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Vacay from the Blog

I just wanted to drop in and say that I’ll be holding off on further reviews until after the July 4th holiday.

Enjoy your summer. See you then!

Mailbox Monday #689

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Candid Life of Meena Dave by Namrata Patel free from Kindle.

Meena Dave is a photojournalist and a nomad. She has no family, no permanent address, and no long-term attachments, preferring to observe the world at a distance through the lens of her camera. But Meena’s solitary life is turned upside down when she unexpectedly inherits an apartment in a Victorian brownstone in historic Back Bay, Boston.

Though Meena’s impulse is to sell it and keep moving, she decides to use her journalistic instinct to follow the story that landed her in the home of a stranger. It’s a mystery that comes with a series of hidden clues, a trio of meddling Indian aunties, and a handsome next-door neighbor. For Meena it’s a chance for newfound friendships, community, and culture she never thought possible. And a window into her past she never expected.

Now as everything unknown to Meena comes into focus, she must reconcile who she wants to be with who she really is.

All the Rivers Flow Into the Sea & Other Stories by Khanh Ha for review with Premier Virtual Author Book Tours.

From Vietnam to America, this story collection, jewel-like, evocative and layered, brings to the readers a unique sense of love, passions and the tragedy of rape, all together contrasting a darker theme of perils. The titular story captures a simple love story that transcends cultural barriers. The opening story “A Woman-Child” brings the shy eroticism of adolescence set against a backdrop of the seaside with its ever present ecological beauty. A youthful love affair between an older American man and a much younger Vietnamese girl has its poignant brevity in “All the Pretty Little Horses.” In “The Yin-Yang Market” magical realism and the beauty of innocence abounds in deep dark places, teeming with life and danger. “A Mute Girl’s Yarn” tells a magical coming-of-age story like sketches in a child’s fairy book.

Bringing together the damned, the unfit, the brave who succumb by their own doing to the call of fate, their desire to survive never dying, it is a great journey to inhabit this world where redemption of human goodness arises out of violence and beauty to become part of its essential mercy.

What did you receive?

The Fervor by Alma Katsu

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 320 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

The Fervor by Alma Katsu is the perfect balance of suspense, supernatural, and historical fiction. Meiko and Aiko Briggs are interned in Minidoka during WWII, while Meiko’s husband, Jamie, fights overseas as a pilot. The story shifts from 1944 to 1927 where we learn a little bit about Meiko’s family history and her father’s atmospheric research. What her father uncovered while working on a remote Japanese island Shikotan will come into play later.

Readers also will meet Archie and Elsie, the preacher and his wife, who were family friends of the Briggs. Something comes between the foursome when the war breaks out. When white motes appear and explosions happen in remote places across the United States, a fervor starts to take hold.

“She looked at the smoldering heap, which still billowed and heaved in the night air, like a breathing creature, tentacled and ashen.” (pg. 35-6)

Working in the background is an intrepid reporter who uncovers a secret balloon in the woods with strange writing. She starts to piece together the fervor taking hold in small, remote towns across America. No one is immune, not even the preacher. Katsu’s interned characters are strong, but they shouldn’t have to be. They are Americans and love their country, and Mr. Briggs is sacrificing himself for freedom.

The Fervor by Alma Katsu is a work of fiction, but she captures the atmosphere of WWII in America and the fervor that caught up so many and led to the interment (read imprisonment) of American citizens. I’ve read a number of books about this period and these camps, but there should be more about this time period taught to students across the country. We need more brave souls to examine our not-so-great history, so that a new/old fervor doesn’t take over and lead to more dark U.S. history.

RATING: Cinquain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Alma Katsu is the author of The Taker, The Reckoning, and The Descent. She has been a signature reviewer for Publishers Weekly and a contributor to The Huffington Post. She is a graduate of the Master’s writing program at the Johns Hopkins University and received her bachelor’s degree from Brandeis University. Prior to the publication of her first novel, Katsu had a long career as a senior intelligence analyst for several US agencies and is currently a senior analyst for a think tank. She lives outside of Washington, DC, with her husband.

Mailbox Monday #688

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Just Haven’t Met You Yet by Sophie Cousens, purchased from Audible.

Hopeless romantic and lifestyle reporter Laura’s business trip to the Channel Islands isn’t off to a great start. After an embarrassing encounter with the most attractive man she’s ever seen in real life, she arrives at her hotel and realizes she’s grabbed the wrong suitcase from the airport. Her only consolation is its irresistible contents, each of which intrigues her more and more. The owner of this suitcase is clearly Laura’s dream man. Now, all she has to do is find him.

Besides, what are the odds that she’d find The One on the same island where her parents first met and fell in love, especially as she sets out to write an article about their romance? Commissioning surly cab driver Ted to ferry her around seems like her best bet in both tracking down the mystery suitcase owner and retracing her parents’ footsteps. But as Laura’s mystery man proves difficult to find – and as she uncovers family secrets – she may have to reimagine the life, and love, she always thought she wanted.

Book Lovers by Emily Henry, purchased from Audible.

One summer. Two rivals. A plot twist they didn’t see coming….

Nora Stephens’ life is books—she’s read them all—and she is not that type of heroine. Not the plucky one, not the laidback dream girl, and especially not the sweetheart. In fact, the only people Nora is a heroine for are her clients, for whom she lands enormous deals as a cutthroat literary agent, and her beloved little sister Libby.

Which is why she agrees to go to Sunshine Falls, North Carolina for the month of August when Libby begs her for a sisters’ trip away—with visions of a small town transformation for Nora, who she’s convinced needs to become the heroine in her own story. But instead of picnics in meadows, or run-ins with a handsome country doctor or bulging-forearmed bartender, Nora keeps bumping into Charlie Lastra, a bookish brooding editor from back in the city. It would be a meet-cute if not for the fact that they’ve met many times and it’s never been cute.

If Nora knows she’s not an ideal heroine, Charlie knows he’s nobody’s hero, but as they are thrown together again and again—in a series of coincidences no editor worth their salt would allow—what they discover might just unravel the carefully crafted stories they’ve written about themselves.

What did you receive?

Kill It With Fire by Marianne Bellotti (audio)

Source: Purchased
Audible, 7+ hrs.
I am an Amazon affiliate

Kill It With Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones) by Marianne Bellotti, narrated by Katie Koster, is an audiobook I read to prepare for an interview with the author for work. So this review will be a bit unusual. Bellotti’s book is about modernizing technology, but not for the sake of getting the latest and greatest. Her book is about enterprises taking a careful look at their current operational systems, which are the backbones of many businesses today, and determining how best to maintain, upgrade, or modernize them for current business needs and the future of the business.

I found this audio to be at times engaging and circular. There are arguments made early on that are reiterated later in the book, which makes sense when you consider this is a business focused book making an argument for interdisciplinary teamwork in the world of technology that focuses on ensuring technology is not only maintained but evolved over time to meet future business needs.

Bellotti offers a lot of wonderful advice on how to work to modernize systems without burning down the entire place and starting over from scratch. Like she says, technology that is doing the job most effectively is the best option for the business, but for that technology to be at its best, it also needs to be updated and maintained.

Kill It With Fire: Manage Aging Computer Systems (and Future Proof Modern Ones) by Marianne Bellotti, narrated by Katie Koster, is a good resource for businesses trying to get a handle on the latest systems and options out there while still ensuring their business hums along as effectively as it can.

RATING: Quatrain

About the Author:

Marianne Bellotti is a software engineer and relapsed anthropologist. Her work focuses on how culture influences the implementation and development of software. She runs engineering teams and teaches other people how to tackle complex systems. Most of her work has focused on restoring old systems to operational excellence, but she also works on the safety of cutting edge systems and artificial intelligence. 

Finding Inspiration in Unlikely Places by Eric D. Goodman, author of Wrecks and Ruins

Today, I’d like to welcome back Eric D. Goodman to the blog. He’s written so many unique books from stories linked together in Tracks to his latest novel, Wrecks and Ruins. Before we get to his generous guest post, let’s check out his newest title.

About the book:

Stuart believes romantic love is like the cycle of a cicada: a few months of excited buzz-romance, lust, excitement-followed by a monotonous silence that can’t live up to the promise at the start.
He strings together more than broken relationships, seeking art in the defective. After finding love, sabotaging it, and rekindling the fire again, Stu comes to understand that his drive to end relationships prematurely and his attraction to damaged goods are connected to his fear of being broken himself. Part romantic comedy, part buddy novel, Wrecks and Ruins finds beauty in the most unusual places.
Please give Eric a warm welcome as we explore beauty in unusual places:

Some would say that it is one of the jobs of a writer or a poet: to find inspiration in unlikely places. In some ways, that’s what I tried to do with my most recent novel, Wrecks and Ruins, which compares romance with an annoying horde of insects.

More specifically, the book compares stages of romantic love to the cycle of 17-year cicadas: short moments that buzz with excitement followed by years of routine monotony.

The main character who struggles with this perspective also has a knack for finding beauty in the most unusual of places. He is fascinated with the remains of automobile accidents and abandoned or destroyed buildings. He visits such sites to take photographs, sometimes even pocketing pieces of the wrecks and ruins—a twisted hood ornament or charred scrap of burnt metal from an exploded furnace—to add to his own little collection of damaged goods. He sees the stories and the histories contained within these remains, and he clings to them.

Of course, the main character soon comes to see the correlation between his collection of broken things and his collection of broken relationships. He finds value and beauty in each. And, as good characters should do, he learns, grows, makes mistakes, and learns some more.

The imperfect characters that populate this short novel are people I’ve met before, so to speak. This book is an unexpected follow up to a short story I wrote shortly after the cicadas emerged in 2004. New to the Baltimore-DC area at the time, it was my first experience with such a phenomenon, and I just had to feature the cicada experience in my fiction. The fact that a couple of friends had recently married gave me this inspiration to write “Cicadas,” which was published in Old Lines from the New Line State: An Anthology of Maryland Writers, and featured in abridged form on Baltimore’s NPR station, WYPR.

Fast forward to 2017: I wanted to write a story that was sort of an anti-love story that corrected itself. I was thinking of it as sort of a literary rom-com about an older couple who still loved each other but were not in love, and who giddily planned a divorce the same way younger couples in love may plan a wedding.

I thought back to some characters I’ve used before to see if any would fit as side characters to make an appearance. I realized that Stuart, from “Cicadas,” would fit perfectly as the main character of this new book.

Beyond that, I came to realize that not only would Stuart and his friends be the right age for these characters at this time—but the cicada horde was about to emerge again in 2021. It all came together.

It can be strange and unexpected, where inspiration comes from, whether writing a
novel, a story, a poem, or a song. Sometimes writers find inspiration in the most unlikely

of places. Like a character finding beauty in a twisted hood ornament, or a writer finding inspiration in a seething swarm of insects. The most unlikely of inspirations can bring forth things of beauty.

Have you found inspiration in unusual, unexpected, or unlikely places?

Thanks, Eric, for sharing your journey into unusual places to find the beauty and the story.

About the Author:

Eric D. Goodman is the author of six books, his latest being Wrecks and Ruins (Loyola University’s Apprentice House Press, 2021), set in Baltimore. Eric lives and writes in Maryland, where he lives with his wife of 28 years and two taller-than-him children. Learn more about Eric and his writing at www.EricDGoodman.com

Mailbox Monday #687

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

Summonings by Raena Shirali for review from Caitlin Hamilton Marketing and Publicity.

Indebted to the docupoetics tradition, Raena Shirali’s summonings investigates the ongoing practice of witch (“daayan”) hunting in India. Here, poems interrogate the political implications & shortcomings of writing Subaltern personae while acknowledging the author’s Westernized positionality. Continuing to explore multi-national and intersectional concerns around identity raised in her debut collection, Shirali asks how first- & second-generation immigrants reconcile the self with the lineages that shape it, wondering aloud about those lineages’ relationships to misogyny & violence. These precarious poems explore how antiquated & existing norms surrounding female mysticism in India & America inform each culture’s treatment of women. As Jericho Brown wrote of Shirali’s poetics in GILT, her “comment on culture, on identity, on justice is her comment on poetry.” summonings is comment on power & patriarchy, on authorial privilege & the shifting role of witness, &, ultimately, on an ethical poetics, grounded in the inevitable failure to embody the Other.

What did you receive?

With Love From London by Sarah Jio

Source: Purchased
Paperback, 400 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

With Love from London by Sarah Jio, which was my first buddy read on StoryGraph app, is a tale of a newly divorcing woman, Valentina, and the surprise inheritance she receives from her mother, Eloise, who abandoned her at age 12, never to be heard from again. In this narrative that shifts between the two women’s point of views, we see that the separation of mother and daughter was a heavy burden for both of them, but why would Eloise abandon her child? That’s the mystery.

“‘There are far better things ahead than any we leave behind,” says the stranger sitting next to me on the airplane…” (pg. 3)

There were never truer words. Despite Val’s misgivings about her inheritance – a house on Primrose Hill — she boards a plane, leaving her soon-to-be ex-husband behind. Eloise’s story begins when she’s a young woman living with her best friend, Millie, in the East End and working at Harrod’s while dreaming of a better life and a bookstore all her own. Her young life is full of spontaneity and dating, but it’s one man who captures her attention fully. The parallels between the two women’s lives are uncanny from being with the wrong man to finally figuring out that happiness doesn’t have hinge on another person’s approval.

The story is at times funny with characters like Liza livening things up, but it is also so frustrating when men like Frank (who will infuriate you) appear on the scene. The struggles facing Eloise are very significant and the conclusion of her story is bittersweet, but Val learns to forgive the past and embrace the future. What didn’t work for me were some of the cliche plot devices like letters purposefully kept from one of the characters and a few interactions between characters that felt less than realistic to me given the situations. However, I did become invested wholeheartedly in this story of healing and redemption.

With Love from London by Sarah Jio is a dramatic story in which a daughter must learn to forgive the past and move on with her future as a stronger, independent woman.

RATING: Quatrain

Other Reviews:

About the Author:

Sarah Jio is the New York Times bestselling author of WITH LOVE FROM LONDON, coming from Random House (Ballantine) 2/22, as well as seven other novels from Random House and Penguin Books, including, ALWAYS, ALL THE FLOWERS IN PARIS, THE VIOLETS OF MARCH, THE BUNGALOW, BLACKBERRY WINTER, THE LAST CAMELLIA, MORNING GLORY, GOODNIGHT JUNE, and THE LOOK OF LOVE. Sarah is a journalist who has contributed to The New York Times, Glamour, O, The Oprah Magazine, Glamour, SELF, Real Simple, Fitness, Marie Claire, and many others. She has appeared as a commentator on NPR’s Morning Edition. Her novels are translated into more than 25 languages. Sarah lives in Seattle with her husband, three boys, three step-children and two puppies.

Mailbox Monday #686

Mailbox Monday has become a tradition in the blogging world, and many of us thank Marcia of The Printed Page for creating it.

It now has its own blog where book bloggers can link up their own mailbox posts and share which books they bought or which they received for review from publishers, authors, and more.

Velvet, Martha, and I also will share our picks from everyone’s links in the new feature Books that Caught Our Eye. We hope you’ll join us.

Here’s what I received:

The Catch by Alison Fairbrother for review from NetGalley.

Two years out of college, Ellie Adler has a job in journalism, an older lover, and a circle of smart friends. Her beloved father, James, who has children from three marriages, unites the family with his gentle humor and charisma, but Ellie has always believed she is her father’s favorite. When he suddenly dies, she finds herself devastated by the unexpected loss. Then, at the reading of his will, she learns that instead of leaving her his prized possession—a baseball that holds emotional resonance for them both—he has left her a seemingly ridiculous, even insulting gift. Worse, he’s given the baseball to someone no one in the family has ever heard of.

In her grief, Ellie wonders who could have possibly meant more to her father than she did. Setting out to track this person down, she learns startling information about who her father really was and who she herself is becoming. Moving, witty, and unforgettable, The Catch is a story of the gifts we’re given over the course of a lifetime, by family, friends, and strangers—the ones we want and the ones that catch us unawares.

Fixed Star by Suzanne Frischkorn for review.

The opening poem, “Cuban Polymita,” from which the title Fixed Star arises, serves as the scaffolding device for Frischkorn’s manuscript. Like the beautiful painted snails it references, the book, too, is a series of spirals: mainly, a pair of sonnet coronas whose recursive lines twine through the manuscript, both framing and bracing it. Navigating splits in language, geography, government, culture, and family-Frischkorn guides us through poems that are, contrapuntally, both luxuriant and lean. Swirling through this compact, honed manuscript is a series of citations (Shakespeare, John Cage, Muriel Rukeyser, John Keats, Normando Hernández González), and geographies (Cuba, Spain, Florida, Pennsylvania) that create transit across decades and differing terrains. Constellated with Latin jazz, jasper, sea glass, bougainvillea, contradanza, and coral reefs, Fixed Star is a brilliant treatise on violence, division, loss, longing, and the search for song. Simone Muench

The Book Haters’ Book Club by Gretchen Anthony for review.

All it takes is the right book to turn a Book Hater into a Book Lover…

That was Elliott’s belief and the reason why he started The Book Haters’ Book Club—a newsletter of reading recommendations for the self-proclaimed “nonreader.” As the beloved co-owner of Over the Rainbow Bookstore, Elliott’s passion and gift was recommending books to customers. Now, after his sudden death, his grief-ridden business partner, Irma, has agreed to sell Over the Rainbow to a developer who will turn the cozy bookstore into high-rise condos.

But others won’t give up the bookstore without a fight. When Irma breaks the news to her daughters, Bree and Laney, and Elliott’s romantic partner, Thom, they are aghast. Over the Rainbow has been Bree and Laney’s sanctuary since childhood, and Thom would do anything to preserve Elliott’s legacy. Together, Thom, Bree and Laney conspire to save the bookstore, even if it takes some snooping, gossip and minor sabotage.

Filled with humor, family hijinks and actual reading recommendations, The Book Haters’ Book Club is the ideal feel-good read. It’s a celebration of found family and a love letter to the everyday heroes who run bookstores.

What did you receive?

Inventory of Doubts by Landon Godfrey

Source: Publisher
Paperback, 84 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Doubts follow us in our daily lives, much like the little devils on the shoulders of cartoon characters. Listing our doubts in a journal or simply writing a list when we tackle something new or challenge ourselves can help reduce our anxiety and fear. Landon Godfrey explores these ideas in the collection, Inventory of Doubts, but rather than rely on a human voice, Godfrey has anthropomorphized objects like a feather boa, a dishrag, a box, and many others.

In her prose-like stories, these objects come alive, they become more than the discarded thing. An antique inkwell is not as sophisticated or as academic as it is perceived, and the attic stuffed with discarded items that we no longer care for wishes to be eaten away by termites so it could see the sky and be in awe. Godfrey has collected the uncollectable — silence. We know these objects and their purposes because we have assigned them, but in the silence, is that all that they are? Only what we’ve determined them to be? “Unable to fit in anyone’s pocket, a jealous boulder considers cures for loneliness while it pauses on a cliff.” (“Boulder,” pg. 7)

These objects are stand-ins. They are placeholders for greater questions about our own purposes and our own determinations of what is good and useful and what is to be praised and what is to be frowned upon. Like the dishrag that “experiments with justice, releasing some moisture back into the freedom of air, while retaining a few drops of water indefinitely in a grease-guarded cell.” (pg. 17) Our own experiments, like that of the dishrag, often do not have the best results, but there is always time for change, for reparations. Just like the rag, we too can be reshaped and given new purpose.

Godfrey’s Inventory of Doubts are as fantastical as they are rooted in our own realities. Our conversations with ourselves and our constant “little voices” often have us running in circles or falling into circular patterns of logic, leaving us little room to expand. This collection is an exploration of the human condition: “The seep and clot of it. The furtive fingers of it. The blob and spread of it. The orgy of it. The impossible to remove of it.” (“Stain,” pg. 64) Gloriously imaginative, surprising, and haunting.

RATING: Cinquain

About the Poet:

Landon Godfrey is the recipient of a 2013 Regional Artist Project Grant and a 2011-2012 North Carolina Arts Council Artist Fellowship. In selecting her first book, “Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown,” for the Cider Press Review Book Award, David St. John writes, “Never has the sumptuous materiality of language felt more seductive than in Landon Godfrey’s remarkable debut collection, ‘Second-Skin Rhinestone-Spangled Nude Soufflé Chiffon Gown.’ These exquisite poems are both sensually compelling and intellectually rigorous—a rare feat indeed. The iridescence of this marvelous volume continues to glow long after one has turned out the lights.” Printed at Asheville BookWorks, a limited edition letterpress chapbook, “In the Stone: Three Prose Poems,” will be published in Spring 2013. Landon’s poems have appeared in journals and anthologies—including The Southeast Review, Lyric, Chelsea, POOL, Studium in Polish translation, and Best New Poets 2008—featured at Verse Daily and Broadsided, and nominated for a Pushcart Prize. Her prose on poetry has been published by Q Avenue Press and Gulf Coast, and is forthcoming from Voltage Poetry. Born and raised in Washington, DC, she now lives in Black Mountain, NC, with her husband, poet Gary Hawkins.

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong

Source: Purchased
Hardcover, 128 pgs.
I am an Amazon Affiliate

Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong is a tumultuous collection of poetry in which the poetry is narrated by someone searching for love, acceptance, and a home. The collection opens with a surreal image of “The Bull,” in which the narrator calls himself a murderer of his own childhood. There is this sense that the narrator does not wish to grow up but has no choice but to become more mature. This signals to the reader that something has shifted in his world.

When the reader gets to “Snow Theory,” we see that a mother has vanished from the narrator’s life and he pleads: “What we’ll always have is something we lost/In the snow, the dry outline of my mother/Promise me you won’t vanish again, I said/She lay there awhile, thinking it over/One by one the houses turned off their lights/I lay down over her outline, to keep her true/Together we made an angel/” This is the moment where the journey begins and the poetic narrator is no longer anchored.

Throughout the collection, Vuong explores what it means to be loved and where love cannot be found. How a sense of belonging is integral to mental health and how the journey can nearly destroy you.

The image of snow appears throughout the collection, and it gives readers a sense of stillness, perhaps paralysis. It may be that the narrator is unable to fully move forward until they deal with the deep emotional loss of their mother, but it seems like the narrator is more adrift because they are unable to navigate the hatred he faces because of whom he loves.

There are a number of intriguing images throughout the collection, including the morgue as a community center, but some of these ideas are not fully fleshed out and leave the reader wandering in a surreal world without any breadcrumbs to follow. Perhaps this was intentional because like the narrator, the reader will feel adrift. Time Is a Mother by Ocean Vuong is a journey into the unknown.

Enter the GoodReads giveaway by Jun. 15, 2022.

RATING: Tercet

About the Poet:

Ocean Vuong is the author of the debut novel, On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous, out from Penguin Press (2019). He is also the author of the critically acclaimed poetry collection, Night Sky with Exit Wounds, a New York Times Top 10 Book of 2016, winner of the T.S. Eliot Prize, the Whiting Award, the Thom Gunn Award, and the Forward Prize for Best First Collection. A Ruth Lilly fellow from the Poetry Foundation, his honors include fellowships from the Lannan Foundation, the Civitella Ranieri Foundation, The Elizabeth George Foundation, The Academy of American Poets, and the Pushcart Prize.

StoryGraph

As readers we all love to track our books and review them, even rate them. Many of us for years have used GoodReads or Google Sheets to track our books. GoodReads came up with the yearly reading challenge, and many of us were hooked. But as much as I love using GoodReads, I wanted something that felt more like a community. Something that was more about the books and talking about the books and less about the marketing.

I’d been told about StoryGraph by a number of people, but Melanie Figg finally convinced me. The app was created by minority owners and its machine learning seems more geared toward your book interests and tastes than marketing you something you are not going to love. Also, you can import your GoodReads shelves, as long as your books are clearly labeled, especially if you have what I call “specialty shelves.”

It also offers graphs to show you what your reading has been like, just in case you want to mix it up. The book recommendations are a little more accurate than GoodReads and Amazon, which I find delightful.

Anna and I have been using the StoryGraph buddy read this month where we can leave comments for one another on a book we’re reading together. What’s wonderful about this feature is that the comments are locked until you reach that part in the book. You can reply to comments and have a great conversation about the book as you read at your own pace!

There’s a paid option for those who want more personalization, but for now, I’m good using the free app. One downside for me is the poetry books need an update. I can add poetry books to GoodReads, but I’m not sure how to do that on StoryGraph. If someone is using it and you know how to add poetry books to the system, please let me know.

Overall, I’m really enjoying this app that tracks my reading and allows me to talk about books without spoilers while having fun.

Have you tried StoryGraph? Tell me what you think in the comments. I’d love to hear about what others have discovered in this app.