE, and she uncovers secrets that have been long hidden. One thing leads to another while investigating what she can about her past. She discovers a secret world hidden within ours, one where brujas and lobizóns exist. In this world, her unusual eyes aren’t so unusual after all. As Manu learns more about this hidden world and her true heritage all the way back to Argentina, she learns that her entire existence is illegal and she shouldn’t even exist as a lobizona. I really, really enjoyed this! This world is nothing like I’ve read before, as it should be! I don’t know that much about Argentinian folklore, but large portions of this are based on those. Especially the one where the seventh son becomes a werewolf or lobizón, and the seventh daughter is a witch or bruja. For those who might not be catching it, I want to emphasize that this is one of those cases where there’s strong gender divides – the men are lobizóns and the women are brujas. Manu is a lobizona, which is unknown and hasn’t happened before (or so people think). Manu experiences a range of emotions – joy at finally understanding why she’s different and finding a place where she could possibly belong, grief at her mother being detained by ICE and being unable to help her. She has to move carefully while in this hidden world, because everyone else has grown up in this world and she knows nothing. Knowing nothing could get her killed, and trying to figure out who and where her father is is also dangerous. This is part of a series like I said earlier, and while it isn’t a *huge* cliffhanger, it does leave off on a big question mark of what will happen next. And I, for one, look forward to it.
City of the Plague God by Sarwat Chadda. A Rick Riordan Presents book, this story tells us Mesopotamian legends, taking us far, far back to the stories of Gilgamesh, Babylon, the deities – Ishtar of love and war, and Nergal of plague and war. This takes place in present-day Manhattan, following thirteen-year-old Sikander Aziz, or Sik, who works at his parents’ deli in the evenings and goes to school. It’s a pretty simple and good life, until one night the deli gets completely destroyed by Nergal, who has come for Sik because he’s sure that Sik holds something important. Sik has to figure out what that is, and with the help of Belet, the adopted daughter of Ishtar, stop Nergal from completely destroying Manhattan and subsequently, the world. I LOVE that Riordan has this imprint, because I really enjoy learning about all the various mythologies and beliefs around the world. This was incredible! It touched on family, loss, grief, how people deal with that in their own way, Islamophobia and bullies, but it also has snarky jokes, badass fights, god-tier nonsense. Mesopotamian lore is woven throughout, and it was really fun learning about that! If you enjoy the style of the Riordan books or any that were published under this imprint, you’ll like this. Of course, you might not want to read it at the moment since it has a plague in it, so that’s completely understandable. I enjoyed the legend-making regardless.
Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-first Century edited by Alice Wong. This is a collection of various essays written by disabled people. It has a fairly good variety of people across age, race, class, and disabilities in it – wheelchair users of various disabilities, blind people, cerebral palsy, autism, cognitive disabilities, deaf people, and more. I want to touch on the deaf people quickly. There’s an essay written by Haben Girma, and I look forward to eventually reading her full book. There’s one that’s a translated interview with a deaf prisoner. Both of them are important essays, yes. However – Girma’s essay focused far more on the blind part of her identity, and guide dogs. The prison interview was, well, all about the experience of being deaf in prison. There was no essay from a culturally deaf person that would have a far different experience from these two people. I know that this book has no way of covering every possible identity and story, but it would have been nice to see one more deaf story that has more about deaf culture and that way of navigating the world. Overall, I did enjoy this collection of essays, and if needed, the essays have content warnings at the beginning so that’s there too. There’s also a list of resources, other books to read, and such in the back.
The Gravity of Us by Phil Stamper. Cal is a successful seventeen-year-old social media journalist who enjoys sharing his life in Brooklyn, and all the local news. In this, NASA is working on a very publicized mission to Mars, with the aim of having astronauts live on Mars. Cal’s pilot father gets selected, so their family is relocated to Houston, thrust into the spotlight and a media frenzy. Cal is angry about this move, since he and his mother didn’t know that his father had applied until he was accepted. Cal has to leave behind his best friend, a promising internship, and move to a place where he knows nobody, his online presence being controlled (or attempted to) by StarWatch—a reality show that’s handling all of the media around the astronauts and their families—and NASA. Then he meets Leon, another Astrokid, mysterious and cute. As Cal spends more time in Texas, he starts to discover things about the program and the reality show and has to figure out how to expose it without hurting all the people he cares for. Those who know me know that I love anything science related, and NASA firmly fits into that. Also, I might be a little biased since my birthday is the same day (not year!) as the moon landing in 1969. Anyway, I really enjoyed this. I liked that we got to see all of the nerdy stuff past what the astronauts do. We were introduced to a soil scientist, the woman who creates the simulations and tries to “kill” the astronauts, and some others. I also appreciated the commentary on social media, what it takes to have a presence and how it can affect the person doing it, along with everyone around them, and being a public figure, all the stress that comes with it. There is discussion of mental health, how people deal with it, the fact that it can’t be fixed but managed. This might be a spoiler, but I think it’s important to mention that Leon has depression, and Cal’s mother has anxiety, goes to therapy to help manage it. Cal learns that his instinct to fix things can cause more problems and that he has to accept some things can’t be fixed, he needs to have patience, understanding, and do his best to support the people he loves. It wasn’t a full five star for me because while this is a romance, and marketed as such, I almost feel like it was a little distracting from the story of NASA, fame, all of that pressure. The romance was great and cute but a little too insta-love for me as well. Cal and Leon barely knew each other, and the relationship that developed felt like it had some jumps that don’t normally happen. Cal also was selfish and kind of an ass to his friends, so that was a little difficult to move past. He also does some things in regard to the social media and reality show that were kind of not okay. He does grow and learn from it, but oof. Slightly problematic main character, wonderful supporting characters, story about space and fame, I recommend it.
Carrying Albert Home: The Somewhat True Story of A Man, His Wife, and Her Alligator by Homer Hickam. Homer is telling the story that his parents told him in bits over the years, starting in the 1930s when they had just married. Homer Sr. and Elsie live in West Virginia, and have done so for all their lives. Before Elsie married Homer, she had escaped to Florida for a brief time but the Great Depression sent her back home. She fell into a marriage with Homer, and one day Elsie received an alligator as a gift from someone she knew in Florida. She kept it and raised it until one day her husband had quite enough, and gave her an ultimatum. Homer or Albert. Elsie decided that there was only one option – bringing Albert home to Florida. They embark on a road trip all the way from West Virginia down to Florida, and on the way, they have some wild experiences. Movie stars, revolutionaries, famous authors, foul weather, and more. On this journey, they learn a lot about themselves and each other, going through heartbreak, joy, recovery, love. I got this from the clearance section of Half Price Books just because of the cover and the description. This was a medium book for me, I didn’t love it but I didn’t hate it either. This is a book of tall tales, only partially based in reality. It’s very quirky and outlandish, but has some good lessons at its heart. I felt some parts dragged on and some flipped past quickly. The writing is very interesting, it’s written a bit more like how it would have been written in the era. It’s hard to give a review for something that’s partially based on people’s lives, so I’m just going to not go any further. If you’re willing to suspend a lot of disbelief, this can be a good read.
That’s it for January! Let me know what you’ve read or would like to. If not that, what are you currently reading?
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