Review: A Good Man by Ani Katz

I received an ARC of A Good Man in my job as a bookseller. It is due to release January 13, 2020.

This book is really creepy. It’s told in first person, and the whole time you know that the narrator has done something awful, but you don’t know what it is. I feel like this must be incredibly difficult to do well, but Ani Katz pulls it off.

While you’d think the horrifying ending would be enough, you learn all sorts of awful things that happened to all the characters along the way. I think that what makes this book so terrifying is that by the end, you sort of understand how the narrator ended up where he did. Not that you condone it, but you could see it.

I am not a fan of the horror novel, but as a mother, part of me would have had an easier time reading about some human-eating supernatural beasty than this. It’s a fantastic book, I absolutely recommend it, but it is not for the faint of heart.

While thematically very different, for feel I definitely suggest this book for readers of Any Man by Amber Tamblyn.

Review: We Met in December by Rosie Curtis

I listened to We Met in December as a digital audiobook. The narrator has a delightful British accent. I wanted to listen to the whole thing curled up on the couch with a fuzzy but slightly itchy (I don’t know why, but that’s what I pictured) blanket and a cup of tea.

This is not specifically a Christmas romance, which I actually think is a plus, but if that’s what you’re looking for, this is not it. It starts in December and ends in December, so there is Christmas in there, but that’s the extent if it.

This definitely felt like Bridget Jones’s Diary for a new generation. There are two guys to pick from, there’s a character making her way as a young woman in London, and there’s that fantastic self-deprecation. Overall, this is a romantic comedy at its finest, and I loved every minute.

Review: Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted a review, and I apologize. Let me open this one by saying that while I’ve met the author a couple of times and hearing him speak at conventions always gets me fired up for bookselling, for some reason this is the first book of his I read. That was my mistake.

I listened to Look Both Ways as a digital audiobook. Having not read it in the traditional format, I can’t say this definitively, but I think audio is the way to go. There is a different narrator for each of the ten interwoven stories, and it gives the book a unique feel. I really enjoyed the listening experience.

This book is interesting in that it brings the short story format to middle grade. I’m sure it’s been done before, but I haven’t read any. We follow ten kids whose lives intersect in various ways, but their stories are each their own. As a parent of kids growing up in firmly middle class suburbia who herself grew up in firmly middle class suburbia, I’m glad I read this book, and I’m glad to have it to share with my younger boys as they get older. It’s not a devastating view of a harder life, but it is a realistic view of kids whose lives are different than my sons’ will be.

As a bookseller, I hear a lot of talk about windows and mirrors, and even use some of it myself in simplified conversations. This book is a much needed window for my family and mirror for others. The fact is, though, that all books expand your worldview if they’re well written enough to put you inside a character, and this once is certainly that.

So, We Did a Thing…

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted anything at all. I have still been reading. Some reviews will be posted soon. I have also been very busy, although that’s not likely to stop soon.

This beauty officially belongs to us. We are homeowners. I feel a bit like this is not real. After all the annoying last minute requests for random paperwork, we went in and signed a stack of papers today, and now it’s ours.

This backyard belongs to my boys. They will have a yard to play in when the weather is nice. They can color on the patio with sidewalk chalk. We can set up a kiddie pool next summer.

All this counter space belongs to Middle Brother and me for our cooking. That freezer will hold so much pumped milk. I have been dreaming about this backsplash, even if I do dislike the countertops.

There’s a lot to be done. It’s a forty-year-old house. Moving is my least favorite thing in the world. But at the end of it, we will be living in our own permanent space. I will never have to move four bookcases (some double-shelved), two suitcases, and some totes full of books again if I don’t want to. (Also, if you know us in real life, don’t mention the suitcases of books to Husband. He doesn’t know.) Tomorrow, I’m taking the three boys to see our new home.

Review: How We Fight for Our Lives by Saeed Jones

I’m not sure exactly what I thought this book would be. I knew it was a memoir dealing with LGBTQIA+ issues. I guess I assumed it would be violent, because the title. There was some violence. But overall, How We Fight for Our Lives is subtle.

I listened to this book as an audiobook narrated by the author, and I’m so glad I did. It felt like it gave it some personal depth.

I can’t say I enjoyed this book. A lot of it was unhappy experiences. But I do feel like it was a worthwhile read. As a white person in a heterosexual relationship, I feel like a good deal of my reading should focus on people that have had different life experiences than me. Reading helps me understand the world, but only if I don’t read all stories about people like me. This book is not about a person like me.

I spent some time after I finished this one reflecting on the title. What I decided is that when I hear “fight for our lives,” I picture the violent struggle, when sometimes it means the equally frightening internal struggle. The author spent a long time trying to figure out what his identity meant to him and to the world. In that time, he suffered a lot, both at the hands of other people and himself. Having finished the book, I realize that he fought a lot just to make it this far.

Review: Faker by Sarah Smith

I loved this debut rom-com. If you like fun, this book is for you.

In Faker, we follow heroine Emmie into her job in a male-dominated industry, where she has a particular problem with one coworker specifically- our hero, Tate. There are all the misunderstandings and mishaps you expect in a romantic comedy. My favorite part, though, is that some of the problems they have to work through aren’t really problems. They’re just personality quirks. This book has a surprising amount of psychological depth.

Any rom-com fan will love this, but particularly those that adored The Hating Game.

Review: Heiress Gone Wild by Laura Lee Guhrke

This was my Mommy Book Club read for this month. Apparently, we’ve got some historical romance lovers in that group, and it’s making me appreciate the subgenre more.

Having read a few historicals lately, I’ve gotten used to some quirks of the genre. For one, the heroine is almost always a forward-thinking woman trying to change the expectations of female society. It was a refreshing change of pace that in Heiress Gone Wild the heroine actually wants a traditional life. She’s probably not going to get one, but it’s nice that she wants it.

I really enjoyed this book. It’s hard for me to quantify why exactly. It’s just one of those books that’s a really fun read. The heroine is sassy, and the hero wants to be mad about it, but is actually charmed. No one gets what they think they want, and they’re sort of mad about it, but not really. If you’re looking for a great read, this one’s for you.

Texas Book Festival

When Big Brother was Only Brother, we started going to the Texas Book Festival in Austin. He was 11 when I discovered it, so we went for the weekend and hung out at YA panels all day. My non-reader would actually read if he heard the author talk about the book. We went a couple of years, and then some life stuff happened, and then I had Middle Brother, and without realizing it, I subconsciously wrote off Book Fest until the littles were older.

With the birth of this blog, I realized I wanted to submerge myself in books more than I already am (it’s kind of a problem, y’all!). The sneaky spying internet browser supplied an as for Texas Book Festival, and I thought, “Why not?” While Big Brother had been too old for the children’s events by the time we started going, I knew they had them.

Yesterday morning, we all loaded up in the minivan and drove the two and a half hours to Austin. Big Brother went hunting Pokemon at the three billion Pokestops around the Capitol. Middle Brother, Little Brother, and I headed down to the children’s area. We arrived right in between events, so we stopped by the sales tent and did our part in supporting the festival by buying a couple of new books.

We did a couple of storytimes, took part in a couple of crafts, and listened to the Austin Children’s Choir. We also spent a lot of time chasing squirrels on the Capitol lawn. It was not the festival I remember, but it was so much better.

At the end of the day, I had three happy boys. I provided my children with a full day of outdoor activity and the opportunity, at least, to be exposed to books. I wore my boys out with love and adventure.

So, no, I didn’t get to sit in on panels and learn about the fascinating things going on in adult literature from a different perspective. I didn’t get any books signed, even the ones I bought for my boys. It was very different than when we first started going. But we will get there again someday, and I loved it this way at least as much.

Review: When Life Gives You Pears by Jeannie Gaffigan

I hate that this is the third review I’m going to write about a book (although only the first here!) wherein I call a book about cancer/tumors funny, but there it is. When Life Gives You Pears is hilarious.

I’m going to admit that I don’t know much about Jim Gaffigan besides someone I follow posting quotes from him occasionally. I know at least some of his comedy is about parenting, so if I were a big comedy special watcher, I’d probably be into him. I knew absolutely nothing about his family life. I certainly didn’t realize his wife was one of his writers, and therefore a very funny person.

I listened to this book as an audiobook, so a note on the narrator: The author narrates a lot of this book. How she doesn’t break down in some of the reading is beyond me. The beginning, however, is narrated by her sister because she had just undergone surgery on her vocal cords. The explanation for this sort of sets the tone for the book.

As a working mother, there were some major takeaways from this book. First, Jeannie had written off all the symptoms of a pretty significant brain tumor as just the result of being a busy mom. Again, ladies: Motherhood affects us like a brain tumor might. Tiredness, headaches, some dizzy spells; just par for the course, right?

Second, and this lines up well with where I’m at in my personal journey, she feels like she is the only one who can do the household things “right”, so she does them all. In the period where she was recovering from brain surgery, she had to allow someone else to handle it, and the world did not implode. She also realized that not allowing her family to take care of things themselves was doing them a disservice.

Third, and most importantly, while I treasure my children and have certainly done a better job as a more experienced mother with my two littles of pausing to enjoy their random weird quirkiness when it hits, Jeannie talks a lot about how after she thought she might die, she realized we really don’t have forever with our kids and she values her time with them in a whole new way. Middle Brother was cranky tonight, and you bet your ass I stopped cooking dinner to sit and meet him where he was and make sure he felt seen. If heaven forbid something should happen to me and I’m gone from my children’s lives, I want them to know how much they were loved and have beautiful memories to look back on.

This book may make you cry a little, but it will definitely make you laugh a lot. It will also do you the service of helping you evaluate how you’re prioritizing your time at home.

Review: Find Me Their Bones by Sara Wolf

If you haven’t read Bring Me Their Hearts, you’re going to want to do that first, or Find Me Their Bones isn’t going to make any sense to you. If it’s just been a while since you read the first book, that’s okay. Sara Wolf does a great job of reminding you what happened without a terrible infodump at the beginning.

This series is pulse-pounding fantastic. It is make-you-give-up-sleep greatness. I cannot say enough how much you need these books in your life.

We follow Zera, a Heartless, as she tries to take the prince’s heart to stop a war in the first book. Having failed at that, the second book involves an entirely new plot to stop the same war. There are a lot of big surprises, and I don’t want to spoil them for anyone, so I’m going to be really vague about the storyline.

What the author does splendidly is look at the situation from all angles. You see the good and bad of every decision, every character, every fight. No one is the “good guy”. They’re all human, even the ones that technically aren’t. It’s rapidly paced fantasy with heart, and I adore it.

Anyone who likes anything should read these books, because they’ve got a little bit of something for everyone: romance, adventure, gore, wyrms, magic, suspense, fantastic character-building, and moral questions.