January flew by so fast that it gave me whiplash. No, really, my neck really hurts—although that may just be from staying hunched over my laptop working on client projects for two days straight. So much happened this month with my birthday, the inauguration and the kickoff of The Resistance that it's been tough to keep up.
I've been really active in my community attending protests, organizing postcard writing parties, and attending coalition meetings to figure out next steps. It's been hard to prioritize reading because of everything going on, but I know it's absolutely necessary for my sanity. Reading is something I do for self-care, yes, but it's also how I educate myself. And now, staying well and educated is more important than ever.
That being said, I stayed on track with my Goodreads goal by reading 3 books this month, getting me 1/12 of the way to my goal of reading 36 books in 2017. This month I read Heartless by Marissa Meyer, Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo, and Difficult Women by Roxane Gay. Even though I only read 3 books, I cut myself some slack...Heartless and Crooked Kingdom are big books! I am also halfway through Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas, which is also a monster of a book. So, despite it all, I still read a lot!
Books read: 3
Genres: YA Fantasy, Short stories
Total pages read: 1,285
Heartless by Marissa Meyer is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland from the perspective of the Queen of Hearts as a young woman. Catherine loves to bake and dreams of leaving her life at the court behind to pursue her dream of opening a bakery with her friend and lady's maid. She's thrown a curveball when the bumbling King of Hearts sets his intentions on courting her, but Catherine's intrigue is drawn by the mysterious and handsome court joker, Jest. As Catherine dodges the King's advances and becomes increasingly entangled in Jest's world, she learns more about the Kingdom of Hearts and the wider world it sits in than she ever expected...especially about the brutal and legendary Jabberwock.
I definitely enjoyed this book, but I think it's just a tad overhyped. Marissa Meyer is a great and imaginative writer, but some of Catherine's character development feels rushed and overwraught. Her descent into the evil, tyrannical Queen of Hearts thrusts forward at a breakneck pace, and some of the plot points that get her there are a tad half-baked. The world-building, however, is incredible, and I think Meyer actually does an excellent job crafting the secondary characters where many authors would overlook them. I definitely recommend this book to anyone who is on the fairy-retelling train right now, because this is probably one of the best ones out there.
Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo is the sequel to Six of Crows, picking up with Kaz Brekker and the gang right after their return from their semi-failed mission at the Ice Court. The Crows and company come up with a twisted plan to rescue Inej and keep the world safe from parem, but not without first learning some seriously dark things about their past and present histories.
I LOVE these books. LOVE THEM. They are definitely ones that I will reread at some point. They are so dark, so atmospheric, so immersive in the rough and tumble world of Ketterdam that's it's hard to tear yourself back to real life. Bardugo is a masterful writer, and she always knows exactly what to reveal and what to withhold at the perfect times to keep the story twisting and turning. The wars between the Grisha and humans are eerily similar to the backdrop of our times. Prejudice and manipulation and violence run rampant, and Grisha must flee or fight for their lives, despite not being that much terribly different from the humans. I think Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom are must reads for anyone who likes dark adventure stories—you'll have a few sleepless nights staying up late to figure out what comes next in Kaz's crazy plan.
Difficult Women by Roxane Gay is a collection of short stories following women and men through their daily lives, punctuated by trauma, grief, lust, joy and boredom. They are emotional and stressful and sometimes horrifying, but the worst thing about them is that they are very real. Not real as in factual, but real in the human experiences and connectedness they articulate.
I loved this collection. I think Gay is one of the most important writers of our time. She does not pull punches, but she is thoughtful and compelling in her discourse. It was wonderful to see her softer, more vulnerable side in these stories (I usually see her taking down clueless trolls on Twitter). I'm glad she has broken into the main stream (relatively speaking) because I think everyone, not just other black women, need to know her and read her writing. She also writes comics! She's writing Marvel's Black Panther:World of Wakanda right now.
In February, I plan on reading three books since it's a short month. Right now I am finishing Heir of Fire, and then I'll be moving on to Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay. I'm reading it for a book club, and I'm extra stoked for it after finishing Difficult Women. I'm also planning on FINALLY finishing the Raven Cycle and reading The Raven King! Catch me crying all month long.
Reminder to yourself: keep reading. Read when the world is bad, read when the world is good, and read when the world is boring. It's okay if you don't read as much as usual, but reading is an essential aspect of making yourself a good human. If you have a disability that makes it hard to read, listen to audiobooks. Listen to podcasts. Watch movies by people who don't look like you. Immerse yourself in other people's words and experiences so you can retain your empathy. It's too easy to let the world stomp it out of us if we aren't careful.