Thursday, March 02, 2023

Everything I Read in February 2023 (in brief)


15. Reunion by Fred Uhlman - The story of a friendship between a Jew and an Aryan during the rise of Hitler and what the narrator finds out many years after the war. An excellent novella with a killer ending. 

16. Ghost Boys by Jewell Parker Rhodes - After Jerome is shot and killed by a police officer, his ghost observes his family's grief, talks to the daughter of the cop who killed him, and is guided by the ghost of Emmett Till. I think I'd have liked Ghost Boys better if the daughter had initially defended her father's actions (a natural conflict). Instead, she was open to the idea that it might have been killing caused by unconscious racial bias on the part of her father from the beginning. But, the bottom line is clearly that way too many innocent Black boys have been killed and I thought it was a pretty powerful read in many ways. 

17. Space Cat Meets Mars by Ruthven Todd and Paul Galdone (e-book/Hoopla) - The third in a children's book series that I've been reading via Hoopla, astronaut kitty Flyball and his human are returning to Earth for a break when they're pulled off course by an asteroid. They manage to get away but then realize they've got a problem, so they land on Mars. While his human friend, Capt. Fred Stone, works on chipping away crystal that has melted and reformed inside the engines, Flyball goes off exploring and discovers a Martian kitty. 

18. A Man and His Cat #1 by Umi Sakarai - The first in a manga series, A Man and His Cat is a goofy, sweet, funny manga about a lonely man who adopts an adult cat who's been overlooked because people think he's ugly. I was surprised to find myself literally laughing out loud while reading this manga and, ugh, there went the book-buying ban. After I closed it, I got online and ordered 5 more. Like Spy x Family (which I plan to continue reading as new books are released), I'm hoping to read only one book per month to stretch out the joy. Cat lovers will appreciate this series. 

19. McSweeney's, Issue #51 - The last of the McSweeney's issues in my stacks, another nice selection but my hands-down favorite was the first story, by Nick Arvin. In "The Interview", it's a Friday afternoon and it's snowing. Everyone has gone home but the new employee, who has scheduled interviews for this afternoon. Not knowing what else to do and in fear of losing her new job, she stashes all the interviewees in a room and leaves. Chaos ensues. 

20. The 1619 Project: Born on the Water by Nikole Hannah-Jones, RenĂ©e Watson, Nikkolas Smith - The origin story of the first people stolen from their West African homes and taken to a new land where they were enslaved for many generations. Born on the Water is about the fact that they were people with full lives, traditions, and family, and how they survived and kept their music and traditions while maintaining faith that they would be free in the future. Probably banned in a number of places but Born on the Water doesn't even mention slave owners. It's written as a story of history, hardship, and hope. The illustrations are stunning. 

21. Uncharted Territory by Connie Willis - My latest stationary bike read (really appreciated the large print in this library sale purchase). A fun sci-fi story but kind of goofy, typical Connie Willis humor in what feels like a Western with Sci-Fi exploration on a planet that has been largely unexplored. The best part was the indigenous Bult, who spent most of his time keeping a log of fines like, "inappropriate tone and manner in speaking to an indigenous person," and "forcible confiscation of property" (when one of the explorers tried to grab his own binoculars back). 

22. The Postman Always Rings Twice by James M. Cain - Well, this was unexpected. I've heard of the movie(s) and just made the assumption that this story was a horror story in which there's a dangerous, murdering postal worker. I had no idea that it's an erotic story of love and murder set in a diner in the 1930s and that, in fact, it was banned in Boston when released. I read this novella on Valentine's Day for no particular reason other than an urge to throw something different into the reading mix. And, honestly, I was impressed. It has the minimalist tone of other writers of the era but it's much easier to follow than most, not so understated as to become confusing. Also, it turns out that the title is a metaphor for justice coming to get you. Cool. I would definitely like to read more by Cain. 

23. The Beautiful Struggle (Adapted for YA) by Ta-Nehisi Coates - There's a lot of slang and cultural references that I know nothing about — too much to stop and look everything up – in this YA version of Ta-Nehisi Coates' memoir. However, it's possible to read between the lines and what you get out of it is a lot about his relationship with his father, struggles in school (probably because he wasn't challenged), his growing awareness of what it meant to be Black, and the stunning differences a few blocks could make in the quality of education and life in general. From looking at reviews, I get the impression that the original version is more readable for those who aren't the target audience. 

24. Biased by Jennifer M. Eberhardt, PhD - A fascinating and often horrifying book about unconscious bias, how it affects lives and livelihoods, and what can be done about it. 

25. My Monticello by Jocelyn Nicole Johnson - A book of short stories and a novella. A couple of the stories didn't work for me, but they were the first two and after I warmed to the author's writing style, I began to really love her storytelling. But, what made this book for me was the title story, the novella, about a world in which climate change has taken out power and water and roving bands of white supremacists are terrorizing people of color and burning buildings. When a group of neighbors are driven from their homes, they end up living at Monticello, where they learn to work cooperatively to survive. 

26. Sneakers, the Seaside Cat by Margaret Wise Brown and Anne Mortimer - A children's picture book that I bought mainly because it featured a cat, Sneakers, the Seaside Cat is about a cat who goes to the beach with his family and explores the seaside, discovering waves and sand creatures and smelling the delicious, fishy scent of the sea. Gorgeous, gorgeous artwork. 

27. Walk the Blue Fields by Claire Keegan (e-book/Hoopla) - I'm very grateful that I've been able to find Claire Keegan's books on Hoopla because her writing is my latest obsession. Walk the Blue Fields is a collection of short stories. While I still love her writing, this particular collection is currently my least favorite of her works, mostly because the stories were a bit bleak while the two novellas I've read both ended on a brighter note. I'd still recommend it. Keegan is a skilled writer. 

28. American Primitive by Mary Oliver - I love Mary Oliver's poetry but I was having trouble concentrating on this book so I read the poems under my breath, moving my lips as if to recite but without speaking aloud. Weirdly, that did the trick. 

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  1. Aw, Sneakers! I've read that book, it was so nice. And now I'm going to have to look for A Man and His Cat, sounds just right for me.

    1. I'd never even heard of Sneakers but I always (no pun intended) sneak a few children's books into any order I place from Book Outlet and that's one I got a few months ago. I loved it. A Man and His Cat is great. I just read the second one. It was more a series of vignettes than a single story and maybe had a little too much emphasis on the kitty's cuteness, but it did reveal more of the backstory about his wife and why Mr. Kanda had never even petted an animal before he adopted Fukumaru. I'm looking forward to reading more!


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