Just a heads up that I’m also posting this on my personal blog Random Schmandom (but I’ll go through and edit and throw in some new jokes for my Fomoteers because y’all rock and deserve it). I wanted to feel productive this year and also that blog has died and resurrected more times than the Winchester brothers. Old joke, I’ll use it til my inevitable end, likely at the hands of overzealous slice of cheesy, gooey pizza.
I realize I occupy a very tiny portion of a very tiny corner of the internet. So the time you spend with me is very special. And I want you to know that I appreciate the heck out of each and every one of you. There’s probably at least one of you out there reading this, yeah?
Anyway, you may know me from the paint I like throwing on stuff.
What you may not know is that I. Also. Read. I’m a reader. I wear glasses.
Is it high literature? No. Are the books I read good, necessarily? No. I mean, I like them, otherwise I might not finish them. Truth is, I was always your typical trash reader but I hid that underneath a large vocabulary and a few references to the time back in eleventh grade when I scored my first 4 on an AP English essay about Joseph Conrad’s The Heart of Darkness which I mostly read via Cliff Notes.
Just to be clear. I read the Cliff Notes. Carefully.
What I have never done, however, is reached my personal reading goals. I’ll usually set myself with a goal I believe to be reasonable, like 12 books a year. I never make it. One time I even lowered my goal to 6 books a year–and I failed to make that. Yes, I know. My whole claim that I read sure doesn’t seem to be backed up by much evidence. But I assure you, I get lost in what I read and I love escaping into the worlds authors create. I am both a conservative purist who loves the fresh smell of book in the morning and the rush from the imminent danger of a papercut as I turn the crisp yet grainy pages between my fingers, and a wild, free-spirit hip with the times and the convenience of e-books and audiobooks.
The goal I decided on this year was 20 books. I figured aiming for a stretch goal was a good thing. At this point I am 17 books and bitch ass goodreads is bitching that my ass is 3 books behind schedule. Anyway, let me tell you a little bit about the books I’ve been reading in as spoiler-free a fashion as possible in case you want to give them a try and are one of those people (me) who feels so wounded when people give away spoilers.
The Sun Down Motel: Simone St. James
The Sun Down Motel was probably the best book I could have read to start off the year. It was creepy and dark and perfect for these creepy and dark hibernating times. It’s been almost a year since I’ve read this and I’m not going into any summaries online to refresh my memory to get this done. It’s just me and my brain, y’all.
From what I recall, there’s a woman who has experienced a great loss in her life and is now heading to Fell, New York to find answers to a mystery that has haunted her family her whole life: her aunt’s disappearance in the town. So we follow our protag to Fell, where she falls into a pattern very similar to her aunt–whose name is Vivian, I remembered a name!–basically, she starts working at the Sun Down Motel and experiences ghostly occurrences. Her aunt Vivian worked at the SDM and experienced similar things all connected to a girl who disappeared many years ago.
That’s not too spoilerly, is it? It isn’t any more revealing than what you might find on a book jacket’s summary. And you know how racy those book jackets can get.
The Broken Girls: Simone St. James
In the interest of time, I am going to experiment with writing down the details I can remember about a book within a minute. Just a fun way for me to keep engaged and not be up all night writing this blog which I fully intend to post in time for Christmasfestivuswhateverholidayyoucelebrateiftheresfoodillbethere Day! [edit: this did not get posted in time for that holiday. I cooked a turkey, though. So. There’s that.]
Sorry, y’all, I’m not big on the editing and proof-reading thing and do you know why? Because the publishing world has taught me that you don’t need to read through anything for it to be published and make eleventy bajillion kazoolian smackeroonies. Proofreading, if the best sellers of the last decade are to be believed, is for losers. I fully intend to put everything I write online without ever looking back or caring whether my grammar is fine or if I’m using too many ellipses or not. I told you I read trash. Trash has taught me that I can riff off in a near stream of consciousness and people will call me brilliant. So honest, so open, much brave.
Oh yes. I’m a spicy little elf during the holidays.
Or this is a defense mechanism to disguise my fear of failing to make my reading goals. It’s all about perspective, really. We never truly know what someone else is living through and all that.
Anyway, what I can remember about The Broken Girls in 60 seconds:
There is an orphanage where a girl disappeared back in the 1950s. It was a home for wayward girls. The present-day is set in 2014 or something. Present-day has a protag who has a murdered sister.
Shit, the timer just went off. Anyway, her sister was found on the lawn of the orphanage and protag needs to solve the true mystery of her sister’s death and the connection to the orphanagesorrygirlshome.
I thought the ending was a bit rushed/forced. I wished we spent less time in 2014 and more with the all-girls orphanagesorrygirlshome. Which is the only time I’ve ever wished to be back in the 50s.
The Cousins: Karen M. McManus
Three cousins are invited to their grandmother’s posh mansion New Englandy resort where we are going to contend with family issues and major imposters and people hiding in plain sight. There’s money at stake because g-ma is loaded and her kids want to be back in the will. Because we all want to be put back in our dear, estranged grandma’s will. There’s gold in them thar wills. I assume. I don’t know. I’ve never been in anyone’s will but I assume people with wills leave gold bars to their descendants.
The Lost Apothecary: Sarah Penner
Dual timeline, present-day reveals a woman who is trying to get her life sorted out and goes on a second honeymoon type scenario in London sans husband. Past-day stars a woman who runs an apothecary that provides valuable, life-saving medicines to her female clientele–and deadly comeuppance for the men who wrong them.
I remember liking this book. Not a lot but enough. Probably because I have been to London and I would like to go back.
Cemetery Boys: Aiden Thomas
LGBTQ representation! Super sweet. There’s a trans kid who is Mexican-American and wants to be a brujo. Aiden I think is his name. Aiden wants to join the ranks of the brujos in his family but faces obstacles in the form of antiquated notions of gender roles and abilities. Yuck. Anyway, there’s a real Ghost-starring-Patrick-Swayze-and-Demi-Moore vibe here and if that’s your thing, you’ll enjoy it.
I didn’t realize it was my thing until I read it.
You Are Not Alone: Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen
This dealt with a lot of women in New York. One of them is kind of a desperate wannabe (so she’s our protag, because she’s the most relatable one, right?) and the others are like if the Pretty Little Liars got organized and became an Inc. Someone’s gonna get framed for murder and cat and mouse games will ensue. I think there’s mention of the High Line and I wanted to vacation in New York for one of their infamous minutes.
The Last House Guest: Megan Miranda
You know I love a good book about the east coast and lighthouses and cozy bed and breakfast cottages on a seaside town where the townies are restless and the snowbirds are wealthy and nary the twain shall meet. Except in an unlikely friendship between a conventionally attractive, wealthy summer girl and an equally conventionally attractive, but much less wealthy townie that spans years and ends in murder.
Just some good clean fun and a solid read for me.
The Woman in Cabin 10: Ruth Ware
I remember the tone of this one being nauseatingly elitest. But I sped it up to 2x speed and finished in a day or so. There’s a cruise ship, a journalist, a case of mistaken identity by mistake and a case of mistaken identity on purpose (so, like, fraud I guess). The protag was pretty complex and I could relate to her working through trauma. 2020 was rough, y’all and 2021…it was better but also harder, ya know?
Legendborn: Tracy Deonn
I feel like this has to be my favorite book this year. Bree is Black and processing trauma in a world that she wasn’t meant to succeed in. She is accepted into a very prestigious college-bound program, because she’s fifteen and gifted. Like really gifted. She gets accepted into a super-secret society that has roots back to King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table, that’s how gifted. It takes place in like, North or South Carolina I think? I learned about bourbon and Cheerwine. Oh, also there were like green smokey dragons and hot boys.
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making: Catherynne M. Valente
This one was cute. Like a tatted up Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. But like the protag is 12, so maybe not super tatted up. Just a tasteful glittery butterfly that washes off with soap and water. Super whimsical and very sweet.
The Invisible Life of Addie Larue: V.E. Schwab
This book was okay. I read it because everyone else was reading it. Addie is…likeable. ish. She’s just really bland for someone who has lived for hundreds of years and is still as basic as they come. Like pumpkin spice lattes are the wildest thing to hit Addie’s personality in a long time. But it’s fine. Curses and all that. A brief stint in New Orleans. A will-she or won’t-she with the devil. I assume he’s the devil because he acts like it. There are hot boys in this one too.
I drink pumpkin spice lattes. I’m allowed to rag on them.
We Set the Dark On Fire: Tehlor Kay Mejia
Not a lot of hot boys but definitely hot girls in this one. LGBTQ representation. Kinda like a baby Handmaid’s Tale and The Bachelor but with teenagers. So gross. But it takes place in Mexico and is super great to read. No spoilers but a good commentary on class and culture. I kinda wish I had someone to talk with about the nuances because this book set off so much discussion for me in my head and I missed school and lecture halls and even those worthless readers they force you to get in college that you eventually let rot on your bookshelf because you have to rationalize paying so much for that neon-colored monstrosity. You also think you may one day read it and actually learn something.
We Unleash the Merciless Storm: Tehlor Kay Mejia
The sequel to We Set the Dark on Fire. I was really disappointed with the direction this one went. Not that it didn’t have good or true elements but it wasted a lot of time digging into petty relationships that contributed nothing to the plot and then hit me with all the twists and a climax so fast I came out of this book with whiplash.
You get it? There was a dirty joke in there for ya.
Merry, Merry y’all!
These Witches Don’t Burn: Isabel Sterling
This is another book that takes place on the East Coast. Massachusetts, I think…fuck. This book has “Witches” in the title and I’m like, “I think it’s in Massachusetts…maybe.” Like Salem, MA isn’t a thing. It’s got the whole witches, magical abilities, blood-line talk that is always very yucky and leads to eugenics experiments. But it’s wrapped in bubble gum, so super cute. Also I like LGBTQ representation. And trans people are people. So there.
This Coven Won’t Break: Isabel Sterling
Same as above. But throw in some fast and fiery witches from New York. And the only thing I love more in a book than snowbirds and townies clashing in a sexy East Coast setting are city witches and suburban witches clashing in a sexy East Coast setting.
In a Dark, Dark: Ruth Ware
I have completely blanked on this book. And that’s sad because I enjoyed it.
Oh wait! There’s a protag who is invited to her bitchy, back-stabbing, two-faced childhood bestie’s “hen” party hosted by a rather unsettled wannabe gunning for Maid of Honor. I’m not spoiling anything by letting you know she’s bitchy, back-stabbing, and two-faced; protag straight up tells us that Claire (because her name is Claire) has always been that way, has always manipulated people to get what she wants and then protag acts wholly surprised that Claire could act so damn bitchy, back-stabby, and two-faced.
Also mildly elitest tone but not nauseatingly so. Probably because this one took place at a rich person’s rich aunt’s vacation home and not a rich person’s cruise ship like in Ware’s The Woman in Cabin 10. I didn’t mention it was on a rich person’s cruise ship, did I? Damn if I know. I’m remembering this all in a minute okay.
Last Girl Ghosted by Lisa Unger
I didn’t like this book. I feel like it forced 2020, pandy, and the type of crazy you only see on Twitter with people stanning their favorite podcasters without question down my throat.
And if I have to read one more story about a Mary Sue who owns her house in New York, even though she will continually lie to you that she isn’t wealthy but got “lucky,” only to have royalties and inheritances come up when the dude on the dark web she solicits only accepts bitcoin–and her accountant contacts her because bitcoin! bad!
It just kind of sounds like Lisa Unger is that ghostwriter that wrote for V.C. Andrews. Like just a stodgy old person boomering all over me about the perils and evils of the outside world, and woke culture, and racial division never being a thing “back in the day,” who then quickly goes back into their manuscript and find/replaces all the pronouns so you think the protagonist is a cis-hetero white woman instead of the male-bodied, full-bearded doomsday prepper who still reads the news in fits of print.
But I needed an easy, no commitments book to read to up my count and this book was about online dating. So. There’s that.
Where I am now:
I’ve been chipping away at The Beet Queen by Louise Erdrich and The Properties of Perpetual Light by Julian Aguon.
I don’t know if I’m going to make it. I realize that setting a reading goal for me feels like a lot of pressure because I’m a perfectionist and I always feel like I need to give it 101% (used to be 110 but I’ve slowed down with age, education, and working in the professional world. In the U.S. We are being held captive by ridiculous work hours and CEOs making massive amounts of profit by exploiting our labor. Thanks for listening. Please help us get health care. Or at least asylee status in Canada. Shit joke. Sorry. Yes, I know, I hate myself too because I’m just so damn awful how could you ever forgive me for such a First World Fiona joke.)
But like I’ve been trying to read The Beet Queen since I bought it six years ago. It’s a hard read for me to get through because it just feels really dry and I don’t necessarily care about the people in the book or the shitty kids they have. Fun fact: in The Properties of Perpetual Light, Julian Aguon states in a footnote that he believed Louise Erdrich to be kind because only a kind person would write a book with multiple characters sharing equal amount of the story-telling world, as opposed to a single narrator and their point of view. He’s not wrong. I don’t know if Louise is kind though. She could be. I just think it’s cool that there’s that connection between the last two books I’m reading.
I wonder where Louise falls on the New York vs. California pizza debate.
I hope it’s on the “Detroit pizza all the way” side. Because that’s where I am.
I recognize that I may not reach this reading goal by the new year. But as it always does here in my tiny, itty, bitty corner of the internet: hope springs eternal.