what I read in February and March

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Fiction

His Right Hand, by Mette Ivie Harrison. This is book number 2 in Harrison’s Linda Wallheim series. From Goodreads.com: “In the follow-up to the controversial and critically acclaimed mystery The Bishop’s Wife, Mormon housewife Linda Wallheim finds herself ruffling feathers in Draper, Utah, as she assists a murder investigation that is being derailed by transphobia within the LDS community.”

Honestly, I was a little apprehensive when I saw the premise of the book, because it centers around the life of a trans man and deals with transphobia in general, and it is really hard for straight, privileged people to get that right. Good intentions and sensitivity don’t always translate well on the page. I also kind of felt like Harrison made sure to include a paragraph or two about every difficult social or political issue the LDS Church is facing, whether or not it aided the story. But, as in the first book, she does a good job of portraying Draper, Utah, and the Mormon church more generally, as a space where people frequently get it wrong, but get back up and try again.

Mistborn: Secret History, by Brandon Sanderson. I love the Mistborn series, and this one talks about Kelsier’s legacy after his death. (Summary is intentionally vague because hell hath no fury but a nerd scorned, or spoiled.) I’m not necessarily a die-hard Kelsier fan, so I didn’t get that much out of this book. Recommended if you’re a Mistborn fan, because you’re probably a completionist, like me.

Calamity, by Brandon Sanderson. The third installment in the Reckoners series! I love this series so much.

Crazy Rich Asians and China Rich Girlfriend, by Kevin Kwan. Amusing read about the (imagined?) insanity that is the Asian (noveau) riche community. Crazy Rich Asians is slightly better, I felt–China Rich Girlfriend continues the story but seems more focused on cataloguing the excesses than developing characters. At the heart of each book, however, is a clear message that money does not happiness make.

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, by Becky Albertalli. Simon is 16 years old, and gay, and emailing with an anonymous, adorable boy in his school. He isn’t out, though, and when the emails fall into the wrong hands, he has to decide for himself who he wants to be. The book is half teen romance, half coming of age story, and a quick read.

(Cozy) Mysteries

Murder on the Links and The Monogram Murdersby Agatha Christie. The Monogram Murders is actually written by Sophie Hannah, in the Christie style. It’s a Poirot mystery, and although I felt Hannah’s Poirot was a little more gimmicky than the Christie version, it’s still a good mystery and recommended for Poirot fans.

Red Velvet Cupcake MurderPeach Cobbler Murder, Devil’s Food Cake Murder, and Wedding Cake Murder, by Joanne Fluke. Hannah Swensen is one of my favorite cozy mystery heroines, and the rereads were all in preparation for the latest installment, Wedding Cake Murder, in which we (gasp!) actually see a love triangle resolved. This wasn’t the best installment in the series, but definitely worth reading if you like the Swensen clan.

The Skeleton Takes a Bow and The Skeleton Haunts a House by Leigh Perry. This is a new-to-me series, in which an adjunct professor takes on mysteries–with a live, talking skeleton by her side. (I know it’s weird, but it works.) I loved them mostly for Perry’s take on the eternal quandary of being an adjunct, and felt a little nostalgic as I read it–but mostly relieved to no longer be one.

Off the Books and Played by the Book by Lucy Arlington. This series is set in Inspiration Valley, a cutesy small town with a prominent literary agency (and a sandwich shop where all the sandwiches are named after literary characters–anyone feel like a Hamlet?) and a “murder magnet” who solves mysteries on her day off. (I swear, all these hokey plots feel way less contrived when you’re reading them.)

Non-fiction

Building a Better Teacher: How Teaching Works (and How to Teach It to Everyone), by Elizabeth Green. This is actually a really fascinating book. I read it in tandem with Dana Goldstein’s The Teacher Wars, and where Goldstein discusses the political context of teaching (how we think about teaching, how non-profit, corporate, and government interests try to solve the US’s education problem, and how that effectively paralyzes public schools in a lot of cases), Green dives into charter schools, what teacher education programs look like, and what the ramifications are in the classroom. Recommended if you think teaching is either natural or easy, or if you want to know more about what people are doing to make the US ed system better.

As Texas Goes…: How the Lone Star State Hijacked the American Agenda, by Gail Collins. I listened to this one on audiobook. It’s a little dry in places, but it’s a fascinating look at the way Texas politics, legacy, and culture influences the greater US. From education to gun rights, what happens in Texas doesn’t stay in Texas.

The Great Fitness Experiment, by Charlotte Hilton Anderson. I read Charlotte’s blog for years and loved reading about all the crazy things she tried in the name of fitness. This is basically her blog in book form, with some extras thrown in. Fun and entertaining.

Nothing to Envy: Ordinary Lives in North Korea, by Barbara Demick. This was a book club pick. It deals with, as the title says, ordinary lives in North Korea: six of them, to be exact. She manages to humanizes the terrible history of North Korea, which I realized I know very little about, and should rectify that.

 

5 thoughts on “what I read in February and March

  1. I loved the Boxcar Children mysteries (although, really, the first Boxcar Children book was always the best, no question). I don’t think I’ve read one since elementary school, though. The more you post about reading them and loving them the more I think I should probably pick one up.

    xox

  2. suren says:

    Hello Saskia,
    I stumbled onto your blog as I googled Dutch Passport pictures (big Dutch soccer fan). I’m headed to Texas for graduate school, and I just finished reading ‘As Texas Goes…’ after seeing it mentioned here. Very intriguing read and has given me some prep. for the slightly different way of life there. Excellent blog and glad to have chanced upon it.
    Cheers!

      • suren says:

        Definitely! Let’s hope some things have changed for the better since 2012, when she wrote this (for the betterment of the state and the nation!).
        Take care!

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