month in review

Month in Review: November 2018

Favorite Media

I consumed season five of Brooklyn Nine-Nine one weekend and then cursed myself because I didn’t have any more episodes left to watch. ☹ This show has quickly become an absolute favorite since I started it a couple of months ago, and I am so super excited for it to come back in January.

The Keepers is a very difficult documentary to watch—one I am taking an episode at a time—but it is so, so good and frustrating and heartbreaking and hopeful. If you are at all interested in true crime, it’s worth a look.

A&E recently premiered The Clinton Affair, a fascinating re-look at the major scandal that plagued the Clinton presidency, and Monica Lewinsky penned a thought-provoking article on her participation for Vanity Fair: Who Gets to Live in Victimville?” It’s a nice companion to both the docu-series and the second season of Slow Burn.

Stuff I Added to My Queue

Blind Kiss by Renée Carlino sounds very much like a stay-in-bed-all-morning kind of romantic read and, after inhaling My Favorite Half-Night Stand, I am very much here for that.

Will the stories in Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah’s Friday Black make me uncomfortable? Probably. Will I also be okay with that? Definitely.

Rebecca Traister has slowly become an auto-read for me, based solely on her New York articles and because she wrote All the Single Ladies. But there’s also the fact that I would read a book called Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger no matter who wrote it.

Roxane Gay gave Heavy: An American Memoir five stars, asking “how do you carry the weight of being a black man in America?” I’m looking forward to learning Kiese Laymon’s answer.

I’d never heard of Lacy M. Johnson before stumbling across The Reckonings, but now that I know the book is her way of considering—and yes, reckoning—with the idea of justice following a kidnapping and rape, I’m excited to read it.

Just look at the uber cute cover for The Seas by Samantha Hunt and then tell me you don’t want to read a book about a maybe-mermaid.

I tell myself that I’m not that ~into short stories until something like Camille Acker’s Training School for Negro Girls is published, and I have re-evaluate my priorities.

On My Radar

  • I am SO close to meeting my Goodreads challenge, y’all! I don’t think this should be that exciting except I haven’t actually met my goal since 2012. (Lol.)
  • I haven’t forgotten about vlogging so much as not really planned for it. I want to be more active, though, and am hoping a short break later in the month will motivate me.

What were YOU up to in November? Let me know!

review · three stars

Review: My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Title: My Favorite Half-Night Stand
Author: Christina Lauren
Rating: ★★★
Summary: Millie Morris may have four guys as best friends, but she’s still perma-single. When a routine university function turns into a black-tie gala, Mille and her circle make a pact to find plus-ones for the event via online dating. There’s only one hitch, though: after making the pact, Millie and one of the guys, Reid, secretly hook up—only to mutually decide the friendship would be better off strictly platonic. But online dating isn’t for the faint of heart, and Millie’s first profile attempt garners nothing but dick pics and creepers. Enter “Catherine”: Millie’s fictional profile persona, in whose make-believe shoes she can be more vulnerable than she’s ever been in person. Soon “Cat” and Reid strike up a digital pen-pal-ship…while Millie struggles to resist temptation in real life. She’ll either have to concur intimacy or risk losing her best friend, forever.


Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley.

Like Millie, I have had the Talk with myself: do I stay friends with this person or do I try to be more than friends? Is this regular “I’ve made a new acquaintance” excitement or more “I want to see you without your clothes” anticipation? Do I want this person to like me or do I want them to like me? As Millie asks, “are these spasms in my stomach what most normal people describe as love”—or are they simply just spasms?

As my first Christina Lauren novel, I went into My Favorite Half-Night Stand not knowing what to expect. The sexy times: great. The banter and accurate portrayal of friendship: awesome. The “I’m almost 30 and still don’t have my shit together”: I feel you 🙏. I legit read this in two sittings, desperate to figure out how Millie and Reid were going to get their HEA, both engrossed in the plot and amused by the antics.

But there were also a lot of “oh don’t do that” moments, too. Millie came off as emotionally stunted, her behavior more suited to someone who’s (maybe) in her early twenties instead of solid 29 with a super grown-up job. I’m sure that her duplicitousness was mostly manufactured for the plot, but it also went on longer than necessary. (Making a fake dating profile to ward off dick pics is one thing. Carrying on a correspondence with your best friend when a) he doesn’t know it’s you and b) you are both clearly developing feelings for each other’s online personas is another.) Then there’s Reid, who was guilty of one of my biggest pet peeves once he’d had his own Moment and then didn’t talk to Millie about it. (Yes I understand this is not always easy but most things aren’t and this is fiction and UGH JUST ACT LIKE ADULTS.)

Had I heard good things about other Christina Lauren books? Definitely. Did I enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope? Absolutely. Can I recommend a character who catfishes her best friend? Eh… maybe? My Favorite Half-Night Stand was one of those books that sucks you in and makes you desperate to keep reading. It’s only when you’ve finished do you realize, “oh, maybe I didn’t love it that much after all.” So enjoy the post-coital glow—but maybe don’t stay until morning.

top ten tuesday

Top Ten: Friendships

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted at That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s theme was platonic relationships, but I wanted to focus specifically on friendships – and the many different forms they take!

Attachments by Rainbow Rowell // A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab // A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray // Lumberjanes, vol. 1: Beware the Kitten Holy by Noelle Stevenson // My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl // The Passage by Justin Cronin // The Proposal by Jasmine Guillory // The Shadow Cipher by Laura Ruby // Smart Girls like Me by Diane Vadino

review

Review: Fear by Bob Woodward

Title: Fear: Trump in the White House
Author: Bob Woodward
Rating: ★★★
Summary: Bob Woodward reveals in unprecedented detail the harrowing life inside President Donald Trump’s White House and precisely how he makes decisions on major foreign and domestic policies. Woodward draws from hundreds of hours of interviews with firsthand sources, meeting notes, personal diaries, files, and documents. The focus is on the explosive debates and the decision-making in the Oval Office, the Situation Room, Air Force One, and the White House residence. Fear is the most intimate portrait of a sitting president ever published during the president’s first years in office.


Bob Woodward’s latest is an exhaustive behind-the-scenes account of the current White House from about July 2016 to March 2018, and he does not pull punches. All aspects of Trump are covered (for good or ill), and most of the book reads like the transcript of Woodward following these people around for hundreds of hours. The prologue asserts that “the United States in 2017 was tethered to the words and actions of an emotionally overwrought, mercurial and unpredictable leader… It was a nervous breakdown of the executive power of the most powerful country in the world. What follows is that story.” And, yes, the next 300 or so pages basically is that story, although with less flair than I was expecting.

think I wanted Woodward’s journalistic analysis of what went on during the first year of Trump’s presidency instead of just ‘this happened and then this happened and while all of that was happening this also happened.’ Simply listing things point by point did prove some of my assumptions correct, though, so even if it was nice to know for sure what’s been happening behind closed doors, it was also, like, so worrying, too. (E.g.: “I want to apologize to you for a very fucked-up Republican majority. Congress is going to fuck up your presidency. We have no idea what we’re doing.” Or even, “Trump had no understanding of how government functioned.” Great! So awesome!!)

I haven’t read All the President’s Men, but I’ve heard such good things that I went into Fear hoping for another Watergate 2.0. But maybe this book is just too soon. The Watergate break-in is a single narrative with a set group of people over a defined period of time, and All the President’s Men was written after it had already ended. Can anyone accurately comment on something in the middle of it happening? Are we simply asking too much if we can’t even agree on which story to cover? I mean, keeping up with the news can often feel overwhelming, but I feel like I have to do it because so much happens all the time. Fear did help fill in some gaps I had, but it also (literally) put me to sleep.

Should you read it? I don’t know. Maybe. It took a lot of brain power to get through and stopped commenting on events after March of this year – and so much has happened in just eight months! –  but Woodward is such a good journalist that Fear read like a really great exposé, albeit one whose relevance or longevity has yet to be determined.

five favorite

Five Favorite: Atmospheric Thrillers

It’s taken me a full month to digest the seemingly innocuous Top Ten Tuesday prompt villains. (Please don’t ask why because I just don’t know.) Very few books I read have capital-V Villains, and I became bored scrolling through Goodreads trying to think of more than a handful or any one type. Since it’s so chilly/borderline cold in New England now AND it gets pitch black by four-thirty, I thought I’d explore creepy, chills-down-your-spine atmospheric thrillers instead – because sometimes a place itself can be the scariest thing.

 

Do you have your own favorite atmospheric thrillers? Let me know! To see previous topics, click here.

review · three stars

Review: Notes from My Captivity by Kathy Parks

Title: Notes from My Captivity
Author: Kathy Parks
Rating: ★★★
Summary: Adrienne cares about three things: getting into a great college, becoming a revered journalist, and making her late father proud. So when she’s offered the chance to write an article that will get her into her dream school and debunk her stepfather’s belief in a legendary family of hermits, there’s no question that she’s going to fly across the world to investigate. But the Russian terrain is unforgiving and, when disaster strikes, none of the extensive preparations seem to matter. Now Adrienne’s being held captive by the family she was convinced didn’t exist, and her best hope for escape is to act like she cares about them, even if it means wooing the youngest son.


Notes from My Captivity is a strange novel, and flew way, way under the radar when it was published this past summer. (TBH, the only reason I read it was because a patron donated her ARC and I was like why not.) Kathy Parks divides her book into three-ish parts, but each one kind of blends together that the story moves forward before you stop to question whether any of it even makes sense. There’s a river-rafting adventure, then some conspiracy-theory fueled mystery, and then straight-up magical realism. (I mean, Parks includes these so-subtle-you-miss-them hints that not everything is as it seems, but they’re basically no less magical than a teenager stranded in Siberia so, you know, whatever.)

I didn’t not like the book, but rather felt like the supernatural elements weren’t introduced in such a way to satisfyingly get me to the ending that Parks wrote. (Like, does she classify this book as magical realism or just simply magical or as an allegory for faith?) I liked the mystery aspects (and their debunking) way more than the literal trek it took to get to that point in the story, and a part of me wishes Park could have written a little less literal action to more quickly focus on the emotional action.

With that said, however, Adrienne felt like an authentic teen completely thrown out of her element, written with pathos and an emotional arc that I could follow and root for. Her motivations were clear, her behavior genuine, and her grief palpable. And the book itself is filled with such great sarcasm and a swoon-worthy first-love that the good parts successfully tuck the bad ones out of sight.