All Holidays Matter: Hanukkah

I was wondering what I was going to read for Hanukkah when the answer fell into my lap, or my latest library haul. Bonfire by Krysten Ritter is her first novel and it’s a mystery about a main character with a past, a town with a secret, and a corrupt corporation. We’ve always known she was a talented actress but now we know she’s a good writer too.

The story was interesting, focusing on high school outcast turned environmental lawyer Abigail Williams who returns home to investigate the local plastic company. There’s the current mystery and the one from the past that still haunt Abby to this day. But there’s a mystery that runs even deeper than the two that sit before Abby waiting to be solved.

Bonfire is a good book and an interesting read but it’s been heaped with praise I’m not sure it deserves. I have no idea what ‘electric prose’ Blake Crouch is raving about. The prose was fine but I think Ritter overuses metaphor in a way that’s kind of cliché, especially in a first novel or for a mystery let alone both. It’s a good book but I don’t know if it lives up to the hype.

The ending bugged me a bit too. MILD SPOILERS: When it all wraps up (and it does), Abby is just done with the Barrens despite forming a connection with some there. Why does that relationship have to die? Why can’t they stay in touch and be close? She’s adrift in the world and she’s going to toss one of the few anchors she’s got? I call bull shit.

I could have leaned either way since this was a 3.5 for me but I erred on the side of 4 because it’s good, it’s compelling, and I’d like to see more books from Ritter in the future. I think she’ll only get better as a writer. 4/5

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All Holidays Matter: Winter Solstice

Remember how earlier this week I was giving myself permission to read children’s books I thought sounded fun? Meet my literary Winter Solstice, the shortest book on my TBR: I’m Afraid Your Teddy Is in Trouble Today by Jancee Dunn with illustrations by Scott Nash.

It’s an adorable children’s book about a teddy bear who throws a rager with other stuffed animals while his kid/owner is off at school. There are party balloons (that need to be paid for), couch cushion and cookie sheet slides, art on the wall, and a dance party that disturbed the neighbors. The art was delightful and did a fantastic job representing plushie mayhem.

Part of me had trouble turning off my adult brain. The clown needs to get paid for his balloons as well as rampant destruction of property. Someone has to clean that up. However, I delighted in anthropomorphizing my stuffed animals as a child. I still get pangs when I see a kid be mean to a plushie today. Those cute dog as teddy because someone gutted an actual teddy bear? I couldn’t do it myself but I can divorce myself enough to enjoy the video.

A few year ago, some parents took their daughters dinosaur toys and had them get into adventures after the kids went to bed. For parents who like to keep kids’ imaginations thriving and kids who love to dream big, this book should be a hit. 5/5

Around the Year in 52 Books

Around the Year in 52 Books has put out their list for 2018. I discover this via BookTube and it shall once again by my GoodReads element for the Casual Challenge in 2018.

Since it’s a GoodReads group rather than a website or individual blog, they vote on various topics throughout the year and take suggestions from group members. I’ve been tracking these suggestions to see if any resonated with me enough to get added to my ‘potential challenge category’ list. It’s why you may see some overlap between their list and what makes it into my actual challenge for the year.

There’s definitely some overlap between different categories, a potential hazard of democratic voting. There’s also some I looked at and went “Nope. Not happening.” Ergo, if the categories are close enough, I think they should be able to overlap. ‘Water element’ and ‘on, in, or underwater’ are basically the same thing. ‘Murder’ and ‘medical/legal thriller’ are also going to be really close. There aren’t a lot of thrillers like that where no one dies. It’s a casual challenge so I refuse to take this too seriously.

Now we just have to wait for BookRiot to release their list and see if Diversity Bingo comes back with something new. There’s also a short reading challenge from a blog I’m toying with adding. There’s usually a lot of overlap between her list and other prominent challenges.

All Holidays Matter: Christmas

One down on the All Holidays Matter read-a-thon and I fittingly started with the Christmas category. I finished Jeantte Winterson’s Christmas Tales. I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Winterson’s writing and I managed to score this from the library before the waitlist kicked in. The edition I got was the beautiful clothbound naked hardback with the silver titled embossed on the front. It was so pretty.

It alternates between short stories and recipes and each recipe has some memoir-esque detail to give context to its importance. I enjoyed learning more about Winterson and her life as I read her stories. Each story gets an illustration at the beginning which was a lovely touch.

Many had a fairy tale-esque quality to them; dogs that could talk with no explanation or somewhat one dimensional characters. It paired well with the magical realism of those tales. Some tales did take you deeper into a character and those were beautiful as well. It was a mix of the sort of narratives you enjoyed in childhood and the realities of adult life we deal with now.

I also loved the mix of holiday schmaltz and dark spookiness. The English used to tell ghost stories at Christmas and Winterson kept that tradition alive and well. Some stories broke your heart, hugged your soul, or chilled your bones. A must-read this time of year. 5/5

Getting in Touch with My Inner Child

I just put a ton of children’s books on hold at my library.

I don’t have a kid or will be borrowing one. I just want to read them.

Since I’ve entered the world of BookTube and Bookstagram, I’ve been reading a lot more fancy, literary fiction. I’ve discovered new authors and new works I’d have never known about and it’s been pretty great but sometimes it feels like I’m trying to keep up with the ‘cool kids.’ I don’t read the New Yorker, I have no desire to read the long or short list for most literary prizes, and a massive book filled with meandering prose and SAT words doesn’t make me squee. The only reason I’ve read a Pulitzer winner in the last year was kind of an accident.

I started putting children’s books on hold because I wanted to meet my GoodReads goal and had no interest in killing myself to read the remaining books necessary. But then I realized there are children’s books I genuinely want to read. I adored Liz Climo’s _Little World_ book and she has a series about Rory the Dinosaur. _Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs_ was my favorite book as a child and I just realized it has two sequels.

Children’s books can have some clever humor, beautiful art, and interesting facts. They can be short and fun palette cleansers. I’ve been reading a lot more political nonfiction because the world is going to hell in a handbasket and sometimes, you just need that sweetness and levity.

Part of me wondered if I’d be judged for reading children’s books despite having no kid and then I asked myself “Since when do you care what random people think?” I don’t need anyone’s permission to enjoy something light and silly. So long as I return them quickly to the library for actual children, there’s nothing wrong in what I’m doing.

I’m giving myself permission to enjoy these books and I’m giving you permission to enjoy whatever it is you shouldn’t (unless you’re Roy Moore or something). The only person you have to prove something to is yourself and I don’t think you need to impress her (or him).

2018 PopSugar Reading Challenge

We’ve got one of the big reading challenges in the book community ready to roll for 2018!

First off, I love the art they used. It’s cute, girly, and fun. I looked over some past challenges and it’s definitely more visually interesting than any of their previous ones. I love that they repeated the advanced list idea this year as well.

They’re definitely tuning in to what’s happening culturally with ‘true crime’ and the world’s obsession with murder podcasts. I was also impressed to see a ‘current affairs’ variant on the advanced list. Checking off the diversity bingo you’re seeing in book culture: different country, LGBTQ+, POC, female author. They put their own spin on some of these but add in a translation and that’s the core of what I’ve started calling ‘diversity bingo.’

When they first started doing this, the challenge was a lot more basic. Page limits, cover color, Oprah’s book club, various genre fiction, graphic novel etc. Now on its fourth incarnation, PopSugar is getting a lot more creative. Set at sea, weather element in the title, local author, different planet, song lyrics, and heist are much more diverse and interesting. I’ve really like how this list has evolved.

I’m excited to have this as part of my Casual Reading Challenge next year. Especially with feminist and Halloween as categories. Read my mind much?

November Wrap-Up and December TBR

And so begins the season of rampant commercialism, family drama, bad TV movies, and the occasional sprinkling of good cheer.

November Wrap-Up

Rules for Resistance: Advice from Around the Globe for the Age of Trump

I wrapped this collection of essays on November 1st so it kind of counts. Informative and as topical as ever. A must read 5/5

#WeRateDogs by Matt Nelson

A collection of some of Nelson’s best tweets under this account. Cute and a fantastic happy palette cleanser 5/5

Intro to Alien Invasion by Owen King  

A fun and fast paced graphic novel about an alien invasion on a small liberal arts college. 4/5

Whiskey, Words & a Shovel I by R. H. Sin

This poetry collection spoke to me deeply and resonated in my soul. I posted some of my favorites on Instagram and can’t wait to read the other two in this series. 5/5

A Banquet for Hungry Ghosts by Ying Chang Compestine

A fun collection of short stories about different pieces of Chinese culture and history. Each tale reads like a fable or fairy tale which I loved. Each story had a recipe and background information. 4/5

Unbelievable: My Front-Row Seat to the Craziest Campaign in American History by Katy Tur

I was amazed and how quickly and easily Tur’s words just flowed. Another important read for these troubling times. I was hoping for some more personal details (relationships, gossip, shenanigans) but Tur, ever the journalist, stuck mostly to the facts. 4/5

Let’s Speak English by Mary Cagle

I kickstarted this collection of comics about Cagle’s post-college job of teaching English in Japan. 5/5

December TBR

Season of Wonder edited by Paula Guran

A Christmas anthology with a supernatural spin

Christmas Days by Jeanette Winterson

I wanted to read this last year but it was too in demand. I managed to grab it before the demand for it went nuts so I’ll get to enjoy it this year.

Krampus the Yule Lord by Brom

Because I’m kind of twisted inside.

Unholy Night by Seth Grahame-Smith

His guide to surviving a horror movie is hilarious so let’s see what he does with Christmas.

As has been well establish, my TBRs are more a list of suggestions than hard reading goals so we’ll see what happens.