recommendations

My 5 Star Reads of 2020

So in 2020, I read 100 books. My average rating was 3.5, which means I am a picky bitch. What does it take to be a 5 star for me?

If it’s fiction, it needs to have compelling writing, interesting characters, a believable plot and detailed world-building and/or scene setting. Bonus points if it can make me have a physical reaction (ie. tears…and one of these did!).

If it’s nonfiction, it again needs to have compelling writing but it also needs to keep my interest, have legitimate citation (if it’s one of those types of nonfiction), and it needs to teach me or inspire me.

And sometimes, a book just has that je ne sais quoi and I just love it because I love it! Below are the 8 books I absolutely loved in 2020.

I read this as part of my work for a committee I was on, and I am so glad I did. We Can’t Breathe: On Black Lives, White Lies, and the Art of Survival by Jabari Asim is a must read in the catalog of books written about the Black experience in America. A short, poignant collection of essays that fans of Ta-Nehisi Coats’s Between the World and Me may enjoy.

This was my first from author Akwaeke Emezi, and it dit not disappoint. Pet is a short young adult novel about a young girl named Jam who lives in a world where monsters no longer exist. Until one day a horned, clawed creature emerges from her mother’s painting and tells Jam they are there to hunt a monster. And the monster lives in Jam’s best friend’s house…

One thing I liked about this book is how stunning the writing is in that Emezi can convey deep meaning with simple writing. A quote I liked was “There is the unseen, waiting to be seen, existing only in the spaces we admit we do not see yet”. This is an excellent read AND listen, as Christopher Myers does a great job narrating the audiobook.

Ooh boy this one made me emotional. The Midnight Library is the story of Nora Seed, a woman who feels she has only ever made wrong choices. When one of her choices lands her in The Midnight Library, Nora discovers the different directions her life could have gone based on different choices she could have made. Such a compelling read that explores depression and the choices that make up our lives.

Witchcraft and suffragettes. Like need I say more? The Once and Future Witches follows a trio of sisters with magical capabilities who get entangled with the suffragette movement of 1893 New Salem and end up fighting an old enemy who is determined to keep witches from regaining their power.

Ok so this is the one that made me cry!! The Last Train to London follows multiple characters who are connected to the Kindertransport, which was an effort to get as many Jewish children out of Nazi-occupied countries after the events of Kristallnacht. One of the main characters is Tante Truus, who was a real woman who helped with getting children out of Vienna. I think I cried because it’s horrendous to know that this is based off of a true story, but I think it’s testament to Meg Waite Clayton’s skill in being able to write that urgency into the story. And I definitely recommend this on audiobook, as John Lee does a great job.

I listened to this one on audiobook because Bahni Turpin narrates it (and she is my fave audiobook narrator). This is a must read for everyone but especially white people. Racism is real and it has consequences. White privilege is real and it has consequences. White supremacy is real and it has consequences. Oluo is frank and direct in what white people need to learn and do to help eradicate racism. This is definitely one I’ll need to reread the physical copy so that I can highlight and take notes.

N.K. Jemisin is queen. The first in a trilogy, The Fifth Season is about a woman who discovers that her son has been murdered and her husband may be the killer. But he’s kidnapped their daughter and is on the run. Essun must traverse a ruined land to find them before the world enters another Fifth Season. Jemisin’s writing is compelling and the world-building complex. At times I felt I was too dumb to get it but I didn’t care. The whole series is *chef’s kiss*.

This is another important read for everyone, but especially white Americans. As it covers the entire history or racist ideas in America, it is dense. Kendi has done the work and the research to craft a well written text on racism in America. There is a youth version that I hope will be added to the curriculum for American high school history classrooms in the future.

So those were my 5 star reads of 2020! I will follow up soon with my favorite fiction and nonfiction of 2020, because I did read other great books! They just didn’t have that *thing* that makes a book a 5 star read for me. Have you read any of the books I’ve mentioned? What were your 5 star reads of 2020? Comment below!

Until next time,

Wrap-Up

September 2020 Reading Wrap-Up

In September I read 11 books, which ties with July for the most books read in a month so far in 2020. I did have a week off work in September so I’m sure that helped. Here are the books I read!

A Girl’s Guide to Missiles: Growing Up In America’s Secret Desert by Karen Piper

I read this one for a committee I’m on at work. This is a memoir about the author’s childhood spent on the China Lake missile range where both of her parents worked on missiles. It was interesting because it’s not every day you grow up on a missile range, but the narrative dragged at times and was also disorganized.

A Place For Us by Fatima Farheen Mirza

A Bookstagrammer (@Iansreads) I follow was hosting a readalong for this one, and I had an old ARC (advanced review copy) of it so I figured the readalong was a perfect time to read it. This follows an Indian family who has immigrated to the US in like the late 80s/early 90s and is mostly told from the point of view of Hadia and her younger brother Amar. Themes include immigration, family dynamics and finding your individuality and your own voice. I listened to it on audiobook for the most part and liked it, but I thought it moved too slowly for my taste.

Lies In White Dresses by Sofia Grant

This is another book I had to read for the committee I’m on at work. It’s a historical fiction about “the Reno cure”, which was when women in the 1940s & 1950s would go to Reno, Nevada to get a fast divorce. You follow two characters who are on their way to Reno to get a divorce. It was an easy read but pretty forgettable.

Freshwater by Awaeke Emezi

This was my second book by Akwaeke Emezi. I read their young adult novel Pet earlier this year and loved it so I knew I wanted to check out their debut novel. Freshwater is about Ada, a Nigerian woman who experiences having a fractured self. You’ll have to read the novel to find out the why, but trigger warning for rape, self-harm, and eating disorders. I really enjoyed this one as well and am so impressed with the power Emezi can wield with their prose in such few pages.

The Dark Library by Cyrille Martinez

This is an eARC I received for review for Booklist, so when that review is available I will post it here. This is a very short novel (less than 200 pages) about readers and libraries that features anthropomorphic books. The book is due to be published on October 20th.

Ordinary Hazards by Nikki Grimes

This is a book I picked up for 2 reasons: it fit the prompt (read a young adult book by a female author) for the September meeting of one of the book groups I’m in, and it was featured as a title for the YALSA Hub Challenge. This is Nikki’s memoir of her childhood and teen years written in poetry. I appreciate the vulnerability Nikki shared and I liked the audiobook because Nikki reads it. But I’m finding the more I read it that I just do not vibe with poetry (unless it’s Elizabeth Acevedo) so I didn’t love this one.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

The same Bookstagrammer who hosted a readalong for A Place For Us also hosted one for Americanah, so I thought that was the perfect time to pick this one up. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is a lauded author and this is probably her best known novel. It follows Nigerian students Ifemelu and Obinze who meet in primary school and fall in love but then go their separate ways for college. You then follow the paths they take for like the next decade. I really liked this one but thought it was too long. I will say that a lot of commentary made about being Black in America in 2013 (when the book was published) is still very much relevant today.

The Three Signs of a Miserable Job by Patrick Lencioni

This was the book for the September meeting of a small supervisor book group I’m in for work. This is my second Patrick Lencioni and I like how accessible his writing is. This book wasn’t mind blowing but it does give solid advice.

Waiting For the Night Song by Julie Carrick Dalton

This is another eARC sent to me by Booklist for review. It’s a debut novel about a woman who’s been running from her past, but gets called back home because of the discovery of a dead body. It is also features themes on immigration and environmentalism and is set to publish on January 12, 2021.

What If I Say the Wrong Thing? 25 Habits For Culturally Effective People by Verna A. Myers

I picked this up because I want to be a better ally. This is has a lot of good tips and advice, and while I think individuals can definitely read this (obviously I did), it did seem like it was written as more of a tool for organizations or groups to use.

The Obelisk Gate (Broken Earth #2) by N.K. Jemisin

I started reading The Broken Earth trilogy by N.K. Jemisin in August and am obsessed. I knew Jemisin was an amazing writer because I had read her short story collection How Long ’til Black Future Month and loved it so I was like give me more. And so far this trilogy does not disappoint! The writing is just *chef’s kiss*. I can’t say too much about The Obelisk Gate since it’s the second in a series but just know you should read it.

So how did your reading go in September? Have you read any of the books I mentioned? Let me know! For my actual star ratings on these books or more information on them, make sure to follow me on Goodreads!

Until next time!

recommendations

My 5 Star Reads of 2019

The following titles are the ones that deserved my coveted 5 star rating, because they engaged me, excited me, and enlightened me. Will these books be for you? Maybe, maybe not. But I’ll still tell you to read them :).

Becoming by Michelle Obama

I really liked Michelle’s message that she is always “becoming”. She’s always learning and evolving as a woman, a wife, a mother, etc. Her sense of self is inspiring. If you’re a fan of Michelle, then I definitely recommend checking this one out, especially the audiobook as she narrates it herself.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X is the story of Xiamora Batista, a teenager living in Harlem who is navigating what it means to be a woman both under the religious thumb of her mother and within her Harlem neighborhood. When Xiamora discovers slam poetry, her world is changed. Written in prose, this one is a MUST LISTEN TO on audiobook, as Elizabeth Acevedo narrates it herself in the style of slam poetry.

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West

*@thelibrarylush is my former social media handle

Am I biased because we share the same unique name? Maybe. But Lindy narrates her collection of essays on what it’s like to be big, loud woman in a society that wants to make women small and quiet. Infuriating and enlightening.

Notorious RBG: the Life & Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon & Shana Knizhnik

This was a reread for me, but this time I listened to it on audiobook. To be honest, RBG reminds me of my beloved granny with her quiet strength and stoic poise, which is why I think I am so drawn to her. The audiobook was just as good as reading a physical copy, minus missing out on the illustrations and pictures. Still 5 stars.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Bri, a former underground rap legend’s daughter, wants to follow in his footsteps. She has to make it if her family is going to survive. Angie Thomas knocks it out of the park with the writing, and Bahni Turpin knocks it out with the audiobook narration.

Educated by Tara Westover

This one was HYPED UP last year, and with good reason! With a father that was distrustful of the government, Tara Westover grew up lacking the education most people take for granted. Educated is the story of how she overcame her zealous father to work toward and earn the education she so desperately wanted. Engaging and fucking bonkers. *Note to my father: thank you for not being crazy.

How Long ’til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin

Exquisite. I don’t really know how else to describe this one. A collection of both science fiction and fantasy short stories that were poignant and mesmerizing. The audiobook featured different narrators for each story, which I think added a nice touch. My first N.K. Jemisin, but it definitely won’t be my last.

My Grandmother Asked Me to Tell You She’s Sorry by Frederik Backman

I absolutely adored Frederik Backman’s A Man Called One, so I knew I had to read anything else he comes out with, and this one did not disappoint. The story of a lonely girl who’s only friend is her granny, and the grand adventure her granny leaves her when she passes. The audiobook narrator does a fantastic job encompassing all of the different characters, and I think my favorite voice was Granny. Definitely made me miss mine.

Invisible Women: Data Bias In a World Designed for Men by Caroline Criado-Perez

As my Goodreads review says, “fuck the patriarchy”. But seriously, this is research on how women, HALF OF THE POPULATION, are ignored when it comes to science, technology, government, architecture, healthcare, etc. Insightful and INFURIATING.

Have you read any of these? Let me know in the comments! And if you would like to see what I’m reading throughout the year, let’s be friends on Goodreads!

Until next time!