Books

Book Bingo | Mid-June.

I know it’s Monday evening – which probably doesn’t count for “weekend” even if you’re retired – but turns out getting my thoughts together around what I wanted to share about books and reading took longer than I expected. Also, I spent several hours with that pretty fabric, more than that with a few books, and I played tennis (yes, it was a most delightful weekend!)

I have no photos to share from all that other delightful stuff, but here’s what my desk looked like yesterday morning.That pile of books to the left is library books I’ve read this month. I also had two audio books and a kindle book on loan from Libby. and nothing updated in my book journal since May 31. I needed to get my thoughts recorded – and quotations copied! – so I could return everything this week.

It also gave me the perfect opportunity to figure out what was what with my Bingo card. I read enough that I figured I’d find matches for pretty much anything on my card … turns out I was right! I’ve finished 12 books since Bingo began and I have spaces for all 12 on my card (also – 12 squares does not get me a single Bingo!)

Also, turns out that reading whatever struck my fancy (a friend recommendation, heard on a podcast, saw on Instagram, a new-to-me author crush, a “must-read” summer pick!) was putting books I really wanted to read (books I pre-ordered even!) at the bottom of my pile.

I updated my book journal for the ten books I’ve finished this month, looked at my book cart, looked at my Bingo card, and winnowed my “near term” to-read shelf to books I’ve already borrowed, need to read for June/early July bookclubs, and books I own and have been meaning to read … some, for a long time. That “near term” list is also 12 books, and that will fill my Bingo card except for the Free Square. I’m not great with Reading Plans, and even though this one is pretty short-term, I figure I’ll have ONE book come up in the next 3-4 weeks that I’ll just HAVE to fit in 🙂

I’ve already posted in detail about the two Bingo books I finished in May (Swimming Lessons and Disfigured) and want to share just two highlights from the ten I’ve read so far this month. These are both books that Katie put on my radar because she saw them in the Fiction Matters Discord chat (I have the app, but it’s not at all part of my routine, so I’m glad Katie keeps me up-to-date!)

The Beauty of Your Face, by Sahar Mustafah

This was recommended as a book to help understand the Palestinian/Israeli conflict. From the jacket copy “A Palestinian-American woman wrestles with faith, loss, and identity before coming face-to-face with a school shooter in this searing debut.”

I gave this book 4-1/2 stars. It checked my Delight, Diversity, and Growth boxes. Themes of race, class, religion, faith, politics, family, love, education, immigration. Set near Chicago, IL in the 1970’s – current day.

I’m a sucker for a good epigraph, so I loved this book before I even started reading:

She’s so young. Would you not let her blossom a bit more? ~friend of Yusor Mohammad Abu-Salha

Events matter little, only stories of events affect us. ~Rabih Alameddine, The Hakawati

The writing is gorgeous. The story is beautiful and heartbreakingly American … a school shooting, targeting Muslim Arabs. I learned a lot about the Muslim faith – prayers, practices, hijab … and took a gut punch about the micro- and macro-aggressions the family, and Afaf (the woman referenced in that jacket copy) suffers.

She hates the way her name sounds from his lips, like the others she’s heard reducing her to an object: A-faf. A-slut. A-virgin. A-lost girl. ~p. 79

Afaf is the middle child of Palestinian parents who immigrated to the US before she was born. The family settles in Chicago and struggles … to fit in, to pay rent, to survive. Initially, the family isn’t at all religious, but Afaf’s father comes back to Islam and takes Afaf to pray. I cried through the pages that described Afaf coming to her faith.

Afaf feels like a stranger who’s finally come home, one who’s forgotten the language, the mannerisms of her people. She’s nervous, tentative. ~p. 127

Religion doesn’t make reality go away, he’d said. But [she replied] it sheilds us from the ugliness sometimes. We need that, Maj. Even if it’s not permanent. Isn’t that what civilizations have been doing since the dawn of time? Since the Mayans and Greeks? It isn’t mass delusion, as you call it. It’s the most primitive human instinct. Religion eases suffering. ~p. 219

Afaf becomes a teacher, then a principal … and then the school shooting happens (the shooting actually opens the book and Afaf’s backstory comes after).

This book filled the Debut category on my card, but it could also fill: with a beautiful cover, about religion, about politics, more than one time period, published last year, author of color, new-to-you author, recommended by a friend, and (maybe) protagonist with a different ethnicity,

A Room Called Earth, by Madeleine Ryan

This book was suggested as a “palate cleanser” and I’d just finished a string of heavy-ish books (Crying in HMart, How the One-armed Sister Sweeps her House, Swimming in the Dark, The Hand that First Held Mine, and The Beauty of Your Face – all Goodreads links) … and it was available 🙂

I gave this book 4-1/2 stars. It checked my Delight and Connection boxes … and maybe Diversity? the protagonist (and the author) is neuro-diverse and this comes across in the narrative. Note that I read this on Kindle (my first book on my new paperwhite!). Katie listened to the audio, narrated by the author and said it was excellent.

Themes of death (CW), sexuality, class, racism, patriarchy. Set in Melbourne, Australia, in the current day – one less than 24-hour period from December 23-24.

I really loved the voice. This is first person narrative, stream of consciousness, from a neuro-diverse perspective. not at all for everyone!

I found the writing sharp, smart, and at times funny and/or heart-breaking.

I’m thinking this would work well for Sally Rooney fans, and maybe not so much for others? (although the voice in this one comes across a lot different from your “average 20-something” … so maybe give the Kindle sample a try?)

One of my favorite things about reading Kindle books is capturing the highlights. and from an actual Kindle (see above!), I can export them into a lovely pdf and print it out for my journal. all three pages! It was hard, but I made myself choose only three four to share here:

Symbolically, Porkchop is “every animal” to me and I love him dearly. Look at him. He has a little soul, which has an agenda that miraculously involves staring at me all day. I feel so blessed.

Porkchop is her cat … and I couldn’t help but think he sounded a bit like Holly.

I often wish that my sexual desires were more malleable than they are. Being solely attracted to men sucks. It’s like suffering from an irreversible case of Stockholm syndrome. I’m drawn to the very creature that has violated, oppressed, exploited, raped, kidnapped, subjugated, controlled, made fun of, manipulated, abused, belittled, objectified, persecuted, and condescended me and my people for centuries.

It’s difficult for women to be honest and direct because for centuries we were burned at the stake, or persecuted, or exiled, or rejected, or excommunicated, or divorced, or shamed, or socially excluded, for saying what we truly thought and felt. Now, we know how to act like we’re being direct and forthright, when we’re not, and we know how to seem uninhibited and free, when we’re not, and we know how to appear helpless and damaged, when we’re not. Deception is more ingrained in us than honesty.

Indeed! (see what I mean about that sharp, smart voice?!)

I’m pretty sure that feeling alone in a crowd is a shared experience.

This book filled the Country I’ve never visited square on my card, but it could also fill: with a beautiful cover, person on the cover, different season, single day, published last year, debut, author/protagonist with a disability, written in the first person, recommended by a friend, and maybe country you’d like to visit, place to vacation, audiobook narrated by the author, or audiobook with one narrator.

WHEW! So here’s what’s left

and just look how neat that top shelf in my cart looks!

You can see all 24 books on my Goodreads shelf here, including the squares they’ll fill – and if you have questions about any of them, please just leave a comment or send me an email!

How’s your summer reading going?

10 Comments

  • Jane

    Your summer reading is off to a great start. I finished Allende’s The Soul of a Woman and The Water Dancer. They were excellent. Those two books are on my summer list.

  • Juliann

    Great post. Your reviews are wonderful and very helpful. I spent some time with my tbr and my bingo card and I am worried that many of my want to read titles are not going to work for my card, even when I stretch. But, I do love the challenge of the game!

  • Carole

    As always, I’m impressed not only with your organization when it comes to your reading but also with your careful consideration of how these books fit into your reading goals. Well done!

  • Bonny

    You have certainly come to a way of organizing your reading along with choosing your reading that works for you! I tend to be a little more loose, choosing books that are available on Overdrive along with requesting a few really tempting ones, and seeing what’s available on Netgalley. But all reading is good, and I wish you a full summer of great reading!

  • Kat

    Excellent reading, Mary! Thank you so much for your indepth reviews! I am spending my morning trying to figure out how 2 poetry books might fit on my bingo card 🙂 Wish me luck! lol

  • Sarah

    You continue to amaze me with how much you manage to read — and not always easy books, either! I will be finishing Unsettled Ground today (I have about 30 pages left to read) and then started Disfigured. And suddenly all my library holds have started coming in, so I’m going to need to be spending a lot of time reading to keep up!

  • Debbie

    I am amazed at how many books you have read and at how organized you are in planning your reading.
    I’m currently reading my 6th book for summer bingo, Tears of Amber by Sofia Segovia. lAthough the book takes place over a number of years, the central part of it takes place in winter and so I’m using it for my “different season” square. I have books chosen for several of my bingo squares, but am still thinking about my choices for “food” and ” fiber or craft” .
    I leave for a week’s vacation on Saturday and have some books loaded on my kindle for long, lazy beach days!

  • karen

    I want to read! I have two more weeks of this madness and then of course I have all the unpacking…Maybe by August?? I will vicariously through you 🙂 🙂 🙂

  • Margene

    Mary, you are so organized and your explainations on your thoughts for each book are rich and inspiring . Reading “real” books creates great visuals. I’m always impressed with your reviews. Thank you!

  • Katie @ The Cozy Burrow

    This post makes me so happy! I love the variety of books you read – it makes for such a fun summer!

    (and that top picture? Totally bookstagrammable. And the other two pictures you included are also perfect for bookstagram!)