Audiobook: Call Me Chef, Dammit!

by Andre Rush
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is a lot of swearing, including multiple f-bombs, as well as talk of suicide. It’s in the biography section of the bookstore.

I am a sucker for foody books, and usually, something with “chef” on the cover is going to make me happy. I wanted to really like this — and I did like it enough to finish it — but, it wasn’t what I thought it was going to be.

Rush grew up in Mississippi, poor but hard-working, and joined the Army right out of high school. It was there, she rose in the ranks of enlisted people that he learned he had a talent for cooking. He worked at it, and through talent and being in the right place at the right time, leveraged that into a job as a chef at the Pentagon and the White House as their chef. It’s a bit more than just his journey to becoming the chef at the White House; it’s his ruminations on being in the military, his reflections on his experiences in the military, and the trauma that the military caused him. It’s a very military-centric book, which I wasn’t expecting. Still, he had an interesting life, and he has some interesting thoughts and even though it wasn’t quite what I was expecting, it was still a pretty good book.

Swim Team

by Johnnie Christmas
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s some conflict and some bullying by adults and other kids. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Bree and her father moved to Florida and with that came a new school and a new schedule. All the classes Bree wants to take are filled up, so she’s put in Swim 101. The problem: Bree doesn’t know how to swim, and she’s afraid of learning. She skips class until her father finds out, and then he enrolls her in swimming lessons. Hweer, she’s bullied, and so she runs away. it’s not until a near-drwoing incident when her upstairs neibero, Ms. Etta, rescues her that she realizes that she needs to learn to swim, making a deal with Ms. Etta to each her.

But no one of There is a small side lesson wno why there’s a stereotype of Black people not swimming, but the bulk of the story is Bree joining the middle school’s failing swim team, and learning how to compete and how to work as a team. There are ups and downs, but the girls learn that it’s better to support each other than compete against each other.

The thing I thought about most while reading this book was how representation matters. It will be wonderful for young Black girls to see themselves in this story. It’s a good story that centers on their experiences, and one that makes them the center of the narrative. On top of that, though, it’s a good story about teamwork and perseverance, and Christmas is a good storyteller and artist. Definitely a recommended graphic novel.

Forging Silver Into Stars

by Brigid Kemmerer
First sentence: “This was supposed to be a peaceful protest.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series (sort-of; it’s a spinoff, but reading these helps):  A Curse So Dark and LonelyA Heart So Fierce and Broken, A Vow So Bold and Deadly
Content: There is some violence and off-screen sex. It’s in the Teen section grades 9+) of the bookstore.

So you know: this book picks up four years after the events in “A Vow So Bold and Deadly”. There will probably be spoilers for the first series.

Friends Jax and Callyn live in a small village, a few hours outside of the main city in Syhl Shallow. They’re just a blacksmith and a baker and are a bit wary of the idea of magic being in their country in the form of the king. so, when an opportunity to earn some silver ones their way, they jump at the chance. Little did they know they were getting into an organized insurrection, one that was determined to overthrow the king. There’s more to the story, one that involves Tycho, who is a friend of the king and a courier between Syhl Shallow and the neighboring country of Emberfall. There’s also some romance, betrayal, and a lot of riding horseback through the country.

I didn’t dislike this book, but I didn’t absolutely love it either. Kemmerer has a good storyteller, but maybe I wasn’t in the mood for this. Even so, i might be interested enough to finish the story when th enext book comes out.

Audiobook: Go Back to Where You Came From

by Wajahat Ali
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s a lot of swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the humor section of the bookstore.

I had no idea who Ali was when I picked this up. I think it called to me because I’m always looking for immigrant stories, ones by people who don’t have my experiences. And although Ali is not an immigrant, he’s a first-generation American, which is just as interesting. It’s basically a memoir; Ali tells the story of how his parents came to America from Pakistan, his childhood, and then growing up and the trials he and his parents faced. (Spoiler: it’s a lot.) Ali tells his story with grace, keeping a reader/listener engaged with wry humor and just plain good storytelling.

It’s a good reminder of white privilege, and that there must be something bout this country if immigrants still want to keep trying to make a life here in the face of all the obstacles put in their way by white supremacy. Ali was a good person to spend a few hours with, and I feel like I learned something after having listened to his story. It was a good reminder that we’re all in it togeher in this huge melting pot we call America. Maybe we can even figure out how to make it work. Ali seems to have some hope for the future. I hope he’s right.

Monthly Round-Up: April 2022

I hit a reading stop this month. I am surrounded by piles of books, and all I want to read are comfort reads. (I’m not really in reading what I’m “supposed to be” reading right now.) Which means, too, that I’m not blogging a lot either.

Here’s what I blogged about this month:

Graphic Novels:

The Aquanaut
Heartstopper Volume 4

YA:

The Honeys

Non-Fiction:

Wintering (audiobook)

I also read:

The Penderwicks
The Penderwicks on Gardam Street
Saffy’s Angel
Indigo’s Star
Permanent Rose
Caddy Ever After
Forever Rose

I wanted to read the rest of the Penderwicks books, but I got derailed again. Maybe next month will be better.

Heartstopper Volume 4

by Alice Oseman
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Volume 1, Volume 2, Volume 3
Content: There is a handful of swearing, including a few f-bombs. It’s in the Graphic Novel section of the bookstore.

This picks up almost immediately after Volume 3: Nick and Charlie are still in the first parts of a relationship, one where they love spending time together. It’s still summer, and Nick is going to go on vacation soon. But Charlie is anxious: he wants to tell Nick that he loves themhim, bu twonders if the timing is worng. Nick has his own concerns: he cares about Charlie, and has noticed that Charlie has issues about eating. It’s a lot to handle, and Nick isn’t sure what he should do.

This one covers a lot of time: from the initial few days and then the weeks that Nick is gone on vacation, it skips ahead: first to New Year’s Eve, where nick catches us up on the previous few months, and then to March, where Charlie takes his turn. It doesn’t have s solid resolution, but rather a very hopeful one.

I like that while this is a book full of queer people it’s not a book that dwells on its queerness, but rather its a fact of life. It was remarkably matter-of-fact about it all. Charlie and Nick have an incredibly healthy relationship, and it shows them dealing with problems and issues in a mostly healthy manner. It’s delightful andcute, and very resfresting. I adore this series, and can’t wait for volume 5!

The Honeys

by Ryan La Sala
First sentence: “My sister wakes me with a whisper.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: May 3, 2022
Content: There is swearing, including multiple f-bombs, and descriptions of sexual assault and rape. It will be in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

Mars is a twin, the undesirable twin, the one who lives in the shadow of Caroline, the Chosen One. He/they is gender fluid, doesn’t quite fit the norms of the rich, societied life his parents set out for him. Especially when it comes ot the summer camp, Aspen. Mars had a falling out years ago at the camp, when he pushed back against the gender norms and roles at the camp and hasn’t been back since. So when his sister unexpectedly shows up in the middle of the night, crazy and delious, attempting to kill Mars and then dying herself, he knows something is up. And that something has to tdo with the Honeys.

The Honeys, as he finds out when he goes back to Aspen, are a clique of girls, set apart, yet welcoming to him. At first, seems heavenly, to be accepted and understood by people who also knew and loved Caroline. But the farther he gets in, the more sinister it becomes.

I really had no idea what to expect when starting this. There’s a lot about bees and the way the hive works (most of which I knew from reading The Bees). But it’s also about societal expectations and the ways in which conforming to those hurts individuals. I have a theory that the hive/honey is Capitalism, but it could also be greed and power, both of which teen girls, even white ones from weathly families, have little of. It’s a fascinating study of groupthink and the power of suggestion, and how sometimes good things go bad.

I don’t know if it’s a book for everyone, but it’s a good book, one that will lead to fascinating discussions. I will be thinking about it for a while.

State of the TBR Pile: April 2022

Here’s what it looks like:


Dessert Can Save the World by Christina Tosi
Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle
Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
Ballad & Dagger
 by Daniel Jose Older
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

The problem is that I don’t really feel like reading these. Truthfully: I don’t really feel like reading anyof the books I have. I kind of just want to toss everything and start over. I know that’s not feasible, but it’s the way I feel. So, I’m reading comfort books right now, in hopes that I will eventually, want to start reading other books again Maybe, it will even work.

What do you do when you don’t feel like reading?

What are you looking forward to?

The Aquanaut

by Dan Santat
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s a death of a parent, and mistreatment of animals. It’s in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

Ever since her father, an marine researcher, died in a boating accident while out on the ocean, Sophia (and her Uncle Paul, who is taking care of her) has been just trying to survive. The place Paul and his brother built, Aqualand, is being run by a team of investors who don’t care about science, and Sophia’s grades are becoming worse and worse. And then, one day, a team of underwater creatures show up in Sophia’s father’s old diving suit.

It would just be easy to say: And then all havoc breaks loose. But it’s more than that. Paul and Sophia learn they need to actually try and grieve their loss and grow together as a family. Paul stands up to his investors, and less aqua land, but gains his dignity back. And the animals work together as a crew, while Sodapop (a hermit crab, I think) faces his fears of a giant squid. It’s about growth and togetherness and grief, with an underlying message about conservation and science, and maybe amusement parks that capture wild animals to put them in cages are bad.

I adore Santat’s heartfelt storytelling, and enjoy his art as well. This one is definitely one to hand to everyone, kids and adults alike.

Audiobook: Wintering

by Katherine May
Read by: Rebecca Lee
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There is some talk of mental illness and depression. It’s in the Self Help section of the bookstore.

This was all the rage at the bookstore the first Christmas of the pandemic. Everyone seemed to need a “self help” (t’s not really a book about how to make it through difficult times that Christmas. it’s a bit weird, i know, reading aboook about winter in the spring (but this is when the hold came through; I don’t remember when I put it on hold), but the thing is, while this book is set over winter and kind of deals with cold and snow, it’s really more about the down times in our lives. The “winters of our lives – and not just age, May insisted, and I think she’s right, that “winter” can come anytime when we’re feeling low, or fallow, or just not “summery”. Maybe it’s because I’ve noticed that I’m really attended to the weather, but somehow that resonated with me.

There really isn’t much else to the book. I enjoyed the narrator, she was delightful to listen to and kept me interested in the story. But, it was a compelling story: I was interested in what May had used to help her through her winters. And maybe I’ll figure out how to accept and cope with mine, too, as I get older.

Worth reading any time of the year.