Monday, November 12, 2018

What I Read in October

It's entirely possible that I will not hit my arbitrary reading goal for 2018. I set myself the goal of reading 52 books this year--one book a week--and my reading pace is not exactly keeping up. Between getting the creeping (and lingering...and lingering...and lingering...) crud in October, just after my husband came down with pneumonia, and my inability to turn my brain off enough to immerse myself in a book, it's been a weird month (and year), reading-wise.

I'd feel disappointed about this except for two things.

1. This is a completely made up, arbitrary, meaningless goal I have set for myself. If I don't hit my dinger, there will not be a big man named Spike from the reading goal enforcement agency to exact my punishment.

2. I'm still reading. A lot. Even if I'm not finishing books. I have abandoned a number of books that weren't working for me. In general, they weren't bad books, but I just put them down and didn't pick them back up again. Also, I tend to comfort read old favorites when I'm anxious, down, or stressed, which means I've been revisiting some literary friends and not counting them in my book total.

Still, I will try to reach my 52 book goal. 52 new-to-me books read between January 1, 2018 and December 31, 2018. Let's see how far I can get.

So without further ado, here is what I read in October:

42. Strange Practice by Vivian Shaw

What an odd little book. Dr. Greta Helsing (the family dropped the van several years after emigrating to Britain) is a physician to the undead. She helps reconstruct mummy feet, proscribes anti-depressants to ghouls, and patches up vampires who have been infected with garlic.

She is good friends with several characters who are straight out of classic horror. The Ruthven and Varney are apparently the names of some of the vampires of 18th century literature. (The book makes sure to explain that their exploits were greatly exaggerated in their respective books.) Fastitocalon is a demon (with COPD), but also the name of a turtle in a Tolkien poem.

I loved the well-thought out details of this world. About how Ruthven is overwhelmed by boredom--as who wouldn't be after 400 years of life? And how Greta and Fastitocalon repeat lines from Monty Python. And how even ghoul babies get ear infections.

I can't say if I really enjoyed this book or not. I listened to it on audio, and downloaded the second book after finishing the first, but I couldn't bring myself to keep listening to the second. (However, this was in part because the narrator changed how she pronounced the name Fastitocalon from the first book to the second, and I just couldn't get over that. Is it FAS-TEE-TO-CAY-LON or FAZ-TEE-TO-CAY-LEN? Make up your mind and stick with through ALL the books!!)

Still, it was kind of the perfect read for October in preparation for Halloween.

Finished: October 5, 2018

43. Genealogy by Mae Wood

Mae is a good friend of mine, and I was really excited when she asked me to be a beta reader for her newest book. This one is a bit of a departure from her previous Pig & Barley books, and I really really really loved it.

The story is told in two parts. The first is Ali's story. She is a doctor who is facing a major life upheaval after not getting the job she wanted--which meant she couldn't move with her boyfriend to California. She has a temporary position in Saint Louis, where she grew up, while she tries to figure out her life. While helping to clean out her grandmother's house, she finds 100 year old love letters that were written to her great-grandmother Alice, for whom Ali was named--but the sender was not her great-grandfather.

Ali reads the letters from Elliott to Alice and learns more about the love story that could have been, had distance, war, and circumstances not gotten in the way. She decides to track down the descendants of the man who had loved her great-grandmother, and finds her own love story.

This book was everything. Bittersweet, romantic, fun, and some incredible examinations of what love really means. Mae really outdid herself, and that's saying a lot.

Finished: Back in August, but I forgot to include it in my August round-up because I was cramming three months together all at once and since I read it on my Kindle I didn't have the physical book to remind me that I was being a knob who had forgotten to include her good friend's tour de force of a book.

What have you read lately?

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway

When I was an anxious teenager my mother taught me that bravery had nothing to do with feeling fearless. Bravery was when you felt the fear, and did whatever it was anyway.

This lesson came when I was terrified of learning to drive. There was so much that could go wrong behind the wheel, and a part of me wanted to forgo driving altogether to avoid the possible consequences.

Mom made sure that I understood it was okay to be afraid. Fear was a rational response to the responsibilities of driving, but it did not need to be the final response. I could feel the fear, and get in the driver's seat anyway. That way, the fear did not steal my joy (and potential independence) from me.

23 years later, I can only barely remember the visceral fear I felt at becoming a driver. But I was reminded of Mom's lesson this week, now that the stakes are even higher than deciding whether or not to take her 1992 Honda Accord to Owings Mills Mall to meet my friends.


***


This past Saturday, a piece of shit anti-Semite murdered 11 Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. This domestic terrorist shouted "All Jews must die" as he mowed down men and women who had gathered together to worship and welcome an 8-day-old baby into Jewish life.

I use the word terrorist intentionally, even though it is not the term used by the media. I use the word terrorist because this pathetic asshole wants Jews to feel terrorized.

I. Refuse. To. Be. Terrorized.

Make no mistake, I am afraid. I'm afraid for my children, my community, my country, our future. But though I cannot control how I feel about the fact that anti-Semitic violence has caused the deaths of 11 menschen, I can control what I will do. And what I will do is continue to live my life.

I will attend synagogue to worship and thank Ha Shem for the blessings in my life.

I will hold my mealy-mouthed politicians accountable for refusing to denounce the home-grown hatred that has spilled blood--in Pittsburgh and all over the country.

I will mark the holidays and seasons that connect me to thousands of years of Jews both past and future.

I will be kind, compassionate, friendly, and open.

I will teach my sons the beauty and meaning in our world.

I will hold my head high and proudly proclaim my Judaism.

I will laugh and write and draw and love and be, despite the pathetic attempts to make me cower.

I am stronger, bigger, and more loving than my momentary feelings of fright--and I know that is the essence of their hatred. They hate what they cannot control.

But terrorists cannot control me. They cannot make me change my life, my love, my faith, my hope, my kindness, or my actions, and so I will continue to do it all anyway--which is the most liberating feeling in the world.


Feel the fear and do it anyway.




Monday, October 8, 2018

What I Read: July Through September


I have not been keeping up with my What I Read posts, in part because I had a real emotional (and reading) rut in early August. Honestly, I've been getting worn down by the state of the world lately, and even running away into a good book seemed beyond my ability to focus.

Despite the national horrors of the last couple of weeks, I am finally feeling more like myself. My favorite cousin got married this past weekend, and celebrating with the whole family in an unbelievably beautiful part of Colorado has helped restore my equilibrium, even as I am simultaneously worried about everything.

I can do what I can do to put positivity into the world. I can stop to celebrate joy and embrace love. I can read and rejoice in the pleasures of the written word. So I'm picking up where I left off:

35. The Secret, Book & Scone Society by Ellery Adams

I kind of hated this one. It's been long enough since I read it that I don't remember all of the reasons why I hated it, but one of them was the way the author dealt with characters of color. For instance, the fact that June is a Black woman is highlighted over and over again in a way that shows the author sees whiteness as default. It feels like there is no excuse for this in 2018 (or 2017, when the book was originally published). There is a reason why there are sensitivity readers and it would behoove authors and publishers to make use of them.  Pop culture must lead the charge in ending whiteness as the default.


Finished: July 6, 2018

36. Lessons in French by Laura Kinsale

This is another that has become hazy in the time since I read it. But there was a hilarious portion of the story involving a bull named Hubert being hidden in a kitchen in a small English country estate. I loved that section, although I couldn't help but worry about if Hubert had to relieve himself.

Overall, this was a sweet and charming little historical romance novel, and I really was cheering for What's-Her-Name and Monsieur Whoosis to get together at the end, which of course they did.
Finished: July 11, 2018

37. The Prince of Midnight by Laura Kinsale

I so enjoyed Lessons in French that I immediately started listening to/reading another Kinsale novel. In this one, the heroine seeks out a famous highwayman to help her get revenge against a cult that killed her family. There were aspects of this book that I didn't love--specifically, there were some weird issues with consent between the hero and heroine, although it was never overtly rapey.

But the way Kinsale wrote about how the Prince of Midnight worked with animals and how that helped the heroine (whose name I can't remember) to heal from her trauma was incredible. I really loved the scene when he teaches her how to "tame" a horse that was considered unrideable through gentle communication with the animal. That scene was so good that I went back to it to re-read it several times.

I also really appreciated the details about the cult that caused her family's death. The entire cult is laughably ridiculous. For instance, all the members have to change their names to things like "Dove of Peace" and other silly-sounding religious names. The men have to spoon-feed the women at meals. There are a number of similarly weird/funny details.

The section about the cult helped me to recognize that we often don't recognize the danger of someone or something that is intentionally ridiculous. The absurdity means that reasonable people are laughing--and they assume, to their peril, that everyone else is laughing, too. But those absurdities are part of the danger since they offer protective coloration to the cult leader. When those who could do something to stop a dangerous cult leader are laughing at the cult leader, that gives him more power.

It makes me wish I had read this before 2016, quite honestly.

Finished: July 13, 2018

38. Kushiel's Dart by Jacqueline Carey

I am of several minds about this book. It was suggested as a selection for my feminist fans of romantic fiction book club, and I was the only member who finished the book, other than the woman who suggested it (who had already read it several years ago).

Carey's world building was incredible, and it definitely sucked me in. I generally have little patience for fantasy world building if it takes a long while to set up, which this book definitely did. (It was a doorstop of a novel at 900+ pages, and the action didn't really start until around halfway through). Terre D'Ange, where the characters live, is like 13th century France in an alternate universe where angels intermarried with humans. Sexuality is prized in this world, and becoming a "servant of Naamah" or courtesan is considered to be a high calling. The culture of Terre D'Ange can be summed up by their angelic founder, Elua's, commandment: love as thou wilt.

This is all very interesting stuff and I love books that force you to rethink your assumptions about things as fraught as sex work. But, and this is a big but, I did not feel like this society was nearly as progressive and sex-positive as Phedre (the main character) and possibly the author believed. (It may be that Carey didn't believe that and made Phedre naive in the first book but revealed more in the second and third in the trilogy).

For instance, one becomes a servant of Naamah at age 16, and can have one's virginity auctioned off to the highest bidder. It is entirely up to future courtesans to commit to serving Naamah and their patrons take the idea of consenting to this work very seriously. But you are "owned" by your patron until you make enough money to buy your freedom, and the choice is made at age fricking 15, which is far too young to decide something like that. That does not sound like true consent, though Phedre has no issue with it whatsoever and truly wanted to be a courtesan.

I did love seeing just how intelligent and resourceful Phedre ended up being when she gets caught up in royal intrigue and potential war. She is often underestimated because of her profession, and she uses that and her considerable brains to her advantage.

Though I kind of didn't like this book, I downed the 900 page monster in a couple of days and have been thinking about it ever since.

Finished: July 17, 2018

39. Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal

Nikki is the young adult daughter of Indian immigrants in London, and has distanced herself from her Sikh culture. She takes a job teaching what she believes will be a creative writing course at the Sikh temple/community center, only to find that the widows who have signed up for the course do not write English at all. The widows find a book of erotic stories that Nikki purchased as a gag gift for her straight-laced sister, and want to start writing their own erotic stories. Shenanigans ensue.

I went into this believing it would simply be a light, fun read about cultures and generations clashing, but it was far more than that. There was an excellent murder mystery, a meditation on grief, and a great deal of commentary about female friendships and family bonds. I really loved this book.

Finished: August 25, 2018

40. A Duke by Default by Alyssa Cole

My book club read (and loved) An Extraordinary Union by Alyssa Cole last year, and I did not realize that she also wrote contemporary romance novels until I ran into this one due to some Twitter nastiness. Some racist asshole tweeted about this cover being propaganda for interracial relationships. (To which I say--whut? And HUH? And WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH YOU?)

I have made it a policy to buy books that receive racist pushback so that the authors who have to go through that nastiness can at least enjoy some royalties.

I am generally not a contemporary romance reader, but this one was excellent. I loved the Scottish setting and the fact that Cole really examined and took apart the tropes that you'll often find in romance novels: surly hero, Scottish fetishism, royalty + commoner, hot mess heroine. I wanted to spend more time with Portia and Tavish. They were delightful.

Finished: September 9, 2018

41. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

This is, quite frankly, the best book I've read so far this year. Agnieszka is exactly the heroine I needed. Her guiding principal is her love for her dearest friend Kasia. Their friendship is realistic, in that they harbor secret guilt, resentment, sadness, and jealousy for each other--but they also truly love one another, and that kind of female friendship is so rare in fiction that I have trouble coming up with another example.

The magic and the fantasy world building in this novel are both so well done as to seem almost inevitable. It's as if I could find the evil wood and stumble into it somewhere in our world, and as if there are witches out there like Agnieszka who I simply have not met yet.

The villains are also all realistic and understandable. Even the most heinous of the villains--an attempted rapist--is clearly motivated by his trauma, but neither the author nor Agnieszka let him off the hook despite completely understanding why he does what he does.

The love story was so compelling that I ended up falling for it even though I was trying very hard to keep on hating the love interest.

Just, go read this book. Stop whatever you're doing right now, and go read this book. It's that good.

Finished: September 11, 2018

What have you been reading?

Friday, August 31, 2018

Monday, July 9, 2018

What I Read in June

LO has inherited both my love for reading and the inability to hear anyone coming while reading, resulting in many startled glances, such as this one.


June was...tough. There was just so much bad news in the world and so many heartbreaks and horrors, and I wish I could have spent more time lost in a good book. 

June also coincided with one of my regular book ruts. I get these fairly regularly, when I simply cannot force myself to read something new, and so I look back to old favorites to reread. My problem with book ruts is that I often get stuck rereading the same books over and over until old favorites have become dry as sawdust and I can squeeze no more pleasure from them.

I used to be very ashamed of my book rut rereading habit, but I've come to realize that it's part of what made me a writer. By rereading books until I have them nearly memorized, I have given myself a class in how stories are constructed. But I still get annoyed at myself for being bored with old favorites and unwilling to try something new.

All that said, I did read a decent number of books in June (in between my ruts)--just nothing like my January and February records. And if you discount rereading old books (which I do), I have continued my streak of only reading books by women authors throughout 2018. I'm pleased with that, although I would like to be reading more authors of color. White women writers are very much within my comfort zone, so I can't pat myself on the back too much for a reading list that is 90% white women authors overall (and 100% white women authors in June).

So here's what I read in June:



31. Life Skills for Adult Children by Janet Woititz and Alan Garner

I am a fan of advice columnists, and have been for pretty much my entire life. I used to read Dear Abby and Ann Landers every day, and I love the excruciatingly polite snark that Miss Manners has managed to perfect. But my favorite advice columnist, by far, is Carolyn Hax.

And Hax is the reason why I read this book. She has recommended it many many times over her advice-giving career, along with The Gift of Fear by Gavin de Becker. I read The Gift of Fear several years ago and found it incredibly insightful and helpful in navigating the world, so I thought I'd get a similar level of insight from Lifeskills.

As it turns out, I really didn't need to read this book. I knew everything the authors discussed, and I was a little overwhelmed to realize there were adults out there who did not know these things. For that reason alone, I'm glad I read it. This will help me to be more sympathetic and forgiving of people who do not know how to navigate social situations and other interpersonal relationships. They truly may not know how.

Started: May 31, 2018
Finished: June 2, 2018


32. The Last Necromancer by C.J. Archer

I straight up HATED this book. As in, wanted to throw something; wanted to call up C.J. Archer and ask her what was wrong with her; wanted to scrub the vestiges of this book from the earth; HATED it.

You may recall that I absolutely loved The Watchmaker's Daughter series by this same author earlier this year. I was casting about for a new audio book to listen to, and I saw that the first three books of this ten (TEN!!) book series were packaged together on Audible and could be purchased for a single credit. So I bought the three-book package and got started.

I really liked the beginning of the book. Charlie/Charlotte Holloway is 18 years old and has lived on the streets of 1880s London for five years, surviving by disguising herself as a boy. She was thrown out of her father's house for accidentally bringing her mother back from the dead, because Charlie is a necromancer. So far, so good. Gritty London setting, dark magic, and a heroine who is a born survivor--these are all like my catnip.

Then Charlie is kidnapped by the "hero" Lincoln Fitzroy, who is the head of the Ministry of Curiosities. Their mission is to protect England from magical threats, and they need Charlie to help them locate a dangerous man who wants to use her necromancy to create a zombie army.

Again, this would not have been a problem, except that Fitzroy is an abusive, gaslighting, power-hungry asshole from beginning to end. Charlie repeatedly states that she has no interest in helping the Ministry and would just like her freedom, please and thank you. It doesn't take long for Fitzroy to discover she is a woman. When he does, he's so furious he walks in on her naked (that's NOT how he figured it out) and completely humiliates her.

He then dresses her as a woman and takes her to Whitechapel (where the Ripper murders were) and drops her off with no money and none of her protections that she counted on while on the streets. He hires someone to scare her to convince her to come back to his "protection" and the vagrant he hires actually tries to rape her, although he "rescues" her by killing the would-be rapist in the nick of time.

THIS IS SUPPOSED TO BE THE FUCKING LOVE INTEREST!

By the end of the book, he offers her the chance to continue to live in his house, working AS A MAID! There is absolutely nothing wrong with that kind of work, but it just further entrenches the power differential between these characters, and I cannot imagine how anyone could feel happy flutters over a man who has done all of these things. Yes, he stops another Ministry board member from beating Charlie, but absence of specific kind of cruelty is not the same thing as kindness or decency.

This book was so bad that I returned the three-book package to Audible to get my credit back, and I started rethinking whether or not The Watchmaker's Daughter was as good as I thought. (India and Matt are equals in those books, thank heaven, and Matt is not a sociopath.)

I'd advise you not to read this book, except that I'd love to have someone who will rage-complain about it with me.

Started: June 12, 2018
Finished: June 15, 2018


33. Garden Spells by Sarah Addison Allen

This was my book club's June reading pick. It was, in a word, delightful. The Waverly family is magical, and everyone has a different gift. 

Claire can make people feel things with her cooking. She can help you to remember a happy time or see things from a different point of view. 

Her sister Sydney can tell what kind of person you are based on your haircut. She's also gifted at creating the hairstyle that will most suit you. 

Cousin Evanelle has the best gift of all. She gives people things right before they need them. She comes to Claire's house with an extra set of sheets and a box of strawberry Pop-Tarts just before Sydney arrives home for the first time in 10 years, with her 5-year-old daughter Bay in tow. Evanelle gives another character a quarter the day before she finds herself needing to make an emergency phone call from a pay phone. I loved reading about Evanelle's gifts. She never knew why her recipients would need her gifts--she just felt compelled to give them, and they always turned out to be exactly what was needed.

Finally, 5-year-old Bay has the gift of knowing where things belong, which means I could use her in my storage closet.

My book club is a romance book club (The Book Club for Feminist Fans of Romantic Fiction is our official title), and this book is technically a romance. Both Claire and Sydney end up with guys at the end. But the male characters were so much less fleshed-out than the women (and girl) that I didn't really pay much attention to them. For me, it was all about the family love among the Waverly women, and their unique magical gifts.

Started: June 16, 2018
Finished: June 18, 2018


34. The Fifth Doll by Charlie N. Holmberg (Despite her masculine name, this author is also a woman)

I was on my way home from a conference and needed a new audiobook to listen to when I found this one while scrolling through Audible in the airport. This book was really wonderful, although the ending had aspects that were a little tough to wrap my head around. (The explanation of the magic wasn't totally clear, but it didn't really matter).

Matrona is a 26-year-old woman in a small village in rural Russia. She has just gotten engaged to the butcher's son and isn't quite sure how she feels about it, because she has an intense crush on Jaska who is only 19 years old and whom she used to babysit. 

One day, she discovers a cache of nesting dolls in the house of Slava, the local tradesman, who is the only villager who has ever left the town. Each of the dolls looks like one of the villagers, and when Matrona handles her father's doll, she comes home to find him acting strangely. Slava ends up letting her know that the dolls are connected to each villager, and asks her to open her doll. When she does, everyone in the village suddenly knows her secrets, including her longing for Jaska. Things get weirder from there.

I really appreciated the way the love story between Matrona and Jaska played out. It is unusual to see an older woman in love with a younger man (although Jaska fails the half-your-age-plus-seven  rule for dating someone younger than you). I also liked that Jaska had not thought of Matrona that way until her secrets are revealed by opening the doll. It felt realistic for him to come to recognize how much he liked her once he knew she liked him. (As much as a book about magical nesting dolls can be realistic). 

As I said, the magic logic falls down a little bit at the end, but I was enjoying myself so thoroughly that I didn't really care. I'll definitely be reading more by Charlie N. Holmberg. (And hopefully she won't pull a C.J. Archer on me.)

Started: June 29, 2018
Finished: June 29, 2018

What did you read in June?

Thursday, May 31, 2018

What I Read in May

I'm happy to report that my eye is basically de-wonkified at this point, although my vision still gets somewhat blurred after a long day at the computer or if I'm super tired. According to my neuro-ophthalmologist (I've got my own personal neuro-ophthalmologist!), I may end up enjoying blurry vision when I get stressed, overheated, or tired for quite some time.

This meant that though I was able to get back into reading this month (and a couple of super weighty tomes, as you'll see below), I'm still not quite back to my usual reading pace. I only read two actual books, and the other two were audio books.

Still, I'm delighted to be reading even a little bit like normal again, so no complaints.


So, without further ado, let's get into what I read in May:

27. How to Suppress Women's Writing by Joanna Russ

Neil Gaiman tweeted something about this book back in March or April, saying that it was a real eye-opener for him to read way back in the 80s when it was first published, and I decided I needed to check it out.

In this book, Russ explains the ways that women's writing (and writing by others from marginalized groups) is demeaned, separated from its tradition, assumed to be written by another, considered a one-off fluke, or otherwise othered in order to keep it from getting the recognition it deserves. This book was originally written in 1983, and while there was not much that was a surprise to me (with one exception), everything that Russ describes is still happening.

What was the one thing that surprised me? The fact that one of the ways to suppress writing and art by marginalized voices is to make the artwork seem as though it is unrelated to anything that came before--separating it from its tradition, in other words. I had felt this separation before, but had never understood just how damaging it could be for writers who come afterwards. If you believe that the only writer who is like you sprung up out of nowhere, with no influences, teachers, mentors, or other help, then it becomes all the more difficult for you to emulate her example.

According to several reviews I read, the original version was not very intersectional in its feminism. This update seems to have addressed that problem (as far as this white feminist can see, and recognizing that my blind spots may have concealed issues from me). I was pleased to see that Russ included far more than just white women as having their voices suppressed.

While this book was hardly an uplifting read--the damn thing is 35 years old, and it's still apropos--it did help me let go of several of the remaining fcks I still have regarding my fiction writing. Onward?

Started: April 26, 2018
Finished: May 7, 2018


28. The Rogue Not Taken by Sarah MacLean

After reading How to Suppress Women's Writing, I suppose I needed a pick-me-up palate cleanser, so I decided to listen to The Rogue Not Taken on Audible. (It was part of a two-for-one deal on the site, and I purchased it, along with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry, below).

This book reminded me of how my mother used to worry that I'd be willing to date a serial killer, as long as he made me laugh. The hero of this book was such a complete and utter asshole, and I didn't even notice because the book was incredibly funny. The banter between the hero and heroine was delightful and hilarious and I had a roaring good time, until I got to the end of the book and realized that the hero was an abusive ass.

Apparently, just like teenaged me, the author also missed the memo that a sense of humor does not make up for treating someone like shit, because humor =/= kindness. (Would that I had received that memo at age 15, prior to my need for it!)

I truly enjoyed the story while I was listening to it and laughed out loud many times. Ultimately, it left me feeling kind of bad and gross. So it really was kind of like some old boyfriends.

Started: May 20, 2018
Finished: May 22, 2018

29. Down Girl: The Logic of Misogyny by Kate Manne

In my quest to read the least related books possible, I was also reading Down Girl during the middle of the month, which meant it overlapped with my listening to The Rogue Not Taken. Reader whiplash, I has it.

Manne breaks down the internal logic of misogynist thought and behavior, and it was incredibly satisfying to see her cogently explain the things that I have been thinking for years in a more inchoate manner. For instance, she talks quite a bit about the Isla Vista killings (I refuse to name the killer here), which was the first time I heard the term "incel."

At the time, it was abundantly clear that the killer was motivated by deep misogyny--and yet, many people refused to believe that. Since the killer loved his mother, he couldn't be a misogynist, according to the "naive conception of misogyny" (as Manne describes it) because that means a blanket hatred of all women. Something that still bothers me four years later is the fact that a progressive and pro-woman friend of mine actually parroted these beliefs about misogyny by saying misogyny could not have been a motivation for the killer, since he killed four men and only two women.

Manne broke down where this kind of blindness to misogyny comes from (the naive conception, in part) and I felt like I had a better grasp of how to push back against this kind of thinking when I encounter it in the wild.

I also really appreciated how she described sexism as being the belief system of the patriarchy, while misogyny is the policing mechanism. Misogyny is what happens when women break the "rules" of sexism, which explains why women who do anything outside of the narrow confines of what is expected are subject to so much abuse.

The book was definitely written in an academic style that had me sometimes scratching my head. There were several sections that I had to read a couple of times to understand. Still, I'm recommending this book to everyone. It's illuminating and infuriating and can help to pare down those last few fcks. (After reading this one in the same month I read How to Suppress Women's Writing, I'm down to my last one or two fcks left to give. I'll burn them in a grand bonfire when I turn 40 and dance naked around the flames.)

Started: May 8, 2018
Finished: May 26, 2018

30. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

This was the second book I got for the two-for-one sale on Audible, and I think I loved it.

I'm not entirely sure because there were aspects of the book that I really wasn't happy with. It was a story that let its seams show, so the construction was on view.

Like when A.J. has a blackout due to his seizure disorder early in the book--and then the seizure disorder doesn't show up again until the book's final chapter, that bothered me. When a hateful character gets exactly what's coming to him in a way that is a little too on-the-nose, it bothered me. When A.J. manages to convince a social worker to let him adopt the child who was abandoned in his bookstore, even though he has no experience with children and has only known the baby for two days, it seemed really far-fetched. When there were only glancing references to the upheaval his life would experience at becoming a sudden father, I was wondering what planet this perfect child who always slept was supposed to be from.

But...even with all of those seams that were so very obvious, A.J. was a wonderful character. At the beginning, he's a bitter young widower who owns a bookstore, and he has some very decided views about books, which already made me like him. He believes short stories are the most elegant form of writing, and each chapter begins with his notes on various famous short stories. His absolute love for the written word, which he passes along to his daughter, was so endearing and relatable.

As for what really made me feel connected to this book, it was how it ended. Spoilers below:



I have been thinking about A.J. ever since I finished the book, and the visible seams have not really seemed so terrible. Any story that can make me feel what this book made me feel gets a pass for some obvious construction choices.

Started: May 26, 2018
Finished: May 28, 2018

What have you read this month?