Sometimes I think I'm the last person in the world to have discovered Louise Penny and her Inspector Gamache / Three Pines mysteries. That can't be true — I buddy read all of them (yes, all 16!) this year with a group of friends who were also neophyte Penny fans. It was a rush and a delight. All the Devils Are Here is on my 2020 favorites list as a nod to the whole series and the wonderfully complex characters and smart mysteries that populate them, but it's an excellent book in its own right. Armand Gamache is at his best, but he's among his family in Paris, not with our Three Pines friends in Quebec. It's filled with themes of love, belonging, family, haunting memories, faulty perceptions, courage, and choices.
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The realest autobiography of a fictional character you'll ever read. Duchess Goldblatt, a psuedonymous Twitter character, is both dark and kindly, fanciful and grounded. She has become a daily light, an anti-troll, to tens of thousands of devouted Twitter followers. This is the story behind the account: a tale of a lonely, grieving mother who finds some healing and community by giving voice to an 81-year-old cultural icon that springs fully formed from her head. Like the Twitter account, the book is silly and poignant and has a surprising amount of Lyle Lovett.
A rom-com that didn't forget the com! One of my favorite romance reads for 2020 and perfect for fans of Red, White, and Royal Blue! Luc is a peripherally famous hot mess at rock bottom who is trying to turn his life around. Oliver is a buttoned-up ethical vegetarian barrister who is trying to ignore some key blindspots in his own life. Come for the laughs, stay for the self-discovery, brutal wipeouts, do-overs, and emotional courage.
I don't use shouty labels like "must read" but if I did, I'd empty my label maker putting "MUST READ" stickers on this book (and Stamped from the Beginning by Ibram X Kendi, but that's a different review). Caste is a personal, general, and scholarly account that sacrifices neither the arresting storytelling nor the extensive research Wilkerson uses as she almost casually shifts your entire perspective on what caste means, how it's applied, and who it affects. Her comparisons of the classic role of caste in India, its brutal application in Nazi Germany, and its unexamined hold on our American infrastructure are horrifically fascinating. Bought to life with personal accounts and historical anecdotes, Caste is an accessible, timely, paradigm-shifting read.
If Hogwarts were enchanted to run itself but Slytherin made the final edits to the system and built in a little Hunger Games — with the odds only ever in the favor of the powerful and privileged — you'd have the setting for A DEADLY EDUCATION. Our Slytherclaw protagonist El is powerful (though nobody knows it) but not privileged. She's just trying to survive the Scholomance while keeping her dark powers leashed so she doesn't destroy, well, everyone and everything. It's incredibly hard work, but she's determined. Except Gryffinpuff golden boy Orion Lake keeps playing the hero and "saving her life," which is getting on her nerves. Still. Head down and graduate. Just one problem: everyone's odds of graduating keep getting worse and worse. El is the sensible, snarky, powerful, damaged, thundercloud of a protagonist I needed, and I loved hanging out with her from the first line to the last!
Sometimes the line between good and evil is just marketing. A temp worker who is ill-used by the small-time villain she works for and badly injured by a reckless superhero uses her long convalescence and data analysis skills to discover the staggering human costs of the superhero system. But things really get interesting when she takes a job where she gets to crunch more than the numbers. This is a sly, funny, gritty story that refuses to ignore the complexitites of life for the convenience of a morality tale. But that doesn't mean there isn't a morality tale hiding in here somewhere — you'll find it between the horror and the humor and the humanity.
Not a traditional cradle-to-grave biography but a powerful, readable account of John Lewis's lifelong commitment to civil rights, social justice, and political renewal — and how his faith compelled that committment in philosophy and action. Because of his extensive involvement and the young age at which he began, this makes an excellent refresher/introduction to the Civil Rights Movement.
A young woman pleads with a dark god to save her from a forced marriage and the small, hard life of a French villager in the early 1700s. Her wish is, cruelly, granted. She gets a vast but lonely eternal life of being continually forgotten, not just day after day, but moment after moment — and there's not a moment of it that she can forget. As she struggles to find meaning, identity, and purpose in that existence, the dark god returns, time and again, reminding her that she can end the struggle by surrendering her soul. And so it goes for 300 years. Until a young man working in a Brooklyn bookstore inexplicably, impossibly remembers her. This is a sweeping, lyrical, historical, literary fantasy (perfect for fans of Alix E. Harrow, Madeline Miller, Erin Morgenstern). It's somehow deeply fulfilling yet completely unsettling. And I can't get that ending and all of its implications out of my head. That's pretty good for an invisible, forgettable girl.
Legends and legacies come alive when King Arthur's court crosses paths with a Southern Black girl whose personal grief, historical trauma, hidden talents, strength, and intelligence lead her to an iconic Southern college where a significant chapter of the court just happens to reside. There's mystery, magic(s), romance, humor, drama, culture, and more — and if some elements seemed a little weaker than others (the mystery and the romance both develop quickly, but at least the insta-love has Reasons), I was quick to forgive them as I was swept up in the skillful representation, strong voice/perspective, and the sheer joy of magical discovery.
Solid advice, fun facts, inspring stories from history, silly quizzes, and a dog-tracking log for all the puppers you'll be petting! Gideon has been on a quest to pet all the dogs for a couple of years now and he's really good at it (you can follow him on social media to see). One of my favorite parts of this guide: all the cute pictures and how they show dog body language! Once you learn that, you're well on your way to being a dog petter extraordinaire!
A new girl detective series set in Victorian England! Twelve-year-old Myrtle Hardcastle is super smart and observant. But, her father sometimes thinks, maybe a bit too comfortable with icky medical experiments and too knowledgeable about criminal investigations... and poisons? He trusts her governess, Ms. Judson, to keep her on the straight path. And Mrytle trusts Ms. Judson to help her discover what happened to her cantankerous neighbor who died under Very Mysterious Circumstances. Good fun, with a cheeky narrator (Lemony Snicket-style), and a sophisticated mystery! (Great audiobook edition!)
Wentworth as a Brazilian soccer star with a man bun? I'm here for it! In this clever, nuanced, multilayered nod to Austen's original story, Ashne Raje is desperately trying to conquer her paralyzing fears and preserve her father's restaurant and memory. More #OwnVoices comtemporary women's lit than rom-com, it covers some pretty heavy themes, like childhood trauma, mother-daughter relationships, female friendships, suicide, spousal rape, cultural oppression of women, PTSD, and panic attacks. But there's plenty of delicious Food Network–style shenanigans and romance to carry you through this modernized tale of social manners, familial responsiblities, and personal persuasion.
With a PhD in creative nonfiction and disability studies and a lifetime of living in a body that is paralyzed from the waist down, Taussig manages to pack a whole lot of eye-opening, paradigm-shifting truth into one small, cheeky package here. The tone is conversational and gracious but unwavering. The stories are perfectly distilled, touching on representation, ableism, intersectional feminisim, healthcare costs and consequences, objectification, demoralizing and threatening kindnesses, accessibility, inclusion, and more. Highly recommended for anyone who lives in a body around other people who live in bodies.
"I think people came here for the same reason we came here," Dorian says… "We're here to wander through other peoples stories, searching for our own."
On the surface, if there is a surface, this is the story of Zachary Ezra Rawlins, a game theorist post-grad with a penchant for literature, who is trying to solve the mystery of a tale written out of time and a door connected to another realm. Once you scratch that surface, you find that this is a love story wrapped in a myth wrapped in mystery wrapped in another love story. Or maybe the same love story but in another form. Sometimes my soul falls in love with a book before my mind catches up. It fell right in love with this amazing kaleidoscopic story.
A thoroughly lovely introduction to important women in nature writing and a breath of fresh air as a reading experience — what a ramble! what a treat! Beautiful design elements, including Gisela Goppel's portraits of the writers, and the author's engaging narrative set the perfect tone for the short prose, poetry, and essay excerpts shared from each author. Themed further reading sections tranform this into a bibliographic resource that features far more than the 25 writers officially profiled.