How Many Books is Too Many Books?

Anna: How many books do you read at once? I’m always going between two or three–one audiobook and one or two physical books!

Though I prefer physical books, audiobooks are an easy and enjoyable way for me to read while I’m at work, working out, or doing chores. I often listen to crime fiction, nonfiction, and long books that I find difficult to read in their physical form. I’m actually listening to a fiction book now, though, The Care and Feeding of Ravenously Hungry Girls by Anissa Gray.

At home I’m currently switching between a memoir, My Life with Bob by Pamela Paul, and Three Women by Lisa Taddeo, which I’ve almost finished and I’m loving!

Check out what I’m currently reading:
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org
Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Review: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Anna: This book calls for red lipstick and a glass of red wine!

I rarely read romance novels, but bookstagram made me do it! I heard so many good things about The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang.

I enjoyed this book and found it very addictive, and I read it in a span of two days. I enjoyed the representation in this book in the central asian characters and a protagonist who works in STEM and is on thee spectrum. I certainly think that Helen Hoang is doing good things for the genre. I don’t think I’ve ever read a book with a protagonist on the spectrum, and I feel like I learned a lot from Stella.

I found this a fast-paced and enjoyable read, however it included many tropes overused in the romance genre. For example, the descriptions of Michael’s hotness and body were excessive, and his hot-headed jealousy and possessiveness of Stella were exhausting. More than once, I was sensing Edward Cullen vibes. 

The entire premise in which Stella pays for a practice boyfriend is ridiculous, even if it makes a little more sense because she’s on the spectrum and needs guidance in social situations. The reason Michael needs to escort in the first place, which is revealed a little later in the book, feels super convenient and hastily thought out.

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

Overall, this was a fun, light read, but I’m never going to be a fan of romance!

Review: The Scent Keeper by Erica Bauermeister

Alexis: The Scent Keeper is my kind of book: character-driven, lyrical, unique, and full of sensory imagery. 

The story centers around Emmeline, who grows up on a remote island with her father, and she has never seen another living soul. Her father has a magic machine that can capture scents, and he stores these scents in bottles. But after a life-changing event, Emmeline has to face the outside world, her past, and her family. 

Bauermeister’s writing is beautiful, and often leans towards magical realism. I love how she writes about scents and Emmeline’s relationship with scents: “The smell of cardamom preceded the woman into the room, soft and comforting. A memory opened–one of the scent-papers from a red-wax bottle, with the fragrance of a sultry place that had wound itself around me, kissed my skin. Cardamom, my father had said. They hide like treasure” (66). 

This is a coming-of-age story, and I really enjoyed learning about Emmeline as she learned about herself, too. I especially enjoyed reading about her connection to the natural world around her and here struggle to connect with other people and find her place in the world. But as I said, the star of this book is how the author fashions a world that revolves around scents. 

My only critique is that I wish the ending had come more full circle; it felt a little abrupt and unfinished. 

I highly recommend giving this a read!

Support Independent Bookstores - Visit IndieBound.org

VERDICT: 5 stars

Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Book Review: Gracefully Grayson by Ami Polonsky

Gracefully Grayson is a great example of the magic of middle grade fiction. Grayson’s parents died in a traumatic car crash, and he now lives with his aunt and uncle and cousins. Grayson has always wanted to be a girl. He knows that acting this way means getting in trouble and getting bullied, so he just daydreams. That is, until he tries out for the part of Persephone, the lead part in the school play.

This book is heartbreaking because Grayson feels lost both in his gender identity and an outsider in his adopted family. Grayson is caught between many adults who believe they are acting with his best interests in heart. When Grayson’s teacher, Mr. Finn, casts Grayson as the lead female role in the play, his Aunt Sally thinks Mr. Finn overstepped his boundaries. In their own household, Uncle Evan disagrees with his wife’s actions, and hints that Grayson’s aunt and uncle might know more about Grayson than they let on. There are lots of opinions from the adults in Grayson’s life about who he should be, which made me think critically about a parent’s role in their children’s identity.

At the end of the book Grayson is still using female gender pronouns, but wears clothes meant for girls. I can’t speak from experience of course, but I think this is a believable account of a young transgender child’s journey. I say this because I also recently read George by Alex Grino and it had hardly any conflict. Everyone was instantly accepting of George and her transition, which is great, but didn’t feel realistic.

This book is everything beautiful about middle grade fiction and more. Grayson faces bullying, he’s outcast by a friend, and he’s ridiculed for his identity. The end of the book also doesn’t wrap everything up perfectly but points Grayson in a hopeful direction, which I think is important in middle grade fiction for a slightly older audience, like this one.

VERDICT: 4 books

 

Review: Convenience Story Woman by Sayaka Murata

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, translated from Japanese by Ginny Tapley Takemori, is like nothing I’ve read before. This is a short, easy read that challenges everything you think about society, education, identity, and what it means to be happy and successful.

Keiko Furukura, now approaching middle age, has worked in a convenience store since she was eighteen. She loves her job, and finds value in the work she does every day. Everyone else tells Keiko that she’s wrong to feel this way, and that this makes her not normal. They tell her she can’t be truly happy unless she has a full time job, a husband, and kids. When a lazy ex-employee, Shiraha, moves in with her and people assume they’re dating, Keiko’s happy little world is turned upside down. 

This book is crazy. Keiko is a unique character and she’s so happy and innocent that it’s heartbreaking. She has adapted to mimicking the speech patterns and behaviors of others based on what she’s been told is “normal”. I’ve heard other people speculate that Keiko is psychotic—I don’t think that’s the case, and I have no need to diagnose her. I think this book is really about society’s expectations surrounding identity and success. 

I gave Convenience Store a three and a half book rating because I thought it was too short and ended too early. However, I think this unique story is something I’ll think about for a long time.

VERDICT: 3.5 books

DNF: Milkman by Anna Burns

Anna: I’m DNFing Milkman by Anna Burns. I read 100 pages and I just can’t keep going. I’m finding the writing too lofty. I don’t like how the characters are just called “sister in law” and “maybe boyfriend” seemingly for the sake of sounding literary. And I’m getting slogged down by all the detail. Maybe I would keep reading if I were in a different mood, but I need something more straightforward right now.

I would love to hear your thoughts on Milkman!