David Sedaris is always hilarious, even when I’m tearing up. Listening to him read his essays is a true pleasure. A lot of this one is about David’s father during his last years, and what his legacy is. Of course, there are the wonderful stories of living abroad, his relationship with Hugh and his sisters. One of my favorites was about how many of his book tours have “themes.” The “theme” that had me hysterically laughing was when he found out that women hate wearing bras at home.
Days at the Morisaki Bookshop, by Satoshi Yagasawa
Takako is 25 and facing a crisis. To save money and get back on her feet, she moves into the loft above her uncle’s bookstore. Not really a reader before, she comes to love the Japanese literature that he specializes in. As she becomes involved with the regulars and other neighborhood stores, she begins to open up in ways she could only imagine before. And when her uncle faces a crisis of his own, she can be a support for him too. Lovely, quick read about the healing power of connection and of reading.
Translation State, by Ann Leckie
I loved Leckie’s award-winning Imperial Radch trilogy and was excited for this one too. And it was great, just not as great as I thought it would be. I think a lot of it was me as the reader. When Ancillary Justice came out, there was nothing like it. Now there are a lot of options in a similar vein, so it wasn’t so groundbreaking. But…the story is really good. It takes a while for the three disparate story threads to come together, and, wow, is it thrilling when they do. Another good thing about this book is that you can read it as a stand alone.
Concerning My Daughter, by Kim Hye-Jin, translated by Jamie Chang
An odd story, told without any quotation marks for dialogue—almost free form first person narrative—about an old woman who doesn’t want to understand why her daughter chooses to struggle when she could live a normal life. Her daughter, Green, has moved back home with her long-time girlfriend, Lane, and is protesting the university she works at for firing homosexual professors. Which, of course, puts her about as far outside “normal” as she can get. This is not a fast read, even for being so short. There is a lot to think about and the main character is not very likable. It is good, though without a lot of resolution.
Hungry Ghost, by Victoria Ying
A well-illustrated, semi-autobiographical graphic novel. Valerie is the perfect child and hides a devastating secret—she has a pervasive eating disorder. Constantly scolded by her mother to “not get fat,” she has learned to hide a large part of herself away. When her father dies suddenly, her life is thrown into a maelstrom of self-hate and self-doubt. Only through the potential loss of a friend, does she come to understand what she is doing to herself. Beautiful, heartbreaking story, but not without hope.
Lavender House, by Lev AC Rosen
A closed house murder mystery featuring a former police detective making his debut as a detective-for-hire in 1950s San Francisco. Andy Mills, drinking himself to death after being fired from the police force for being gay, is whisked away North of the city to the estate of a wealthy woman, Irene, who has recently died. Her wife believes there was foul play even though the death was thought to be accidental. What Andy finds there is an oasis of safety for a gay family, even though he is sure that one of them murdered Irene. Really well-done mystery, great setting, great characters. Definitely a mystery series that I’ll follow.
A House With Good Bones, by T. Kingfisher
Another creepy af book from one of my favorite writers. When Sam goes to stay with her mother for an extended visit, things aren’t quite right in her childhood home. Her mom has changed—dramatic weight loss, lots of anxiety. Even as odd things happen to Sam—infestation of ladybugs, roses that grow beautifully without any effort, large numbers of vultures hanging out—being a scientist she tries to talk herself out of it…until it’s almost too late. Loved this one. Sam is a delight and the creep factor is just right.
Rising Up: The Power of Narrative in Pursuing Racial Justice, by Sonali Kolhatkar
Full disclosure: this was written by my neighbor, a radio host and journalist. (Also, second nonfiction book of the month. Yay me!) This book is a great starter for those interested in how narrative is used to leave out or put down people of color, gays, immigrants, and women. It also shows how narrative can be reclaimed—especially on the leveling field of social media—to create a new, more inclusive narrative to replace traditional stories (eg narratives by powerful, primarily white, people). Written in a clear, understandable style, this is a good one for libraries (especially high school) and for the general reader.
The Library, by Bella Osborne
Lovely story of how a shared love of books brings together a lonely old woman and a neglected teenaged boy. When their tiny, local library is threatened with closure they find other friends who help them save it. Pretty basic plot, but it’s the lovely characters that bring this story alive.
The Wishing Game, by Meg Shaffer
Lucy was rejected by her family as a child and had a terrible upbringing. Even though she is only a teacher’s aide, she wants to adopt orphan Christopher and give him the life he deserves. Her one chance to make that happen is by playing children’s author Jack Masterson’s game. Recluse Jack lives on an island off the coast of Maine that he has fashioned into a real-life version of his books—Clock Island. A lover of riddles and puzzles, he puts four superfans, including Lucy, to the test just like he does to his child characters. This was like an adult version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Visitors to Clock Island have to face their biggest fears in order to make their wish come true. This was a great palate cleanser.