Sunday, February 28, 2021

February Books

Can you believe that reading wasn't my jam growing up?! Clif Notes were my best friends in high school - I'd "read enough" to get by for a paper or test, but other than that I did not enjoy the act of reading so never did it... like ever. Maybe I wasn't reading things that held my interest or maybe it was because it was "required" so I didn't find it enjoyable, but whatever the reason, I'm glad I challenged myself to add the goal of reading 17 books in 2017 (which turned into 88 books in 201777 books in 201867 books in 2019, and 66 books in 2020). In the last year or so, especially since going back to work outside of the house full-time, the majority of my "reading" has been through audiobooks because I don't have as much time to sit and read physical books (not to mention I walk to work and walk on my lunch break so have at least two hours a day I can listen to something). Even still, holding a physical book is the bomb diggity and I hope to get back to adding more reading vs listening this year. Just like in years past, writing a monthly recap of the books I get through is a great way for me to both record what I'm reading and to stay accountable. So here are the books I finished in February:

  • The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo - I had this one in my "favorites" for a while on my Hoopla app, but hadn't grabbed it yet... Wow, that was silly of me... This book is AMAZING! Normally I wouldn't say I prefer an audiobook over a physical book, but in this instance, the audiobook was pure perfection! The author was the one who read the novel and it was literally like a spoken word poem for 3 1/2 hours. Don’t get me wrong, I love holding a physical book in my hand, but I don’t think I would have done the book justice by reading it. The power behind the prose is awesome! It definitely hit me in all the feels; I felt like I was right there growing up/ struggling/ living with Xiamora. The author was pulling on my heartstrings the entire time! I sort of love this was my first book of February, Black History Month. If you haven’t read or heard this book yet, please give it a chance! I realize it's a young adult read (although there are some "mature" topics discussed, so even though it's for 13 years and up, you've been "warned"), but I think anyone would enjoy it. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

  • American Street by Ibi Zoboi - I saw a post at the beginning of the month of books someone would recommend for Black History Month for teens. Obviously I love the young adult genre, so I took a screenshot and figured I'd snag some of the recommendations. As per usual, I didn't know anything about this book when I grabbed it. I absolutely LOVE that it turned out to incorporate Haiti (I went after the major earthquake) and Detroit (I grew up about 45 minutes south of the city). The story is about Fabiola, who came to the United States with her mother from Haiti, was separate from her due to immigration and went to live with her aunt and cousins in Detroit. The book is super well written, gritty, but beautiful. I didn't know the specifics of voodoo mythology, but appreciate that it was explained and weaved throughout the story. It really is a social commentary, focusing on topics like the pursuit of the "American Dream", immigration, drugs, poverty, etc. The book is written for high schoolers, but that shouldn't stop you from giving it a read (or listen). I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • I Wish You All The Best by Mason Deaver - I was scrolling through the YA books on my Hoopla app and came across this one. It referenced a few of the authors I had read and enjoyed recently in the little blurb so I figured I'd give it a shot. This might be the first book I've "read" that had a non-binary character as the main character and I greatly appreciated it. I know it was a novel, but it was still a peek into a life I am not 100% familiar with and I enjoyed learning through entertainment. I have recently been working on trying to use a more non-gendered vocabulary (I am pretty terrible about saying "guys" to refer to a group of people, which I am doing my best to STOP!), so hearing the third-person singular pronoun of "they" or "them" was super helpful. The story itself was engaging, heartfelt and raw. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Allegedly by Tiffany D Jackson - I listened to one of this author's previous books and enjoyed it, so had put this one in my "for later" stack and finally got around to it. Other than liking the author, I didn't know anything about the story (like most of the books I grab). It was a novel about a girl who "allegedly" killed a baby when she was nine. Mary, who is now 16 and living in a group home after being released from "baby jail", gets pregnant. Let's just say I didn't see some of the twists and turns that happened. I don't know, I guess I pride myself on figuring out the plot before it is officially revealed, but this one definitely threw me for a loop. It definitely kept me engaged the entire time. I feel like I went through the full range of emotions in this book - fear, anger, despair, joy, worry, etc. It was intense and played with my feelings for sure! It was suspenseful, interesting and, in the end, a bit depressing, but I applaud the author. This was technically in the Young Adult genre, but I'd suggest it for the older end because there are definitely some "mature" topics discussed. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • The 57 Bus by Dashka Slater - The hubby and I needed a book to listen to on our road trip to Joshua Tree. I sent him a few that fit the allotted time we had and he picked this one. This book explains what took place on Bus 57 in Oakland, California. I hadn't heard of the crime before, so I was intrigued from the beginning. Sasha, who identifies as agender, fell asleep while riding the bus home. Their style preference was to rock vests and skirts. To Richard and his friends, it appeared to be a boy wearing a skirt, which rubbed them the wrong way. They decided to "play a prank" and light Sasha's skirt on fire. Sasha's skirt went up in a blaze and landed them in the hospital with second and third degree burns, requiring multiple surgeries. The author took three years researching this crime and it absolutely shows. She was able to get to know dozens of people and get their perspectives. What I think I appreciated most about this book and how it was written was the different sides. Don't get me wrong, what Richard did was absolutely wrong, but the way that the author shows the human side of Richard really was eye opening. So often the media portrays the perpetrator of a crime as a monster, but this dives deeper. I also appreciated that the undertone was love, forgiveness, tolerance and acceptance. Again, I am not saying there should be no consequences, but I am saying that characteristics like love, forgiveness, tolerance and acceptance can make this world a better place. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Like a Love Story by Abdi Nazemian - Another YA love story that I grabbed for my walks to work. This story is set in New York in the late 80s/ early 90s during the height of the AIDS crisis. The three main characters, Art, Judy and Reza, grapple with love, life, death, friendship and so much more. As I've said before, I love books told from the different characters' POV and this was another that switched between first person perspectives (with the audio book having each read by a different actor - which I love). The author did such a great job describing everything that when it was done I felt like I had actually watched a film, not just listened to a book (or maybe it was that Rent is one of my favorite plays and I sort of felt like this could have been something happening next door to that storyline). Shoot, maybe it will become a movie someday! I love books with characters outside of the heterosexual "norm" {that are so often the only people in mainstream media} finding themselves, finding love, finding happiness. It all felt real and raw (the story, the characters, the setting). This is a coming-of-age story about friends, family and friends who become family (or, as we like to call it, FRAMILY). Oh yeah, and Madonna ;) PS I love that there was a little "afterward" with an update on where everyone was 25+ years later. I know some authors love to leave it up to the reader, but sometimes I am left wanting more and the ending was just what I needed to cap off the book perfectly. I would give it a 9 out of 10.

  • Yes Please by Amy Poehler - Every few weeks it seems as though I am doing a closet clean out of sorts. Recently I had some books up for grabs and swapped a couple for new ones from an online friend. I sent her two and in return I got this one (and another). I had actually favorited this book in my Hoopla app a while ago but hadn't gotten around to listening to it, so was stoked to get my hands on the physical copy. I started reading it while we were in Joshua Tree (when the hubby went to get in some rock climbing and I stayed back in the AdventureMobile with the pup) and finished it on my day off while I laid in the sun at the pool. As with most memoirs, I wouldn't say you walk away with any earth shattering revelations, but it's always awesome to sort of get a behind-the-curtain view into someone's life. If you know Amy Poehler, you probably would expect her book to be full of comedy, and it was. It was also fill of other goodness. She isn't writing a tell-all with tons of big, juicy secrets or anything like that, but it's still cool to see how she made it in the comedy world (how much hard work it actually takes and how much she attributes to those amazing people around her). And, real talk, it made me want to give Parks and Recreation a try (once we finish Schitts Creek that is ;)). The book was light, easy reading that kept me entertained, which is what I expected. I would give it an 8 out of 10.

  • In The Distance by Dave Griffin - This was another book I was gifted by a friend that I read by the pool (I normally work Monday through Friday, but my manager's husband's birthday was the coming Saturday, so she asked if I'd cover her Saturday and she'd cover my Monday, which left me with a free Monday and perfect pool weather!). I'll be honest, this book was not my jam. I'm not sure if I just wasn't in the right headspace or what, but I found myself wishing it was over less than half way through. I didn't feel connected to the author (maybe it's because he was a semi-elite, talking about winning races and it just wasn't relatable) and the anecdotal stories he threw in didn't seem to flow with what he was talking about. The only real positive I could come up with was that it was about running and I like reading about/ talking about/ hearing about running... so at least it was about a topic I'm interested in, even if the book didn't engage me. I would give it a 4 out of 10.

  • Me and White Supremacy by Layla Saad - When I first grabbed this book in my Hoopla app I didn’t realize that it was an extension of a 28 day challenge/workbook. Once I found this out, I decided what I would do would be to listen to the audiobook in its entirety and then work my way through the workbook/ journaling prompts. Actually, I'm hoping to talk the hubby into doing it alongside me. With that said, this is still a very important book. The book is broken down into 28 days, each with a different topic about white supremacy/ tackling racism/ becoming a better ancestor. As the author states toward the end of the book, “knowledge without action is meaningless”. I feel as though not only did I learn a lot from this book, but hopefully my actions/ outlook/ life is changed because of it. A word of warning - this is not an “easy” book to work through, it will bring up all the feelings, but we must address them so that we can work through them. There were a few topics specifically that were extremely eye-opening, as well as challenging. One such topic was 'white silence'. I'm not going to go into my justifications, that is NOT what this recap and or this book is about. The point is to do the work, create change, make a difference! I would also suggest that this not be a book you read once, but multiple times. As the author recommends, these journal prompts do not need to be a one time thing. Just as anti-racism is a lifelong commitment, practicing it should be a daily endeavour. I would give it a 10 out of 10.

With that, February has come to a close. My reading may not be going gang-busters like it has in the past, but I hope it never completely stops. If you have any suggestions, let me know! I'm always willing to add them to my library wait list! 

PS I created an Amazon list that includes all of the books I've read and would recommend to others. Check it out!

What was the best book you've read lately? 

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