Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: November 2022

It’s the most wonderful time of the yeeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaar! (Mostly because I get a break in a few weeks, and there will also be LATKES. YUM.)

Welcome to December, my fellow readers! So strange to think that the next time I’ll post one of these recaps, it’ll be 2023. This is a year that has gone by in a blur of worry and stress, of new discoveries and reshuffling, of mindfulness, tears, and determination. And books, of course. Lots and lots of good books! (I’m still behind in reviews. That’s okay!)

Speaking of books, I also found out this past month that my town’s new library will be opening up in April of 2023. We drive by it often, as it’s on Main Street, and they recently posted a video walk through so you can see how the construction is going. The outside is mostly done; they’ve got lighting in there (and there are TONS of huge windows; seriously, sitting in this place is going to be so full of light and gorgeous!), and they’ll be starting to work on all the inside full-force soon. I’m so excited about this, I could scream! It’s SO much bigger than our current functional (kind of; the A/C breaks down constantly, the walls leak, the building is so old, it’s impossible to be ADA-compliant, etc) but way-out-of-date building. I’ll miss this old library, but I’m more than thrilled to welcome our new, updated library in April!

Anyway, let’s get this recap started, shall we?

Books I Read in November 2022

1. Consumed: On Colonialism, Climate Change, Consumerism, and the Need for Collective Change by Aja Barber

2. America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility by Rajika Bhandari

3. Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

4. Numb to This: Memoir of a Mass Shooting by Kindra Neely (review to come)

5. A Face for Picasso: Coming of Age with Crouzon Syndrome by Ariel Henley (review to come)

6. My Heart is on the Ground: The Diary of Nannie Little Rose, a Sioux Girl, Carlisle Indian School, Pennsylvania, 1880 by Ann Rinaldi (no review; read out loud to my daughter. SO problematic)

7. Looking for an Enemy: Eight Essays on Antisemitism by Jo Glanville (no review)

8. My Boy Will Die of Sorrow: A Memoir of Immigration From the Front Lines by Efrén C. Olivares (review to come)

9. Ban This Book by Alan Gratz (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

10. The Summer of Lost Letters by Hannah Reynolds (review to come)

11. True History: Indigenous America by Liam McDonald (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. All Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson (review to come)

13. Shores Beyond Shores: From Holocaust to Hope, My True Store by Irene Butter (review to come)

14. Talking to Strangers: A Memoir of My Escape from a Cult by Marianne Boucher (review to come)

15. True Identity: Cracking the Oldest Kidnapping Cold Case and Finding My Missing Twin by Paul Joseph Fronczak (review to come)

16. How to Keep House While Drowning: A Gentle Approach to Cleaning and Organizing (no review)

Not a bad total for this month! I’m yet again behind in posting reviews, but that happens. I should be able to get caught up over our winter break. It’s just so hard to get everything I need to get done in the morning before we start homeschool work, and then suddenly it’s like 4 pm, and I’m all, “Ehhh, I’ll just post it tomorrow.” Lather, rinse, repeat!

I don’t count everything I read to my daughter – certainly not the smaller nonfiction books we read for her schoolwork, but once in a while, there’ll be something more substantial that I really get something out of, and that’s when I count things like the True History: Indigenous America by Liam McDonald. I almost always count the chapter book read-alouds, however. I earned those! : )

Thirteen of these books were mine alone. Twelve of the books were nonfiction (including memoirs); four were fiction. Twelve came from my TBR.

State of the Goodreads TBR

I started off this month at 133 books. I read twelve books from this list, putting me at…127 books.

TBR math sucks. But I made it to the 120’s!

And it’s only downhill from here (or uphill, in terms of a growing TBR)! NPR has already released part of their Best of 2022 book list, and all the reading challenges will be out soon, giving suggestions and posting gorgeous full-color covers, and I assume my TBR is just going to explode. OY.

Books I Acquired in November 2022

Other than some books for gift, and a few books on Jewish history I picked up from a used book sale at the library, I grabbed this stack from someone on a local Buy Nothing group. (Zero clue why WordPress won’t allow me to adjust the size of the photo here. Weird.)

Bookish Things I Did in November 2022

My son and I popped into a used book sale at a local library. I picked up a book or two on Jewish history, and a few holiday gift books for my daughter, but that was really the only bookish event this month!

Current Podcast Love

All over the place here!

So I started the month out listening to Freakonomics. It’s more about the narration style for me (that calm, cool NPR-type style!), since I listen when I’m falling asleep and during the 234893749823 times I wake up at night (this has very much been a thing lately, sigh), but the subject matter of some of the episodes started to annoy me after a few weeks, and I began to search for something else.

I attempted a few other true crime podcasts and a homeschooling podcast, none of which worked well – seriously, people, a good portion of your podcast shouldn’t be you and your cohosts just laughing. (ANNOYING.) I listened to two other homeschooling podcasts (desperately trying to get ideas and inspiration to switch things up for my daughter, because there are some things right now that just aren’t working for her), and while they were okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay, it gets bothersome to constantly have Christianity injected into every. little. thing. I need ideas about how to help my daughter get through math; I don’t need a lecture about how to relate novels to Jesus. (I’m Jewish; a homeschooling podcast isn’t going to change that. Nothing will, which is just how I like it!) I truly don’t mind if the podcast hosts or guests talking about going to church, or incorporating Bible lessons into their homeschool day, that’s fine. I don’t want to listen to how the moms won’t let their kids read books where a character has gay parents. NOPE. Unfollow, immediately.

So currently I’m trying out Honey I’m Homeschooling the Kids. So far, it seems really diverse and has an interesting spread of guests who span the homeschooling spectrum, from unschooling to much more structured. I’m *really* wanting to delve into Book Riot’s For Real, a podcast just about nonfiction books, but my TBR is already crying for mercy at the thought of that, so I WILL get to it, I just don’t know when!

I’ve also been poking into Conspirituality, which is so far over my head, but it’s still pretty fascinating.

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

So, not really much time for this right now. I’ve pulled my copy of Jewish Literacy by Rabbi Joseph Telushkin upstairs to the pile next to my bed, and every night before beginning my regular reading, I read an entry in this book. It covers over 300 subjects and is 688 pages. I read a lot of it for my conversion class but not all of it, and now I’m reading the whole thing. I like reading it this way; it gives me something to think about all the next day. I’d eventually like to read all of Rabbi Telushkin’s writings.

Real Life Stuff

Right now, I’m basically up to my eyeballs in homeschool stuff again. Math isn’t working out for us, so I’m having to change things up a bit and also relax a lot more, which basically goes against my entire personality, so it’s not easy for me. I’m more of a, “Let’s get everything done NOW NOW NOW so we can do EVEN MORE later!!!” And my daughter just doesn’t work well under those conditions, so this is very much a growth moment for me. It’s hard. I’m still trying to figure out a way – if there even IS a way – to parent this child without her blowing up at me constantly. It’s her anxiety and her perfectionism that causes so much of this, so I try not to take it personally, but it’s really, really hard.

My son is still doing awesome in college and really liking everything, which is a relief! It’s nice to see him blossoming academically. High school classes just weren’t his thing, but he’s all about the stuff he’s learning here in college, so I’m absolutely thrilled for him.

That’s really about it. Nothing else new for me. Hanukkah starts on the 18th (which is a Sunday), so I’ll be over here cranking out some amazing latkes (seriously the best potato product out there, hands down), but other than that, I’m just trying to maintain my sanity with my pile of books.

Wishing you a lovely December, however you spend it! See you in January for next year’s roundup! 🙂

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fiction · YA

Book Review: Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon

You know that feeling when your TBR is empty and you have absolutely nothing to read, so you’re just wandering around the library listlessly?

Yeah, me neither.

What really happened was this: I had a stack of like five books or so that I needed to read, but my daughter wanted to get some library books, so I took her over, telling myself, “I’m not getting anything for me! I have way to much to read already.”

And then the library had a lovely display of books that included Today Tonight Tomorrow by Rachel Lynn Solomon (Simon Pulse, 2020), whom I LOVE, and, well, it went into my bag, because I have no self-control when it comes to Jewish authors I love. And this was such an excellent moment of weakness, because I ADORED this book.

It’s the last day of high school, and Rowan Roth is ready to finally best Neil McNair once and for all by being awarded valedictorian. She and McNair have been battling it out every single minute of the last four years, each trying to outdo the other for grades, awards, status. The day isn’t starting out great, though; a fender-bender has Rowan slipping into the office late, only to face – who else? – Neil, who works there. Ugh.

The whole last day of school is strange, and when the senior class game – Howl, a Seattle-wide scavenger hunt that will award the last student standing with $5,000 – starts up that evening, Rowan quickly finds herself paired up with Neil, who…maybe isn’t quite as awful as she’s made him out to be the past four years. He’s maybe even kind of cute. And – holy shit- he’s Jewish, too???

What else has Rowan missed???

As the night goes on, Rowan and Neil grow closer, and she learns so much about him that she hadn’t known before, since her focus had been solely on competition. But things change, people change…and with everything else changing at this moment in time, maybe it’s time for Rowan and Neil’s relationship to change as well.

This is such a fun YA novel. Rowan is driven, almost single-minded, and that causes her to miss out on a lot, something she’s only really realizing on this last day of senior year. Her love of romance novels is endearing; I love the growth and openness she attributes to her admiration of the genre, because it makes her a far more interesting character than it would have otherwise. There is one scene I didn’t care for at all; Rowan goes too far and uses something she learned about Neil to lash out and hurt him the way she felt he hurt her, and…it was too far. I was honestly a little surprised Neil moved on from that as quickly as he did. I don’t know that that was a choice I would have made as an author. But really, everything else in this story is perfection; it’s a straight-up love letter to Seattle (a phrase I thought of early on, only to read it in Ms. Solomon’s afterword. *high five*), a city I’ve never been to, but which Ms. Solomon made come alive. I truly felt like I’d spent the day racing around the city with Rowan and Neil.

And Neil! What a great character. Awkward, determined, quirky, hardworking, Jewish – what’s not to love? I had a somewhat similar relationship with a guy friend in high school, though nowhere near as competitive (we were into very different things, for one). This was long before the days of texting, so I had to wonder throughout this book what our texts would have looked like, if they would’ve been as snarky as Rowan and Neil’s (likely worse; we were pretty brutal at times). I enjoyed their friendship and their blossoming romance, and the optimism for the future that this book absolutely bursts with.

Such a great read. Rachel Lynn Solomon absolutely knocked it out of the park with this one.

Visit Rachel Lynn Solomon’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

memoir · nonfiction

Book Review: America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility by Rajika Bhandari

I never got the chance to study abroad, but I was friends with people who had, or who were currently foreign students. The amount of courage that takes is incredible, and I’m even more in awe of the people who make the decision to study abroad in today’s political climate. I also have a friend who works with foreign students, and her job always sounds so interesting, so when I heard about America Calling: A Foreign Student in a Country of Possibility by Rajika Bhandari (She Writes Press, 2021), I knew I had to read it.

Rajika Bhandari grew up in a middle-class Indian family. Her parents weren’t rich, but they managed to give her an excellent education at various schools, including boarding school, around the country. When it came time to get her graduate degree, she decided to follow her fiancé to the United States, studying psychology at North Carolina State University. While she’d grown up speaking English, the language was still a barrier. Money was a constant struggle. The locals struggled to understand her foreign-ness, and the culture shock was massive. Studying abroad is a massive change of pace, and Ms. Bhandari illuminates every last difficulty in this eye-opening memoir.

The difficulties don’t end after graduation. Making the decision to return home or stay in the US is a challenge; finding an opportunity to stay is even tougher, with mounds of paperwork and years of waiting (and sometimes employers back out after realizing just how much work it is for them). This all takes a toll on Rajika’s relationship, but it helps her understand the students she later goes on to study and serve.

This is a really great memoir. I had no idea of the sacrifices most foreign students undergo, the difficulties placed in their paths, in order to receive an education in America. And staying in the US after graduation? The entire process sounds like a nightmare; I’m kind of in awe of anyone who makes it work. The US makes this process way more difficult than it needs to be.

This is one of those books that’s going to stick with me, especially the images of Ms. Bhandari’s first small shared apartment, learning to drive, learning to cook and struggling to afford the basics. We ask a lot of our foreign students, making it way harder than it should be merely to survive (my God, the US really seems to delight in that for just about everyone, doesn’t it?). It doesn’t have to be that way.

Visit Dr. Rajika Bhandari’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter.

nonfiction

Book Review: Consumed: On Colonization, Climate Change, Consumerism, and the Need for Collective Change by Aja Barber

I’m not a minimalist – you’d laugh if you see how overrun with stuff I am – but my mindset is definitely heading that way. I rarely buy things that take up permanent residence in my house (books being the one exception, of course, and then most of them are read and passed on). It’s because of all of the reading I’ve done over the past ten-plus years about how bad capitalism has been for the planet. We’re trashing it at an insane rate, and the fast fashion industry is a massive part of the problem. I need that constant reminder to keep up my ‘you don’t actually need that’ mindset, so that’s how Consumed: On Colonialism, Climate Change, Consumerism, and the Need for Collective Change by Aja Barber (Brazen, 2021) ended up on my TBR. Thanks to interlibrary loan, it landed at my house a few weeks ago. It’s an intense read, with a lot of information, but despite the immediacy of its message, it’s also a fun one.

Aja Barber understands your love of fashion, because she feels it too. She loves clothes, she’s worked in the fashion industry, she gets the pull of a new outfit making you into someone new. But she’s also come to understand the environmental and human damage the industry causes: the waste, the mounds of trash produced every single second, the ooze poured into rivers, the overworked, sexually harassed garment workers, the damage caused to their lungs from inhaled fabric particles and chemicals, the low pay, the death that comes from fires and collapse of poorly-constructed buildings. If you’re into fast fashion, you’re part of the problem. Aja Barber is here to help you learn how to be part of the solution.

This is such a necessary book. I love that there have been so many excellent books in the past decade that expose the fast fashion industry for the nightmare that it is. Ms. Barber keeps the tone light, however (a few of the Goodreads reviews complain about this, but I think they’re confusing lack of editing with Ms. Barber’s style). Don’t be mistaken, however; this isn’t an easy read. There’s a LOT of information here; some of it is the story of Ms. Barber’s journey from fashion fan to fashion industry critic (and yet still a fan! We SHOULD be critical of the things we love!), but the rest is about the dangers of the industry, and the devastation. It’s something all consumers should be aware of, so we can make the most responsible choices possible every time we open our wallets.

Visit Aja Barber’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

nonfiction

Book Review: American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears by Farah Stockman

I don’t remember when I learned about American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears by Farah Stockman (Random House, 2021), but I do know it appealed to me right away. A few years ago, I read Janesville: An American Story by Amy Goldstein and really enjoyed it, and that was the book that really opened up my eyes to what the economic landscape of so much of America looks like. I read it as part of a reading challenge; it’s not something I would have picked up on my own, but I’m eternally grateful that I did, and my picking up American Made stems directly from my having read hat book.

So much of the image America has of itself involves people pulling themselves up by their bootstraps, getting a job that allows them to work with their hands and earn enough money to live a good life, and to feel pride in what they do. And a large part of this story involves jobs in factories, jobs that you can learn from the ground up and walk into straight from high school, then not leave until you retire at 65. But the landscape has changed. NAFTA opened up the world to trade with Mexico and China, and one by one, these factories picked up and moved overseas. They could pay their employees far less there; operating costs would be less; safety measures wouldn’t be as stringent (thus, upping production); the company wouldn’t have to deal with stupid unions and expensive health insurance. Win-win, right?

Not for the American people who were losing their jobs. The exodus of these manufacturing centers leave the towns they’re located in economically depressed; the former employees are left scrambling to survive. Often, their skills aren’t transferrable, and the only other options for employment leave their pocketbooks nearly empty long before the end of the month. Those jobs most presidents brag about creating don’t often pay a living wage.

Journalist Farah Stockman follows three people who flounder in the wake of the closing of the Rexnord manufacturing plant in Indianapolis: John, a white union head; Wally, a Black man who dreams of opening a barbecue joint; and Shannon, a white woman caring for her disabled granddaughter and schizophrenic son. The moving of the plant to Mexico disrupts their lives in every way imaginable, and the consequences stretch far and wide.

Farah Stockman covers their stories with sympathy and understanding. There are times when the people she follows aren’t entirely sympathetic, but Ms. Stockman never wavers in her work to understand what they’re thinking and feeling, and why they’re reacting and making the decisions they do. Her exploration of the reasons behind Rexnord’s move to Mexico opened my eyes to the long-term consequences of NAFTA, something I hadn’t been fully cognizant of before, and I so appreciate that new understanding. I’ll definitely be reading these stories of plant closings around the US with new eyes from now on.

American Made is an incredible look at the devastation wrought by a more expanded world trade. There are human consequences to what we think of as progress, and it’s so important to understand the whole story. What a great book.

Visit Farah Stockman’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · romance

Book Review: Well Matched by Jen DeLuca

I absolutely adore Jen DeLuca. I loved her Well Met, enjoyed Well Played, and have been waiting for her latest book, Well Matched (Berkley, 2021), which I finally checked out of the library this last trip. All the books in this series are set against the backdrop of a town that holds an annual Renaissance Faire, and as someone who has been known to enjoy a good Ren Faire once in a while (still didn’t feel comfortable enough to go this year, sadly), I’ve really enjoyed living in the world of Ms. DeLuca’s stories. Well Matched was absolutely no different.

In Well Matched, we hear from April, the single mother sister of Emily from Well Met. She’s spent the last eighteen years raising her daughter Caitlin on her own, ever since her ex-husband decided he didn’t want to be a dad and walked out on her. It hasn’t been easy, and April has built some serious walls around her heart in order to survive, but she’s managed, and now Caitlin is preparing to graduate high school and head off to college. Finally, April’s real life can begin! She can sell her house and get the hell out of the small town she’s been raising her daughter in.

But first, the house needs to be updated, and that’s where Mitch, the himbo gym teacher of the friend group comes in. He’s there to help her paint and repair, and in exchange, April agrees to pretend to be his girlfriend for a family get-together, so that his judgmental family can finally start to see Mitch as someone who has his life together. The family gathering turns out to be a little more complicated than April expected, though, and so do her feelings for Mitch, who is also turning out to be a little more complex than she originally thought.

When their fake relationship goes from pretend to is-this-really-happening, April’s more than a little panicked: those years of brickwork she’s constructed around her heart are making it more than a little difficult to accept that Mitch’s feelings – and hers– are real, and safe. There’ll be a little heartbreak on the way, but there’s magic at the Ren Faire…

GAWD, I loved this book. I can’t say I loved Mitch or April in the other books, but I ended up absolutely adoring both of them throughout this whole thing. April is prickly as hell, but with good reason, and I truly related to her introvertedness and desire to hide away in her house (something I’m trying to change, but this frickin’ pandemic won’t let me *grumblegrumble*).

Visit Jen DeLuca’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction

Book Review: Girl A by Abigail Dean

I somehow missed the nightmare Turpin case when it broke, but I’ve followed it ever since I learned about it (my God. Those poor kids). So when I learned about Girl A by Abigail Dean (Viking, 2021), a novel that seemed like a fictionalized account of the Turpin story, set in Great Britain, it went onto my list. It took for-ev-er for this to actually be in at the library, however; seems as though everyone in my town is just as horrified by that story as I am.

Girl A is Alexandra, or Lex, the eldest daughter and second eldest child of the Gracie family, where eight children were discovered, chained and emaciated, living in unbelievable filth. She’s the one who escaped, who dropped from a second-story window and broke her leg in the process, but who saved her other siblings. Her father poisoned himself before the police showed up, and Mom went to prison; now, at the beginning of the story, Lex is an adult, a lawyer, traveling back to England from New York City, to deal with her mother’s death.

The story jumps back and forth in time, from what happened leading up to the dramatic rescue of the Gracie children, to how growing up in such terrible conditions affected the children as adults. Some have fared better than others; no one has made it out unscathed.

This is a hard book to describe. None of the adult Gracie children are particularly likeable; some of them are a bit frightening in their ability to manipulate. Several are just tragic. It’s hard to get a full read on Lex, since she’s so damaged and deals with that damage by drinking a lot. A revelation later on in the book had me questioning pretty much everything about her, and the murky conclusion didn’t help matters at all.

I enjoyed the storytelling of this novel, but I wish there had been more concrete conclusions, and that it had felt more solid as a whole. If you’ve read this, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Visit Abigail Dean’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

memoir · nonfiction

Book Review: Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America by Ryan Busse

I had the privilege of attending a virtual presentation a few weeks ago featuring author and activist Ryan Busse, discussing the US’s massive gun violence problem and his book, Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America (PublicAffairs, 2021). I hadn’t been able to get a copy of his book before the talk, but it came in soon after and mirrored a lot of what he spoke about in his presentation. He shared slides, some of which came from testimony he’s given to Congress (like half of them care…), and all of it was shocking and terrifying, like so much in this book.

Ryan Busse grew up loving the outdoors. His father taught his brother and him to hunt and fish, but he shared with them the importance of handling guns safety, and that no gun was worth a human life. Thanks to his strong ties to hunting as a child, Ryan grew up wanting to work in the gun industry and made that happen for himself, securing a position with Kimber and helping the company grow exponentially over his time there.

But Ryan’s goals for the company and where the NRA was steering the firearms industry as a whole began to diverge along the way. Whereas Ryan stood by the values of safety and nature conservation he’d grown up with, the radicalization and violence fetishization the industry pushed, along with its commitment to toxic masculinity and profits above human lives, alienated and horrified him. For years, he fought back from the inside, until the damage was too much for one man to even begin to control.

This is quite a damning look at the firearms industry as a whole and how the NRA has poisoned it along with American politics, and has fanned the flames of xenophobia, racism, toxic masculinity, and violence as a whole, all under the guise of making money. “Who benefits from this?” is an important question to ask when you’re consuming social media of politicians and reporters who are doing their best to drum up fear; the answer is very often the firearms industry, as more and more Americans purchase more and more guns and weapons. It’s a disturbing, sickening industry with no morals or integrity, and it makes me ashamed that we as a country let this happen.

I’m not a gun person; I have no interest in them (I’ve been shooting multiple times in my life and I’m actually a pretty good shot, but it’s not a hobby I’m interested in pursuing), and I can’t say this book did anything to make me more interested in guns as a whole, despite Ryan’s obvious respectful fascination (I did appreciate his devotion to conservation and protecting the lands he obviously cherishes, however!). If you’re not into guns, you should definitely know there’s a lot of information in here about them. I can’t say I’m any better informed about makes and models, but I am walking away with a much better look at how dark the gun industry has become in the US, and how they’re a massive part of the problem, if not the majority of how and why we’re where we are today in the US. It’s shameful, but I’m glad to have this understanding now. I wish everyone understood this.

If you’re looking to shed more light on why the US is such a horrific mess, and you want to know how we got here, with mass shootings every ten seconds and no one doing anything about it, look no further. Gunfight by Ryan Busse will explain it all.

Visit Ryan Busse’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.

fiction · thriller

Book Review: The Nowhere Child by Christian White

I have a love-hate relationship with missing child stories. On one hand, they’re incredibly hard to read. How do you even survive any of that? On the other hand, it’s like a bruise I can’t stop poking at (I blame growing up with Soul Asylum’s Runaway Train blaring on MTV, the pictures of missing children and teenagers running on a loop on the screen every few hours during my early teen years). The Nowhere Child by Christian White (Affirm Press, 2018) ended up on my list as soon as I learned about it; a missing child, a multi-continental story, a weird religious group…yup, I was in.

A strange man shows up in Kim Leamy’s Australian town one day, making claims that she’s not who she thinks she is: she’s actually Sammy Went, who went missing from a small Kentucky town almost thirty years ago. At first, Kim finds his story ridiculous (her late mother, a kidnapper? Hardly)…but then things start to add up, and her stepfather very obviously knows more than he’s saying. When the man reveals himself to be Kim’s biological brother, she knows she needs to figure this all out, so it’s off to America to learn the truth.

The Went family already had deep cracks by the time Sammy was born; father Jack had tried to bury his attraction to men, but that wasn’t working out so well; mother Molly’s fierce devotion to the snake-handling church Jack grew up in and has since abandoned is dividing everyone in the family and pushing Jack even further away. When two-year-old Sammy goes missing, long-hidden secrets come to light, but it’ll take decades before the truth really comes out.

This is a really solid thriller, one that involves a dangerous cult whose devotion to remaining ‘other’ costs lives. Complicating everything are Jack’s sexuality in a time and place that refuses to understand it and thus his need to keep it hidden, teenager Emma’s difficulty with her parents, and, in the current-day sections of the narrative, Kim’s piece-by-piece uncovering of the reality of who she is and how small-town secrets conspired to keep the truth of Sammy’s disappearance under wraps for so long.

The book goes back and forth in time, switching from third person narration by various characters, to first person narration by Kim. This keeps the story moving, but it also serves well to keep the reader on edge, guessing about what really happened, who was really involved, and why. I’m usually pretty bad at figuring out whodunit, but I had this one kinda pegged early on, though the why of it all wasn’t fully fleshed out in my mind until the full explanation appeared in the book. I enjoyed following the characters on their journeys. There are some surprises here, but all in all, this was a good, solid, enjoyable read.

Visit Christian White’s website here.

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2022

Happy November! Two months left to 2022. WHAAAAAAAAAAAAAT???

I’m still behind in posting reviews. I have so much to do in the mornings and during the day that it’s often difficult to find time to get that post up. But I’m not giving up, don’t worry! I love this book blog, and I really enjoy writing about the things I read, because it helps me remember long-term all these books I’m cramming into my brain. I may be floundering, but I’m not about to stop blogging.

It’s been a super gorgeous October here. The colors this year have been phenomenal. We had a fall like this a few years ago, and someone speculated it was because it was cooler than normal. It was a little like that this year as well; the temps dropped from 80 to in the low 50’s almost overnight, and the trees all just exploded with beauty. Driving around town has been so enjoyable this past month!

Let’s get this recap started, shall we?

Books I Read in October 2022

1. Stolen Words: The Nazi Plunder of Jewish Books by Mark Glickman

2. God Spare the Girls by Kelsey McKinney

3. Gunfight: My Battle Against the Industry that Radicalized America by Ryan Busse (review to come)

4. Flamer by Mike Curato

5. Putting God Second: How to Save Religion from Itself by Rabbi Donniel Hartman (no review)

6. Girl A by Abigail Dean (review to come)

7. The Nowhere Child by Christian White (review to come)

8. Well Matched by Jen DeLuca (review to come)

9. Kin: A Memoir by Shawna Kay Rodenberg (review to come)

10. Twisted: The Tangled History of Black Hair Culture by Emma Dabiri (no review)

11. Love Thy Neighbor: The Tory Diary of Prudence Emerson by Ann Turner (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

12. American Made: What Happens to People When Work Disappears by Farah Stockman (review to come)

Not a very long list this month! I simply haven’t had much time to read, so that explains that. Not much I can do about that, either. Oh well.

I read Emma Dabiri’s Twisted simply to gain more knowledge and understanding so that I can be a better ally. I’m not writing a review because I don’t feel it’s my place; I’m obviously not the target audience, but it’s absolutely a great book: history, a little bit of memoir, even a little bit of discussion of some heavy math, all written in an engaging voice that kept me intrigued and occasionally even laughing out loud.

Eleven of these books came from my TBR!

State of the Goodreads TBR

Oy vey. So, last month, we left off at 132 books. But then I learned about a bunch of really interesting books, and I attended a virtual presentation on fighting book bans, where I learned about a bunch more, and so now my TBR is resting at 133. Not as big a number as it could be, but I was really hoping to get it down to the 120’s this month. Maybe next month…though we’re going to start seeing ‘Best of 2022!’ book lists soon.

I’m in danger…

Books I Acquired in October 2022

I think the only book that made its way into my house this past month was Solutions and Other Problems by Allie Brosh. There was a copy on the shelf of the Dollar Tree, for some reason, and since I really enjoyed her other book, I grabbed this one to take home.

Bookish Things I Did in October 2022

So many trips to the library! Does that count?

I also attended a virtual program on the recent slew of book banning and challenges across the country, but this was specific to my area, put on by the local group who puts on the book sales I go to, a local book store, a local-to-me-but-national-in-size publisher, and a local Jewish group I’ve volunteered with. SUPER informative presentation, and it’s definitely got me fired up to fight against these swamphogs who think they can decide what everyone else reads.

Current Podcast Love

Really enjoying Maintenance Phase right now!

Funny story about this. My son and I were out running errands last weekend, and he was like, “Hey, I’m going to throw on this podcast I have to listen to for my English class. It sounds like something you’ll like, too.” So he hooks up his phone to the car’s audio system and when the opening music began playing, I turned to stare at him and said, “Oh my God, is that Maintenance Phase?” Sure was! We listened to their episode on Michael Pollan’s The Omnivore’s Dilemma, since my son’s English class had been assigned a paper on the introduction of the book (and my son had read some of the book for more clarity). It was indeed a great episode!

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

AHAHAHAHAHAHA. I barely have time to do my regular reading. Zero time to do any extra, specialized reading. *sob*

Real Life Stuff

The good: My son is doing *really* well with his college classes. He’s loving everything he’s been studying, he’s super engaged with the material, and he’s excited to go to class every day. He comes home bursting with information and wants to tell me all about it, which is great. It’s absolutely wonderful to see him so enthusiastic about school; I think the time he spent away from school really helped him mature, understand how he learns, and helped him to figure out what he wanted. Huge relief here! I’ve also been over to his campus with him a few times; their library is a-ma-zing!

Our new town library is coming along swimmingly! Their outside walls are finished; there’s brickwork, there are windows in, and it looks like they’re ready to commence on work on the inside of the building. It’s slated to open at some point early in the new year, so that’ll be exciting!

The not-so-good: My back is garbage right now, sending pain down both my legs. My blood pressure is up, likely from stress. Homeschooling is…well, there are good days, and then there are days that are likely responsible for the rise in my blood pressure (I found this out at the eye doctor, who is seeing blood pressure-related changes in my eye vessels, sigh. I have to go back in six months, and I’m supposed to try controlling my stress, which basically means I’m just resigned to going blind at this point). My daughter’s counselor has been out for the past two weeks due to COVID that turned into pneumonia, and my husband’s boss also has COVID right now.

Sigh.

I’m hanging in there, though. I have a massive stack of library books that I’m really looking forward to reading, if only I had time where I wasn’t homeschooling, cooking, cleaning, or running errands (exercise? AHAHAHAHAHAHA). Doing my best, but there are only 24 hours a day, and I’m doing everything I normally do with a significant amount of pain, so it’s rough. But one foot in front of the other…

Wishing you all a peaceful November. Happy reading, friends.