Book Recommendations (Vol. 06)

Uh, 2018 is halfway over? I don’t think I’ve stopped doing, doing, doing since…. (*insert some time probably before I started grad school here*)

BUT, I always make time for reading, and not just for grad classes. I always get asked how I have “so much time” to read for fun, and the truth is that it just isn’t a choice for me not to. I read for at least half an hour most nights before I sleep, because otherwise…I can’t sleep. If I end my night watching a show or doing something “productive” or whatever, I lay awake for hours and am worthless the next day. Reading helps me dump all the things that are stuck in my brain out so I can shut down and rest. Also, I am a very fast reader, so that does help.

ANYWAYS, you can read previous posts from this series here:

Vol. 01 | Vol. 02 | Vol. 03 | Vol. 04 | Vol. 05

books

In the first quarter of 2018, I read 13 books. I’m sitting now at 32 books for the year according to my Goodreads, so I’ve read 19 books this quarter! Here’s the best five, featuring a good bit of poetry that I read during April (Poetry Month):

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One – Amanda Lovelace

The poetry collection sequel to The Princess Saves Herself in This One. The poetry series is called Women Are Some Kind of Magic, and if Princess is the story of lost love and finding your strength, this collection is the story of finding your anger and fighting for your worth with all you’ve got.

When I read Amanda’s poetry, I literally lay on my couch and read the poem once. Then I yell out loud a bit. Then I read the poem out loud to my cat. Then I cry sometimes. Then I scream a bit more. Then I clutch the book to my chest and then read it one more time, stroking the page before moving on to the next one. Honestly, that is what happens when I read her work. It’s stunning and truthful and perfectly captures the experience of being a woman in 2018 America. As much as it’s a collection of poems and can be read separately, I highly suggest reading Princess first if you haven’t – plus both are short reads that will take you forever to get through because of the above described process for reading each poem.

 

Long Way Down – Jason Reynolds

Will’s brother Shawn was just murdered, and now Will has Shawn’s gun. He’s going to get revenge. He gets in the elevator…and it’s a long way down, as Will has to come face to face with people from his past – Shawn’s past.

Usually I read a novel written in verse and feel like it conveyed all of the emotion but none of the character strength, or that it’s otherwise missing something. This felt whole, and strong, and entirely gripping. It felt real, even the parts that weren’t. Remarkably, this entire story takes place on one single elevator ride, and yet it took me to tears and rage and sorrow and more and back. I literally did not move from the start to the end of reading this one – which was only a few hours.

 

The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo

Xiomara feels like she doesn’t fit anymore. She doesn’t fit her body, she doesn’t fit her mother’s religion, she doesn’t fit in with her old friends or her classmates. Her English teacher persuades a reluctant Xiomara to join the slam poetry club, and she slowly shares her words, despite all the fear and threat of consequences from her family.

This verse novel is absolutely stunning. Xiomara is such a dynamic character and her family issues feel so real and relevant. You feel the pressure from her parents the whole time and fear for what will happen if they find out that she’s trying to live her life outside of their expectations. I especially love the two sides of each of her assignments from English class – the one she wanted to write and the one she turned in. You really get to see the struggle of her wanting to share her words and her story with the world but being so afraid of what will happen if she does. You’ll be rooting for her the whole time.

 

All American Boys – Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely

Rashad is just trying to get a bag of chips before the weekend party. He trips over a woman in the store that he doesn’t see. The situation gets misinterpreted and he ends up getting beat up by a cop. Quinn sees it. The two boys both try to come to terms with what happened, including the protest scene that builds up and the racial tensions throughout the school, further provoked by the fact that the officer’s brother is a student on the basketball team with Quinn and many of Rashad’s friends.

Everyone is raving about The Hate U Give (deservedly so, it made this recommendations list after all), but this has something that’s missing from that and Dear Martin and other books in this vein of Black Lives Matter / police brutality exploration novels. The dual perspective in this is critical. Rashad is the oppressed party, but also trying to figure out what in the world just happened to him. Quinn is getting a wake up call to a lot of behavior that he has passively condoned his entire life – realizing his privilege and trying to figure out what he can do with his newfound awareness. The perspective of both boys really gives the full picture, and the fact that it’s co-written by two authors who can speak to each of those positions is key to the resounding emotional bullseye this book hits.

 

A Memory of Light – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

There’s not a lot I can say about this summary-wise, since it is the FOURTEENTH and final book in the Wheel of Time series, but basically: Rand, Mat, and Perrin vs. the forces of evil, this time it’s FINAL.

I started reading this series almost two years ago now – one of my good friends from college really loves it, but also my uncle who died of cancer two years ago this month loved this series, and his death was what pushed me to finally start it. Reading these books over the past few years has helped me to grieve for him and to feel a closeness with him even though he’s been gone, and I am really going to miss that now that I’ve reached the end. The books are 800 pages long each, but they are so worth investing your time in. This last one hit home with messages of the importance of choices in a way that devastated me yet invigorated me over, and over, and over. There is everything you could ever want in this series, from magic to fighting to romance to fantastical creatures to the whole overarching good and evil battle. When Robert Jordan died before completing the series, Brandon Sanderson took up the role without missing a beat and the transition between authors is so seamlessly done. I fell so in love with so many of these characters (Perrin and Nynaeve and Loial are THE BOMB.COM) and this final volume was just perfect.

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