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Read This Book (07/28/2021)

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I love the idea and allure of historical fiction – the promise of being transported to another time and place, it’s tempting, to say the least. For my pick today, I have one such book that had this effect on me.

widows of malabar hill cover image

The Widows of Malabar Hill by Sujata Massey

Set in 1920s Bombay, this is the story of Perveen Mistry, who is one of the first female lawyers in India. Although qualified to practice law, she works in her father’s law firm since as a woman she isn’t allowed to argue a case in court.

When working at her father’s firm, Perveen comes across the suspicious legacy of a wealthy mill owner and looks into it further. She decides to visit the mill owner’s three widows to help them understand their rights. However, she quickly finds herself caught between tensions that escalate into murder.

Apart from this present-day story, we also get flashbacks to Perveen’s past in the year 1916, learning more about what made her who she is today.

What Massey accomplishes here is exceptional because she delivers on three levels; we have a mystery, a character study, and a vivid portrayal of historical Bombay. There were subtle descriptions of food and architecture woven into the story, which only elevated the experience of this read.

If you have enjoyed works by authors such as Rhys Bowen and Marie Benedict, then Sujata Massey is an author to have on your radar for sure.

What’s even better? This is the first in a series and has two fantastic follow-ups already out: The Satapur Moonstone and The Bombay Prince.


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is one of those wonderful reads that’s a great read on audio, physical, and ebook. In fact, I listened to it on audiobook and loved it so much that I bought a hardcover copy so that I could reread and highlight the parts that I return to over and over again. It’s been one of my favorite reads this year.

Professional Troublemaker: The Fear-Fighter Manual by Luvvie Ajayi Jones

This book is nonfiction self-help/self-improvement with a heavy dose of humor. It’s divided into three sections, Be, Say, and Do, and each section has a wealth of insight and advice.

The author begins by talking about the internal work we need to do if we are going to be successful in fighting our own fears. This ranges from dealing with our own insecurities to managing (and stopping) our self-sabotage and unpacking our loads of baggage.

One of the things I love so much about this book is that it is an ode to her grandmother, who sounds like an incredibly fierce, amazing, powerhouse of a woman. Jones brings in many anecdotes about her grandmother as well as many Nigerian cultural traditions that can, in turn, help all of us to fight our fears.

I appreciated when Jones wrote about how so many of us are told that we’re too much. Too loud. Too aggressive. Too passionate. Too intimidating. Too sensitive. And that when people are saying you’re too this or too that, what they’re really saying is, “Can you be less? Can you be less than you are? Can you make yourself small for me?” And surprise, the lesson here is that it’s not our job to shrink ourselves to make other people comfortable unless our too muchness is actually harming someone or hindering our own growth.

So much of this book is about owning your own awesomeness, fighting imposter syndrome, and doing things even if you are scared. There are two chapters in particular that I think are worth the price of admission: the chapter on asking for more and letting loved ones help you and the chapter on money and asking for what we are worth.

This book was funny, inspiring, and empowering and definitely one I’ll read more than once.

That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

Find more books by subscribing to Book Riot Newsletters.

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Read This Book: The Return by Rachel Harrison

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

Last year, I got really into horror for the first time in my life. Gee, I wonder what major, terrifying global event put me in that state of mind? It’s been fun to explore a whole new genre and mood that I’ve always steered away from in the past and figure out what I like (horror is so varied!), and today’s pick is one I buddy-read with my partner. Content warning: Infidelity, some gore and violence, body horror, and eating disorders.

the return

The Return by Rachel Harrison

When Julie goes missing, everyone is devastated–her friends, family, and her brand-new husband. Everyone except her best friend, Elise. Elise isn’t sure how she knows this, but she’s convinced that Julie will return. Their other friends Molly and Mae think that Elise is in denial and needs therapy…until Julie does come back, exactly two years to the day she went missing, her memory completely gone.

Everyone is overjoyed, of course. When the friends decide to have a reunion at a boutique hotel, they think it’ll be the perfect chance to reconnect. The second Elise sees Julie, she’s shocked at how emaciated and unhealthy she looks, and alarmed by her weird appetites and mood swings. Things get worse when, as the weekend progresses, odd things start happening and tensions begin to rise. And once the thought takes hold in Elise, she can’t shake it: What if this isn’t really Julie?

This book creeped me out in dozens of small, unsettling ways, which is my favorite brand of horror. The little incongruences, small chills, and downright weird things are easy enough to brush off at first, but when they start stacking up it creates a terrifying situation pretty quickly. That’s definitely this scenario, and you can’t even blame Elise, Molly, and Mae for ignoring the warning signs because they want so badly to be thrilled that their friend returned. Interspersed throughout Elise’s narrative are flashbacks and memories to the years when Julie was gone, which adds great insight into her emotional state and her faith that Julie would return. This adds some nice emotional heft to the story, and readers can understand why her friends are so important to Elise when every other area of her life is a mess.

I also love a good creepy setting, and Harrison did an amazing job with the boutique hotel here. This is no Overlook Hotel or Bates Motel setting, but a trendy, chic spot that is so over-the-top in its design that it leaves the friends feeling isolated and unsettled. The design elements (including that screaming hot pink of the cover) add great tension to the weekend, and I found myself both wishing I could see this hotel in person and also adamant that I wouldn’t get within fifty miles of the place. The story is a slow build, but when shit gets real, it’s very scary and this book goes in a direction I didn’t expect! If you want a creepy book that explores the nuances of female friendship and you aren’t creeped out by a bit of body horror, I highly recommend this one!

Bonus: Rachel Harrison has a new book out this fall called Cackle and I can’t wait!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter. If someone forwarded this newsletter to you, click here to subscribe.

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Read This Book (07/21/2021)

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I have recently become interested in learning about the craft of writing. I think this interest originated after reading On Writing by Stephen King, where he approaches his story of writing very methodically. I am no one to say whether his methods are the best in his field, but having read the majority of his works, I can confirm they are not the worst.

I then picked up George Saunders’ A Swim in the Pond, and what a revelation. In the essay collection, Saunders breaks down 8 stories from 4 Russian authors and talks about what they do, how they do it, and how these stories have stood the test of time. After reading his breakdown of the first story itself, I approached the short stories on my bookshelf wistfully, ready to put into practice what I had just learned. My pick is the winner from this expedition.

cover image of Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel W. Moniz

What do you think when you hear the phrase, ‘Milk, Blood, Heat?’ To me, it represents a newborn-ness, a kind of raw vulnerability that is inherently part of being human. That is the kind of rawness this story collection captures.

Each of the stories is focused on a single point in time for each of the characters. At the end of each story there is not much resolution, but rather a sense of transformation of the characters, of the reader.

Moniz’s stories range from adolescence to adulthood, capturing all that one loses along the way. We have a woman trying to come to terms with having a baby, and a woman coming to terms with losing one. We have the budding misunderstandings between two friends and that between family members. In a mere 208 pages, there is little that is left unexplored.

If you always find yourself on the hesitant side of trying out short stories, then this might be the collection for you. I stepped away a changed person after reading this book and it almost filled the hole in my heart left behind by The Secrets Lives of Church Ladies.

Plus, the audio is exceptional. I do want to take a moment add some trigger warnings for miscarriage, suicide on page, and some mentions of abuse (off page).


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick quickly became one of my favorite fantasy novels of the past few years and I’m super excited to share it with you. It’s packed with magic, humour, and witty dialogue which makes it a really fun read.

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho

Picture it: London, turn of the 19th century, and the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers aka the Magician Club. As you can imagine, it is a bunch of stuffy old white men. Sir Stephen Wythe is the Sorcerer Royal, the man in charge. He has a Black child, Zacharias, who he “rescued” from slavery because he saw magical talent in him. The men of the Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers doubt that any “lesser beings” have worthwhile magical capabilities, but Sir Stephen, through training Zacharias, has proved them very wrong.

Flash forward many years. Sir Stephen dies and Zacharias becomes Sorcerer Royal, quite against his will. But the staff of the Sorcerer Royal will only be wielded by someone who is worthy and the staff chose Zacharias. A curious thing is that a Sorcerer needs to have a familiar. Sir Stephen had a familiar, but Zacharias does not, and it is one of the many things that the Society is holding against him.

While racism is one of Zacharias’s main problems, he is also being blamed for the lack of magic flowing into England from Fairyland. Magic can only be performed in England because of this flow of magical energy and it seems to be dying out. People are blaming Zacharias for it and he is determined to figure out what is truly going on. The Sorcerer Royal serves England, not the crown, but there is a lot of pressure for Zacharias to get political.

Because of this pressure, he escapes from London for a bit to go to the entrance of Fairyland to see what is going on with the flow of magic. But his cover story is that he is going to give a talk at a magical girls school. Girls and women, though magical, are not supposed to use magic. Proper ladies are taught to suppress their magical abilities and these girls’ schools teach them how to do that. When Zacharias arrives to the school, he is in absolute awe of the magical abilities of some of the girls. Particularly, a brown-skinned girl named Prunella Gentleman.

When Prunella insists that she go to London with Zacharias, under his tutelage, the real excitement begins.

If you’re looking for something magical to break your reading slump, this book may be the ticket.

That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

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Read This Book: Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

This week’s pick is a bit of a strange one, and I admit that it won’t be for everyone. But if you’re not easily squicked out by animal grossness and you like messy protagonists, it’s absolutely a must-read! (Content warning: Animal death/peril, blood and gore related to taxidermy, suicide, and I can’t remember any others, sorry!)

Mostly Dead Things by Kristen Arnett

Jessa-Lynn Morton has been trying to maintain her grip on her family ever since her father died by suicide, and it’s not going well. Jessa steps up and takes over her family’s failing taxidermy business, struggling to keep it afloat and find new clients even while her mother seems to be sabotaging Jessa’s efforts by rearranging the animals in erotic scenes every time her back is turned. Meanwhile, Jessa’s brother grows more and more distant, and Jessa’s niece and nephew are largely unsupervised after the sudden disappearance of their mom, Brynn. Jessa is struggling to come to terms with Brynn’s absence as well: Jessa was in love with her, and she and Brynn carried on a sexual relationship both before and after her marriage to Jessa’s brother. As things get dire for the Morton family, Jessa will need to learn that the key to keeping them all together is to cede control.

Arnett’s writing is very sharp, funny, and unexpected. She moves back and forth between the present and Jessa’s past with Brynn to tell the story of a very dysfunctional family trying their best, and how Jessa’s preconceived notions about herself and those closest to her are sometimes her biggest adversary. It’s hard not to feel for her as she tries to do everything “right” in the wake of tragedy and tremendous guilt, and it takes a while for her to understand that her process of grieving is not the same as others, and that’s okay. She makes inadvisable choices while mired in her own grief and frustration, and she is hopelessly hung up on a woman who has never treated her well, but she also cares deeply. Her love is what made me root for her, even when she said or did things that I couldn’t get behind. This is a deeply-felt, strange book about love, grief, and family that will certainly stick with you.

Bonus: If you like Mostly Dead Things, Arnett just released a new novel called With Teeth! I haven’t read it yet but I am excited to pick it up.

Happy reading!
Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

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Read This Book (07/14/2021)

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

For the longest time, I would proudly claim that I don’t read much non-fiction. My pride was not a result of any prejudice against the genre, but rather my defense ready for anyone who was getting ready to make me feel less about choosing to read fiction. There were many reasons I had a hard time getting into non-fiction; I could never find something that held my interest, was too long, or just didn’t appeal on another level. Then I discovered memoirs.

Within a few months, I was obsessed. This sub-genre within the genre was giving me the best of both worlds; a story as well as scratching that itch to learn more about the world we live in. I ate it all up. From Bill Bryson’s In a Sunburned Country to Robin Wall Kimmerer’s Braiding Sweetgrass, you couldn’t keep me away.

In my infinite quest to keep searching for more memoirs to add to my shelf, I stumbled upon my pick.

The Prince of Los Cocuyos by Richard Blanco

If you are unfamiliar with Richard Blanco, he is a famous poet and essayist, who read the poem “One Today” for Obama’s second-term inauguration.

This memoir is him recounting his childhood experience of living as a Cuban-American and what it meant for him to hold onto that hyphenated identity. He captures the essence of what it means to exist in a crossroads of nostalgia, for where you are and for what you have left behind.

His stories start with the hilarious (convincing his grandmother to shop at Winn-Dixie for the first time, making an American Thanksgiving) and move on to poignant but heart-breaking tales of growing up gay in the suburbs of Miami.

A mix between David Sedaris and Augusten Burroughs, Blanco reminds you of what it means to come into an identity, and what it means to carry the stories and memories of the people who got you there, all the while making you snort in the process.


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah

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Read This Book…

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that should absolutely be put at the top of your TBR pile. Recommended books will vary across genre and age category and include shiny new books, older books you may have missed, and some classics I suggest finally getting around to. Make space for another pile of books on your floor because here we go!

Today’s pick is a young adult graphic novel that is unlike other superhero graphic novels I’ve read. I’m rarely into the “tights and capes” heroes, but this graphic novel is phenomenal and like nothing I expected. If you are familiar with Wonder Woman lore, then you probably know who Nubia is. If you don’t, then you’re in for a wonderful surprise with this book.

Nubia: Real One by L.L. McKinney, illustrated by Robyn Smith with Bex Glendining, Brie Henderson, and Ariana Maher

Nubia is a Black seventeen-year-old with superpowers that she does her best to keep hidden and under control for obvious reasons: she is Black with superpowers! Racists already think normal Black people are dangerous, how do we think they’d treat a Black girl with super strength? Yes she has powers, but she is not invincible so she lays low with her two moms. In fact, because of a few incidents, they’ve already had to pick up and move towns multiple times in order to keep Nubia safe. They’ve finally lived in a place long enough where she’s been able to plant some roots and make some really good friends.

Nubia’s two best friends are Quisha and Jason. At the beginning of the book, Nubia, Quisha, and Jason are outside the corner store, having slushies and talking about their summer plans. Nubia’s moms are kinda strict so it’s likely she won’t be doing much of anything, though Quisha wants her at least to come to the upcoming march against police brutality. Quisha and Jason leave, and Nubia goes into the shop to get a refill. Her crush, Oscar, happens to be in the shop. While they are in there, there’s an attempted robbery and Nubia has no choice but to use her powers to stop them.

You know, her powers she is supposed to be keeping secret.

This comic is fantastic. Nubia’s story, though fantasy, is still the very real story of Black women being at the forefront of fights for justice. How much do we all, as people, need to risk in order to protect others? And how can we keep up the fight for a society that views us as less than human? Not gonna lie, I cried through most of this comic. Not because it’s bad, but because it is so incredibly good. Nubia is the hero I didn’t know I needed.

I highly recommend this comic, even if you’re not into superhero comics, you need to read this one.

That’s it for now, book-lovers!

Patricia

Find me on Book Riot, the All the Books podcast, and Twitter.

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Read This Book: With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that I think you absolutely must read. The books will vary across genre and age category to include new releases, backlist titles, and classics. If you’re ready to explode your TBR, buckle up!

I am so excited to be back, shouting about books I loved! Thanks so much to my fellow Rioters for covering my Friday send while I was off doing other bookish things! I read a lot of books I loved since I was last in your inboxes, and I can’t wait to tell you all about them. Since it’s summer, I thought I’d kick off with a fun (and high-drama) summery pick!

With You All the Way by Cynthia Hand

Ada is about to head out on a week-long Hawaiian vacation with her parents and two sisters when she catches her boyfriend cheating. Considering Ada just decided she was ready for sex, this is a pretty big blow. But things go from bad to worse when her step-father bails on the trip at the last minute, and then on their first day in Hawaii, Ada walks in on her mom having sex with someone who definitely isn’t her step-dad. With this explosive secret eating her from the inside out, Ada navigates a week in Hawaii with her over-eager five-year-old sister, her know-it-all older sister, and a potential crush.

I am a sucker for a good family drama, and the idea of a teenage girl knowing her mom is cheating without being able to let on that she knows to her sisters or parents sounds like torture if it were happening to me…but reading about it happening to someone else was super engrossing, with many cringe-worthy moments. The backdrop of a gorgeous Hawaiian vacation just adds to the tension, as does Ada’s complicated relationship with her older sister, Afton, who is acting odd and distant during the trip.

What made this book an instant must-read recommendation for me was that this story was full of surprises, and even though Ada feels helpless and caught up in circumstances beyond her control, it’s how she responds to these situations that facilitates her growth. At first, her reaction is essentially, “Eff it, if everyone is having sex, I’ll do it too!” This attitude leads her to a connection with Nick, who is sensitive and kind, and becomes Ada’s unexpected confidant in her family drama. When he and Ada agree to have sex and make a plan, it doesn’t go quite the way they imagine, but it does force Ada to confront the root of her problems and actually talk to her family about what she saw, even if she does go about it in an incredibly awkward way. This is a sex-positive YA novel that speaks frankly about the considerations of having sex for the first time, both physical and emotional, and takes a nuanced approach to relationships. I highly recommend this to anyone who likes books about complicated relationships of all types, and characters learning how to navigate them with humor and grace.

Bonus: I read this on audio, and the narrator Joy Osmanksi did a great job!

Happy reading!
Tirzah

Find me on Book Riot, the Insiders Read Harder podcast, All the Books, and Twitter.

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Read This Book (07/07/21)

Welcome to Read This Book, a newsletter where I recommend one book that you should add to your TBR pile or nightstand or hidden stack under the bed, right away!

I try my best to recommend books that are already out in paperback or might have small hold lines, etc, but sometimes, I read a new release and I am filled with this burst of enthusiasm to shout about it. It’s hard these days to find books [this is entirely my failing] that deliver on the promise of their premise. This pick did it for me.

Another reason I wanted to make you all privy to this pick is that it had zero holds in my library. I was able to get it immediately and I couldn’t believe my luck! So here’s a little nudge to try your luck, you won’t be disappointed.

Is there one place you can think of that you are obsessed with? That one place you seek out books about, google images of, and just fantasize about living there? Venice is that place for me. Books like Venice Observed and The City of Falling Angels are staples on my bookshelf. Now this fantastic slow-burn literary mystery is about to join the ranks.

The Palace of the Drowned by Christine Mangan

Our story begins in the 1960s with Frankie Croy, an author who is recovering from the poor reception of her last book and searching for inspiration in the canals of Venice.

Right from the beginning, we learn that there is friction in almost every relationship Frankie is a part of, whether it be the one with her editor or her best friend. We sense her preference for solitude, but don’t understand right away why that is the case.

When she meets Gilly, an acquaintance with no sense of boundaries who insists that Frankie knows her, Frankie can’t help her unease from growing. As secrets from both of their pasts surface, their stories intersect in the most unexpected of ways, making for an enthralling (gondola) ride.

Put this on your hold list right away, while I rush to read Mangan’s debut, Tangerine.


Come tell me what you thought of this read if you do pick it up on Twitter @JavedNusrah.

Happy Reading!
Nusrah