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In The Club

Interesting New Books

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

So Walmart was really acting out when they thought it was a good idea to not only “borrow” a Black-owned business’ ice cream flavor, but also repurpose it in “kente” colors and sell it for Juneteenth. It boggles my mind sometimes how such bad ideas are 1) shared with others 2) make it this far. The ice cream theft wasn’t enough, though, as they also appropriated AAVE phrases (“It’s the freedom for me”) in a glib ode to… Black people having freedom? I’m not sure. And honestly, I thought it was a joke when I first saw it, but it was very real and they’ve since issued an apology. This is why we can’t have nice things!

It’s not all bad, though. I learned about the Creamalicious brand, which is Black-owned and supposedly sold at Target.

As I scope out where to get this ice cream, let’s get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

Banana Pudding Cheesecake Bars

Just reading the name of these (Banana Pudding Cheesecake Bars) had me sputtering, and I really wonder where they have been all my life. Here is the guide to success!

I wouldn’t bother adding sugar to the crust, as the recipe calls for, and you may find it easier to puree the frozen bananas before adding them to the cream cheese.

A Dystopian, a Nonfiction, and a Contemporary

As far as my reading life goes, I have such a big list of advanced book copies I’d like to read that I keep not getting to. Which… has only made the list continue to grow. It’s because I seem to be in the habit of picking up something interesting, then putting it down for something else interesting and not coming back to the first book for awhile.

To combat my lack of finishing, I chosen books that stand out to me as super interesting and capable of keeping those of us with even the most flimsy attention spans engaged.

Cover of City of Orange by David Yoon

City of Orange by David Yoon

A man wakes up with poor memory, a bottle of painkillers, and little else. If I said this didn’t sound like he had gotten up from a really good nap, I’d be lying.

Well, it’s 2010 and much of the surrounding area where he is has been abandoned. He focuses on learning to survive, even as he struggles to remember his own name. One day a kid named Clay shows up, decidedly different from what you’d expect a kid to look in an apocalyptic California. He’s clean, for one, and it’s clear that he’s well taken care of. It also soon becomes clear, though, that Clay is not going to be too forthcoming with information. Slowly, the narrator explores his surroundings— finding odd things like a number of totems and a paper Christmas tree— and gets clues from Clay that help him piece together his memory. Things begin to make more sense, but there are also memories he would have rather stayed forgotten. The pace of this book is slower, but steady, and it’s more character than action driven.

cover of Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women's Suffrage Movement by Wendy L. Rouse

Public Faces, Secret Lives: A Queer History of the Women’s Suffrage Movement by Wendy L. Rouse

The movements for civil rights in America have been marred by respectability politics, which this book hopes to correct. It restores queer women’s position within the suffrage movement, showing how they were not only present, but also key players in helping women attain equal rights. What the movement achieved owes so much to the most marginalized amongst its ranks.

cover of half blown rose by Leesa Cross-Smith

Half-Blown Rose by Leesa Cross-Smith (May 31)

Vincent has been living it up in Paris. She strolls its streets as she wants, teaches at the modern art museum, and has a fab group of friends. It’s not all (half-blown) roses, though. She’s there because her husband recently published a book spilling all their marital tea, even confessing to a child he had and abandoned as a teenager. Her time in Paris is meant to be a get-it-together moment, and she’s fallen into a nice little routine. It gets interrupted, though, by young musician Loup, and how enamored with her he becomes. As Cillian, her husband, sends frequent apology letters, the attraction between Loup and her grows. She’ll eventually have to decide what her Paris stay will mean for her as far as the rest of her life is concerned.

Suggestion Section

Barnes &Noble Being Sued in Virginia

Worst Books of All Time!

Bookshelves To Buy Right Now

2 Kindles Face Off to See Which is Better

4 New Adaptations To Watch in May

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_. You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

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In The Club

Short Stories for May

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

Aziz, light!

Remember The Fifth Element? Well, it’s having its 25th anniversary and even playing in certain theaters. While it’s cute it’s having a moment, I don’t appreciate being told that it came out 25 years ago. Just rude. I will say that I must have seen it like 100 times as a kid. Literally. It has to be just about the most ridiculous spectacle of a movie I’ve ever seen— and I love it. Despite not having watched it in like ten years, I’m pretty sure I still know some parts verbatim. I might have to give it a rewatch soon, though, just to get some of those nostalgia-based brain chemicals going.

Now, on to the Club!

Nibbles and Sips

I love Indian food and one of my favorite dishes is saag paneer. For some reason I thought it was just beyond my abilities (probably something to do with homemade cheese I saw someone use once), but she actually looks pretty simple if you use tofu or feta cheese. Just make sure to use ground spices.

saag paneer

Just look at all that green!

Now for some books!

Short Stories by Asian Americans

The way my attention span is set up, I really appreciate a good short story. A part from that, though, I like how there have been so many authors who have gotten started in the field by first publishing short stories. I think it says a lot about the talent of a writer if they’re able to fit their entire story within a smaller word count. So, here are a few collections to highlight short story month.

book cover of Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So

The stories here can be extremely odd or endearing— or both! They follow the lives of Cambodian Americans, some of whom were born in the U.S., and some who have brought memories of the Khmer Rouge genocide with them. The refugees of Afterparties adapt to new lives in California while their children try to forge their own identities, contending with sexuality, race, and community along the way.

Cover of The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu

The Tangleroot Palace by Marjorie Liu

Women and queer people fight for agency, belonging, and love in a world full of hoodoo, body-stealing witches, and Amish vampires. The magic here gets real, and the dangerous women who wield it get even realer. The first story, for example, is about a girl in Kentucky who has no family and has to murder men with hoodoo because of the witch who threatens to take her soul. Sis is… going through a lot. Liu’s writing is lush and this collection, which ends with a novella, feels like an update on the original Grimm’s fairy tales.

Cover of The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories edited by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang

The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories, ed. by Yu Chen and Regina Kanyu Wang

This collection was written and edited by an award-winning team of female and nonbinary Chinese writers and has stories that haven’t been translated to English before. These science fiction and fantasy stories celebrate China’s rich culture while still looking to the future. There’s a restaurant at the end of the universe, a woman and her admirer who travel on the backs of giant fish so spring can bloom, and immortality that gets cultivated in the high mountains.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Remarkably Bright Creatures is Jenna Bush Hager’s May pick

The Candy House is Belletrist’s pick

Steph Curry has a book club at Literati, and May’s pick is Portrait of a Thief

Here are some Pacific Islander authors you should know about

Here’s an interesting and close read of the first line of Mrs. Dalloway


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_. You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

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In The Club

AAPI Month and Pulitzer Prize Winners Announced

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

So the Pulitzer Prizes were announced. It seemed a little out of nowhere, but here they are! I haven’t read any of the books, but I actually tend to like Pulitzer Prize winning books, so I’ll make sure to add them to my TBR. If you’re thinking, well duh, of course you usually like award-winning books, there has been a time when I didn’t, but I won’t get too shady about that… this time.

Anywho, it’s Asian American and Pacific Islander Heritage month! Of course, we read diversely all year round, but with AAPI month, it becomes clear that I could be doing a better job of reading and recommending books by Native Pacific Islander authors. Today’s books include a Pacific Islander author as well as other AAPI authors writing in different genres.

Nibbles and Sips

Years ago when I was sharing an apartment with a friend, she introduced me to “meatloaf” with lentils. I wasn’t used to eating lentils much, but this had put them on my radar. Enter today’s recipe, which has been really popular on TikTok lately. Vegan lasagna! I don’t have much experience with vegan cheese, but it looks pretty good here, and I’ve already been sold on lentils replacing meaty+ tomatoey things. Poppy offers up two videos, the first of which you can just use to make a lentil bolognese, while the second gets you more pasta action.

Now for the books!

Books that Highlight the AAPI Experience

cover of the magical language of others

The Magical Language of Others by E.J. Koh

When Koh was a teenager, her father was offered a really good position back in Korea, which he accepted. The plan was to leave her and her brother in California for three years while both her parents lived in Korea. Only, her father’s work contract kept extending, making Koh ultimately feel abandoned by her parents. After some years pass, Koh rediscovers the letters her mother had written to her in Korean when they were separate. In them, her begged her for love and to forgive her for leaving. As she sets to translating the letters, she revisits that time and others in her family’s history. She starts to see the experiences of the women in her family in new ways. The image of her mother becomes more nuanced and she begins to better understand her grandmother, who witnessed the 1948 Jeju Island massacre. Poetry further serves to help her work through her feelings of abandonment, as well as understand the intergenerational trauma present in her family.

Ocean's Kiss cover

Ocean’s Kiss by Lani Wendt Young

Telesa Vasa Loloa is the otherworldly guardian of the ocean and all of Oceania who was crafted by Tongan god Tangaloa. When the island of Niua is threatened, marine biologist Daniel Tahi has to make the decision to embrace the gods of his people, or risk letting the island succumb to an ancient danger. A mutual love of the sea may unite Daniel and Telesa, and hopefully save the island in the process.

cover of Dating Dr. Dil

Dating Dr. Dil by Nisha Sharma

It’s not that Kareena doesn’t believe in love, it’s just that she’d rather be restoring her classic car than actively searching for a partner. That is, until her father says he’s going to sell her mom’s house and she makes a deal with him. If she gets engaged in four months, he’ll give her the house. A wrench in her plans comes in the form of Dr. Prem Verma, who is the host of the Dr. Dil Show. They get into an argument that goes viral. Now she has a man in her life, but in the worst way. The viral argument doesn’t do Dr. Verma any favors, either, since it’s messed up his plans for getting the funding to build a local community center. Kareena’s aunts come out of the cut and offer him funding for the center if only he can convince her that they were meant to be together. This is enemies-to-lovers that gets a little spicy. IYKYK.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Censorship news: Idaho rep claims libraries are trying to destroy families

Science fiction and fantasy books coming out this month!

The Dictionary of Lost Words is Reese’s May pick

Trust by Hernan Diaz is NYPL’s pick

Bono is publishing his memoir this fall


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_. You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

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In The Club

New Bookish Books!

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

Well, I went to see the sports in Philly this past week and it was… cool. I wasn’t super impressed, but it definitely wasn’t terrible, either. I might have enjoyed it more if the sun/shade situation was better. Depending on how the sun hit, or didn’t hit, the arena, I would either be cold and shivering or cooking under the sun. And parking was a mess! I will say, though, that it was nice to see whenever the athletes were particularly proud of themselves, and how the crowd would cheer on people who were struggling a bit.

The best part of my Philly trip, though, was when I got to kiki with Jenn from Book Riot (who used to write this newsletter) and her partner! She made these delicious, bougie margaritas from scratch, which we drank in her back yard as we talked mess and reminisced about cats. So, obviously I’m gonna need to pull up to Philly a few more times…

The past few days have been cute, but then Tuesday had to come around and slap me with the threat to overturn Roe v. Wade, which I had no idea was this close to happening. I hate it here sometimes. Please take a look at this article from Anti-Racism Daily for more info and how you can help. And here’s a list of books on the topic for more reading.

With that said, let’s raise our spirits back up a bit and head to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

I went to brunch with a friend while I was in Philly and had vegan chicken and waffles + tropical mimosas, both of which were pretty good. It got me thinking about how I would like to experiment more with vegan chicken recipes, so here’s one if you’d also like a go at it. Here’s a meat option for those who prefer chicken.

Now for some books!

Books on Books on Books

I feel like I’ve been noticing more books being published lately that are book related— meaning they’re about writers, the publishing industry, or take place in a library. It’s always fun seeing bookishness in novels, and these were recently released.

THE CARTOGRAPHERS Cover

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd

Nell Young’s father, Dr. Young, ain’t ish. While he’s a legend in the field of cartography, he coldly fired his daughter Nell after a disagreement over what seemed at the time to be a basic gas station map. Since destroying his daughter’s reputation, Dr. Young has turned up dead in his New York Public Library Office with the very same map hidden in his desk. Naturally, Nell is curious and starts to investigate. Turns out, the map wasn’t so basic after all, and is in fact quite rare. What’s more, the map is connected to some secrets in her family and she learns of a group called the Cartographers who are willing to kill to get the map. There are some great twists, turns, and a little magic as Nell unravels the secret.

Book Club Bonus: What did you think of the reveal? Do you feel like it was plausible? Also, how did you feel about the addition of maps throughout the book?

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory cover

By the Book by Jasmine Guillory

This is a retelling of Beauty and the Beast and the second in a new series being published by Disney’s first adult publishing project. The first, a Cinderella retelling, was If the Shoe Fits by Julie Murphy. Here, Isabelle has succumbed to the quarter-life crisis I’ve noticed a lot of millennials going through. Although, I think she’s technically Gen Z, so it’s their turn, I guess.

In either case, she’s simply not where she thought she’d be at the age of twenty-five. She’s back at home with her parents and working a suffocating publishing job that doesn’t pay her enough. It also seems to be stifling her ability to become a writer, and she constantly feels doubt about whether she should speak up or silence herself as the only Black person at her publishing house. Then, she sees an opportunity to stand out at work. If she can wrangle troublesome celebrity writer Beau Towers and convince him to finish his book, maybe she can make her job less depressing. Once she finds out where he’s been hiding, she convinces him to let her stay with him to encourage him to finish writing. She realizes that Beau is actually dealing with some issues, and it turns out they have things in common. Romance readers will appreciate the sunshine/grumpy and forced proximity tropes.

Side note: I don’t know about you, but I totally did not see Disney publishing a contemporary, adult fairy tale retelling, but I’m not mad in the least.

Book Club Bonus: Beauty and the Beast has been called out by some for being problematic for encouraging women to accept and try to change toxic behavior in relationships. Discuss aspects of the story you liked and didn’t like and how this book improved or could be improved. How does it stand up to critics of the original fairy tale?

Book Lovers by Emily Henry cover

Book Lovers by Emily Henry

Nora is a great lover of books and a cutthroat literary agent who prides herself on getting great deals for her clients. When her sister Libby wants to take a trip to a small town as a little getaway, Nora goes, but comes across Charlie, an editor who seems to keep brooding in her general direction. He also has the nerve to be cute and funny. Pah! Charlie and Nora are two big city-loving people stuck in a small town for the time being, and have all this great, witty banter between them. As something starts to develop between them, Nora starts to give more much needed attention to the relationship with her sister.

Book Club Bonus: I liked how Nora isn’t a “typical” romance heroine, with her expensive shoes and assertive personality. Discuss what you think of how, many times, romance heroines have a “softer” personality than Nora’s.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

CATS IN BOOKSTORES

You may know about cyberpunk, but what about post cyberpunk?

Cute, queer YA books like Heartstopper

Quiz: which American Girl Doll are you?

Oprah stands by her decision to keep American Dirt in her book club after the book was criticized for being too trauma focused, and about a Latine family but written by a white woman


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_. You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

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In The Club

Earth Day for More Days on Earth

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

This past Friday the 22nd was Earth Day, so I’m a little late on this. To be honest, I kind of forgot, but was reminded by Slovenia electing an environmentalist prime minister over a populist one! I don’t know much about Slovenian politics apart from Melania T. being from there (lol), but it was refreshing news to hear after seeing how close the French election was (41% is too high!) and Elon Musk. *heavy sigh*

Oh, and then there are the micro plastics I keep hearing about. We could all do with some more Slovenian voting practices. Ijs.

Now, let us get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

There was a restaurant by my apartment in the DMV area that I worked at for 2.5 seconds right before the pandemic started, which I’m sure you know means I didn’t work there long. Despite not caring for the working-in-a-restaurant life, I had chosen to work there part-time because it was really close, the people seemed cool, there was a bookstore and barista area, and they had a lot of vegan choices on the menu. If you’re curious or in the area, they’re called Busboys and Poets (named after Langston Hughes, who worked as a busboy at one point).

This is a long-winded way of telling you that I’ve been thinking about their vegan sweet potato pancakes lately and thought I’d share a recipe by Jenné from Sweet Potato Soul. It uses spelt flour, which is more sustainable as it requires less environmentally damaging things, like pesticides and irrigation, to grow.

Now for some earth-friendly books!

Mindset Shifters and Calls to Action

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg cover

No One Is Too Small to Make a Difference by Greta Thunberg

This is a collection of the young activist’s speeches. At 15, Greta decided to skip school in Sweden to protest climate change. She’s been protesting ever since and has even been nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize. One thing I, and many others, appreciate about the little sis Greta— a part from her tenacity— is her straightforward manner of speaking. She doesn’t beat around the bush and is just very real about the situation we’re in.

“I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act. I want you to act as you would in a crisis. I want you to act as if our house is on fire. Because it is.”

Where’s the lie?

What’s cool about this little collection is that it clocks in at just 112 pages, so you’ll have extra time to watch the documentary I Am Greta after.

The Intersectional Environmentalist cover

The Intersectional Environmentalist by Leah Thomas

I’ve noticed how a certain group of people have started using the term “woke” as a pejorative. To me, it’s a very obvious and defensive response to a demand of accountability after there hasn’t been any for so long. You ever come across people like this and wish you had a more concise way of telling them why they’re wrong, or even explaining to anyone why “environmentalism, racism, and privilege” are inextricably linked? Here’s a primer just for that. It’s also for everyone interested in learning how best to show up for the planet. Thomas shows not only how BIPOC people are the most affected by environmental injustices, but also how truly fighting for the environment involves fighting for civil rights. What was that about an injustice anywhere being a threat to justice everywhere?

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta cover

Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Save the World by Tyson Yunkaporta

This one is a little different as it’s not just about the environment, but rather everything and the environment. Sustainability isn’t viewed as a separate thing to be worked on. Yunkaporta uses the wisdom of his Aboriginal elders to show that it’s something that could already be woven into our everyday lives if we adopt some other ways of thinking.

A few years ago, I was studying for a standardized test for grad school and there was a passage in the book I was using to study that showed how colonialism in America ruined the environment, the effects of which we can still see today (like in the Antarctic ice cores!). I was super surprised I’d never heard about it before then, but knowing it now makes me that much more receptive to Yunkaporta’s premise here. A lot of us in North America live within a culture that is rooted in a mindset that led people to rejecting and leaving their own land to destroy another. With that in mind, how could our culture be one that is inherently sustainable? It makes sense to learn about how to live in better harmony with the land from people who have been living with their lands for thousands of years (it’s estimated to be about 65,000 years).

Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America by Peter Wohlleben  and Jane Billinghurst  cover

Forest Walking: Discovering the Trees and Woodlands of North America by Peter Wohlleben and Jane Billinghurst

This is another book about trees that this pair has worked on. Here, forester Wohlleben and editor Billinghurst share poetic observations on forests in North American they’ve visited, making the case of how we should spend more mindful time outside amongst the trees. We should go for walks, forage, and even become “forest detectives” who know things like what path water takes in a given landscape and the frequency of fire. By using all five senses when we’re in nature like this, the authors believe we will come to appreciate it more and find adventure more often.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Oprah has chosen Viola Davis’ new book Finding Me as her next book club pick

The winners of the LA Times Book Prizes are revealed

Remember the Own Voices label? Wanna know what happened to it?

Here are some great queer novels set outside the U.S., the U.K., and Canada

A list of books like Wes Anderson movies

And, thee great Millennial novels (so far)


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_. You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

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In The Club

How On Trend Are You, Book-Wise?

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

This year is just a zoomin’ by. Yes, I know I’ve said it a couple times, but that’s because it’s still a thing! It just doesn’t feel like it should be Easter time yet, but the memes/gifs on Twitter joking about how people would have come out of the tomb if they were Jesus have been sending me.

Then there was this article by The Guardian, which got me thinking about upcoming book trends and current ones.The Guardian is based in the U.K., but I feel like some of North America’s book trends overlap with the ones mentioned in the article. I listed a few of them + book suggestions below.

With that said, let’s get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

pear, brie, and walnut flatbread
so pretty

I was always a big fan a certain chain restaurant’s pear and blue cheese flatbread, but won’t name names lest y’all think I’m basic. I also used to work there and it was… not always the best. I still love that flatbread, though, so here’s something similar! For some reason, I rarely think to make pizza things fresh, but fresh dough and flatbreads are readily available! The one used here is an already baked flatbread, but of course you can choose something else. And I would swap out the thyme for arugula, use candied pecans instead of walnuts, put less pear, and leave off the prosciutto, but you do you!

Now for some books!

Temporary Trends or Here to Stay?

What do you think of the trends? Have you found yourself following them already? Are they a sort of artificial thing (based on what’s being published) or more organic (based on things happening)? Discuss.

1. Fiction by celebrities

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse

So Kareem Abdul-Jabbar gets to be an NBA star, be in movies with Bruce Lee, and write Sherlock Holmes-adjacent books?! I’m not mad at it. Here, Sherlock’s brother Mycroft is newly out of college and already starting to get noticed within the British government. His world gets shaken up, though, when his friend Cyrus Douglas starts hearing about these weird things happening back home in Trinidad. There are disappearances and talks of children being led away by a lougarou (basically a werewolf) to their deaths. Mycroft and Douglas go there to get to the bottom of it.

2. Books about Ukraine

I Will Die in a Foreign Land by  KALANI PICKHART cover

I Will Die in a Foreign Land by Kalani Pickhart

In February 2014, Ukrainian police fired into a crowd of demonstrators, killing dozens. The protestors had been gathering for months at that point to speak out against President Yanukovych’s siding with Russia at the expense of other alliances. This book centers around Ukraine that winter by following four people: engineer Misha, who lost his wife; Slava, a young activist; Katya, a doctor treating protestors at a monastery; and Aleksandr, an ex KGB agent. The four people’s lives intersect during this time of unrest, and the story is told by a chorus of Ukrainian singers who were killed by the Russian czar. Yeah, it’s a lot in the best way.

3. Greek myths

Oreo by Fran Ross

Oreo by Fran Ross

The titular character is raised by her grandparents in Philly because her Black mother is perpetually touring with a theatre troupe, and her Jewish father has just always been gone. When she comes of age, she sets out to find her father in NYC based on a clue he left behind hinting at some grand mystery regarding her birth. This is a retelling of the myth of Theseus and the Labyrinth and is described as a funny, “feminist picaresque.” It’s a satire that’s as humorous as it is scathing.

4. Darker Women’s stories

Book Cover for Woman, Eating

Woman, Eating by Claire Kohda

Lydia is 23, fresh out of art school, annnd a vampire. We meet her as she’s all set to start adulting in London, having just placed her mother in a nursing home. Except it seems like nothing is really working out for her. Her internship isn’t a paying one, she’s down bad for a guy who’s dating someone else, and she can’t find fresh pig blood (her blood of choice). So she’s hungry. All. The. Time. Her solution is to stay in her studio apartment, alternating between watching videos of people eating on YouTube and episodes of Buffy the Vampire Slayer (lulz). She longs to feel a connection to other people so many experience through food that she can’r eat, and she has to work through trauma from abuse, disordered eating, and feeling isolated to be her best self.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Indigenous poets you should know

Amerie’s April selection is Unlikely Animals

It’s not looking good, y’all: Kentucky hands over control of public libraries to politicians

How much do you know about Afrofuturism?


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_. You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

Categories
In The Club

Reclaiming Our Time

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

So my friend has convinced me to go to a sports-ball event in Philly (by “convinced” I mean to say he said several times there would be food lol) which should be… interesting. I know nothing about track and field, or any sports if you couldn’t tell, but I think it’ll be nice to experience.

As I prepare to be around strangers outside for the first time in a while, let’s get to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

You’ve heard of a pineapple upside down cake, but what about a blackberry one? I’ve been craving and eating a lot of blackberries lately and was looking at some recipes with them. I love pineapple upside down cake, so this seemed like an interesting thing to try. This recipe also calls for pears, which I think mimic the texture of pineapples when baked into cake a little more.

Now for some books!

Women in Law

Ketanji Jackson was confirmed as the first Black woman on the U.S. Supreme Court this past Thursday. This is such a major step in having the people who run the U.S. government actually representing what its citizens look like and experience, but my has it been a time getting to this point (with still more work to do!). I thought it would be nice to discuss some books by or about the women pushing for vital change in our government.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss specific changes brought about by each woman once they were appointed their positions. Also, talk about the general attitudes surrounding each woman that you’ve noticed in your everyday conversations. These women made history or were close to doing so (as in the case of Stacey Abrams, who would have been the first Black female governor when she ran), discuss how this influences public opinion of them compared to their male counterparts.

our time is now stacey abrams cover

Our Time Is Now by Stacey Abrams

Voter suppression is somehow still an issue in this country and Stacey Abrams has been vehemently fighting against it in her state of Georgia. Here, she confers with experts and scholars and offers her own experiences on how to empower citizens and bring voter suppression to an end. I feel like watching the work she’s been doing in Georgia has made people see how much power there can be in organizing. I also think it’s pretty cool how she writes thrillers like While Justice Sleeps. We stan a versatile Queen!

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by  Jane Sherron De Hart

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Life by Jane Sherron De Hart

RBG! This book took 15 years to write, and Ginsburg as well as her friends and family were consulted throughout. It details the life of the 107th Supreme Court Justice, showing how influential the Justice was on laws, which was in part because of her unique perspective and experience as a Jewish American, Columbia Law student, and Rutgers professor fighting gender pay discrimination.

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor

Sotomayor was the first Latinx person and third woman to be elected to the Supreme Court. In this autobiography, she recounts her life growing up in housing projects in the Bronx and her struggles with having a father dealing with alcoholism. She even had her own struggles with health when she was diagnosed with junior diabetes. Despite not having many professional role models to look up to, she made up her mind to become a lawyer and went on to basically be The Best, graduating from Princeton and Yale Law School with top honors. An icon, in other words.

I’ve mentioned it already, so I give an extensive blurb here again, but Civil Rights Queen by Tomiko Brown-Nagin is also one to pick up.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Queer poetry collections!

An article on the history of Nazi book burning

Here are the most popular fantasy books on TikTok

Danika makes the case for a variety of queer representation


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_. You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

Categories
In The Club

Exciting New Reads for Spring

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

How has this new month met you? I often complain about how fast the time seems to be going by (which I still think is true!), but I am also excited it’s April and how pretty outside is going to start looking soon. Although, I’m not excited about these new allergens that are awakening. I was just getting used to the winter ones! *sobs in Flonase-Claritin combo*

I am feeling these new releases, however, which are plentiful. So let’s get into a few, shall we?

On to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

I will confess that I haven’t tried this recipe for frozen yogurt bark yet, but I have been eating these ingredients a lot lately in parfaits. A Greek yogurt-blueberry-strawberry-honey-nuts situation has been getting me through some of these mornings. So I thought, those things should work together but frozen, right? Right. I think they will. We’re gonna try it.

Now for the books!

Some Sci fi, Some Magic, Some Family Tragedy

cover of Memphis by Tara Stringfellow, featuring illustrations of four Black women sitting amongst grass and flowers

Memphis by Tara Stringfellow

For the first few years of my life, we lived a few hours from Memphis. Then, when I was a teenager, we moved to a town just half an hour drive from it. I also have a good college friend from there. Basically, what I’m saying is that I’ve been anxiously awaiting this book and I feel like I know the women in it.

Here, Joan, her sister, and her mother go back to their family’s home in Memphis, TN in the mid ’90s to escape her abusive father. The house they returned to was built by her grandfather, who was lynched 70 years prior. This wouldn’t be the last time violence touched Joan’s family, and the trauma from all these experiences manifest within the generations in different ways through the years. As an artist, Joan channels this trauma through her portraits of the women of North Memphis. The narrative travels through time to paint a full, and at times heartbreaking, picture of a Black, Southern family.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss Joan’s mother’s decision to move her daughters back into a house where she knew abuse had taken place.

Sea of Tranquility cover

Sea of Tranquility by Emily St. John Mandel 

A couple characters from Mandel’s The Glass Hotel make an appearance here, but it’s not necessary to read it before picking this one up. Mandel weaves together the stories of several people who all hear a brief moment of notes from a violin, followed by a whooshing sound. Weird, right? What’s weirder is that these people inhabit different times— a teenager is exiled from his rich, British family in 1912, a composer plays a video his late sister shot during a concert in 2020, and an author writes a pandemic novel and lives on the moon in 2203. The Time Institute of the year 2401 sends an investigator back in time to sort out the glitch that made all these people experience the same thing at different times. It sounds like a lot of moving pieces, but the narratives complement each other, coming together to make some interesting observations on existence and even pandemic living.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss investigator’s Robert’s findings. Do you think it tied the narratives together well? What do you think Mandel is trying to say about reality?

cover of The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

The Candy House by Jennifer Egan

This is a follow-up to Egan’s A Visit from the Goon Squad  and has a few familiar characters and their children. This is another case where you don’t really have to have read the first book, though. Here, Bix is a super rich tech guy (think of one of the CEOs or founders of Twitter/Facebook/etc., except he’s Black) and develops a new platform that can hold your consciousness called “Own Your Unconscious.” Naturally, this develops into “Collective Consciousness” where people can upload their memories, which allows them to share with others who have done the same thing. As cringe as it sounds, it also low-key sounds likely to happen. Not everyone is down with sharing consciousnesses, though, and a movement rises up to counter it. Egan uses a number of different view points and chapters that have totally different narrative styles to explore just how far this social media thing can, and will, go.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss how likely you think the premise is. Do you think the platforms are possible, and if so, do you think people will really be as enthusiastic?

the cover of Vagabonds!

Vagabonds! by Eloghosa Osunde

The stories in this collection are gathered and told by the spirits of Lagos, Nigeria. This chorus of spirits see all of the abuse and suffering going on as a result of homophobia and sexism, and people unwilling to conform to society’s rules. These outcasts, or vagabonds, in these stories are the poor, queer people who are used up by the rich with seemingly no consequences. There is hope, though. Osunde’s Lagos has devils and spirits that avenge and protect abused girls, teenagers reading about queer love and finding hope in Akwaeke Emezi novels, and a mysterious power that lets abused women find absolute escape. As gritty and real as the stories can get, the inherent magic of the Vagabonds give the city, and the collection of stories, its beauty.

Book Club Bonus: Discuss the story “Johnny Just Come” and what parallels Johnny’s predicament has to not speaking out on other issues.

Suggestion Section

Memphis is Jenna Bush Hager’s pick for April

Call Us What We Carry is the L.A. Times April Book Club pick

True Biz is Reese’s April pick

Don Cheadle won a Grammy for Audiobook Narration

Oscar-nominated ‘Flee’ to be adapted as YA graphic novel

How much do you know about Joan Didion?

Jess Plummer always writes such interesting articles on comics/ the history of comics. Check out her latest on the whitewashing that is still going on in the industry.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

Categories
In The Club

Chaos for Your Book Club

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

How have you been choosing books for your club these days? Or even for yourself? Cassie Gutman over here at BR suggested letting loose a little and choosing books in more random ways. I always like challenges like these, even ones that don’t pertain to books, because they usually force me out of my comfort zone and make me find something new that I genuinely like.

So! I’ve chosen a few prompts to follow from Cassie’s list and included which books they led me to below. It’s definitely a cute thing to do for your next book club meetup.

Now, on to the club!

Nibbles and Sips

I saw a recipe for cereal bowl cookies and it reminded me of the birthday cake truffles (and cereal milk ice cream!!) I would stand in line for at Milk Bar in NYC. Here’s a recipe by Alvin Zhou to make your own! The ingredients list is fairly simple, and is mostly things like flour, sugar, Rice Krispies, and yogurt.

Now on to the books!

Let the Chaos Begin!

Elmo fire meme
There are only a few times throughout the week that I feel this meme represents my life…. okay, only a few times a day…

I picked just a few options from the list that stood out to me. I think I got some good selections!

3. Pick your favorite animal. Now search for only books with that animal in the title or featured on the cover. (If you chose cats, for example, here’s a whole quiz about cat books you can start with. If you chose ocelots, it may be a bit more difficult to find those.)

cover of The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

The Cat Who Saved Books by Sosuke Natsukawa

So, I wasn’t just mimicking the example animal in the prompt, cats are actually my favorite animals. People who know me know I love all animals, but love-love cats. I got into a random conversation with a stranger a couple days ago (in person, which is kind of weird for me these days) and they were saying how they thought that cats were especially suited to people with lots of books since they are small and quiet (usually!). I’ve also noticed a lot of bookish people having cats rather than dogs, so I feel like ole dude was on to something. Anywho, Japan also loves cats , especially cats who love books because this book is about a cat named Tiger who pops up into socially withdrawn high schooler Rintaro’s life after his grandfather dies. As he’s in the process of mourning for his plain spoken, book loving grandfather, he’s also tasked with running his grandfather’s bookstore and preparing to go live with an aunt he’s never met. With Tiger, he goes on a quest that rivals those of mythological heroes and involves rescuing books from people who don’t seem to fully appreciate them. He learns some valuable life lessons along the way.

4. Have you heard about those people who read the last page of a book first? Try it! See if it grabs you. Does it make you wonder what the rest of the book is like? This is more common than some other methods on this list, but is a great starting point if you’d like to try mood-picking your book. 

cover of Sorrowland by river solomon

Sorrowland by Rivers Solomon

The last page (which is just a paragraph in the edition I came across) is f i r e. I’ll include it in the next paragraph with a spoiler warning, if you’re interested.

This is about Vern, who is pregnant with twins when she escapes from a cult and the only life she’s ever known. She hides out in the woods, killing animals as necessary and dressing her newly born babies in their hides. As she tries to survive, she realizes she’s being hunted and followed by ghosts. The superhuman changes going on in her body point her towards a truth that involves exposing the secrets of the compound she left and the horrors of how the U.S. has objectified Black bodies.

**major spoiler alert**

Here is the last page, which I think makes a good argument for reading the rest of the book:

“They both sat down, sweaty arm to sweaty arm. They remained until the woods were black but for the patches of moonlight. They remained until they could hear the night calls of one thousand living things, screaming their existence, assuring the world of their survival. Vern screamed back.”

Whew!

6. Ask a mortal enemy what their favorite book is. Alternatively, ask a BFF what their least favorite book is. Read either, and report your own review back to them. 

cover of great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

I don’t know anyone in real life who has a mortal enemy, but what a spicy life to live! Anyway, I asked my good friend what his least favorite book was and he said The Great Gatsby. Annnnd, I totally see where he’s coming from. He’s a program coordinator at a public library in Jersey City and he led a book club discussion through the library a few months ago where we discussed the book. When I read it a second time as an adult, I was able to find things I actually appreciated about it. Mostly, I think it’s great for providing a snapshot into what American life was like for a certain group of people in the ’20s. It also gives such great (and damning) insight into the concept and construction of whiteness. So much so, that I feel that the attitudes portrayed by the rich and white characters in the book can be directly tied to many attitudes held today.

9. Head to your music library or streaming service and select “shuffle” without clicking on any specific song or band. Whichever song plays, select a book you think pairs with the ~ vibes ~ of the music. 

Luster by  Raven Leilani

Luster by Raven Leilani

A pleasant consequence of following some of these instructions is the other things you discover. This made me use the “shuffle” function on Spotify, which I never had before. I basically just asked it through a voice command to “play something” and the first song it played was No Love by Summer Walker, featuring SZA (who I LOVE) and Cardi B. Once I got a gist of what the song was about and its general vibes, I immediately thought of Luster.

The book is about Edie, a Black twenty-something year old artist who is just trying to make it. Once she finds herself without her admin job, she starts to live with her lover who’s twice her age and in an open marriage. She realizes that part of the reason she’s been invited into their lives is to help their Black adopted daughter, Akila, become more adjusted. The dynamics of the four people— Edie, her lover, his wife, and their daughter— is just as odd and interesting as you could imagine as it constantly juggles power, sex, and race.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!


Suggestion Section

Roxane Gay reveals first books at her new imprint

This is an interesting look at mental illness and Batman

Some of the best murder mysteries

An article on an author’s search history, which also might make one suspicious to the police 👀


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

-E

Categories
In The Club

A New Gothic Gathering

Welcome to In The Club, a newsletter of resources to keep your book group well-met, well-read, and well-fed.

I noticed a few really good gothic novels coming out soon and wanted to highlight a few of them (as well as one that came out just a few months ago). While I was assembling this list, I noticed a lot of them were written by women. This could very well be some unknown bias on my part (I may have succumbed to targeted marketing!), but it might also be something else. There has actually been a lot of discourse on how women have used gothic literature as a way to voice their anxieties concerning expectations of women when it comes to domesticity, and how they’ve been doing so since at least the 18th century. Ellen Moers coined the term “Female Gothic” to describe just that.

Maybe they were comfortable questioning the status quo concerning female duties within the medium of a horror novel? Science fiction, for instance, often does a great job of detailing social ills while packaging them in a fantastical wrapping, which allows people to suspend biases that might normally show if those same issues were presented overtly. Some female authors writing gothic fiction may have been trying to do something similar by dressing their concerns in a haunted setting. In a lot of gothic novels I’ve come across, I notice that the female protagonist is usually in an undesirable location and possibly even with unsavory people. And, when they try to voice their discontent, they are gaslighted. Then we find out (a lot of times) that their fears were valid. It seems like the gothic subgenre can still say a lot about women’s lives, and the books I’ll mention below do just that, with the added bonus of a deliciously creepy setting.

Now, on to the club!


Nibbles and Sips

salmon croquettes on a dish alongside sauce and lemon wedges

No shade to canned fish lovers, but the only time I’ve probably ever used it is when my mother was teaching me to make salmon croquettes (we called them salmon patties, but I want y’all to think I’m bougie). I come to crave them every now and then. Follow this recipe from Jocelyn, aka Grandbabycakes for your own. I haven’t tried this with an air fryer just yet, but I think that’s the next move. Let me know how it goes if you decide to try it!

With these basic/minimum ingredients, they seem to be something you can kind of whip together whenever:

  • Canned Salmon
  • Onions
  • Peppers
  • Egg
  • Flour

Now for the books!

The Female Gothic

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas book cover

The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas

This is being described as Rebecca meets Mexican Gothic, and is about Beatriz trying to get right after the Mexican War of Independence. Her father, General Hernandez, is executed as a result of the war and Beatriz is desperately trying to reestablish her security when widower Don Rodolfo Solórzano proposes to her. He’s handsome and monied, so she says yes. Let’s call this “when securing the bag goes wrong part 157” because when she gets to his estate, she starts having terrible dreams, the housekeeper is putting magical symbols on the kitchen door, and maybe worst of all is the Don’s sister is gaslighting her (the nerve!). She starts to suspect that the former lady of the house was murdered and it’s her ghost that haunts the halls, and the only person she can trust to help her unearth the truth is a priest that practices witchcraft.

Gallant by V.E. Schwab cover

Gallant by V.E. Schwab

Olivia grew up in an all-girls school as an outcast because of her muteness. The only person who could communicate with her was the matron who taught her to use sign language, and who is now gone. She can barely even seek solace in her mother’s journals as they eventually descend into madness as she reads them. Well, one day she seems to catch a break when she gets a letter from her uncle inviting her to his estate called Gallant. Naturally, she goes, but finds out that no one actually sent for her. On top of that, there are ghouls and her cousin Matthew is super shady. The Gallant house does hold answers to secrets about what happened to her parents, though, even if it’s not what she expected.

the daughter of doctor moreau

The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (July 19, 2022)

Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic also really belongs on this list, but I won’t list it separately so as to not be redundant. This is a remix of The Island of Doctor Moreau and takes place in Mexico in the 19th century. Carlota, the daughter of Dr. Moreau, dreams of a life outside of her father’s invention. She also wonders about Eduardo, while Montgomery, Dr. Moreau’s assistant who suffers from alcoholism, wonders about her. While all of this pining transpires, Dr. Moreau’s half-human, half-animal creations lurk in the shadows, struggling to attain independence even though they were meant to obey. Yeah, there’s a lot going on here. In the best way.

White Smoke cover image

White Smoke by Tiffany D. Jackson

This is described as The Haunting of Hill House + Get Out. It’s about Marigold, who moves from California to a Midwestern city with her new stepfather and his obnoxious daughter. Their picturesque house on Maple Street in Cedarville seems perfect, but things keep disappearing, one of her stepsister’s new friends wants her gone, and the ghosts Mari keeps trying to outrun (including that of her past addiction) may not be imaginary.

Don’t forget you can get three free audiobooks at Audiobooks.com with a free trial!

Suggestion Section

Read about this lawyer fighting for trans rights

What does the image of the cat signify in Japanese lit?

Some great new YA dark academia books out in 2022

Here are some more books that cover social horror, a couple ones I’ve mentioned here


I hope this newsletter found you well, and as always, thanks for hanging out! If you have any comments or just want to connect, send an email to erica@riotnewmedia.com or holla at me on Twitter @erica_eze_ . You can also catch me talking more mess in the new In Reading Color newsletter as well as chattin’ with my new cohost Tirzah Price on the Hey YA podcast.

Until next week,

E