Staff Reads: February 8

Staff Reads: February 8

Staff Reads

Do you wonder what the Bookish team is reading? Do you want to take a peek at our bookshelves? You’ve come to the right place. Here are the Bookish staff’s personal weekend reading recommendations. Tell us what you think in the comments!

If you’re still looking for some inspiration, check out our Winter Previews for a look at the best books of the season.

Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah

I am reading the amazing story collection, Friday Black by Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah, who I’m excited to be in discussion with at this year’s Newburyport Literary Festival. These stories are an unflinching, necessary, and illuminating look at modern society where racism and capitalism intermingle and corrupt. This is a powerful debut from an author with staying power. —Myf

Kid Gloves: Nine Months of Careful Chaos by Lucy Knisley

I’m making my way through Lucy Knisley’s graphic memoirs, and this week I dove into her most recent release: Kid Gloves. This book follows Knisley’s struggle to get pregnant, her miscarriages, and the birth of her first child. It’s a deeply personal story and an emotional read. Like in her other books, Knisley weaves history into the stories of her own experiences. She talks about the origins of the natural birth movement while creating her own birth plan, and shares a harrowing story of a woman burned at the stake for requesting pain medicine. She points out that women’s history (how our minds, bodies, and autonomy have been treated through the ages) isn’t something that’s taught in schools. She also speaks to the challenges of existing in a world where that oft-untold history continues to impact women. This is a story of motherhood, but also of what it means to be a woman and how those two roles do and don’t intersect. It’s another insightful read from Knisley, and one I’d recommend to anyone who identifies as a woman. —Kelly

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

I recently read and loved The Hating Game by Sally Thorne, which you can read about in this Staff Reads post, and immediately picked up her newest book 99 Percent Mine. Since Bookish featured it as one of winter’s must-read romances, I knew it was going to be great. This book follows Darcy, who is self destructive by nature and has recently moved back home after her grandmother’s death. Her grandmother has left Darcy and her twin brother, Jamie, her house, so the two of them plan to fix it up and sell it. Those plans go awry when Tom Valeska, their childhood best friend and Darcy’s longtime crush, shows up–it turns out that Jamie hired him to be the contractor. Sparks fly as Darcy and Tom work on the house together and Darcy realizes she wants more than just the one percent of Tom she has. Sally Thorne is great at writing characters that have insane chemistry. Darcy and Tom are so messy in the best way: Even in their trainwreck moments, you root for them so hard. I can’t wait to read whatever rom-com Sally Thorne comes out with next! —Dana

The Soul of Power by Callie Bates

The Soul of Power brings us back to the rich world of political intrigue and magic created in The Waking Land and strengthened in the The Memory of Fire. The third book in the Waking Land series shifts the point of view yet again to a different narrator, this time to Sophy Dunbarron, the newly crowned monarch over the previously divided lands of Eren and Caeris. This shift takes a fresh new look at the world from the perspective of a ruler who is struggling to deal with the politics of conflicting national identities and the plight of refugees who are feared and misunderstood. It also explores what happens when an all-powerful character disappears and the world that was brought together by her power starts to fall apart. This engaging series also explores complex familial and personal issues as it concludes. —Susan

A Gentleman Never Keeps Score by Cat Sebastian

Cat Sebastian’s romances are enchanting. She’s a master at populating her books with characters you’ll love spending time with. This one focuses on the love between Hartley Sedgwick, a white gentleman with reclusive tendencies, and Sam Fox, a black pub owner and former boxer. As the two grow closer, Hartley begins to heal from abuse in his past and Sam, who has spent much of his life caring for others, learns what it’s like to let someone care for him in return. These two, along with a wonderful supporting cast (including a three-legged dog!) stole my heart. —Kelly

A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer

IF YOU LOVE YA FANTASY READ THIS BOOK. SORRY FOR SHOUTING AT YOU. Actually not sorry. A Curse so Dark and Lonely was utterly fantastic. This novel follows Harper Lacy, a young girl from our world who was born with cerebral palsy. One night when she is acting as lookout for her brother, she sees a girl being kidnapped. Harper immediately tries to stop it and ends up being taken to the fantasy land of Emberfall. Emberfall’s prince has been cursed and the only way he can break that curse is by finding true love. This is why Harper has been kidnapped by Prince Rhen’s commander Grey. As a “Beauty and the Beast” retelling, you know where the plot is going, but the magic of this story is in the characters. Harper is everything you want in a YA heroine and more. She fights for what she believes is right and is so courageous. She also never forgets her family. I loved seeing a main character who has a disability in a fantasy context. We need more characters like Harper so teens can see their disabilities represented and know that they are the hero of their story and the one on the page. Brigid Kemmerer handles the subject of disability really well: Harper does have her hindrances but her limited mobility never stops her from trying. Prince Rhen is the tortured soul that you expect from this story, but he’s never an asshole. He does learn from Harper in a way that most beast characters never do. Then there is Grey, who I didn’t expect to fall in love with, who was the unsung hero of the story. I love the chemistry between Harper and Grey. I can’t wait to see more of him in the sequel. Seriously, go pick up this gem of a book! —Dana

Cat’s Cradle by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve continued on with my exploration of Kurt Vonnegut. Having just finished and found myself truly enamored with Player Piano, I moved onto the others that were available at my library, not following any specific order. I just finished Cat’s Cradle and it was incredible. I LOVED it. Genius. Ice-Nine? The characters? Bokononism? The absurdism, the cynicism, the dark satire? I loved it all. I found that the story was relevant today as seems to be Vonnegut’s thing. His work feels timeless in an eerie way. One of my favorite quotes from this book: “I’m not a drug salesman. I’m a writer.” “What makes you think a writer isn’t a drug salesman?” —Jon

Stolen Time by Danielle Rollins

Earlier this week I had the pleasure of moderating a conversation between authors Danielle Rollins and Alyssa Sheinmel at powerHouse Arena. To prepare, I first dove into Rollins’ latest, a novel packed with twists and turns that follows a girl who accidentally becomes a time traveler. Dorothy stows away on a plane to escape her impending wedding, only to disembark and discover that she’s traveled from 1913 to 2077. As she formulates her next move, Dorothy joins up with the pilot, Ash, and the rest of his crew. Raised by her mother to be a con artist, Dorothy is reluctant to trust the group she finds herself with, but working with them may be the only way to finally take her destiny into her own hands. It’s the first in a series, and the ending left me immediately wanting to know where Dorothy’s adventures take her next. —Kelly

Passion & Ink by Naima Simone

I haven’t read any of Naima Simone’s books before, but when I saw this one and read the description, I immediately picked it up and then promptly read the entire thing in one sitting. Passion & Ink is the second in the Sweetest Taboo series, and while I didn’t read the others, I was able to dive right into the story of Jude and Cypress. Cypress has recently moved back home to help take care of her mom. After being fired for putting in a complaint about sexual harassment from her boss, she takes a new job in a bar. She runs into Jude at work, and they end up having a passionate one-night stand. But things change when Cypress goes to her estranged father’s house for dinner and realizes Jude is her stepbrother. For being such a tropey romance, I found this to be really well handled and well written. I really enjoyed the family drama and the elaborate backstory, but wish there had been more about Cypress and Jude as kids. It felt so strange that the author didn’t dig deeper there. I also didn’t love that two female characters were portrayed as obsessive crazy women. It just rubbed me the wrong way, especially for Cypress’ mother. I don’t think the father was held accountable in the same way, even though he was a cheater and abandoned his family. Because he married Jude’s mom and stuck by her, that apparently made him decent. Overall, this was a fun read that fans of tropey romances will enjoy despite its faults. —Dana

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut

Continuing my Kurt Vonnegut kick, I read The Sirens of Titan. I thought it was an amazing book. The message I got from it was that life is meaningless so just enjoy it. Ha, I sort of already knew that but thanks for the reminder Kurt! “I was a victim of a series of accidents. As are we all.” was a quote that left a big impression on me. Is this book a tragedy, a comedy? Both? Who cares, it spoke to me on many, many levels. The Sirens of Titan had amazing characters, unexpected twists, a plot that made no sense but then fell together, and plenty of relevant “human condition” stuff. This was my first take on Vonnegut’s science fiction, and I’m not usually a big fan of the genre but it totally worked for me this time. I wish Wes Anderson and Kurt Vonnegut could have been friends and partnered up on putting some of these books to the big screen. —Jon


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