Come read with me

Several book-related things you might be interested in…

First…if you want a signed, personalized copies of my books shipped right to you just click here. If you get your order in by Friday they should arrive before Christmas and I am very happy to personalize them to you or to loved ones, or implicate you in a crime or surprise you with trivia about animal genitalia. Just make sure you specify what you want in the order comments so that you aren’t surprised with arson compliments unless you really want them. They make excellent gifts. (Books, I mean. Not arsonists.)

Second…here’s a little wrap-up if you’re looking for books and want to see some of my favorite books of 2022.

Third…Nowhere Bookshop is in the running for the Best of San Antonio awards! I would say that you should vote for us but honestly you should support all indie bookshops because they’re all worthy of your time and this year has been a bit harder for all indie bookshops across the board.

Fourth…If you’re already a member of the Fantastic Strangelings Book Club (CLICK HERE TO JOIN US, MAGNIFICENT WEIRDO) then you already know what this month’s book is, but just in case you missed my email (make sure to check it because we’re doing a live holiday online crafting cocktail hour this Thursday and you’ll want to watch) our book this month is Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion, by Bushra Rehman and it is so very good.

You know when you meet a fictional character in a book and they become so real to you that actually miss them when the book ends?  Ones where you feel like you were falling in love with all of the people, and learning and growing and feeling like you found someone else who understood you even though they’re nothing like you?  Me too.  Francie from A Tree Grows in Brooklyn.  Cecy from Bradbury’s From the Dust Returned.  Every single person in the All-of-a-Kind Family books.  And now, Razia Mirza from Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion.

Roses, in the Mouth of a Lion is a gorgeously written 1980s coming-of-age story about female friendship and queer love in a Muslim-American community that had me filled with strange nostalgia for people I never actually knew.  It’s a powerful reminder that we are all so different, but we are all so alike.  And like all good books, some of it is hard and some of it is sad and much of it is hopeful and heart-warming, but all of it is important.

This is where I would put a picture of Dorothy Barker with the book but Hunter S. Thomcat let his intrusive thoughts win and chewed up the book and it seemed fitting. Am I rewarding bad behavior by posting this? No, because he is a cat and doesn’t read the internet. Probably.

Need more than one book to get you through the cold, wintery month (or warmish, brown month if you live in Texas)? ME TOO. Here are a few I really liked that come out this month:

The Light Pirate by Lily Brooks-Dalton – A deeply emotional tale on the changes we’d rather not see and the future we’d rather not greet.

The Sorcerer of Pyongyang by Marcel Theroux – an experimental sort of novel about a North Korean boy whose life is irrevocably changed when he stumbles across a mysterious Western book—a guide to Dungeons & Dragons.

Our Book of Awesome by Neil Pasricha – a lovely celebration of the small joys that bring us together.

Alone with You in the Ether by Olivie Blake –  I suspect this will be a big book this year and one that will polarize people about the choices the characters make (and made me want to shake them sometimes) but it is VERY good.  A love story that explores what it means to be unwell, and how to face the fractures of yourself and still love as if you’re not broken.  

A History of Fear by Luke Dumas – An eerie suspense debut following the harrowing downfall of a tortured graduate student who’s been nicknamed the Devil’s Advocate for murdering a classmate, then claiming the Devil made him do it.

The Lindbergh Nanny by Mariah Fredericks – Historical fiction that brings readers into the interior of the twentieth century’s most infamous crime.

How Far the Light Reaches: A Life in Ten Sea Creatures by Sabrina Imbler – Fascinating essays explore the themes of adaptation, survival, sexuality, and care, and weave the wonders of marine biology with stories of the authors own family, relationships, sexuality, race and coming of age.

If you’ve finished last month’s book (White Horse) and want to discuss I’ll open up a thread today on the FS facebook page but if you’re anti-facebook I’ll leave my thoughts in the comments.

Happy reading!

19 thoughts on “Come read with me

Read comments below or add one.

  1. Given that I was unemployed in a difficult economy a year ago, I find it amazing that I can work from home and make a respectable $6k per week. I’m grateful to God for rewarding me with these rules, and now it’s my duty to show and extend anticipatory kindness to others.

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  2. My thoughts on White Horse (and I have a lot of them). HERE THERE BE SPOILERS:

    I was a little afraid to pick this book because I absolutely loved it but it had some darker themes than I usually delve into. Not that I don’t often pick dark books, but I was really worried that this one would make people go “eek” but I also don’t want to shy away from hard subjects because they can be so important. So I’m really excited to see what you guys thought.

    Here are my thoughts.

    I loved this book for so many reasons…let me count the ways. But first an aside to say that I’m not sure what terminology to use because “Native American” doesn’t really fit since Kari’s family mostly came from Mexico. And “Indigenous” works, I think, but the author uses “Indian” the most so I’m following her lead and using it in the discussion and crossing my fingers that that’s okay.

    Things I loved:

    The exploration of generational trauma…how unhealed pain creates more pain and how stopping that cycle can mean literally and figuratively battling the monsters that haunt you and the people who have come before you.

    How much I learned in the book! Like, I’d literally never even heard the term “urban Indian” before and I had to google so often to track the history and the stories. I’d never seen such an in-depth look at the Indigenous diaspora and how much of their history and traditions were lost or scattered or destroyed as viewed directly from a character searching for who she is and also not entirely wanting to know. I felt so badly for her when Dr. Hank Goodbear said that her mother wasn’t on the rolls, because I know she wanted proof of belonging, but I also loved that it wasn’t necessary in the community and that she was accepted. I think a lot of indigenous people have to deal with that, and even DNA testing isn’t always helpful because so many tribes were wiped out and so many now refuse (for good reason) to give out their DNA because they don’t trust a system that so often betrayed them.

    I loved how much her family loved her…in particular the women of her family. Debby and her aunt. Aunt Squeaker. And eventually Sharon and Nessie. Her relationship with Debby was so well written that I felt like I was there and I wanted to shake them every time they made they made a bad decision but I also felt myself reliving all the bad decisions I’d made in my life. I loved how the author explored the functional and dysfunctional relationship between Kari and Debby and between Debby and Jack.

    I loved how the relationship between Debby and Jack had so many echoes to the relationship between Nessie and Michael. Both women were dealing with men who may have had good qualities but who struggled with their own demons and with alcohol, but Debby manages to stop the cycle by not standing by her man no matter what and (hopefully) changing their trajectory.

    The way Colorado became and actual character in the book. So many times I was like, “I KNOW THAT PLACE!” Including when Kari went to the Stanley hotel and stayed in the most haunted room on the fourth floor. What’s weird though is that I actually stayed in the most haunted room on the fourth floor, and it was a few doors down from the one she talked about. Maybe because the room she describes doesn’t really exist (in that she sees a mural and arch that disappear later)?

    I struggled a little with Kari because she isn’t always likeable and is so self-destructive, but after getting far enough in to understand why she pushes people away it made much more sense. Sometimes I wanted more from her than anger and passion, but it was clear that her guilt and trauma and lack of bonding and being forced to grow up much too early made it hard for her to break down walls. At the end when she said she was jealous that Debby could cry so easily it broke my heart. Seeing her heal was so wonderful.

    I loved how the author really dove into the idea of guilt…how Kari’s guilt over Jamie’s death crippled her and how Sharon’s guilt over her sister’s death did the same…and how each lost so much of their lives to that guilt and that fear of vulnerability. When Debby tells Sharon that she shouldn’t feel guilty because “she was just a child” I sort of felt like that was the first time that Kari realized she was also just a child when Jamie died. It’s weird how it’s so much easier to have compassion for people who aren’t us.

    I both loved and cringed when Aunt Sandy talked about her native American ancestry because I don’t think there’s a family in America that doesn’t talk about some long-dead Cherokee princess they’re related to who may never have existed. I do a lot of genealogy and it seems like whenever you can’t go back any further someone ends it with “UNKNOWN CHEROKEE MAIDEN”. Also, doesn’t “maiden” mean “virgin”? My great, great, great, great, great grandmother is a virgin? Seems unlikely. I did find one branch (SO FAR BACK) though that was interesting because it’s very well documented and might be true and other people in my family are like, “THIS IS MY TRIBE” but when you actually read the story our last full-blooded ancestor was left to starve by her tribe when her father was killed and then was rescued and adopted by a different tribe altogether that she wasn’t even related to and while I hate how sad that story is, I do love that it shows that people have always been complicated and confusing and wonderful and terrible. Same with this story…it’s complicated…and I think that’s why I liked it so much. It didn’t have a very obvious villain and a very obvious savior…it had choices and mistakes and hope and was messy like real life is.

    Things I felt conflicted about:

    I was frustrated that Kari didn’t use the internet to try to track down her missing mom but I understand that she wouldn’t if she’d been mad at her for leaving, so I guess that tracks. I also liked that they discussed how missing indigenous women were completely ignored back when Cecelia had gone missing and how now people are starting to pay more attention.

    I loved the blending of the different Indian legends and how Michael was battling it for control but sometimes it seemed like he was LITERALLY that monster (and in some ways he was) but at first it made me a little mad because it felt like it was a cop-out…like he wasn’t responsible for the horror he’d inflicted…but when the author touched on the fact that he’d been abused by his own father it made more sense. He became a monster because of untreated trauma and abuse, but he could have stopped himself from becoming that monster so free-will is still there. I liked how Jack had the same battle and at the very end when Debby gave him the final ultimatum they could see that he was “battling with something big inside” and that in the end he conquered it and sounded like the little boy they’d known growing up.

    Related: Isn’t is weird how so many monsters and legends overlap in different cultures? Like the Lofa, the Yeti and Bigfoot. Or how there are mischievous “little people” in native lore but it’s so similar to the mischievous little people from Ireland. It’s like the world is connected in deeper ways than we see.

    I thought all the stuff about AIM and the FBI and Anna Mae Aquash was fascinating and it sent me on a deep rabbit hole because HOW DID I NOT KNOW ABOUT THIS? Honestly, it’s embarrassing how often I ask myself that when reading a good book…which is the mark of a good book and speaks to the history that we learn and the history that is buried.

    I had a hard time understanding Nessie. I get that fear and guilt can make you do terrible things but I can’t understand staying with Michael. I know people do, but I was too mad at her for not protecting her kids to really feel as sorry for her as I think I probably should.

    I struggled a little with the irony of the fact that so many lives and relationships were destroyed by alcohol but the book ends with Kari buying a bar. But the more I looked at it the more it made sense. First off, Michael blamed the booze for abusing and murdering his child but he was sober when he tried to kill everyone else. Plus, the fact that this place was important in the lives of so many indigenous people as a meeting place and way to bond was clear by the end. And I loved how Aunt Squeaker ordered tequila and reminded Kari that their ancestors drank mezcal as medicine for generations.

    I was worried that the ending would be too bleak or too happy-ever-after but I thought it ended on such an upbeat and lovely way. Not perfect, but with friends and family brought closer and guilt assuaged and with Cecelia’s body found. And I loved the possible love interest of the bank loan guy who showed up at the end…especially since it seemed as if he had recognized the place as important to his people and to his family and that another loan officer might have said “This is a bad investment” and it would have been lost forever.

    Overall, I really liked it. Complicated, fascinating, deep. How about you?

    PS. Did you know that the White Horse bar in the book is read? Owned for 40 years by the same people. A gathering place in Denver for people traveling to pow wows. Sadly, it closed recently and is now for sale. Maybe this book will help the right people to find it and rescue it. https://denverite.com/2022/11/11/white-horse-denver-up-for-sale/

  3. I went to look and see which book I didn’t have (cuz my family, in years to come, will wonder if the crime implication is true) and waaaay down that rabbit hole I came across a cliff notes-esque book for Furiously Happy. I shit you not. “Key Takeaways and Analysis” it says.

    That’s like someone writing a book to explain to you about the Beatles White album or Joni Mitchell’s Court and Spark.

    Unless this is being used in a classroom where they discuss you as an author. Now THAT would be cool. “Jenny Lawson 101”. UTSA should do that and let you write the syllabus.

  4. Friendly reminder that Charles Lindbergh was a nazi sympathizer and a white supremacist.

  5. And many of your recommendations are on audiobooks through Libra. fm! This makes me so happy, I can spend my money in Nowhere. Hugs of the ginormous kind.

  6. Congratulations on the Best of Award! That is awesome. Indie book stores are magical places and I am so happy for you and your team!

    Also, I had shipped a copy of my book SUPERWOMAN: A Funny and Reflective Look at Single Motherhood to Nowhere when it came out. Not sure if you received it. I just wanted to thank you for being part of my writing journey. Hugs.

  7. Excellent article Mike. I appreciate “sd654” for your work. i’m currently creating over $15,000 every month performing some connected cleansing jobs on-line. WORKS easy online operations…just play and paste>>…… http://works360.blogspot.com

  8. I am reading Awesome right now. Here is my opinion, pisted on my blog next week: The Book of Awesome / Neil Pasricha. You know how sometimes you read a nonfiction book, typically written by some kind of pundit, and you think to yourself, “This would have made a really good long article in the New Yorker or Harpers, but it was not enough for a book”? This book is an example of that conceit. The premise is the author listing as many of the tiny awesomeness-es we encounter daily, things like there being time left on the meter when you park, or the smell of rain hitting hot pavement, or waking up and realizing you don’t have to get up yet. These are fun things to think about, and even more fun when we recognize their awesome quality in the moment, but this author felt compelled to write a page (or five) about each one. This did not improve the book. My solution has been to keep the book in the bathroom and read a few of the headings every time I am in there and skip the unnecessary writing. YMMV. 3★

  9. My cat, Jesse (her brother was James), loved to chew my books. I paid for a few library books thanks to her! Eventually, she trained me to put the library books up on a shelf instead of next to my bed.

  10. Hello hello!! Not sure anyone will see this who can help, but why not?? Just tried to purchase a Bloggess tee through the Zazzle store and it was rejected for content! LOL, as it should be – but I really wanted that tee shirt for a xmas gift! Anyone know anyway around this?? thanks!! jennadanielle@gmail.com

  11. One day I hope to get the rest of your books. I have “ let’s pretend this never happened “ I have reread it so many times.

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  13. I have never met anyone who had even heard of the All of a Kind Family! Yes, them and poor brave Francie. I used to read them back to back and pretend I lived in a New York tenement during the first decade of the last century. A pretty mean feat of imagination, sitting on the shag carpet in Des Moines.

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