Weekend Reads: “Crying in H Mart”

Crying in H MartCrying in H Mart by Michelle Zauner
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I found myself alternately laughing and crying as I read this memoir by pop musician Michelle Zauner.

The work primarily focuses on her challenging relationship with her mother, who was born in Korea. Zauner’s father is American, and she struggles to find what she thinks of as her right place in society. She is kind of dismissive of her mother’s housewifery and wants a more artistic life.

When Zauner’s mother becomes terminally ill, she finds herself reexamining many things about their relationship. When she realizes how much the two of them have connected over traditional Korean foods (many of which I’m unfamiliar with), she tries to use that method to bridge some of the gaps that have arisen over the years.

Food also becomes a metaphor for healing and grief over the course of the book, which was interesting.

I enjoyed this look into Korean culture, and would recommend it to anyone who enjoys reading heartfelt memoirs.

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Weekend Reads: “All Boys Aren’t Blue”

All Boys Aren't BlueAll Boys Aren’t Blue by George M. Johnson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This memoir, by a young Black man coming to grips with not only race-related issues but with his own queerness, is by turns heartbreaking and laughter-inducing.

Author George M. Johnson tells us about growing up in Plainfield, New Jersey, under the watchful eye of the grandmother he calls Nanny due to his parents working very long hours. He keeps trying to be what everyone expects him to be, but the only thing he seems secure about is being intelligent. He’d rather hang out with gal-pals than boys his own age (the exception being his cousins) … and he pretty soon figures out that he really has no interest beyond friendship with women.

However, it takes George a long time to accept that he’s gay, let alone be out to people, and this book deals a lot with that.

Aimed at an audience that may be facing similar struggles, Johnson’s memoir is an important book that, unfortunately, is facing a great deal of censure from would-be book banners who have clearly never read the work. It belongs in high school and public libraries, because there are people who need this information so that they know they aren’t alone.

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Weekend Reads: “The Skin Thief”

The Skin ThiefThe Skin Thief by T. E. MacArthur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Disclosure up front: I was a beta reader for the first go-round of this book. It’s changed significantly since then.

4.5/5 Stars

Tessa Wells-Lancing grew up as an Air Force brat. She’s comfortable in a variety of places as a result of her upbringing, and that’s why the mysterious Athenaeum organization sends her to the Four Corners region of the desert Southwest to look into the unusual disappearances of some big names in the underworld. Rather than take the wet-behind-the-ears new agent assigned as her partner, Tessa brings in disgraced former agent Jack de Sombras as her partner in the investigation.

Once they arrive in town, their cover as US Geological Survey analysts established, they discover that nothing and no one is quite what they seem. The only people who seem to have a bead on the situation are some paranormal investigators — and they’re in a hurry to get out of town!

Author T.E. MacArthur has set the stage for an entire series of paranormal thrillers with her first venture into this genre. The characters are well-drawn and believable, and her love for the material comes through on the page. Some minor editorial issues cost the book half a star, but did not distract from the “ripping good yarn” that MacArthur has created.

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Weekend Reads: “Lawn Boy”

Lawn BoyLawn Boy by Jonathan Evison
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“Lawn Boy” is one of the most clever, irreverent novels I’ve ever had the pleasure to read. Author Jonathan Evison gives us a great look at classism and racism through the eyes of Mike Munoz, who works as a landscaper but yearns to do something more with his life.

Mike experiences several career changes and setbacks during the course of the book, along with figuring out who he is socially. Dealing with being bi-racial is only part of what Mike has to go through in the course of this book.

The author has taken some serious topics and made us see them in an unexpected light that provides relatability on numerous levels.

This book has been challenged repeatedly by book ban supporters (most of whom I would bet have never read it) because it deals with LGBTQ+ issues. The book is so much more than that, and deserves better treatment than the bigotry with which it has been received in certain corners. It’s intelligent, poignant, and funny.

Highly recommended.

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Weekend Reads: “The Writing Retreat”

The Writing RetreatThe Writing Retreat by Julia Bartz
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I’m not sure how to classify this book: is it a locked-room mystery, a fair-play puzzle, a thriller, a horror story?

Because the truth is, it is all of these things at once.

Struggling author Alex can hardly believe her luck when she’s one of the lucky few chosen by her favorite author, Roza Vallo, to be part of a month-long writing retreat a Roza’s remote estate. She and four other young women arrive at Blackbriar, ready to write.

But things get complicated when Alex discovers that one of the participants is Wren, her erstwhile friend from who she’s become estranged.

And then things become even more bizarre, with things going bump in the night … until the night that one of the participants, Poppy, disappears. It’s been snowing, there’s no way she could really be gone … so the other young women start investigating.

That’s when things take a serious turn for the worse. Blackbriar contains secrets none of them could have imagined.

I knew I needed to read this book about a writing retreat gone horribly wrong, and it did not disappoint.

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