fiction · romance · YA

Book Review: The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright

I’m a sucker for royal romances. For someone who has zero interest in real-life royalty or royal families, there’s something deeply charming to me about a prince falling for a commoner (it’s probably related to my adoration of stories where a celebrity falls for a regular person- and again, I have almost no interest in actual celebrities, so…). It’s how The Heir and the Spare by Emily Albright (Merit Press, 2016) made it onto my list, and I grabbed it in a last-minute dash to the library before they went back to curbside pickup only, because our Covid case numbers are so high. It’s a bummer, I’ll miss my quick dashes in to grab my items, but at least curbside pickup is still available!

Evie, a 19 year-old American college student, is off to Oxford, the alma mater of both her parents. Her English mother died when Evie was just six, leaving behind a stack of letters, one for Evie to open on each birthday, and now a series of letters which send Evie on a quest around England to discover her family’s past and her mother’s secret. Complicating things is the fact that the cute boy Evie began falling for her first week at Oxford turns out to be none other than Prince Edmund, second in line for the crown. His parents have ideas about whom he should marry, and that doesn’t necessarily include a common. It may, however, include Jax, aka Lady Jacqueline, who loves nothing more than to set Evie’s teeth on edge by draping herself all over Edmund like ill-hung wallpaper.

As Evie falls harder and harder for Edmund, the truth about her mother’s true identity comes out, and Evie is shocked to learn she must prepare herself to inherit a title, an estate, and a way of life she never expected. She’ll have to figure out who and what she wants to be, and how to maintain any kind of relationship- friendship? more?- with the prince she’s not sure can ever fully commit to her.


This is an adorable story. Evie is the Heir in the title, with Edmund being the Spare; I thought that was a clever switcharound. Edmund is charming as possible, and Evie’s mother’s letters are sweet and wistful.

The problem is that the writing is barely strong enough to carry the story. There’s so much telling and very little showing, and this began to irritate me early on. Had I not enjoyed the storyline so much, I likely would have DNF’d due to this.

Evie as a character is this side of Mary Sue. She’s super gorgeous and every eligible guy in the book is of course in love with her, including Edmund’s best friend (and of course Edmund is jealous) and Theron, a character that exists solely to evoke Edmund’s jealousy, rage, and protective streak when he assaults Evie on their sole date (the incident and Theron are never mentioned again outside of that chapter). She’s brash and free with middle school-level retorts and insults (which, of course, massively impress all her Oxford friends), which made me cringe quite a bit, especially in the beginning where she goes off on a few characters who are, admittedly, being quite rude. I’m not advocating for tolerating rudeness, but I feel as though one might take a bit more caution in acting crassly during their first days in a country where one is a guest and has been heretofore unfamiliar. Evie acted almost immediately like a stereotypical American, and that irked me.

So many of the characters in this book are flat and unnuanced. Jax and her crew are Mean Girls with no redeeming qualities and no other character traits. Evie is Mary Sue-ish; she’s gorgeous and smart without ever  needing to demonstrate her intelligence; people just remark on how intelligent she is (I wondered multiple times exactly why Oxford admitted her other than as a legacy. This seems to be an issue in a lot of books set at places like Oxford, Harvard, etc; the characters’ display of intellect or, more accurately, lack thereof doesn’t exactly merit their place at a top university, and I find that irritating. Don’t just tell me how smart they are; show what makes them smart. Have them reminisce about their discovery of something interesting during a high school research internship. Let a friend or professor stumble upon their publication of a literary criticism paper from a summer program. SOMETHING other than having characters go, “You’re so smart!” or discussing how swamped with schoolwork they are). Her Oxford friends are almost interchangeable in terms of personality, and every phone call she has with her supposed best friend from back home is entirely about Evie, nothing ever about Abby.  This would have been so much more enjoyable if all the characters had been better developed.

I didn’t hate this, but I didn’t love it, either. It had a lot of potential but fell short of the mark for me.

Visit Emily Albright’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.


Book Review: Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen

I ran across Real Queer America: LGBT Stories from Red States by Samantha Allen (Little, Brown and Company, 2019) in the library last year and thought, ‘Ooh, that looks good,’ but at the time, I didn’t know if I could handle more political talk (I don’t remember what was going on at the time, but whatever it was was taking up a lot of my emotional energy). After stumbling upon a discussion of the book again a few months later, I remembered how intriguing it sounded and plopped it onto my TBR, where it sat until I finally grabbed it in my last trip to the library. And boy, am I glad I did.

Samantha Allen, a transgender journalist and author, has lived most of her life in the places known as red states, politically conservative areas with a history of enacting harsh measures against their LGBT population and refusing to accept them as full citizens with the same rights as everyone else. After the 2016 election, she began travelling through these red states, searching out the LGBT communities and learning how their members survive and even thrive in the places they love that don’t necessarily love them back. What makes them stay? Why not flee to somewhere where every day isn’t a struggle?

In traveling and interviewing, Ms. Allen began to clarify the feelings she’s felt about these places. Community is often stronger in places where the fight to survive is at the forefront. Supportive chosen family becomes easier to find, and more cohesive. Nothing changes if no one fights for it, and these are the people who refuse to give up, who refuse to have the places they love taken from them. She makes an amazing case for staying in places that are oftentimes hard to live in (though not always!) and being the kind of person who fights for change.

This is a powerful book, filled with people who have grown strong and resilient out of necessity, and who are using that growth to affect much-needed change in places that have been resistant to it. Ms. Allen made me check my attitude toward those red states; having lived in several, I understand how difficult it can be, and the sometimes PTSD or PTSD-like reactions that can come from the maltreatment received there, but she helped me to understand what it takes to remain there and thrive, what it takes to live there and fight, and that these people should be commended for their determination, not pitied because they choose to remain. They deserve a place at the table where they choose to live, those places they live because they love it there, and they need to be supported in their oftentimes uphill battle to be respected and treated with dignity. I think I had fallen into the trap of wondering why so many people stay in places that don’t want them there, but this helped me to understand the why of it better. (I mean, I’ve long understood having ties to a place; no matter how many times I’ve left Illinois as an adult, I always come back because I love it here so much, but my ability to live here isn’t compromised or threatened because of who I am or who I’m attracted to. I have, however, lived in a town where people are regularly threatened or ostracized due to their political leanings and their sexuality; I’ve seen it happen to friends, and I’m aware of what it takes to stay in a place like that. But seeing it through the eyes of the LGBT+ folks who are on the front lines of this was a much-needed perspective for me.)

I can’t recommend this one highly enough. Ms. Allen shares the story of her own transition in such an open, honest way, not just the physical parts, but the emotional parts, the difficulties, the fears, the triumphs, and who and what helped her along the way. If you’re LGBT+ and in a red state, or the parent/family member/friend of someone who is, or if you’re wondering why people choose to stay in places where the politicians regularly sneer at their communities (often on a national stage), you need to read this book, because it’ll help you understand the why of it all and be supportive of their choices. And it’ll also help you understand that even if you live in a blue state or blue area, you still need to fight for these marginalized communities as though you don’t.

Seriously amazing, eye-opening book. It’s inspiring and hopeful in a way that I wasn’t expecting. Thank you, Ms. Allen. I needed that.

Visit Samantha Allen’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · historical fiction · YA

Book Review: Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen

I’m absolutely trying to be better about reading books from my own shelves, but when I ran across a copy of Resistance by Jennifer A. Nielsen (Scholastic Inc., 2018), it leapt from the library shelf directly into my bag and there wasn’t anything I could do about it, sorry. I read Ms. Nielsen’s A Night Divided in 2018; it’s a novel about life behind the Berlin wall, something I knew very little about, and I was hooked. I was curious to see if her skill from that book transferred to this one (and my goodness, check out this powerful cover!).

Chaya Lindner is Jewish in Poland during the second World War, and she’s on the run, working with the resistance as a courier. She passes easily for Polish and is able to smuggle food, medicine, and papers into the ghettos where her people are struggling to survive and the death counts mount on a daily basis. It’s difficult and dangerous, made more so by the separation from her parents (who seem to have given up on life) and the likely death of her two siblings, but Chaya refuses to give in.

Being teamed up with Esther, an inexperienced courier who doesn’t pass as well as Chaya does and who fumbles often in ways that place their group in danger, doesn’t bode well for Chaya’s hopes of living through the war, but a terrifying new mission is assigned to the two girls: sneak into the Warsaw Ghetto to determine if there’s enough will to launch an uprising there. The risks are massive and their lives are on the line with every breath, but Chaya’s willing to risk it all for her people. Is Esther?

This is pretty close to edge-of-your-seat reading, so if you’re not ready for that right now, hold off. Chaya finds herself in a dicey situation in nearly every chapter; there’s an occasional moment of downtime, but it’s rare and doesn’t allow the reader many breaks, placing you right there beside her, on the run for your life and for the lives of the Jewish people. It’s cold, relentless hunger, murderous Nazis, and indifferent townspeople at every turn. On occasion, Chaya and Esther do run into someone who wants to help, but even that is fraught with fear: are these strangers really helpful, or are they trying to trick the girls into revealing their identities? No one can be trusted outright, and Ms. Nielsen illustrates the exhaustion inherent in living this way on every single page.

Being set where it is, during this time period, and among people fighting with everything they have just to exist, there’s a lot of death in this book: death by starvation, death by disease, murder, and all of it caused by outright cruelty or indifference. Chaya is sixteen but has been forced to abandon every vestige of childhood in her fight to live; I’d put the audience for this book at mature fifth grade on up due to its setting and themes of violence and suffering, but there’s a lot to learn and understand  for all mature readers.

No matter how much I read about this period of time, I don’t ever feel like I understand it, or that I ever will. I understand the townspeople who felt helpless and felt as though there was nothing they could do- I’m sure it’s a similar feeling to how I feel when I read about some of the atrocities our own government commits against both immigrants and citizens alike; I do what I can in terms of contacting legislators and supporting people who can protest (I don’t trust my bad back), but it’s not enough, it’s never enough when human suffering is on the line. I don’t understand not caring, I don’t understand ambivalence, I don’t understand the hatred some people feel for others simply for existing. I don’t know that it’s possible to fully understand something so terrible, but I’m thankful for Ms. Nielsen and other authors who continue to try to understand and who try to help us understand. We’re obviously in dire need of constant reminders these days.

Visit Jennifer A. Nielsen’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · historical fiction · YA

Book Review: The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf

I’ve had The Weight of Our Sky by Hanna Alkaf (Salaam Reads, 2019) on my TBR list for ages, both because the premise sounded intriguing and also because Hanna Alkaf is wonderful on Twitter (you really should follow her!). It was never in at the library when I checked…and then I finally realized it wasn’t shelved under Alkaf, Hanna, but under Hanna, Alkaf. Whoops. (I’ll ask the library worker about that when I return it, because this needs to be easier to find.) Once I realized the mistake, I located the book and slipped it into my bag.

Everyone knows about the Holocaust. You’re probably also familiar with the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and the Cambodian genocide from 1975 to 1979, and maybe you’ve even learned about the Armenian genocide. But what do you know about what happened in Malaysia on May 13, 1969 and the days that followed? I knew nothing, had never even heard about it (have I ever even read a book set in Malaysia before this? I honestly don’t think so), and that’s one of the reasons I knew I had to read this book.

Melati has OCD in a time where there’s no word or phrase to describe her incessant need to count, usually in groups of threes, in order to protect the people she loves. She pictures the forces compelling her to count as a djinn, cackling at her distress to appease him. It started after her father died; her mother, already stressed over the loss of her husband, doesn’t know how to handle her daughter’s mysterious and shameful problems, and so Melati works hard to hide her compulsions from her.

So life is already tough for Melati, and then the world around her explodes in violence. Separated from her best friend by a group of men wielding knives and wearing sinister smiles, she has no knowledge of where her mother is, no ability to get home, and no idea if she’ll survive the bloodshed. As the bodies pile up in the streets, Melati will need to depend on the kindness of strangers and her own quick wit to not only defeat her own djinn but the evil and hatred that has suddenly pervaded her society.

Ms. Alkaf begins the book with a necessary content warning (told you she’s awesome); this is not an easy book to read for so many reasons, but I think it’s a necessary one if you have the mental space for it. There are a lot of parallels to things going on today, of the way far too many people view those different from them, and the events described in this book are devastating and worrying as a potential conclusion to those levels of hatred. Melati’s OCD is also tough to read, in that it causes her so much distress. I’ve dealt with some OCD tendencies (which were much worse when I was young), so reading her struggles made me want to scoop her up and hug her.

Her growth throughout the novel is admirable and inspiring; it’s hard-fought and incomplete, since OCD is a beast that must be continually tamed, but it’s real. And as in real-life crises, there are no full conclusions, just a sober understanding (as much as that can be possible) of what happened, along with the determination to carry on while never forgetting those who have been lost. It’s heartbreaking and should be eye-opening to any reader, imploring them to examine their biases, delve deeply into their prejudices, and pick apart the reasons why they believe the things they do. Because the outcome of hatred and prejudice is often devastation and death, and at this point in history, with far too many painful examples to illustrate the point for us, we should be better than that. Ms. Alkaf has penned a fictional account of real history that serves as a warning point; don’t let this happen to you, to your country, to anyone.

Excellent book; highly recommended. Just wait until you’re in a good mental space so you can fully process this story, because it’s heavy.

Visit Hanna Alkaf’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.

fiction · romance

Book Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez

Remember when I read The Friend Zone by Abby Jimenez and immediately put its sequel, The Happy Ever After Playlist (Forever, 2020) on hold? That was in August, and it finally came in last week! (Doesn’t bother me. I seriously love that so many people are excited about reading the same things I am, so the wait never bothers me. Besides, my TBR is long enough that I always have plenty of other books to read. Not that I’ve had TIME to read lately… *sobs*) It was a nice surprise to be able to send that bad boy to my kindle and begin reading it the next day.

Ever since Sloan’s fiancé died, life has lost all its meaning and color. She’s mostly stopped enjoying anything about life, but that starts to change the day Tucker, a runaway dog, nearly throws himself under her car tires and then jumps through her open sunroof. Tucker turns out to belong to Jason, a surprisingly famous musician, and he and Sloan begin a flirty relationship via text while he out of the country. Caring for Tucker helps bring Sloan back to life, and flirting with Jason is shockingly exciting. Meeting him in person is even better.

But life with Jason and his fame is even more complicated than Sloan ever could have imagined. Living in tour buses, different cities every night, nothing to eat but fast food, manipulative and drama-heavy acquaintances, music companies that only care about the bottom line, giving up all of her dreams for all of Jason’s… Learning to live again means learning to compromise, and it’s not going to be an easy road for Sloan and Jason.

This ticked so many of my boxes: dual narrative, celebrity romance, cute dog (and the story didn’t immediately make me panic that something bad was going to happen to the dog!). Sloan is grieving hard at the beginning, and though the grief eases throughout the book, I love how her pain is handled throughout the book: she never abandons Brandon’s memory but finds a way to incorporate who he helped her become into her renaissance. His memory is honored at every step, and it’s bittersweet and beautiful. I loved watching her grow and find herself again throughout the arc of the novel.

Jason is a great hero, easy-going, dedicated, and not afraid of commitment. There was one spot where I felt he acted just a tiny bit out of character, not taking Sloan’s feelings as seriously as I thought he would have, but in general, I really appreciated his patience with and respect of Sloan’s grief. He never tried to rush her in anything and was content to wait for her until she was ready. And his love for his dog was beyond adorable, which never hurts.

Despite tackling the heavy subjects of grief and rebuilding a life after loss, The Happy Ever After Playlist is a light, refreshing read that made for a great escape from the world around me at a time when I really, REALLY needed it. I’ve already added the next book in the series, Life’s Too Short, to my TBR, though it won’t be out until April of 2021. Worth the wait. 😊

Visit Abby Jimenez’s website here.

Follow her on Twitter here.


Book Review: Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter

I’ve always been a big secondhand shopper. Even as a kid, I recognized the value in buying something for less money, and as I grew older, I appreciated that used items were less taxing on the earth’s resources. Yard sales and thrift stores have always been my jam. That’s why I was so excited to read Secondhand: Travels in the New Global Garage Sale by Adam Minter (Bloomsbury Publishing, 2019). What exactly happens to the items we drop off at the thrift store? What happens to the items that don’t sell? Where, exactly, does all this stuff go?

Adam Minter travels around the world, from the US to Japan, from Malaysia to West Africa, following the stream of secondhand stuff, from thrift store drop-offs and rejects, to items cleaned out from homes where the residents have died or left for nursing homes or assisted living. Our lives are full of stuff, and all that stuff has to go somewhere at some point. Japan has excelled in the creation of businesses meant to deal with possessions after the death of their owners; West Africa has done an amazing job of creating industries that repair and refurbish outdated technology, including laptops, computers, and televisions rejected by Americans. The problem of used clothing, which includes fast fashion made from cheap fabric, is a little trickier, however.

While I enjoyed this, I did find it a little dry from time to time, but I will fully admit that this may have been a personal issue due to the timing of my reading (could anyone focus well on anything the first week of November?!?!?). His criticism of planned obsolescence (one of the dumbest concepts ever created) and companies that deny their customers the right to repair the products they’ve purchased is perfection (as is his spotlight on, a website crammed full of repair manuals for products whose companies don’t necessarily offer them). Far too many societies have adopted an attitude of disposability,  and that’s obviously a major, major problem. Adam Minter does an excellent job of focusing on this problem without condemning the reader, who has likely been guilty of these behaviors and attitudes at some point in their life, throughout the text. There are problems, yes, but there are solutions, many of which readers can actively engage in.

I’m careful about the clothing I buy- I stay away from fast fashion (especially after having read Overdressed: The Shockingly High Cost of Fast Fashion by Elizabeth L. Cline; I cannot recommend this book highly enough); I don’t buy dry-clean-only clothing; I make sure what I do purchase (which is almost always secondhand) are things I can repair if necessary (I’m trying to learn how to darn socks, but so far I stink at it. I am, however, awesome at patching over holes and stains, and I’m working on my embroidery so as to make visible mending more aesthetically pleasant), but Secondhand has definitely inspired me to keep going with all of that. The amount of secondhand clothing in the stream is too high for us to do anything other than take good care of what we own.

Visit Adam Minter’s website here.

Follow him on Twitter here.


Book Review: Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany by James Wyllie

Sometimes you’re just in the mood for nonfiction. I was in that kind of mood the day I began combing the new releases over on NetGalley. When I stumbled across Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany by James Wyllie (St. Martin’s Press, 2020, I knew I needed to read that. How could they? Why would these women support something so heinous? What was wrong with them that they were all in on such devastation? My request was accepted, and, with some trepidation, I began reading. This is *not* an easy subject to read, and James Wyllie pulls no punches in laying it all out there. He’s never gratuitous and there are only a few sections where he goes into any graphic detail, but brace yourself, because this is a tough read.

The last names of Hitler’s most loyal followers are known to those who are familiar with the history of World War II and the horrors of the Holocaust, but those last names also belonged to the wives of those monsters. Emmy Goering, Magda Goebbels, Gerda Bormann, Lina Heydrich, Margarete Himmler, these were the women married to the men who perpetrated untold horrors upon their fellow man, and most of the wives were fierce antisemites before marrying their husbands. They were all in on their own, zero convincing necessary, a thought that will chill you throughout the book.

Because this book is chilling. Knowing the outcome of their attitudes makes Nazi Wives an emotionally difficult read, but what makes it even harder is Mr. Wyllie’s pairing of the horror with the wives’ more blasé complaints about the disappointments and difficulties of such mundane things as their husbands’ work schedules and their marital struggles- things for which readers might have had sympathy if not for the untold deaths stemming from their husbands’ blind allegiance to Hitler. At least some of these women knew what their husbands were doing and how Jewish people were being slaughtered; that Mr. Wyllie is able to contrast so effectively the wives’ selfishness with their inability to view the humanity of the people suffering around them, makes the book that more gut-wrenching. The one wife who seems to have some tattered shreds of humanity remaining is shown to be dismissive and cavalier at the book’s end; there are no heroes in this story.

There’s also not a lot of hope to it. None of the surviving wives (the ones who survived past the war and who gave interviews and wrote memoirs) seemed to grow past their attitudes that got them married to such awful people. There’s also not a lot of information on what led them down such disgusting paths to begin with (understandable due to a lack of sources other than their personal diaries and whatever writing and interviews they left when they died), although Mr. Wyllie does state that several of them were products of their time and fully bought into the antisemitism of the day, rather than arriving at it on their own. Because of this, Nazi Wives is very much a cautionary tale. Check your attitudes, check your biases. Are your thoughts, attitudes, biases, and beliefs hateful? Could they lead to violence against other people, groups that are different from you? Could stating them out loud inspire others to commit violence? If so, you need to participate in some heavy self-reflection and decide if that’s really the person you want to be- again, there are no heroes in this story, and it ends in a lot of death and destruction for everyone.

If you’re looking for nonfiction that reads like a novel, Nazi Wives isn’t *quite* there, but Wyllie’s literary treatment of unfathomably horrible people is engaging- though stomach-turning- for the average reader who’s looking to expand their knowledge on the history behind the monsters responsible for World War II and the Holocaust. You’ll want to send your copy of the book flying across the room multiple times per chapter because the stories inside are just so awful, but you’ll walk away with a clearer picture of who these monsters were, and a sense of dread for what we’re once again facing as fascism rises again around the world.

Nazi Wives: The Women at the Top of Hitler’s Germany was originally released in 2019, but it’s up for a re-release on November 3, 2020.

Huge thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for providing me with a review copy!

Monthly roundup

Monthly Roundup: October 2020

Goodness. What a month. Have you ever had a month where you get so little reading done, it’s laughable? That was this month. It’s just been one thing after another. Nothing major, just pandemic-life business. Daughter’s virtual school blends into daughter’s home school which fades into Zoom class which turns into errands and then dinner and then daughter’s bedtime and then husband wants to watch something on TV. And there goes my entire day! We’ve had a LOT of days like this, with errands, chores, online meetings, and household tasks (like overhauling my daughters room, AGAIN; three hours of life I’ll never get back, AGAIN) that have just sucked away my reading time. It’s not been a great reading month for me.

Things are crazy all over, though; my state is doing terribly in regards to case numbers and people are screaming like toddlers about their rights to cough all over nursing home residents (“They’re old! They were going to die anyway! Disabled people can just stay home! It’s my RIGHT to eat in a restaurant!!!”), and I just don’t understand anything anymore. I can’t imagine November is going to be any calmer, but I’m glad I have plenty of books to get lost in when I have time for them, because boy, the real world stinks right now.

Let’s focus on recapping October, shall we?

What I Read in October 2020

1. Being Jewish: The Spiritual and Cultural Practice of Judaism Today by Ari Goldman (no review)

2. Pointe by Brandy Colbert

3. The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio Iturbe

4. Home Sweet Anywhere: How We Sold Our House, Created a New Life, and Saw the World by Lynne Martin

5. Behind the Attic Wall by Sylvia Cassedy (no review; read out loud to my daughter)

6. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle: A Year of Food Life by Barbara Kingsolver

7. This Is Where You Belong: The Art and Science of Loving the Place You Live by Melody Warnick

8. Year of the Rabbit by Tian Veasna (no review)

9. Einstein and the Rabbi: Searching for the Soul by Naomi Levy (no review)

Seriously about the worst month of reading, numbers-wise, that I’ve had since my daughter was a non-sleeping infant/toddler! But if we look behind the numbers, The Librarian of Auschwitz was emotionally taxing and took me a bit to work through. Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is information-dense and isn’t a quick read at all. This Is Where You Belong was a great read but a bit bittersweet, since literally none of its suggestions can be implemented right now, and then there’s the constant doomscrolling I’ve been engaged in, and the fact that my husband wants to watch TV with me every night and the fact that I have a hard time reading when all of first grade is taking place about five and a half feet in front of me (and I spend probably a good three+ hours a day engaging with my daughter with either classwork for her virtual schooling or doing extra school stuff that her school just isn’t able to do virtually, due to time constraints). It’s been a month, seriously. Home Sweet Anywhere and Animal, Vegetable, Miracle came from my own shelves, so I’m happy with that progress! There’s actually SPACE on my shelf by the TV!

Reading Challenge Updates

In the Read From My Own Shelves challenge, I’m down two books (and took another one off, because two pages in, I realized this was absolutely not the book for me). These books will head off to a Little Free Library near me as soon as I can remember to grab them before I head out the door on a walk!

State of the Goodreads TBR

170 last month, 173 this month. Four of the books I read this month came off of my TBR. Slow month for everything!

Books I Acquired in October 2020

Hmmm. I grabbed a bunch of books for my daughter on a quick trip to the thrift store, including a copy of Harriet the Spy by Louise Fitzhugh, which I’m reading out loud to her now. I’ll give her this stack of books for the holidays; she’s started to pick up chapter books on her own, without being prompted (a HUGE deal; she’s a good reader but hasn’t seemed hugely motivated to read unprompted in the past, so I’m extremely excited about this!!!), so hopefully these will be a welcome gift. I didn’t find anything for myself on that trip, but that’s okay, because I won an ARC of Katie Henry’s This Will Be Funny Someday on Twitter! I adore her, so I’m looking forward to reading this. 😊

Bookish Things I Did in October 2020

Do things even exist anymore???

Current Podcast Love

Still making my way through Judaism Unbound. I lay awake through all of the interview with author Eric Weiner the other night and ended up adding the book he was promoting to my TBR. 😊

Stephanie’s Read Harder Challenge

On hold until life goes back to normal.

Real Life Stuff

Whew. Just an entirely crazy month. So far my daughter’s school *seems* to be doing okay (that we know of…) but there have been multiple cases of Covid in other local schools, and a few neighboring districts have returned to virtual learning due to an explosion of cases (including the high school I attended). We’ve chosen for my daughter to remain at home; I no longer harbor any optimism that she’ll attend in-person school this year. My son’s freshman year of college will remain at home as well, and he’s considering changing his major to marketing from music education, because he sees more of a future in that. I’m sad for him; he loved helping behind the scenes with high school choir so much.

My daughter has specials on Wednesday: art, music, and gym class. She was really self-conscious about doing art by herself, so I’ve joined her, doing some sort of drawing along with her every Wednesday. I’m not exactly the greatest artist, and I haven’t done any kind of art at all since I was about sixteen (and that was something I made for work; prior to that, I’d quit drawing around age 12). I’ve been posting my art creations on Instagram as part of what I’ve titled #ShittyArtWednesday (along with another set of doodles I did to keep my heart rate from exploding due to rage during the final debate), so if you’re interested in viewing some not-at-all-professional art, check out my Instagram.

That’s really about it! We’ve already had several days of snow; no accumulation, but the long, cold days of winter (let’s face it, winter lasts from late October to late May here) have begun. My anxiety has been out of control this month, but it’s increasingly more and more difficult to tell if it’s anxiety or fear about legit things. Mostly I’m just sad about the state of everything.

Hang in there, folks. I don’t think November will be any easier, especially since it’s not safe to gather for American Thanksgiving, but people will anyway, and healthcare workers like my friends Jen W. and Jen T. and Jen B. and Alicia S. will all be working themselves to the bone and coming away with PTSD because of it. Think of them before you gather; things are getting desperate and they don’t need you on their wards, because an unfortunate amount of people leave there only to be stashed in portable morgues, and the rest leave with permanent organ damage and health challenges science doesn’t yet understand. Be safe, please.

Keep up the fight for justice, friends. So many people are hurting right now; kindness matters, but remember, kindness doesn’t mean suffering hatred and bigotry with a smile on your face. Sometimes the kindest thing of all is to stand up and speak out, loudly. Black Lives Matter. Love is love. Women’s rights and trans rights are human rights. No human being should go to bed hungry, not if they’re out of work, not if they’re here without papers, not if they’re disabled, not if they’re addicted to drugs. Far too many people have lost their humanity and forgotten all of this. Cruelty isn’t attractive, y’all.

May your November be peaceful.