Monthly Round-Up: March 2022

It’s been a week. It’s been a month. But then, some months are like that.

My favorite book this month:

I swear, these are just getting better.

As for the rest:

Middle Grade:

The Ogress and the Orphans

Adult fiction:

Book Lovers
Olga Dies Dreaming (audiobook)


The Hollow Heart
Aurora’s End


Four Hundred Souls (audiobook)
Tiny Habits

What was your favorite this month?

The Ogress and the Orphans

by Kelly Barnhill
First sentence: “Listen.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It is long, and kind of old-timey sounding. It’s probably not for every kid. It’s in the middle grade (grades 3-5) section of the booktore.

Things are amis in the town Stone-in-the-Glen. The neighbors, who used to be neighborly, are now suspicious of each other, and who didn’t really interact as a community. The orphans at the Orphan house are struggling with supplies; the community has gone back on their promise to keep them funded. And the mayor, well, he’s shiny and charismatic, but there’s something Not Right about him. And when an ogress moves in outside of town, everyone (well the mayor) decides that it’s all her fault that things seem to be going wrong.

On the one hand, if you don’t realize that this is a fable, an allegory for the United States in the past few years, you’re probably a clueless reader (or young? Will kids get this?). The fear of the Other, being hoodwinked by the shiny (and corupt), thee reteating into our own holes, and the decline of what it means to be a neighbor. It’s all there. But: Barnhill is a gifted writer, and she has spun this classic fable, this touching story about belonging, about what itmeans to be a nieghbr and a friend, and about community. The ending made me cry, the characters were super charming, and it’s a reminder that we’re not alone in this world.

It may be more for adults, but it’s still a very good book.

Network Effect

by Martha Wells
First sentence: “I’ve had clients who thought they needed an absurd level of security.”
Support your independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There is a lot of swearing, including multiple f0bobs. It’s in the science fiction section of the bookstore.
Others in the series:  All Systems RedArtificial Condition, Rogue Protocol, Exit Strategy

Spoilers for the first four, obviously. Although you don’t have to read those to read this, it really does help.

Murderbot has come to Preservation a non-Corporation planet, to live, to figure out what it wants to do and to be Dr. Mensah’s bodyguard. It’s sent on a mission with several people from Preservation, including Mensah’s daughter and brother-in-law, and that’s when things go sideways. They are attacked by a ship as soon as they leave Preservation space, and Murederbot and another team member are kidnapped. The others manage to come along (unfortunately, it means more humans to protect), and the greater plan is revealed: ART’s (the asshole research transport from book 2) crew has been taken by some people who are on a planet that has been compromised by alien remnants, and he wants it back. So, he sent the kidnappers to get Murderbot, because ART knew Murderbot would be able to find and retrieve them for it. Murderbot is not happy about being taken forcibly, but it cares (that’s a strong word) enough for ART that it’s willing to do what ART wants.

That’s basically what happens – sort of – but the real pleasure was having the ART-Murderbot relationship back. It was hilarious and sweet and delightful, and Murderbot would hate all of those words if it knew. There was one point where one of the other characters decided ART and Muderbot were in a relationship, and Murderbot got incredibly angry about that, mostly because it’s true. but, it’s also still a well-plotted book: a mystery to solve, corporation/non-corporation dynamics to explore, a weird planet (gotta love those), and a lot of fun, cranky inner dialogue on Murderbot’s part. U was a little wary that the longer form would dilute some of the charms of these books, but thankfully, II was wrong. It was still just as fun as a full-length novel.

These are such a delight to read.

Aurora’s End

by aie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
First sentence: “I am rarely surprised.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: Aurora Rising, Aurora Burning
Content: There is some mild swearing, illusions to sex, and a lot more f-bombs than in the previous two books. They’re still in the YA section (grades 6-8) though maybe they should get moved?

Things I loved about the book:

The tagline on the cover. It really is about time. And Kaufman and Kristoff play with it so well.

The way all the pieces fit together, and the characters learned and grew and it just worked.

The fact that a bawled for the last s00 pages or so. They made me care about these characters and their fates and man, it was all just so satisfying.

I can’t wait to see what these two do together next They just create pure gold.

Audiobook: Olga Dies Dreaming

by Xochitl Gonzalez
Read by: Almarie Guerra, Armando Riesco & Inés del Castillo
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: There is a lot of sex, on-screen and off, a lot of f-bombs and swearing, and one (implied) rape scene. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Oh, this one is a hard book to sum up. Olga is a 40-year-old, single, wedding planner whose mother left the family when Olga was 13. Her older brother, Prieto, is a congressman for their Brooklyn district, and a closeted gay man. They’re basically trying to survive and deal with both the gap and the shadow that their revolutionary mother has created. It’s a process – Olga dealing with latent trauma and working with the ultra-rich, and she hits a breaking point when Hurricane Maria hits. As does Prieto. It’s very much a sibling book, a growing up book, a making your own way out of the shadow of your parent’s expectations book.

That doesn’t begin to cover the book, or how it held me spellbound, especially on audio. It was smart, interesting, informative (I did learn a bunch about Puerto Rico’s history), and fascinating. The narrators were all excellent, and I was completely engrossed in the story. I had feelings about the characters, and I wanted to spend more time with them (Mateo is really the best). An excellent book and one I’m glad I took a chance on.

The Hollow Heart

by Marie Rutkoski
First sentence: “You have my heart.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Midnight Lie
Content: There is a lot of violence, and it is a bit slower-paced. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Spoilers for the first book, obviously.

Sid has left to go home because her mother has gotten sick and is dying. She left Nirrim behind, alone on an island where she has newly discovered her powers. Nirrim, heartbroken, gives her heart away to the god of thieves (why does she need it, fr her love doesn’t love her back?), and then proceeds to overthrow the ruling class in a very bloody revolution. Nirrim is not a kind queen, a good queen. She is ruthless and cruel (all in the name of “good”) to those who abused and used her.

Sid, on the other hand, is home trying to repair her relationship with her parents (who are the characters from the Winner’s Curse series, which made me very happy). She has realized that her mother is not sick, she was poisoned, and sets about trying to figure out who and why. But, as rumors of a cruel queen with powers who is invading other countries spread, Sid realizes that she needs to be more authentic and live the life she wants to live, not the life her parents want for her.

It’s a very internal book, one where one character really isn’t all the amuch fun to spend time with. (Nirrim ‘s chapters are really hard to get through sometimes.) But Rutkoski is a gifted storyteller, and she has a story that, in the end comes together beautifully. It’s a gorgeously written book, and a good end to the duology. And I hope it means there will be many more stories set in this world shes created.

Book Lovers

by Emily Henry
First sentence: “When books are your life — or in my case, your job — you get pretty good at guessing where a story is going.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher
Release date: May 3, 2022
Content: Oh. Well, there’s a LOT of sexytimes. And swearing. It will be in the Romance section of the bookstore.

Nora has grown up in New York, a pair of sisters of a single mother who passed away when she was in her early 20s. She has worked hard, getting a job at a literary agency and working her way up to be a respected and successful literary agent. The problem is that she hasn’t really ever taken time out for her social life. Sure, she has boyfriends, but they never last: inevitably going the “small-town romance cliche” route having their lives changed by a woman they met while on a trip in some small town somewhere. So Nora’s sister, Libby, put together a “small-town romance” checklist, convinces Nora to go to a small town in North Carolina for a month, and proceeds to try to get Nora to have a small-town romance experience of her won. Except, the first person Nora bumps into is Charlie Lastra, an editor from the city who is not Nora’s favorite person.

You probably know where it’s going to go from here. My favorite thing about this — aside from the palpable chemistry betwen Nora and Charlie — is that this is book is perfectly aware of what it is. Henry takes all the small-town romance cliches and satirizes them while absolutely being them at the same time. It made for a smart, fun, thoroughly enjoyable book. And yes, all the sexytimes were very swoon-worthy, adding to the tension between Nora and Charlie. I also liked them as characters, though: Henry gave them each a complex and believable backstory that made them interesting characters to spend time with.

I’ll put it this way: I have enjoyed all of Henry’s romances, but I think this one is my favorite.

Tiny Habits

by BJ Fogg
First sentence: “Tiny is mighty.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: It’s pretty basic, with nothing too technical. it’s in the self-help section of the bookstore.

I don’t usually read self-help books, but I heard a small interview with Fogg on the NPR book podcast and thought it sounded interesting. Fogg is a behavior psychologist (and someone my husband knew at BYU), and has spent years string what makes people tick. And how habits form and are kept. It really boils down to this: behavior is motivation plus ability plus a prompt. The problem with most self-help stuff is that it focuses on motivation. And Fogg breaks it down to something simpler: it’s not motivation, it’s the action. We are trying to do something too big. Anyone can do something tiny, right? So, start there. Find a place that a habit fits into your life (a good prompt) and then start super small. Floss one tooth. Take a sip of water. Design the habit to fit with your life. Oh: And celebrate every. single. time.

It’s kind of fascinating to think about, how staring small with something can help habits grow. He had a lot of good insights into behavior and forming (and breaking) habits. I think it got a bit repetitive by the end but it mostly was a good and interesting read. And maybe I’ll even start trying out some tiny habits.

State of the TBR Pile: March 2022

Now that my End of Program Exams are over, and the only homework I have is able to be done on Wednesday when I go in for my internship, now I get to read what I want. Ah, if I only wasn’t working full time…

What’s currently on my pile:

The Ogress and the Orphans by Kelly Barnhill
Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting by Clare Pooley
Ballad & Dagger
by Daniel Jose Older
Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle
The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez
Dessert Can Save the World by Christina Tosi
Network Effect by Martha Wells
The Aquanaut by Dan Santat
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

The first four are ARCs that have made it home. I don’t pick the up much anymore, but sometimes people hand them to me at work and I can’t say no. There’s only one holdover from tha past few months! (aren’t you proud of me?) and the erest just seemed fun. Except Saraphina, which is a re-read because the covers are SO PRETTY.

I am aware that this is a pretty white pile. I do need to be more conscious about diversifying.

What’s on your pile this month?

Audiobook: Four Hundred Souls

Edited by Ibram X. Kendi and Keisha N. Blain
Read by a full cast (too many to list!)
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at
Content: It does not sugar coat history. There are mentions of lynchings, rape, use of the n-word, and mild swearing. It’s in the history section of the bookstore.

I’ve had this on my TBR pile (the large one, not the small one by my bed) ever since it came out a year ago. And then I got a great idea from a bookstagrammer: read a little every day in February for black history month. I tried to get it done by the end of the month and almost made it. It was easy to break down into little sections: the book spans 400 years, but every author gets a 5 year period, and the sections are broken up into 40 years chunks. Each individual author gets to choose what they want to talk about: some focus on an event, some on a person, some on an idea. Many chose to relate their essay to the way the country is today. It’s less of a history book and more of a “how history has impacted today” book, which I appreciated. Not all essays were equally interesting, but there was enough for me to keep engaged. That, and the essays were generally very short – less than 5 minutes in audio. The narrators were all really good, for the most part. I think some of the essays were read by the authors, but since the narrators didn’t announce themselves before they began reading, I wasn’t sure. (They do all say their names a the end, but it was hard to match them up. Mostly I was like “Oh, they read? Cool!”)

I thoroughly enjoyed listening to it and learning about the history of Blacks in America. Fascinating well-done book.