The Girl Who Fell Beneath the Sea

by Axie Oh
First sentence: “The myths of my people say only a true bride of the Sea God can bring an end to his insatiable wrath.”
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Content: There’s some violence. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Mina is just a girl in a village, one who was never supposed to be given as the Sea God’s brie But when her brother’s beloved, Cheong, was chosen for the sacrifice, Mina knew she must do something to save her brother’s happiness. So, she jumps into the sea, sacrificing herself in Cheong’s stead. what she finds in the Sea God’s kingdom is a whole world of gods and demons, of betrayal and friendship, and a puzzle as to what will wake the Sea God.

This is not something I would have picked up on my own, but a customer I really like gave it to me, and I have to admit that I really enjoyed it. It was a bit too formulaic for my tastes (I guessed the twist ending) but Oh’s writing was evocative, and it wasn’t a bad story. There were some genuinely tender moments, and I did like the tales that Oh spun.

Give this one to kids who like fairy tales.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

by Elle Cosimano
First sentence: “It’s a widely known fact that most moms are ready to kill someone by eight thirty a.m. on any given morning.”
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Content: There is swearing, including some f-bombs, talk of sexual assault, and (of course) death. It’s n the mystery section of the bookstore.

Finlay Donovan’s life is falling apart. Recently divorced, she is spending so much time taking care of her own children that she can’t finish the mystery book she’s supposed to have already had into her editor. Her ex-husband (and his fiance) is no help; he begrudgingly helps her bills when they get too big, but he’s had his lawyer file a motion for sole custody of the kids (even though he doesn’t really want to deal tih the everyday grind of raising them). Nothing seems to be going right.

Then, at a meeting in a Panera with her editor, a woman overhears her talking about the plot of her new book and mistakes her for an assassin. She hires Finlay to off her husband, offeringto pay enough to cover Finaly’s bills for quite a while. Finlay is determined not to dot his (she’s not a killer after all!), but when she’s checking the husband out, he accidentally ends up dead (seriously). Everything goes off the rails after that, with Finaly’s former nanny (who had quit because Finaly’s husband was sexually harassing her) getting in on the deal, and the two of them attempt to figure out who killed the husband while keeping the cops off their trail.

I needed something fluffy that wasn’t a romance, and this definitely delivered. It’s an incredibly smart and funny book, full of twists and turns, while also being a critique of how we look at motherhood and single/divorced moms. It was a lot of fun and the plot was good enough that kept me guessing.

I’m glad there’s a sequel so I can enjoy Finlay some more.

Audiobook: Flying Solo

by Linda Holmes
Read by Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: There’s swearing, including a couple of well-placed f-bombs. There is also off-screen sex. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

Laurie grew up in a small Main town, and couldn’t wait to get away. She didn’t return often, and once her immediate family moved away, there wasn’t much reason to return. That is, until her Great-Aunt who had no children of her own, passed away. Suddenly, it became Laurie’s job to go through Aunt Dot’s house and get it ready to be sold. Once there, she discovers a wooden duck in a blanket chest, and that starts off a chain of events that leads Laurie to a greater understanding of her aunt. Along the way, she reconnects with her old boyfriend, Nick, who is recently divorced.

I liked that this was a less-than-traditional romance. While it’s still about people falling in love, it features a heroine who called off her wedding because she didn’t feel right about it. She’s nearly 40, she’s she’s a larger woman; Holmes mentions “size18” and “larger body”. Laurie is a woman who knows that she wants to live alone and that maybe being married isn’t for her. She’s bucking societal norms, not doing things the way things are “supposed” to be done. I really really appreciated that. And honestly: it was this embracing of non-traditionalness that made the book a really good one for me.

Whelan is still a delightful narrator; she makes the listening experience super engaging and enjoyable. I will have to listen to her read more! In short: thoroughly enjoyed this one.

Spear

by Nicola Griffith
First sentence: “In the wild wast, a girl, growing.”
Support your local independent bookstore: by it there!
Content: There’s some violence and off-screen sex. It’s in the Science Fiction/Fantasy section of the bookstore.

One of my co-workers sold this to me by saying “It’s Arthurian legends, but gay” and honestly, that’s all it took. Griffith is taking the world of King Artur, planting it in 6th-century Wales, and making one of the knights, Peretur (or Percival) a woman. It’s familiar (to those of us who have gone through Arthurian obsessions), and yet, it’s also new. Making Peretur a woman updates the myth without sacrificing its ancient origins. I adored Peretur, and the journey she went on, from growing up in the wild with her mother to her quest to become a knight of KIng Aruthur. Her kind heart and fierce nature were balanced so well. I felt that Griffiths’ writing gave the book an ethereal quality, making it seem like a story that’s being told around a fire. It’s short, so I felt like Griffiths was able to get to the heart of the matter, without there bieng a lot of extra.

In short, It was exactly everything I wanted from an Arthurian tale.

Iona Iverson’s Rules for Commuting

by Clare Pooley
First sentence: “Until the point when a man dying right in front of her on the 08:05, Iona’s day had been just like any other.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some swearing, including some very well placed f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Iona has been a magazine advice columnist for 30 years. She has a routine, and she sticks to it She gets up, rides the train into the city and works, and comes home. She is happy with her life the way it is. That is, until the day it all changed. It starts with a man chocking in front of her and spirals out from there: she has trouble at the magazine, she’s “too old” and out of touch. But she also makes connections with these fellow commuters, whom she only knew by the nicknames she gave them. Suddenly , they have names, and problems, and she has a purpose. But it’s not just a book about Iona. While she is the axel on which the wheel of everyone’s lives turns (as was very helpfully pointed out by a inor charaer), it’s also about the lives of the people Iona comes to interact with. It switches perspectives, giving us the background on a few of the characters, as they, too, go through changes.

Oh, I adored this book. I loved Iona – she is a fantastic character, so full of charm and wit and life — but I also loved the way Pooley explores all the little ways that people are and should be connected. It was charming, it was funny, and I was thoroughly touched by Iona and the lives of the others in the book it made I was absolutely delighted by this book, and I wish there were more so it wouldn’t have to end.

The world needs ore Ionas in it, and I hope that maybe I can be one. Someday.

Audiobook: Yerba Buena

by Nina LaCour
Read by: Julia Whelan
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there is some talk of drug use, some prostitution, off-screen sex, and swearing including f-bombs. It’s in the Adult Fiction section of the bookstore.

Emelie and Sara are two women, both at odds with their life. Emilie has been in college for seven years, changing her major five times, and has yet to graduate. Sara ran away from home at 16, without finishing high school when her best friend (and lover) was found dead in the river. She spent years working her way up from the bottom to become a respected bartender. When she and Emilie first meet, though, it’s an instant spark, but at the time, Emilie is having an affair with the owner of a restaurant. When they do connect, things don’t go well. In fact, that’s the whole point of the book, I think: Emilie and Sara have to become their own individuals before they can successfully become a couple.

I think that’s the whole point of the novel: it’s much less a love story than it is a growing-up story. Both Emilie and Sara have pasts they need to reconcile with and futures they need to figure out. Yes, they are ready for a relationship, but maybe not quite ready enough, which gives the whole book an air of the bittersweet to it. I adore LaCour’s writing and the way she makes characters come alive. It also helped that Whelan’s narration was incredibly engaging.

Definitely a good book.

This is Not a Book About Benedict Cumberbatch

by Tabitha Carvan
First sentence: “What are you thinking about?”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: There’s some talk about erotica and some swearing, including multiple f-bombs. It’s in the CreativeNon-Fiction section of the bookstore.

So, this is kind of a book about Benedict Cumberbatch. Or rather, Carvan’s obsession with the actor. It sounds silly going in: she’s writing about how she became obsessed and all the emotions and thoughts that went through her head after she realized her obsession. But, it’s more than that: it’s an exploration into the nature of obsession, of what it means to passionately love something and the nature of female-centric fandoms. She touches on how obsessions seen as acceptible for men (birdwatching, loving music, being into sports) are deemed “unacceptable” and “weird” for women. Caravan is a funny writer, and she often made me laugh. I absolutely related to what she was saying — especially how she lost herself once she became a mother — and how being obsessed with Benedict Cumberbatch (you really kind of have to say his full name, don’t you?) helped her find her way back to herself. It’s a reminder that it’s good to have something you’re deeply in love with, something to call your own, and how important that can be to one’s identity.

I found it not only to be entertaining, but enlightening, and I appreciated it.

Audiobook: Easy Beauty

by ChloƩ Cooper Jones
Read by the author
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Or listen at Libro.fm
Content: there are some disturbing conversations about people with disabilites, and swearing, including some f-bombs. It’s in the Biography section of the bookstore.

I’m not sure what I expected when I started this memoir about a woman who has gone through life with a rare condition that affects her physical appearance and the way she interacts with the world. But, it also affects the way other people see her, the way she is regareded in the world. She literally sits in aa conversaiton where friends of hers (friends!) debate whether or not her life was worth living. She is told by doctors that she can’t get pregnant and then she is left ot wonder if it’s “fair” to bring a child into her world.

The book also muses on connections humans make as she goes through dealing with her father’s multiple affairs, and on art as she tries to make sense of her world through the beauty of someone else’s imagination. She travels and experiences the world that way. It’s got stories, yes, but also thoughts about art and connection and life and motherhood that I found both insightful and valuable. I learned a lot about how Jones looks at the world and how being dismissive of the experiences of those with disabilities is damaging and limiting.

Jones was a good narrator, telling her own story and keeping me engaged throughout. It’s not what I usually read, but I am really glad I did.

Monthly Round-Up: May 2022

If it’s possible, I read even less this month than last. I did like most of what I read, so maybe that’s part of things: I’m being more selective with what I read. I also moved to the basement for my job, which is quiet and away from customers, so I picked up listening to audiobooks more. (Which is why there are three this month instead of my usual one).

No favorites this month. Here’s what I managed to finish:

YA:

Forging Silver Into Stars
Bravely
The Door of No Return

Adult Fiction:

The Charm Offensive (audiobook)
Fugitive Telemetry

Nonfiction:

Go Back to Where You Came From (audiobook)
Call Me Chef, Dammit! (audiobook)

Graphic Novels:

Swim Team

The Door of No Return

by Kwame Alexander
First sentence: “There was even a time… many seasons ago… when our people were the sole supplier of the purest and most valuable gold in the world…”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Release date: September 27, 2022
Content: There is some violence, some of which is kind of graphic. It will be in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

In this novel in verse, Alexander follows, Kofi, a young man in an African village in Western Africa. He has a good life: he goes to school and is being taught English, even though he doesn’t think he needs it. He has a girl he likes and a cousin with who he’s antagonistic. It’s not a bad life. Things start going badly when Kofi’s older brother accidentally kills the prince of a neighboring village in a contest. He didn’t mean to, he feels bad about it, but his village elders absolve him of any wrongdoing. But, the neighboring village doesn’t see things that way and eventually men from the village take Kofi and his brother hostage.

This is the first of a trilogy, following Kofi (I assume through his experiences. So, it’s slow to start. We get to know Kofi and his family and village, all the better to feel it when Kofi is captured. It’s historical, so you can guess that where Kofi ends up is on a slave ship. it’s laying the groundwork to show that those who were enslaved were people, with lives, dreams, and desires, and Alexander does a fantastic job showing that. It’s showing the slave trade as less simplistic, not to say that there are any White saviors here (there aren’t), but that it wasn’t as simple as White people kidnapping Africans and taking them from their home and family. LIke much of what Alexander does, it’s done excellently with short poems that are evocative so that a reader gets an emotional punch when Kofi is taken.

It’s excellent, but I wouldn’t expect anything else.