The Vanishing Half

Author: Brit Bennett

Published: June 2, 2020 

Publisher: Riverhead Books

Where I picked up my book: Purchased from my local Indie (Old Firehouse Books)

Key Words: family relations, race issues, identity, LGBTQ+

My Rating: 5 stars (I’d give it more if I could)

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My Thoughts:

I literally could not love this book more if I tried. I opened it up, thought about it every second I was not reading it and still, weeks later, I’m thinking about it on a daily basis. It was one of those books for me for sure.

Here are some of my thoughts:

  1. Bennett is a genius at weaving together a multi-generational narrative with different locations, POV, time periods and thoughts in a flawless way. When I say flawless, I truly mean flawless.
  2. Although this took Bennett years to write and it was written before the death of George Floyd (but certainly not before the death of many, many Black people at the hands of white people and police) this book seems absolutely current to what is happening at this moment in history.
  3. The cultural nuances in terms of race, age, colorism, motherhood, the Black community, matriarchal families, and gender identity was something that I can’t even imagine writing all in one book, but Bennett did it spectacularly.
  4. This is a book that looks at systemic and internalized racism, brings it to the forefront and allows the reader to sit in it for a minute. In sitting, I learned so much.
  5. The character development was out of this world-I know these characters now as humans.
  6. There is queer representation!!!
  7.  I will, for sure, read this book again and I’m typically not a double dipper with my books…or french fries for that matter 😉

P.S. Brit Bennett also wrote The Mothers and although I didn’t love that as much as The Vanishing Half, it’s definitely a fantastic book and one you should also pick up 🙂

There you have it folks! Find me over on Instagram and let’s chat books! I also create greeting cards and other paper goods (with a lot of bookish themes too) over at PAGEFIFTYFIVE. You can find me there too! And lastly, I own a shop called Makerfolk where we sell items from handmade makers around our city, our state and throughout the US. That’s me in a nutshell 🙂

Bookishfolk…read instead.

Late Migrations

Author: Margaret Renkl

Published: July 9, 2019

Publisher: Milkweed Editions

Where I picked up my book: Purchased from my local Indie (Old Firehouse Books)

Key Words: life cycles, love and loss, nature writing

My Rating: 5 stars

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My Thoughts:

I truly loved this book. It’s beautifully written (I’m not sure I’ve ever read such a beautiful book) and made me deeply think with nearly every sentence I read. Late Migrations asked me to reflect on those, oftentimes overlooked, connections that happen in life-if you’re paying attention. Renkl beautifully intertwines love and loss, parenthood, grief, the natural world, family, care-taking and the ebb and flow of life. It’s not only braided in a beautiful and poignant way, but I was sucked in from sentence one and only released once I finished the last sentence. It’s one of those books.

I highly suggest this book and reading it outside if you can-it’s true magic. And just look at that cover!!

As always, find me on Instagram and let’s talk books!

bookishfolk…read instead.

Godshot

Author: Chelsea Bieker

Published: March 31, 2020

Publisher: Catapult

Where I picked up my book: Purchased from my local Indie (Old Firehouse Books)

Key Words: cults, coming of age, mother/daughter, religious trauma

My Rating: 4 stars

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My Thoughts:

First, give me any books about cults and I’m in, 100%. Add that the cult revolves around some bizarre religion-yes please! So I knew this book was going to be right up my alley. I immediately ordered it from my local indie and it didn’t disappoint. Second, books about disastrous mother/daughter relationships are also my jam…so another check on my list! Immediately upon porch delivery (thanks Old Firehouse Books for being so quick), I dug in and barely popped out until it was over. Here are some of my thoughts:

1. The atmosphere in this book was VIVID. Parched and dry land surrounds this town and I could almost taste the dust as I read. That is some magical writing right there.

2. If I could live in a world full of women somehow, I would. Also, cult-y Christian men are the worst (only my personal opinion folks). Screw the patriarchy!

3. Flawed characters is the name of the game and Bieker’s writing of them is amazing. I didn’t even know where to put my brain when it came to some of these characters (in the best sense that is). Do I feel bad for them, sad for them, mad at them, all of the above at all different times?! Most of the characters, yes, that is exactly how I felt about them. And then some I just despised. It was the definition of flawed characters and I’m always sold on that.

4. Humans are resilient and we really see this through the lens of Lacey.

5. There are some funny bits in this book and you’ll appreciate them so much and find yourself laughing and then almost feeling guilty for laughing. It’s all part of the experience of Godshot.

Ultimately, Godshot is about a young woman coming into her own and suddenly realizing the world she grew up in isn’t actually what she thought it was. ( I have a VERY similar story. No, I didn’t exactly grow up in a cult per say, but I did grow up in a fundamentalist Christian household and church and some of this book hit veryyyyyyy close to home. I walked the walk until I opened my eyes as a young teenager, looked around, asked questions, got curious and saw what was actually happening. I can remember it like it was yesterday and oh boy, thank goodness I opened those eyes!

If you enjoyed The Handmaid’s Tale, The Water Cure or The Girls-I think you’ll want to add Godshot to your must-read list! This is a debut novel and I’m real excited to see what else Bieker has to offer us!

As always, find me on Instagram, shop my paper goods at PAGEFIFTYFIVE and let’s be friends!

Bookishfolk…read instead.

Wow, No Thank You

Author: Samantha Irby

Published: March 31, 2020

Publisher: Vintage

Where I picked up my book: Purchased from my local Indie (Old Firehouse Books)

Key Words: Non Fiction, Essays, Humor

My Rating: 5 stars

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My Thoughts:

I’m not sure I’ve EVER laughed so hard at a book. I literally laughed so much that at some points, I got cheek cramps and my wife stared at me from across the room (as she was probably reading some non-fiction book about presidents and economics or something equally out of my realm of thinking and definitely NOT hilarious).

This was also one of the most relatable books that I’ve ever read (which is probably another reason I found it so funny). Is it because both Irby and I were born with snark in our bones? Maybe. Is it because we are both 40ish and life is bitch-slapping us in the face now? Quite possibly. Is it because I all of a sudden wake up with neck cramps, knee pain and feel nervous to eat certain foods for fear my stomach will rebel (but it’s perfectly fine if all I’m doing is staying home for the night-which is basically always. Even when Covid isn’t happening)? Yep, I bet. Is it because we both count our pennies and feel like maybe we are the WORST accounting/math people on the Earth? Very likely. But for whatever reason, I felt like I was reading a much more entertaining and well-written version of my own life. The good, the bad and the ugly.

This is a laugh-out-loud, knock you in the gut, nearly pee your pants kind of book that will have you laughing yourself into tears. I highly suggest you grab this collection of essays if you’re in the mood for a laugh. With all the fear and craziness going on in the world right now…this might just be the thing you need!

As always, come chat books with me on Instagram (@booksihfolk), check out my greeting card shop online-PAGEFIFTYFIVE and happy reading!

bookishfolk…read instead.

Going Dutch

Author: James Gregor

Published: August 20, 2019

Publisher: Simon and Schuster   

Where I picked up my book:  Publisher (#partner) THANK YOU

Key Words: LGBTQ, romance, foodie, relationships

My Rating: 2

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My Thoughts: I enjoyed parts of this book, but with some major caveats. Let me first talk about the things I didn’t necessarily love:

  • One the main characters, Anne, was portrayed as being a single, desperate, slightly pathetic, vulnerable, but highly intelligent woman who is willing to put up with a lot of bullshit from a man (including essentially, paying for friendship and love) AND THEN she was described as overweight. And that blew all hope for me. I am OVER the whole fat people troupe where an overweight woman can’t find true love hence, they should go for what they can get. Usually a jerk who has ulterior motives. Nope, I’m not into it in any fiction (or in real life for that matter) but especially when a man is writing.
  • I didn’t love any of the characters in this book, but Richard was the worst. He is a cheater, takes advantage of a woman and just gave me all the ugggh feelings. It was virtually impossible for me to sympathize with a narcissistic, self-righteous, selfish man who takes advantage of women who are lonely and vulnerable.
  • What were the plot points? Man is bi, man takes advantage of a woman, man tries to have his cake and eat it too and fails, man breaks it off with partner, man goes back to “pathetic” woman, woman takes him back? And they eat out a lot in NYC. I found that slightly weird.
  • Lastly, and maybe the part I liked the least, was that being bi seemed to be treated as a negative and that is a stereotype which needs to be eradicated once and for all in the gay community and in our community at large.
  • There was a sense of entitlement in this book mixed with slightly pretentious vibes. I don’t know if those are attributes the author possesses in real life (I hope not), but I couldn’t help but feel them throughout this book.

What I did like:

  • The NYC vibes were everything! I visited New York a while back and I think Gregor did an amazing job writing the city as a secondary character.
  • The dating scene felt more true to life than how a lot of books portray dating. My personal life was nothing like this, but I have so many friends that would see themselves in this book for sure.
  • Writing was smooth and it felt intimate. It was a really well-written book and with tweaks to characters and plot, I think I would have loved it!
  • Queer vibes-I’m always here for the queer vibes.

So as you can see, I didn’t love this book. I struggled with not only the main characters (especially with how Anne was portrayed), but with the actual plot of the story as well. It just didn’t do much for me and it’s unfortunate, because I think it had a lot of potential. As a queer woman, I was also really bothered with how bisexuality was treated as a negative. There is also a sense of entitlement in this book and although it’s hard to pinpoint specifics, it just reeked on entitlement and a ‘higher than thou’ attitude that turned me right off. Ooof…that was hard to say, but how I feel.

I think if there were some changes made to this book it would have been a book I enjoyed, but as it stands…I was disappointed. I won’t necessarily shy away from other books Gregor puts out into the world but maybe I’ll be a little weary.

There you have it! Come find me on Instagram or find my paper goods here!

Hope you’re staying safe inside and happy reading!

bookishfolk…read instead.