Reading Roundup

My book club met tonight. It’s hard to believe that the dream Ali and I had of starting a book club at the library we both once worked at is still a reality a decade later. I’ve read some great, meh and not so great books in February so I figured I’d do a roundup.

The Turner House by Angela Flournoy was the book we discussed tonight. I felt this book was pretty meh. I liked it but I’ll probably forget most of it a year from now. It’s set in Detroit but it didn’t feel right. I know it’s nitpicky but the author seems to have written about the suburbs without actaully visiting the suburbs. She writes about Ferndale and it’s a town I’m well acquainted with and her description seems off to me.

I really enjoyed the way the author handled the dynamics of a large family. My dad is the oldest of 7. My mom is the oldest of 9. I know large families. The thing is I wanted more. The book intersects the beginnings of Francis and Viola’s relationship with the stories about 3 of their 13 children. The thing is I wanted more. I wanted more Francis and Viola. Why did Viola stay? What was it like moving from the South to the North where you knew no one but your husband? 

I did like the theme of a house being symbolic of a family. My family has the same problem. My brother and nephew just returned from a trip to Virginia to fix up the homestead. No one lives there so there are days where I wonder why we bother on the upkeep on my grandmother’s house. But, like the Turner house on Yarrow Street, the house at the end of Lazarus Branch represents home even though it’s empty.

I received an advance reading copy for The Leavers by Lisa Ko. I receive the majority of my ARC’s from NetGalley so shout out to them. Lisa Ko won the Pen/Bellwether Prize and I know why. The Leavers is unlike anything I’ve ever read and I have read a lot in my 40 years. From identity issues to immigration, this book is breathtaking. I haven’t had truly page turner read in ages but this book had me up at night eager to see what would happen to the main character next. The book goes on sale in May. It’s one to watch out for because the timing for this story is right. I’m saying it now but I predict great buzz for The Leavers.

Choose Your Own Adulthood by Hal Runkel is another ARC that I’ve had the pleasure of reading. First, as a child of the 80’s and teen of the 90’s, I loved the format of this book. If you can’t tell by the title, Hal Runkel has written a choose your own adventure style handbook for those graduating high school and setting off to college. Even though the book is geared towards recent graduates, I found it to be helpful as I navigate the midlife crisis I’m in. The book goes in sale in late March. It’ll be a great gift for all those spring graduations.

And, side note, I’m really impressed with the eclectic catalog of Greenleaf Book Group. They’re the publishers behind this book but they’re also the publishers behind Exposure by Dr. Chauntelle Tibbals. Exposure is a book about the adult entertainment industry told in a positive light that I still rave about. 

Another ARC read is Transphobia by J. Wallace Skeleton. It is a kid’s non-fiction book dealing with transgender issues. As a “gender transcender” I feel the book would be a good gateway into a discussion about what it means to be trans*. Goodness knows it’s a discussion that we should be having with everyone so misinformation isn’t spread. My only red flag would be the inclusion of the word “transsexual”. Gender and sexuality are two separate things so using a word like transsexual confuses people when you try and make the distinction between gender and sexuality or, as my friend puts it, the difference between hearts and parts. And, as much as I’m thankful to live in a border state because I’m able to watch CBC Windsor 9, I was still thrown when Canadian trans people were mentioned rather than United States trans people. That’s my “American” bias kicking up but it might be off putting to a kid in, say Iowa, who might pick this book up.

I’m a progressive liberal so I don’t know what the fuck I was thinking when I requested an ARC of The Deplorables Guide To Making America Great Again by Todd Starnes. I think I had a notion that the book would help me find common ground with conservatives but each chapter had me more heated than the last. I can’t honestly review the book and be objective. 

I’m glad I requested Get It Together, Delilah by Erin Gough after attempting to read the Todd Starnes book. The book is good but not great. I read a lot so parts of it were predictable. It’s a sweet coming of age book about a young lesbian crushing on the sexy flamenco dancer next door while trying to keep her family restaurant running while juggling everything else. It’s an Australian import that will be making its American debut in April.  The last book I can remember reading that had a young lesbian POV was The Miseducation Of Cameron Post so it’s about time there was another book with a teen lesbian protagonist.

I read ARC’s of two upcoming memoirs this month. It’s difficult for me to review memoirs because I don’t want to come across as judging a person’s life story even if that’s exactly what I’m doing. 

The Skin Above My Knee was requested after a late night boredom enduced round of let’s request randomness. Now that I’m thinking about it, that’s probably how I requested the Todd Starnes book. At first you’ll pick it up and ask yourself why even bother. Marcia Butler isn’t a well known name. She’s an oboe player. She doesn’t even play for a famous orchestra. She’s a freelancer that goes wherever her oboe takes her. Then you start to read and you become hooked. It’s a record because I read two page turners this month. You get about midthrough and you start to question everything you thought you knew about memoirs. Who would have thought that the life of a fucking oboe player would be so interesting? The book was released yesterday so do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.

I didn’t get as excited about the second memoir and I’ll take the blame. I requested The Rules Do Not Apply by Ariel Levy thinking that Ariel Winter had wrote a memoir about her emancipation from her parents. I mixed up my Ariels so I was left disappointed with Ariel Levy. After speed racing through the remarkable The Skin Above My Knee, the languid pacing of The Rules Do Not Apply left me bored. There are too many books on my Kindle and in the to be read pile next to my bed to suffer through uninteresting memoirs. I left Ariel Levy in South Africa as she’s trying to score an interview. I doubt I’ll return.

I was asked to be a beta reader for a book tentatively titled The Boatswain’s Mate. I don’t know if it’ll ever get published but I hope it sees the light of day. It’s a great love story about a young dude assigned to a naval ship during the Reagan Years.

Right now I’m juggling 3 books. I’m almost finished with The Book Of Forgiveness by Desmond Tutu and his daughter. I’m reading it as part of my connection group. We discuss a chapter per week and we discussed chapter 6 earlier today so there are only a few chapters left.

Because I’ve started journaling again after a long absence I wanted to see how other people do it. Andy Cohen has a most entertaining diary inspired by Andy Warhol. The Andy Cohen Diaries goes deep into the shallowness that surrounds Hollywood. I’m loving it and I’m almost done.

Lastly, I’m reading an ARC of the new Elizabeth Kostava due to be published in April. I figure I’ll do a reading roundup towards the end of each month so I’ll write about it then.


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