Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in March 2022

A floral-patterned teacup on a saucer sits on a stack of thick books with yellowed pages.
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

It’s time once again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month. Publication dates are as listed in February 2022 and are subject to change.

Big Dreams, Small Fish by Paula Cohen (3/1)

In the new country, Shirley and her family all have big dreams. Take the family store: Shirley has great ideas about how to make it more modern! Prettier! More profitable! She even thinks she can sell the one specialty no one seems to want to try: Mama’s homemade gefilte fish.

Confessions of a Class Clown by Arianne Costner (3/1)

Meet Jack Reynolds. Making people laugh is his life’s work. Jack’s wacky MyTube channel is really starting to take off. The only problem is, for the truly epic posts, he needs a collaborator. And, well, he doesn’t exactly have any friends. So Jack has to swallow his pride and join the new afterschool club, Speed Friendshipping. But who would make the best partner in comedy?

Tell Me an Ending by Jo Harkin (3/1)

Dystopian debut about a tech company that deletes unwanted memories, the consequences for those forced to contend with what they tried to forget, and the dissenting doctor who seeks to protect her patients from further harm.

What if you once had a painful memory removed? And what if you were offered the chance to get it back?

Alone Together on Dan Street by Erica Lyons (3/1)

Mira practices the Four Questions on her apartment balcony in Jerusalem, and finds a way to bring the neighbors together for Passover even during the separation of a pandemic.

“It was the year of singing with one another.”

This Golden State by Marit Weisenberg (3/1)

The Winslow family lives by five principles:
1. No one can know your real name.
2. Don’t stay in one place too long.
3. If you sense anything is wrong, go immediately to the meeting spot.
4. Keeping our family together is everything.
5. We wish we could tell you who we are, but we can’t. Please—do not ask.

Read Dangerously: The Subversive Power of Literature in Troubled Times by Azar Nafisi (3/8)

What is the role of literature in an era when the president wages war on writers and the press? What is the connection between political strife in our daily lives, and the way we meet our enemies on the page in fiction? How can literature, through its free exchange, affect politics?

Under Lock & Skeleton Key (Secret Staircase Mystery, #1) by Gigi Pandian (3/15)

When Tempest visits her dad’s latest renovation project, her former stage double is discovered dead inside a wall that’s supposedly been sealed for more than a century. Fearing she was the intended victim, it’s up to Tempest to solve this seemingly impossible crime. But as she delves further into the mystery, Tempest can’t help but wonder if the Raj family curse that’s plagued her family for generations—something she used to swear didn’t exist—has finally come for her.

The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd (3/15)

Nell Young’s whole life and greatest passion is cartography. Her father, Dr. Daniel Young, is a legend in the field, and Nell’s personal hero. But she hasn’t seen or spoken to him ever since he cruelly fired her and destroyed her reputation after an argument over an old, cheap gas station highway map.

But when Dr. Young is found dead in his office at the New York Public Library, with the very same seemingly worthless map hidden in his desk, Nell can’t resist investigating. To her surprise, she soon discovers that the map is incredibly valuable, and also exceedingly rare. In fact, she may now have the only copy left in existence… because a mysterious collector has been hunting down and destroying every last one—along with anyone who gets in the way.

City of Incurable Women by Maud Casey (3/22)

“Where are the hysterics, those magnificent women of former times?” wrote Jacques Lacan. Long history’s ghosts, marginalized and dispossessed due to their gender and class, they are reimagined by Maud Casey as complex, flesh-and-blood people with stories to tell. These linked, evocative prose portraits, accompanied by period photographs and medical documents both authentic and invented, poignantly restore the humanity to the nineteenth-century female psychiatric patients confined in Paris’s Salpêtrière hospital and reduced to specimens for study by the celebrated neurologist Jean-Martin Charcot and his male colleagues.

Boys of The Beast by Monica Zepeda (3/29)

THE ROUTE. Seventeen hundred miles from Portland, Oregon, to Albuquerque, New Mexico.
THE BEAST. Grandma Lupe’s 1988 Ford Thunderbird Turbo Coupe.
THE BOYS. Three strangers who also happen to be cousins

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Description:

The legend begins…

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the kingdom of Phthia to be raised in the shadow of King Peleus and his golden son, Achilles. “The best of all the Greeks”—strong, beautiful, and the child of a goddess—Achilles is everything the shamed Patroclus is not. Yet despite their differences, the boys become steadfast companions. Their bond deepens as they grow into young men and become skilled in the arts of war and medicine—much to the displeasure and the fury of Achilles’ mother, Thetis, a cruel sea goddess with a hatred of mortals.

When word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped, the men of Greece, bound by blood and oath, must lay siege to Troy in her name. Seduced by the promise of a glorious destiny, Achilles joins their cause, and torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus follows. Little do they know that the Fates will test them both as never before and demand a terrible sacrifice.

Built on the groundwork of the Iliad, Madeline Miller’s page-turning, profoundly moving, and blisteringly paced retelling of the epic Trojan War marks the launch of a dazzling career.

(flap copy)

First Sentence:

My father was a king and the son of kings.

While the Iliad covers just a short period of time in the last year of the Trojan War, this novel begins with the childhood of Patroclus, Achilles’ companion who appears a few times in the epic before becoming the reason Achilles finally re-enters the fighting. (I’d say sorry for the spoilers, but can you spoil the ending of something that’s been out for a couple millenia?)

Patroclus narrates the story, from his exile through his growing relationship with young Achilles, right on up to and beyond his death on the Trojan battlefield. About halfway through the book, I began wondering how the ending was going to be handled. The answer is: beautifully. Patroclus remains our window to the action, underscoring just how horrific all of it really is.

Since the story draws on Homer’s Iliad, there is quite a lot of violence, but it is not glorified. Patroclus is a sensitive boy in a world that only celebrates the most masculine of men. His slow realization of who Achilles is (to the rest of the world) is heartbreaking. After reading the Iliad, with its description of battle after battle, reading this novel brought it all back down to the human level.


Source: My actual, physical TBR shelf. I think I picked it up for free somewhere.

Challenges: Official TBR Pile Challenge; Mount TBR; and Read Harder 2022: Either #3 (Read any book from the Women’s Prize shortlist/longlist/winner list) or #21 (Read a queer retelling of a classic of the canon, fairytale, folklore, or myth), depending on whether I get to a couple of other books before the end of the year.

The Iliad: A New Translation by Caroline Alexander

The Iliad: A New Translation by Caroline Alexander by Homer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Description (from back cover copy):

Composed around 730 B.C., Homer’s Iliad recounts the events of a few momentous weeks in the protracted ten-year war between the invading Achaeans, or Greeks, and the Trojans in their besieged city of Ilion. And, as told by Homer, this ancient tale of a particular Bronze Age conflict becomes a sublime and sweeping evocation of the destruction of war throughout the ages.

Carved close to the original Greek, acclaimed classicist Caroline Alexander’s new translation is swift and lean, with the driving cadence of its source—a translation epic in scale and yet devastating in its precision and power.

First Sentence:

Wrath – sing, goddess, of the ruinous wrath of Peleus’ son Achilles
that inflicted woes without number upon the Achaeans,
hurled forth to Hades many strong souls of warriors
and rendered their bodies prey for the dogs,
for all birds, and the will of Zeus was accomplished;
sing from when they two first stood in conflict —
Atreus’ son, lord of men, and godlike Achilles.

Homer’s Illiad is a Classic-with-a-Capital-C. I think I must have read some of it as part of a comparative literature course in college, but I don’t remember it at all, so aside from vague recollections of Greek mythology and a middle school play about the Trojan War (mostly memorable for a joke that none of us understood at the time), I came to it without any background.

I really appreciated Arnold’s introduction, which went over what is known about Homer and the Epic Cycle, as well as the historical setting and the major players in the drama. The map and family trees provided were a helpful reference – for some reason, I had particular difficulty remembering that Alexandros is Paris, and who was related to whom on which side of the war.

War is the center of this poem, and it is not pretty. There is chapter after chapter of This-Guy-Son-of-That-Guy-Brother-of-This-Other-Guy-King-of-That-Land slew That-Guy-Son-of-This-Guy-Nephew-of-That-Other-Guy-Ruler-of-Such-and-Such-People in graphic ways that emphasize the absolute brutality of battle (even if the grasp of anatomy is questionable). And there are lots of animal sacrifices described in detail.

The sacrifices are meant to keep the favor of the gods, who are busy squabbling amongst themselves on Olympus. That both sides are performing sacrifices and praying to the same fickle gods is also a factor, it seems.

The last few chapters, in which Achilles is finally prodded out of his truly epic sulk and joins in the fighting, take the stakes up a notch, but in the end, the war still hasn’t reached its conclusion. So much horrific bloodshed, and this is only a tiny portion of the Trojan War.

The Iliad is one of the books on my Classics Club list, which I have been neglecting. It’s one of the earliest works on my list, and an important text in Western Literature and History, but I suspect it’s never going to rank among my personal favorites.

Source: Purchased at The Last Bookshop, Los Angeles, February 2020

Challenges: Back to the Classics: Classic Set in a Place You’d Like to Visit (we’re going to assume visiting the modern-day site counts, since I don’t particularly wish to visit the last year of an epic war, thanks); Official TBR Pile Challenge; Mount TBR; and Classics Club.

An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science by Edward J. Larson

An Empire of Ice: Scott, Shackleton, and the Heroic Age of Antarctic Science
by Edward J. Larson

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Book Description (via GoodReads):

Published to coincide with the centenary of the first expeditions to reach the South Pole, An Empire of Ice presents a fascinating new take on Antarctic exploration. Retold with added information, it’s the first book to place the famed voyages of Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen, his British rivals Robert Scott and Ernest Shackleton, and others in a larger scientific, social, and geopolitical context.

Efficient, well prepared, and focused solely on the goal of getting to his destination and back, Amundsen has earned his place in history as the first to reach the South Pole. Scott, meanwhile, has been reduced in the public mind to a dashing incompetent who stands for little more than relentless perseverance in the face of inevitable defeat. An Empire of Ice offers a new perspective on the Antarctic expeditions of the early twentieth century by looking at the British efforts for what they actually were: massive scientific enterprises in which reaching the South Pole was but a spectacular sideshow. By focusing on the larger purpose, Edward Larson deepens our appreciation of the explorers’ achievements, shares little-known stories, and shows what the Heroic Age of Antarctic discovery was really about. 

First Line:

When I tell friends that I’m writing a book about the Heroic Age of Antarctic exploration, they typically respond in one of two ways.

(Preface)

Larson won the 1998 Pulitzer Prize in History for Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America’s Continuing Debate Over Science and Religion, which is (of course) now part of my never-ending virtual TBR. I added this book to that list in April of 2011, making it – as of the first of this year – the oldest entry. Since the book published in May 2011, I suspect I ran across it while doing collection development for the library.

I picked up a physical copy at The Strand in NYC in January 2018 (for a Sherlockian gathering – I do spend a lot of time thinking about the Victorian era), along with a copy of Apsley Cherry-Garard’s The Worst Journey in the World. The latter is on my Classics Club list.

Larson is a historian, and this book came out of Yale University Press, so it’s no surprise that it is not a light read. It delves into details about the major British Antarctic expeditions – the Discovery (British National Antarctic Expedition 1901-04, under Commander R.F. Scott), the Nimrod (British Antarctic Expedition 1907-09, under E. Shackleton), and the Terra Nova (British Antarctic Expedition 1910-13, under Captain R.F. Scott) – and connects them to the broader history of Arctic and Antarctic exploration.

As Larson points out, there have been many works published about these voyages, but few focus on the scientific research that was a main focus of the expeditions at the time. Power struggles between the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society were a constant behind the scenes, affecting the structure, the crew selection, and the objective(s) of each mission. Larson looks at the lasting social, cultural, and scientific impacts of the Heroic Age, using each chapter to focus on the developments in a specific field (including biology, glaciology, and paleontology) over the broad time period, highlighting the ways earlier expeditions affected later ones on multiple fronts.

There is a lot of information packed into this book. I expect I’ll be revisiting it in future. I’m very happy that there is a nice index. I do wish there had been a full bibliography included, since I’m now combing through the notes to compile my own.

In 2018, Larson published To the Edges of the Earth: 1909, the Race for the Three Poles, and the Climax of the Age of Exploration. It’s also on my to-read list, naturally.

Source: Purchased at The Strand, NYC, in 2018

Challenges: Read Harder 2022: Read the book that’s been on your TBR the longest; Mount TBR 2022

Murder Outside the Lines (Pen & Ink Mysteries #3) by Krista Davis

Murder Outside the Lines
by Krista Davis

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


Publisher Description (via GoodReads):

With Halloween just around the corner, the fall colors in Georgetown are brilliant. As manager of the Color Me Read bookstore, coloring book creator Florrie Fox has arranged for psychic author Hilda Rattenhorst to read from Spooktacular Ghost Stories. But the celebrity medium arrives for the event in hysterics, insisting she just saw a bare foot sticking out of a rolled-up carpet in a nearby alley. Is someone trying to sweep murder under the rug? Florrie calls in her policeman beau, Sergeant Eric Jonquille, but the carpet corpse has disappeared without a trace.

Then in the middle of her reading, Hilda chillingly declares that she feels the killer’s presence in the store. Is this a publicity stunt or a genuine psychic episode? It seems there’s no happy medium. When a local bibliophile is soon discovered missing, a strange mystery begins to unroll. Now it’s up to Florrie and Jonquille to expose a killer’s true colors . . . 


First Line:

The crate was delivered to Color Me Read around noon on Thursday.

It’s Spooky Time in Georgetown in the third Pen & Ink Mystery. Florrie Fox is comfortable in her renovated carriage house home, her job as bookshop manager, and her other job creating adult coloring books. So, naturally, things take a turn for the wacky. A human skull arrives in the deliveries. Strange noises come from nowhere. The celebrity psychic booked for an author event shows up claiming she just saw what might be a murder victim, but there is no corpse to be found.

In addition to the present-day mystery, a 200-year-old ghost story is told in pieces, eventually tying into the main story and adding to the atmosphere. In the end, of course, all the seemingly-supernatural happenings get rational explanations. Well, mostly.

This is a fun addition to the series. I only wish I’d read it in the fall for the proper mood. I’ve read both of the previous volumes, but it’s been a while, so I don’t really remember the details. I didn’t really need to, though; there’s enough information in the text to bring readers up to speed on the important things without doing a full recap of everything that’s happened. There’s also a “Cast of Characters” in the front that I found very useful.

There is an ongoing thread about the disappearance of a child (the daughter of Florrie’s boss) years ago that I hope gets some resolution eventually. That was one detail that I had completely forgotten about, so when a reference to it popped up, it was jarring. If harm to children is a no-go for you, dear reader, you might want to skip this series. Other than that, I really enjoy these cozy mysteries and look forward to the next book, A Colorful Scheme, currently slated to publish in August 2022.

Source: Checked out from my public library

Challenges: Read Harder 2022 Task #2: Read a book set in a bookstore

Reading Challenges 2022

Oh, look. It’s January again.

I actually started this post in December, which might say something about how this is going already.

I’m signing up for four reading challenges this year, along with my ongoing Classics Club list, which is going to play a large part in three of the challenges.

My 2022 Reading Challenges:

  • Read Harder 2022: From the folks at Book Riot, this challenge (now in its 8th year) is “designed to help you break out of your reading bubble and expand your worldview through books.” I managed 22/24 tasks in 2021, largely thanks to a big push in December. Goal for 2022: spread the effort out a bit more.
  • Back to the Classics Challenge 2022: I’m so glad Karen at Books and Chocolate is hosting this again. After my showing of 0 tasks last year, there’s nowhere to go but up, right? I’ll be pulling from my Classics Club 2019-2023 list, which I’m still a teensy bit behind on.
  • Mount TBR Challenge 2022: Another one I completely dropped in 2021. One thing I did do last year, though, was purchase several of the books I want to read from my Classics Club list, which means they all count toward this goal. I also have at least half a shelf of books received when I was part of a mystery-of-the-month club that I would like to read and then probably donate to the library.
  • Official TBR Pile Challenge 2022: Adam at Roof Beam Reader has brought back the Official TBR Pile Challenge. Unlike Mount TBR, this one requires a list at the beginning of the year. My list has its own Official TBR Pile Challenge 2022 page.

I will once again be tracking the challenges using the post tags and using the pages linked under “Reading Challenges“.

How about you? Any goals for 2022?

2021 Reading Challenge Wrap-Up

Well. That was certainly a year, wasn’t it? Remember all those reading challenges I signed up for in 2021? Let’s see how those went!

Read Harder 2021
Goal: 24 Books
Result: 22 (92%)

  1. Read a book you’ve been intimidated to read
  2. Read a nonfiction book about anti-racism: Stamped: Racism, Antiracism, and You by Jason Reynolds and Ibram X. Kendi
  3. Read a non-European novel in translation: The Others by Sarah Blau
  4. Read an LGBTQ+ history book: Stonewall: A Building, an Uprising, a Revolution by Rob Sanders
  5. Read a genre novel by an Indigenous, First Nations, or Native American author: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse
  6. Read a fanfic: Mycroft Holmes by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Anna Waterhouse
  7. Read a fat-positive romance
  8. Read a romance by a trans or nonbinary author: Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
  9. Read a middle grade mystery: Linked by Gordon Korman
  10. Read an SFF anthology edited by a person of color: A Universe of Wishes: A We Need Diverse Books Anthology edited by Dhonielle Clayton
  11. Read a food memoir by an author of color: The Cooking Gene: A Journey Through African-american Culinary History in the Old South by Michael W. Twitty
  12. Read a work of investigative nonfiction by an author of color: The Spy Who Couldn’t Spell: A Dyslexic Traitor, an Unbreakable Code, and the FBI’s Hunt for America’s Stolen Secrets by Yudhijit Bhattacharjee
  13. Read a book with a cover you don’t like: Shirlick Holmes and the Case of the Wandering Wardrobe by Jane Yolen
  14. Read a realistic YA book not set in the U.S., UK, or Canada: If You Could Be Mine by Sara Farizan
  15. Read a memoir by a Latinx author: Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx by Sonia Manzano
  16. Read an own voices book about disability: The Matzah Ball by Jean Meltzer
  17. Read an own voices YA book with a Black main character that isn’t about Black pain: Tristan Strong Destroys the World (Tristan Strong #2) by Kwame Mbalia
  18. Read a book by/about a non-Western world leader: No Room for Small Dreams: Courage, Imagination, and the Making of Modern Israel by Shimon Peres
  19. Read a historical fiction with a POC or LGBTQ+ protagonist: The Duke Who Didn’t by Courtney Milan
  20. Read a book of nature poems: The Lost Words by Robert Macfarlane
  21. Read a children’s book that isn’t about disability that includes a main character with a disability: Song for a Whale by Lynne Kelly
  22. Read a book set in the Midwest: Prairie Lotus by Linda Sue Park
  23. Read a book that demystifies a common mental illness: Empty by Susan Burton
  24. Read a book featuring a beloved pet where the pet doesn’t die: Murder Always Barks Twice (Chatty Corgi Mystery #2) by Jennifer Hawkins

There were several books that I sought out specifically to satisfy challenges, so I feel this did what it was supposed to do in broadening my reading horizons. I had a book picked out for task 7, but I just ran out of time. And I never did figure out what to read for task 1. At least, not with enough time left in the year to finish.

2021 Netgalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge
Goal: 25 books (silver), and 10% feedback ratio
Result: 39, and 10% feedback ratio

I gave feedback on a whole slew of titles I’d read since joining Netgalley in 2011, but I also requested a bunch of new titles.

Back to the Classics Challenge 2021
Goal: 12 books
Result: 0

I’m sure I read books that fit at least two of the challenges, but I forgot to actually post about them, so I’m not counting them.

Mount TBR Challenge 2021
Goal 24 books (Mount Blanc)
Result: 0

I know I’m missing some books from my reading log – I’m sure I read something in the month of April. I checked out a lot of books from the library, though. Almost 82% of the books I read, according to the log stats.

Virtual Mount TBR Challenge 2021
Goal: 24 books(Mount Crumpit)
Result: 77 books (320%)

So, the thing about this challenge is that it counts books that you add to your virtual TBR within the year. It’s really a count of books I read that I don’t own, including a bunch I read for work after the Youth Media Awards were announced. If I only count books that I added to my GoodReads list prior to 1/1/21, the total drops to 19.

Overall, it was a pretty good year of reading. But in 2022, I’ve really got to tackle my physical TBR and those classics. My Classics Club deadline is coming up fast.

Ten Books I’m Looking Forward to in June 2021

A floral-patterned teacup on a saucer sits on a stack of thick books with yellowed pages.
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

It’s time once again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month. Publication dates are as listed in May 2021 and are subject to change.

The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease by Daisy Hernández (June 1)

Why do some infectious diseases make headlines and others fall by the wayside? After her aunt’s death, Hernández begins searching for answers about who our nation chooses to take care of and who we ignore. Crisscrossing the country, she interviews patients, epidemiologists, and even veterinarians with the Department of Defense. She learns that outside of Latin America, the United States is the only country with the native insects—the “kissing bugs”—that carry the Chagas parasite. She spends a night in southwest Texas hunting the dreaded bug with university researchers. She also gets to know patients, like a mother whose premature baby was born infected with the parasite, his heart already damaged. And she meets one cardiologist battling the disease in Los Angeles County with local volunteers. 


Wolf Lamb Bomb by Aviya Kushner (June 1)

 In the aftermath of September 11th, ongoing violence in the Middle East, and resurgent antisemitism, Kushner reflects on a Biblical understanding of humanity and justice. Wolf Lamb Bomb wonders equally about our relationship with an inherited past and our desire to understand the precarious present. These poems place the prophet Isaiah in the position of poet, crooner, and rival as they search for a guide in poetry and in life.


The Ride of Her Life: The True Story of a Woman, Her Horse, and Their Last-Chance Journey Across America by Elizabeth Letts (June 1)

In 1954, sixty-three-year-old Maine farmer Annie Wilkins embarked on an impossible journey. She had no money and no family, she had just lost her farm, and her doctor had given her only two years to live. But Annie wanted to see the Pacific Ocean before she died. She ignored her doctor’s advice to move into the county charity home. Instead, she bought a cast-off brown gelding named Tarzan, donned men’s dungarees, and headed south in mid-November, hoping to beat the snow. Annie had little idea what to expect beyond her rural crossroads; she didn’t even have a map. But she did have her ex-racehorse, her faithful mutt, and her own unfailing belief that Americans would treat a stranger with kindness.


One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston (June 1)

A 23-year-old realises her subway crush is displaced from 1970’s Brooklyn, and she must do everything in her power to help her – and try not to fall in love with the girl lost in time – before it’s too late . . .


The 2000s Made Me Gay: Essays on Pop Culture by Grace Perry (June 1)

Join Grace on a journey back through the pop culture moments of the early 2000’s, before the cataclysmic shift in LGBTQ representation and acceptance―a time not so long ago, that people seem to forget.


After the Fall: Being American in the World We’ve Made by Ben Rhodes (June 1)

Equal parts memoir and reporting, After the Fall is a hugely ambitious and essential work of discovery. Throughout, Rhodes comes to realize how much America’s fingerprints are on a world we helped to shape: through the excesses of our post-Cold War embrace of unbridled capitalism, post-9/11 nationalism and militarism, mania for technology and social media, and the racism that shaped the backlash to the Obama presidency. At the same time, he learns from a diverse set of characters – from Obama to rebels to a rising generation of leaders – how looking squarely at where America has gone wrong only makes it more essential to fight for what America is supposed to be at home – for our own country, and the entire world.


Ruby Red Herring (Avery Ayers Antique Mystery #1) by Tracy Gardner (June 8)

The trouble starts when the Museum of Antiquities hires Avery to appraise a rare, resplendent ruby. It bears a striking similarity to a stone in the museum’s bejeweled dragon’s-head medallion. One of the dragon’s ruby eyes was stolen long ago–replaced with a fake. Now, Avery’s colleagues–pompous Sir Robert Lane and fatherly Micah Abbott–suspect they may have the missing gem. But facets of the case remain cloudy. Detective Art Smith is snooping around. Another body turns up. And Avery finds mysterious notes that, impossibly, seem to be written by her father.


Battle for the Big Top: P.T. Barnum, James Bailey, John Ringling, and the Death-Defying Saga of the American Circus by Les Standiford (June 15)

Millions have sat under the “big top,” watching as trapeze artists glide and clowns entertain, but few know the captivating stories behind the men whose creativity, ingenuity, and determination created one of our country’s most beloved pastimes.


The Natural Mother of the Child by Krys Malcolm Belc (June 15)

As a nonbinary, transmasculine parent, Krys Malcolm Belc has thought a lot about the interplay between parenthood and gender. Giving birth to his son Samson clarified his gender identity and allowed him to project a more masculine self. And yet, when his partner Anna adopted Samson, the legal documents listed Belc as “the natural mother of the child.”


The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict (June 29)

Belle has a secret, one she must protect at all costs. She was born not Belle da Costa Greene but Belle Marion Greener. She is the daughter of Richard Greener, the first Black graduate of Harvard and a well-known advocate for equality. Belle’s complexion isn’t dark because of her alleged Portuguese heritage that lets her pass as white–her complexion is dark because she is African American.

10 Books I’m Looking Forward to in March 2021

A floral-patterned teacup on a saucer sits on a stack of thick books with yellowed pages.
Image by Ylanite Koppens from Pixabay

It’s time once again to take a peek at the TBR and a few books I’m especially excited about in the next month. Publication dates are as listed in February 2021 and are subject to change.

The Soul of a Woman by Isabel Allende
(March 2)
As a young woman coming of age in the late 1960s, she rode the second wave of feminism. Among a tribe of like-minded female journalists, Allende for the first time felt comfortable in her own skin, as they wrote “with a knife between our teeth” about women’s issues. She has seen what the movement has accomplished in the course of her lifetime. And over the course of three passionate marriages, she has learned how to grow as a woman while having a partner, when to step away, and the rewards of embracing one’s sexuality.

Women in White Coats: How the First Women Doctors Changed the World of Medicine by Olivia Campbell
(March 2)
Motivated by personal loss and frustration over inadequate medical care, Elizabeth Blackwell, Elizabeth Garrett Anderson and Sophia Jex-Blake fought for a woman’s place in the male-dominated medical field. For the first time ever, Women in White Coats tells the complete history of these three pioneering women who, despite countless obstacles, earned medical degrees and paved the way for other women to do the same. Though very different in personality and circumstance, together these women built women-run hospitals and teaching colleges—creating for the first time medical care for women by women.

In the Quick by Kate Hope Day
(March 2)

June is a brilliant but difficult girl with a gift for mechanical invention, who leaves home to begin a grueling astronaut training program. Six years later, she has gained a coveted post as an engineer on a space station, but is haunted by the mystery of Inquiry, a revolutionary spacecraft powered by her beloved late uncle’s fuel cells. The spacecraft went missing when June was twelve years old, and while the rest of the world has forgotten them, June alone has evidence that makes her believe the crew is still alive.

She seeks out James, her uncle’s former protégée, also brilliant, also difficult, who has been trying to discover why Inquiry’s fuel cells failed. James and June forge an intense intellectual bond that becomes an electric attraction. But the love that develops between them as they work to solve the fuel cell’s fatal flaw threatens to destroy everything they’ve worked so hard to create–and any chance of bringing the Inquiry crew home alive.

I Think I Love You by Auriane Desombre
(March 2)

Emma is a die-hard romantic. She loves a meet-cute Netflix movie, her pet, Lady Catulet, and dreaming up the Gay Rom Com of her heart for the film festival competition she and her friends are entering. If only they’d listen to her ideas. . .

Sophia is pragmatic. She’s big into boycotts, namely 1) relationships, 2) teen boys and their BO (reason #2347683 she’s a lesbian), and 3) Emma’s nauseating ideas. Forget starry-eyed romance, Sophia knows what will win: an artistic film with a message.

Cue the drama. The movie is doomed before they even start shooting . . . until a real-life plot twist unfolds behind the camera when Emma and Sophia start seeing each other through a different lens. Suddenly their rivalry is starting to feel like an actual rom-com.

The Lost Apothecary by Sarah Penner
(March 2)

One cold February evening in 1791, at the back of a dark London alley in a hidden apothecary shop, Nella awaits her newest customer. Once a respected healer, Nella now uses her knowledge for a darker purpose—selling well-disguised poisons to desperate women who would kill to be free of the men in their lives. But when her new patron turns out to be a precocious twelve-year-old named Eliza Fanning, an unexpected friendship sets in motion a string of events that jeopardizes Nella’s world and threatens to expose the many women whose names are written in her register.

In present-day London, aspiring historian Caroline Parcewell spends her tenth wedding anniversary alone, reeling from the discovery of her husband’s infidelity. When she finds an old apothecary vial near the river Thames, she can’t resist investigating, only to realize she’s found a link to the unsolved “apothecary murders” that haunted London over two centuries ago. As she deepens her search, Caroline’s life collides with Nella’s and Eliza’s in a stunning twist of fate—and not everyone will survive.

Burning Girls and Other Stories by Veronica Schanoes
(March 2)

Emma Goldman–yes, that Emma Goldman–takes tea with the Baba Yaga and truths unfold inside of exquisitely crafted lies. In Among the Thorns, a young woman in seventeenth century Germany is intent on avenging the brutal murder of her peddler father, but discovers that vengeance may consume all that it touches. In the showstopping, awards finalist title story, Burning Girls, Schanoes invests the immigrant narrative with a fearsome fairytale quality that tells a story about America we may not want–but need–to hear.

The Girl Explorers by Jayne E. Zanglein
(March 2)

In 1932, Roy Chapman Andrews, president of the men-only Explorers Club, boldly stated to hundreds of female students at Barnard College that “women are not adapted to exploration,” and that women and exploration do not mix. He obviously didn’t know a thing about either…

Follow in the footsteps of these rebellious women as they travel the globe in search of new species, widen the understanding of hidden cultures, and break records in spades. For these women dared to go where no woman―or man―had gone before, achieving the unthinkable and breaking through barriers to allow future generations to carry on their important and inspiring work.

The Code Breaker: Jennifer Doudna, Gene Editing, and the Future of the Human Race by Walter Isaacson
(March 9)

When Jennifer Doudna was in sixth grade, she came home one day to find that her dad had left a paperback titled The Double Helix on her bed. She put it aside, thinking it was one of those detective tales she loved. When she read it on a rainy Saturday, she discovered she was right, in a way. As she sped through the pages, she became enthralled by the intense drama behind the competition to discover the code of life. Even though her high school counselor told her girls didn’t become scientists, she decided she would.

Driven by a passion to understand how nature works and to turn discoveries into inventions, she would help to make what the book’s author, James Watson, told her was the most important biological advance since his co-discovery of the structure of DNA. She and her collaborators turned a curiosity of nature into an invention that will transform the human race: an easy-to-use tool that can edit DNA. Known as CRISPR, it opened a brave new world of medical miracles and moral questions.

The Agitators: Three Friends Who Worked Together on the Underground Railroad, Fought for Women’s Rights, and Helped Change the Course of the Civil War by Dorothy Wickenden
(March 30)

In Auburn, New York, in the mid-nineteenth century, Martha Wright and Frances Seward, inspired by Harriet Tubman’s slave rescues in the dangerous territory of Eastern Maryland, opened their basement kitchens as stations on the Underground Railroad.

Tubman was an illiterate fugitive slave, Wright was a middle-class Quaker mother of seven, and Seward was the aristocratic wife and moral conscience of her husband, William H. Seward, who served as Lincoln’s Secretary of State. All three refused to abide by laws that denied them the rights granted to white men, and they supported each other as they worked to overturn slavery and achieve full citizenship for blacks and women.

Sister Sleuths: Female Detectives in Britain by Nell Darby
(March 31)

The 1857 Divorce Act paved the way for a new career for women: that of the private detective. To divorce, you needed proof of adultery – and men soon realised that women were adept at infiltrating households and befriending wives, learning secrets and finding evidence. Whereas previously, women had been informal snoops within their communities, now they were getting paid for it, toeing a fine line between offering a useful service and betraying members of their sex for money.

Reading Challenges 2021

I know. I know. Every December I sign up for a bunch of challenges, and then life happens, and they fall by the wayside. And then it’s December again, and I sign up for another bunch of challenges.

Well, I just can’t help myself.

My 2021 Reading Challenges:

  • Read Harder 2021: From the folks at Book Riot, this challenge (now in its 7th year) is “designed to help you break out of your reading bubble and expand your worldview through books.” I managed 19/24 tasks in 2020.
  • 2021 Netgalley and Edelweiss Reading Challenge: I joined NetGalley in 2011, so I’ve requested a lot of books over the years. NetGalley recommends a feedback ratio of 80%, and mine is (at the end of 2020) a dismal 6%. I would have to give feedback on over 500 books to hit 80% right now, and that’s obviously not going to happen, but I’d like to get to, say, 10%. So, I’ll be aiming for the Silver level (25 books). Wish me luck.
  • Back to the Classics Challenge 2021: I’m joining in this one again, and again planning to pull from my Classics Club 2019-2023 list, which I’m a teensy bit behind on.
  • Mount TBR Challenge 2021 and Virtual Mount TBR Challenge 2021: These two challenges, both hosted at My Reader’s Block, focus on those TBR shelves, whether I own the book or not. I’m aiming for 24 books on each, or Mount Blanc and Mount Crumpit, respectively.

Five challenges, two of which will almost certainly overlap significantly. I’ll be tracking them using the post tags and using the pages linked under “Reading Challenges“.

I do have one more bookish goal for 2021: I’d like to figure out how to use Edelweiss better. I know there’s a lot that I could be doing with it, but I haven’t taken the time to explore it.

What are your reading plans for 2021?