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JSW

JSW

Joined April 2016

She/her*Varsity Reading Team Member * Bookshop Santa Cruz Book Group Ambassador 📚👥* Reveur
review
JSW
Pickpick

Completely fascinating and absorbing, while disappointingly minimal in the areas of Africa, the Americas, and Australia. This is an archeological perspective even though it's touted as history, so there is much dense information through that lens. Highly educational and worth the read.

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JSW
Plain Bad Heroines | Emily Danforth
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Ripping good story!! Dark and creepy and gothic and sapphic and sly. Loved it.

18 likes2 stack adds
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JSW
Natural History: A Novel | Carlos Fonseca
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Absolutely impossible for me to describe. Layers of story, hazy over time and space, complex characters, strange plots. Fantastic read, but YMMV.

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JSW
Pickpick

I'm a huge fan of books that transcend genre, as this does. Part memoir, part geographical discussion, part historical discourse on race and the movement/displacement/settling of people groups over time, fully all of the above, this book is a series of essays and thought trees that lead the reader on winding paths through important perspectives of America. Fascinating and graceful, tragic and timeless.

review
JSW
Pickpick

This book is a must-read. Full of real talk and raw stories, each essay blasts away preconceptions and assumptions about life as a person who is navigating disability politics, resources, capitalism, sexism, academia, doctors and medicine, racism, sexuality, and prejudice. So important to read and hear these voices.

13 likes2 stack adds
review
JSW
Pickpick

What an incredible book, and I mean that both in its quality and its believability. Stuffed with amazing magical realism, themes from Iranian philosophy, ghosts, djinns, and otherworldly experiences, this book is all over the place in the best way. And yet it also deals a hefty dose of sobering reality in addressing the oppressive regime after the Revolution. Powerful, shocking, even strange to American readers, (Cont in comments)

JSW Yet touching, deep, meaningful and even funny. Every now and then Azar socks it to the reader with a pithy piece of life wisdom. This is a book that I wish I could sit with multiple generations of Iranians to discuss. 1y
JSW Let me be clear that by "strange" I do not mean odd - I mean the sensibility of the writing is a flavor that I haven't found in American or British writers, but have tasted in other books by Middle Eastern authors, and one that I love for its differences. It's hard to describe, it is somehow very dry, melancholy, straightforward, yet allegorical. 1y
JSW Dangit, I'm still not happy with how I'm expressing this. I don't mean to make it sound like American/British/Western writers are doing it right. I refer to them because that's what I've read the most and have had the greatest access to. I'm working on that. I clearly struggle with how to contrast two or more styles in reviews without centering one as "the norm." Hopefully these notes help clarify my intent. (edited) 1y
Cinfhen Wonderful review!!! I‘m definitely intrigued 💗 1y
26 likes3 stack adds4 comments
review
JSW
The Far Field | Madhuri Vijay
Pickpick

I don't know how to write a review for this book, one in which everything and nothing seem to happen simultaneously. It's a family story, a political story, a story of a woman who is lost and unable to find herself, and a story of conflict and connection. Vijay writes with a steady tension and melancholy, yet never oversteps into melodrama. Really excellent read.

17 likes1 stack add
blurb
JSW
The Far Field | Madhuri Vijay
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Started this one today. Already completely hooked.

18 likes1 stack add
review
JSW
Bad Indians: A Tribal Memoir | Deborah A. Miranda
Pickpick

Truly stunning memoir. As much a history of California's Mission Indians as it is a story of Miranda's family, and of herself. Miranda is a wry, well-researched, and thoughtful writer who tackles the joys and traumas of life with clear eyes and descriptive prose. (And she makes excellent arguments for doing away with the bullshit CA mission projects for elementary schoolers.)

18 likes1 stack add
review
JSW
Pickpick

I grew up loving stories about magic, princesses, witches, fairy tales, and girls being strong and celebrating themselves. Little girl me would've loved devouring these wonderful stories full of black girl magic; as an adult I gobbled them up. Perfect shot of power and confidence for these distracting, distressing times.

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JSW
Birdie | Tracey Lindberg
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How often do you read books that are not written for you? If you're white, probably not nearly enough. Birdie is the best kind of challenging book - one that exists to tell stories that fill gaps in our knowledge and experience, that force us to see painful truth about our selves and others. I loved how the author plays with time, and language. (Cont. in comments)

JSW In the absence of words that truly express Birdie's experiences, we get fearanger and thinkdreaming. This author also writes tenderly and fiercely about the beauty and importance of women's relationships. I encourage you to read books that aren't experiences you relate to. Their stories are vital and important. 2y
Suet624 Wonderful post. 2y
JSW @suet624 thank you 😊 2y
28 likes3 comments
review
JSW
Pickpick

As bold and dreary, golden and dry, searching and lost, dreamy and cold, real and mythical as the California history it relates. What a marvelous book. Zhang has written a perspective missing from the Western milieu and it is necessary - full of family, stories, sacrifice, identity, home, and place. So good.

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JSW
This Is Shakespeare | Emma Smith
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"Come off it!" This isn't the Shakespeare you read in high school, ?

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JSW
Sunshine | Robin McKinley
Pickpick

A fun diversion, if a bit rambly. Will make you want to bake. 😀

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JSW
This Is Shakespeare | Emma Smith
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Yes. Let's explore these works as frameworks, not masterpieces. "I don't really care what he might have meant, nor should you."

BronwynMahon This sounds so interesting! How is it? 2y
JSW @BronwynMahon I'm liking it! I appreciate the thoughtful analysis - it makes my intellectual side happy without asking me to be an expert! 😃 I also like that I can skip chapters of plays I'm not familiar with, and that doesn't impact the book. 👍🏼 2y
BronwynMahon @JSW Thank you! Definitely adding it to the list! 😁 2y
17 likes3 comments
blurb
JSW
This Is Shakespeare | Emma Smith
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"So much of what we say about Shakespeare is either not true or just not relevant." Looking forward to digging into this one!

review
JSW
Pickpick

I liked this one, but it's definitely not for everyone. It doesn't really fall cleanly into a category. Zapata plays with overlapping generational narratives, treating time as something to be crossed (like a border, like a sea). The stories weave in and out and the writing is very good. A thoughtful, cerebral book of stories.

blurb
JSW
The Undocumented Americans | Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
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Boosting the signal on this #ownvoices #dignidadliteraria book. Unlike a previously published fictional account with massive publisher backing (and stereotypical representation of the people it supposedly meant to "humanize"), this book of actual stories from actual people is not being given wide exposure. Please consider reading this book, if you truly wish to be "part of the conversation."

Sace Hold has been placed. Now to wait 17 weeks. 2y
JSW @Sace I hear that! 😂 2y
Caterina Neither of my libraries has it 💔, unlike that previously published fictional account 🙄 2y
JSW @Caterina argh. Time to request it! 🤞🏼❤️ 2y
19 likes2 stack adds4 comments
review
JSW
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Pickpick

I never read books about the military or war, but this family memoir caught my eye and I'm so glad. It was intriguing and sobering. Now I want to read some more about the CIA in Laos.

Mitch That‘s had such good reviews - it‘s not my ‘normal‘ read either, but looking forward to giving it a go. 2y
21 likes1 comment
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JSW
Bailedbailed

I don't know if it's me or the book, but I'm not into this. It portrays life so bleakly.

BarbaraBB I felt the same. 2y
18 likes1 stack add1 comment
blurb
JSW
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Since traveling is out for the foreseeable future, I've been diving into this gem. What non-self-help books are helping you right now?

ju.ca.no Oh I‘ve had my eyes on this one for a long time! It looks so cool! 2y
JSW @ju.ca.no I recommend! It's perfect for short attention spans, for armchair traveling, for reading instead of mindlessly scrolling social media - all the things I want right now. 😂 2y
ju.ca.no @JSW oh that does sound perfect😍 2y
readordierachel I got this for my husband for his bday. So interesting! 2y
JSW @readordierachel it's so fun to dip in and out. And also so weird. 2y
21 likes5 comments
blurb
JSW
The Unwilling | Kelly Braffet

I don't know what to make of this dark fantasy. I was immersed in the story, characters, and world. The writing was really good. The machinations, politics, and avarice was truthful. But it was dreadfully dark and violent, with some really dysfunctional relationships (definitely CW for mysogyny, for assault, for child abuse, for gaslighting, for suicide, and for manipulation). Read with caution and let me know what you think!

Brittybuhh The literal only thing that I found I disliked about this book was the anti climactic death of the king. I understand that that triggered the whole rest of the book to fall in place but I don‘t understand how you build up such a vicious character and then have him end like that. It‘s the only thing that seemed rushed and strange to me. 2y
JSW @Brittybuhh i see what you mean! That didn't bother me so much, because it was an interesting twist. But the ending of the book did. The whole book built up Judah's power, which she didn't figure out till the end. Is this going to be a trilogy? Unclear. And for me, the story is in the discovery of power and the imperfect practicing and getting used to it, and reclaiming it. 🤷🏻‍♀️ 2y
Brittybuhh The ending was so weird 😂 at first I was really confused because I was just like “....that‘s it?” Obviously there has to be another book coming, because if not that ending was awful, but I don‘t like how there‘s no mention of the next book on goodreads and the book itself isn‘t listed as #1 in a series. 2y
See All 6 Comments
Brittybuhh I don‘t exactly think it‘s fair that Judah seemed to know so much more about how her power worked at the end than we did when we waited the entire book for her to come into the power we knew she already had. 2y
JSW @Brittybuhh YES that's exactly it. And I really wanted more of the backstory of Nate, too. His world intrigued me as much as Judah's. His mom, the history of the Work, the generational breeding leading up to Judah - why? I just have questions!!! 2y
Brittybuhh Not gonna lie I was heartbroken by the person Nate was in the end!! I was so rooting for him to at least not die (I expected him to by the end) but I think the person I see him as now may be worse than his death would have been. I feel the next book will have a lot of him atoning for things he‘s done. 2y
11 likes6 comments
review
JSW
How to Do Nothing | Jenny Odell
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Pickpick

This book is a philisophical meal for your brain. It's a game-changer for me, echoing things I've considered, while bringing up issues I hadn't. I love it, particularly now, in this moment, while we have a chance to rethink everything, and while we are forced to consider how we spend our time.

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JSW
Pickpick

Thoughtful memoir that opens a window on a part of the country I know nothing about. I found this read poignant and hopeful.

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JSW
The City We Became | N.K. Jemisin
Pickpick

Breathtakingly original and a fantastic ride. Nobody writes like Jemisin. Brilliant.

readordierachel She's a genius. Can't wait to read this! 2y
JSW @readordierachel compulsively readable. Could'nt put it down! 2y
Kammbia1 I just started reading this one today. 2y
15 likes3 comments
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JSW
Steel Crow Saga | Paul Krueger
Pickpick

It's such a relief to find fantasy that isn't yet another version of eurocentric medievalness. And when the characters are complex and nuanced and human, while living in a magical world? And when there's true diversity (age, gender, sexuality, personal history and backstory, ethnicity and culture, voice,etc)? And when the story is so good? Blown away.

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JSW
Untamed | Glennon Doyle
Pickpick

Loved it and dog-eared it and am a better person for reading it.

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JSW
Pickpick

This book is sacred ground. Read with respect.

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JSW
Pickpick

I don't think I've ever read anything so completely, nakedly, tragically, honest and searching and real. Yet. Gay asks not for pity, but for consideration and space. Good grief, this woman can write.

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JSW
Sourdough | Robin Sloan
Pickpick

Just what I needed. Quirky and imaginative and funny.

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JSW
Pickpick

Fascinating discourse about trails, from multiple perspectives. Reminiscent of Susan Orlean's work. A must read for serious walkers.

Joanne1 You might like another book I read recently 2y
JSW @Joanne1 thank you! That sounds really good!!! 2y
18 likes2 comments
review
JSW
On Swift Horses | Shannon Pufahl
Pickpick

Between a pick and a so-so for me, ultimately a pick because it's beautifully written and I cared deeply about the characters. Melancholy bordering on a bit morose, I found Muriel's and Julius' stories sweetly sad and slightly tragic. This book is slow- paced and full of secrets and backstory. A little bit like a cross between Steinbeck and Obrecht in style. Interesting read and also a #queerbook.

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JSW
Giant Days Vol. 1 | John Allison
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Finally home, errands done, laundry folded, groceries put away, lunch eaten. Time to nest. First up is a Giant Days marathon! I love this graphic novel series about British Uni students. It's hilarious and fresh and real. #stayathome24in48

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JSW
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Time for the #stayathome24in48 readsthon! I'll be getting a late start because we have to go out and do laundry. But here's my plan for the next couple of days!!

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JSW
Untamed | Glennon Doyle
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Quarantine book haul! Support your local independent bookstores. Mine is still shipping orders. ❤️

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JSW
Jack of Spies | David Downing
Pickpick

I don't read these kinds of books at all so I'm not sure how to rate them, but I'm going with a pick because I found myself thinking about the main characters and wondering how they were. This is not an action-packed thriller; it's more of a quiet tension that keeps you engaged. Very slow in parts, but to me that was like I was experiencing time alongside the characters. Interesting era, as well.

blurb
JSW
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A little gentle humor for all my book people. Sending love and good health to all of you, regardless of how this virus affects you and yours. ❤️📚

readordierachel 💕💕 2y
Bette Same to you 📚❤️ Humor is welcome now 2y
31 likes2 comments
review
JSW
Love, Lies and Spies | Cindy Anstey
Pickpick

Delightful diversion for difficult times. In the flavor of Julia Quinn and Jane Austen, but easy to read and very innocent - perfectly acceptable for a younger but advanced reader.

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JSW
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#StayHome24in48 is coming!

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JSW
Children of the Land | Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Pickpick

Powerful book. Marcelo Hernandez Castillo has ripped his heart out and written the pages with his pain, hope, loss, love, disorientation, displacement, struggle, and movement. This is a real memoir of immigration and it's worth your time.

review
JSW
Pickpick

Super fun palate cleanser - exciting, nonstop caper with great characters. A bit thin on plot, but who cares?! Enjoy the ride.

Bette Sounds good. 👍 2y
19 likes1 stack add1 comment
blurb
JSW
Jack of Spies | David Downing
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There's a small Goodwill storefront in my town that sells books and cds. Every now and then I stop in to see what's new. Found this one and thought I'd give it a try.

25 likes1 stack add
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JSW
The Unspoken Name | A. K. Larkwood
Pickpick

Fantastic and fantastical! I loved it. Orcs, revenants, Magic, blood, power, strange portals, weird old religions/cults, and creepy Lovecraftian monsters. What a blast this was to read.

review
JSW
Pickpick

Powerful memoir on living, loving, losing, nature, and isolation. Content warning for dysfunctional/abusive families, death, natural disasters, fire (more details in spoiler comment). I sobbed, and I rarely cry at books.

JSW The author suffers an abusive childhood. She writes in detail about the waning health and death of her dog and her mother. Her house burns down. Her town gets flooded. There's a lot going on. 2y
19 likes1 comment
review
JSW
Pickpick

Such a sweeping story; I got thoroughly wrapped up in the comedy and tragedy of the lives of the characters. Fascinating to read even a fictional account of history I never learned in school. Sobering to read echoes of our current era in the fascist past. Allende writes with such matter-of-fact and tender assurance. Her books are a delight to read.

Texreader Very nice review! 2y
24 likes1 comment
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JSW
How to Be an Antiracist | Ibram X. Kendi
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Pickpick

Deeply personal journey, profoundly insightful suggestions. This book made me think and think and think. Highly valuable. Highly recommend.

lahousewyfe Agree. 💯 2y
Christine Yes - this is an excellent book. 2y
35 likes2 comments
review
JSW
Pickpick

Excellent SciFi story. Layers of narrative interweave and echo each other: humanity, choices, time, music, corporations, research, societies, and the cost of progress. But mostly, about love. So so good, and I'm not a huge science fiction fan. Would be a great book club pick. 👥📚

23 likes2 stack adds
review
JSW
Pickpick

This is very well written and researched, and fairly addresses the complexities of war without glorifying it. I skimmed a lot because I'm not into military history and really just wanted the story of the Wrens - which was fascinating.

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JSW
In Other Lands | Sarah Rees Brennan
Pickpick

Snarky and funny as all hell. I loved this gentle roast of Harry Potter. I loved the characters, the subversion, the matter-of-fact queerness and awkwardness of adolescence. So so good.

Bette Sounds good. Thanks. 😊 2y
17 likes1 stack add1 comment
review
JSW
Kingdom of Souls | Rena Barron
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Pickpick

Overall this is a pick. Epic, brutal, dark, tragic. So many horrible things keep happening to the protagonist (hence this quote). My quibbles- there were some rough spots in the pacing, and the flavor of the romance felt very teen-drama whereas the rest of the story was much more mature. But an excellent addition to YA fantasy. For older teens.