My Month of (Mostly) Reading Nonfiction and Urban Fantasy

While it seems like a huge difference in genre, I found rotating my nonfiction titles with my urban fantasy worked out really well. I did get a few other genres in there (including bingeing most of Johanna Lindsey’s Malory-Anderson series for the first time in 10 years), but I tried to clear both my physical and my digital shelves of their titles of truthiness and pages of paranormal snark and violence. I think I did pretty well.

Nonfiction

United: Thoughts on Finding Common Ground and Advancing the Common Good – Cory Booker. This man is such an optimist. I love it though and can’t help be hopefully for everything he hopes to see in our country happen. I’m hoping Washington doesn’t break him. I was super inspired by all that he’s accomplished for Newark as mayor and now New Jersey as a senator. He has so many good ideas.

 

 


The Taliban Shuffle: Strange Days in Afghanistan and Pakistan – Kim Barker. I’m seriously bummed that Tina Fey seemed to screw the pooch with her movie adaptation of this woman’s story. It didn’t need to be embellished or have a love story added. I really enjoyed Barker’s narrative about her experiences.

 

 

 


All the Single Ladies: Unmarried Women and the Rise of an Independent Nation – Rebecca Traitor. I’m a happily married woman, but I have a lot of lady friends who have to deal with the “When are you getting marrieds?” and the like. This book points out so many good facts. I think it’s good to read by all women, no matter their marital status. I wanted to highlight and write on every page. My favorite was the chapter on female friendships.

 

 


Blackout: Remembering the Things I Drank to Forget – Sarah Hepola. Both uplifting and heartbreaking, I really enjoyed this memoir of a woman who has struggled with alcoholism in an age where we don’t talk about it in young women, at least not young professional women. The stereotype that I’ve seen for women is lower income, middle aged, troubled. No one wants to point out even women who seem to have their shit together, could be struggling with it and not necessarily because they’re unhappy and had a bad childhood as we see portrayed in media.


How to be a Tudor: A Dusk-to-Dawn Guide to Tudor Life – Ruth Goodman. I am a big fan of the Tudor era. I started with the historical fictions by Philippa Gregory and Alison Weir, I’ve touched on a few nonfictions, but Goodman’s How to be A Tudor is fantastic. It follows both men and women of all classes from waking to bedtime in their daily routines. There is a lot of detail on how to get the perfect ruff. Yeah, that thing you saw around people’s necks in the time of Elizabeth I.

 

 


Love, Loss, and What We Ate – Padma Lakshmi. I adored this book. I heard a lot of buzz and had to pick it up. If you’ve followed long enough, you know I love a good food memoir (<3 Julia). I didn’t even know who Lakshmi was, but now I need to go back and binge Top Chef. I loved reading about her stories about growing up in India, her relationship and then marriage with Salman Rushdie, her experiences in modeling, and her love of her daughter. I really enjoyed how she talks about coming to accept her body after years of modeling and then the struggle of it changing due to filming Top Chef.


All About Love: New Visions – bell hooks. Wow. My first bell hooks book and I’m not disappointed. hooks talks all about the different ways we can bring love into our lives. There’s even an essay on friendships that resonated with me. I’ll admit I mostly skipped the last essay regarding love and angels, but otherwise I feel like I’m going to come back to this one. Now to get my own copy since this one was the library’s.

 

 

 

Urban Fantasy

The Others series – Anne Bishop. Yes, the whole thing, starting with a reread of the first three books and ending with the newest Marked in Flesh. I love this series so much. I wish I could explain exactly why, but I can’t. Not helpful for you guys so I’ll try. A lot of the time (and in the following books I’ll mention) the female protagonist is snarky and physical. Meg isn’t these things. She’s soft, vulnerable, and not the most physical character in the book, however, she’s not weak by any means. She is able to answer the call in the face of danger. She’s not perfect, she makes mistakes, but she’s kind and apologizes when she’s wrong. This series is also a play on the whole shapeshifter mythos as well. Instead of humans becoming animals, we have a swap here and even that is not exactly what they are or what they are doing.


Chaos Choreography (Incryptid, #5) – Seanan McGuire. The fifth book in McGuire’s Incryptid series, we come back to the protagonist from the first book, Verity Price and her smoking hot ex-Covenant hubby Dominic, as Verity re-enters the world of televised dance competition where there is something creepy going on. I was thrilled to see Verity again, but totally didn’t get enough of banter between her and Dominic. I also was hoping to see the whole Price family get to interact. Also Grandma Alice needs to go play cards with the Luidaeg from McGuire’s other series.

 


Midnight Marked (Chicagoland Vampires, #12) – Chloe Neill. I am a shipper of Ethan and Merit. They have highs and lows and work their business out, much like a healthy couple does, albeit they do it more with katanas and fangs, but to each their own. I’m a bit bummed this is the second to the last book in the series, but I’m also a proponent of end it while it’s still good.
 


Midnight Taxi Tango (Bone Street Rumba, #2) – Daniel José Older. I might forgive him for giving me the creepy crawlies because this book was that good. I love his ability to voice a teenage girl with authenticity. Kia is my Patronus. Also that cover? Fucking gorgeous.

 

 

 

 

 

What did you read last month? Any nonfiction or urban fantasy?

The Not so Long and Very Short of It

February. The month where I declared I would read a bunch of essay and short story collections. I did! I almost cleared my physical shelves. I never actually got to any on my Kindle. C’est la vie. How many did I actually get to, you’re probably asking. Seven. Four essay and three short story collections. And knowing me as you do, that six books is not all I accomplished, you’re now asking, what else did you read? Five nonfiction books…and a lot of romance novels. Also there were a couple lit fics in there as well and a graphic novel. I can’t help it. I wouldn’t go as far as to say I am giving up on short stories and essays as I enjoyed the ones I did read, but they definitely aren’t my one true love.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri. I love Lahiri. So much. This collection of short stories was no different. I actually forget how much I love her, then read something of hers and am blown away. My favorite were the three linked stories at the end. Heartbreaking, but poignant.

 


 

Ghost Summer: Stories by Tananarive Due. It’s been forever since I’ve been scared by a book. While not at the level of nightmare inducing, I was definitely creeped by Due’s stories. From ghosts to zombies, the stories were excellent. Ghost Summer, the title story, was one I’ll think about for awhile.

 


 

 

Naked by David Sedaris. My first Sedaris. I’ve been wanting to get started. I wouldn’t say I was disappointed, but maybe Sedaris isn’t for me. There were some funny things, but then some that missed entirely for me.

 

 


 

Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls by David Sedaris. Try, try again. This one felt a bit better, however none of the stories stood out for me.

 

 


When You Are Engulfed in Flames by David Sedaris. I decided to get them all done at once (I still have Me Talk Pretty One Day, but I’ll save it for now). Let’s Explore Diabetes with Owls was better than this one. I found myself drifting off pretty easily.

 


 

Nocturnes: Five Stories of Music and Nightfall by Kazoo Ishiguro. I have read a few Ishiguro. I’ve liked them. This is the first I’ve really loved. I loved the theme of music. Pardon the pun, but the writing was lyrical.

 


 

How to be a Heroine: Or, What I’ve Learned from Reading Too Much: by Samantha Ellis. This was recommended to me from a bookseller. I wanted to love it. A lot of the fault is going to land on me here, since I haven’t read most of the classics she mentioned. I was hoping to get some extra insight so that maybe I would want to? This only happened in a couple situations. I’ll be honest, I skimmed the second to the last two essays, I just got kind of bored. However, she ended strong with the last one.

Did you read any essays or short stories?

February Book Club Favorites

Here’s what the Spec Fic Book Club Ladies liked in February.

 The Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valence. This.was.fantastic. Valente’s writing about Japan always reaches eerily into the bones — it’s so clearly personal and formative for her, and there is a passion and a need in these stories that is truly affecting. (There’s a real sense of Japan as a diverse place, and so much more than the typical stereotypes of what Japan is — which is pretty damn refreshing.) There’s so much great stuff in here. Obviously Silently and Very Fast is a well-lauded masterpiece of a novella, and “Thirteen Ways of Looking at Space/Time” deserves its accolades as well; but I especially loved some of the smaller pieces. “Killswitch” is a genuine phenomenon all on its own (look up “Killswitch game” on Google if you need proof), and “The Ghosts of Gunkanjima” and “Fade to White” both grabbed me in the heart-place. –Anie (Twitter: @diapasoun)


The Memory of Light by Francisco X. Stork. I knew going into this book that Vicky Cruz attempted suicide and that bonding with the fellow patients in her hospital’s mental disorders ward would help her recover from suicidal depression. Which meant that I knew there would be crying on my part. But I especially loved the way that Stork slowly unravels why each of patients are in the ward and how they can help each other. Each of their stories is heartrending, but he tells them so beautifully, helping to make them fully realized individuals with clear motivations based in their personal histories. In addition, I was struck by how rare it is to have an intersectional book on mental illness: All of the patients are Hispanic. But most importantly, I cried even more than I expected, because recovery is hard and there will always be setbacks, and now I’m probably going to go read all of the Francisco X. Stork books that I’ve been meaning to read since 2009. And probably cry more. –Mary


This Too Shall Pass by Milena Busquets (May 24). Every word of this gorgeous novel is colored by grief. It paints a vibrant picture of the way life stops and yet still marches on after a major loss. Milena Busquets’s beautiful prose twists and turns to avoid and face grief head on. In This Too Shall Pass, Blanca is adrift after the death of her mother. When a loved one dies, a lot of time is spent sorting out who they were and reconciling the difference in their last days. Blanca loves generously and, ultimately, it’s the people around her who bring clarity to an otherwise devastating life event. – Ivy 

 Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M. Elliott. This is not a fluffy romance, or just for young adults, it’s a well-researched work that transported me to Florence just as the Renaissance was kicking into high gear. I have felt a connection to Leonardo in general since I was a teen, and this portrait in particular when I discovered it features a juniper tree (a pun on Ginevra’s name). I had no idea it was such a groundbreaking work of art however, it’s Leonardo’s very first portrait and it broke many conventions, boldly presenting Ginevra as a thinking, feeling subject. – Juniper (Twitter: @JuniperNichols)


As for me:The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. This book. It was highly anticipated and did NOT fail to meet the expectations. I have a  kryptonite when books are about the arts so a novel about an opera singer? I was done. Also the main character, Lilliet, is a survivor. Whatever life throws at her, she figures out a way to move forward, no matter what it means for her. I don’t want to say too much without giving things away so hurry up and go pick up this book.

 

 

What was your favorite book of February?

March TBR

I’m not sure what happened in February, but I found myself picking up a lot of nonfiction. That’s generally not my main interest, not counting celeb bios for the gossip. Apparently my brain is asking for more substance right now.

Also late February and all of March is just ripe with urban fantasy. There’s always urban fantasy being published, don’t get me wrong, but these are all the authors I’ve stuck with and adore. I decided that I would round up all the other UFs that I haven’t got to and we’ll try to rotate. Read a nonfiction, get an UF.

Print nonfiction

Digital shelf for Urban Fantasy (note: With exception of Borderline which is a debut novel, all of these are from ongoing series)

Digital Shelf for Nonfiction

What’s on your TBR this month?