Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

This week while preparing for the next Read or Dead episode, Katie and I got to brainstorm about TV shows that we like and books that remind us of those shows. It was a fun exercise, giving ourselves angst over how little we read or watch, etc. Highly recommend.

After however coming up with a certain number of picks, I took this question up to one of my best friends whose ability to watch TV and read books in one sitting astonishes me. Not being a watcher of crime shows herself, she went on about shows like The Crown, Mrs.Wilson, etc. In one of those moments, she mentioned Fleabag and asked me to watch it. And dear readers, I was hooked. Flawed female protagonists are at the very center of my wheelhouse. As I wrap up my day thinking about Fleabag, I also think of my pick for the week, and how it features one such female.

Book cover for Straight from the horse's mouth

Straight from the Horse’s Mouth by Meryem Alaoui, translated by Emma Ramadan

I don’t think the protagonist in Fleabag is flawed per se but rather portrayed in a very real manner. The mix of grossness and wonder that is human existence is not glossed over in the show and that is what I loved about this particular pick as well.

This story is set in modern-day Morocco in the bustling neighborhood of Casablanca and tells of 34-year old prostitute Jmiaa. While not as distraught over her profession as her roommate, she is tired of the facade she has to put on for her mother and daughter. Jmiaa does what she needs to to keep her spirits high. The drudgery of everyday life is broken when a film director enlists Jmiaa’s assistance, eventually offering up a chance at a better life.

Jmiaa’s inner monologue manages to be sharp, harrowing, and witty at the same time. What I love about this book is how it tells the story of a real neighborhood that makes up the city of Casablanca, rather than a romanticized version of it. It is a work like which I have never read before. It is a work of translation from Arabic to English, and it seems seamless. I hope to one day read it in Arabic and corroborate the above claim. Until then, I invite you to take a trip down the streets of Casablanca and fall for the dreamers therein.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is an intense read that was a New York Times bestseller and Lambda Literary Award winner.

Book cover of Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

Hunger: A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay

In addition to being intense, Hunger is a very important and sometimes difficult read. Roxane Gay is, in her own words, a woman of size. She wasn’t always “of size.” When Roxane Gay was twelve, she was violently sexually assaulted by a group of boys from her school. She says she “ate and ate and ate in the hopes that if I made myself big, my body would be safe.” When you are big, you are both invisible and highly visible all at once. Everyone has an opinion on your body, but few have consideration for you. Roxane Gay shares, in painful detail, how others try to punish her for her body and how she would crave the punishment and even punish herself. She begins by telling readers that, “The story of my body is not a story of triumph” yet it is a true story. (Side note: Body positivity doesn’t play a role in this book. This is not that kind of book.)

A large portion of the book is a rapid firing of abuse upon abuse as a person of size riding on airplanes, abuse from trolls on the internet, lack of consideration for ability when being a speaker. Will the chairs suit her body? How high is the stage? She also lays bare our society’s normalization of the abuse of fat people on shows like The Biggest Loser.

As I mentioned earlier, this is such an important book to read. It can be so easy to look at a person or a photo of a person and make judgments based on what you see. But you don’t see their story and no one sees your story. Hunger is Roxane Gay stepping forward and sharing her body’s story. It is not always a happy one. She shows vulnerability in her honesty about learning to nurture both her body and her spirit. It serves as a reminder that we’re all learning this and we’re all at different stages in our learning. This book is also a harsh reminder and wake-up call to be considerate of the reality of the bodies of others.

Content warnings: violent sexual assault, emotional abuse, eating disorders and eating disorder ideation, anti-fatness, and verbal abuse.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is an older, award-winning title that is totally worth checking out if you somehow missed it when it first released! I read it back in 2015 when it was the Great Michigan Read, and again earlier this year. Fair warning, it’s a pandemic novel, which is part of the reason why it likely hit differently the second time around, but one that I think really holds up. Content warning for violence, murder, talk of assault (not on the page) and gaslighting, pandemic and sickness, and religious manipulation and extremism.

station eleven

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

In this dual timeline, multi-POV novel, Emily St. John Mandel tells the story of how life as we know it falls apart in the wake of a deadly pandemic that kills 90% of the population in mere weeks, and what life looks like twenty years after this collapse. At the center of the story is Kirsten, who was a young girl acting in a production of King Lear with the famed Arthur Leander on the night the virus broke out. Years later, she’s part of the Traveling Symphony, a ragtag group of actors and musicians who travel through what used to be Michigan, performing at every stop and reminding what remains of humanity that “survival is insufficient.” But when they return to a town they’ve visited before, they find it’s been changed by a self-proclaimed prophet who has a dark vision for the future, and the past and present collide.

I loved everything about this book, from its eerie premise to the gorgeous, lyrical writing, and I especially loved how everything and everyone is connected. The connections are sometimes expected, sometimes surprising, often fleeting, but always impactful. The author does a great job of exploring communities and how individuals can influence a community, exploring the symphony, the Prophet’s followers, and other groups that crop up in unlikely places: gas stations, airports, and on the road.

Being a Michigander, I particularly liked the exploration of the various settings and the descriptions of how settlements re-establish themselves across the landscape. Michigan is a unique setting in that it’s a peninsula surrounded by enormous lakes—in some ways it’s sheltered, in some ways it’s dangerous. The author created a convincing setting that was as unsettling as the premise.

Finally, without giving away too much, what really stuck with me, especially on my second read, was the questions about how a major collective trauma like this affects people. For some, the effect is very external, while for others it’s much more internal. Children who don’t remember much about the before times or never experienced them have a hard time bridging the gulf between adults who know what they’ve lost—not just people, but a way of life and a way of understanding their world, and together they must all create a new one. That was the most powerful part of the novel, and one that I didn’t likely fully appreciate on my first read in 2015, but certainly did when I re-read the book earlier this year.

Bonus: There’s a new miniseries adaptation on HBO Max. I had some quibbles with it, and they do change some things (some I liked, some I didn’t) but overall it was a moving adaptation!

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Happy reading!
Tirzah


Find me on Book Riot, Hey YA, All the Books, and Twitter. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read this Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

If you know me, you probably know that I am always in a witchy mood no matter what season it is. I carry my deck of tarot cards up my sleeve (literally, it’s a pocket deck) and am always looking to turn people who annoy me into beetles. That is why when I found this week’s pick, I felt in a way I had almost manifested it.

the ex hex book cover

The Ex Hex by Erin Sterling

In this rom-com that is like Sabrina the Teenage Witch (the original, non-animated one—I am not ready to talk about the Netflix one), we follow Vivi. She is a burgeoning witch, living in a small town in Northern Georgia with her cousin Gwyn and her aunt. Vivi was happy until Rhys came into her life and broke her heart by leaving. But witches do not forgive injustices easily. Going against her aunt’s motto, ‘Do not mix vodka with witchcraft,’ a drunk Vivi decides to hex her ex-boyfriend. She barely practices her magic so she is sure it is all fun and games…

… until nine years later, when Rhys returns to recharge the town’s magic, and magic starts running amok. Soon ghosts, poisoned potions, and talking skulls are just a few things they all have to deal with. There is also the burning attraction between Rhys and Vivi, and all the reasons why he left years ago.

In the middle of a week where everything felt like it was falling apart, this was exactly what my heart needed. It is the perfect mix of pining, steaminess, and action, like a perfectly brewed potion. If you enjoyed Practical Magic but thought it could do a little with some light moments, then this book in its entirety is for you.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Instagram @wellreadbrowngirl or Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is a book that makes me feel good every time I read it.

Book cover of You Should See Me in a Crown by Leah Johnson

You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson

Liz Lighty is a Black, awkward, over-achieving, adorkable senior in high school in Campbell, Indiana, a small midwestern town that is pretty white and affluent and obsessed with prom. You know how some high schools are obsessed with football? Well, Campbell is out of control obsessed with prom and this has gone on for generations.

Liz (or Lighty, as some folks call her), is desperate to get out of this small town and go to Pennington college. Liz’s family does not have a lot of money and the scholarship she is depending on to get her to Pennington falls through; however, not all hope is lost. The people crowned prom queen and prom king get a nice chunk of scholarship money.

The absolute last thing Liz Lighty wants to do is join the competition for prom queen. She hates being the center of attention. Of course her nemesis (and the nemesis’s crew) will try to do everything to stop Liz from winning, which given Liz’s gpa, she might actually have a chance at with the help of her friends. It also means that she is going to have to cooperate with an ex-friend, Jordan.

Liz and her brother live with their grandparents. Her mom passed away young and her brother has sickle cell anemia. Liz intends to become a doctor, like her mom, to do sickle cell research.

But that’s not all! There’s a new girl in town, named Mack. Mack is also an outsider, a skater girl, and not necessarily prom queen material and she’s joined the competition as well, which complicates things because every time she is near Mack, Liz Lighty gets major butterflies. This book is queer and sweet and funny and when Liz and Mack are around each other, even I got butterflies. Also, I went into this book thinking that I was going to be able to predict everything but it’s full of surprises.

Content warnings for racism and homophobia and a deceased parent.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

I feel like I’m going to be throwing it back this week because today’s recommendation is a companion novel to the very first book I ever recommended on the very first send of this newsletter over two years agoPet by Akwaeke Emezi! But don’t worry if you’ve not read it, because today’s recommendation definitely stands on its own!

the cover of bitter by akwaeki emezi

Bitter by Akwaeke Emezi

Set in Lucille years before the events of Pet, this novel follows Bitter, Jam’s mother, as a teen. Bitter has had a rough upbringing, but she’s so grateful that she’s found herself at Eucalyptus, a school for teens gifted in the arts. Eucalyptus is a safe haven against the chaos of Lucille, with its constant protests and rampant corruption. And as Bitter’s time as a student comes to an end, she knows she’d rather stay within her safe walls as a teacher than venture out, even if her friends and classmates are tempted by Assata, the rebel group fighting against corruption. But when Bitter’s secret talent for bringing her paintings to life with a drop of her own blood releases strange creatures on her world, Bitter will have to face the conflict head-on.

First off, Emezi is an incredible writer. I was in awe of their turns of phrase, the beautiful way they built this fictional world in spare, striking language, and how they deftly created so many interesting and multi-dimensional characters. They write with a skill that looks easy, so you know it must be well-honed. I loved that we saw the dystopian side to the utopian Lucille that they presented in Pet, and they managed to maintain that allegorical feel of the story while also grounding it in very real details and moments. This is a book about the personal cost of fighting against injustice, and how scary and overwhelming and hopeless it can feel. But it’s also a book that reminds us of the responsibility we have to each other, tying back to their use of Gwendolyn Brooks’ poem “Paul Robeson” in Pet, and that despite that hurt, fear, and shame, it’s important to build community and look out for one another.

This is yet another powerful novel brimming with diverse characters and you can really feel the acceptance and love in this story, despite the hate and fear the characters must face. It’s a reminder that love thrives, even in dark times, but you have to be brave enough to cultivate it.

Bonus: I read the audio version, which is narrated by the brilliant Bahni Turpin! Everything Bahni narrates is a joy to listen to, but especially this book.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Happy reading!
Tirzah


Find me on Book Riot, Hey YA, All the Books, and Twitter. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

Every week, I try and start a new book with the hopes of talking to you all about it. It is a delightful endeavor that I have come to count on. In one of these weekly traditions, I stumbled upon the pick of this week. If Cartoon Network’s Samurai Jack was a mystery book, this book would be the equivalent of that.

Book Cover for The Village of Eight Graves

The Village of Eight Graves by Seishi Yokomizo, Translated by  Bryan Karetnyk

Set in historical Japan in a rural village, it tells of a brutal history and how that history haunts the inhabitants of the village to date. The story starts in The Village of Eight Graves in the 16th century when eight samurais took refuge in the village only to be brutally murdered by the villagers. But just before dying, the samurais curse the villagers where every few years a killing frenzy would occur. Time and again it has, but this time the curse seems to have evolved. It is slow, methodical, almost like it is not a transient idea, but a tangible human being at work instead.

One of the three mysteries out of the Detective Kosuke Kindaichi mysteries, the detective invites the reader into the story reminiscent of an Italo Calvino novel. The dialogue amuses and the pacing of the book is one that I have not experienced in a long time.

It’s incredibly vivid and expansive in its historical detail. You get bits and pieces of Japanese history, a story behind how things probably would have been. If you, like me, were swept away by the fantastical series, Tales of Otori, or enjoy works in translation, you need to read this one. The translation is impeccable, the story even more so. 

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is a speculative fiction novella that was so good, it could easily be read in a single sitting.

Book cover of The Empress of Salt and Fortune by Nghi Vo

The Empress of Salt and Fortune (The Singing Hills Cycle Book 1) by Nghi Vo

I’ll admit, when I started this book I had no idea what was going on. Reading it is like putting together a complicated puzzle without knowing what the final image is supposed to be. Partway through it starts to show itself a bit before presenting surprise after surprise. How this author fit so much in such a compact book is a magic of its own.

The book begins by introducing Chih and their companion, a neixin named Almost Brilliant who is also a talking bird. Chih is a Cleric from the Singing Hills Abbey and as such, they are a historian of sorts. They travel to a home on Lake Scarlet where they meet an elderly woman named Rabbit. Rabbit was the handmaiden of the Empress, and The Empress of Salt and Fortune is this Empress’s story, as told by her former handmaiden to the cleric Chih.

Each chapter begins with careful descriptions of a few objects, written with the words of someone cataloging the items. The someone, of course, is Chih. Rabbit then tells Chih the deeper meanings and stories of the sometimes seemingly benign objects they are documenting. Together, the objects reflect the tale of the Empress’s rise to power, starting with her being sent from the frosty north to the south, to marry the Emperor and bear him a child. Because she was foreign, she was not really accepted by the royal court and her handmaiden, Rabbit, was the closest person to her. The Empress eventually becomes known for her adoration of fortune tellers and mystics, often having them to the palace. After she has a child for the emperor, she is sent into exile and Rabbit with her. It’s when she is in exile that her real cleverness and power is proven.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is brought to you by my recent endeavors to read more fantasy and revisit more favorite reads! Content warning for a scene that recounts a sexual assault, slut shaming, and child death.

Tess of the Road cover

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

In a fantasy world where dragons and their cousins quigutl roam the land, Tess Dombegh is a disappointment to her family. Despite all of her mistakes, she’s determined to make one thing right and help her twin sister Jeanne find a noble husband and marry well. She manages to do just that, but when her actions ruin Jeanne’s wedding, Tess finds herself at a crossroads. Her family is determined to send her to a convent, but Tess doesn’t want to go—she’d rather run away. So she does just that, and sets out for the open road with a vague direction in mind. Along the way, she reunites with an old friend, encounters danger, intrigues of the natural world, and some of the world’s most mysterious secrets all the while running from her past. But it’s just as she’s about to discover an exciting future she never could have imagined that she realizes her painful history must be faced head on.

What I love about this book is that story-wise, it’s the inverse of most fantasy novels. Many of the fantasy titles (YA or otherwise) that you find on shelves are about a high-concept premise first, and then character growth or a character’s personal journey is secondary. This book is all about lovable, messy, misguided Tess who doesn’t believe that she’s worthy of love or a second chance after she makes a mistake, and her self-loathing is palpable by the time the book starts. She’s also surrounded by toxic people who seem more interested in punishing her than showing her even an ounce of compassion, so it’s no surprise she’s miserable and makes the ruinous choices she soon regrets.

But once she strikes out on her own, Tess begins to center. Her sense of humor comes out, and so does her compassion, curiosity, and her fears. While the reader doesn’t know all of the details of her past, you can’t help but love her as she slowly finds her path and purpose on the road. Through a series of misadventures, Tess encounters a variety of people who give her perspective, show her kindness, and offer her a chance at redemption. They also challenge her worldview and all that she was taught about herself and her nature, opening her eyes to the possibility that she’s not broken or bad or ruined, but someone with a bright future ahead of her. The plot, which feels episodic in the first half, starts to come together in an exciting, high-stakes way that sets up the sequel, leaving you breathless to see where Tess will end up!

I read this book for the first time when it released in 2018, and then again recently in anticipation of the release of the sequel, In the Serpent’s Wake. I loved it both times, and in reading the sequel it’s exciting to see all of the clues and connections Hartman planted in Tess for an exciting and fulfilling sequel.

Note: This duology is a companion to Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina duology (Seraphina and Shadow Scale) and it takes place a few years after the end of the events in Shadow Scale. While I love and highly recommend those books, you don’t have to read them in order to understand what’s going on in Tess’s world, but there are some spoilers for Seraphina’s story if you pick up Tess first!

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Happy reading!

Tirzah


Find me on Book Riot, Hey YA, All the Books, and Twitter. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

Categories
Read This Book

Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

Aah, friendship. What a captivating concept: people not bound by blood or contract coming together. But what makes for an interesting case study is how so many friendships end: spats! betrayal! murder! Yet we bind ourselves in them anyway. How could we not? The thrill of putting everything on the line with someone without any guarantee of reciprocity. I am sold.

My pick of the week is one such book that brings into focus a friendship, and how when an external element is introduced, everything threatens to fall apart.

wahala book cover

Wahala by Nikkia May

We follow Simi, Ronke, and Boo, three Anglo-Nigerian friends trying to make it in London while staying true to their two sets of identities. Simi is struggling with taking the next step in her relationship, Ronke is having trouble locking one down, and Boo has been there and back again.

When Isobel, smooth as a gazelle, glides into their lives, she makes each of the friends question the identity on which they have based their entire life. Very soon, Isobel begins to threaten not only the group dynamics but each of the girls’ ideas of self-worth. That ends up going a step too far.

I read this book in sprints because once I would start I could not stop. I hid on the stairs and read it, held it in one hand while cooking, and randomly woke up at 2 AM to finish where I had fallen asleep.

What I feel the author has really managed to do well here is maintain the intensity, the feeling of something about to boil over, but made it immensely readable. Where you don’t realize how far you have come, and how far deep you are in. There is also non-stop subtle commentary for unrealistic standards for women around everything; friendship, motherhood (or lack thereof), and even new budding relationships. Each character could have been a representation of each of the aspects for which society holds women accountable, and the damage that inflicts.

It was also a good reminder of the fragility of the emotional state we all exist in sometimes. If you enjoyed Swing Time by Zadie Smith, this one is for you.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Come tell me what you thought of the pick on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah