What I read in February // mini-reviews

If I had to defend why stories matter, I would first be exasperated and in disbelief unto the highest degree that I would even need to. Then I would say: It’s because they let you see into somebody else’s world through somebody else’s eyes who most likely thinks, feels, and believes differently than you do. Through stories, I get the briefest glimpses of what it’s like to see parents divorce, to fall in love, to be bullied, to be someone else other than myself. How else can you do that?

Stories are magic because they help me become more of that buzzy, non-magical sounding word—empathetic. This usually isn’t what I think about when I’m actually reading, but for several books in a row, I finished them thinking, dang I’m going to think/know more about this thing differently now.

Born a Crime did that with the South African apartheid. Long Bright River did that with opioids. El Deafo did that with being friends with someone who’s deaf. The Benefits of Being an Octopus did that with poverty and people who own guns. Eliza and Her Monsters did that with webcomics and being anonymously famous.

Stories change people. As far as I can tell, people resist being changed pretty aggressively, especially when it comes from the efforts of other people. So to that person who says stories are useless—are you kidding???

So yea, I read some good books this month. Here’s three of them.

Born a Crime: Stories From a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Keywords: non-fiction memoir, South African apartheid, mother-son, race, class, about very serious things but somehow also insanely funny, so good
First line: The genius of apartheid was convincing people who were the overwhelming majority to turn on each other.
Last line: “But He blessed me with the son who did.”

In a comment coversation with the Story Sponge, we talked about keeping a list of books that have actually mad us laugh out loud. This book would be on my list. I don’t understand how you could read this book without it going on your list. I was waiting for an airport shuttle, and a lady came up and asked what I was reading because she said I was obviously enjoying it–I must’ve been smiling goofily like no other. It needs to be said again: this book was so good.

Long Bright River by Liz Moore

Keywords: sisters, Philadelphia, opioid crisis, cops, plot twists, mother-son, intense
First line: There’s a body on the Gurney Street tracks.
Last line: He drinks.

Goodreads places this book in the mystery, thriller, and mystery thriller genres–this is accurate, but I disagree. To me, a mystery book is a book about a mystery. This book includes a mystery, but it’s not about one. Very different. If I had to quickly summarize this book to someone who asked about it, I would plagarize the Goodreads description: two sisters, one’s a cop, one’s struggling with addiction, they live in a city where opioids reign, and there’s a string of murders that they are forced to get involved with. But I think the true core of the book is Mickey: the narrator, the older sister, the cop. To me, this is her story.

Lucky Caller by Emma Mills

Keywords: YA contemporary, radio class, three sisters, childhood bestfriend
First line: It was Christmas, and Dan was in the middle of proposing to my mom when there was a knock at the door.
Last line: I watched the counter on the current song, and when the time came, pushed up the volume slider, pressed the button, and we were on-air once more.

There are quite a few things about to this book that I need to address.
1. Emma Mills came out with a new book this year and I haven’t seen anybody talk about it–what is going on?
2. All of her books came out with new covers–why??? Lucky Caller is her first book without a patterned cover. Not only were the original covers beautiful, they felt so signature to Emma Mills. I also can’t find online an explanation of why there was a redesign.

New covers

3. The writing style of Lucky Caller felt slightly different. It was a little less witty and real?
4. The font size was larger and blocky! I’m serious, font makes a difference.
5. This book wasn’t completely distinct like all her previous books have been. The plot actually reminded me of another one of her books, but I’m not going to say which.

Overall, I still liked it. My very definitive list now either goes Foolish Hearts, First & Then, Lucky Caller or Lucky Caller after Famous in a Small Town.

What are you reading right now?
Do you remember which books have made you laugh out loud? Or which ones have made you cry?
Has a movie or song ever made you cry?

20 thoughts on “What I read in February // mini-reviews”

    1. YES, it’s so good!! I know, he has this magical ability to be so funny about tragedy. Yes, the only things I know about apartheid are from books–Born A Crime and then another historical fiction book I’ve read.

      Liked by 1 person

  1. These look interesting! Especially Born a Crime. I am glad it made you laugh out loud. 😉
    I am currently reading The Girl Who Drank the Moon, a Middle Grade fantasy novel. I am not very far into it, but it is fun and the characters are quirky and I am enjoying it.
    Movies make me cry way more than books do. I think it’s the music that does it. Most recently I rewatched Up (the Pixar movie) and cried at the beginning during the married life montage, as usual. That movie always gets to me. I also went to see Pixar’s newest movie, Onward, and liked it surprisingly well. I didn’t quite cry, but I had tears in my eyes.
    Stories are so, so important. They are what connects us.
    Great reviews!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yess, it’s the first book so far on my mental list :))
      The Girl Who Drank the Moon! It’s so good, isn’t it? I love how beautifully it’s written–I love how the author knew that middlegrade deserves to be written as well as any book.
      Ohh, that’s interesting about the music. I feel like movies would lack so so much without scoring. Ahh, Onward! That’s on my list of new releases I want to see. Okay, I’m happy to hear your positive review.
      Yes yes yes :))
      Thank you!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes! I appreciate it when authors give middle grade the quality it deserves. The Girl Who Drank the Moon is well written indeed.
        Movies would lack SO MUCH without scores. You are right. Music is an integral part of movies and without it they would not work very well.
        I hope you like Onward, when you get to see it! And even if you don’t, I would love to hear about what you think of it!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh my goodness, please tell me what you think if you end up picking it up :)) Ahhh, what a compliment. Thank you!
      Also–my SAT test center canceled for this Saturday because of the coronavirus–is yours still on?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I reserved it at the library so hopefully I’ll get to read it soon 🙂 yes mine went ahead as there have been six cases reported in the country so far I think, that’s annoying for you though; does that mean you get to take it in May without paying an extra fee?

        Liked by 1 person

        1. I actually have no idea what College Board is planning on doing. I do think they will either do refunds or allow retakes, but I don’t even know if we’ll be able to take it in May. I have been seeing some schools say they are allowing applications without standardized test scores this year though?

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Oh okay, I hope June administration goes ahead and all the ones after that but yeah they seem to be offering refunds and they said they are considering an extra international administration if needed? Since the May SAT has been cancelled. And interesting, I didn’t know about that, I feel like if that’s the case it’ll just be people who do well who will submit scores though; I read about MIT’s new policy of not requiring SAT II scores and it’s interesting how they’re saying they won’t take them from anyone anymore.

            Liked by 1 person

            1. Ohh, I haven’t heard about the possibility of an extra international test. That’s good! Oh yes, I heard about MIT’s new policy for that. I thought it was pretty surprising and I wonder if other schools will follow suit. (Oh my goodness, this is so weird, I just heard my dad mention this to my mom downstairs.) Hahah, I wonder what all these zoom calls between college administrators are like. It can’t be easy to agree upon all these new admissions changes!

              Liked by 1 person

              1. Yeah I’m really surprised, because I guess I’m considering applying now (I want to do business but I don’t take any science subjects anymore so I wasn’t ever gonna be able to apply to MIT) and maybe other schools with follow suit, there’s also the whole thing with being test optional this year for standardised tests and whether they’ll be able to be test optional for one year and go back to requiring tests? It’s certainly interesting times for college admissions… And haha there must be a lot of debating going on in those zoom calls.

                Liked by 1 person

                1. Yes, I have heard the news about optional standardized tests! One part of me feels like they should either make it all or nothing and do completely required or it’s not accepted at all, but I also understand why schools are saying it’s optional. My argument for the first one is that if it’s optional, the people who send good scores will certainly have an advantage even if they say they won’t, but for the second one, I’m sure schools want as much info as they can get. My hope is that schools realize that standardized tests aren’t as great and vital as they think they do. Hahah, I guess in these times, whether you win a debate has to do with your internet connection as much as anything ;))

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. Yeah I completely agree because really it just means the people who submit scores will be the ones who are doing well on the tests and that will give them some advantage, that’s kinda why I like MIT’s blanket no subject test policy. And me too, standardised testing shouldn’t be a huge part (if even part) of the conversation. Hahaha yeah for sure if your connection is bad prepare to lose the argument I guess!

                    Liked by 1 person

                    1. Somebody told me that MIT was planning on doing something similar to that anyways? But I don’t have any idea if that’s true or not. I think it does make more sense with the subject tests because probably way more people haven’t gotten a chance to yet. Yes! Standardized tests are complicated. Hahah

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. Whoa, Long Bright River looks absolutely amazing! *scurries off to Goodreads* That cover is so cool. Also, I just love what you said about stories. If you count all the time I’ve spent in other peoples’ fictional worlds, I might as well be a few dozen years older than I actually am. xD

    Liked by 1 person

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