Welcome aboard, train wreck.
We are at less than two months to 2022. If you’re like me, you set a reading goal for the year. I read fifty last year. I set my goal this year for 100. I’m at 107 so far.
If this is your first time here, welcome aboard, train wreck. Glad to have you here. If this isn’t your first time here, I’m still glad to have you. Please like, comment, share, and subscribe. My goal is to have five hundred subscribers by the end of the year. I think we can make that happen.
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Please consider donating to help keep this going. $1 and I’ll ask you what your favorite book is so we can talk about it. $5 and I’ll write a review of a book you suggest. $10 and I’ll write a blog suggested by you. As always, I will link the books and where you can buy them. Until I get my Amazon affiliate status back, I’ll be using Books A Million links but I’m not an affiliate with them. Yet.
You may be asking yourself how I read so many books so far. One, I use audiobooks. Two, I read shorter books. I’m not talking Dr. Seuss. Cozy mysteries tend to be shorter as does YA. If you’re goal oriented but falling behind this year, here’s a list of shorter books to help you get over a reading slump or to pass the weekend.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
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A REESE’S BOOK CLUB PICK
“A knockout of a novel…we predict Infinite Country] will be viewed as one of 2021’s best.” —O, The Oprah Magazine
“An exquisitely told story of family, war, and migration, this is a novel our increasingly divided country wants and needs to read.” –R.O. Kwon, Electric Literature
Named a Most Anticipated Book of 2021 from Esquire, O, The Oprah Magazine, Elle, GMA, New York Post, Ms. Magazine, The Millions, Electric Literature, Lit Hub, AARP, Refinery29, BuzzFeed, Autostraddle, She Reads, Alma, and more.
I often wonder if we are living the wrong life in the wrong country.
Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogot , where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.
How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogot with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering–the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogot in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?
Rich with Bogot urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family–for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.
A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers
In A Psalm for the Wild-Built, Hugo Award-winner Becky Chambers’s delightful new Monk and Robot series gives us hope for the future.
It’s been centuries since the robots of Panga gained self-awareness and laid down their tools; centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again; centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.
One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of what do people need? is answered.
But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.
Becky Chambers’s new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?
Whereabouts by Jhumpa Lahiri
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A marvelous new novel from the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Lowland and Interpreter of Maladies–her first in nearly a decade.
*A Most Anticipated Novel of 2021 from Buzzfeed; O, The Oprah Magazine; TIME; Vulture; Vogue; LitHub; and Harper’s Bazaar*
Exuberance and dread, attachment and estrangement: in this novel, Jhumpa Lahiri stretches her themes to the limit. Lahiri’s narrator, a woman questioning her place in the world, wavers between stasis and movement, between the need to belong and the refusal to form lasting ties. The city she calls home acts as a companion and interlocutor: traversing the streets around her house, and in parks, piazzas, museums, stores, and coffee bars, she feels less alone.
We follow her to the pool she frequents, and to the train station that leads to her mother, who is mired in her own solitude after her husband’s untimely death. Among those who appear on this woman’s path are colleagues with whom she feels ill at ease, casual acquaintances, and “him,” a shadow who both consoles and unsettles her. Until one day at the sea, both overwhelmed and replenished by the sun’s vital heat, her perspective will abruptly change.
This is the first novel Lahiri has written in Italian and translated into English. The reader will find the qualities that make Lahiri’s work so beloved: deep intelligence and feeling, richly textured physical and emotional landscapes, and a poetics of dislocation. But Whereabouts, brimming with the impulse to cross barriers, also signals a bold shift of style and sensibility. By grafting herself onto a new literary language, Lahiri has pushed herself to a new level of artistic achievement.
Remote Control by Nnedi Okorafor
An alien artifact turns a young girl into Death’s adopted daughter in Remote Control, a thrilling sci-fi tale of community and female empowerment from Nebula and Hugo Award-winner Nnedi Okorafor
“She’s the adopted daughter of the Angel of Death. Beware of her. Mind her. Death guards her like one of its own.”
The day Fatima forgot her name, Death paid a visit. From hereon in she would be known as Sankofa—-a name that meant nothing to anyone but her, the only tie to her family and her past.
Her touch is death, and with a glance a town can fall. And she walks–alone, except for her fox companion–searching for the object that came from the sky and gave itself to her when the meteors fell and when she was yet unchanged; searching for answers.
But is there a greater purpose for Sankofa, now that Death is her constant companion?
Winner of the AudioFile Earphones Award (audiobook version).
The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende
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From the New York Times bestselling author of A Long Petal of the Sea comes a passionate and inspiring meditation on what it means to be a woman.
“When I say that I was a feminist in kindergarten, I am not exaggerating,” begins Isabel Allende. As a child, she watched her mother, abandoned by her husband, provide for her three small children without “resources or voice.” Isabel became a fierce and defiant little girl, determined to fight for the life her mother couldn’t have.
As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, she rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded female journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote “with a knife between our teeth” about women’s issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. And over the course of three passionate marriages, she has learned how to grow as a woman while having a partner, when to step away, and the rewards of embracing one’s sexuality.
So what feeds the soul of feminists–and all women–today? To be safe, to be valued, to live in peace, to have their own resources, to be connected, to have control over our bodies and lives, and above all, to be loved. On all these fronts, there is much work yet to be done, and this book, Allende hopes, will “light the torches of our daughters and granddaughters with mine. They will have to live for us, as we lived for our mothers, and carry on with the work still left to be finished.”
Open Water by Caleb Azumah Nelson
A stunning first novel about two young Black artists in London falling in and out of love by a new literary virtuoso and finalist for the BBC Short Story Award, twenty-six-year-old writer and photographer Caleb Azumah Nelson
“Open Water is tender poetry, a love song to Black art and thought, an exploration of intimacy and vulnerability between two young artists learning to be soft with each other in a world that hardens against Black people.” –Yaa Gyasi, author of Homegoing
In a crowded London pub, two young people meet. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists–he a photographer, she a dancer–and both are trying to make their mark in a world that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence, and over the course of a year they find their relationship tested by forces beyond their control.
Narrated with deep intimacy, Open Water is at once an achingly beautiful love story and a potent insight into race and masculinity that asks what it means to be a person in a world that sees you only as a Black body; to be vulnerable when you are only respected for strength; to find safety in love, only to lose it. With gorgeous, soulful intensity, and blistering emotional intelligence, Caleb Azumah Nelson gives a profoundly sensitive portrait of romantic love in all its feverish waves and comforting beauty.
This is one of the most essential debut novels of recent years, heralding the arrival of a stellar and prodigious young talent.
Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke by Eric Larocca
Sadomasochism. Obsession. Death.
A whirlpool of darkness churns at the heart of a macabre ballet between two lonely young women in an internet chat room in the early 2000s — a darkness that threatens to forever transform them once they finally succumb to their most horrific desires.
What have you done today to deserve your eyes?
Second Place by Rachel Cusk
A haunting fable of art, family, and fate from the author of the Outline trilogy.
A woman invites a famous artist to use her guesthouse in the remote coastal landscape where she lives with her family. Powerfully drawn to his paintings, she believes his vision might penetrate the mystery at the center of her life. But as a long, dry summer sets in, his provocative presence itself becomes an enigma–and disrupts the calm of her secluded household.
Second Place, Rachel Cusk’s electrifying new novel, is a study of female fate and male privilege, the geometries of human relationships, and the moral questions that animate our lives. It reminds us of art’s capacity to uplift–and to destroy.
Let Me Tell You What I Mean by Joan Didion
NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER – From one of our most iconic and influential writers, the award-winning author of The Year of Magical Thinking a timeless collection of mostly early pieces that reveal what would become Joan Didion’s subjects, including the press, politics, California robber barons, women, and her own self-doubt.
These twelve pieces from 1968 to 2000, never before gathered together, offer an illuminating glimpse into the mind and process of a legendary figure. They showcase Joan Didion’s incisive reporting, her empathetic gaze, and her role as an articulate witness to the most stubborn and intractable truths of our time (The New York Times Book Review).
Here, Didion touches on topics ranging from newspapers (the problem is not so much whether one trusts the news as to whether one finds it), to the fantasy of San Simeon, to not getting into Stanford. In Why I Write, Didion ponders the act of writing: I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. From her admiration for Hemingway’s sentences to her acknowledgment that Martha Stewart’s story is one that has historically encouraged women in this country, even as it has threatened men, these essays are acutely and brilliantly observed. Each piece is classic Didion: incisive, bemused, and stunningly prescient.
A Spindle Splintered by Alix E. Harrow
USA Today bestselling author Alix E. Harrow’s A Spindle Splintered brings her patented charm to a new version of a classic story. Featuring Arthur Rackham’s original illustrations for The Sleeping Beauty, fractured and reimagined.
“A vivid, subversive and feminist reimagining of Sleeping Beauty, where implacable destiny is no match for courage, sisterhood, stubbornness and a good working knowledge of fairy tales.” –Katherine Arden
It’s Zinnia Gray’s twenty-first birthday, which is extra-special because it’s the last birthday she’ll ever have. When she was young, an industrial accident left Zinnia with a rare condition. Not much is known about her illness, just that no-one has lived past twenty-one.
Her best friend Charm is intent on making Zinnia’s last birthday special with a full sleeping beauty experience, complete with a tower and a spinning wheel. But when Zinnia pricks her finger, something strange and unexpected happens, and she finds herself falling through worlds, with another sleeping beauty, just as desperate to escape her fate.
Fireheart Tiger by Aliette de Bodard
Award-winning author Aliette de Bodard returns with Fireheart Tiger, a powerful romantic fantasy that reads like The Goblin Emperor meets Howl’s Moving Castle in a pre-colonial Vietnamese-esque world.
A Most Anticipated Pick in 2021 for Buzzfeed Mary Sue Nerd Daily FanFi Addict
Fire burns bright and has a long memory….
Quiet, thoughtful princess Thanh was sent away as a hostage to the powerful faraway country of Ephteria as a child. Now she’s returned to her mother’s imperial court, haunted not only by memories of her first romance, but by worrying magical echoes of a fire that devastated Ephteria’s royal palace.
Thanh’s new role as a diplomat places her once again in the path of her first love, the powerful and magnetic Eldris of Ephteria, who knows exactly what she wants: romance from Thanh and much more from Thanh’s home. Eldris won’t take no for an answer, on either front. But the fire that burned down one palace is tempting Thanh with the possibility of making her own dangerous decisions.
Can Thanh find the freedom to shape her country’s fate–and her own?
Nothing But Blackened Teeth by Cassandra Khaw
A USA TODAY BESTSELLER
An Indie Next Pick
An October LibraryReads Pick
A Most Anticipated Read on Goodreads, Tor.com, Crime Reads, BookRiot, The Nerd Daily, and more.
Cassandra Khaw’s Nothing But Blackened Teeth is a gorgeously creepy haunted house tale, steeped in Japanese folklore and full of devastating twists.
A Heian-era mansion stands abandoned, its foundations resting on the bones of a bride and its walls packed with the remains of the girls sacrificed to keep her company.
It’s the perfect venue for a group of thrill-seeking friends, brought back together to celebrate a wedding.
A night of food, drinks, and games quickly spirals into a nightmare as secrets get dragged out and relationships are tested.
But the house has secrets too. Lurking in the shadows is the ghost bride with a black smile and a hungry heart.
And she gets lonely down there in the dirt.
Effortlessly turning the classic haunted house story on its head, Nothing but Blackened Teeth is a sharp and devastating exploration of grief, the parasitic nature of relationships, and the consequences of our actions.
Heaven by Mieko Kawakami and Sam Bett and David Boyd
From the bestselling author of Breasts and Eggs and international literary sensation Mieko Kawakami, a sharp and illuminating novel about the impact of violence and the power of solidarity.
A bold foray into new literary territory, Kawakami’s novel is told in the voice of a 14-year-old student subjected to relentless torment for having a lazy eye. Instead of resisting, the boy chooses to suffer in complete resignation. The only person who understands what he is going through is a female classmate who suffers similar treatment at the hands of her tormentors.
These raw and realistic portrayals of bullying are counterbalanced by textured exposition of the philosophical and religious debates concerning violence to which the weak are subjected.
Heaven stands as a dazzling testament to Kawakami’s literary talent. There can be little doubt that it has cemented her reputation as one of today’s most important young authors working to expand the boundaries of contemporary Japanese literature.
A New York Times, Washington Post, TIME, Oprah Daily, CNN, Bustle, and Ms. Magazine most anticipated book of the year.
A June 2021 Indie Next Pick
Assembly by Natasha Brown
“The electrifying fiction debut that has been called ‘a modern Mrs. Dalloway.'”–THE ATLANTIC
“Mind-bending and utterly original.”–Brandon Taylor
“Slim in the hand, but its impact is massive.”–Ali Smith
One woman. One day. One decision. A blistering, fearless, and unforgettable literary debut from “a stunning new writer.” (Bernardine Evaristo)
Come of age in the credit crunch. Be civil in a hostile environment. Go to college, get an education, start a career. Do all the right things. Buy an apartment. Buy art. Buy a sort of happiness. But above all, keep your head down. Keep quiet. And keep going.
The narrator of Assembly is a black British woman. She is preparing to attend a lavish garden party at her boyfriend’s family estate, set deep in the English countryside. At the same time, she is considering the carefully assembled pieces of herself. As the minutes tick down and the future beckons, she can’t escape the question: is it time to take it all apart?
Assembly is a story about the stories we live within – those of race and class, safety and freedom, winners and losers.And it is about one woman daring to take control of her own story, even at the cost of her life. With a steely, unfaltering gaze, Natasha Brown dismantles the mythology of whiteness, lining up the debris in a neat row and walking away.
Mona by Pola Oloixarac and Adam Morris
From the critically acclaimed author of Savage Theories and Dark Constellations comes Pola Oloixarac’s Mona, where success as a writer of color proves to be a fresh hell for a young Latin American woman at a literary conference in Sweden.
Mona, a Peruvian writer based in California, presents a tough and sardonic exterior. She likes drugs and cigarettes, and when she learns that she is something of an anthropological curiosity–a woman writer of color treasured at her university for the flourish of rarefied diversity she brings–she pokes fun at American academic culture and its fixation on identity.
When she is nominated for “the most important literary award in Europe,” Mona sees a chance to escape her downward spiral of sunlit substance abuse and erotic distraction, so she trades the temptations of California for a small, gray village in Sweden, close to the Arctic Circle. Now she is stuck in the company of all her jet-lagged–and mostly male–competitors, arriving from Japan, France, Armenia, Iran, and Colombia. Isolated as they are, the writers do what writers do: exchange compliments, nurse envy and private resentments, stab rivals in the back, and hop in bed together. All the while, Mona keeps stumbling across the mysterious traces of a violence she cannot explain.
As her adventures in Scandinavia unfold, Mona finds that she has not so much escaped her demons as locked herself up with them in the middle of nowhere. In Mona, Pola Oloixarac paints a hypnotic, scabrous, and ultimately jaw-dropping portrait of a woman facing down a hipster elite to which she does and does not belong. A survivor of both patronization and bizarre sexual encounters, Mona is a new kind of feminist. But her past won’t stay past, and strange forces are working to deliver her the test of a lifetime.
The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. Valente
“The Candide of our #@$\*%? age.”– Ken Liu, award-winning author
Catherynne M. Valente, the bestselling and award-winning creator of Space Opera and The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland returns with The Past Is Red, the enchanting, dark, funny, angry story of a girl who made two terrible mistakes: she told the truth and she dared to love the world.
The future is blue. Endless blue…except for a few small places that float across the hot, drowned world left behind by long-gone fossil fuel-guzzlers. One of those patches is a magical place called Garbagetown.
Tetley Abednego is the most beloved girl in Garbagetown, but she’s the only one who knows it. She’s the only one who knows a lot of things: that Garbagetown is the most wonderful place in the world, that it’s full of hope, that you can love someone and 66% hate them all at the same time.
But Earth is a terrible mess, hope is a fragile thing, and a lot of people are very angry with her. Then Tetley discovers a new friend, a terrible secret, and more to her world than she ever expected.
Hopefully, this list gives you something to read over your lunch breaks, the weekend, or even in a night. Again, if you like what I post, please like, comment, share, and subscribe. Please consider donating to help keep this going. $1 and I’ll ask you what your favorite book is so we can talk about it. $5 and I’ll write a review of a book you suggest. $10 and I’ll write a blog suggested by you. If you read any of the books listed, please let me know what you thought of it. That’s all I’ve got for today, train wrecks. All aboard.
To help you get through your TBR, I’m including a printable bookmark. Just print it on cardstock. You can laminate it, it you like. Hope you enjoy.
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