The Little Gardener, by Emily Hughes

Four stars, read in February 2022. Absolutely gorgeous illustrations, and I adore it despite the fact that the ending is a little disconnected from the rest of the story. The little gardener is so exhausted and discouraged by the impossibility of his task, he falls asleep for a month, and in the meantime, his wish…

Following Papa’s Song, by Gianna Marino

Three stars, read in February 2022. The illustrations are the reason to read this book. The text is fine, but a little too repetitive for me—it does that thing where almost every instance of dialogue involves the characters using each other’s names, which doesn’t happen in real life. “Papa? Are we going very far?”“Yes, Little…

The Big Bad Wolf in My House, by Valérie Fontaine and Nathalie Dion

Five stars, read in February 2022. Beautiful illustrations for a very well-written story about a young girl whose house is invaded by an abusive monster. Pretty grim, especially given that sexual abuse is implied in addition to physical, emotional, and verbal. But the book ends optimistically and introduces the idea of shelters in what I…

1, 2, 3, Off to School! by Marianne Dubuc

Five stars, read in February 2022. This is fantastically cute and I like it a lot, but I also have weird issues with it. The text is tiny, and all the little side dialogue makes the experience of reading it almost like one of those search and find books rather than a traditional story. It…

Survivor Tree, by Marcie Colleen and Aaron Becker

Four stars, read in January 2022. All right, look. I’ve been over 9/11 for a long time. I lived in Texas when it happened, and yes, it was truly awful. But in the grand scheme of violence done in this world, particularly by us? Let’s just have some perspective, right? All of which is to…

Educated, by Tara Westover

Five stars, read in April 2019. There was a lot about this that was depressingly familiar to me. I grew up in the same religion as Tara, though her family believed in it much more literally than mine did. Relatedly, her childhood was more violent than mine was; my version of the story is mostly…

Moranifesto, by Caitlin Moran

Five stars, read in April 2018. It is possible that, as an American under the age of 40, I have been so deprived of sensible and ethical political discussion that what seems like earth-shattering brilliance to me is just common sense to the rest of you. But as I read this book, Caitlin Moran officially…

Wrapping Up Summer Reading (Mini Reviews)

The Door, by Magda Szabó Three and a half stars, read in August 2018. The story of a strange, dysfunctional relationship between two strange women who are both uniquely intimate with and completely closed off to each other. I found it difficult at times, how deeply (and pretty frequently) they hurt each other, but the exploration…

Nine Rabbits, by Virginia Zaharieva

Four stars, read in August/September 2018. Practically incomprehensible at times, but at others, perfectly describes situations and emotions I’ve never seen articulated elsewhere. My perception of the protagonist kept changing in surprising ways, and I ended up making a lot of unexpected connections with her. I dream that I’m traveling to a seminar in Varna…

A Guided Tour Through the Museum of Communism, by Slavenka Drakulić

Three and a half stars, read in August 2018. Though I don’t know what the author’s intent was for her readers, I wish I’d had more background knowledge of how communism and socialism were implemented throughout Central Europe before reading this book. The format—eight fables, each told by an animal from a different country—makes for…

Accident: A Day’s News, by Christa Wolf

Four stars, read in July 2018. Second stop on my literary backpacking trip through Europe: East Germany in the 1980s, the day after the Chernobyl accident. I’ve been wanting to read Christa Wolf for a while now, more especially Cassandra and Medea, but—once again—my choice was made for me by the limited collection of my local libraries. (For…

The Storm, by Margriet de Moor

Four stars, read in July 2018. I picked up this book for my first stop on the Reader’s Room Backpacking Across Europe Summer Reading Challenge, as I flew into the Amsterdam airport. I don’t tend to read disaster stories, so I probably wouldn’t have chosen this book if Utah public libraries had a better selection…

Harmless Like You, by Rowan Hisayo Buchanan

Four stars, read in May 2018. Good book, well-written, poignant, frustrating, a little heartbreaking, with a pretty satisfying conclusion. Emily Woo Zeller is an excellent narrator, but I didn’t care for P.J. Ochlan, who does irritating pseudo-falsetto for female characters’ voices. (Given that I already didn’t like Jay, the character he was narrating, I think…

Home, by Nnedi Okorafor

Three stars, read in June 2018. Good, but not as compelling as the first book was. I’d been thinking I might not read the third, but it turns out that this trilogy is more like one book split into three; since there was no conclusion here, I may end up finishing after all. Maybe. The world…

Pachinko, by Min Jin Lee

Two and a half stars, read in March 2018. I found this book very stressful. Given how long and sprawling it is, following so many characters throughout four generations, it often seemed strange how long we lingered on specific, not particularly meaningful conversations before jumping through time and space to continue the story. It just…

Boy, Snow, Bird, by Helen Oyeyemi

Five stars, read in February 2018. Nobody ever warned me about mirrors, so for many years I was fond of them, and believed them to be trustworthy. Despite one of the best first lines I’ve ever read, I’m certain I wouldn’t have finished this if I hadn’t read, and been so impressed by, What is Not…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah, read April 30 – May 1, 2014 I go back and forth between 4 and 5 stars, I think because the ending didn’t have as much of an impact as I was expecting. But then I remember how I basically devoured this book, loving every minute that I was reading, feeling completely absorbed and…

The Bell Jar, by Sylvia Plath

Four stars, read in January 2018. For most of the book I was going to give it five stars, but it seems to divide itself into two sections (before her suicide attempt and after), and I felt much more strongly about the first section. I loved it, I related closely to upsetting amounts of it, I…

New Volumes of My Favorite Comics

Saga, Vol. 8, by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. Four stars. Excellent as always, less robot penis than usual, so plenty of good news. For the bad news, in chapter 47: oh my god, Brian K. Vaughan, no, absolutely fucking not. That is too far. Such excruciatingly graphic sexual violence against women is fetishistic, and…

The Glorious Heresies, by Lisa McInerney

Four stars, read in February 2018. I was drawn into this hard, once it got going. The audio narration is excellent, but gives no indications of the physical format—sections that are printed in italics, occasional illuminating “chapter” titles (they’re not really chapters but what do I call them?)—so the book wasn’t really working until I…

Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, by Nina Sankovitch

Two or three stars, read and reviewed in July 2014. This was not as exciting as I expected it to be, I think because I had a hard time connecting with the author. It may be obnoxious of me—and this wasn’t the only reason I didn’t connect with her—but I get impatient with women who…

The Origin of Others, by Toni Morrison

Four stars, read in December 2017. When I think back on this book, the anecdote I remember is the one Morrison shares about coming across a woman near the fence on her property. The scene of their meeting is peaceful and friendly (because fences are “where the most interesting things always happen”), and Morrison’s thoughts…

My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, by Wendy Simmons

Four stars, read in January 2018. I almost didn’t take this home, irritated with it for seeming flippant about a subject that is not in any way amusing (particularly after I’d just finished accounts by Jang Jin-sung and Suki Kim that were emotional and difficult to read). I flipped through to see the photos, of which there are many,…