Category Archives: books

Best of 2020: Romance Novels

Like so many others, romance novels helped get me through this terrible year. The comfort in a promised happily ever after and stories that are extremely character-focused were something I could handle when my ability to follow complex plots was limited. Stories about healing and thriving after hardship were a reminder that better days were to come and that the future is worth fighting for. The kindness extended these characters at their lowest and the belief that they deserved happiness reminded me to extend that same kindness to myself when I was struggling. Romance was here to make me smile, to make my cry, and to make me forget everything else, if only for a little while, and live in the joy of these characters and the many I couldn’t include in this list.

But more than the books itself, it was the community that meant the most. It was a rocky start to the year as RWA continued its very public implosion but it also brought me a whole lot of new authors to follow on Twitter (which in turn brought me more recommendations and even more happiness). Their discussions on Romancelandia and where they would like to see it go in the future, feelings and analysis of current events, and their general no-nonsense attitude when it comes to dealing with outdated, often sexist, attempts to devalue the work they do educated me, made me think, and gave me hope when I needed it most.

Then the Fated Mates phonebanking and Romancing the Runoff happened and I really got to see the power of community. Out of a shared interest in stories, people joined together to turn that love into action and it was inspiring to watch. As of December 17th, Romancing the Runoff raised almost half a million dollars in a month and a half for voting rights organizations in Georgia and Fated Mates have made hundreds of thousands of phone calls and organized postcard drives for both the national election and the Georgia runoff. The enthusiasm and drive was infectious and did so much to make a never ending election feel a little more survivable. I couldn’t be prouder to be a part of this corner of this community and what they have chosen to stand for.

1. Xeni by Rebekah Weatherspoon I am pretty sure that Rebekah Weatherspoon is my most read author of the year at 8 books and this was my very favorite of hers. As with all of her books, there is a grace and compassion that she extends toward her protagonists that gets me every time and then couples that with supportive friendships and truly some of the best sex scenes in the genre. I loved Xeni as a character from the little bit we got of her in Rafe and loved this particular story for her. It is a contemporary marriage of convenience plot with two bisexual leads, a whole lot of family secrets and baggage, and an incredibly sweet love story. It was a connection they never expected when they started the project (though there’s never any real animosity or bickering as they figured out their arrangement) and they were both able to find comfort and security in the other. They are both such good, kind, loyal people that you root for their happiness individually and with each other. Her books, especially her Loose Ends series, which are very connected with the Fit and Beards and Bondage trilogies, are some of the emotionally fulfilling romances I’ve read and I love their emphasis on healing and community. This book may be my favorite but really, this is just a plea for you to check out Weatherspoon’s work in general because she deserves to be a huge success. (Add to Goodreads)

2. The Boyfriend Project by Farrah Rochon How do you not immediately love a book where three women realize their boyfriend is cheating on them with the others and instantly decide they’re going to be friends from there forward? I am in love with all three of these women and the easy friendship they struck up, it is probably my favorite trilogy setup in a very long time. This is Samiah’s story and first of all, I love that she is a Black woman developing an app that I would very much like to use. We do not talk about women in the tech world enough and that is especially true for Black women and other women of color so I appreciated that we got this look in what that means in her work life. Romance novels in general have been terrific at exploring lived experiences like this and not shying away from both the difficulties and the joys and it really brings them to life. Second, few things are more enjoyable to read than inconvenient romances. Love doesn’t always come on a timeframe and that is exactly what Samiah and Daniel found in each other. There were reasons that they should have started anything but the chemistry and attraction was undeniable and they took a chance that (of course) ultimately paid off. Sometimes we have to let our feelings take us where they will instead of shove them away and take joy when it comes and I loved watching Samiah do just that.  (Add to Goodreads)

3. Take A Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert This was one of my most anticipated books of 2020 after loving Get A Life, Chloe Brown last year and it did not disappoint. I love a determined heroine who insists she doesn’t have time (or the emotional capacity) for romance and a hero with a soft heart. Throw in some fake dating and I am all the way in. But one of my favorite things about this trilogy so far (and Hibbert as an author in general) is the weight she gives to the mental health of her characters. Zaf has anxiety, including an on page panic attack, and it’s never treated as anything that makes him less desirable as a person. Dani has some issues to work through with feeling like her personality and way of approaching the world makes her fundamentally incompatible with romance and they both start to work through and address those issues. They’re never things keeping them from being together, just things to work on and with to be the best versions of themselves. It is full of compassion for these two characters at every stage of their journeys and celebrates holding the things that bring us joy and fulfillment close, which was a message we all needed this year. (Add to Goodreads)

4. Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall If you haven’t had enough fake dating, don’t worry because this book also has you covered. Luc is the son of a rockstar and enough of a mess that he’s a tabloid staple. Oliver is the son who will never live up to his parents’ expectations but he’s going to try his hardest anyway and shut out anything that might mess up that image of himself. So naturally, when Luc needs a boyfriend to convince his nonprofit’s stuffy donors to continue to support them, his friend Bridget recommends Oliver. They are both a pile of unaddressed issues and coping mechanisms disguised as reasonably functioning adults and in addition to seeing them learn to fit together, we get to see them start to heal and move past their traumas. It gets heavy in moments but never overwhelming as it all takes place alongside Luc’s absolutely ridiculous coworkers and his fantastic group of friends who have the best group chat names. Luc’s world feels real and lived in and it’s truly wonderful to see Oliver find his place in it. (Add to Goodreads)

Continue reading Best of 2020: Romance Novels

Best of 2020: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

I say this every year and it continues to be true so it’s worth saying again – these two genres are producing so much amazing content right now that it is hard to keep up with it all. But when with as many of them I read this year, there are so many more that generated a lot of enthusiasm that I couldn’t fit in and that is truly an exciting place to be as a reader. I love the variety of stories being told and all the ways these authors and more are expanding the ideas of what these genres can be and who these stories are about and for. These were some of the books that moved and excited me the most this past year, regardless of genre, with many favorite authors and some that I got to discover for the first time this year.

1. The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune This was my favorite book of 2020. It is beautifully kind and has the most precious found family full of slightly unusual children that deserve all of the love in the world. It’s a fantasy take on a “very regimented main character learns that sometimes a little chaos makes for a happier life” story but mostly it’s about finding your place and your people where you’re allowed to be exactly what you are and so you become a better, fuller version of yourself. Arthur is truly the best adoptive father to his house full of children that no one else would care for and seeing how all of these children blossom throughout the story is heartwarming, as is Linus’s growing love and protectiveness toward them. They may have started as an assignment but they became his and learning to reconcile that with the life he thought he was supposed to have, where he never knew that colors like cerulean could exist and be a part of your life, is the most satisfying emotional journey. It’s a story of good people finding happiness and it was the story I and so many others needed this year. (Add to Goodreads)

2. The City We Became by NK Jemisin I was always going to love this book. It’s by an author I love and it has an amazing premise (5 New Yorkers band together to protect their city from an ancient evil). But even going in with high hopes, it moved me in a way I wasn’t fully prepared for because of when I read it. Fiction is never divorced from our world, it is created from what is and what could be and what ifs. But to read a story of these people fighting for the soul of their city, explicitly against a villain that foments hate and distrust in others, while pausing to browse Twitter and see New York (along with cities across the county) turning out in huge numbers to say that Black Lives Matter and to demand a better, more just world, was an incredibly powerful experience. It is a love letter to New York and the diversity of its residents and neighborhoods and the way they stand together. It’s a world that is simultaneously ours and not ours and that makes the anger and sharpness of the rebukes more straightforward than the sentiments in Jemisin’s Broken Earth trilogy (which is also a gorgeous, searing read) but it does the same thing for the hope. It is a book that explicitly says “the world might be awful, but we don’t have to like it that way” and tells us to want and fight for better. It’s a tremendous start to what is sure to be another outstanding trilogy and I cannot wait for more. (Add to Goodreads)

3. A Killing Frost by Seanan McGuire No piece of media I consumed this year gave me as much excitement or happiness as this book. It is the 14th book in the October Daye series and I don’t understand how this series keeps getting bigger and deeper while still feeling so small and character-driven. It’s a book with gigantic plot implications that immediately set my theorizing brain (and that of the wonderful fandom on Discord) going in all sorts of fun ways but it also features one of McGuire’s favorite things to write about and that is the idea of finding your way home. Over the course of the book, it’s a description that could apply to three different characters and each time, it made me very emotional. Home is the place you fit, where there are people who love you. Whether that is a daughter, a squire, a fiance, an aunt, the man you once loved and his wife, or any of the other complicated string of relationships that make up this wonderful universe, it is finding those people and holding on to them. It gave a character I adore the happiest ending (or maybe just a new beginning) that could ever exist for him, in a way I was so utterly unprepared for and that still fills me with indescribable joy, and expanded (or just made official) Toby’s ever-expanding family and was the brightest spot during a difficult time. I am so grateful for this book and this series and the way it continues to mean a little more to me with every passing year. (Add to Goodreads)

4.The Relentless Moon by Mary Robinette Kowal I absolutely love this alternate history of the space race and attempts to move significant portions of Earth’s population to space after a natural disaster. I think the worldbuilding is fascinating and with this book, we get to see a different aspect of it after the first two books spent with Elma navigating the space program as the first Lady Astronaut. Nicole is a politician’s wife as well as an accomplished pilot with space experience and watching her navigate those two warring identities would have been fascinating enough for a whole book. But then it threw in a compelling mystery with sabotage and betrayal and I couldn’t put it down. I love stories about politically savvy women who are all about image management. They know who they are expected to be and use that to their fullest advantage. I find them utterly fascinating and Nicole is such a good example. She gets to be what others expect her to be on the surface and full of depth below that she is only able to show to a few trusted friends. She’s calculating and brutal and will do it all with a smile and heels and it’s a thing of beauty to witness. It pushes things forward in a very interesting way and leaves you completely satisfied before we return to Elma’s journey to Mars in book 4. (Add to Goodreads)

Continue reading Best of 2020: Sci-Fi and Fantasy Books

Best of 2020: YA Fiction

I may not read a lot of YA these days but some of things that moved me the most this year fell into that classification and I was thrilled to find that I at least read enough to do a Top 10 list celebrating the wonderful work these authors are doing. Some of these books were enthusiastically recommended on Twitter (a truly wonderful side effect of following a lot of authors), some were nominated or have the potential to be nominated for Lodestar awards, and some have been on my TBR list for a while but all brought me joy this year and excited me for what they could mean to teens today. Even as an adult, these books can still teach and reinforce messages that we need to internalize and there is value to be found in continuing to read them.

1. I Love You So Mochi by Sarah Kuhn I was just expecting a cute romance and teen girl discovering herself, which would have honestly been enough for me, but what I ended up getting was even better. I got a portrayal of a terrific grandparent-granddaughter relationship that reminded me of my own (and made me cry as a result) and a line that resonated so deeply that I can add it to the list of things I’m grateful to Kuhn for giving me, not just in this book but in her Heroine Complex series as well. One thing she does really well is capture the particular experience that comes with being full or partly Japanese American whose family has been in the US for multiple generations. In this book, Kimi reflects on her lack of knowledge about her family’s history, particularly as it relates to the internment camps during World War II. No one offered and she never pushed until this trip. It’s a realization I came to in my own life over the past few years but there’s no one who was alive at the time to answer my questions. My grandparents lived around 15 miles from Pearl Harbor in 1941, they would have been in their late teens, and I don’t know what that was like for them. It’s not something they would have wanted to talk about at all but it’s also knowledge that has been lost that I regret not considering while they were alive. It’s such a specific reflection but it hit home for me in a way that will undoubtedly stick with me. (Add to Goodreads)

2. Each of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro This book is STUNNING. I have been a fan of Oshiro’s media thoughts and reviews on Mark Reads and Mark Watches for a very long time and it’s been exciting to see them become an acclaimed author. I took advantage of the fact that book tours and publicity were virtual in this disaster of a year and got to listen to them talk about it with Sarah Gailey and hearing this book’s journey to a finished product only made it more rewarding to read. It’s beautifully and lyrically written with original poems (in both English and Spanish) throughout and I love the way they play with the overall form by framing the book as a prayer. It was incredibly clever and well done but on top of that, it’s the kind of story I love as a reader. It is all about questioning the stories you’ve been told all your life and what they mean for your destiny. It’s a story of self-discovery and self-definition and learning to trust others to help hold your stories. Xochitl is achingly relatable in her desire to be more than the service she provides to others and to be free to discover who she is divorced from her role as the village cuentista and the journey she undertakes is so incredibly rewarding. (Add to Goodreads)

3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo This was the first book I had read by Acevedo and I have read another one since then, which is always a good indication that I really enjoyed an author. This is a book I had always wanted to read but was a little bit intimidated by because it is a novel-in-verse and that’s not a style I feel particularly comfortable reading. So I chose to listen to the audiobook instead, read by the author, and it let me focus on the words and the story instead of being concerned that I was somehow reading it wrong. And wow, what a good story it is. I loved Xiomara’s self-discovery and finding her passion and her voice. Her questioning and pushing back against restrictive gender roles and religious practices she isn’t sure she believes in is captured so well in this format and it does really feel like a young girl using poetry to get out complicated emotions that would have been hard to access in any other form. I fully understand why this book is so acclaimed and loved and if you try it, I highly recommend the audiobook to fully inhabit the story. (Add to Goodreads)

4. You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson This book was everything I wanted in a teen romantic and coming of age story and I don’t understand how it hasn’t already been optioned for a movie or show. I loved the setting of this very intense high school prom culture with a competition and scholarship money. It was exactly the correct level of heightened stakes for me and within it, I love the relationships that grew from it. I really loved Liz and Mack from the moment they met and the tension they had with Liz wanting to stay closeted because being queer and Black in this midwest school didn’t really feel like a possibility if she wanted to be prom queen and get the much needed scholarship money. But she was proven wrong (and a little right but mostly wrong) in the best possible way. I also really loved the way Liz and Jordan came back together to repair their friendship and the past miscommunications and outside interference they had to work though. Childhood friends know those quirks about you in a way new friends can’t and the ease with which they fell back into something supportive and real was everything to me. So I am going to need 2021 to get on with an adaptation of some sort and until then, I’ll settle for encouraging everyone I know to read this book. (Add to Goodreads)

Continue reading Best of 2020: YA Fiction

Best of 2020: Nonfiction Books

It’s time to talk about the things we loved this year! This was not a huge year of TV for me so my friends at Marvelous Geeks and Nerdy Girl Notes teamed up to do a a couple podcast episodes together instead of writing our own lists! You can list to us talk about our favorite performances, characters, and platonic relationships in part one and our favorite romantic relationships and episodes (plus a quick bonus discussion on the shows that made us happiest this year) in part two. It was a lot of fun to collaborate with both of them for the first time in this format and I hope you’ll go listen if you’re mostly here for TV content and let us know your thoughts! And for more year end content, be sure to check out the rest of the great content at Marvelous Geeks.

I may have watched much less TV than usual this year but it was a terrific year for books. I have no explanation for why my brain couldn’t focus on a 25-minute episode of TV but could sit down and read a book but it’s 2020 and we had to roll with the things we could enjoy wherever possible. This is the first of four book lists and potentially a couple other lists of things I loved depending on time so if nonfiction isn’t your favorite, stay tuned for other things you may enjoy more.

As I’ve mentioned in previous years, my academic area of interest was social psychology and sociology and I’m a big fan of understanding systems and the way things operate. I love the way it allows me to get a better understanding of the world around me and to incorporate new knowledge into a broader and more thorough mental image of society and all that entails. Which is terrific for me, there are a lot of books designed to talk about exactly those things. However, it does mean that I choose things on the heavier side or things that are likely to make me mad while I’m reading them because we live in a society that has deeply rooted systemic problems. I know these books aren’t going to be the kind of reading that everyone wants to do in their limited free time but if the mood strikes for one, they can be so rewarding. They can take a lot out of you and make you examine your own thought patterns or weaker areas (which is not always the most comfortable) but they can also help make you better to your fellow humans and more determined to build a society that works for everyone, which is a reward I can always get behind.

1. Hood Feminism by Mikki Kendall This is the nonfiction book I have thought about more than any other since I read it in April because it shifted my framing of feminism and what it should be. It’s a book I want everyone to read and learn from and then take the ideas found within and remake the world. In the introduction, Kendall writes “For a movement that’s meant to represent all women, it often centers on those who already have most of their needs met” and she’s right, yet that’s not what our conversations look like. It’s a dichotomy that had never fully occurred to me before because I have been privileged enough that it’s never needed to and I’m grateful it exposed that gap in my thinking and understanding of the world. It challenges each of us to really examine what we can do to truly show up and consider the needs of all women in all areas of life, from housing and education access to the environment, because they are all feminist issues. What would it look like to build a world that was actually concerned with meeting the needs of the most marginalized and trusting in the work those communities are already doing to support themselves? It’s an exciting thought and one I look forward to keep with me as I continue to learn and grow. (Add to Goodreads)

2. How We Show Up by Mia Birdsong I have no idea how I discovered this book but I am so grateful that I did. In a year with a lot of physical isolation, this book’s focus on how we build communities within our lives and how we live out those connections spoke so deeply to me. It was the same feeling I got while reading The Gifts of Imperfection by Brene Brown, that idea of finding a way to describe the values you hold most dear but didn’t have the words to vocalize. I love the intentionality behind Birdsong’s writing and life and the excitement in building something outside the model we’ve been given all our lives. There is joy and reflection and a deep sense of commitment to the work of nurturing the connections in our lives. It is beautiful and inspiring and a balm for my soul this year and I hope more people discover this book and get as much from it as I did. (Add to Goodreads)

3. March trilogy by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell I can struggle with graphic novels, my brain hasn’t quite figured out how to absorb both the words and the pictures and use them together to tell a story. That being said, I think the choice to tell John Lewis’s story in this way was a smart one. The juxtaposition that was possible between his fight in the civil rights movement and President Obama’s inauguration was extremely powerful and there are a couple jumps between time periods that took my breath away. It also allowed readers to experience the violence and hatred of the time in a more visceral way than just words on a page would have fully conveyed. It makes it a tough trilogy to get through but it’s no less worthwhile for it. You will be moved and feel such deep admiration for this man who fought so strongly, not just on the front lines in the South during Jim Crow but continued that fight in Congress until his death. He was a remarkable man and we are all better off because of him.  (Add to Goodreads)

Continue reading Best of 2020: Nonfiction Books

Best of 2019: Romance Books

This is the year I really got into the romance genre in a big way. Nothing brought me as much comfort and happiness as I read more of authors I’d previously enjoyed and found several more (often with extensive backlists) for me to read through. It’s been a tiring week for many of these authors as they’ve dealt with bullshit from their major professional organization but it’s so clear to me that these authors represent a new way forward for this genre and I am thrilled to be getting into it at this moment in time.

1. Reluctant Royals by Alyssa Cole The first book in the series (A Princess in Theory) made my list last year and if possible, I liked books two and three even more and loved the side stories in the two associated novellas. I couldn’t choose between them all for this list, so I’m including them all. A Duke by Default gave me a main character I absolutely adored in Portia and an internal journey for her that I loved even more than I loved her relationship with Tav (which is also very good because I am weak for grumpy people falling in love with someone who is pure sunshine). I loved watching her gain confidence in herself and her abilities as she realized she had ADHD and used the tools she had available to find a way to work with it instead of constantly fighting against it. That journey to self confidence was also what I loved about A Prince on Paper. Nya fighting for herself and pushing back against her abusive upbringing was incredible to read and you couldn’t help but cheer for her every step of the way. I adore this series and the intermingled friendships that formed as friend groups merged and became stronger with the new additions. It is full of tropes I love, incredible women and the men who love them, and so many moments of growth for everyone involved. No one is the same at the end of their book as they were in the beginning and the courage and work for each of them to get to their better place was everything I love about romance books. None of it was easy but all of it was worth it. Growth and healing are processes that are made easier with a strong support system and that is what this series provides in abundance. 

2. The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai You know a book and its main character resonated with you when you kind of want to fight all the people who didn’t like her. I perhaps related too strongly to Rhi’s tendency to throw up emotional barriers around herself and run away at the first hint that she might be hurt again all while refusing to allow herself any sort of emotional expression for fear that it made her look weak. It may not be the healthiest long-term response but it was a survival response that kept her going after an emotionally abusive relationship with her boss nearly left her blacklisted from the industry she loved. I enjoyed Rhi’s relationship with Samson and how easy it was for them to care about each other despite Rhi’s insistence that it was only going to be a casual sex and mutually beneficial work arrangement because those are romance tropes I will fall for every single time, but as always, I loved the emotional journey Rhi went through most of all. I loved her finding the strength to speak out against her former boyfriend and lending her voice to the other accusations against him. I loved her realization that she had a whole lot of people who loved her and had her back, that she didn’t have to fight and go through life alone. It was incredibly rewarding and the perfect example of why I love Alisha Rai’s books so much. Her heroines are all so complex and have been scarred by their past but find ways to heal and thrive regardless and she always manages to throw in a line or two that are exactly what I needed to hear at that moment in time. 

3. Tempest by Beverly Jenkins Beverly Jenkins is legendary in the romance world and this book made the reason abundantly clear. I am not going to write a better summation of why I loved this book than the first line of KJ Charles’s Goodreads review, “Honestly, any book where the heroine semi accidentally shoots the hero and then tells him off for not accepting her apology with sufficient grace is a winner with me.”. Regan is an absolute joy to read about from moment one. She’s incredibly competent and ready to defend herself from perceived bandits and willing to apologize when she messes up but also demand respect and basic human decency from others when they fall short. I love her immediate desire to nurture Anna’s good, curious mind and protect her from people who would force her into a strict definition of what a “good woman” should be that doesn’t allow for either childhood or self-sufficiency. I love a good grumpy guy who falls head over heels for a kind, strong woman despite his best attempts to keep her at arms length and Colt more than delivers. The character dynamics were everything I could want and I loved the look at the Wyoming frontier at a time when women were starting to be allowed to vote and formally shape their society. 

4. Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert After a near-death experience, Chloe decides to make a more exciting life for herself by creating a checklist to follow. First of all, I love that her solution was to choose a handful of things and insist that she’d be a more exciting person if she completed the list. It’s very me and I love her for it. Second, I love romances where both people have past issues to overcome and are actively taking steps to do so and this book celebrates the process of working through your trauma in order to find a fuller life for yourself. Third, this book is really adorable. There’s a rescued cat, flirty emails, and a whole book of two characters finding someone who sees and cherishes them for all they are. There is so much care that she manages to convey between Chloe and Red in ways both big and small. They’re not perfect and both mess up, but they apologize and work to do better. Sometimes their sore spots come into conflict and it’s painful but it’s also an opportunity for each to grow and learn for the future. Finally, this book is very hot. Hibbert is very good at her sex scenes and the chemistry she managed to convey on the page was explosive.  

Continue reading Best of 2019: Romance Books

Best of 2019: Miscellaneous Books

My first list of fiction books this year is kind of a grab bag. This is everything that didn’t fit neatly into my two dominant genres – sci fi & fantasy and romance (those lists are coming later in the month) but that I still wanted to talk about in some way. From award-winning short stories and classic novels to YA mysteries, there’s a little for everyone on this list and I hope you find a new book you want to add to your list! What did you love reading this year?

1. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid This book ticked all the right boxes for me. I loved the memoir-like writing style to tell Evelyn’s story interspersed with Monique’s personal life growth and the introspection that arose as a result of Evelyn’s past. But mostly, I fell in love with the complicated story of Evelyn’s past and the choices she made to have the life she wanted. There was so much more to her life than the snippets of news articles the world saw of her or the characters she played in movies, there was a real person who schemed and wanted and hurt behind every decision she made and its those complications that made her so fascinating. She wasn’t nice by her own admission. She could be cruel and manipulative and hurt the people she cared most about to achieve a very specific end but she also loved deeply and was trapped by a world that only wanted her to be one thing. They wanted the glamour of an actress not the real person behind it, they wanted a white movie star instead of her biracial heritage, she needed to pretend to be straight instead of revealing her bisexuality and that her final act was to proudly declare that she was both and all of it was remarkable. If you loved complicated women making difficult choices, read this book and come cry over it with me. 

2. Interpreter of Maladies by Jhumpa Lahiri This is a stunning collection. It was my first introduction to Lahiri’s writing and I was instantly taken in by the mood and style of these short stories. They were emotionally evocative and made you feel so much for these characters in a small space and to be able to accomplish that so effectively takes an incredible amount of talent. There’s a sense of melancholy as many of these characters look for a bigger world. Circumstances and choice have left them feeling boxed in by expectations or obstacles in their path and there’s a sense of emotional and sometimes physical isolation that runs through these stories that really resonates. The writing is beautiful and the collection as a whole is smartly chosen and flows together to create a cohesive whole. If literary short stories are something you’re even a little interested in, give this book a try. 

3. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel Stories that center around food in some way are likely to work well for me but the particular way that this book blended the recipes with magical realism was perfect. Tita’s connection to food and the way she is able to (quite literally) pour her emotions into her cooking when they become too overwhelming to keep inside was the perfect vehicle to tell this story of her life and forbidden love. I was not actually a fan of Tita and Pedro’s love story and preferred her relationship with John but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the storytelling and the lives of Tita and the rest of her family. The fairytale-like feel combined with the beautiful writing made this something memorable and unique in my reading this year and I’m so glad I picked it up on a whim. 

4. Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid A bittersweet love story about two people who see and understand each other in beautiful, profound ways but can’t be together for a variety of reasons is so entirely up my alley and sure enough, I could not get enough of this book and the overwhelming number of feelings it delivered. First of all, emotional pain aside, I really love the format of this as an interview-style retelling of memories. The individual perspectives and how they overlap and differ work perfectly to tell this story of this band and these people. Second, for anyone who has ever shipped a slowburn, doomed ship (or dabbled in any sort of RPF fandom) will see exactly where this is headed and Jenkins Reid completely nails the set up and feelings payoff. These characters all jump off the page and feel like they could have really been a band in the 70s. It has excitedly already been optioned for Amazon as a miniseries and should translate onto screen beautifully. I cannot wait to hear these songs for real and experience the pain all over again. 

Continue reading Best of 2019: Miscellaneous Books

Best of 2019: Nonfiction Books

I love nonfiction and seem to read a little more of it each year. I love the new ideas and new perspectives it gives me and the chance to learn about something I may have been less aware of. That said, I definitely have a strong preference for feminist nonfiction as you will see below. It ties into what I loved learning about most in school and getting a variety of opinions and understandings feels critical to me in order to be more comprehensive and inclusive with my own feminism. Not all of these books are recent but many have come out in the past couple years and while some of the topics discussed overlap, there is so much to gain by reading more than one.

As always, I want to hear your thoughts! Do you enjoy nonfiction? What did you read and love this year? What books should I add to my list to read next year?

1. Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly This was so extremely right up my alley and sure enough, I loved it. This book was often rage-inducing to read as it highlights all the ways our anger has traditionally been suppressed but also affirming in its understanding of anger as a tool for change, much like Rebecca Traister’s “Good and Mad” and Brittney Cooper’s “Eloquent Rage” and I strongly recommend that you read all three. This book in particular delves into the sociological forces that influence the expression of women’s anger. There is a lot of discussion of how emotion management (both our own emotions and those of the people around us) is tied to gender roles and the role violation that occurs when women are outwardly angry that is pivotal to understanding how this suppression occurs and how those role violations intersect with other aspects of our identity to create a multifaceted societal response. But it reminds us that our anger has power. Our anger is the reclamation of voices that many would prefer to stay silent and that demands a better world. We can use it as fuel when it is turned outward to push for change and there is strength to be found there, alongside others who have fought, are fighting, and will continue to fight. 

2. Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper In a similar vein to Traister’s “Good and Mad” and Chemaly’s “Rage Becomes Her”, Dr. Cooper reminds us of the virtues of anger and the importance of not settling for what’s been given to us. She writes exclusively about Black female anger and is a much needed voice in this area. The ways in which the anger of Black women is policed differs from the anger of white women and we cannot truly proceed and move forward until we acknowledge that along with the ways white women have been accomplices to this policing. It’s a phenomenal collection of essays that blend the personal and academic to create an incisive and powerful whole that ends in a beautiful benediction that’s stayed with me since reading this early in the year. “May you have joy. May you have gut-busting belly laughter every day. May you ask more and better questions. May your curiosity be unceasing. May your rage be a force for good.”

3. Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde How many books, essays, and other internet articles have included Lorde’s quote about anger (“Every woman has a well-stocked arsenal of anger potentially useful against those oppressions, personal and institutional, which brought that anger into being.”) in some form? This collection of essays is a classic and for good reason. Lorde’s writing is stunning and powerful as she discusses the way her particular intersections of gender, race, and sexuality have touched her life and how to build a world where we can recognize and celebrate both our similarities and our differences instead of trying to move closer to the idea of a universal experience that can never exist. It’s about sitting with ourselves and our feelings, the good and the bad and learning how to use those feelings and what we can learn from them to create something better. It’s a stunning book that I really can’t recommend enough. 

4. Thick: And Other Essays by Tressie McMillan Cottom I love books that make me feel challenged to expand my thinking and that’s exactly what this essay collection did for me. It pushed me to think deeper about socioeconomic status and how capitalism works with and exploits existing hierarchies of race and gender. It unapologetically centers black women in its analysis and asks its readers to consider all the ways we and society have failed to do the same. It is an incredibly strong collection that introduced me to a writer I had been missing out on and I’m excited to dive into her other work. 

Continue reading Best of 2019: Nonfiction Books

October 2019 Recommendations

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Show Title: All Rise

Episodes: 6 (at time of writing)

Where to Watch: CBS All Access

It’s been a long time since I started and stuck with a CBS drama but this one immediately captured me and became my favorite new show of the fall season. Probably my favorite fall show of the past few seasons, if I’m honest. It feels more like an ABC drama in some vague, undefined way with its emphasis on character development and their relationships with each other and less focus on the case itself and that’s absolutely for the better. The cases are designed to tell you something new about these characters and what they stand for, while being interesting in their own right. The choice to center the show around a judge and not a lawyer provides more flexibility in what they’re able to cover and means justice doesn’t have to look like a guilty/not-guilty verdict. But mostly, it’s all about the characters. I love that the majority of the show revolves around people of color and that there are so many women who not only respect each other professionally but champion each other in their personal lives. I love everything this show has done so far and I need it to continue for many more seasons, so if anything I’ve just said sounds appealing, please go watch this show! 

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Book Title: All Out: The No-Longer-Secret Stories of Queer Teens Throughout the Ages

Author: Saundra Mitchell (editor) – anthology w/various authors

Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction

This anthology is packed full of incredible stories by many popular YA authors. I love the idea of a book designed to show that queer people have always existed even if our terminology has changed throughout time, especially one aimed at teenagers. It does skew very American and European and seeing something that takes place in 1999 in a historical fiction collection makes me feel ancient. However, as a whole, it’s a very strong collection and I really enjoyed the majority of these stories. Some particular highlights for me were “Roja” by Anna-Marie McLemore, which is exactly as beautiful and lyrically written as everything else she writes and starts the anthology on an extremely high note. “Burnt Umber” by Mackenzi Lee was very cute with a similar style to “Gentleman’s Guide to Vice & Virtue”, “Every Shade of Red” by Elliot Wake was a new take on Robin Hood that I adored, and “Three Witches” by Tessa Gratton was beautifully emotionally evocative. It was a great blend of known and unknown authors to me and one of the stronger anthologies I’ve encountered recently. 

September 2019 Recommendations

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Show Title: What We Do In The Shadows

Episodes: 10

Where to Watch: Hulu

The Halloween season has been well underway for a month already but as we head into October and our interest in all things supernatural grows, it is an excellent time to watch this wonderfully ridiculous show about vampires. I haven’t seen the movie (an oversight that needs correcting) but even without that prior connection, this show was a lot of fun. It has a delightfully weird sense of humor that is more than a little absurd and I absolutely recommend it alongside any other Halloween viewing you choose next month. 

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Book Title: The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo

Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary

I couldn’t put this book down. The majority is set in the past and told memoir-style and it was the perfect stylistic choice. We get to experience the Evelyn the world saw through news snippets as well as Evelyn in her own words and all of the smart manipulation of the former that Evelyn used to survive an industry that asked her to deny large pieces of herself. I love a story about complicated women who know exactly what the world thinks of them and plays that to their own advantage. I love that through the release of her story, the world would finally get to see a woman who tried to cram herself into the various boxes Hollywood wanted to put her in only to find the most happiness when she broke free and lived her life on her own terms. There’s a melancholy to it as she reflects back on her life and what could have been different if she made different choices but there’s also a defiance as she insists on people’s ability to be more than one thing. Despite the narratives that Hollywood (and the rest of the world) wants to push, we  don’t fit in easy narratives and the truth of a person is often more complicated and deeper than the flattened version we present to all but those closest to us. I also love the impact that Evelyn’s story had on Monique, her biographer. There are some people who change our stories and the direction our life will take and Evelyn was one of those people to Monique and that portion of the story is equally as compelling. Other people sharing their stories gives us the freedom to be more open and contemplative with our own and that was captured really beautifully. This is easily one of my favorite books that I’ve read this year and I desperately need more people to talk about it with. 

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Book Title: The Unkindest Tide

Author: Seanan McGuire

Genre: Urban Fantasy

This is less a recommendation for this specific book and more a recommendation for the series as a whole (just in case I haven’t talked about my undying love for Seanan as an author enough this year). This is one of those books that came at exactly the right time. I love what Seanan is building as far as a long-term plot and overall world is concerned, things are revealed smartly and are seeded very skillfully throughout the previous books so that rereads are extremely rewarding and cause you pain when sentences suddenly take on more meaning. But most of all, I love the story Seanan is telling. It’s a story about hope and growth and healing from trauma. Each of these characters has been through a lot and will continue to go through a lot so long as they are anywhere near Toby and her job as Hero. But they aren’t alone and they don’t have to survive on their own. They are a family and family fights for each other even when someone can’t quite fight for themselves yet. Tragedy isn’t the end of the story and hope remains. That’s never been more clear than in this book, which made me cry multiple times in a very cathartic way. I didn’t think anyone could nudge Georgia out of her spot as favorite Seanan-created character but I think Toby has managed it by insisting the world be less unkind as her soon-to-be husband phased it. That’s a story I want to hear and I’ve never been happier I started this journey.  

August 2019 Recommendations

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Show Title: Schitt’s Creek

Episodes: 66

Where to Watch: Netflix + OnDemand

As with Fleabag and Good Omens before it, Schitt’s Creek is one of those recommendations that you probably don’t need if you’re reading this blog. It feels like half the internet is obsessed with the show and will bring it up all the time. Turns out, it’s for a good reason. While the first few episodes are a little abrasive (and I get why many quit during them), throughout the second season, you start to see what this show will become. The Rose family settles in. This isn’t the life they planned but gradually it becomes the one they will accept, if not fully embrace until later. If the early episodes aren’t appealing at all, the second season finale would make a good re-entry point to the show. The third season is full of growth and love and blossoms into the show that makes everyone rave about it and it only continues from there. The main love story is full of that Mike Schur sweetness and connection that I love and I can’t think of another queer love story like it on television. You can’t help but fall in love with these characters with their occasionally myopic and privileged view of the world but who also continually become better as they open themselves up to the love they’d previously kept at a distance. It’s a beautiful journey, full of laughs and moments that were made for reaction gifs, and so worth a watch. 

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Book Title: The Light Brigade

Author: Kameron Hurley

Genre: Science Fiction

If you’re a fan of The Expanse (at least the show, I haven’t read the books yet), The Light Brigade will probably be right up your alley. Set in a world controlled by a small handful of corporations, we experience a war from the perspective of Dietz, a soldier who signed up wanting to do good after losing everyone they cared about in an event called The Brink. It’s dark and bloody, as wars are, and full of striking quotes about the dangers of a world increasingly controlled by corporations and the loss of freedom and the overt and covert ways those in power exert that power over those without it. The interview snippets between an unknown person set in an unknown time that are sprinkled throughout the story give us a glimpse into a future event that comes together beautifully in the end. I am a big fan of Hurley’s nonfiction book The Geek Feminist Revolution and you can see some of the ideas touched upon in that book elaborated on and made richer by our investment in this fictional world. She understands that fighting for something, that fighting for those we love, will always be stronger than the choices we make as a result of fear. She understands the power that we have to change the world, even if (or especially when) it means tearing down the systems that brought us to this particular future. It’s that hope and belief in something better than takes this beyond a dark war story and turns it into one of triumph and fortitude. It’s one of the best things I’ve read all year and one that will stay with me for a long time to come.