The Book Beat - May 10, 2021
Happy Belated Mother's Day to all the moms and caregivers out there! I spent part of my day reading on my front porch, back deck, reading chair (pictured), and lying in bed (the weather was schizophrenic, to say the least). I was able to finish the family saga set in TX called Olympus, Texas. Talk about drama with a capital D! I review it below.
Below I share two of my favorite mom pics. I've mentioned not having luck getting my kids to read much, but I'm working on it with them this summer. I really hope that even if they're not too into it now, they grow up to be readers. It would break my heart if not!
It's been an OK week for me reading-wise. I only finished one physical book (I had to read two for the fiction contest I critique), but audiobooks helped me increase my numbers...or should I say, the spring cleaning, dishwashing, and driving I did helped me find the time to listen to audiobooks. So you'll get two audiobook reviews below.
I'm working my way through Dial A for Aunties by Jesse Q. Sutanto and The Dictionary of Lost Words by Pip Williams started. I hope to get through those by next week's post (I have more book critiques to do as well), so look
out for those reviews soon. And my next audiobook on tap is Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley, the one I got for free for shopping at my fave independent bookstore on Independent Bookstore Day. Thanks again, @libro.fm!
If you celebrated Mother's Day yesterday, I hope you got the rest (and reading time!) you deserve. Now on to some bookish news!
Social Media Used for the Bookish Good
This week I had the pleasure of listening to live chats with a few of the authors whose books I've loved. If there's a good thing to come out of the pandemic, it's more showcases for authors to interact live on social media sites with their readers.
My fave of the week was Know My Name author Chanel Miller interviewing Crying in H Mart author Michelle Zauner. I've written on here about how much I loved both of their memoirs. It was a joy to hear these two women--Zauner a Korean-American and Miller a Chinese-American--share laughs and stories about growing up as the daughters of immigrants, navigating the traumas they've both experienced to come out on the other side, going through the process of publishing a book, and giving us a look inside their creative brains. These two really need to become best friends in real life. Can people "ship" BFFs? If so, I do these two. 😂
The second IG Live I listened to was author Mateo Askaripour discuss his book Black Buck. I review the audiobook below. Mateo spoke about his writing process (while trying to quiet the workmen drilling outside his apartment door!).
And finally, I listened to live chat on Barnes and Noble's IG between Tirzah Price, the author of Pride and Premeditation (I reviewed that YA book a few weeks ago) and fellow YA author (and Price's grad school friend) Abigail Hing Wen (Loveboat Taipei). It was as good as the others! Price talked about both her writing process and her path to publication. Both she and Wen answered questions from viewers (both love Bridgerton and Jane Austen). All in all, it's so fun to be able to interact and virtually spend time with authors this way. I hope it keeps up even when in-person book tours resume.
And, one last comment. Every single one of these author's backgrounds are amazing, especially Mateo and Tirzah's bookshelves.
Is Your Significant Other a Bookworm?
📚 This fun article talks about a dating site called Bookover.com, which matches people based on their literary loves. Is your partner a reader? As big of a reader as you?
I'll be honest, my husband is not much of a reader (aside from sports newspapers, sports books, or any book about dogs). And, as I've said here before, he certainly can't complain about the books I buy when we tally up the cost of his golfing. Still, sometimes I do think it would be fun to read in bed next to someone who is reading instead of snoring. 😂
What is Your Reading Aesthetic?
📚 What type of reader are you? This fun quiz takes into consideration a bunch of things about your reading life to determine what your reading aesthetic is. Where do you sit and read? What do you listen to while reading? What is your favorite classic book from childhood? By answering these questions and more, you can find out just what type of reader you are.
I'll be honest, my aesthetic, The Librarian, seemed pretty on-point! I'm even wearing my cozy cardigan right now (Full disclosure: I've been wearing this sweater for the entire pandemic!). Also, I'm now more knowledgeable about the "cottagecore" aesthetic. When I think cottagecore, I think of the adorable cottage in England Cameron Diaz lives in in The Holiday. Although, after a year of the pandemic, I can certainly appreciate the idea of living more simply and quietly, with more plants and fewer devices by your side.
What I Listened To This Week...
🎧 Lightning Flowers: My Journey to Uncover the Cost of Saving a Life by Katherine Standefer - ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
If a person gets struck by lightning, they could (although it's rare) suffer from a skin irritation called "lightning flowers." A web of fern-like red marks bloom across the skin, caused by the transmission of static electricity along the superficial blood vessels that nourish the skin.
Standefer starts her memoir with a description of this mark and then reveals that she, at the age of 24, had to have a cardiac defribulator implanted into her chest to keep her alive. Katherine--and her younger sister Christine--both suffer from a genetic heart-rhythm condition known as Long QT Syndrome, where the heart occasionally produces short, chaotic heartbeats. During these bouts, the person either faints or, if more serious, dies. Katherine's rugged life in Wyoming and work as a ski instructor are upended by this diagnosis.
This book chronicles Katherine's struggles with the American health insurance system, hospital/doctor care, and--through her queries about the work that goes into mining the minerals/materials to make the defribulators--larger entities, including the corporations that operate the mines and just how much land (and livelihoods of the natives who use the mineral-rich land for food and sustenance) suffer for the development of today's tech. While iPads, etc. are "wants," Katherine's defribulator is a "need," and she feels a certain responsibility for the environmental and personal damage caused by the mines. While discussing these issues, she also relates her personal experiences--the constant worry she'll do something to active the defribulator, finding love amidst chronic illness, losing the ability to pursue the outdoors actitivites she loves, etc.
I enjoyed this one! Katherine read the audiobook, which made the story even more effective and I really felt for the challenging life she has to lead--and that it began when she was so young. If you enjoy personal stories of struggle married with issues of environmental and social justice, I suggest you give this one a listen.
🎧 Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour - ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Full disclosure: I tried numerous times to read the physical book of this and wasn't hooked enough to stay with it. So, when I saw it as the Audible Daily Deal, I thought I'd give it a try.
The audiobook hooked me. The narrator, Zeno Robinson, was terrific. Since the book is framed as a "how-to book" of sorts and the narrator, protagonist Darren, addresses the reader directly in certain parts, the reading aloud structure works really well here--and Zeno is amazing at it.
This book is quite the roller-coaster ride of a narrative. The protagonist Darren is a 22-year-old who lives with his mom in Bed-Stuy, New York, and is content to work at the Starbucks in a lobby of a Manhattan high-rise, spend time with his childhood sweetheart Soraya, hang with his friend Jason, and have as little ambition as possible.
One day, he ends up impressing a regular, Rhett Daniels--CEO of tech start-up Sumwun--and is offered a job as a salesman on the 36th floor. The atmosphere of Sumwun's office is chaotic, intense, and laser-focused. Darren's the only Black employee, and endures a Hell Week of training where the trainer, Clyde, seems to revel in tinging his training instruction with as many racist comments as possible. Soon, Darren has become "Buck," a business-obsessed salesman who his family and friends don't recognize. After tragedy strikes--for the company and for Darren personally--his job takes on a new mission and things get even more complicated and satirical.
I liked this one! The action--and intensity of the situations--keeps building and I was riveted. The critiques of start-up culture, racism, and self-help were on-point and Darren's voice was so well portrayed through Zeno's narration. This one will definitely keep you entertained while doing chores--it definitely did me!
What I Read This Week...
📚 Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann - ⭐ ⭐ ⭐ ⭐
Review is below with the Cover of the Week recognition!
📸 Book Snaps of the Week 📸
Cover of the Week:
Olympus, Texas by Stacey Swann
This cover! The colors! The illustration! It's stunning.
The illustration is by Ping Zhu (IG: @pingszoo) and the jacket design is by Emily Mahon (IG: @emilymahon_covers).
This intense family saga, set in the small fictional town of Olympus, Texas, follows the Briscoe family and how the return of the prodigal son, March, throws all of the family members' lives into a tailspin. Yet, we learn, as the narratives of each character are revealed, that their lives have been pretty messy for a long time. Resentments, anger, jealousy, and codependency have festered, and the reverberations caused by March returning is like putting gas on many little flames.
With allusions to Greek mythology (March has dogs named Romulus and Remus) and one of the main brothers is "Hadyn," a mortician) Swann's novel peels back the layers of the Briscoe family members' lives (and secrets) through violent encounters, intense character debriefs (several chapters are called things like, "The Origin of Vera's Broken Heart), and one edge-of-your-seat moment that opens up the second half of the novel. Every Briscoe is complex--possessing charms and flaws--and the way they live with, love, and loathe each other makes for an intriguing and riveting character-driven narrative.
Aside from a penchant for drama, I'm not sure that there was really a need for the Greek myth undertones, but it still made things fun. I enjoyed all the characters but found that the ones who were the most put-upon appealed to me the most (ah, my sensitive heart). If you're a fan of dramatic, family-themed sagas, definitely give this one a try.
Here's to a book-filled week for you all!