National Book Awards Longlist – 2020

The National Book Foundation posted the longlist for the National Book Award this month! The finalists will be posted on October 6th, if you’re interested. I love book awards, and I’m glad I caught this one early to see how far each book gets. Hope you enjoy!


Leave the World Behind by Alam Rumaan

“A magnetic novel about two families, strangers to each other, who are forced together on a long weekend gone terribly wrong.”

At first, I thought this was going to be a typical thriller, but then I noticed that it’s also about race and parenthood. Sign me up. I’m hoping it digs deeper than I expect it to. I hope to read this soon! To be published on 10/6/20.

The Index of Self-Destructive Acts by Christopher R. Beha

“While the end of the world might not be arriving, Beha’s characters are each headed for apocalypses of their own making.”

This just doesn’t seem like a book I want to read. I feel like a ton of things are going to happen that I need to keep track of. It involves politics, end of the world predictions, baseball. Um, why is that all put in a book? Where would this book even go? I know I shouldn’t judge a book so fast, but I just don’t want to give a book a bad rating because it’s clearly not for me. Published 5/5/20.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Twins, inseparable as children, ultimately choose to live in two very different worlds: one black and one white.

This is obviously the one I hear the most about. It actually seems like an interesting take on a story line that has been done already. I’m really interested to see where it goes. I’m also curious to see how the topic of race is discussed. Published 6/2/20.

If I Had Two Wings by Randall Kenan

Now, with inventiveness seasoned by maturity and shot through with humor, Kenan riffs on appetites of all kinds, on the eerie persistence of history, on unstoppable losses and unexpected salvations.

Oof, I don’t think this is for me. I don’t read short stories already, but this just doesn’t pique my interest. I have no plans to read this book, but I can see why it’s on the list. If you read this, and liked it, let me know down in the comments. The cover is really pretty, though! Published 8/4/20.

A Burning by Megha Majumdar

“For readers of Tommy Orange, Yaa Gyasi, and Jhumpa Lahiri, an electrifying debut novel about three unforgettable characters who seek to rise—to the middle class, to political power, to fame in the movies—and find their lives entangled in the wake of a catastrophe in contemporary India.”

This is the only other book I have seen floating around the internet. I’ve heard that it’s quite political, which makes me hesitate to open this one up. I don’t know much of anything about politics. It also seems to be about politics in a different country. I can’t even get a grasp on American politics. I might read this, but I have no plans for it anytime soon. Published 6/2/20.

A Children’s Bible by Lydia Millet

“A Children’s Bible is a prophetic, heartbreaking story of generational divide—and a haunting vision of what awaits us on the far side of Revelation.”

I don’t think I would have picked this one up a year ago, but I’m interested to see how this one ends. I’m hoping that the writing style is good because the story sounds quite compelling. Published 5/12/20.

The Secret Lives of Church Ladies by Deesha Philyaw

“The Secret Lives of Church Ladies explores the raw and tender places where black women and girls dare to follow their desires and pursue a momentary reprieve from being good.”

I didn’t read the synopsis until writing this blog post, and I’m definitely interested in reading it. It’s a short story collection about the double standards of the church. I’m not a religious person, but I’m sure everyone knows about how hypocritical religion can be. I respect and love learning about different religions, so do not come for me. I would love to read this at some point. Published 9/1/20.

Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart

A heartbreaking story of addiction, sexuality, and love, Shuggie Bain is an epic portrayal of a working-class family that is rarely seen in fiction.

I don’t know anything about the Thatcher era, and this is one that takes place during those times—1980s. I don’t know if this is supposed to be heartbreaking, but I feel like it’ll hit me in the feels. I can’t imagine not having a childhood. My parents, thankfully, tried their hardest to give me everything I needed. That’s all you could ever want. I’m interested to see what this story is like. Published 2/11/20.

The Great Offshore Grounds by Vanessa Vaselka

A wildly original, cross-country novel that subverts a long tradition of family narratives and casts new light on the mythologies–national, individual, and collective—that drive and define us.

I love novels that involve families. I typically enjoy those types of stories. This is one I’ve never read about before. I could see why it ended up on this list. I don’t really know where it would go, but I’m really interested to find out. Hopefully, I’ll get to this one soon! Published 8/25/20.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu

“From the infinitely inventive author of How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe comes a deeply personal novel about race, pop culture, immigration, assimilation, and escaping the roles we are forced to play.

This book was published in January of this year by Pantheon Books, and I didn’t see anything about it until they announced this list. It has decent ratings on Goodreads, but I’m not entirely sure if it’s a book that interests me all that much. It obviously discusses race, which I’m always here for, but it feels too bizarre for my taste. I enjoy reading a serious novel that discusses race, rather than one that jokes about stereotyping—not that there is anything wrong with a little satire. Published 1/28/20.


That’s all for this post! I wish I was someone who could read all of these for a secret tbr, but I just don’t think that’s plausible for me. What do you guys think?


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Latinx Heritage Month – Books by Latinx Authors That I Want to Read

I want to start being diligent about diversifying what I choose to read. I typically don’t pay attention to all of that. If someone writes an interesting book, then that’s all I care about regardless of sex, race, age, etc. I’m actively working on it, and I went through last night and found books by authors that are Latinx (individuals with Latin American origin/descent.)

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

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Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

This book is not only written by a Latinx author, but it is also about a Latinx family. It is young adult, which I don’t read much of, but I try to pick ones that I think might send a good message. It’s fantasy, obviously, but I noticed that it has some LGBTQ+ elements to it according to Goodreads.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

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In bright, musical prose that reflects the energy of New York City, Dominicana is a vital portrait of the immigrant experience and the timeless coming-of-age story of a young woman finding her voice in the world.

This one has such great ratings on Goodreads. I’m assuming it’s a mix between literary and historical fiction. Again, it seems as if the book is also about Latinx characters. I’m actually super excited to get to this one. I want to read it right now, but it’s currently checked out at my library, so I get to play the waiting game.

Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

“. . . the devastation of loss, the difficulty of forgiveness, and the bittersweet bonds that shape our lives.”

Okay, so I think the majority of these involve Latinx characters, which is awesome, but I’ll stop repeating myself. I’ve heard amazing things about Acevedo. I think I’m most interested in this book by her, but if I love it, then I’ll try her other ones. I’m interested to see how it goes considering it’s written in-verse. Let me know what you thought of this one!

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is heartbroken, but he is a romantic.

I didn’t even know what this was about until I started writing this blog post. It gives me such You vibes, but as a classic. I’m excited to read this, but I’m also questioning myself every second.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

“. . . follows two young people as they flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in search of a place to call home.

This is another one with fantastic ratings on Goodreads. I’ve also seen it floating around at my library and on Instagram. I’m interested in learning more about the Spanish Civil War, and I just love a good historical fiction novel. How about y’all?

Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

“. . . a mesmerizing debut set against the backdrop of the devastating violence of 1990’s Colombia about a sheltered young girl and a teenage maid who strike an unlikely friendship that threatens to undo them both.

I have never heard of this book, but it seems like it has decent ratings on Goodreads. I don’t read a lot of books set in Colombia; I actually couldn’t even tell you one book that I’ve read that is set there. Again, I’m working on diversifying my reading, and this is definitely a good place to start. If you’ve read this, I’m interested to know what you thought! Goodreads related it to the works of Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.

This just sounded like nothing I’ve read before. This is actually the same author who wrote the new book Mexican Gothic. I think they’re two completely different stories. I’ve seen this floating around, but it’s a rare occasion. I’m going into this with no expectations. Hopefully, this doesn’t disappoint.

Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez

This collection documents how these “love wars” break out across generations as individuals find themselves caught in the cross-hairs of romance, expectations, and community.

This was published in 2018, and I discovered it less than 24 hours ago. It has such an interesting premise, and if I do read it, this will be my first short story collection. I’ve never heard anyone talk about it, but the book has good ratings on Goodreads. Let me know if you’ve read this one! I’m excited to pick it up.


That’s my short list of books by Latinx authors. I don’t think I’ve read from any of these authors, which makes me kind of sad. They all have such interesting stories to tell. I hope you enjoyed this, and I’m excited to discover more as I continue to read everyone’s blog posts!


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How Do I Choose My Next Read?

Hello, friends!

I hope you’re all doing well.

I didn’t feel like posting another book review or book tag; I wanted to post something a little more “creative” on my blog. Obviously, this isn’t an original idea, but I thought it was a different from what I usually post. I hope you don’t mind.

I’m not a very fast reader—never have been—and when I first started blogging, my book choices weren’t pondered over very long. I just thought I was cool for reading a book. After blogging and reading avidly for three years, I feel like I try my best to pick my next read carefully. Here’s a list of how I would typically choose my next read. I change my mind most of the time, but I try really hard to stick to my first choice.

Upcoming releases

NetGalley has been my savior when it comes to new releases. I don’t always request books when I’m on there. Most of the time I’m just looking for interesting books coming out in the near future. If I do happen to get accepted for an upcoming release, I try to talk myself into reading that one first (that’s obviously why you request books on NetGalley). That’s typically the first place I look to choose my next read. I love me some new books.

Library

I always have books out from my library. If I don’t want to read a book off of NetGalley, then this is most definitely the next place I look. How do I decide from there? Well, good question. It’s all based on my mood from there. It will also depend on how soon a book has to go back. I can’t tell you how many books I’ve checked out, never read, and returned to the library unloved. It’s one of my greatest weaknesses (or strength depending on how you look at it.)

Recommendations

Recommendations usually come from YouTube. I find it kind of hard to scroll through Goodreads and find books to read—the algorithm is extremely weird.

A few YouTubers I watch for book recommendations:

Riley Marie

Zoe Delaney

Noelle Gallagher

boston reads books

gabbyreads

There are obviously more great ones, but these are a few I thought of off the top of my head.

* I’ve watched most of them for a while, and I’m totally interested in BookTuber recommendations. Preferably a more diverse group of BookTubers. I don’t read a lot of YA, so I stray away from anyone who reads only YA books. Not there is anything wrong with that—just not my taste. Thanks! 🙂 *

Awards

I’ll also look at book prize lists—Man Booker, Pulitzer, Goodreads Choice Awards, etc. This is normally my last-ditch effort when it comes to choosing my next read. Book awards don’t intrigue me as much as some people, but I’m always interested in why they won an award.

To-Be-Read Jar

I have a jar filled with the majority of books I own. I used to pick a book out of the jar once a month, but I stopped because I would never get to them. It is another option, though. It’s an amazing idea in theory, but I’m terrible at the execution.


Honestly, it usually boils down to my mood. I used to think I wasn’t a mood reader, but who isn’t? If you’re not a mood reader, then let me know down in the comments! I hope you liked this. I’ve been in a blogging slump because I don’t have any creative ideas, and I sincerely apologize. I’m trying every day to think of fresh ideas. Stay tuned for different types of posts from me—aside from reviews.


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Book Review: The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead

213 pages

ISBN: 9780385537070

Published: 7/16/19 by Doubleday Books

Genre: Historical Fiction

Amazon | B&N

Rating: 4 out of 5.

2020 Pulitzer Prize Winner

Goodreads Synopsis:

As the Civil Rights movement begins to reach the black enclave of Frenchtown in segregated Tallahassee, Elwood Curtis takes the words of Dr. Martin Luther King to heart: He is “as good as anyone.” Abandoned by his parents, but kept on the straight and narrow by his grandmother, Elwood is a high school senior about to start classes at a local college. But for a black boy in the Jim Crow South of the early 1960s, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy the future. Elwood is sentenced to a juvenile reformatory called the Nickel Academy, whose mission statement says it provides “physical, intellectual and moral training” so the delinquent boys in their charge can become “honorable and honest men.”

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a grotesque chamber of horrors. Stunned to find himself in such a vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold onto Dr. King’s ringing assertion “Throw us in jail and we will still love you.” His friend Turner thinks Elwood is worse than naive, that the world is crooked, and that the only way to survive is to scheme and avoid trouble.

The tension between Elwood’s ideals and Turner’s skepticism leads to a decision with repercussions that will echo down the decades. Formed in the crucible of the evils Jim Crow wrought, the boys’ fates will be determined by what they endured at the Nickel Academy.

The book is based on the real story of a reform school in Florida that operated for one hundred and eleven years and warped the lives of thousands of children.

Review:

Throw us in jail, and we will still love you. Bomb our homes and threaten our children, and, as difficult as it is, we will still love you. Send your hooded perpetrators of violence into our communities after midnight hours, and drag us out onto some wayside road, and beat us and leave us half-dead, and we will still love you. But be ye assured that we will wear you down by our capacity to suffer, and one day we will win our freedom.

I’ve had my eye on this book for a long time, but I hesitated to pick it up because I had never read anything by Whitehead. I had heard reviews about The Underground Railroad on YouTube that weren’t great. Honestly, I still don’t feel the need to pick up that specific book. This one drew me in because of the topic. I researched it before I jumped into the novel. If you don’t want to read a novel about it, please go read a few articles about the topic. This place was open for over 100 years. Think about how many kids were abused and traumatized. It’s awful, and if any of that is triggering to you, then maybe don’t pick this one up.

If you think that this is going to have a happy ending, you are wrong. It’s heartbreaking all the way through. One of the main issues I had with this book was not feeling attached to the characters. I felt bad for them, obviously, but they all fell very flat. Not sure if that’s how it was supposed to be, but I really wanted to know Elwood. I wonder what the novel would be like if it was just a bit longer.

That doesn’t mean that Whitehead isn’t a phenomenal writer. I was sucked in from the first line: “Even in death the boys were trouble.”

He also had a way of hinting to the reader that something more is going on behind the scenes. When Elwood arrives at Nickel, he mentions that it doesn’t seem too bad. As time goes on, however, he notices that boys have bruises and chunks taken out of their ears, etc. It all happens so fast, though. So don’t blink when you read this.

It wasn’t the perfect book, but it does what it’s supposed to. I find that it might be too short to convey the full story. Other than that and the flat characters, this is worth a read.


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Book Review: The Comeback by Ella Berman

The Comeback by Ella Berman

383 pages

ISBN: 9780593099513

Published: 8/3/20 by Berkley

Genre: Contemporary Fiction

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

383 pages

Goodreads Synopsis:

Grace Turner was one movie away from Hollywood’s A-List. So no one understood why, at the height of her career and on the eve of her first Golden Globe nomination, she disappeared.

Now, one year later, Grace is back in Los Angeles and determined to reclaim her life on her own terms.

So when Grace is asked to present a lifetime achievement award to director Able Yorke—the man who controlled her every move for eight years—she knows there’s only one way she’ll be free of the secret that’s already taken so much from her.

The Comeback is a powerful and provocative story of justice in the #MeToo era—a true page-turner about a young woman finding the strength and power of her voice.

Review:

Trigger warnings: Eating disorder, cheating, gaslighting, sexual harassment of a minor, verbal/emotional abuse, terrible family relationships, drug abuse, alcoholism, suicidal attempts,

Three stars is not a bad rating. This was very much a page-turner for me, but there were some things that held it back from being a four or five.

This is clearly a sensitive topic to discuss and review; I never want to say the wrong thing and offend someone.

However, this is supposed to be a deep dive into Grace Turner’s psyche after being sexually harassed by her movie director, Able. It does dive into all her thoughts as the story progresses and she runs into familiar friends, lovers, and enemies. I just didn’t think it went deep enough. It stayed up toward the surface. It just repeated the same thoughts over and over again, and I found myself sighing every time the same thought appeared. I understand the reasoning, but for 380 pages, I want something more. The problem is that I can’t tell you what I wanted exactly.

I’m obviously not part of Hollywood, but I can imagine that the picture Berman paints in this novel is accurate. There’s so much toxicity—secrets that are left unsaid because of reputation, fake friendships, blackmailing, etc.

I also expected a harsher revenge novel. I thought the choices Grace made were unlikely and not exciting. The end of some chapters made me think that something incredible was around the corner. *womp, womp, woooooomp*

The ending also didn’t make me feel much of anything. It ended quite quickly for everything that went on throughout the story. Problems were resolved so easily, not that they all ended happily.

I very much enjoyed the writing style. It’s very easy to understand. I’m interested in reading more from Berman in the future. Would I recommend it? If you’re okay with the topic at hand, then I would probably recommend it. There’s a lot of story to get through, but I’ve seen quite a few people enjoy it more than me.


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Book Review: Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain

333 pages

Published 1/24/2012 by Crown Publishing Group

Nonfiction

ISBN: 9780307352149

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Amazon | B&N

Goodreads Synopsis:

At least one-third of the people we know are introverts. They are the ones who prefer listening to speaking; who innovate and create but dislike self-promotion; who favor working on their own over working in teams. It is to introverts—Rosa Parks, Chopin, Dr. Seuss, Steve Wozniak—that we owe many of the great contributions to society. 

In Quiet, Susan Cain argues that we dramatically undervalue introverts and shows how much we lose in doing so. She charts the rise of the Extrovert Ideal throughout the twentieth century and explores how deeply it has come to permeate our culture. She also introduces us to successful introverts—from a witty, high-octane public speaker who recharges in solitude after his talks, to a record-breaking salesman who quietly taps into the power of questions. Passionately argued, superbly researched, and filled with indelible stories of real people, Quiet has the power to permanently change how we see introverts and, equally important, how they see themselves.

Review:

So stay true to your own nature. If you like to do things in a slow and steady way, don’t let others make you feel as if you have to race. If you enjoy depth, don’t force yourself to seek breadth. If you prefer single-tasking to multitasking, stick to your guns. Being relatively unmoved by rewards gives you the incalculable power to go your own way. It’s up to you to use that independence to good effect.

I have a lot to say about this book, but I’ll try to make it as brief as I can for sanity’s sake. This book covers topics ranging from Tony Robbins (“motivational” speaker) to the amygdala (a part of the brain). Cain included different cultures and their views on American culture. There are examples of different relationship dynamics—familial and otherwise. This isn’t a stab at extroverts or any other type of personality. There’s not even one type on introvert! I consider myself an introvert, but I didn’t fit in with every category she listed off.

Whether you’re an extrovert or introvert, each side has its struggles. Friends, family, and my boyfriend have gotten mad at me for not wanting to socialize, canceling plans, wanting to go home after I do go out. It’s not that I’m lazy and don’t want to do those things. Some people don’t understand if they don’t face those same issues. BUT there is a balancing act that needs to happen within a relationship. There needs to be some give and take. Just respect each other and help each other grow to be the best they can be.

Cain also discusses a few different theories:

  • Situationism: This just means that people change because of situations they experience rather than the traits they possess.
  • Free Trait Theory: As humans we will act out of character sometimes in order to be ourselves the rest of the time.

Of course, I immediately Googled both of those when they were being discussed in the book. Psychology and philosophy are two of my favorite subjects to learn about. I took a college philosophy class in high school and immediately fell in love. This book was heaven for me from start to finish.

There are so many well-known figures that she mentions including Rosa Parks, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Eleanor Roosevelt, Tony Robbins, Dr. Seuss, and many others. I loved that she was able to relate the topic to people we may have looked up to and who we thought were always comfortable being social human beings. She also includes experiences she has put herself into. She has gotten into some weird situations.

I think my favorite part of the whole book was the end. She includes a section about children. I wasn’t really expecting that, but now that I work at a library, I see and hear a lot of the situations she brings up in the novel. A lot of people don’t see children as human beings with emotions. Parents often see their quiet child as having some sort of problem that needs fixed. Obviously, it is scary to see your child be an introvert. I’m not a parent, but I could see how that might cause for concern. That’s why communication and support are key. Sometimes, like she explains in the book, they just need something in their life that they love—hobbies, sports, a different school, etc. They don’t always need a therapist or medicine. Respect your kids. Don’t act like they don’t know anything. Don’t treat them like dogs. Love and support them as much as you can.

Introversion is not a problem. It shouldn’t be considered a bad personality type. They are human just like everyone else. Their brain doesn’t necessarily go through the same processes, but they still get to the same answer. It’s okay to be introverted, extroverted, and everything in between.

I would highly recommend you pick this up if you’re looking for good nonfiction. Obviously, just like any book, it probably won’t work for everyone. I think you should at least give it a try. It’ll definitely stick with me.


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July Wrap Up + August TBR

I decided to combine my wrap up and TBR since I only finished four books in July.

I participated in The Reading Rush, but I only finished a graphic novel that didn’t really fit any prompts, plus we all know how the readathon went anyway. YIKES.


July Wrap Up

I finished:

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

Rating: 4 out of 5.

One Year at Ellsmere by Faith Erin Hicks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Needless to say, Tuck Everlasting was my favorite read of the month. Home Before Dark actually let me down quite a bit. I wanted more after the beauty that is Lock Every Door. Maybe haunted house/ghost stories aren’t my thing. Maybe it wasn’t necessarily the book itself. Either way, it didn’t work for me.

Least favorite book was 100% Sharp Objects. I never want to think about that book again. I’m surprised I made it through. The only redeeming quality was the characters. I will give Gillian Flynn that much.

That’s about it for July, my dudes. I started a few other books—Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain and The Martian by Andy Weir.

August TBR

I know that I’m buddy reading The House in the Cerulean Sea by T.J. Klune with Krystyna @ The Literary Lifestyle

I’m hoping to finish Quiet by Susan Cain. I’m 150-ish pages in. I’m really enjoying it so far!

Sex and Vanity by Kevin Kwan.

Finish up the last 100 pages of And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini.

I’m in the mood for nonfiction right now, which is extremely rare, but I’m rolling with the punches. I have a few in mind, but I don’t know which one(s) I’ll be reading yet. I don’t want to put too much pressure on myself this month.

My choices are:

Hell in the Heartland: Murder, Meth, and the Case of Two Missing Girls by Jax Miller (If I can snag it from my library when it comes in.)

At the Existentialist Cafe: Freedom, Being, and Apricot Cocktails by Sarah Bakewell

If You Tell: A True Story of Murder, Family Secrets, and the Unbreakable Bond of Sisterhood by Gregg Olsen


If you have read any of these, please let me know your thoughts in the comments. 🙂


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