Review: And I Do Not Forgive You by Amber Sparks

First and foremost, this is an incredibly feminist work. I don’t know what it is about raising tiny men, but my feminism has grown with the birth of each new boy. I think I feel a responsibility to raise them in a home where they see women as capable of anything, and that means I have to be capable of anything.

At any rate, that means I’ve been reading more and more feminist books, because that’s where my taste is leaning. And each of those books feeds that feminist fire. So, around and around we go.

I adore And I Do Not Forgive You. I’m not going to lie, I picked it up because the title spoke to me. I’ve been contemplating a lot lately how as women we’re expected to forgive and move on and be the bigger person “because we’re the natural caregivers” and how that’s such bullshit. So, good job to whomever picked the title of that essay and then decided it should also be the title of the book. You hit your mark.

The collection is odd because it’s a mix of magical realism, contemporary pieces, and fairy tale, with one complete horror story thrown in, but it works because of the unifying theme. In fact, it feels better for not all being one genre. I have not read an extraordinary number of short story collections, so maybe genre mixes aren’t that unusual, but it felt like it might be.

I finished this book feeling both empowered as a woman and simultaneously like there’s so much work left to be done, but the fact that it made me feel so strongly both ways is exceptional.

This one is definitely for fans of Any Man, The Power, and Vox, or really for anyone looking for a feminist fiction read.

Disclosure: All links in this post are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Tomorrow’s Woman by Greta Bellamacina

I’m not sure I’m the right person to review Tomorrow’s Woman, or any book of poetry. My experience with poetry is pretty limited to teenage angst. But I’m all for reading outside one’s comfort zone, and I figure I better practice what I preach.

One of the things I love about poetry is that it questions what our language can do. Greta Bellamacina certainly does that, if possibly a bit much for me to grasp. There are phrases, though, that got me in the feels.

In general, this collection did inspire a lot of feelings, which is my understanding of what poetry is meant to do. Entire poems went completely over my head, but some of them really spoke to me.

As a mother, I loved that this collection was so clearly about modern womanhood. Again, I haven’t read a ton, but what I have always seemed to be either written by men, or just poems about relationships. This work is clearly about being a woman and all that means.

I definitely recommend this for the feminist poetry fan, but maybe not for someone just trying to get into poetry. Unless you enjoy feeling like you’re a bit of a dunce. If so, have at it.

Disclosure: Links in this post are Bookshop affiliate links.

Review: Stamped by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi

I have a hard time saying I enjoyed Stamped, because it’s about racism, which isn’t fun. But I do feel better for having read it.

This is a history I didn’t know, and, I’m going to be honest, I think the original adult book would have been a bit cerebral for me.

There were a lot of historical figures mentioned that I thought I knew, but with a lot more information surrounding them. The context cast them in totally different lights. This is a must-read for any American, whether they fit in the target age range (12-17) or not.

I’m not sure that I would have picked this one up myself, because it seems pretty heavy, except that I had the opportunity to see Jason Reynolds and Dr. Kendi in conversation about it at a work conference. If you hear either of them speak about it, you’re compelled to pick it up. It is so important that we bring racism out into the light and start having conversations about it, especially with our young people.

Disclosure: Links in this review are Bookshop affiliate links.

(Not Really a) Shopaholic and Sons

Other than books, I do not have a shopping problem. I actually hate to shop. But we’re reevaluating the family budget, so my shopping options are changing.

I have been having groceries delivered since before Middle Brother was born. First we used Shipt, which I love, by the way. The shoppers are communicative and seem to really care about their clients, since most of their pay is entirely based on your good will when tipping. Then I realized how much more individual groceries are on Shipt and HEB started offering free next day delivery, so we switched to that. I’m not sure who they were actually using for the deliveries, but they were awful. I had a couple deliveries left at my door without anyone even knocking, so I had no idea perishables were sitting on my porch. Then they canceled free deliveries and went to free curbside, which can only work for me on certain days. I am not loading up two littles to drive to the store just to have groceries loaded in the trunk and come home because I didn’t know exactly when we’d be out yesterday.

Based on this somewhat insane conviction, I ended up at the grocery store with just the two littlest for the first time ever on Friday evening. Middle Brother had a blast. He spoke to everyone we passed, played hide and seek behind pillars, and convinced me to buy almost every fruit and vegetable ever. Little Brother likes all new environments. I was lucky. Both of them were so well-behaved. My budget, however, was not so lucky. While beaming over my two beautiful boys, I paid zero attention to how much was going in our basket.

And then yesterday we went to Costco for diapers. Luckily, this time, we had Big Brother for assistance. For a teen boy, Big Brother is pretty aware of our family budget. Since it was just the two of us for a while, I’ve always been honest with him about our financial health. So, we only ended up adding some chips and Febreze to our basket.

I assume this is something I’ll get better at with practice, but for this week, I’m hoping we actually have enough food for a week and a half.

Review: Weather by Jenny Offill

Let me start with a random story about Jenny Offill. Because it’s relevant, I’ll mention that I read and loved her Dept. of Speculation just before my first husband and I decided to file for divorce. Her poignant narrative of a marriage spoke to me at a time when I needed to hear it.

So, for my 30th birthday, as that divorce was finalizing, I took a weeklong solo trip to Chicago during which the Printers Row Lit Fest occurred. I happened to have a bookseller friend there who got me into an afterparty. He wasn’t a very good friend, though, because he introduced me to a group by first names only and then disappeared on me. I spent the evening talking to this group of three people I was pretty sure were all authors about cover blurbs and other writerly things, feeling awkward about the fact that I am not a writer. It wasn’t until two of them were exchanging contact info at the end of the night that I realized the Jenny I had been talking to for hours had written my favorite book of the year.

She was lovely, by the way.

Anyway, when I saw that Weather was coming out, I had to have it. I legitimately did not read the synopsis, and certainly not any cover blurbs. I need to be clear: Jenny Offill does not write the kind of fiction that people rush to the bookstore to buy and then cannot put down. She writes the kind of fiction that you pause to digest, sleep on, meditate on. Weather is no different. Despite the short vignettes it’s written in, I read it slowly. I did it in three sittings, all after my boys went to bed so I could give it my full attention.

Weather is the story of a family dealing with the fact that by the time their son is grown, the planet will be unlivable. Well, sometimes they’re dealing with it, sometimes they’re ignoring it, sometimes they’re running from it. But as the world changes, we get to peek in at how they change, but also how, in the face of this, they stay the same. Offill has taken what’s usually a loud, fast-paced setting and made it all the louder for the reader by making it eerily quiet. We meander towards the end of the world. We suffer, but we also keep going as we always have.

Just like Dept. of Speculation, this book spoke to me. It is definitely for fans of more literary work, but also anyone who loves a realistic family story.

Review: Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy! by Ruth Spiro

I love these kinds of books and, more importantly, so does my toddler. Don’t get me wrong, we also enjoy the cutesy traditional bedtime stories, but Middle Brother already enjoys something meatier.

The Baby Loves series, in case you’re not familiar, is board books with age-appropriate education. This particular one, obviously, is about democracy. The illustrations are adorable and eye-catching, and the text is simple enough to break down for a toddler and keep him engaged.

I certainly wouldn’t advise all educational books all the time for this age group, but I like throwing one into the storytime mix every couple of nights, and this series does it so well. If you’ve ever wondered how to explain democracy to your toddler, Baby Loves Political Science: Democracy! is the answer you’ve been looking for.

Review: The End of the Day by Bill Clegg

You should be aware, before I start my review, that I’m a little in love with Bill Clegg and a lot in love with his writing, so there’s that bias going in. I started with his memoirs and I’m following him through his fiction, and it just keeps getting better. You should also know that this book is due to publish June 2, 2020, so unless you’re also a bookseller with connections at Scout Press, you should just go ahead and preorder this from your local independent bookstore.

When I read Did You Ever Have a Family?, I thought it had ruined me for family stories forever. It was so beautiful, poignant, and heart-wrenching that nothing could ever compare. So, when I got wind of a new Clegg novel, I almost didn’t ask for it. I was a little afraid that after his first novel, it would be a let-down.

The End of the Day is one of those gentle novels that you don’t realize at first is burrowing under your skin. Make no mistake, you know you love it, you just don’t know that it’s taking up residence deeper and deeper in your bloodstream until it can rip your heart apart inside your chest. At its heart, it’s about the choices we make and the ripple effects those have, but also the things we have no choice about at all. I can already tell this is one of those books that will keep niggling at the back of my mind for a long time to come, and I’m embracing it.

If you haven’t read Bill Clegg, pick up his previous works while you’re waiting for this one. You will not regret it, and it will be a nice build to one of the most affecting novels I have read.

Review: The Look-Alike by Erica Spindler

While I tend to read all over the map, I am not generally a thriller reader. It’s just not the genre I think I want to read. Erica Spindler is coming to my store for a luncheon next month, and I always read the book before an event if the publisher supplies an ARC, so I jumped in.

I could not put The Look-Alike down. I loved the interplay between Sienna wondering if she was meant to be the victim and fearing she’s suffering her mother’s mental illness. I love the layers of the story; it’s so much more than the story of a murder. And as a romance reader, I loved the romance subplot, much as I wished there was space for more development.

I had some ideas about who the murderer might be, but I couldn’t narrow it down to just one. All the characters are complex and developed enough you could see how it might be them.

If you’re into thrillers, murder mysteries, or psychological suspense, this one’s for you. It reads fast, too, so it’s a great mom read. I am so excited to discuss it with the author in February.

This may appear to be a bowl under a sink…

… but it is, in fact, an empty bowl under a sink. In case anyone is wondering what my latest excuse for not reading is, this is it. Last night, as I was finally settling down to read, Husband informs me that there’s a drip under the kitchen sink. Since it’s the drainage pipe dripping, he reasons it will be safe to leave it overnight and deal with it in the morning. He is not wrong.

My brain, however, will not stop wondering why the pipe is leaking. I cannot settle into reading. I. Have. To. Know.

It turns out that due to the constant, dramatic change in temperature that is winter in Houston, the little plastic pipes had expanded and contracted until they shifted just enough to drip. I actually didn’t find out the why until I discussed it with coworkers today. But I did find the how, and I fixed it.

Home ownership is fun, you guys. I’m sure there will be many more challenges, some I can’t fix on my own. But I am damn proud of myself today (just not of my reading stats).

Review: Cicada by Shaun Tan

I have mixed feelings about Cicada. It’s beautifully illustrated, I feel like it has an important message about human existence, and yet it’s pretty depressing for a children’s book.

Cicada starts with an insect working at a human job but being treated as sub-human. He can’t afford a home, so he lives in the company walls. He retires quietly, then heads to the roof and stands on the edge. Depressing, right?

Now, he ends up molting, getting his wings, flying off with the other cicadas, and laughing at the humans, but it just went to a really dark place there. I personally enjoy it, but I’m not sure about it for my children.