Staff Reads: January 18

Staff Reads: January 18

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.

Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe was among one of the most talked-about books of 2018. After I read her debut, The Song of Achilles, I dove into Circe with delight. You don’t have to read the previous book to enjoy Circe—it’s a stand-alone novel all about the goddess-witch of Aeaea. Circe tells her own tale, revealing her difficult childhood as the daughter of the Titan Helios. As readers, we’re taken carefully through her relationships with her parents and siblings, her first mortal love, and her relationships with the various sailors who visit her on Aeaea, including the famed Odysseus. As in Song of Achilles, Miller does an exceptional job of demonstrating how a person’s experiences shape them, and how a cruel witch may gain such a reputation. —Kristina

Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes

I have been listening to Linda Holmes’s podcast, Pop Culture Happy Hour for years. It’s gotten me through building Ikea furniture and through particularly bleak political moments. So naturally, I’ve been eagerly anticipating her first novel. And it did not disappoint. Evvie Drake is a widow who finds herself renting out her spare apartment to Dean, a major league pitcher with a case of the yips. At first they agree that Evvie can’t ask Dean about baseball and Dean can’t ask Evvie about her husband. But that quickly falls apart as they spend more time with each other. Evvie Drake is about grief, loss, change, but also about friendships, non-biological families, and building the life you want for yourself. This story is so charming, and all the characters are a delight to spend time with. One of my favorite features of Evvie and Dean’s relationship is how it gives Evvie the boost to step into a new phase of her life in a way that doesn’t revolve completely around her romantic relationship. It’s a gentle story about characters who I loved spending time with. —Nina

Faithful Place by Tana French

Yes, I’m still on a Tana French kick. No, I’m not tired of her yet. I considered taking a break after finishing The Likeness because I was so engrossed by that book that I was sure that the next in the series couldn’t possibly be as gripping. I was wrong: I’ve been riveted by Faithful Place so far, and have really enjoyed getting to know Frank Mackey better. —Elizabeth

Betty and Veronica: Vixens by Jamie L. Rotante and illustrated by Eva Cabrera, Elaina Unger, and Rachel Deering

I’ve been reading Archie comics ever since I got hooked on Riverdale! Most recently I read Betty and Veronica: Vixens, one of many new spin-offs to the main line of new Archie comics. In this female-focused comic series, Betty and Veronica go up against the Southside Serpents, Riverdale’s infamous gang, and form their own girl gang, the Vixens, to defeat them. This book was all about standing up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. I liked that it focused on the amazing female characters of Archie, especially minor characters like Toni Topaz, Midge Klump, and Evelyn Evernever. Even when Archie comics focus on Betty and Veronica as characters, their story is usually centered on Archie. This was a breath of fresh air! Importantly, this story worked to devillainize certain female characters like Penny Peabody and Cheryl Blossom. You definitely have to suspend disbelief with this ride, but it is a fun change for the Archie line! —Dana

The Divided Earth by Faith Erin Hicks

I read the first book in Faith Erin Hicks’ Nameless City series when I was still new to graphic novels and I was blown away by the intricate worldbuilding, the expressive art, and the complex issues she was exploring. The book helped to spark a love of graphic novels and a passion for this fantastic middle grade trilogy. The series kicks off with the friendship between Rat, a citizen of the Nameless City, and Kai, whose people (the Dao) conquered the city. The Nameless City series comes to a thrilling close in The Divided Earth, where Rat and Kai fight against a new ruler and must decide what role they’ll play in the city’s future. Packed with a killer fight scene, new characters, and dastardly villains, there’s plenty of excitement in The Divided Earth, as well as poignant discussions of ingrained prejudices, politics, freedom, and more. Throughout the series, Hicks never underestimates the intelligence of her audience and doesn’t shy away from hard conversations about problems that don’t always have clear solutions, making this a trilogy I love recommending for middle grade readers. I’ve been hooked on these books for years, so it was an extra special treat to get to interview Faith Erin Hicks about this gorgeous finale. —Kelly

Caliban and the Witch by Silvia Federici

This book weaves together the history of witch hunts in medieval Europe and the transition from the commons to private property. The commons refers to land that was shared communally, like pastures that everyone in the village got to use to raise livestock. Federici argues that the witch hunts functioned as a way for the new capitalist class to demonize people, especially women, who lived at the fringes of society. It’s a fascinating and rigorous analysis of a historical time that I’m not too familiar with. Plus, it’s a great framework to give to the rise of witchcraft as a trend and as a source of power and community for marginalized folks today. Witchcraft has been a part of the battle for women’s bodily autonomy and knowledge for centuries! —Nina

Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert

Christmas may be over, but I still love nothing more than curling up with a holiday novella while the icy winds rage outside. I was inspired to pick up Talia Hibbert’s book after it was featured twice on Bookish (here and here), and I’m so glad I did. Merry Inkmas explores the growing attraction between barista Bailey Cooper and tattoo artist Cash Evans. Their past experiences with love prevent them from being truly open and vulnerable with each other, but along the way they slowly begin to let their walls down. I loved the story’s focus on the characters’ paths to healing, and how they were each forced to rethink their definition of what it means to be strong. The later part of the book takes place at Cash’s family home, and Hibbert did a fantastic job at showing how people transform when they’re in a safe place surrounded by people who love and support them. Plus, Bailey is the kind of geeky and confident heroine I adore. This was the first book I read by Hibbert, but it won’t be the last. —Kelly

Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut

I’ve just finished Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. First off, amazing read! I can see why this guy has a cult following. This was his first novel and I wanted to start there as he’s new to me despite the fact that I’ve read about him. I took it down in just a couple sittings; I simply couldn’t put it down. This book was written in 1952 and takes a dystopian view of automation and its ramifications, and it’s still relevant now. It touches on dignity, inequality and the human spirit’s yearning for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Player Piano also provides a look at the nature of oppression when a chosen few direct the masses as they see fit. It’s a prophecy of sorts in my humble opinion. The characters were brilliant, honest, and authentic. The writing is succinct and concise, the plot twists had just the right amount of predictability. The arc was delightful. The ending, satisfying, brilliant, realistic. I’ve already moved on to another one (Cat’s Cradle). I am about halfway through that and I have plans to complete the rest of his works as soon as I can. I’m officially addicted. I’m not sure why it’s taken me so long to read his stuff; perhaps I knew I had them in the bank for a rainy day. Well, I guess my rainy day came and I couldn’t be happier to dig in. Let it rain! In the figurative sense of course… —Jon

My Favorite Half-Night Stand by Christina Lauren

I can always count on Christina Lauren’s books to be fun, and My Favorite Half-Night Stand did not disappoint. This one follows Millie who has a great group of guy friends who are all professors. When they all need dates for an event, they turn to a dating app for help. The same night they make the pact to find dates, Millie and Reid have a one-night stand, further complicating things. When Millie struggles with her dating profile, she starts using her middle name and matches with Reid. There were so many aspects of this book that set it apart, from this great group of supportive male friends that Millie has to her difficulties with being vulnerable. Millie’s main struggle was that she couldn’t open up in person, but over email it was easier to share private details of her childhood. The dating app parts of this story were so relatable, and I loved the graphic elements of the messaging. When the friend group messaged each other, they each had profile photos that really helped set them apart from each other. If you are in need of a pick-me-up romance read, My Favorite Half-Night Stand is perfect! —Dana

Inferno by Dan Brown

I’m reading Inferno by Dan Brown. The mystery starts with our hero Robert Langdon in the hospital with gunshot wounds. He also has amnesia and doesn’t know why he is in Florence, Italy. The story has him running from the beginning, as his would-be assassin has followed him to the hospital and killed an ER doctor. He is whisked out of the hospital by another doctor and immediately must get his bearings. His only clue is that the violent events are somehow connected to Dante’s Divine Comedy. This book really is spellbinding, and as is the case with all Dan Brown novels, you feel as if you are a fly on the wall watching the story happen. He is one of my favorite authors. —Barb


  1. I’ve read all of Tana French’s books and can honestly say, she’s a great kick to be on. FAITHFUL PLACE is her second best, BROKEN HARBOR is her first.

    As for FAITHFUL PLACE, where to begin?

    The main character in FAITHFUL PLACE is Frank (Francis) Mackey. He is a flawed narrator. He’s also a detective.

    Faithful Place is a fictional neighborhood in Dublin, Ireland’s inner city. This is where Frank grew up and where, apparently, few ever leave. Frank is an exception. He left when he was 19 and cut ties to his family for 20 years.

    Now we’re with him as he investigates murders in Faithful Place, his old stomping grounds. These are not his cases, not his official business. But they’re his personal business, and the lead detective wants to wrap them up and call them solved. Frank knows they aren’t.

    This is such an exceptionally well-written character-driven thriller. Tana French describes the residents of Faithful Place so well, particularly the members of Frank’s family.

    Good sign: I dreamt about them.

    Another good sign: I was practically thinking with an Irish accent.

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