Sexy Mermen and the Women Who Love Them – A May Reading Wrap-Up

Every time I place a bajillion holds at my local library, here’s what I think will happen:

I’ll receive each book perfectly timed and delivered to me right when I’ve finished a book and am ready to pick up another.

Here’s what really happens:

All 16 of my holds show up at once, I’ve forgotten why I’ve requested certain titles in the first place and can’t decide which book to start first.

In May, I was drowning in library loans but driven to get through them, late fines be damned.

Starting from highest to lowest rated, here are the books I read in May:

A Day in the Life of Marlon BundoA Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo by Jill Twiss

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Of course, I too got swept up in the gleeful sanctimonious furor over Charlotte Pence’s children’s book about Marlon Bundo, the Vice President’s pet bunny. I immediately ordered a copy of the John Oliver version from my local bookstore even though I have no children and the book remained on back-order for weeks. I was pleasantly surprised when I finally received the book. The artwork is lovely and the story is truly endearing. When Marlon catches sight of his soon-to-be husband, he gushes:

“I was standing still. But being near him made me feel like my heart was still hopping.”

Precious!

The Art of Charlie Chan Hock ChyeThe Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This meticulously crafted graphic novel is set during the tumultuous history of Singapore following World War II. Charlie Chan Hock Chye is a young comic book artist whose illustrations and perspective bring Singapore’s history to life. As a Singaporephile (watch videos of my 2017 trip here) I was intrigued to learn more about about a figure I had never heard of. And there’s a good reason why I had never heard of him: because Charlie Chan Hock Chye isn’t a real person. I was astounded by the level of work, love and research that Sonny Liew put into this book. This is easily one of the most ambitious and detailed graphic novels that I have ever read. It became an instant favorite!

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State KillerI’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The details of the Golden State Killer’s crimes are truly terrifying and anxiety-inducing. How could someone so depraved escape justice for so long? Even more bizarre is the untimely death of McNamara which was soon followed by the apprehension of a suspect. The whole thing felt like something out of a bestselling thriller – something Gillian Flynn would concoct. But it’s real life, which made this book so compelling and all the more disturbing. There were occasions in McNamara’s book when I got lost in the timelines or the geography of southern California. And, quite frankly, there aren’t a lot of major revelations in terms of McNamara finding a big “break” in the case. But the book doesn’t claim to do that anyway. What it did do was give incredible insight and research on one of the most creepy serial killers I had never heard of. And, it made me obsessive about making sure my sliding glass doors are always locked.

The PiscesThe Pisces by Melissa Broder

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow, ok, where do I begin. You ever have a book that gives you a reading hangover because you stayed up way too late to read it and then kept replaying scenes and passages in your head that you just can’t think straight? This book did that to me. “The Pisces” follows Lucy, a listless grad student who just doesn’t have her shit together. Her long-term relationship falls apart after punching her ex in the nose. Then she’s invited to house-sit for her conveniently rich sister where she attends group therapy and engages in graphic and often hilarious sexual encounters. Oh, and she falls in love with a merman too. This book tackles sex, obsession, addiction and the absurdity of modern love with a lot of humor and realism, which is weird to say because, did I mention she falls in love with a merman? This book is perfect book club material for a crew that’s down for some thoughtful, funky shit.

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and LeadershipA Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James Comey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn’t prepared to enjoy this book as much as I did. As a Hillary voter, I was still bitter about the 2016 election and how, as I saw it, Comey played a small, indirect (maybe) part in dooming us to 4 years of incompetence. Buuuuut, this book is actually more about Comey’s philosophy on leadership and his real-world experiences that helped shape that. Trump doesn’t even make an appearance until the last quarter of the book. I still find Comey a little sanctimonious and self-righteous despite his obvious attempt to endear himself to the reader. But, I felt like this book provided valuable context not just to the importance of impartial justice in our democracy but how leaders can make or break long-standing institutions.

Patriot Number One: American Dreams in ChinatownPatriot Number One: American Dreams in Chinatown by Lauren Hilgers

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Journalist Lauren Hilgers shares the story of Zhuang Liehong, a Chinese activist who travels to the United States with his wife on a tourist visa in order to seek political asylum. Liehong chooses New York City because of it’s promise and possibilities but quickly encounters the realities of living in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. Liehong and his wife struggle to find affordable housing, learn the language and culture, and apply for permanent status in order to send for their young son still living in China with relatives – all while politically advocating for his remote, hometown village in Southern China. I was deeply invested in Liehong’s story and so desperately wanted the “American Dream” to come true for them. This book is a valuable account of the immigrant experience and what it’s truly like to flee the only country you’ve ever known to start a new life.

Apple of My EyeApple of My Eye by Helene Hanff

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was the perfect plane ride companion during my quick weekend jaunt to New York City. When quirky writer Helen Hanff was assigned to write a guidebook about New York City for tourists, she recruits her plucky friend Patsy to join her in rediscovering New York City. Hanff’s book is so accessible and the duo is just so damn likeable, I wished I could travel back in time to 1977 (when the book was written) to experience the city with them. There were some unexpectedly painful moments – like when Hanff and Patsy conquer their fear of heights to see the city from the viewing deck of the World Trade Center – but mostly full of delightful vignettes about a city Hanff clearly adored. .

The Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous DeceptionThe Adversary: A True Story of Monstrous Deception by Emmanuel Carrère

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Coming off the heels of “I’ll Be Gone in the Dark”, I was looking for another true crime story. “The Adversary” is about Jean-Claude Romand, a French man who basically mind-fucked his friends and family by pretending to be a doctor for 18 years before brutally murdering his wife, children and parents. It’s a short book but an unsettling one with a chilling opening line:

“On the Saturday morning of January 9th, 1993, while Jean-Claude Romand was killing his wife and children, I was with mine at a parent-teacher meeting…”

How can someone sustain 18 years of deception without being caught? Despite his own revulsion, author Emmanuel Carrere went full “In Cold Blood” to learn more about the man who watched morning cartoons with his children, shot them in their sleep and finally set the damn house on fire. Is…is my sliding glass door locked?

Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They WoreDress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore by Abrams Books

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“Dress Like a Woman: Working Women and What They Wore” is a pleasant little coffee table book that features full-page, full color shots of women throughout history doing what they do best – gettin’ shit done. The book isn’t really organized in a clear way or tells a cohesive story but the photos are interesting enough. Aside from the foreward by Roxanne Gay, this didn’t really leave a big impression on me.

The ones that didn’t make the cut:

I don’t think it’s fair to rate DNFs, especially when I give up on books for a variety of reasons, not just when I hate them and think they’re unfinishable. Below are my month’s DNFs in no particular order:

The Melancholy of MechagirlThe Melancholy of Mechagirl by Catherynne M. Valente

This collection of Japanophile poetry and cyber-punky short stories really toed the line for me between being really dazzling and really juvenile. There are some passages I really embraced for being neon-bright, in-your-face vivid and others I felt were a string of sensory adjectives punctuated by an unexpected noun. It sounds like I didn’t like this – I actually kinda did like it. I just have trouble with abstract concepts and couldn’t summon the attention to keep going. I suspect I’ll give this book another try, it’s barely 200 pages, after all. But, gosh, guys, I really hate poetry sometimes.

Mary's Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created FrankensteinMary’s Monster: Love, Madness, and How Mary Shelley Created Frankenstein by Lita Judge

“Mary’s Monster” is an illustrated, monochrome biography of Mary Shelley’s life and all that inspired her to write “Frankenstein”. Did this have to be written in verse? Probably nah. But the artwork is wonderfully done and perfectly fitting for her story. I found the verse to be a little on the sleepy,ho-hum side.

Terminal Lance: The White DonkeyTerminal Lance: The White Donkey by Maximilian Uriarte

Terminal Donkey is the graphic novel of Uriarte’s popular Terminal Lance webcomic which is written by a former Marine for other Marines. It’s expertly illustrated and comedic moments are perfectly timed and framed. This book will truly resonate with readers intimately familiar with military life, especially those currently serving. I decided to set it free back into library circulation for someone else to enjoy.

The Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War IIThe Leper Spy: The Story of an Unlikely Hero of World War II by Ben Montgomery

I picked up this title after hearing about it on the Book Riot podcast All the Books! The audiobook, about a Filipino woman who decides to be a spy on behalf of the Allies during World War II, is pretty atrocious. The narrator is awful and adopts (what sounds to me) like a Mexican accent whenever he’s reading in the voice of Filipino characters. I’ll probably pick up a physical copy of the book so I can generate my own Mexican accent in my head. But with this, I just couldn’t continue.


 

That’s it for May! Have you read these books? Can we talk about The Pisces waxing scene now? Please and thank you.

3 thoughts on “Sexy Mermen and the Women Who Love Them – A May Reading Wrap-Up

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