books

Notable Reads 2018 by Chatti Brown

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2018 saw me reading sixty five books, enjoying audio books, and digging into character driven stories. While I have a fave because, who doesn’t love Shirley Jackson, below are notable reads that lingered long after the books were put away.

A Place For Us: Anne Bogel told me I would love this one but I was skeptical. She was right, of course. I was completely blown away by the emotional depth and beautiful insights into this Pakastani American family. This is the kind of book I wish I’d written, not only because it was filled with stunning passages but because I could see this story unfolding with a Cambodian/Cambodian American family.

Idaho: A quiet story that tiptoed into my life after having heard about it on Book Riot’s “All The Backlist” podcast. The very next day it stared at me during my trip to the thrift store. This tragic story unfolds slowly-moments of darkness, then stillness and you are left with immeasurable longing and loneliness. As a mother it was triggering and heavy but the writing was so brilliant that the story continues to stick with me today.

Station Eleven: How do I even explain this story that has tugged and pulled at my heart? Dystopian (only 1% of the world survived), multiple narratives, intricate yet eloquently woven together. I didn’t want to get to the last page- I wanted to follow the characters further into their stories. A complete surprise at how much I enjoyed it.

The Fact of A Body: Again, extremely triggering. I was fine when reading at the coffeeshop but while waiting at a red light going home, I bawled my eyes out. This is a nonfiction book, interwoven with a true crime that happened in Louisiana with the author’s own examination of her childhood sexual abuse at the hands of her grandfather. Powerful and filled with vulnerable reflection, if this is too much for you but you’re still curious the podcast Literary Disco does an excellent job at dissecting the book.

Killers Of the Flower Moon: A true story of the Osage murders and the formation of the FBI. Please pick this up, you won’t find this story in your history books. Masterful storytelling and journalistic work that it felt like reading a fascinating fiction novel (unfortunately, the things Native American tribes have had to endure are painfully true).

We Have Always Lived In A Castle: My favorite read of 2019. While gothic and disturbing at times (particularly, mob mentality), I’ve found I really enjoy books that straddle between light and dark forcing me to question my alliance to everyone in the story. Shirley Jackson is a genius.

There There: A book about twelve”urban” Natives making their way to the annual Oakland’s Pow Wow. Each story so interesting that I barely cared that I couldn’t remember all their names. At the end it all made sense and I was sad when the book came to a close leaving me wanting to wrap my arms around some of the characters. Captivating, fresh, and devastating. The prologue, in the author’s voice, had me hooked and I couldn’t help stifling my tears. I hope Tommy Orange comes out with more books.

I also talked about An American Marriage here, and Erotic Stories For Punjabi Widows here.

I am I am I am by Chatti Brown

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When I was twelve years old, my family went on a day outing to Lake Paris. Standing in the water, my sister and I made sure our feet were always touching the sand. I haven't learned to swim yet, that would come a lot later in adulthood. I had a small fear of drowning after having read a passage in a V.C. Andrew's book in which a character drowned and the description of his bloated body was too much for me. But having also grown up in Southern California with the coast only a mile away, I also didn't have a fear of the water. I probably should, but I didn't. I was always careful. I never went into the ocean by myself and I never venture far. What I wasn't expecting that day was that while holding onto my sister's hand we'd start drifting away from shore. I don't remember the actual drifting part, what I do remember was the immense panic that set in when I realized that I couldn't feel the sand beneath. As I started to go under, I saw the lifeguard and prayed that she would see us (she didn't). My sister will tell you that she saved me, that she pulled me back to shore while I tried to dragged her underneath. It is all true. Trying to pull myself up, I inevitably pushed her down. We see-sawed like this for a bit until she started kicking her feet, propelling forward. She never lets me forget, not even today when I called to asked her how old we were when it happened. So here's an apology to my sister for making it harder for her to save me. I love you.

This is a peculiar review, I know but this is what Maggie O'Farrell's memior did for me. It made me think of my own near death experiences. This one, not as dramatic as others, but forever imprinted in my mind. Here's the thing: Maggie O'Farrell has seventeen of these near-death experiences. She's either extremely unluckily or she's lived a full and interesting life. The first story caught my attention, sending chills down my spine while the others pulled me in completely. I can't say I'd read a memoir like this before, neither in this format or this compelling. Memoirs and non-fiction short stories are typically slow reads for me. Some I haven't picked up again after putting them aside in the fifth chapter. Not even Tina Fey made it to the end, but this one was unique and gripping. A full five stars for me.

What are your thoughts on this memoir? Did you have any near death experience? Tell me below.

 

Six books on my Summer Reading List by Chatti Brown

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The weather went into the triple digits here in Colorado so it felt time to cull my summer reading list. As you already know, I'm trying to read less but be very intentional about what I choose. Most of these books have been sitting on my TBR (To Be Read) pile for some time and it seems summer is the perfect time to tackle this list . 

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HOME FIRE- This one knocks all the birds with one stone for any reading challenge (POC woman writer, culture different than my own, winner of an award, best cover). From the publisher: "The suspenseful and heartbreaking story of an immigrant family driven to pit love against loyalty, with devastating consequences. Isma is free. After years of watching out for her younger siblings in the wake of their mother's death, she's accepted an invitation from a mentor in America that allows her to resume a dream long deferred. But she can’t stop worrying about Aneeka, her beautiful, headstrong sister back in London, or their brother, Parvaiz, who's disappeared in pursuit of his own dream, to prove himself to the dark legacy of the jihadist father he never knew. When he resurfaces half a globe away, Isma's worst fears are confirmed. Suddenly, two families’ fates are inextricably, devastatingly entwined."

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THE DRY: Last summer I had a thriller kick and read some very good ones (Emma In the Night, Final Girls), but since then they have been more hype than substance. I'm hoping this one will break the spell and at the very least, keep me engaged. "After getting a note demanding his presence, Federal Agent Aaron Falk arrives in his hometown for the first time in decades to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years ago when Falk was accused of murder, Luke was his alibi. Falk and his father fled under a cloud of suspicion, saved from prosecution only because of Luke’s steadfast claim that the boys had been together at the time of the crime. But now more than one person knows they didn’t tell the truth back then, and Luke is dead.

Amid the worst drought in a century, Falk and the local detective question what really happened to Luke. As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them. And Falk will find that small towns have always hidden big secrets."

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STARDUST- How did I not know that my beloved movie was actually based on a book?Stardust is the one feel good movie I can watch over and over again. I don't talk much about my love for fairytale/fantasy/magical realism but this was my go to section in the library when I was a kid. Set in 1850s England, Tristran seeks the love of town beauty, Victoria, by promising to gift her a fallen star. So begins a wonderful tale of faerie land, magic, aging witches, cunning princes, a flying pirate ship and of course, a unicorn. I'm really hoping that the book is just as fun as the movie.

 

 

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LEAVE NO TRACE- Thank you Simon and Schuster for the free book via Bookish First. I was able to read a chapter of this and I can tell you it left me wanting more. This is about a boy who, along with his father, disappeared in the wilderness only to show up ten years later without an explanation. It is up to Maya Stark, a speech therapist with her own secrets, to crack him open. I'm hoping this book leaves me a bit frighten and out of breath. Available in September.

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THE GIRL WHO DRANK THE MOON- Again, my love for fantasy/magic compelled me to but this middle grade book This one seems right up my alley with a good witch that feeds a baby with silvery honeyed moon beam. 
"To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule -- but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her -- even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known."

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OUR SOULS AT NIGHT- When I first bought this I knew little about it. What I do know: the story takes place in a fictional Colorado town and the author, Kent Haruf, wrote Plainsong (I haven't read it but heard good things). This book follows the relationship between two widowed neighbors, Addie and Louis, after Addie propositions Lewis and asks if he would be interested in keeping her company at night. Knowing that alone makes it tender, and more about finding comfort than town gossip or sexual intimacies.

 

 

Tell me below what is on your reading list. Happy summer and happy reading my friends!