Before the Coffee Gets Cold, by Toshikazu Kawaguchi
This book has a really interesting premise—in a tiny coffee shop on a back street in Tokyo you can travel back in time to meet someone who has already been to the shop. There are a lot of rules surrounding the trip back in time, but those rules just made the premise more fascinating. Overall, I liked this book a lot. However, at the end, I knew that the book had been written by a man (couldn’t tell off-hand by the Japanese name). Why, you ask? Because a woman gives up her life in order to have a baby she will never see. Oh please, that is such a “sainted mother” take on childbirth. Otherwise, it’s really good.
The Price Guide to the Occult, by Leslye Walton
I’d been admiring the cover of this book for awhile in the YA section of the bookstore. It was good, not great. The magic was interesting, the villain truly disturbing, but the ending made it seem like there would be a sequel and, as far as I can tell, there isn’t one in the works. It had a Practical Magic movie-version feel to it. On an island of the Washington coast, Nor comes from a long line of witches who have one power, each different, due to a curse by their matriarch eight generations before. The curse is lifted with Nor and just in time as her mother has started using black magic to take over the world.
Too Big to Miss, by Sue Ann Jaffarian
This is a fun mystery about a middle-aged, plus-sized, single woman who starts detecting after her close friend kills herself live on webcam. Something doesn’t feel right to Odelia about her friend’s death and it turns out her friend had a lot of dark secrets. Uncovering them leads to a prostitution ring, a hidden child, and a man who used her for his own gain. This is definitely a potato chip read, not too complicated but entertaining.
Divine Misfortune, by A. Lee Martinez
Martinez is a great writer who doesn’t get enough attention. This one was not as good as his Constance Verity books but was still great. To get by in Divine Misfortune’s world, everyone needs a personal or family god. From those who keep your car running to ones like Zeus, gods have all sorts of powers. After Phil loses a big promotion because his competition began worshipping a god, he and his wife decide, reluctantly, to get a god of their own. Lucky, a god of fortune in the body of a raccoon, comes with a lot of spiritual baggage and Phil and Terry get caught up in a millennia-old battle between Lucky and the god of chaos. This book is as silly, funny, and odd as the description sounds. Read A. Lee Martinez’s books. You’ll have a lot of fun.
Better Luck Next Time, by Julia Claiborn Johnson
I picked this book to listen to because it is supposed to be funny. From the cover and the title, it certainly seems that it would be. I didn’t find it funny at all. It was a good story, though, along the lines of Water for Elephants. It’s a story being told by an elderly man about his time spent as a “cowboy” on a divorce ranch in Reno during the 1930s. Wealthy women would come to the city for a “quickie” divorce. Ward tells the story of the last of the ladies he knew at the ranch, which turns into a love story. I would definitely recommend it but would warn that the hilarity is way overrated.
The Curious History of Sex, by Kate Lister
I’ve been reading this in bits and pieces since about April. (I read nonfiction really slow.) It is amazing! Lister is a sex historian and runs the Twitter account “Whores of Yore.” Her writing style is as hilarious as it is nonjudgmental. It’s super informative and incredibly well researched. It starts with why ‘cunt’ is considered a bad word and ends with a history of male sex work. In between are every sort of topic dealing with human sexuality. My favorite thing that I learned, in the section about Sex and Machines, it the term Lister coined for how long it takes between a technology being invented and then being used for sexual purposes—it’s a ‘kink blink.’
The Bookshop of the Broken Hearted, by Robert Hillman
Book about books, so of course I had to read it. Taking place in rural Australia in the 1960s, it follows farmer Tom and the life he wants to make with bookseller Hannah. Hannah wants him too, but is still dealing with the scars from her time in Auschwitz where she lost her husband and child. This is a nice book about taking risks and living life even when it seems all is lost. And there is a bookstore that sounds amazing.
A Handful of Earth, a Handful of Sky, by Lynell George
My second nonfiction of the month! This is a book about Sci-Fi pioneer Octavia Butler—about how hard she worked and how much she overcame to become the writer she was. The prose work is almost poetry as it portrays Butler’s writing life. The author extensively used the Octavia Butler collection at the Huntington Library to tease out an intimate portrait of Butler. A lovely work for any fan of the dearly missed Octavia.
Winterkeep, by Kristin Cashore
Woo hoo! A new book in the Graceling series! It’s five years since Bitterblue weeded out the last of her father’s misdeeds and there is a newly discovered continent that she is establishing diplomatic ties with. When she finds out that some people in Torla may be stealing from her lands, she goes to the new country only to discover she’s at the center of a greedy plot. This is a very vague summary of the book which has some wonderfully complicated political plotlines. It’s a great addition to the series and I enjoyed it a lot.
The Elementals, by Michael McDowell
I finally found a horror book that was just what I’ve been looking for. Southern Gothic, creepy houses in a remote location, crazy family traditions come together to create a truly uncanny work. I named this book as one of my favorites of the year because it is the first horror that I couldn’t put down and can’t stop thinking about. The only problem I had with it was the ‘magical black person’ trope where the folksy black lady, who will do anything for the white family she works for, has the cunning to save the day. This book was published in 1980 and that was a common trope of the time. It did work for the story and the black cook was a bad ass, so I can’t complain too much.
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