It is March 1. That means it is time for my monthly review of what I read last month. Again, in order of read, not enjoyment
1. Broken by Jenny Lawson – I got this one from a Goodreads contest. I didn’t even know I won. The book just arrived on my porch one day. That was a pleasant surprise. As with her other books, she discusses her battle with depression and anxiety. She explores her experimental treatment of transcranial magnetic stimulation. She talks about her frustration with her insurance company. Very tough subjects, but done in a way that makes you laugh while also feeling her pain. Lawson is one of the favorite authors and I enjoyed new words from her. I would recommend all of her books. You can read her blog here.
2. Riot Baby by Tochi Onyebuchi – This is a very short book about two siblings with extraordinary power. It starts when Ella is a child and Kev is born and takes us through their adulthood when Kev is incarcerated and then out on parole. Ella visits him both in person and supernaturally and shows him a possible future of a revolution that burns down the new fascist society. The book definitely kept me reading. It was a little hard to follow as it had time jumps and I had a hard time figuring out how much time had passed and how old they were through a good portion of the book. I would recommend it, though.
3/ Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson – A book in verse about the son of an NFL player dealing with how CTE has changed his dad. His dad is a star tight end who has suffered multiple concussions. His headaches get so bad he has to stop playing while the doctors try to figure out what is causing the headaches, mood changes, and memory loss. It takes place before CTE was a known result of the constant head injuries football players deal with. Woodson is a very good author and this is another very good one from her. I recommend you read anything she has written.
4. Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour – Darren lives in Bed-Stuy. He was valedictorian at his high school but opted not to go to college. He is working at a Starbucks in the lobby of a Midtown office building and has no desire for anything different. This all changes when a encounter with Rhett Daniels, the CEO of New York’s hottest tech startup results in Darren being offered a spot on his elite sales team. He is given the nickname Buck by the racist head of sales. As he gets more immersed with Rhett and makes more money he changes and is estranged from his mom and his friends in Bed-Stuy. A tragedy at home and a scandal at work sets ups a chain of events that changes everything. I loved this book. It is compelling. It is funny. It is well written. It has great characters This could easily end up being the book I most recommend this year.
5. Serpentine by Jonathan Kellerman – This is the latest in the Alex Delaware series. In this one, Milo is asked to take on a very cold case when a wealthy woman pulls strings to get it reopened. It is the case of a woman found with a bullet in her head in a car crashed off the hills on Mulholland Drive. It seems like an unsolvable case, but as they investigate they find too many coincidences and discover someone is trying to stop the investigation. I love the Delaware novels and this one is as good as the rest. Milo and Alex are a good investigative duo. Old favorites pop up in supporting roles. The mystery is a good one. I would recommend it, but I’m also a “read in order” guy, so go start from the beginning of the series.
6. Apple: Skin to the Core by Eric Gansworth – This was one of the award winners from the ALA Youth Media Awards. It is a memoir in verse. Gansworth tells the story of his life growing up on the Tuscarora reservation in New York. He also tells a little about his grandparents being sent to boarding school as kids to learn to be more like white people. I really wanted to like this more Kind of like I really wanted to like the one fiction book of his I read more than I did. He has a moving story, but unlike other books in verse, this one just didn’t draw me in at all. I was bored a lot. I probably should have given up on it and moved on to something that I found more appealing. I’m not sure what the people who gave it a Printz Honor Award saw in it.
7. This is my Brain in Love by I.W. Gregorio – Jocelyn Wu is a junior in high school. Her parents own a Chinese restaurant in Utica. When her dad says they might need to move back to NYC so he can work for family there she tries to help bring the restaurant to modern times to save it. Will Domenici is a junior at the local private school who wants to find a paying summer internship. Jocelyn hires him to help with marketing the restaurant. They, of course, fall in love. It is complicated by Jos’s parents’ prejudice, Will’s anxiety and Jos’s possible depression. I always like a good YA romance and this one was very good, if maybe a tad bit too long. It was nice to have diverse characters – Will’s mom is Nigerian, the Wu’s are Chinese, Jos’s best friend is Indian-American – and characters dealing realistically with mental illness. I would recommend.
8. We Are Not Free by Traci Chee – This is an account of a group of young second-generation Japanese American citizens in San Francisco whose lives are changed by the mass US incarcerations of World War II. The story is told through the eyes of different teens as were move from the rumors of “evacuation” after Pearl Harbor into the incarceration camps. We follow their lives in the camps. We follow two of them to the front lines of the war as they fight to prove their loyalty to the country. We follow some families to a more secure camp after they refuse to say yes to a loyalty contract. We eventually follow them back to San Francisco after the war. It took me a couple of days to get into the book. It was an abrupt change from the romance book from before. My daughter loved it, so I kept reading. Eventually, I got to the point where I couldn’t put the book down. I was completely invested in their lives and wanted to follow them to better times. I would highly recommend this one.