The Giver of Stars by Jojo Moyes

Poor Jojo Moyes! I might have enjoyed her book some degree more had I not read Kim Michele Richardson‘s Book Woman of Troublesome Creek over the summer. Both novels explore the largely-forgotten history of the Depression-Era Pack Horse Librarians of Kentucky, and Moyes’ novel certainly pales in comparison to Richardson’s.

A black and white photo of a packhorse librarian, astride her horse with an armful of reading materials.

Though let’s be honest, here—Moyes is doing just fine without my fandom. She has best-selling cred and movie deals galore.* I can’t exactly imagine her crying her self to sleep amongst her millions simply because a certain Ms. MezzoSherri likes the other packhorse librarian book better than Moyes’.

And here’s another wee truth-bomb: I’m pretty sure I’d have given this book a 2-star rating, whether or not I knew about Richardson’s novel ahead of reading Moyes’s.

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City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert

Another title from the “just caught my attention” collection. This book caught my eye last year when I attended my second Mama Gena’s weekend in the Ziegfeld Ballroom. That site isn’t actually the building where the Follies were performed, but it still had a potent resonance, walking in the spiritual footprints of the Ziegfeld Girls while doing Mama G’s program, and then learning about this novel about 1940s New York showgirls all at the same time.

Full disclosure: I’ve never read anything by Gilbert before. I know Eat, Pray, Love was a huge phenomenon, and that Gilbert followed it up with another memoir (or two or three) as her life took additional twists and turns. It wasn’t ever a definitive decision I made against reading her stuff, I just never got around to it. (So many books, so little time…)

Still, knowing what little I know about the whole Eat, Pray, Love thing, I was truly puzzled about what type of “New York showgirl” story this particular author might want to tell. Would it completely eschew her introspective memoir thing to go all the way into glitz and escapism? Would it tell an anachronistic story of female sexual liberation and expression? What exactly would I find behind this pink feathered cover?*

A closeup of the book cover for City of Girls, showing the title in front of a picture of pink feathers.

The answer? A little bit of all of the above.

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The Truths We Hold by Kamala Harris

Contextual set-up: aside from Shakespeare Project the Second, my 2020 reading has been deeply preoccupied with sociopolitical analysis—both anti-racist texts, and exposes of the Cheeto POTUS’s administration. This book doesn’t fit clearly in either of those sub-categories, but it’s definitely part of the same reading family that has been so front-and-center for me since I emerged from my first bout of “pandemic brain” and started actively reading again.

An screencap from MezzoSherri's Libby shelf, showing the thumbnail for Kamala Harris's book The Truths We Hold.
Thank you, Libby!

It wasn’t till I started writing this post that I realized The Truths We Hold is a campaign book.* But of course it is. Released about a week or two before Harris launched her Presidential campaign in January 2019, and with the flag-waving subtitle An American Journey, it has all the hallmarks of the genre.

And no shame on that. This sort of book has a long and respectable lineage, from JFK’s Profiles in Courage to Obama’s Audacity of Hope to Warren’s This Fight is Our Fight.** Good on Harris for writing her own, and I hope she continues to earn healthy royalty checks throughout the remainder of her long career in public service.

Still, I think I’m glad I read the memoir when I did rather than during the heat of the primaries.

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Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper

This was a slight deviation from my post-pre-diabetes-diagnosis plan to focus on reading only those challenge books that were already in my possession. When I made that course correction, I’d forgotten that right at the start of 2019 I’d put my name on the waiting list for the library’s e-book copy of this title.

So, when my name finally reached the top of the list a couple weeks ago, I decided just to roll with destiny and give myself the pleasure of reading this. (A bird in the hand and all that…)

I’d already had Cooper’s memoir/social analysis on my reading wish list since mid-2018, on the basis of the good press and positive reviews the work was getting. In complete candor, for all that I went into my 2019 planning with the supposed goal of drawing primarily from my own library, this was a title I wanted to shoehorn onto my 2019 list, come hell or high water.

Lucky for me, it wasn’t all that hard to find a place for Cooper’s book. Between the callout to the New York Public Library staff picks and the invocation of celebrity recommendations, I was golden.(1)

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The Body is Not an Apology by Sonya Renee Taylor

We had one main project for the holiday weekend, but we were able to wrap it up so quickly yesterday that I’ve had some extra-luxurious reading time on my Saturday and Sunday. Which means that after a long dry spell, I’ve finished yet another book—this one, the latest choice from my fat activist/HAES/body love reading list.

Sonya Renee Taylor and her radical self-love/liberationist platform, The Body is Not an Apology, has been on my radar for some years now. I think it was my friend Alice who first brought Sonya into my awareness. Even if I’m misremembering this detail, I am going to stand by this poetic retelling for the rest of my days. There is something so just and sacred and fitting in a poet of Alice’s caliber bringing me to learn about a poet of Sonya’s caliber.

So as soon as Sonya’s book was released last year, I bought myself a copy. And then I let it sit on my bookshelves with all the other body love/goddess power books I’ve been ignoring in my quest to be super smart and fulfill all these reading challenges.

My decision to abandon reading challenge perfection in 2019 to make more room for actively self-nurturing titles put Sonya’s book back on the priority list, and then a guest teacher call with Sonya as part of the Mastery curriculum put this at the very top of that list.

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Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell

Golly! It has been a year and a day since I last posted here.

Well, I suppose that’s a bit hyperbolic(1): it’s been closer to two weeks. Still, that’s a long darn time to be inactive, especially when compared to the rest of 2019.

What can I say? Travel kicked my ass, the weekend workshop kicked my ass(2), re-entry kicked my ass. I have been seriously crawling into bed as early as I can every evening since I got home. Tonight is the first night I feel remotely awake enough at 20:15 to put hands to keyboard.

At least I did have some time to finish one of my challenge books during these days away from JALC: Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell.

This book also continues my unintentional tour of Man Booker prize books—although Cloud Atlas was only a finalist for the prize, as compared to the two prizewinners (Wolf Hall and Luminaries) I read earlier this year. Still kind of funny, how I keep choosing books for other reasons and still keep tripping over this particular group of prize-winners.

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Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel

Okay, obviously I have a little explaining to do on that first category match, since wolves are not actually one of the animals associated with the Chinese Zodiac.(1) In all honesty, this was perhaps my least favorite of all the Around the Year categories, given my suspicions of colonialist baggage. around it all. So initially, I wasn’t sure whether to play along or break away entirely.

As I was mulling over that decision, I was also pondering the extreme degree of difficulty that would be invoked if I tried to find a book connected to the animal from my birth year—the rooster. Then, in a Goodreads discussion board about that exact conundrum, someone shared information about a Tournament of Books that’s affectionately known as “the Rooster.” There’s even a list collecting the titles of the books that have won the Rooster since the contest began.(2)

And there on that winners list was a title I’d already slotted into PopSugar’s category for books I’d meant to read in 2018 but hadn’t. (I originally had it slotted for 2018’s “animal name in title” category, but I decided to read Six of Crows instead.) Since I’m always looking for twofers, I threw Mantel into the rooster category and called it a win.

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Two of my Favorite Things

QUICK HIT: Yoga class/spring equinox celebration tonight, so that’s my mainone thing” for today. But I did spot one of those little news items that’s worth a wee small commentary….

Last summer, when the hubs and I went to see Hamilton for our anniversary(1), we splurged on one of the cheapest rooms in a charming little place called the Library Hotel. It’s the kind of place that warms the cockles of my literary heart.

Now Boston is upping its own bookish tourism game with the soft launch of the Boston Public Library‘s Map Room Tea Lounge.

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Midstream Report

So, I’ve been playing hooky from JALC for the weekend.

In large part because I’ve been binge-watching Game of Thrones before the final season premieres a few short weeks from now. This weekend got me to the end of season 6, so I should be able to knock out season 7 between now and April 14. But between all that screen time Friday night and yesterday afternoon, I wasn’t in any sort of mood to be typing on my computer last night.

Instead, I curled up in bed and read a chunk of Wolf Hall. Yes, even in a mode where I’m supposedly lightening up on my reading challenge goals, watch me tackle yet another tome of a book.

I’ve decided I want to hold off on any sort of “review” of GoT till after I’m all the way caught up, and I always wait till a book is finished before making a post here.

Given that I’m very much midstream on all the things, what is there to say here? Join me behind the jump as I figure that out…

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You Have the Right to Remain Fat by Virgie Tovar

I was a little strategic (and/or sneaky) in choosing the first entry in my HAES/prediabetes/whatever-the-fuck-I-have reading list. I chose something short, something I could read quickly. Something in the memoir/manifesto vein that wouldn’t demand much of me. Either in the sense of nutritional guidance I expect from future books, or in the sense of digesting lots of footnotes—which I also expect from future books.

And this slim volume fit the bill.

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