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Book Review

55 Slightly Sinister Stories

Publisher: Andrews McMeel Publishing
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 119
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4/5 stars

Summary

Racha Mourtada’s 55 Slightly Sinister Stories is touted as “55 Stories. 55 Words Each. No More. No Less.” leaving the reader as to no doubt what they are getting.

Mourtada’s author’s note reveals that book was born of a New Year’s resolution to write one 55 word story each day…which lasted until May 5th (clever girl!)

This quirky little book also features illustrations by Lynn Atme, and each story occupies two pages.

Thoughts

In honor of the sheer discipline it takes to create a complete story in just 55 words (I have been working on my own set of 101 word stories for quite some time) I have decided to give Racha Mourtada’s 55 Slightly Sinister Stories a 55 word review.

An eclectic grouping of romance, death, heartbreak, and even the woes of that all-important first line of a story, Mourtada presents readers with this fun collection. It’s satisfying to be able to complete two or three stories in the time it takes to read the first page of a novel, and the illustrations are delightful.

It’s not as easy it sounds!

4 Unfinished Series So Good You Won’t Mind The Wait

I know what you’re thinking, why not wait until all the books are out? Well, my counter is: where’s the fun in that? Don’t you want that feeling of anticipation when the day of your favorite series’ next book finally comes? You head to the bookstore and see it front and center in a towering display of joy and satisfaction. You purchase it because one of the thrills of being a bookworm is, in fact, purchasing more books than you have room for. Then you go home and spend the next couple of hours reading the book you’ve been waiting for all your life. Here are four unfinished series with sequels coming soon that have the potential to become that book.


American Royals—Katharine McGee. I did not expect to love this as much as I did and now it’s one of my favorite books. I finished the first one in a couple of hours and headed straight back to buy the second. I thought this was a duology and almost cried when I found out there was going to be a third one. I need more of this story! The third book, Rivals, is expected May 31st. A short wait for such a high reward. (Preorder here.)


The Inheritance Games—Jennifer Lynn Barnes. Puzzles. Romance. Danger. I bought this on a whim without seeing if it was a completed series or not. It wasn’t, unfortunately, and now I find myself in the position of having to wait until August 30th to find out what happens next in The Final Gambit. So many twists and turns. So many questions left unanswered. (Preorder here.)


Once Upon a Broken Heart—Stephanie Garber. I thought this was a standalone spinoff to the completed series Caraval. It turns out it just continues the story of Jacks, the Prince of Hearts, and a new character Evangeline Fox. It’s full of fantasy and romance. You will want to read all of the books by Stephanie Garber. The expected publication is September 13th so there’s plenty of time to read Caraval and Once Upon a Broken Heart. (Preorder here.)


Gilded—Marissa Meyer. Perhaps the longest wait on the list, but it’s Marissa Meyer. I would wait an eternity for one of her novellas. Cursed is expected November 8th and I will be waiting outside the bookstore for this one. Gilded is a haunting retelling of Rumplestiltskin. Follow Serilda and her magical stories as she discovers an ancient curse.

Book Review

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires

Publisher: Quirk Books
Genre: Fiction
Pages: 424
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 3/5 stars

Summary

Grady Hendrix’s The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires has a title that doesn’t leave much to the imagination. It is what it says it is! Set in the 1980s and 1990s Patricia—doctor’s wife, mother to two teenagers, and caregiver to her mother-in-law—is bored to tears with her country-club and pearls lifestyle. Her book club, which should be somewhat of an escape, is just more of the same…rich women posturing by reading pretentious books that they only skim through at best. 

But things get kicked up a notch when some of the ladies defect, and begin their own true crime gathering. Immersed in the world of serial killers, Patricia feels like she may have found a little excitement. That is until a stranger moves into town, some kids go missing, and Patricia and her Southern book club sleuths find themselves facing something a lot more sinister than Dahmer or Bundy. 

Thoughts

I wanted to love this, but ended up just liking it. The title grabbed me right away, and immediately I was thinking Blanche Dubois or any of the Sugarbaker ladies from Designing Women (look it up) or Steel Magnolias with a stake in one hand, and a Mint Julep in the other ready to “y’all” the bloodsucker back to hell where he belonged.

No such luck. While the premise is fabulous, and there were some chuckle-aloud moments, I wanted more camp. I was hoping for more comedy with my horror—but it was less comedy, more drama, and mystery. Hendrix spends some time on Patricia’s feelings of isolation and abandonment when the book club isn’t really feeling up to the detective work she is so eager to engage in. I have to wonder if that was his commentary on how women who may be a little longer in the tooth (get it?) seem to get cast aside if they don’t fit a certain mold, or want just a little more than what they have been given. From their initial defection, I got a little female empowerment at times from this crew of Van Helsings.

Hendrix does turn a few vampire legends upside down (I won’t spoil them here) but they aren’t anything I rebelled against. No one glittered or procreated. Thank goodness. In fact, I rather enjoyed the method in which you have to destroy this particular vampire’s kind. Some reviewers of the book complained about the level of gore (high), but that didn’t bother me in the slightest. Rats eating flesh, people eating flesh. Isn’t that what vampire novels are supposed to include? 

There are a couple elements that Hendrix slays (pun intended) beautifully. He has the art of suspense down. Even though it’s been done numerous times, there is a particular scene where Patricia is in the vampire’s house, and there’s that feeling of will-she-get-caught-or-won’t-she that is well-handled and anxiety inducing. The other element that really worked for me is Hendrix’s atmosphere-building in this novel. You can just feel the Charleston humidity rising up from the pages, and see the Spanish moss dripping from those thick trunked trees. Ah…I could use that Mint Julep right about now. 

If you like a good amount of gore and a few laughs mixed in with a heaping helping of drama, you’ll like this novel. For me, it was enough to generate some interest in Grady Hendrix’s other work, so stay tuned. 

Sensational She-Hulk, an Interview

It is truly rare when a story enters your life that changes the way you approach storytelling as a whole. As a fan of Byrne’s, I knew about his run on Sensational She-Hulk, but didn’t give it much thought until one dreaded night—overcome with boredom—when the book just called to me. It was truly—hang on, this is embarrassing. Do you hear that noise? Sounds like it’s coming from—

All right, hold your applause!

Take a look at how I can move between comic panels– truly Sensational, if I say so myself! -She-Hulk

She-Hulk?! For the love of—I knew something was up when I saw I was in italics! How’d you get in here?

We only have 800 words in this article, and you want to write about THAT?

Ah, right, I get it. When you were relaunched, Byrne wrote your series with the unique twist that you were aware you were in a comic book. But Shulkie, this isn’t a comic book! Why are you here?

To give you an exclusive interview, of course! It’s been a while since someone has talked about my Byrne days. You really should be reading something a bit more…contemporary.

W-Well… I’m flattered! But quite frankly, this was supposed to be an article, not an interview. I don’t… really know where to begin. Also, what’s wrong with the classics? The late ’80s/early ’90s were a great time.

Ouch. I’m still young, you know. Don’t call me “classic”.

Oh, right. You don’t age as long as you’re in print. How has that been going for you?

Well, after I killed Byrne—

HANG ON! You can’t just SPOIL the last issue of Byrne’s run in my article talking about Byrne’s run! What about the people who want to read it? And HEY! GET THAT PAGE SCAN OUT OF HERE!

Michael can’t stop me from putting up this page scan, he doesn’t have editor access! -She-Hulk

Do people really want to read the things you’re writing about? Looking at your analytics…

W-Whoa! Come on now, you can’t just look at a man’s analytics…!

Y’know, now that I think about it, I don’t even know why I agreed to this interview at all. You’re barely even qualified to call yourself a writer. 

Hang on a sec—

And you own an entire longbox worth of my comics? I mean, talk about obsessed…

HEY! First of all, that’s PERSONAL. BUSINESS. What I read is sacred! Second of all, of course I have a bunch of your comics: I’m writing this article about you, after all! Third, I NEVER WANTED TO INTERVIEW YOU. You just popped in with your bold font and took over my article! You spoiled the ending to Byrne’s run and you insulted me for being a loyal fan! That hurts, Jen.

Don’t call me Jen!

But that’s your name! You’re Jennifer Walters—you were a regular old lawyer until a car hit you and your cousin Bruce Banner gave you a blood transfusion. Everyone knows that.

You don’t just expose a girl’s entire tragic backstory after calling her by her former pet-name. 

Oh right, sorry. I forgot that you and Wyatt Wingfoot—your boyfriend in Byrne’s run—haven’t really been…a thing recently. Your relationship history as of late has been interesting. Speaking of relationships, how are you and Byrne doing?

Well, killing him didn’t stick. Something to do with him being a Life Model Decoy. Typical. So we mutually agreed to part ways. 

I’m sorry to hear that. I really enjoyed what you two managed to do together.

Nothing good ever lasts.

Like your good characterization.

And besides, he’s a bit of a jerk from what I’ve heard. It’s a good thing for my brand to distance itself from…wait. What do you mean by my “good characterization?”

Well, you haven’t been breaking the fourth wall recently for starters. We’ve missed the Snarky She-Hulk! You were breaking the fourth wall before Dead-

-before Deadpool. Right. You and everyone who’s ever read a cheap clickbait comic book news article says that. Well you know what? A girl just wanted to have fun. Is that too much to ask?! I’ve been stuck in Jason Aaron’s Avengers book for YEARS, and I knew that he didn’t really get me. He took away my smarts, my looks, my legacy. All because he wanted Hulk in his comic. But what could I do? Marvel Editorial no longer took my calls, and I’m not even sure if they even exist anymore. The Comics Code Authority has long since been abandoned, so I couldn’t complain to THEM about MY IMAGE being RUINED. 

Shulkie, the Comics Code Authority wasn’t established for-

LET ME FINISH! Then I come to find that Byrne is neck-deep in controversy, so I can’t even go back to him. Peter David’s busy writing for Cousin Bruce, so I can’t work with HIM anymore. Sure, being in Dan Slott’s recent Fantastic Four book was fine and all, but I wouldn’t call that book anything special. I haven’t been…me for a while. They haven’t…Marvel hasn’t let me be…me. So I just…went into autopilot. Put on a smile…

Are you…are you okay She-Hulk? …do you want a hug?

Ugh…what? No…It’s…It’s fine. I’m fine. I just, I just need a minute. Let’s not lose the readers, you go on talking about me.

Okay…if you say so. We are a bit short on words so I’ll make this quick: Byrne’s She-Hulk was so good that it built the foundation for what would be many more years of brilliant She-Hulk stories. The run brought in an amazing amount of female readers, old and new. It was a pretty great comedy comic for its time, and it’s now considered a fan favorite. Jennifer Walters—She-Hulk—is more than just a female version of Hulk. She’s one of comics’ feminist icons, going so far as to-

F-feminist icon?

Well, yeah! You fought against Byrne’s odd obsession to sexualize you, and with Weezi’s help, you gave yourself a good life.

Can I really be a feminist icon in comics when the internet keeps showing out-of-context pictures of the…“jump rope issue?”

Ah… the jump rope issue. Where you told readers of Byrne’s Sensational She-Hulk that you’d jump rope naked if that’s what it took to get sales. To be fair, you started that. But you also ended it. You were poking fun at how comics were using sex appeal to sell issues at the time, I thought it was a pretty clever stunt. That sounds like feminism in comics to me. You did that a lot in Byrne’s run, and you continued to do that with other writers.

Huh…I never thought about it like that before. I was just being…y’know, me. 

Like Daisy Miller?

Like Daisy Miller!

Except you’re a much more intelligent, deliberate Daisy Miller who knows that promiscuity makes men uncomfortable. You just…own who you are. It’s inspiring. Truly. And I’m excited for your show.

Oh that’s right—I have a show coming out! Well if your readers like my old “feminist” Byrne comic then they’d love to check out my show! I didn’t even think to talk about that…

Well, we can’t. We’re way over my word-limit for this article.

Oh…I didn’t even realize.

Eh, neither did the readers. Unless they’ve been counting every word. That would be…obsessive.

Said the pot to the kettle.

Ouch! Alright She-Hulk, this has been a pleasure, but I think I’ll call the interview off here. This has truly been a dream of mine, and I’m glad my readers have had a chance to get to know the real you. 

And they can continue to get to know the real me by watching my upcoming Disney+ show and reading my new She-Hulk series—written by Rainbow Rowell—coming to your local comic shop this January, 2022! 

Alright alright, I’m not getting paid for any of these endorsements. Get out of here!

Phew…she’s gone. Oh…hey! The italics are gone too! I’m free! I’m…lonely…Well, at least I have you, my loyal readers! Right?

Oh.

6 Books I’d Love to See as Television Series

It is not often that I find myself thinking “I’d like to see that on the screen!” Most of the books I have read fit into three categories: so good that the film would mess it up; so important that transforming into film would be unethical; or so terrible that no money, time, or effort should be wasted on this story. Occasionally, however, a story takes on a unique, colorful, and euphoric sort of life in my mind and I quickly fall into the belief that creating this visual experience in film would be a thing of cathartic beauty which would leave viewers breathless—and in this breathlessness, they would examine their own lives and improve upon them. That might be a bit idealistic, so, at the very least, I am talking about my own self-improvement. The following six books are the handful that I would watch as a television series in a heartbeat.


Cemetery Boys—Aiden Thomas. Cemetery Boys follows Yadriel, a young transgender boy born into a Latinx family of the brujx community in East Los Angeles. Brujx is the all-encompassing word for a community of brujos and brujas, which is a Spanish word generally translated as a sorcerer. When young brujos and brujas in the community come of age, they perform a ritual to gain their powers, which differentiate based upon gender. Yadriel, who was assigned the biological sex of female at birth, wants to prove that he is actually a young man by performing this ritual. After this, Yadriel goes to find the ghost that murdered his cousin, but in the process, he accidentally summons the spirit of Julian Diaz, one of his classmates. As the novel unfolds, the characters work to solve a mystery, an adorable love story takes place, and we grapple with the question of what a family truly is. 

This entire book is set to the backdrop of magic and colorful imagery, which I imagine people in the film industry would trip over to create. There are far too many neutral tones and darkness in television, but this book would take something that could be darkly lit and place pops of color and life everywhere. Besides that fact that it would be visually appealing, this book has LGBTQ+ representation written literally everywhere. It isn’t the kind of story that awkwardly sticks a gay best friend in the corner as an afterthought. The author of Cemetery Boys and all of the main characters are a part of the LGBTQ+ community, so the audience is made aware of real issues that far too many of them face, including homelessness and rejection by their family. What I especially love about this book, however, isn’t simply that the author raises these issues, but that they show a possible world where they find people who love them and those who were previously opposed grow to become accepting. This is the kind of sweet magic we should be putting on our screens.


Girls Save the World in This One—Ash Parsons. June has been obsessed with zombie films her whole life, especially a zombie apocalypse show called Human Wasteland and its dreamy lead character. When she and her two best friends head to ZombieCon to meet him and other prominent actors from zombie-themed films, she is ecstatic. When they arrive, however, some of the fans are acting a bit off. Before they know it, chaos breaks out and June discovers that it’s because real zombies are taking over ZombieCon. June must do everything she can to save her and her friends from the zombies, relying on the skills she has learned as such an avid fan. Along the way, she meets the star of Human Wasteland, and she learns what it means to be a leader in an unlikely situation. 

This is exactly the kind of hilarious, light nonsense I would love to see as a limited series. None of that Marvel-women-coming-together-in-one-scene-as-a-forced-show-of-feminism nonsense. The prospect of this show is giving off the vibes of Netflix’s new show “The Woman in the House Across the Street from the Girl in the Window”. It’s the perfect satire of those popular zombie shows, while also being powerful, sweet, and relatable (at least in the sense that an avid fan has wished for something like this to actually happen).


Macbeth—William Shakespeare. This play follows the titular character Macbeth on his quest to amass more power and take over as Scotland’s ruler. Persuaded by his wife, Lady Macbeth—and his own ambition—he sets out to obtain this position by any means necessary. Interwoven into the story are themes of love, murder, prophecy, and paranoia, as well as questions about proper gender dynamics, what it takes to be a good leader, why we seek power, and how we should seek power. 

Like many other Shakespeare plays, Macbeth has made it to the big screen many times, the most recent being at the end of 2021 with Denzel Washington playing Macbeth. Call me critical or filled with hubris, but I believe that we should give Macbeth more than a two hour movie. At the very least, it deserves to be a limited series so that we can properly explore the intricacies of this play. There is so much to unpack, and I haven’t seen a single rendition that fully encompasses this story. They’re either lacking the philosophical questions Shakespeare poses about how power corrupts and how a good ruler is made, or they play too far into modern notions of entertainment: blood, drama, sex, and violence (which is ironic because that is exactly what Macbeth covers in the play). Macbeth shouldn’t simply serve as entertainment. It should shock people so deeply that they begin to understand how malleable human nature is and undertake a strengthening of their own character. 


Ash Princess—Laura Sebastian. Ash Princess, which is now a finished trilogy, follows Theodosia, a young woman whose country was taken over when she was a child. She is forced to live among her captors, enduring abuse and ridicule. That is, until a series of events forces her to choose between continuing this life and fighting to regain her and her country’s freedom. This story raises themes of imperialism, colonization, and slavery. In typical Young Adult Fantasy fashion, these characters have powers, Theodosia herself having her own unique force. 

I thought the book series was excellent, but I did think there could have been more detailed storylines. In my vision of a television series adaptation, this story would not stay so much in the Young Adult genre. It would expand on the effects of colonization, and Theodosia would be less whiny. The books spend far too much time on her love triangle, and they don’t adequately show the strength that someone in her position and making those choices would require. In at least five seasons, I can see this story being the next Game of Thrones. 


Second First Impressions—Sally Thorne. Ruthie Midona likes to play it safe. She has a stable job, and her appearance is an absolute paradox—she is a young woman, but she dresses as if she were an elderly lady. Moreover, she works at a retirement villa called Providence. When Teddy Prescott enters her life, he is everything she is not: a motorcycle-riding, tattooed young man who has trouble committing to much of anything. He is everything she wants, though. When Teddy’s father, the owner of Providence, has him live on site with Ruthie and the other residents, Ruthie tries her best to avoid falling in love with him. He’ll be gone soon enough anyway. However, Teddy’s charm and persistence makes her efforts impossible. Every single character, not just Ruthie and Teddy, has a unique and quirky personality that everyone is sure to enjoy. 

When I imagine the setting of this novel, it brings me great peace. In my mind, the cottages of Providence are sporadically placed amid a giant garden-like plot of land. A staple of the novel is also the tiny, endangered turtles that wander around the grounds. This beautiful setting, as well as the eccentric characters that fill the novel, would create a fabulous limited series of absolute hilarity and romance. 


We Were Liars—E. Lockhart. This book follows Cadence, a member of the wealthy Sinclair family who spends their summer vacations on a private island with large estates, one for each little family. When Cadence is fifteen, she suffers a head injury, but doesn’t quite know how this happened to her. Over the next few years, she receives little communication from her two cousins and friend, who she normally spends the summers with. When she finally returns to the island, everyone seems a bit off, and she is pushed to uncover what actually happened to her when she was fifteen. This novel is filled with mystery and frustration over unnecessary wealth and class differences. In a shocking twist at the end (one that had me screaming in my car because I was listening to the audiobook), we are forced to think about how our actions can have severe consequences, even when they begin from someplace righteous. 

This would make an excellent limited series. It’s energetic, exciting, and traumatizing. The setting of a private island during summer would give us so many beautiful scenes. Most of all, I want to see this on the screen because it calls attention to wealth and class disparities, how money can corrupt our personalities, and how it can misguide even the best of our intentions. This is the kind of story humanity needs in order to see the true effect of our actions and become more conscious of our choices. 

My One Year Anniversary on Bookstagram

Bookstagram (n.)—a place people can go to geek out about their favorite books and not be judged.

After looking in like a kid outside a candy store on a world with perfectly crafted feeds of flat lays, stacks, and bookshelves, with aesthetics ranging from minimalist to dark academia, I decided that I wanted access to all the behind the scenes happenings of this magical world. 

I am so glad I did.

I posted my first photo of a heavily filtered Circe by Madeline Miller thrown on my wrinkled bedsheet on December 30, 2020, and still got about twenty-seven comments welcoming me to bookstagram. A little over a year, I now have 500 friends who are as crazy about reading as I am. 

Where else could I post a million cast pictures of Shadow and Bone and talk about Dramione fanfic and not get blocked? The same place where I once got a birthday letter from a character in the A Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas from a fellow bookstagrammer.

I’ve had conversations with people in my same book fandoms who obsess just as much as me, posted amateur photos that I’m still so proud of because they showcase my lovely books, and gotten to know so many people with amazing book recommendations and even more amazing feeds. I’m telling you I could scroll through book flat lays for hours. Another benefit to bookstagram is that you can post your reading progress throughout the year. It’s helped me stay accountable for my reading goal. There is so much support and likeness to bookstagram that it’s impossible not to feel at home.

Now, you might be reading this thinking, “Wow, what a nerd!” But, if you love reading as much as I do and want to join a community where all reading is accepted, I encourage you to make an account and post a crappy photo of your favorite book. You’ll be surprised how many people welcome you.

And if Instagram isn’t for you, there is also Booktok and Booktwt. How awesome is that by the way? Bookish people are the best.

Book Review

The School for Good Mothers by Jessamine Chan

Publisher: Simon & Schuster
Genre: Speculative Fiction
Pages: 336
Format: Hardcover
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My Rating: 4.5/5 stars

Summary

Frida is a sleep-deprived single mom trying desperately to juggle the requirements of work and the needs of her toddler Harriet. On one very bad day she leaves Harriet home alone, just for a little bit, so she can get a coffee and a report from the office. She admits this wasn’t a good idea, but when you’re sleep deprived you do stupid things, and it wasn’t for long. But one bad day is enough to earn her the state’s attention.

The judge offers an ultimatum: lose custody of your child or attend a year-long residential program using the latest scientific techniques to turn bad mothers into sparkling specimens of devotion.

If Frida wants to see Harriet again, she must first prove herself at the school for good mothers.

Thoughts

In Good Mothers, the protagonist of a slice-of-life literary novel finds herself trapped in a bureaucratic panopticon written in the style of Philip K. Dick. The science fictional elements of the story introduce themselves slowly. By the time the android children programmed to feel pain and love in order to be better training tools show up, Frida is too numb to react with much surprise.

I have never before read a book which conveys in such clarity the feeling of living within the self-perpetuating logic of the carceral state.

The American justice system operates on the premise that crime is a failing of the individual whose proper antidote is punishment of the individual for their moral failing (denying systemic problems and those based on material conditions). Criminals are only eligible to re-enter society as citizens when they have “paid for their crimes” and undergone some sort of personal rehabilitation. This insidious reasoning has becomes so endemic in our society that many Americans would define justice as synonymous with punishment for crime.

So when single, working mother Frida fails to meet the exacting standards of motherhood mandated by the state, the solution is for her to be punished and then rehabilitated. That Frida will never be able to meet standards designed for stay-at-home mothers of petite bourgeois families only serves to proves that she is indeed a bad mother.

She has been put into a Sisyphean struggle. Society demands that she work in order to live, but society has also conveniently defined labor traditionally associated with women as not real work deserving of wages. Frida is therefore expected to excel at the labor of motherhood without payment and still work for a living in a profession whose labor is granted material value by society. When she fails to perform perfect motherhood according to these standards, she is punished.

And not merely punished. At the titular school for good mothers, Frida participates in her own humiliation. She repeats over and over the mantra “I am a bad mother but I am learning to be good” as if she were in a 12-step program. She doesn’t have to say it, but if she refuses, her noncompliance will be noted in the file which the judge will use to determine if she can ever see her child again.

Frida’s constant self-abnegation struck a familiar chord with me. To be poor or marginalized in America is to be constantly groveling. The service worker must apologize to the customer who screams at them or else lose their job. The poor student must right essay after essay flogging their personal traumas for the chance at a life-changing scholarship. The parolee is forced to act as their own warden, enforcing on themselves the onerous terms of their semi-freedom on threat of re-imprisonment.

To become an active participant in one’s own subjugation is the ultimate horror of the carceral state.

I won’t spoil how Good Mothers ends, but I will say that the final scenes are neither hopeful nor despairing, and more than worth the horror one must wade through in the preceding pages.

Book Review

What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City by Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha

Publisher: One World
Genre: Science
Pages: 384
Format: Paperback
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My Rating: 5/5 stars

Summary

The Flint water crisis is one of the most well-known and tragic public health issues of the 21st century. It has been repeatedly documented and analyzed—representing not only a failure of government but the power and force of citizens. What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance, and Hope in an American City is the story of the Flint water crisis, but also the physician who spoke up. Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha describes the story of herself, her research team, and her community as they discovered and exposed the extreme levels of lead in Flint’s tap water.

Thoughts

I don’t usually lean toward nonfiction or biographical novels, perhaps because so much of my year is taken up with nonfiction or educational material for school. However, What the Eyes Don’t See is an amazingly fluid work that intertwines the author’s personal narrative and experience with the factual occurrences during the beginning of Flint, Michigan’s water crisis. In this manner, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha not only allows the reader to understand historically what happened, why it happened, and the steps taken to address it, but what the personal effects of the situation caused. By describing her personal story, as well as the community’s account and direct reaction, Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha gives a face to the crisis rather than just addressing the blame. It is this mix of emotion and fact that made me love this novel and pushed me to seek out more nonfiction (especially current nonfiction) novels.

Additionally, the detailed account of the crisis from the beginning allowed the reader to understand the steps taken and failures of the government at each stage. I also greatly appreciated the historical references, explanations, and details laid out periodically. The inclusion of background information, which while not necessarily vital to the narrative, provided a deeper understanding of the community and the impact of the situation. After all, What the Eyes Don’t See is less about the actual crisis details and more about the community and individuals who risked a lot to protect their neighbors and speak out against a failure of government. It is truly a great book that offers an increasingly prominent analysis of not only public health in the United States but the priorities of communities versus government.

10 Books To Look Forward To In 2022

A new year brings with it another crop of incredible books for readers to enjoy—and while it’s impossible to know which books will captivate the world in 2022, these 10 books appear to be full of potential. Mark your calendars, because these amazing stories will be hitting bookstore shelves this year, and you won’t want to miss them.


Book of Night—Holly Black. From the beloved author Holly Black comes the story of Charlie, a con artist working as a bartender. In her world, shadows can be manipulated, changing a person’s memories, feelings, powers, and more—but these changes come with a serious price. When a figure from her past arrives at Charlie’s door, she must re-enter the terrible world of shadow trading, facing off against thieves and nobles, all hell-bent on controlling the power of the shadow. In this world of shadows and deceit, is there truly anyone Charlie can trust?

Release Date: May 23,2022


Daughter of the Moon Goddess—Sue Lynn Tan. Inspired by the legend of the Chinese moon goddess, this story follows Xingyin, a young girl who lives on the moon to hide from the celestial Emperor who exiled her mother until she is discovered and forced to flee. She makes her way to the Celestial Kingdom where she, in disguise, begins to train with the Emperor’s son. However, even as passion blooms between the two, forbidden magic threatens the kingdom and Xingyin will soon have to choose between saving the realm or saving those she loves the most.

Release Date: January 11, 2022


Book Lovers—Emily Henry. Nora Stephens is a cutthroat literary agent who is seeking a literary adventure of her own in Sunshine Falls, North Carolina. Despite her best efforts, though, she keeps running into Charlie Lastra, a brooding editor from the city and Nora’s personal rival. However, as their encounters become more and more frequent, Nora begins to discover that there is more to Charlie than what she first suspected.

Release Date: May 3, 2022


Dead Girls Can’t Tell Secrets—Chelsea Ichaso. Was Piper’s fall an accident? Piper Sullivan has been in a coma for a month after what everyone assumed was a freak hiking accident—but when her sister Savannah finds an invitation to a wilderness club at the very place and time her sister fell, she begins to suspect foul play. Savannah joins the club for the weekend camping trip at the same mountain, but the truth will not be found so easily. Everyone has secrets, including Savanah.

Release Date: April 5, 2022


The League of Gentlewomen Witches—India Holton. Charlotte Pettifer is the future leader of the League of Gentlewomen Witches, a group of witches dedicated to using magic to maintain what is proper. When the long-lost amulet of Black Beryl is discovered, Charlotte must team up with Alex O’Riley, a pirate who also desires to steal the amulet. But Charlotte must be careful or her pirate might run off with her heart.

Release Date: March 15, 2022


Dead Silence—S.A.Barnes. A salvage crew receives a distress call on their way back to earth and are shocked to discover that it’s The Aurora, a luxury spaceliner that vanished twenty years ago. The crew is elated as this salvage could set them up for life, but as they investigate further they realize something is very wrong. From messages in blood to haunting voices from the darkness, it’s clear that something horrible happened to the Aurora, and if they don’t figure out what happened soon, they might be next.

Release Date: February 8, 2022


Taking Down Backpage: Fighting the World’s Largest Sex Trafficker—Maggy Krell. Backpage was the largest sex trafficking operation in the world, advertising the sale of sex with vulnerable people in 800 cities and making millions of dollars. In Taking Down Backpage, Maggy Krell, a California prosecutor, details how she and her team managed to take down the trafficking monolith. From the victims’ stories to the sting operations to the future of sex trafficking, Taking Down Backpage provides a harrowing tale of the fight for justice in the digital age.

Release Date: January 11, 2022


The Book Eaters—Sunyi Dean. Devon belongs to a reclusive clan of book eaters, people who are able to gain a book’s content by eating it. As a woman, she was raised on a diet of fairytales and cautionary stories while her brothers were raised on stories of valor and adventure. However, all she’s ever learned from her years of book eating will be put to the test when she discovers her son doesn’t hunger for books, he hungers for human minds.

Release Date: August 9, 2022


Serendipity: Ten Romantic Tropes, Transformed—Edited by Marissa Meyer. Lovers of the romance genre will be familiar with the genre’s many beloved tropes. The fake relationship, the matchmaker, first love, unrequited love, secret admirers, and many more have delighted readers since the beginning of time. Now, ten young adult authors join forces to turn these tropes on their heads, creating new stories for readers to fall for.

Release Date: January 4, 2022


Gallant—V. E. Schwab. Olivia Prior is an orphan who was raised in a school for girls with only her mother’s journals to provide her any clue to her past. That is, until she receives a letter that invites her home to Gallant. However, she finds that there is more to the Gallant manor than the first meets the eye, and she must now decide where she truly belongs—with her prior family protecting the world from the master of the house, or by his side.

Release Date: March 1, 2022

The Way of the Househusband by Kousuke Oono

If you’re in the market for a good husband, consider a former Yakuza. I’m convinced this manga, The Way of the Househusband, is pro-Yakuza propaganda. If it is, then it’s very good pro-Yakuza propaganda. This slice-of-life manga’s comfortable premise helped convert me into a fan of a genre I originally despised. After all, the slice-of-life genre has a reputation for throwaway plots: they’re cute and make you feel good, but there’s no depth. The Way of the Househusband is an exception, and a very wholesome one at that.

The Way of the Househusband pulls you in with its enigmatic protagonist: Tatsu the Immortal Dragon. There’s a certain charm to Tatsu—a je ne sais quoi—that makes him such a lovable character. Volume 1 dedicates its first few pages to what Tatsu was like, briefly showing his storied career as a violent assassin. What immediately follows is a reformed Tatsu, a man whose new path in life includes coupon clipping, meal prepping, and house cleaning. His first adventure follows him realizing he forgot to give his wife the boxed lunch he made her, so he hops on his bicycle and races to her place of work. The police stop him, confused at how a man who so clearly looks like a Yakuza would be riding a bicycle. Tatsu manages to escape their questioning, and then we’re onto the next story. This manga isn’t plot-heavy, focused instead on the comfortable characters, setting, and scenarios. The Way of the Househusband doesn’t want to make you sit on the edge of your seat, it wants you to sink further into it. Each chapter is about 8 pages long, and the intensity of the drama is kept to a minimum. The manga’s most intense moments include Tatsu’s mad-dash to the grocery store, hoping to take advantage of a random flash sale.

(Tatsu and Miku enjoying themselves in The Way of the Househusband, Vol 2)

That’s not to say there isn’t conflict, far from it. Tatsu’s wife, Miku, is a full-time businesswoman. There are moments in the manga that indicate Miku is not only the head-of-household thanks to her job, but also thanks to her fiery personality. Tatsu expresses his fear of upsetting “The Boss,” a term of endearment he uses for his wife. Tatsu also finds himself encountering his former Yakuza members who express their confusion in his newfound love of crafts, DIY kits, and cooking. His charming personality and supremely detailed crafts help him survive a would-be messy encounter with a rival Yakuza gang, where he offers them a rubber duck. Ultimately, it’s his experience as a former Yakuza boss that helps him be such a great househusband.

Each volume outdoes the last, and Tatsu begins to win over the hearts of other Yakuza who are doomed to forever live a life of crime. Whatever happened to Tatsu made him realize that being a Yakuza and being a househusband are one and the same. He befriends a group of housewives who become his crafting and cooking mentors. He attends cooking classes in hopes that he can make a delicious meal for his wife after work. It’s all serious business for Tatsu, and one of his former partners in crime takes note, eventually leaving the Yakuza entirely to become his student. Despite Tatsu’s rough looks and delinquent past, The Way of the Househusband shows that he has plenty of love to give.

My favorite chapter of this manga has Tatsu babysitting his neighbor’s son who just wants to have fun. What follows is Tatsu realizing just how difficult entertaining a child is. Without going into much detail, Tatsu tries to use what he learned as a Yakuza to entertain the kid. It doesn’t go over well. Like all chapters— of course—it’s all resolved in the end, thanks in part to Miku’s timely return home, but it’s a good example of the manga’s strong characterization. Tatsu has a good heart, and despite his inexperience with kids, just wants the boy to have a good time. He knows his limits, realizing that he’s in over his head and tries to find an alternative to what he’s already trying. He’s sensitive, which allows him to bond with the kid. He lacks self-awareness: he truly doesn’t realize just how scary his face is. All of these little facets of Tatsu combine to make what is a very compelling, loveable househusband. 

As of my writing this there are six English volumes of The Way of the Househusband, with the seventh releasing next year, January 18th. Additionally, there’s a brief live-action adaptation that can be watched on YouTube (made for advertising) and an anime that just had its second season. Each volume of the manga can be enjoyed on its own, but they build on each other to create a truly enjoyable story. There are recurring characters with their own character arcs, and Tatsu grows on you with each new chapter. He’s a simple man who found fulfillment in wearing an apron and perfecting his omelet recipe. He’s a responsible cat owner, a diligent money saver, and a truly loving husband. If he wasn’t already taken, he’d be the world’s most eligible bachelor. The Way of the Househusband is a must-read for anyone who needs a simple, wholesome story. Let your heart and cheeks be warmed by Tatsu and Miku’s adorable marriage—and if that isn’t your kind of thing, they have an unbearably cute cat. And did I mention that he cooks a mean omelet?