The Bone Witch ☠️ a book review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This book has been on my TBR for long enough that I’ve plumb forgotten what it’s doing there in the first place. I vaguely remember… being really geeked about it? It’s possible that I took a shine to it because it was a more successfully pulled off version of my own OC and Head AU. For that reason alone, I’m very biased about this book. Whereas a lot of readers seemed less than enthused about it, I’d already had my own back-log of research I’d done five years ago for a very similar story I wanted to tell.

The Bone Witch is the first in a trilogy (but personally, I felt like it was strong enough to stand on it’s own, if you don’t intend to read all three novels).
Tea is a simple village girl who accidentally raises her brother from the dead. Necromancy is an especially unusual ability in Tea’s world, and once it’s discovered, an Asha (witch) collects her and her brother and trains her to become a “Bone Witch.” Bone Witches are valuable, but also feared and ostracized – and though Tea works very hard, she still struggles against her own self-restraint.
There is another perspective in this book, but I found them easy to ignore altogether. A lot of readers didn’t enjoy the changes in POV, but I chose to skip them altogether. This will probably come back to get me in the end if I finish the series.

I really love that Asha are basically Geisha. It was the main appeal for me, which I’d reference before. As a Westerner, there’s a lot I don’t know about Geisha, but I know enough to know it isn’t what Americans typically think they are (Arthur Golden lied to us). Because there is a lot of very intentional mystery surrounding them, they’re pretty safe as models for some original fantasy. Asha aren’t just entertainers and artists – nor are they witches. They are, primarily, warriors. (!!!) I love that these women are well-rounded. In fantasy especially, women are typically damsels in distress or the absolute polar opposite – masculine in every way but their feminine bodies. I love to see feminine women who are also tough!
There’s a very diverse cast of characters, and I’ll love to see what is done with them all as the series progresses.

October 2020 Monthly Wrap-up

This is my first monthly wrap-up! I’m going to try to update you on what-all I’ve been up to this month. Since this is a fairly newish blog, and I’m just trying out new things.

Life

Money was especially tight this month: we had our 2nd hurricane of the year (this one unseasonably late) which wrecked my already pitiful budget. To add to that, my grandparents have both been struggling with their health. My grandfather is doing very poorly, and is in an assisted living facility. My grandmother had a stroke the same day he was taken away, but is still doing fairly well at home. We’ve all been taking turns with her, driving her to appointments and visits with my grandfather. Because of Covid, though, we aren’t allowed to see him in person so much. We’re forced to visit him by standing outside of his room window (the window must remain closed) and compete with the loud traffic behind us. It’s not ideal, and he’s having a difficult time understanding that our hands are tied and this is out of our control.

A New Indie Bookstore!

A new indie bookstore opened up close to my office building – one of the only non-chain or second hand bookstores in the area. I haven’t been able to visit it just yet, because ☝ see above. But I hope to very soon – I have a painting I plan to gift the owner as a sort of “welcome to the neighborhood” gift.
What’s especially unique about this store, however, is that it’s also a French speaking bookstore. This is especially exciting for me, as I’ve been self-teaching myself French for the last four years, and always looking for resources and possibly even a French-Table to join at some point.

Comics

I read way more comics this month because I’ve been behind on my reading goal by about 20-30 books. Comics are quick, reliable reads that make reading sprints possible. When you’re behind on your reading goals, such as the way I found myself this month, they come in clutch.
However, I try not to rely on them too much as a reader. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with just reading comics or graphic novels exclusively – reading is reading, right? I find it takes a different kind of mental energy that’s appropriate in certain cases. For instance – it’s only in the past decade I’ve found that I get a little car sick when I read novels in the backseat of a moving vehicle, but not so when they’re comic books: so they’re perfect (in my opinion) for long road trips.
Another extra perk is that they happen to be good to read during extended power outages – like we experienced this hurricane season. They’re less of a strain on your eyes if you’re trying to read by candle light or flashlight. I don’t know how anyone managed to read novels in the olden days.

In order to dig myself out of the book-rut I’d found myself in, I started reading the My Hero Academia manga. I’ve only read the first three volumes of this very popular series thus-far, and I’m not sure I’m going to continue it past the 5th volume (because it’s what I’ve borrowed from the library) simply because… I don’t… enjoy it? I’m not really sure what the appeal of this series is. I’ve been reading manga since 2001, and I haven’t really been a big shonen fan since 2006 – I know what sort of tastes I have.
I think it moves too quickly and has far too many characters for my tastes. I’m also not interested in super-hero movies, which are also very popular and might owe themselves to the popularity of MHA.
I also started Demon Slayer and Heartstopper. I must say, I like Demon Slayer the best so far – I guess I’m just drawn to it’s more classic themes, both in Japanese history and folklore and the Shonen story formula.
Heartstopper is a really simple story, and in my opinion, not very original. The characters are cute and I’m rooting for them, but I don’t think I liked it enough to continue with the series on my own. I’ll probably finish it if I ever need another boost in my reading goals, simply because I’ve already started it, but other than that it’s not much to my interests. However, I am curious about Alice Oseman’s other novels.

Halloween-Hygge Care Packages

Halloween is my favorite holiday – but I don’t like to dress-up or go to parties. At least that’s something that Covid took care of for us this year.

Here’s the playlist I shared in the care package

I included things like Zapp’s Voodoo chips, flaming hot mac ‘n cheese, Halloween hair ties, some sensory toys, a spooky ghost book & a bookmark, socks, pumpkin spice coffee and a scented wax melts, a Halloween travel mug, a goodie bag filled to the gills with candy (obviously!!) and loads of other surprises. I also worked pretty hard on this playlist, which I included as a QR code in my letter.

I invested a lot into this, the way some people invest into Christmas – the reason being… I don’t enjoy Christmas nearly as much, personally. Why should I go for broke for people who aren’t excited to be treated during a holiday I don’t enjoy? Especially when I can make a holiday I do love more fun with people who are genuinely excited about it? After all, part of what makes Christmas what it is is just the general enthusiasm we’ve built up over it. There’s no rules saying I can’t do the same for Halloween. Especially for a seriously crappy year.

Goals for November

I definitely intend to save money, though that’s going to be very difficult leading up to Christmas, even if I just finished saying that I don’t intend to go wild for Christmas. I’ve never been successful at NaNoWriMo, so this year I’m definitely going to use this month on more pressing things like finishing my reading goal and focusing on my family. But I decided it was also important that I participate this month in the Consecration to St. Joseph – which my mother has already completed and enthused over for the better part of the year. I’m borrowing her copy of the book, so we’re leaving notes to each other in it as we go.

Don’t Overthink It ✩ a book review

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’m a big fan of Anne Bogel’s blog, Modern Mrs Darcy, and I’ve read almost all of her published books. I feel like, in a lot of ways, we’re kindred spirits. As for this book, which I read out of obligation, I just couldn’t relate to the message. I’m getting a major libra ♎︎ or virgo ♍︎ read from her.
So here’s what’s up – Anne Bogel is essentially a Xian Mommy Blogger – yes, one with a brand that I find especially appealing, but when we get really right down to it, half of her target audience excludes me. Including, as it happens, being indecisive. However, she’s not exactly an expert on indecision or psychology. A lot of her stories were not really backed by anything substantial and purely anecdotal.
Look, it pains me to have to give Ms. Bogel’s book a poor review – she’s one of my blogger heroes. But that’s just it: it probably could have just been a series of blog posts rather than a full-fledged book and still stuck the point. Extending out into book-form is where the “virgo-ness” comes out: it’s sort of bossy and impertinent. That’s cool that you have all this advice for people with the same problem as you, but what makes you an authority on it? Besides, I just can’t relate to this problem: I make a choice and just sleep well knowing that it’s a done deal. If it’s a big decision, then I do research until I’m satisfied that I’ve made the best decision. And if I didn’t? Que Sera, Sera.

Gosh, this makes me sound like a huge jerk – I’m really sorry, Ms. Bogel! You are, truly, one of my biggest heroes. I love, love, loved I’d Rather Be Reading. I learned so much from Reading People. I adore your podcast, I love your blog (obviously) – but I just wasn’t the right person for this book. If you think it might appeal to you, I don’t want to diminish the help you might get from it, so give it a shot.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown ✩ A Book Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Earlier this year – when 2020 was shiny, new, and still comparatively young and hopeful – I read Get a Life, Chole Brown for my library Romance Novel book-club and it was my favorite book that we had read thus far. This book was published very shortly after, and the other members of the book-club read it on their own and raved about it. I decided these were a couple of Jones I’d need to keep up with for once, so to speak, and added myself to the library holds list. Three months later, I finally got my chance!

Danika Brown is a PhD candidate who knows E.X.A.C.T.L.Y what she wants right now, and a “serious relationship” is not exactly circled and highlighted in sparkly gel pen anywhere in her Erin Condren planner. (Yes, I imagine Dani would have a meticulous, over-priced, name brand planner) I mean it – she’s fine with flings, but she views a real relationship with the utmost suspicion.
Zafir Ansari is a retired professional rugby player turned University security guard with a serious RBF but a soft spot for romance novels… and Danika Brown, as it turns out. However hard he struggled to keep that a secret, he finally gets a break to act on it. …Sort of.
You see, during a routine fire drill, Dani gets trapped in the elevator and Zaf has to help her out of it. Except, things get a wee bit out of hand and he carries her out like, well…

And not surprisingly, it caused a but of a scene. A few phone cameras trained their way, social media magic, and voilà! You have a viral video and hashtag #DrRugBAE. (There’s some obvious chemistry) Because Zaf has a struggling youth charity that could benefit from the free publicity, he convinces Dani to play along with him and pretend to be his girl-friend. And, well, you get it.

While reading it, I was reminded again and again why so many people trivialize the Romance genre – still. And how very, very excruciatingly wrong they are. I’ll be honest, it really burns my ass up. Talia Hibbert’s books are just evidence that the Romance genre is going into a new, better, and non-toxic direction. But yet there are still very intelligent women who feel like it’s all trash that’s going to give them brain-worms and ruin their lives. In Talia Hibbert’s novels, as well as so many other current romance novels I’ve read published since (let’s say) 2013, authors are by and large very careful about discussing mental health, disabilities, healthy relationships, very diverse casts of characters (including race, the LGBTQ+ community, a variety of kinks in a positive and healthy way, etc.) It’s incredibly frustrating to me that this stigma is still prevalent and tittered over by grown ass women. Sure, we have a few outliers – unfortunately those tend to be the ones most often brought up. However – and pay close attention here – the women reading these books are adult women. They aren’t imbeciles. They’re allowed to enjoy whatever kind of fiction they like. Yes, even if it’s morally corrupt and unsavory. Fiction is still fiction. I’m frigging GRAY-ACE and I read romance novels – it would be incredibly stupid of you to assume that I would read something like 50 Shades and jump into the first red-flag relationship I find. So I’d love it if we’d stop:

  1. Expecting the worst from Women’s fiction, namely Romance.
  2. Infantizing and/or slut-shaming the women who enjoy them.

But anyway *ahem* Why did I love this book so much? Because it’s like Talia Hibbert read the above paragraph, made a check-list of all my concerns and interests, and figured out a way to include them into her novels – in a very unpretentious, natural way. I did mention that Zaf reads romance novels, right? Well, he also has a teenaged niece that he allows to borrow from his collection because it’s “good for her.” A lot of Dani and Zaf’s foundation for their relationship – their real relationship – is built on vulnerability around their mental health. Both of them have sad, and realistic, histories and they work through their issues together in an astoundingly healthy way. This romance novel isn’t just a guaranteed HEA, it’s a breath of fresh air.

His Fair Assassin: Grave Mercy (book 1) ⚔️ A Book Review

I kind of debated over which cover to use, because the edition I borrowed from the library is not the current one. Instead, I decided to go with that one anyway.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This book was one of the titles recommended to me by the fine folks over at the OSRBC book club when I was looking for something comparable to Sarah J. Maas’ books, because I just happened to have a hankering for her particular style of writing. It caught my interest above the other books mentioned (though never fear, I did add every title recommended to my library hold’s list as long as it was available) because it was both an established, and a continuing series, all without being too long. Also, like most romance novels and unlike fantasy trilogies, each novel can be read as part of the series or as a stand alone, as far as I can tell. I did enjoy this book very much, so I will be reading the rest of the trilogy/series over time.

Grave Mercy, the first book in the “His Fair Assassin” trilogy – a series about femme fatale nuns in Medieval Brittany (a corner of modern day France). Now, Medieval Brittany has it’s own delectable history and culture, and your research into it should not begin and end here. Remember this is essentially still fantasy, so expect the author to have taken plenty of liberties. However, though La Fevers plays fast and loose with the facts, she actually did do her homework. So if you’re into this sort of thing – or you’re like me and you didn’t realize you were into that sort of thing until you read a badass YA romance set in it, then I like to believe this review has already done it’s job (Lazy, Lauren! You’re lazy!)

Ismae Rienne escapes from an abusive and ill-suited arranged marriage and is spirited away to a convent that worships Death and is trained to become an assassin under the title “Death’s Handmaiden.” Her first assignment is to journey into the heart of court with one of the Duchess Anne’s counselors in order to help sniff out who is betraying her. The short answer is everyone. More to the point, The Duke promised Anne is many, many suitors – and when he died she was just twelve years old.
In the fore-front, Ismae is growing more and more confident in her skills, court intrigues, and her love for Duval (the man she was sent to spy on/assist in spying with). Things do get obviously rather complicated, but I didn’t think they were convoluted and needlessly so. (highlight text to read spoilers) I was a bit put off by the fact that Ismae had to save Duval’s life by basically having sex with him. I find this less and less in fiction these days, and this is an older book, but I still wish it would go away completely.


All in all, I enjoyed this book very much. I’m almost certainly going to continue reading the rest of the series if I can get ahold of them all.

Books I Read in College That Have Stuck With Me

A while ago, Stuck In The Book made a post that inspired this one. I graduated from college in 2012, and I was a late bloomer at that. Still, those years were incredibly formative to my personality, and the books I read (both for fun and as study) without a question, had some of the biggest impact on me as an individual than anything else at any other time of my life. I think a discussion could be made about wither or not the media you consume at certain points in your life have a bigger impact on you as an individual or not. (I think “yes,” a big resounding yes.) Part and Parcel to that is why College, I think, is so important for individual growth. Yes, that’s a hell of a debt to put yourself in if you’re “just” going to mature into a responsible adult, especially depending on where you live. But considering that this is supposed to be a light, fluff piece let’s not get into all that right now.

Read More »

The Jane Austen Society ❧ A Book Review

Rating: 3 out of 5.

If you’re a new kid in town, you may not yet know what a Jane Austen fangirl I am. Yet – I am the gross and goblin-esque sort of fangirl, not the cutesy fangirl. In the case of Jane Austen, you’d expect a fangirl to, idk, drink tea in antique teacups, wear knitted shawls, and, Idk, positively swoon over that dashing Mr. Darcy. Sure, I appericate this image, but I take the same approach to my Jane Austen fandom as I do to all my other fandoms – ie, I’ll take the cringe with the fluff. Basically, I’ll read/watch anything and everything that is a nod to Jane Austen, no matter how trite and over-done. Sometimes I’ll even coyly feign interest, but I’ll almost always end up reading (or watching) it.
So, it was no surprise that I was going to read “The Jane Austen Society” sooner or later. Only… Here’s the thing I wish I’d known going into it: this is historic fiction, but it leans heavier on the fiction than it does the historic. It’s fine that a large part of the story is entirely of Ms Jenner’s imagination, but it’s always been a pet peeve of mine in historic fiction when authors flirt around with actual historic people with their own stories and identities, but basically throw the whole thing out the window and write a fiction that have could stood on it’s own without needing to stand in the place of the real person. I perfectly understand why people do it – just because these obscure people existed doesn’t mean that history has a means of remembering them fully, but I still think it’s a pretty ballsy move.

The Jane Austen Society is, in fact, a story inspired (and therefore “loosely based”) on the community of people who came together in the 1940’s to protect the remaining estate of the famous authoress. But really, the story is actually about a small English community who share a common love for Jane Austen’s books, and discover their own blooming romances. I would still have read the book if it was actually about the community that rescued Austen’s legacy and created a tourist’s Mecca for book-lovers out of their sleepy town. I would also still have read about a group of people who are falling in love with each and are inspired by Jane Austen in the process. Regardless, this book makes itself a perfect Book Club book.

Here’s what I loved and found exciting about this book: it’s perfect for an Austen nerd, because every character’s hot takes on the novels I’ve wanted to say myself for years and years (I have a lot of Austen and Brontë hot takes). I loved Evie Stone – the brilliant and precocious scullery maid who took advantage of her position to dig up some of Austen’s personal artifacts (because she reminds me of myself. But I also love the underestimated heroes.) I also loved how the relationships mirrored the relationships in many of Austen’s novels – which apparently was not something the author originally intended, but when she saw the set up forming on it’s own organically, she embraced it and went with it.


Transcendent Kingdom ✩ A Book Review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I do read a lot of books by black and immigrant authors, mostly as a means to expand my perspectives. It’s a meager attempt on my end that I hope boosts the awareness to get it in the right hands of the ones who will resonate the most with it. It’s incredibly rare for these stories to single me out, because I am a Southern Christian White American Woman. But this one turned a corner and swung back into some Very Personal territory.
Transcendent Kingdom was one of September 2020’s Book of the Month’s selections, and I had a hard time picking the book I wanted that month. In the end, I picked something else but put Transcendent Kingdom on my library hold’s list instead.

☞ Btw, about Book of The Month Club – if you aren’t already a member, here’s the sitch: basically, you’re given an option every month of five new, hardcover books. You pay a flat rate of about $15 for your first book, and $10 for any additional book you add after that. Everyone is different, of course, but so far I haven’t gotten any titles that were duds. Worst case, they simple didn’t thrill me, but still kept my interests. So really, it’s totally worth it! ☜

Transcendent Kingdom is about Gifty – the first generation daughter of Ghanaian immigrants, born in Alabama. Gifty is currently a PhD candidate studying neuroscience at Stanford – this is world’s away from her childhood spent in a Southern evangelical church, growing up with her older brother Nana – a basket ball protégé and her single mother. But that was then. Nana has since over-dosed on OxyContin. Her once strong and domineering mother is now a husk of her former self, as she struggles with depression after losing her son. Gifty’s work now focuses a more in the interest of addiction and depression, obviously inspired by her family.

However, as a reader I was struck by – and most interested in – how Gifty struggles to discern her place in science while also acknowledging her religion. As a practicing Christian and someone who “isn’t a dummy,” to put it lightly, I seem to confound the people around me who have long since thrown in their towel’s vis a vis religion. There is a lot to say on the matter of being spiritually and educationally homeless, and honestly, no one I know seems to be objective or non-biased enough to actually listen. In this way, Transcendent Kingdom was a revelation for me. Yaa Gyashi may not have said what I would want to say, but at least she has been able to breech the topic in a way I have never been able to before, and for that I am very grateful.


Personal-ish ☆ Hurricane Delta

I intended to send this post out at the beginning of the week, but there were plenty of bumps along the way. Mainly, I couldn’t with good conscious write up such a self-pitying post while I had so much actual work to see through. The work truly never ends, but at least I’m more on top of my tasks this morning, so I’m feeling more secure about it.

Let’s start with the good news: I’m at 80 books in 2020! And, honestly, despite everything working against me, I don’t think it would have happened if not for Hurricane Delta. Hurricane’s are horrible events, but one tiny positive is that they force you to slow down and disconnect – literally. Our internet, cell service, and electricity were out for most of the weekend. I’ll get into what that was like in a bit, but first I’d like to say – nothing beats the old flashlight under the covers method of reading. Because truly, I finished 3 books this way this weekend. I appear to have gotten spoiled over time for my comfy reading chair and perfect reading lamp, because I have definitely been under-utilizing the flashlight method.
However, while I credit a hurricane to helping me focus more on reading, I could not read as much during Quarantine – and in fact found myself behind on my reading goal by 23%. Between working from home an just adapting to this new normal, I just didn’t have the attention span for it. I’m finally starting to catch up, but as you can tell I’m not there yet.

The threat of this hurricane scared me a lot more than Hurricane Laura from 7 had weeks ago. That’s because a lot more was on the line for my family. I still have a hard time explaining it, but basically my last living grandfather is doing very poorly. I say, he has “everything but cancer,” because there is a laundry list of ailments he has and thankfully cancer isn’t actually on this list (neither is Covid! …for now). I’ve been spending my weekends with my grandmother, his wife, because she has recently had a relatively minor stroke and with my grandfather moved to an assisted living home, she’s pretty lonely and scared. Hurricane Delta was due to hit Friday evening, and we knew as soon as Tuesday afternoon that making arrangements for my grandfather (should his assisted living home have required evacuation) – not to mention, my grandmother who is healthy enough, but still a handful in her own way. Midway through the week, I had some hope that my grandfather would have been safe – if inaccessible to us – because he had been admitted to the hospital for some especially vicious bacterial infections. Initially I was terrified because it really seemed like he wouldn’t be able to survive it and the hospital still isn’t allowing guests to patients in the time of Covid. I was terrified that he might take a sharper turn for the worse and pass away without any of his family there with him. It REALLY seemed like there was no possible way this could end well. Though one of my aunts offered to spend the duration of the hurricane with him (really, the hospital was possibly the safest building he might have been able to stay in) he was discharged before the end of the week and sent to a new assisted living home instead.
In the end, both he and my grandmother were fine. We spent the duration of the storm in my grandparents’ home – which is a stocky and solid brick building with working shutters. While we were perfectly safe and relatively comfortable, the electricity was out for 3 miserable days. The mosquitos and fire ants were absolutely vicious. And if you’re not familiar with this sorts of thing, canned and shelf-stable foods were the only thing we really had to eat for the entire weekend and further into the week, as most restaurants and grocery stores lost all of their perishable foods due to extended electrical outages, and it would be a while until new supplies would be in. Those of you who turn up your nose at Spam sandwiches and Vienna sausages, please check your elitism and understand that this is sincerely the only filling we can eat in these situations sometimes. The damages extend beyond property loss, which has been far more serious in other areas than what I’d faced.
Indeed, several of my students were still barely recovering from Hurricane Laura and living in tents pitched in their yards when Hurricane Delta swept by again.

For those interested in making donations in interest of hurricane relief and recovery:

Here are a few links to charities that have been helping us. Bombas Socks has actually donated a huge bag of socks to my family, and they are incredibly comfortable: their pitch is accurate. Baton Rouge Food Banks and St. Joseph’s Diner are two of the local food banks that actually help our own community. If you would like to donate to me directly, you can do so via my Ko-fi account. Thank you!

If you can donate directly to me, I can assure that funds will be used to assist my grandparents – either for creature comforts or as gas money for daily visits.

Too Much and Never Enough

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I sort of try to keep my political opinions away from most prying eyes, because it is a hostile topic. Therefore, I’m not necessary thrilled to be writing this review and putting it out into the world: the people who need to read it the most will not see it, or will see it and deride it without reading it.
But here it is – as unsurprising as the contents of this book was to me and a lot of American readers, I still feel like it was important to read to get a better insight into how our president ticks. Fear not, however, Mary Trump, Donald Trump’s niece and noted psychologist, does not spend all 240 pages maligning her more famous uncle. This is more of a memoir about her family overall. Being that her father is Freddy Trump, she spends the better part of the book explaining his role in the family as what amounted to as the “black sheep.” So if you were expecting anything especially salacious and mean spirited towards our fearless leader, I don’t think you’ll find much of interest. At least, I didn’t think so.

Still, it’s very obvious as to where Mary’s loyalty lies. The Trump family is indeed a pit of vipers who are absolutely only interested in themselves. This is self-evident just by watching the news and being related to anyone from the president’s fan-base. According to this memoir, Mary had no idea of her family’s worth for a lot of her life. Anyone from the outside looking in would find this impossible to believe – though even having a single family member worth a million dollars, I can say that I don’t ever get to see any perks from them, even necessarily at Christmas time or for my birthday. That being understood, I’m still shocked by how many cracks the Trump family took at one of their own: driving Freddy to a self-destructive lifestyle and writing his surviving family out of the estate upon the Patriarch’s death, then shrugging it off years later.
It really reveals a great deal about how pathological our president is. Something I’ve often wondered about: it’s clear that something happened in his early youth that created the man we see today and whose whims we’re at the mercy of. Someone or something created this – it simply isn’t normal. Because Mary isn’t just his niece but a trained physiologist, I was especially excited to get my hands on her perspective. I’d have hoped for a more clinical explanation, knowing that she is able to give it. I didn’t 100% get that, nor was I promised it, but it’s probably for her best interest that she didn’t give it. Donald is not her patient and even if he was, she wouldn’t ever be able to publish it. This memoir is “good enough.”

My favorite part about this book is the timing of which I read it: I finished it mere hours before Trump’s tax records were published. Mary minces no words when she promised that her family has been committing tax fraud for actual decades and now I have absolutely no choice but to believe that.

Sweet Virginia – an amazon original story by Caroline Kepnes (spoiler warning, if you care about that sort of thing)

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

I’m really behind on my reading goal so far for 2020 (by about 27), so it’s absolutely vital that I just start shot-gunning some quick reads. 2020 hasn’t been the most generous year, but I mainly have myself to blame for the fugue state I’ve been in.
To know me is also to know that I am deeply ambivalent about Amazon in the nicest of terms. Still, desperate times call for desperate measures and I find my hand forced towards the Amazon Original Stories. I’ve also never read anything by Caroline Kepnes until now either, so this is a nice warm-up.

Shelby is a new mom who has been lying to her husband and live-in mother about the job she was fired from. Despite the fact that her husband is loving, if emotionally unavailable, she feels compelled to follow some flirty bread-crumbs a mysterious texter has been dropping for her. She’s also obsessed with Hallmark Channel Original Movies – which the story both takes digs at and glorifies [the type of women who loves them – I can’t really tell which.] Shelby is then kidnapped by her catfisher and sent to live in a dystopian commune meant to turn her into a Hallmark Movie Heroine. – Yes, that’s a spoiler, but the book is literally less than 50 pages long.

Like, obviously this short story is meant to be:
A) Included in a collection of short stories by this already popular fiction writer some years down the road. and…
B) A commentary on The Modern American Woman – wither good or bad, I can’t personally tell. I love short fiction because they carry a heavier burden than novels usually can do: I think of them as conceptual sandboxes for writers. Maybe it’s to hammer out some characterization, or as with this story, make a commentary on a niche aspect of society.
I can see that Kepnes is saying something, but I haven’t taken a college English course in some years and so my interpretation radar is pretty rusty. Would I read more of the titles in this series? Possibly, but it’s unlikely. If I did it would be to get a broader picture of what this project is trying to accomplish, but since the series is very varied and left up to the interpretation of many other authors – rather than a continuation of the one story – it wouldn’t be for much. I honestly read it because I needed something quick to read for my 100 Book Reading Goal (for which I am miserably behind on)

Dangerous Prayers ☆ a book review

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

This may be a surprising book choice to some of you, but I’m really incredibly grateful that I read this uplifting little book.
I’m a proud, if lapsed, practicing Catholic. I don’t often discuss my faith, even though briefly mentioning it once is enough for some people to accuse you of being a “Holy Rolly, Jesus Freak” (twas always thus), but that doesn’t mean it isn’t very important to me. So, yes – sometimes I read Christian books.

I actually own a few of Craig Groeschel’s older books, but this is the first one I have ever actually read. The titles of his books are often a bit compelling like “The Christian Atheist,” and “WEIRD: Because Normal Isn’t Working.” These aren’t your Peaches and Cream, soft and feel-good Christian non-fiction. He wants you to chafe a little against the label you’ve slapped on your chest, and that I can respect. Dangerous Prayers is, in fact, exactly about that.
Prayer life is always something I over-thought about, you know? Especially growing up in the Catholic church and having the heavy weight of being told the Rosary and Novenas are the most powerful prayers you can pray, but also being told that there’s “no wrong way to pray.” If you know anything about Novena’s and the Rosary, you know that there’s at the very least some time-management involved. I mean, you do actually have to set aside some time in your Erin Condren, especially for Novenas, and one does not just rattle off a free-styled rosary off the cuff. There’s a whole process to them. So what if you’re feeling inspired to beg God to help a sick friend while your eating your tuna sando at lunch? What if you’re writing the prayers down? As it happens, prayer isn’t that complicated. I mean – it doesn’t need to be. But, Groeschel suggests stepping up your prayer game and asking for something difficult. When we’re children, we prayed for a new bike. As adults we might pray for a new car. There’s nothing wrong with wanting this things, but these are considered the simplest of prayers. If you live in America in 2020, getting a new car isn’t necessarily a feat that requires divine intervention. A dangerous prayer is something that even the most devote church lady flinches against. I don’t think it’s wrong to pray for something that will improve your life, a new car and weight loss might do that. A new job, a cure, for your loved ones to come back to you, those are all very worthy things to pray for. A dangerous prayer, though, might be for God to show you why your loved ones left you in the first place, just for example. You might not be prepared for the answer, or brave or confident enough for it. God might not make you a millionaire over night, or cure advanced cancer, but God is more than willing to answer you immediately if you ask to be humbled.

So, in my personal life, there were two events that confirmed my faith – no matter what I say or do now, no matter who I spend time with or how it looks from the outside, these events solidified my place as a follower of Christ. One was a dangerous prayer for sure. In the spring of 2017, I decided that for Lent I was going to give up “being judgemental.” I’d decided on this penance on the first Saturday of Lent, so I was a few days behind. It was a vague penance and I don’t think I was really ready for it. But God acted right away. I’ve never before or since had such a difficult and rewarding penance. The thing about being judgemental is that unlike giving up something like candy, if you mess up and take a candy from a dish at the bank or something, you can still spit it out. If you have a judgemental thought, that’s it. That happened. You can’t back-pedal on it. But, you can chastise yourself. What I learned is that, the nature of being judgemental is really hard to escape. I found that even the sweetest, kindest, most generous people were still unfair and hard on others – and even noticing that made me unfair and hard on them. The other thing, and the hardest, thing I learned is that just because I was on that journey didn’t mean that anyone else was either. The Lord was teaching me that trying to be more like him was very hard and frustrating and absolutely no one knew what they were doing. That was what dangerous prayer taught me: not everyone is ready for it. Not everyone is prepared to be broken down and rebuilt by it – because it’s painful and lonely, and though you’re better because of it, it’s still not a great feeling.
Christian’s love to use the image of the caterpillar becoming a butterfly – and dangerous prayer is the chrysalis state: where you’re a gooey, but still conscious state of change.

The Color of Law by Richard Rothstein

Rating: 3 out of 5.

This book is a continuation of my education in African American history – this time via applied zoning laws as a means of social segregation. I personally know many people who would bristle under the presumption that they both take this for granted and benefit from it. Because I feel like my anti-racist education can’t go forward without this topic being explored, I needed to read this book.

While a lot of what I learned from this book made me really hot under the collar, I can’t dispute anything I found in it especially because it’s based on what I already knew to be true. Still, I think this book could have been a bit more concise and as someone who doesn’t understand “legalese” I didn’t pay much attention to everything I was reading. Not that this book is just for lawyers – but I feel like the topic might be more self-evident to someone who works in civics. I know when I’m out of my league and under-exposed; I know when to throw in the towel.

Without going too far into it, where I was raised, segregation and racism is normalized even in 2020 even more obviously than it is in a lot of places in the United States. It is perfectly normal her for “Black Churches” and “White Churches,” “Black” Gas stations and “White” Gas stations. We do go to the same basic public buildings – schools are inter-racial because they are smaller and serve more rural areas, but we have made national news at least twice in my life-time for having segregated High School proms. Still, I understand that this is neither normal nor the exception.
With this book, you can illustrate the current state of socioeconomic in American cities, and give your anti-racist education a little flavor. Otherwise, the book offers very little by way of solutions except through awareness. It’s a bit dry on it’s own, and repetitive, but it does the job.