Amazing Peace, by Maya Angelou

One star, read in December 2013. Of course this was gorgeous, and in general, I love Maya Angelou’s . . . everything. But I didn’t love this book’s illustrations, and frankly, if the poem weren’t written by Maya Angelou I would give it negative stars. Because as nice an idea as this “amazing peace” is,…

The Essential Dykes to Watch Out For, by Alison Bechdel

Five stars, read in July 2014. For the first 50 pages it seemed like I wasn’t making any progress—it’s one of those books that looks longer than it is, so you feel like it will never end. Once I got to the last hundred or so pages, I was hoping it never would. It’s funny, really, because several of…

The Bedlam Stacks, by Natasha Pulley

Five stars, read in September 2017. I’ve never read anyone who writes male characters the way Natasha Pulley does, and it’s irresistible to me. This book took longer to get going, but it’s also more polished than her first book; by the end, I’d fallen in love with Merrick and Raphael nearly as hard as…

The Bonesetter’s Daughter, by Amy Tan

Five stars, read in October/November 2017. It’s been several years since I last read Amy Tan and I was starting to wonder whether her books were a phase I’d grown out of. They are not. I deeply loved everything about this book, including (especially) the fact that in the audiobook, LuLing’s sections are beautifully narrated…

The Soul of an Octopus, by Sy Montgomery

Three and a half stars, read in November 2017. There is so much interesting information in this book, but it’s a very personal memoir, too; it’s almost more about the author than it is about octopuses. (First piece of interesting information: octopi is not the correct plural form! Because the word octopus comes from Greek, and you can’t put…

Jane, Unlimited, by Kristin Cashore

One star, read in October 2017. This did not work for me. Graceling and Bitterblue are two of my all-time favorites, and some of the little YA that I am still able to read, so I was really hopeful for Cashore’s first book outside that series. But, in the first place, I wish I could…

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby

Four stars, read in July 2017. The most consistent theme of my experience reading this book was oh my god, if she said this ten years ago, what would she say now? I have minor differences with Jacoby, but her premise is clearly, demonstrably correct: in whatever our current age is called, almost nothing in…

That Old Ace in the Hole, by Annie Proulx

Five stars, read in October 2017. I started with this at four stars, planning to bump it up to five if it stuck with me after a couple weeks. Annie Proulx is just . . . a master. How did I just read a book about all the things I find least interesting in the…

What Happened, by Hillary Rodham Clinton 

Four stars, or maybe 3.5, read in September 2017. I haven’t actually spoken to many people about Hillary Clinton, because I try not to for my own sanity. But when I have, and when I’ve read articles and books about her, they have almost never—the “almost” might not even be necessary—been entirely reasonable. Hillary has said…

Notes on a Harry Potter Reread

These are small posts that come from my old blog, but which I hadn’t previously reposted here, from the last time I reread the Harry Potter series (in 2014). Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone I wish I could remember exactly how many times I’ve read the earlier books in the series; obviously it’s more…

An Autobiography, by Angela Davis

Five stars, read in April 2017. Yes, once again a post has taken me this long to write. For years I have been meaning to find out more about Angela Davis, and as so often happens, now that I’ve finally met her books I cannot believe it took me so long—or that in all my reading, she’s…

Autofiction, by Hitomi Kanehara

Four stars, read in July 2017. I’ve spent a good twenty minutes now trying to track down the article that made me first want to read Hitomi Kanehara, and I’m frustrated that I can’t find it. All I remember is that the writer was (I think) a Japanese American woman, possibly an author herself? And…

Human Acts, by Han Kang

Five stars, read in April 2017. I kept not returning this book to the library because I wanted to go back through and get quotes for this post, but when I tried to do it, I felt like it was too late. This book is much too intense an experience to just dip back in…

Sister Outsider, by Audre Lorde

Four stars, read in March and April 2017. I have meant to read Audre Lorde for so long, and now that I have, I see the irony of it having been her prose that I read first, and not her poetry. Poetry was everything to Lorde, not just a form of art but a framework…

A Murder in Time, by Julie McElwain

Two and a half stars, read in June 2017. I was a little disappointed by the execution of what was a really intriguing, exciting premise. A twenty-first-century FBI agent hunting a nineteenth-century serial killer—it’s time travel plus historical fiction plus mystery with a smart, strong female protagonist, and since I always feel like I should try…

Milk and Honey, by Rupi Kaur

Five stars, read in May 2017. Man, I have not been keeping up with things lately. I’ve started a new job and no longer have all the blogging time I used to, but the only computer we have at home is a shitty laptop that is so shitty I never want to use it. So…

Women, Race and Class, by Angela Davis

Five stars, read in March 2017. I can’t believe how readable this book is, considering how dense it also is in historical detail. The research that went into it must be astounding, but it flows like a conversation with a (really well-informed) friend. Along with many subjects I am familiar with, I was absolutely fascinated by…

Dietland, by Sarai Walker

Three and a half stars, read in March 2017. This book was a strange mix of things. I loved the premise and the protagonist’s character development, but was a little confused and unsatisfied by the progression and conclusion of the Jennifer storyline. In the first place, it seemed weird to me that the protagonist was…

Just Kids, by Patti Smith

Four stars, read in February 2017. I didn’t know much about Patti Smith before this and hadn’t heard of Robert Mapplethorpe at all, so this book was a springboard into a huge number of artistic works for me to explore. I’ve been listening to her first album, Horses, since finishing the book a few days…

TBR for Women’s History Month

I have been finding so many brilliant things at my used bookstore lately, and in March I think I’m going to see how many of the ones by women I can get off my TBR shelf. This is also part of my reading “theme” for this year, which can essentially be described as Just Fucking Read It…

My Brilliant Friend, by Elena Ferrante

Five stars, read in October 2016. Gorgeous. Such a fascinating relationship between the protagonist—smart, insightful, but noticeably young—and Lila—who’s more like a force of nature than anything else. I love how not pretty the book is, how it’s about the violence and smallness of life. The dynamics of Elena Greco’s neighborhood act out the tension, the…

Coretta: The Story of Coretta Scott King, by Octavia Vivian

Four stars, read in March 2012. I wrote this review back then, on my old blog, and have meant to repost it here. Now the timing is even more perfect, not just because of Black History Month, but because her name is in the news since Elizabeth Warren was punished for reading her words against Jeff…

Mini Reviews: Comics and Manga

Everything I’ve read so far in January and February 2017, because apparently I haven’t reviewed any of them yet! Ōoku: The Inner Chambers, Vol. 1, by Fumi Yoshinaga. Four stars. What an absolutely fascinating combination of ideas at play in this book. A sort of dystopian premise with a historical setting, a matriarchal society that still…

We Should All Be Feminists, by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie 

Four stars, read in January 2017 (though I watched the TEDTalk it’s based on at least a couple years ago). I hadn’t technically read this yet because it’s essentially a transcript of that TEDTalk. But we just got a few brand new copies of it at the library, so I took it home and it…

Empress, by Shan Sa

Two and a half stars, read in December 2016. Translated from French. This was a little dry; at times it felt like reading a catalog. A thousand horses in the parade, a thousand ministers, a thousand concubines, a thousand drums, and so on, sometimes for two or three pages. It made for easy skimming, though, which…

Manazuru, by Hiromi Kawakami

Four stars, read in January 2017. There is sort of a dreamlike quality to this whole book, even the scenes you know are taking place in real life. It’s a little vague at times, but coalesces in the end into something like relief. Maybe contentment. Kawakami has a beautiful way with words, describing feelings I’ve…

Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte

Four stars, read in January 2017. [There are going to be spoilers in here, because I think the statute of limitations runs out at 150 years.] I consider the fourth star as belonging to the audio production, which is absolutely outstanding. Anna Bentinck is the narrator, and I was continually impressed by how well she…

Juliet Takes a Breath, by Gabby Rivera

Four stars, maybe five. Read in December 2016. I’d been excited about this book for a while, and there was a surprise right up front because for some reason—because of the glorious cover design—I had thought it was a graphic novel. It is not. It has a very self-published look underneath that fabulous cover, which was…