Review: FATHOMS: The World in the Whale by Rebecca Giggs (2020)

Genre: Adult Science Nonfiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Decomposition, animal death, climate change, animal cruelty

Whales will always be my favorite thing. So large, so unaware of their size. Such a strange route to evolution, where the progenitor whale went back into the sea, rather than staying in the ocean depths.

The angle this book takes isn’t one that’s strictly about whales. It’s about these gentle giants in concert with both the human world and the natural world. How much we can learn about climate change can also be elucidated from examining their biology. Captivating, anecdotal, and quite funny in places at the absurdity of man, I learn a little bit more with each new whale book I read.

Continue reading

Review: WE KEEP THE DEAD CLOSE: A Murder at Harvard and a Half Century of Silence by Becky Cooper

Genre: Adult True Crime Nonfiction
Year Release: 2020
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warning: Murder, sexual harassment, power imbalance, work place harassment, sexual assault

A murder at Harvard that’s been left unsolved for decades, the murder of Jane Britton is passed around as a bit of a ghost story, a poltergeist haunting the archaeology department. One undergrad, writer Becky Cooper, doesn’t want to leave it at that, and embarks on a quest to find the truth behind this brutal murder.

What unfolds in a eye-widening exploration of misogyny in academia, silencing on an institutional level, and frightening parallels between gender equality in the late 60’s/early 70’s and in the 2000’s.

Continue reading

Duo Review: THE PROJECT by Courtney Summers (2021) and THE ROAD TO JONESTOWN by Jeff Guinn (2017)

I read these books in close proximity to each other. After learning that the non-fiction was used as research for the fiction, I thought it would be neat to combine them.

The Project (2021) by Courtney Summers (left) and The Road to Jonestown: Jim Jones and Peoples Temple (2017) by Jeff Guinn

Cults are a subject that have fascinated true crime writers and fans for quite some time. From their deadly demises to the strategic and manipulative ways they entice people to their group, there is so much to examine, and so many opportunities for heart-break. In 2021’s The Project, Courtney Summers tells the story of a budding journalist, Lo, who tries to reconnect with her sister, Bea, who had been lost to a cult, The Unity Project. The rise of Lev Warren can be easily mapped onto the rise of Jim Jones and Peoples Temple in the 70s, a socialist organization which had a flimflam man who believed himself God at its center. Both books are chilling, heartbreaking, and compliment each other so well.

Continue reading

January 2021 Reading Recap

We made it through January 2021, the longest month in a while. I managed to read 18 different things, and thus, I am switching up the format of these recaps. I’m going to show a grid of each work by category with links to the reviews to read at your own leisure. Feedback appreciated.

This month’s author interview was with S.T. Gibson, to celebrate the release of her Dracula’s brides retelling, A Dowry of Blood.

Continue reading

Review: BRAIDING SWEETGRASS: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge, and the Teachings of Plants by Robin Wall Kimmerer (2016)

Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2016
Source: Library Audiobook

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook

The way science and traditional knowledge come together in this work is accessible and simply elegant. Botanist Robin Wall Kimmerer contextualizes her relationship with plants through the lens of Potawatomi culture.

It starts from her family history, to the misunderstanding between academia and her appreciation of plant life, to the specific experiences and research trips she coordinated, this wonderful read follows a central thesis that everything is symbiotic. It is up to us to see the exchange between people and nature, and the ways we can learn from each other.

Continue reading

ARC Review: A SWIM IN A POND IN THE RAIN: In Which Four Russians Give a Master Class on Writing, Reading, and Life by George Saunders (2021)

Genre: Nonfiction (Writing Craft)
Year Release: January 2021
Buy Links: Bookshop | Libro.fm | Unabridged Books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Read a NetGalley eARC

This is my first foray into nineteenth century Russian short stories and Saunders’ experience teaching them page-by-page shines through this craft book that is also a specific craft study. Saunders selected works by Chekhov, Turgenev, Tolstoy, and Gogol to explore how these stories work and the connections between readers and authors.

What really stuck out to me about this collection was the subjectivity of the analysis and the dispersal of advice. Saunders makes it abundantly clear that the reader is allowed to get out of this work what they will. Disagreement with his impressions is encouraged throughout, and he even used the page space to refer to his own evolving relationship with these works. The balance between analysis of each story and more zoomed-out writing advice and Saunders’ own insights play well together, and it kept me engaged from start to finish.

There are definitely bits that I am taking with me as far as the exercises go, and some of the adages of what makes great writing work. A recommended read for people who learn by example (like yours truly).

My 2020 in Reading

I read 153 books this year in a 50/50 split between audiobooks and other formats. Being unemployed helped that along, didn’t do much for me in terms of my mental health. But there were so many good reads consumed and published this year, I had to make two lists. Enjoy!

Continue reading

November 2020 Reading Recap

In November, I attempted NaNoWriMo, and I did not win. Which is fine. Work was wild. I’m not on any contractual deadline. I read a lot, but I feel like this month had more duds in it than usual. It happens.

Continue reading

October 2020 Reading Recap

In October, my friends and I went full spooky season and watched a new movie every weekend. By new, I mean, it was a different movie, but it happened to be new to at least one of us every time. Watching movies with friends is nice, don’t you know?

Started a new job this month, so reading has noticeably slowed down. Whoops.

Continue reading

Review: MY FRIEND ANNA: A True Story of a Fake Heiress by Rachel DeLoache Williams (2019)

Rating: 4/5 stars
Genre: Adult Nonfiction
Year Release: 2019
Source: Book of the Month Club

Content warnings: Alcoholism, suicidal ideation, panic attacksThis tale of toxic friendship and con-artistry opens with the narrator on what should have been an idyllic vacation in Morocco with friends. It quickly turns into a nightmare when credit cards decline and tough financial decisions to prevent more immediate problems arise.

I had vaguely heard of the story of Anna Delvey when it made the rounds on social media. Admittedly, I went into this tale expecting a ruckus tale of rich people shenanigans and extortion. I was pleasantly surprised with what this book actually is.

The level of self-reflection in this work is something else. You can easily see how Williams fell under Delvey’s spell, under the guise of trust that got taken advantage of. The mismatch of friendship expectation made this a slow read for me because even though it’s public knowledge how the cons ended. The pacing when Williams tries to get in touch with the increasingly distant Anna leaps off the page, especially given the plain presentation of their correspondence.

Much quieter than expected, but heart-aching and engaging nonetheless.