My Favorite Books from 2016

I started this year with a pledge to read all of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time. I didn’t even finish Swann’s Way. One day I’ll get to it. There are certain books that I need a physical copy to hold while I read: books by Toni Morrison, for example.

In 2016, I read more than I ever have in my life. Eighty-six books and counting! Part of this is because I made an effort to practice reading faster—chunking, not sounding out syllables, listening to audiobooks at a faster speed—but also I really got my personal system down for reading in nearly every spare moment. I have an audiobook, a non-fiction, a literary fiction, a book in Portuguese, and a “fun” fiction going all at the same time. So no matter what my mood or where I am physically at (I pretty much only read e-books), I have something to fit the bill. I gave up reading a lot of books, and this helped me not get swamped with procrastination and avoidance of reading because I wasn’t really into what I was working on.

Most of the books I read were fine, mediocre, nothing to write home about. But here are the ones that were really memorable for me.


Nurture Shock by Bronson & Merryman
Non-fiction gathering fistfuls of psychological studies that show what kids do naturally, and how to help them be better. Did you know that humans are born racist and you have to actively teach them to not be, starting at like age 1?

11/22/63 by Stephen King
I’m gonna call this Stephen King’s best book ever. It’s not scary at all; it’s an action-romance and it will give you warm fuzzies.

Earthseed series by Olivia Butler
I wasn’t overwhelmed by the greatness of this dystopian speculative fiction, but man, Butler predicting Trump’s campaign slogan and other stuff more than two decades ago is eerie.

The Hundred Secret Senses by Amy Tan
I know people have a bone to pick about how Tan propagates racist stereotypical thinking, and how white people love her books so much because she writes characters about “good immigrants” aka Asians who do exactly what we expect them to do. But honestly, she is a really, really great storyteller and an amazing author. This was the first book I’d read by her and I was just fascinated. 


Horses Make the Landscape Look More Beautiful by Alice Walker
I’ve been on a quest to read and enjoy more poetry, but usually I just don’t have the patience for it. I loved the poems in this collection because they are powerful, approachable, and important: they talk about specific injustices in society.

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater
YA urban fantasy set in small-town Virginia with awesome storycrafting and great character work. It’s not often that I fall in love with every one of the characters, even the bad guys.

The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning
I only read a handful of Christian books this year, and none of them came close to this classic about giving yourself and others grace and forgiveness. It is particularly important in today’s tense climate where it’s easy to step on other people’s toes and judge other people for not being as morally superior as yourself. I’m going to reread this one for sure.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
Shows a great parent-teen relationship that is so sadly absent in many YAs. p.s. Simon is in film production, so read it now and be cool early ;)


My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
Small wonder the entire world is talking about this series set in Napoli in the 1950s. Rich, complex, beautiful pictures of daily life, but what stood out was the explanations of the psychological decisions behind why characters do certain actions. I have never read a book with such a good understanding and conveyance of human motivations.

Maus by Art Spiegelman
This is the true story of an Auschwitz survivor (the author’s father), and I felt like I got an understanding of why people do selfish things, or why they act uncharacteristically in times of duress. It helped me to be more merciful.

Half of a Yellow Sun by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Set in Nigeria in the 1960s, this book looks at the creation and destruction of the nation of Biafra through the eyes of its characters: two upper-class sisters, a British guy, a scholar, and a servant. It’s an all-around solidly graceful book, but I really liked the changes that happen to the attitude of the British guy as he moves from his colonialist identity to trying to embrace and carve a space for himself in Biafra. I can identify.

Little Altars Everywhere by Rebecca Wells (prequel to the Ya-Ya Sisterhood)
The slow reveal of this Louisiana family’s dark secrets blew me away.

The New Jim Crow: Intro || #SJBookClub

So! The current pick for the Social Justice Book Club (#SJBookClub) is The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. Our club is a little more structured this time, with multiple posts planned for the month. For more info about the club and our schedule for this book, visit our host Kerry McHugh’s blog Entomology of a Bookworm.

1. Where do you plan on discussing this book the most? Feel free to share links to your blog, social media channels, snap handles, etc.
I’m planning to be here on my blog and tweeting (@alisa) with our group hashtag #SJBookClub. I use Tweetdeck (it’s free), and I have a column set up there just for the club so I can see what everyone is talking about.

There are three posts planned for this book (intro, midway, and wrap-up) and I want to post for all three, even if I am a little behind. I’m still waiting on a library hold.

2. Why did you decide to join in on the reading and/or discussion of this book?
I’ve been with the club since the start, and it’s pretty hard to get rid of me if I don’t want to be gotten rid of. I used to serve in a social justice position at a nonprofit before I moved overseas, and I expect that talking about and participating in social justice activism will always be a part of my life.

Both of our prior reads were also related to injustice in the US industrial prison complex (my thoughts on Just Mercy and The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts), and I’m actually glad that we are getting a thorough look at a singular topic.

3. In the very first line of the introduction to the book, Michelle Alexander writes, "This book is not for everyone." What do you make of that as an entree into The New Jim Crow?
I read a quarter of this book over a year ago and put it on pause. But from what I remember, Alexander uses strong, direct sentences and hard data to shake the reader into alertness about what is going on in America: institutionalized racism.

I had a conversation with a friend of mine recently about how as white women who are actively, daily trying to educate ourselves about being aware of the language we use and the comments or even body gestures we make to break the cycle of racism in our lives, we still make mistakes, we still get things wrong, we still don’t even realize that something is racist/offensive/condescending, and we feel guilty about that.

That guilt and a resulting desire to overcompensate is called white fragility and it’s a real thing.

I think that’s what the author means when she says that her book is not for everyone. Feelings are going to get hurt and some people aren’t mature enough to handle those hurt feelings so they react with their hackles raised, silence, hostility, guilt, fear, argumentation.

4. What, if anything, are you most looking forward to about this book?
I want to know about specific legislation that went into place after the civil rights acts as a way to compensate or get back to preserving legalized racism. For example, today we think of gerrymandering as a way that Republicans legally ‘steal’ votes from Democrats. But before that, gerrymandering was a way to steal votes from African Americans.

I’m looking forward to chatting more and I'm crossing my fingers that my hold comes in soon enough for me to join in for the mid-month check-in! It's not too late to join us!

Review || Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda

After millions of people told me to read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, I have finally read it and can now join the masses in insisting that you should read it, too!

The wait list at my library for an ebook of Simon is many months too long. But while vacationing and checking out the new-to-me Vista Grande library in my hometown of Casa Grande, Arizona, I spied Simon there, clean and new and untouched, waiting for me to read it. Which I did in less than 24 hours. I fangirled to the poor circulation desk librarian about how these days all I read are ebooks and I really miss reading on paper and how the stack of books I grabbed have an endless wait list and are OMG popular. He seemed a bit surprised and not in on the world of YA fandom.

When I was younger in Casa Grande, I volunteered at the library, and my ‘boss’ was the children’s and youth librarian (who I now realize was a liberal gal who took a job in a small, conservative agricultural community). I really am grateful for the things she taught me and the experiences I had because of her. I think that if I got my master’s, it would be in library science with the goal of doing youth programming. Anyways, it’s symbolic to me that I was reading this book while being back in my home town, with my younger sister reading over my shoulder.

Simon is a teenage boy who is busy dealing with the drama of typical high school days and navigating just how exactly he should come out.

Not only is the plot well designed, but because author Becky Albertalli is a practicing child psychologist, the characters feel incredibly realistic and authentic. It didn’t read at all like an adult trying to use teenage jargon—it came across as a teenager using teenisms (which may make the book have a shorter shelf-life than normal, but it’s perfect for the moment).

Again, the author is a genius. She deliberately links emotions and physical actions to show that what someone is doing on the outside is a result of something going on on the inside, and those inside things are totally, completely normal. For example, at one point in the story, Simon is upset and having a conversation at the same time. After a moment, he realizes that he is yelling and he feels embarrassed about having a hard time controlling his voice level. It’s these types of details that separate believable YA from adults-writing-to-kids YA.

Simon’s fears and concerns are just so relatable. He talks about wanting to keep even small things as a secret from his family (really small: he started drinking coffee), because they turn everything into a big deal. I still do that! And in a completely non-preachy scene near the end of the book, Simon’s mom explains that as a parent, every new development is an amazing and exciting change, no matter how small. Like new moms posting with way too much TMI on Facebook, moms of teenagers are just as excited.

I wish I had read this book when I was younger, for the sake of realizing how normal my family and feelings really are. While I was reading it, I imagined myself as a youth librarian, recommending this book to someone and it changing their world so that they would remember it years later, even if they never talked to anyone else about it.

Brazil: What Everyone Needs to Know

Brazil: What Everyone Needs to Know is a Q&A field guide for navigating the history of the world’s seventh-largest economy.

In a series of leading questions and answers that are grouped chronologically according to the periods of government that the country has passed through, author Riordan Roett (The New Brazil; China’s Expansion into the Western Hemisphere: Implications for Latin America and the United States) explores Brazil’s history with an economist’s lens. Succinct explanations of Brazil’s rapid transitions of power are given, citing shifting revenue sources as the motivating factor for change. The second half of the book picks up questions of racism, poverty, education, crime, gender inequality, foreign policy decisions, and global competitiveness.

Roett is quick to address leadership faults in the stagnated Brazilian government (“The political class appears stuck in time.”) and points to examples of countries leading the way (Mexico, Chile, and China) while a scrambling Brazil struggles keep up. The result is like a disappointed teacher scolding a foolish student: “To fail to address the agenda in the next government...could have serious social and political tensions with unforeseen consequences.”

In this no-nonsense and practical read, Roett weaves an effective primer for readers looking to dig a bit deeper about the problems facing South America’s largest country and host of the 2016 Olympic Games.

Thank you to Oxford University Press and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of this title!

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts || #SJBC

X Bienal de Nicaragua by Abraham Cruzvillegas (source) - an exhibition exploring the relationship
between individuals and their environment
The second pick for the Social Justice Book Club (#SJBookClub) was again a contemplation about capital punishment and who deserves it. Unlike our first read, Just Mercy, which focused on the completely innocent or those who clearly don’t deserve the death penalty, The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts hovered on a man who, with his wife’s help, stabbed his three toddlers to death in the border town of Brownsville, Texas.

John Allen Rubio, the father of the children, has issues: an abusive childhood home, low IQ, extensive drug use, poverty, and mental illness (including what appears to be schizophrenia). He says he killed his children because they were possessed, which he had confirmed when he performed a folk-healing ceremony.

Author Laura Tillman spends much of the book expatiate about how to decide if someone deserves to be killed for their crime, if we should judge psychotic-John-at-the-time-of-the-murders or a competent John who had emerged from his psychotic episode. Although this type of mulling and re-visiting thoughts trying to understand your own position on the death penalty might interest some readers, I have to say that at many points in the book it was very clear that Tillman lacks a guiding compass that Brian Stevenson (author of Just Mercy) uses to make everyday decisions about his life, work, and spirituality.

The persistent wondering about questions of life, death, mercy, and justice without seeking input from any of the world’s recognized philosophers, deities, or spiritual guides bothered me because it came across as a very American idea of naively going on a one-woman journey to find profound answers that one will be able to uncover within oneself. As in, the conclusions that Tillman reaches through talking to neighbors, visiting the haunted apartment where the murders happened, writing about her feelings, being skeptically curious about Mexican witchcraft/folk-healing, etc, will guide her to a place where she will decide for herself, based on her emotions, if she thinks someone deserves to die: “I, and you reading this, we are compelled to decide if we want to kill John. I need to look him in the face.”

I believe that only God has the right to decide if, when, and how someone dies. The whole argument of “Was John crazy or not at the time of the murders, and thus deserving of capital punishment or not?” becomes immediately irrelevant if you don’t believe in capital punishment. John could be the most cruel and calculating sociopath ever, he could have done far worse than stabbing his kids, and I still would say that he gets to die when God decides.

X Bienal de Nicaragua by Abraham Cruzvillegas (source)
It’s hard to know how far Tillman’s journey led her on the subject of capital punishment, because she doesn’t clearly state her starting position in the beginning. But near the end of the book, in a particularly eloquent passage comparing the destruction of the historical building where the murders took place and the reason the US uses capital punishment, she writes:

“To kill another person exists on another plane from the act of dismantling bricks and wood beams. The parallel is found in the satisfaction promised by destruction: to lend the weight of tangibility to the ephemeral. You can take a mallet and bust into the wall of a building. You can load poison into a syringe and inject it into the body of a human being. You can see them both reduced to absence. Then, we are left with nonexistence, a blank space. A piece of earth can host another structure, and though it will be different than what came before, it can serve a new purpose. But when a life is gone, it is not replaced.”

The various times that Tillman brings up the role of architecture and place in shaping history and communities is where she really shines. What relationship did the claustrophobic, windowless apartment have in provoking Rubio’s madness? And what effect does the knowledge of the existence of a still bloodstained room have on the neighbors? Like much of the book, these questions have less tangible answers, but they remain fascinating to me.

Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe

Provocar Urbanos, Vinicius S.A.

I’m not a commitment phobe, and you would think that after being in churches my whole life, there is no place that I would feel like I belong or fit-in more. I feel solidly about my core beliefs that are common across all major Christian denominations. I’ve visited more styles of Christian gatherings than the average seminary student, thanks to my parents experimenting with different theologies, lots of travel, and my birthright from the ‘Show-Me State’ (Missouri).

What attracted me to Lessons in Belonging from a Church-Going Commitment Phobe was a creeping feeling that after living only a quarter of my life I’m already getting burned out on church. I was looking for some strong words that would make me wince but not sting (a complete stranger is sometimes best for this), and point out that yes, church is worth the effort.

Erin S. Lane did not disappoint. She and I have a lot in common: grumpy introversion, haters of small talk, good at justifying excuses to ourselves, curmudgeonly feminists… and I underlined most of the book, not because 100% of it was SO GOOD IT WILL CHANGE YOUR LIFE, but because I recognized myself in her. Like this sentence that is not only my physical reality about my presence in church, but my mental one as well: ‘An increasing number of folks my age are choosing to live on the edge of belonging; we may not be fully in or fully out, but we are not “nones.”’ (‘Nones’ is the current buzzword to describe millennials that believe a higher power exists but aren’t interested in participating in organized religion.)

Part memoir, part advice, Lane writes about how her fear of commitment led her to hopping around the country and wrestling with herself about trying to become part of yet another church full of stale platitudes, alienating patriarchal language, and awkward meet-and-mingle sessions. At the same time, she was working for a Quaker retreat organization, so many of her lessons stem from attitudes of honest acknowledgement and acceptance of reality that are common in Quaker teachings.

Belonging, she decided, is not about conforming with what other people do, say, or believe. You can have different opinions, interests, backgrounds, education, and languages. ‘Belonging didn’t chiefly depend on whether a community accepted me but whether I was able to offer myself to them.’

Becoming disillusioned is part of the process of belonging--disillusioned in the sense of tearing down the illusions that we construct in order to ‘fit in’. It’s being honest about what your resources and talents are, and offering those. It’s about acknowledging what other people are good at and accepting what they are offering. It’s about revealing weakness in order to accept others’ gifts. It’s shifting the responsibility of belonging from other people to yourself. It’s showing up, being present, and serving others.

P.S. If you are tired of other Christians preaching at you, gag a little when you hear the word ‘relevant’, are annoyed by petty theological discussions, and couldn’t care less if the entire Christian celebrity industry with all of its books got taken up to the heavens in a chariot of fire (which would hopefully burn said books) tomorrow, then this book will probably be fine for you to read because it has none of those things.

I received an e-ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review. Words and opinions are my own.

Things You Should Know Before Reading Outlander

I was in the mood to read a fantasy series, but I had some requirements to meet:

1. The series should be four books or more.
I was itching for such a long series--maybe because trilogies are so common, and one-off’s are my usual, so I wanted something that stretched on and gave me returns for my investment into that fantasy world.

2. The author should be a woman.
I’ve been making an effort to avoid reading books by men, so yay womanpower!

3. The main character should be a woman.
Yay womanpower!

4. A romantic relationship should be an important part of the story.
Raise your hand if you think Tolkien should have written a lot more about elves making noble sacrifices for love instead of so many pages of scenery descriptions. *raises hand*

So, I asked the internet, and the internet gave me the Outlander series! Yay Scotland! It does indeed meet all the requirements: fantasy, female author, female MC, lots of books, and romance.


The fantasy is minimal. Apart from one (1) short time-travel episode, one (1) loch ness monster sighting, and one (1) scene in which the MC Claire ‘heals’ someone from PTSD using psychological methods that are so ill-advised that I will call its success a fantasy element, there is NO FANTASY. This is historical fiction, which I also love, but no dragons, no magic, no dice.

There are a lot of sexy times. Do you ever have the problem where you want to read a novel with romance, but not necessarily a romance novel? And then it’s really hard to comb through google results because it’s hard to explain the difference to a computer? (side note: the word for ‘novel’ in Portuguese is ‘romance’, so just add more layers to that confusion.) I am not one of those people who is going to diss anyone for reading books with covers depicting buxom ladies making out with Fabio. But just be aware, unlike I was, that a sex scene happens about every 50 pages, and the book is 900 pages.

There is a violent male-male rape. And partner abuse. So, warning.

Despite being written by a woman and the mc being a woman, this story is anti-feminist. Let me tell you how all but one of the adventure scenes happen.
Sexy Jamie: Claire, don’t do THE THING. 
Claire: *does THE THING* 
Claire: *needs to be rescued* 
Sexy Jamie: *rescues Claire* 
Sexy Jamie: See, I told you! 
Claire: You were right!!!


There are really good pictures of how tough life was on the Scottish highlands in the 1740s. A lot of work, dirt, cold, disease, animals, and skirmishes.

Diana Gabaldon is from Arizona (*waves excitedly*) but she has clearly done her research: she frequently describes medicinal plants found in the highlands (she has a PhD in ecology) and uses many words of Scottish origin that I had never heard before.

Carlisle Castle, the site of many a Jacobite battle and the filming location
for an important part of the Outlander TV series.
The Jacobite risings and politics is explained through the narrative, so I am bound to remember it. When I went to Scotland a couple years ago, I had never heard of the Jacobites and had a hard time understanding some of the museum displays… it’s a wee bit complicated to keep everything straight.

The characters are really fun. They make jokes, they are passionate, they are quick to forgive, and they are courageous. I kept cheering for them the whole time.

So, have you read any fantasy series that meets all of my requirements? Give me the goods, people!! Stop being bad dragons and hoarding the treasures all for yourself!!

Reading Journal || May

May was a great month for me. I got back to running after having a hurt knee for a good 6 weeks. I studied a lot of Portuguese, picked up some new clients, and am very close to getting my Brazilian residence visa. The weather has turned to be cooler and the days are both sunny and rainy, so it's the best of all the worlds.

I want to do a quick numbers count of books I've read this year.
written by men: 18 / 35%
written by women: 24 / 46%
non-white authors: 14 / 27%
non-fiction: 14 / 27%
YA: 10 / 19%
Conclusion: I need to read more YA! Any suggestions??

Adult Fiction

The Hundred Secret Senses // Amy Tan
A Chinese-American woman whose marriage is on the rocks goes on a documentary work trip back to China with her crazy Chinese sister and her husband. It made me laugh out loud with its perfect descriptions of Chinese logic, and the writing is so on the nose that I enjoyed every minute of reading it. This book came highly recommended from two friends and I seriously loved it!

Longbourn // Jo Baker
If you love Pride & Prejudice and ever wondered about the other issues besides upper crust courting concerns that were going on in Georgian England, give this a shot. As for me, I found that I didn’t really care about the servants or the war because I was went into it searching for another juicy angle on the Bennet sisters’ love interests.

Young Adult Fiction

A Gathering of Shadows // V.E. Schwab
Fast, fun, spunky, modern, this is the second book in a fantasy trilogy that jumps through Londons… all four of them. I am such a fan of this series, guys. The only thing bad about reading this book now is having to wait until next year for the next one!

The Orphan Queen // Jodi Meadows
YA TROPE ZONE ALERT!!! The writing is so, so, so bad. And the story is incredibly predictable. BUT I read a good 33% and by then it had me so sucked in that I had to finish it (because what if my predictions are wrong??). And now I’m on the hold list for the next book in this series. SUE ME. All you need to know is: fantasy, magic is illegal, a badass orphan girl is going to take back her kingdom.

The Raven Boys // Maggie Stiefvater
People who I trust love this series, so I had to see what all the fuss was about. I like it but I’m still not exaaaactly sure where it is headed. The beginning of the book was pretty slow-paced and I felt lost for a while because of how it meanders around, but the writing itself is so tasty. Yummy books. I stuck it out, and I’m going to continue. The other bookclub member (my boyfriend) liked it too.

O Pequeno Príncipe // Antoine de Saint-Exupéry
Ugh, finally finished this. Am I perhaps the only person in the world who thinks this book is boring and pretentious? I kept getting the feeling that the author was writing to adults under the guise of writing to children. gag.

Poetry / Non-fiction

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful // Alice Walker
Approachable poems about social justice topics. This is the kind of poetry I like.

The Long Shadow of Small Ghosts // Laura Tillman
The second read for the #SJBC was so-so. This is a journalist’s personal journey into trying to understand what caused a man to snap and stab his three toddlers to death. Along the way she debates questions of capital punishment ethics with… herself. It was interesting but I wish I had known it was just as much about the author (if not more so!) as it was about the story, because maybe I would be less critical of it.

The Ragamuffin Gospel // Brennan Manning
A very down-to-earth, honest-about-the-dirt book about what it means to follow Jesus’ teachings without trying to earn love and blessings from God. I missed the discussion questions in the back, so when I reread (which I will definitely do!) I will journal along with those. Seriously the best book to read if you are burned out with religion.

Top Ten-ish TBR For Beach Haters

This week’s Top Ten Tuesday is all about beach reads!

Two problems:
1. I hate the beach. Mountains ftw.
2. It’s delightfully fallish and rainy and cold down here in the southern hemisphere! I’m currently wrapped up in blankies and sweaters and leggings.

One thing that kinda really bothers me is how northern hemisphere seasons dominate content of what is going on in the other half of the world, where, btw, things are opposite! This is not the fault of The Broke and the Bookish by any means. But, for example, I’m talking advertising and seasonal products from McDonald’s say things like “Cool down with a refreshing smoothie” in Portuguese in July… the coldest part of the year for São Paulo, when a normal day is overcast, rainy, and has a high of 15C/60F. Or like right now Starbucks is all decked out in summer colors and selling cold-drink tumblers, and all I want is brooding and some hot tea.

/rant (for now)

Cold and rainy weather makes me want to curl up with dark thrillers, pessimistic thinkers, supernatural spooks.

So here’s my wishful thinking TBR for the next few months (good thing I’ve been reading at double my normal pace this year!):

All the Haruki Murakami books that I have not yet read. 
Which ones? I’ve read 1Q84 (and want to reread one of these days), Norwegian Wood, Kafka on the Shore, After Dark, and What We Talk About When We Talk About Running. So, all the rest = approximately a small mountain, right?

The entire Harry Potter series 
I read the series for the first time 4 years ago, so it’s time to refresh and fall in love all over again. Yes, first time was only 4 years ago. Yes, my mom believes they are devil books.

My Mother She Killed Me, My Father He Ate Me edited by Kate Bernheimer
A collection of fairy tales that promises to be at least as disturbing as the traditional ones.

Columbine by Dave Cullen
This is an award-winning investigative study into the lives of the killers and the survivors of the Columbine massacre.

The Raven Boys series by Margie Stiefvater
I listened to The Raven King already and it has supernatural stuff, murder, darkness, yaaassss.

The Bell Jar and The Colossus by Sylvia Plath
Feminist, dark, heavy, madness = two must reads

Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
Uhm, three characters headed towards something that looks like a disaster.

Shatter Me series by Tahereh Mafi
Dystopian evil government possesses a girl who kills people with her touch and she has to choose which side she is on?? Serve me a slice of that dark and brooding trope cake!

MaddAddam trilogy by Margaret Atwood
I purposefully don’t know much about this because I want to be very oh so surprised, but it’s sure to be the kind of book that makes my eyes widen and my jaw clench.

Sorry (jk not really) to be such a downer on all you summery folks! Do you have any dark and scary recommendations for me?

Reading African-American Authors

Norma Impressions by Kara Walker (source)

A few months ago, I loaded up my twitter account with a lot of book critics, educators, and activists who are involved with the #WeNeedDiverseBooks campaign. I wanted to know what kinds of conversations they were having, and why. At first I didn’t understand a lot of academic-y terms they threw around, so I had to google and read a ton. I still have to google, but I’ve gained a lot of understanding into the conversation. Every day there is something new, but it really can be boiled down to: White people, why aren’t you listening?

I know I have a case of white guilt that has more than once tempted me to unfollow and stop listening because I feel ashamed and out of place. I don’t dare chime in to the conversation because these women are fierce, strong, educated, and I would be both out of line and out of my league to think that I had something to add. This has been humbling in a painful way.

Sometimes I want to feel like I belong with them because I’m a woman living in a severely misogynistic society (After I moved to Brazil, I understood why women become anorexic out of an attempt at control over their own bodies… I struggle with eating in certain situations here). But I can’t say I face the same thing that a woman of color is up against; I consciously use my race and gender to get in and out of situations that other people would not be able to, and I have done so my whole life. For example, one time I boarded a plane without any form of legal ID because I had forgotten and packed mine in my checked luggage. I can think of scores of personal examples like this.

I know a British guy who is so quick to point out horrendous racial crimes that ‘my people’ have done. I think it’s because he is deeply insecure and tries to criticize others whenever possible. But I was so gleefully happy when I read Longbourn and the global capitalist inheritance system clicked into place in my brain: white Americans got rich from the bodies of slaves, but so did white Englishmen, and even if this guy I know did grow up poor and does have ancestors who slaved in the fields as he so frequently claims, he too is reaping the profits of slavery by the mere fact that he was able to afford a university education and make a living using his native language in Brazil. There is a reason that English teachers are in such worldwide demand, and it is directly linked to money that was made by, cities that were built by, and advantages that were gained by African bodies.

The thing I've learned (that this dudebro doesn’t understand yet) is that white privilege does not mean an absence of hardship of any kind. L.L. McKinney tweeted recently: ...yes. All white people are privileged. No this does not mean they don’t struggle or are not marginalized in some form fashion. (source)

Nowadays, I’m careful to check out an author before I bother checking out a book. I’m pretty tired of reading books by white men. Not because white men are evil, but because I’ve been reading books by them my entire life and I’m ready to stop now. There’s lots of other people who deserve to be heard, and a lot more that I need to learn that I’m not going to learn by listening to the same thing all the time.

My Recent Reads

Just Mercy (Bryan Stevenson)
Stevenson is a lawyer working primarily in Alabama, fighting against injustice (racism and otherwise) in the criminal justice system.

Between the World and Me (Ta-Nehesi Coates)
A letter from a father to his teenage son about what it means to have a black body in a country that constantly seeks to control it.

The Book of American Negro Poetry
(various, ed. James Weldon Johnson)
An anthology that sets out to prove that African American poets are equal and often superior to white poets.

Horses Make a Landscape Look More Beautiful: Poems (Alice Walker)
Tangible and accessible poetry that contemplates race, exploitation, and colonialism.

Parable of the Sower duology (Octavia E. Butler)
Set in a dystopian America, a strong, young black woman makes her way from Southern California to better lands in the north, all the while developing a new religion based on acceptance and equality.

Good Links

Lemonade Syllabus (and on Goodreads so you can add 'em to your TBR already.)
The Sublte Linguistics of Polite White Supremacy (an essay by @YawoBrown)
White Fragility (an essay by Robin DiAngelo)

Three Books with Empire Waists

In the past month I’ve read three books set in times past, and I realized that though the purpose and language of each book is different, they all have this in common: protagonists wearing empire waists!

One Good Earl Deserves a Lover (Sarah MacLean) is the second book in the Rules of Scoundrels romance novel series (judge me, haters), set in Regency England. In this book, the independent, smart, aint-gonna-take-nothin-from-nobody Lady Philippa unwittingly seduces the silent and closed-off owner of a sleek gambling club. She uses her wits, brains, and nerdy-girl charm to save the day. I don’t think this book is particularly historically accurate, but Princess Peach rescuing Mario, so there.

The House of Mirth (Edith Wharton) was written and set in turn of the century New York. The story gets way too melodramatic at the end, but I really enjoyed watching the tailspin of the life of the protagonist Lily. She reminded me a lot of Jane Austen’s Emma Woodhouse because of how quick she is to snub those who aren’t good enough, only to later realize how much she needs to be in the good graces of others. The whole book uses language straight from theatre to emphasize that everyone is playing a role and wearing a mask. No wonder my favorite character, Lawrence Selden, is the fresh of breath air who criticizes all the superficiality. Fun trivia: Edith Wharton’s maiden name was Jones—it was her family that inspired the phrase “Keeping up with the Jones’s” because they were the richest and showiest family in Old New York.

Longbourn (Jo Baker) is Pride & Prejudice retold from the servants’ perspectives. This answers questions such as: Does Hill have children? What happens to servants’ children when they do have them? Wasn’t there a war going on, and why wasn’t anyone concerned about it? Was the abolitionist movement before or after this? How did Darcy and Bingley become so rich? I really, really liked all of the choices that Jo Baker made in adding details to the original cast. She brought a deeper and more rounded perspective to all of the characters. Wickham is a pedophile, for example. And Elizabeth is more self-absorbed in a way that highlights the ugliness of her pride.

I disliked where Baker quotes exactly from P&P (though she always does it in a clever way), and my favorite parts were where she diverged completely from Austen. There is a very informative discussion of the role of slavery in producing the wealth of the British upper class and its contribution to England’s economic development. The story also explains more details about the class differences between soldiers who self-enlisted in the army and those who bought their way in (like Wickham). As a particularly sharp criticism, one of the footsoldiers is in a rural village in Spain, “saving” the Spanish from the French, when he sees obscenities in English scrawled on the walls of a sacked house. He realizes that he is a pawn caught in a rich person’s game.

In spite of all the things I enjoyed and the writing being lush and really well developed, I thought the book was okay. My personal preference is that P&P adaptations be set in other times and places than the original, because can anyone really top that?

What is justice worth? || Just Mercy #SJBC

I was so pleased to be able to join the Social Justice Book Club (#SJBC) started by Kerry at Entomology of a Bookworm, Shannon at River City Reading, and Shaina at Shaina Reads. I worked on the social justice team at Girl Scouts of Southern Arizona for a year, and before that I was interested in lots of forms of social justice (particularly sex trafficking). Though I had attended conferences and read a lot about human trafficking and fair trade, I knew next to nothing about injustice and excessive punishment within the US judicial system before I read our first club pick, Just Mercy.

The author Bryan Stevenson works as a lawyer servicing those who have been wrongly-convicted, received prejudiced trials, are on death row, were children tried as adults, and others who have grossly unjust sentences. Serial and Making a Murderer are not anomalies, and if you wanted to learn more after listening/watching those series, I recommend you read Just Mercy. It too focuses a lot on specific people and their case histories rather than on facts, statistics, or legal history of the judicial system (though it does relevantly sprinkle those things in). It’s well-written, engaging, honest, and eye-opening.

I’ve been against the death penalty for such a long time, for the exact reason that one person brings up in the book. Death should be on “God’s timing,” and who are we to decide that for Him? So I agreed with the author from the start on that point. But this led me to wonder about and question the fairness of routine punishments that weren’t mentioned much in the book.

What is a crime worth? Just totally guessing with zero research whatsoever here:

  1. Let’s say someone robbed $500 worth of things from a home when no one was present, and then they got caught later that day.
  2. So then let’s imagine that two police officers spent 8 hours each working to catch the thief. What’s that, $1,000 for taxpayers?
  3. The thief pleads guilty to aggravated burglary, so there is processing and sentencing that a judge and court aids need to work on, but no lawyers or public defenders need to touch it. I can’t imagine that would cost more than $1,000 worth of time.

Our total is now $2,500 that the thief needs to repay with time. I'm excluding the costs of maintaining prisoners in prison. I’m just imagining that the thief needs to be in prison for the equivalent amount of hours of “minimum wage”.

  • $2,500 divided by $7.50 = 333 hours 
  • 333 hours divided by 8 hours per day = 42 days 
  • 42 days divided by a standard workweek of five days = 8.3 weeks, or roughly two months

Not very long, especially if you want to “teach them a lesson.” So let’s say you tripled that punishment time to six months. Is six months enough time to pay for $500 + $2000 in legal costs?

Looking at ancient Judaic punishments, we have some variances for the crime of stealing. The punishment for stealing $500 would be:

  • Four or five times the amount stolen = $2,000 or $2,500
  • Double = $1,000
  • An eye for an eye = $500

I often think that Biblical punishments were way too harsh. Capital punishment was all over the place. But compared to Arizona and the UK, where the absolute minimum sentencing time for aggravated burglary (stealing from a residence) is 1 year, it's our punishments that seem way too harsh.

Would it be fair to have six months in prison for 24 hours per day, plus 6 months of sleeping in prison at night (like a transitionary parole time)? Or a Nordic prison system for non-violent crimes?

When I got to work with girls inside of the juvenile detention center in Pima County, I was surprised by how good it was and how caring the guards appeared to be. But at the same time, this place of punishment was mainly used to keep the girls safe from the outside world of physical, sexual, and substance abuse. Although I believe law enforcement and the judicial system in Southern Arizona are better educated now due to the work of community-led advocacy and outreach groups, it is still ridiculous to give kids a rap sheet because the state has no where else to put them.

That line of thought extends to adult prisoners as well. Sure, changing the US prison system to focus more on rehabilitation would involve a complete overhaul that will cost billions of dollars upfront to convert buildings, create new programs, train staff, review old cases, etc. But isn’t it worth it?

Get Involved

“You can’t understand most of the important things from a distance. You have to get close.”

One of the biggest problems after learning about something you want to change is answering the question, “What now?”
  • Brian Stevenson’s organization, EJI, has some ideas for how to get involved.
  • Start your own book club with books related to mass incarceration and the prison industrial complex.
  • Become pen pals with someone in prison. This will brighten someone's day, encourage them, help their transition back into society, and restore humanity. Black & Pink is a pretty radical advocacy organization that has great resources related to this. Another good site would be Write a Prisoner
  • Serve on a foster care review board. I’m not sure how it works in all states, but in Arizona, people who have had their kids taken away can voluntarily sign up for being a part of the foster care review board system. They are entitled to extra benefits, but also may have extra program requirements to meet that will give them greater structure to get back on their feet. Board volunteers review cases and make recommendations to the court. 
  • Get trained in mental health first aid. I did it a few years ago and it is amazing at giving practical tools and training to reduce fear and stigmas around people going through a mental health crisis. This alone could help keep lots of people out of prisons. The more people who go through the program, the more widely available it will become. 
  • Contact your state’s Justice Project and see if they need an office volunteer or someone to lead community outreach projects.

Reading Journal || March

This month I ripped through books at a pace that surprised even myself! One week I finished five books in five days. It’s bound to happen, I suppose, because I read so many books at the same time that I can finish a bunch in a row.

Despite my best efforts, I cannot resist reading less than eight books at once:
  • Audiobook
  • Poetry
  • Fiction
  • Non-fiction
  • A Portuguese book for fluency
  • A Portuguese book for vocab study
  • Something on the ‘backburner’
  • In Search of Lost Time
But I’ll focus on what I completed in March, not what I’m in the middle of.

Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents are a duology by Octavia E. Butler that were written in the 1990’s and set in a dystopian America in the 2020’s. Usual dystopias that I read feature oppressive government control; these show a country on the verge of anarchy. Poverty, substance abuse, vandalism/robbery/rape/murder, and extreme drought are the backdrop for Olamina to set out on her own to develop a community based on the principal of a religion that she leads called Earthseed. The mantra of the religion is “Change is God”, and her goal is to advance the community so much that they start a fresh life on another planet. The novels don’t reach that far into the future, and the mostly focus on how hard it is to inspire trust and win commitment in relationships when everyone is hellbent on self-preservation. What was most interesting to me was how Butler predicted the appearance of a Donald Trump/Ted Cruz character, down to the line of “make America great again.” Butler herself is an interesting person—an African-American female science fiction writer who earned a lot of awards for her work.

I continued the Lunar Chronicles series by Marissa Meyer with reading Scarlet. I was let down by the cartoonish new characters and predictable plot. Probably not going to finish reading the series.

Though there are literally hundreds of people waiting for the e-book copy of Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee, no one seems to want to listen to the audio (even though it’s read by Reese Witherspoon). So I snatched that up and was proud of myself for keeping my vow that I wouldn’t read the book until after Ms. Lee had passed. My brief responses to the FAQs:
  • I believe that Harper Lee did not intend for the book to be published. Many passages are standalone short stories or underdeveloped dialogue—more of a polished writing exercise than material that moves the current of the novel forward.
  • Atticus is racist, and no, it doesn’t appear to be an alternate universe Atticus.
  • Reading GSAW did not change how much I like TKAM. Though it’s not set in an alternate reality, since I really believe that Harper Lee wasn’t finished developing this novel, it’s easy for me to categorize it as something totally separate, in its own box.

I made a conscious decision to read more female authors this month, and want to continue with that for the rest of the year. I should have tried to take a history of feminist lit class to fulfill my gender studies requirement in college… though I am thankful that such an abundance of material exists on the subject that is totally easy to find and read for free online. I started making my way through feminist classics with A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf . If you haven’t read it already, you should know that it is an extended essay that was fleshed out from a talk that Woolf gave to a girls’ college about the absence of female authors in literature. Woolf makes surface-level observations, but it’s a perfectly good place to start to lay a foundation for future readings. It reminded me of feminist art in the 1960’s-70’s (Judy Chicago, et al)—very blatantly obvious about what it was trying to communicate, but it was appropriate for the time, place, and context.

Immediately after, I read A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean. Maybe you don’t see the connection between an extended essay about women’s exclusion from literature and a romance novel, but the connection exists in my mind. The heroine in A Rogue by Any Other Name is fighting for her rights to make life decisions for herself instead of her father, fiancé, or society to make them for her. The point is that females can do things too and don’t need the peanut gallery to make a running commentary about it! I picked up this romance novel on Amanda Nelson‘s recommendation and because I thought, “Hey, I’m an adult, I can read what I want and I don’t need society shaming me into reading or not reading something.” I did feel proud that I read that book, silly smut and all, because it felt like cutting one more string to caring about doing things because it’s what people want me to do instead of what I actually want to do. I'm working towards my goal of becoming the Honey Badger.

Bird by Bird (Anne Lamott) and It Chooses You (Miranda July) approach the same subject in slightly different ways. What do you do when you want to write something but you are procrastinating on actually sitting down and doing it? Both books were a delight to read, well worth waiting for years on the waitlist, and I reviewed them together because they are so closely related.

I finished Sandman: Endless Nights by Neil Gaiman in Portuguese. My boyfriend keeps telling me to read Neil Gaiman stuff, and I keep doing it, and I keep not liking it. He and I do have similar tastes that often overlap, but there are many cases where they don’t. Dear readers, should I trust him once again and give a final try on American Gods?

I was let down by The Psychopath Test (Jon Ronson), too. I blogged about my disappointment, because I hoped that I would be able to spot the psychos living around me if I read that book. Maybe this reveals a hidden motivation for trying to understand why people in Brazil do what they do (I bet they’re just psychopaths. Let’s find proof.), or maybe it just means that I’m tired of reading books by white British dudes.

I Still Don't Know How to Spot a Psycho

I was disappointed by The Psychopath Test. I suppose that it’s my fault for approaching it with some preconceptions. I always do that to books; I do it to people too, and after 26 years of proving myself to be a poor judge of character based on my impressions, one would think that I would have learned by now. But this why I came to the book in the first place: I am a poor judge of character and in need someone to teach me how to not be such a sucker.

The Psychopath Test starts out reading like a mystery thriller. A select group of academics from around the world each receive a copy of a slim book that is full of cryptic clues and hints just begging to be unraveled. One of the recipients, after conversing online with a group of the others, contacts the journalist Jon Ronson for help solving the puzzle. Is it a marketing ploy? Nutty religious propaganda? A headhunting campaign?

Mr. Ronson solves the mystery in the first chapter, and then he gets to wondering. Is it true that psychopaths make the world go round? After all, this small book made time, money, and effort cross hands and financial markets. This leads him on a journalistic quest to learn what makes a psychopath and how to identify them.

A few misconceptions are cleared up right away. Psychopaths born with a dysfunctional amygdala, the part of the brain that controls empathy, which means that psychopathy is not a mental illness because it cannot be ‘cured’. As it is not a mental illness, it is not listed in the DSM (the psychology checklist bible).

Ronson takes a weekend course led by Bob Hare, the creator of the Hare PCL-R Checklist (‘The Psychopath Test’), so he can learn from the world’s leading expert himself about how to correctly spot a psychopath. It makes sense that Ronson doesn’t teach us, his faithful readers, how to use the checklist. He is not a psychologist, neither are we (I’m not at least, though I did enjoy my requisite Psych 101 in college), and he spends the remainder of the book giving circumstantial evidence about how checklists, even in the hands of professionals, can be misused and abused.

Multiple chapters are devoted to Ronson trying to apply the Hare checklist to both himself and interview subjects who might be good candidates for scoring high enough on the test to be psychopaths. His results are inconclusive, and he goes off on chapter-length stories about people who got their one minute of fame for being mentally ill. His contention is that we are all a little mentally ill, and these individuals got their one minute because they are a bit more ill than the average.

The penultimate chapter critiques the legitimacy of the psychology field as a true science by briefly describing: how the contemporary DSM was made (by a small group of academic psychologists yelling their opinions at each other in a room), the now-infamous 1970’s Rosenhan experiment of sending sane psychologists into mental hospitals to see how long it took them to get released, an incident of when some sleazy big-pharma reps tried to push drugs on a psychologist who didn’t want to hear about them, how children are being inappropriately diagnosed with mental illnesses based on the word-of-mouth of a few well-known psychologists instead of clinical studies, how an important clinical psychologist was revealed to be in cahoots with Johnson & Johnson, and how some psychologists admit that maybe they are not 100% right all of the time.

The subtitle of The Psychopath Test is ‘A journey through the madness industry.’ If that is the case, this one chapter should have been expanded to be the entire book. If the book is about psychopaths, then it should have spent less time reporting conversations with people with mental illnesses (because as we learned, psychopathy is not an illness). I am conclusively judging the book to be another piece of arm-chair psychology, and I have once again been taken in by appearances.

Connections || Bird by Bird and It Chooses You

If you have ever been interested in learning more about the process of writing, perhaps learn some tips about how to braid parts of a story together, or maybe have your hand held along the way, and you expressed that desire aloud or maybe on the internet, someone somewhere has probably referred you to Bird by Bird by Anne Lamott.

This book has been on my radar for years, and I was in line on the waitlist at my library for years, so that culminated in me getting to read the book for the first time this month.

My preconception of the book was that it would be fairly serious and detailed, but in an interesting way. I didn’t really know how it would go about teaching me how to write better, but I just assumed that it would. I think I picked up this notion from the rather academic-looking cover and the way that other people revere this book as the go-to thing for writers in search of direction.

It’s really not a book about practical advice for NaNoWriMo. There are many very good how-to’s and roadmaps available online for that. It doesn’t give advice about common structural pitfalls and how to correct them, ways to write realistic characters, things to think about when constructing fantasy worlds, or how to finish a personal memoir essay with a snappy and relatable ending. But it is a book full of encouragement to start writing, and more importantly, to finish what you’ve started.

Lamott repeats herself a lot: Write a first draft, no matter how bad it is, because it is only by writing the first draft that you are able to arrive at a better second draft. If you are facing writer’s block, go do something else for a while to fill yourself back up with fuel. Keep index cards handy to jot down ideas and quotes. Form a habit of writing a little bit every day. And write about your childhood.

The day after I finished reading Bird by Bird, I read It Chooses You by Miranda July.

I have been following July’s career for years, and I am fascinated and awed by how she views the world. She is able to turn the most mundane things into something interesting, important, and magical. She’s openly Proustian in the way that she actively looks for secret messages or symbols in her interactions with the world around her, and when you absorb any of her work you are left with the feeling that you too can be a creative person if you just pay attention to the messages. It Chooses You is more of that magic.

July is writing the screenplay for her film The Future, and she is stuck. Not only does she have plot and procrastination problems (I’m not immune! I’m just pointing out that she also is not immune), but she has a dread finishing the project because of all the things that will come next. So she devises a project that will solve so many of her problems at once: It will give her ideas for her movie (like Lamott says to do), she will feel productive instead of like she is procrastinating, and it will help her avoid having to work on writing.

During the height of the Great Recession, July contacts people who place free classified ads in the PennySaver and asks them if they would be willing to let her interview them and her friend Brigitte Sire to take photos. The people who agreed to this are unique and um… special. The book, It Chooses You, is the documentation of the interviews, the photos, and how each person helped July in her process of finishing what she started.

At first I couldn’t tell if it was all staged or not. The photos looked like sets sometimes, the people were perhaps actors. That’s a lot of what Miranda July does. She stages performances or interactions that blur the lines between what is real and what is performance art. See, for example, this video on how to make buttons. In her writing it’s much harder to see what is true and what is merely inspired by what is true. It wasn’t until I reached the final character’s story that I believed it as all real. He convinced me because this character makes it into the movie, The Future, playing himself.

See Also
An excerpt of the book featured in The New Yorker
My 10 Favorite Books: Miranda July
A review of It Chooses You by Head Into the Heavens

Reading Journal || January & February

This blog is turning into more of a reading journal and less of a YA book review blog, and I’m okay with that. This year in general I’ve been focusing on expressing my thoughts because I want to express them and not because I want other people to know them. When I read my posts from last year, I was really happy that I took the time to write them and I was glad that they look pretty and easy to find in the format of a blog. So, I want to keep up my blog for those reasons.

Let me recap my 2016 reading journey so far.

After listening to The Heart Goes Last (Margaret Atwood) and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (Ken Kesey) during the turning of the year, my mood swung to things that were equally disturbing but in a slightly different genre. Horror manga.

I read both the Uzumaki and Gyo series by Junji Ito. Ito is known as the patriarch of horror manga, and really, these books are bad dreams. Each chapter in Uzumaki functions almost independently and focuses on a spiral pattern that drives people to mental and physical insanity. The Gyo series is about a mutated fish invasion, and if you weren’t already jumpy about things touching your feet while you are swimming… this will convince you.

I think each person has their own idea of what truly inspires fear and horror. When I had a book club that discussed The Shining (Stephen King), the three of us discussed which parts of the book were the scariest for us personally. I am claustrophobic, so the part where Danny gets stuck underneath the snow in a small tunnel was the part that got the most sensory reaction out of me. For me, Ito’s nonsensical illustrations are disgusting (imagine my facial expression when I watch a medical show on TV), but the stories are not scary. In my mind, manipulative stalkers are true horror.

Speaking of true horror, I listened to Dark Money: The Hidden History of Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Political Right (Jane Mayer) after I heard an interview with the author on NPR. It’s loquacious and has its flaws (not citing sources of minor information), but it legitimizes the feeling that US politics has become more polarized than it used to be. This book made me feel more wary of “organic” political movements and skeptical of opinion articles. It also made me think more than ever before that I am being manipulated by a system that is out of my control, and the only solution that I have in my grasp is to read and write (or create) more. If you love hating Monsanto, Sallie Mae and Freddie Mac, and the Seven Sisters, then read this book.

After that glut of heaviness, I read a bunch of fluff: How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are (Anne Berest et al), some smutty manga in Portuguese, and Carry On (Rainbow Rowell). Carry On makes my second m/m romance read, and though I still haven’t heard a good explanation for why straight women like to read it, I guess I fall in that group.

Also in the romance category, 11/22/63 by Stephen King surprised me in all the right ways. The only other King book I’ve read is The Shining, and that book disappointed me in a mass-market paperback sort of way. Forty years of prolific writing later, 11/22/63 completely redeemed King. Every single aspect of it is en pointe—characters, pacing, action, feelings, plot rhythm, originality. As a plus, the audiobook narrator was mindbogglingly fantastic. I can’t recommend the audiobook enough.

After over a year of being on the hold list, it was fiiiiinally my turn to listen to Cinder (Marissa Meyer). I’m a few years behind on The Lunar Chronicles bus, but I’m glad I got to see for myself what all the fuss is about. Cinder was good. I thought it was cute, creative, and I adored the characters. Scarlet and Cress came in soon after, and I was excited to listen to them as well. Scarlet had some big issues for me regarding character development (the thing I loved the most about the first book) or rather, lack thereof. The plot was yawningly predictable, and I almost didn’t stick it out to the end. I kept finding more things that annoyed me, and that’s when I decided I probably have had too much YA in a row. I’m going to wait to read Cress until the next time I feel like being in a tub of book fluff.

My ongoing project of reading In Search of Lost Time has been progressing very slowly. I keep getting caught up in other books! I’m a chronic multi-book reader.