April Showers Bring May Roundups

A page from my sketchbook.

Eventful Events and Happening Happenings

We got our first Covid shots! And our second Covid shots! Two steps closer to quasi-normal life! I’m very excited about it (if you couldn’t tell). It took almost two weeks to get an appointment and we’d been checking every day and then all of a sudden appointments! It was really exciting, and it’s really helped relieve my anxiety.

I finished my masters degree! I am now officially an MLIS holder, which is really exciting. Now that I’m done with school I’m starting to think about what it is that I really want to do. And it’s been fun to get to take the time to read a little more!

I also started keeping a daily sketchbook at the end of March and I am so enamored with it. Who needs a journal when you can do a daily sketch? I’m actually going to enjoy looking back on this. I got to the end of my first sketchbook and was so paranoid about not having enough pages that I ended up ordering 4 sketchbooks. So now I have too many sketchbooks, but I know I’ll use them up…eventually.

Books Read

My top 3 books for each month have green outlines, so you can skip straight to the best ones!

April

Secret Daughter by Shilpi Somaya Gowda This is a story about two mothers who never meet but share a daughter. One is forced to give her daughter up to give her a better life, one is her adopted mother who can’t have biological children. The book considers the families we choose and how our culture is invariably intertwined with those decisions.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson If you are interested in gaining insight into systemic racism in the United States, you need to read this book. Wilkerson compares the caste system in the United States to caste systems in India and in Nazi Germany in order to gain insight into the way that race works to divide us. Besides having important insights, Wilkerson is also an incredible writer and the book is a pleasure to read even though its subject matter is quite difficult.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Housekeeper and the Professor by Yoko Ogawa After being hired as a housekeeper, a woman and her young son develop a friendship with an aging math professor who is slowly losing his memory after an accident. Unable to form new memories (his memory erases after 88 minutes), the three of them form their connection through the power and magic of numbers. Recommended for anyone who needs a reminder about the power of connecting with other people.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

We Hunt the Flame and We Free the Stars by Hafsah Faizal This YA duology is perfect if you like a little romance with your adventure. The characters are standard YA fare (a lot of focus on a journey of self-discovery without a lot of insight), but they are all interestingly flawed. My favorite part of this series is the worldbuilding. Faizal constructs a magical, well-realized world that doesn’t rely on western tropes and is so interesting and much more dynamic than the characters themselves–I loved spending time there through these books.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende This is historical fiction at its best with a complex and intriguing heroine that won’t take no for answer. Eliza travels from her native Chile to California during the Gold Rush to follow the young man who stole her heart and finds herself along the way. I’m a huge fan of Allende’s writing and the way she weaves relationships and stories together.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Interior Chinatown by Charles Yu Told as a screenplay, this short experimental screenplay plays with the idea of how we all play roles, but specifically focuses on the Chinese American community and the various roles and stereotypes that are forced on and lived by Chinatown residents. I found it extremely clever.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala I’m not sure you can describe a murder mystery as “cozy,” but if you can, this chatty mystery filled with food (recipes included) and family definitely fits that description. A great read if you need something a little less serious in your life.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

May

Libertie by Kaitlyn Greenidge A fictional story about one of the first Black female doctors in the United States, the book follows her daughter, Libertie, as she figures out what she really wants out of life and how to use her voice. The book has a really nice ebb and flow to it. If you’re looking for some historical fiction with a little botany and travel thrown in, look no further.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Courtiers: Splendor and Intrigue in the Georgian Court at Kensington Palace by Lucy Worsley This nonfiction book examines life in England’s Georgian court in the 18th century through the eyes of different individuals connected to the court, both high and low. Worsley presents a rounded and complex view of life at court, and introduces Kensington palace during its high point, before it was used by Queen Victoria or Princess Diana.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett The Vanishing Half was one of my favorite books last year, so I was eager to read The Mothers. Bennett’s writing is a little less immediate in this one (due to the framing device she uses), which took me out of the story a little. Like her newer novel, it does follow the characters over a long time span, and I really like how Bennett really lets events stew so the consequences can deepen over time. A smart young woman dealing with grief over her mother’s death gets involved with the preacher’s son, and their decisions will have consequences far into their adult lives.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Girl with the Louding Voice by Abi Daré I’m probably biased in favor of books that talk about the importance of education, but I found this book to be beautiful, hopeful, and inspiring. Adunni is 14 years old and her life is filled with hardship. She is young and naïve, and without any power or education she is at the whim of the adults around her who are trying to subdue and manipulate her. But Adunni refuses to be quiet or submissive. She’s always asking questions and working towards a better life. Her courage and spirit will win you over.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez I really wanted to like this YA fantasy novel set in South America, but it fell flat by pretty much every standard. It was predictable and the protagonist was perhaps the least interesting character in the book. The writing was only okay, and to top it all off, it was a political novel with its political center totally missing. The world wasn’t rich–all in all this is one to skip in my opinion.

Rating: 2.5 out of 5.

Little by Edward Carey What do wax sculptures and the French revolution have in common? You’ll have to read the novel and find out. Featuring a spunky, underestimated main character, Marie aka Little, is the apprentice who outdoes the master. The illustrations in the book add a lot, but it is Marie’s observant nature and voice that carry the narrative from Sweden to Paris, from Paris to Versailles and back again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Real Life by Brandon Taylor A Black gay masters student in biology in a predominantly white East coast town, Wallace has become adept at code switching and hiding his feelings, but over the course of a single weekend a series of events breaks down the walls he’s built for himself. This book has beautiful language, but I found the subject matter to be really difficult–sort of like if The Color Purple was set in the middle of a laboratory. It made me cry.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Golden House by Salman Rushdie Some books are so of your time that you can’t imagine them being written at any other point in history, and this is one of those books. It is dense, layered, and moves through some of the biggest questions of our time debating the nature of truth, identity, and goodness. It’s kind of like a modern update of The Great Gatsby, since it follows an outsider, a young aspiring screenwriter, who inserts himself into the story of his rich, pretentious, probably criminal neighbors. It’s a novel with more questions than answers, but all the questions are fascinating.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert I’ve been more drawn to romance novels recently because I have needed a bit of a break from more serious literary fiction. And this book was the perfect remedy! This a great (and sexy) romantic comedy. I’m so glad that this is part of a series because the Brown sisters are amazing! They have so much love for each other and make each other better. Chloe has fibromyalgia and both she and her love interest exhibit so much personal growth over the course of this book. This book was like a warm hug.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Elisabeth’s Lists: A Life Between the Lines by Lulah Ellender After being given her grandmother’s book of lists compiled between the 1930s and the 1950s, Ellender follows the trail of the grandmother she never knew through her and her husband’s diplomatic postings. It’s a meditation on the nature of lists and our need to organize our lives, to get to know the people we love, and to come to terms with our grief. I ordered this book from the UK, since I haven’t seen it in bookstores here, but it’s worth picking up!

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Movies Watched

In April and May I spent a lot of time either re-watching movies or catching up with shows or finishing up projects for school and thus not watching anything. I’m hoping that in June I can get back to really crossing movies off of my list!

Moxie (2021) A total feel-good movie–as radical 90s feminism gets adapted in Gen Z. Plus Amy Pohler is in it.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Howards End (1992) Oh this movie was so slow. And pretty depressing. Not even Emma Thompson could save this movie for me.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

Wolfwalkers (2020) I subscribed to Apple TV for a week just to watch this movie, since it was nominated for the animated Oscar this year. I wasn’t super impressed by Soul, so I wanted to see the competition, and this movie was really beautiful with a 2D animation style and a great story. But it is only streaming on Apple’s service, which is really annoying.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The Mitchells vs. the Machines (2021) This was so cute it was hard to handle. I loved how playful and silly it was. If you don’t normally watch animated movies, and you like sci-fi, I would really recommend this movie. It’s such a great family film.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Amy Tan: Unintended Memoir (2021) I’d read the Joy Luck Club when I was younger and loved it and the movie, but I didn’t know how closely it resembled Tan’s life. Her books seem to be drawn really closely from her life. I always think documentaries about writers and artists are interesting because they help capture how they see the world and how their work is connected to their lives.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

What was the best thing you read/watched in April or May? Have your summer reading list set yet? What are you looking forward to this month? Let me know in the comments!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s