Finished reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 📚
Finished reading: Frankenstein by Mary Shelley 📚
Want to read: Ruinsong by Julia Ember 📚
Want to read: a tumblr book by Allison McCracken, Alexander Cho, Louisa Stein, and Indira Neill Hoch, editors, doi:10.3998/mpub.11537055 📚
Finished reading: Show Your Work by Austin Kleon 📚
Finished reading: Hiding in Plain Sight: The Invention of Donald Trump and the Erosion of America by Sarah Kendzior 📚
📚💬 “I’m a 21st-century American woman; I don’t have enough faith to covet anything but freedom… My career has been a series of reactions to terrible economic & political circumstances caused by the corruption of elites.” Sarah Kendzior (@sarahkendzior), #HidingInPlainSight
Finished reading: The Legend of Sleepy Hollow by Washington Irving 📚
Want to read: Maximizing the Impacts of Academic Research by Jane Tinkler and Patrick Dunleavy 📚
Want to read: Raising the Resistance A Mother’s Guide to Practical Activism by Farrah Alexander 📚
📚 Reading Sarah Kendzior’s (@sarahkendzior) book HIDING IN PLAIN SIGHT & had to take a crying break after the intro bc “I have nostalgia for the future, because I am a mother and whatever system wins will be the one my children will inherit.” p. 15
Finished reading: Dracula by Bram Stoker 📚
Want to read: Can’t Even by Anne Helen Petersen 📚
Has a book ever broken you? By that I mean, all books after it suffered in comparison for some indefinite period of time, regardless of their quality. It hasn’t happened often for me. It happened a bit with Patrick Rothfuss’s THE NAME OF THE WIND. Well, more than a bit. Even the next book in the series didn’t scratch my NotW itch.
Now I’ve discovered a new thing - not when a book breaks you, but when a book sticks to you like a heavy meal, when a book leaves you too full to try anything else for a little while. I finished Donna Tartt’s THE SECRET HISTORY a few days ago. It is still sitting with me, and I think I’ll probably need to take a break from fiction for a while, while I continue to digest this book.
I found it immensely compelling and stayed up way too many nights reading it. It was a ton of fun and then maybe the last 10 - 25% wasn’t as fun but was still compelling.
This is the book that is at the heart of the Dark Academia aesthetic. It’s about a bunch of beautifully pretentious early-20-something college students living in the early-mid 1980s, attending a college that is a very thinly veiled version of Bennington College, a small, private liberal arts college located in North Bennington, Vermont. (Last year, Esquire published an amazing oral history of the school during this time period). We know from the start of the book that one of the friends in the clique has been killed by the others, but not why. We learn why through a narrative of the months leading up to the murder.
One of the things Tartt does so beautifully in this book is describe the physical environment: the sounds of leaves crunching under feet, the quality of sunlight streaming through trees, the luxuriousness of a professor’s artfully appointed office. I think that it’s really this, and the characters’ intense obsession with classical Western literature, especially Greek and Latin, that attracts people to the aesthetic it inspired.
The pacing of the book contributes to its power, too. It begins quickly, with the narrator Richard getting out of his mundane California existence to go to this beautiful New England school, where he at first is not permitted to register for Greek because the only professor of it hand-selects his students. Richard begins to carefully observe the students who are in the class, and endears himself to them somewhat by assisting with their Greek homework. Eventually, the professor accepts him into the class and he comes into the inner circle of a group that seems elegant and mysterious to him but, as I read it, strikes the rest of the school as mostly… weird. The pacing once he’s in the group becomes languorous, with descriptions of visits to a countryside mansion, gentle boat rides across a lake, days spent lounging around reading. This is the stuff of dreams, my friends. But then, as we approach the murder mentioned at the beginning, the pace picks up, becoming more frantic, and by the end of the part describing Richard’s college life, it is frenzied. This is the part where I had less fun - but again, it was still compelling to read.
Someone who has been acquainted with the book longer than I have has probably done an analysis of the ways in which its structure mirrors Greek tragedy.
It’s a literary thriller, technically historical though almost contemporary with when it was written. If it sounds like you’ll like it from what I’ve already said, you should definitely check it out.
Finished reading: The Secret History by Donna Tartt 📚
Want to read: She Come by It Natural: Dolly Parton and the Women Who Lived Her Songs by Sarah Smarsh 📚
Want to read: Dark Archives by Megan Rosenbloom 📚
Finished reading: The Freelance Academic by Katie Rose Guest Pryal 📚
I may receive a commission for any purchase you make through a link on this post.
This book is SO GOOD , but I don’t feel I can write a review that does it justice. It is a pitch-perfect gothic novel and also super gross. After reading all the secrets revealed, I want to go back and re-read, looking for signs. Every layer of gross and spooky in this book has an even grosser and spookier layer underneath it.
Finished reading: MEXICAN GOTHIC by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 📚
🔖📚 From Petra Mayer at NPR: Welcome To Story Hour: 100 Favorite Books For Young Readers
Well, that’s a help in choosing which books to share with my kid next. A nice mix of classics and newer stuff.
🔖📚 From Megan Mabee at Book Riot: How The Hunger Games Prequel Helped Me Realize I’ve Changed
I can relate to Mabee’s realization that being a mother has changed how she responds to books.
📚 I’m reading MEXICAN GOTHIC and it’s wonderful but every description of the house gets me sidetracked thinking about all the Gothic novels I haven’t read yet and how much I want to read them, too.
After her mother dies in an accident, sixteen-year-old Bree Matthews wants nothing to do with her family memories or childhood home. A residential program for bright high schoolers at UNC–Chapel Hill seems like the perfect escape—until Bree witnesses a magical attack her very first night on campus.
A flying demon feeding on human energies.
A secret society of so called “Legendborn” students that hunt the creatures down.
And a mysterious teenage mage who calls himself a “Merlin” and who attempts—and fails—to wipe Bree’s memory of everything she saw.
The mage’s failure unlocks Bree’s own unique magic and a buried memory with a hidden connection: the night her mother died, another Merlin was at the hospital. Now that Bree knows there’s more to her mother’s death than what’s on the police report, she’ll do whatever it takes to find out the truth, even if that means infiltrating the Legendborn as one of their initiates.
She recruits Nick, a self-exiled Legendborn with his own grudge against the group, and their reluctant partnership pulls them deeper into the society’s secrets—and closer to each other. But when the Legendborn reveal themselves as the descendants of King Arthur’s knights and explain that a magical war is coming, Bree has to decide how far she’ll go for the truth and whether she should use her magic to take the society down—or join the fight.
What I Love:
Um, everything? Seriously, I’m so thrilled to share this book with the world. Everyone should preorder it, right now. It’s full of Black Girl Magic and Arthuriana. If you’re looking for a Dark Academia vibe, it brings that with its Secret Societies, but it gives it a distinctly Southern flavor that is missing from most DA media I’ve seen. It’s got a LOT of representation: a Black young scholar, a Black botanist, a Taiwanese-American young scholar, a Black father insisting his Black daughter take care of her mental health, a Black psychologist, men loving men, women loving women, men loving men and women (thus far only sequentially, no polyamory here), women loving men and women (same), nonbinary people, archers, swordfighters, staff users, African heritage magic, European heritage magic, and kiiiind of something that I personally anyway interpreted as a magical metaphor for chronic illness. Also, mostly the representation is nonchalant and/or joyful, rather than focusing on misery.
And that’s before you get into its unique relationship with its setting, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This book leverages the most interesting things about the school (i.e., its proliferation of societies, both public and secret) and reckons with the university’s cruel history and less-than-stellar attempts to address it. In May, I will finish my fourth degree at UNC, and between my two most recent degrees, I worked on campus for three years. Before I began my undergrad career there, it seemed like a fairly magical place; once I started, it turned fairly mundane and stayed that way until I picked up this book, which reminded me of the magic and mystery it held for me in the past and added new layers to it.
I’m trying to work out how to address this next bit without getting it wrong, but I don’t know how, so I’m just going to risk being called in/called out because it’s worth the risk. This book is an excellent example of the power of an Own Voices text, because it lets readers in on some of the daily considerations, slights, and trauma that a young Black woman has to deal with. Deonn handles these bits of narrative so matter-of-factly; they are everyday realities in Bree’s life and as a white woman, I understood better how persistent these experiences are than I ever have before. It’s not that I didn’t know, intellectually, that this is the constant weight a Black woman must carry; it’s just that it hits differently when it’s narration from inside a Black woman’s head, rather than explanation directed at me as someone who is privileged to not have the same experiences.
Also there are hot boys and swoonworthy romance but that stuff doesn’t take centerstage and that is as it should be.
I really can’t praise it enough.
What I Want More Of:
There is nothing missing from this book. There was one climactic part that was a little confusing for me, but a later part explained it. (And I understood what was going on in the climax, I just thought maybe I was wrong.)
Deonn is working on the second book now, so here’s a quick wishlist for what I’d like to see in it:
What I Need to Warn You About:
There’s nothing about taste that I need to warn you about - this book is fast-paced, simultaneously lyrical and plainly written, and I really believe it would be a rare reader who wouldn’t enjoy it. If you’re not into fantasy, I guess, then it’s not for you.
I will provide a content warning, though: LEGENDBORN contains instances of both covert and overt racism, slavery, and rape.
If you read this and are interested in the history behind it, check out these resources:
Old East This is Bree’s dorm.
Wilson Library This is the library where Bree has to hide behind a column and calm down.
The Order of Gimghoul (definitely totally not the Order of the Round Table, NOPE, just a secret society at UNC with a castle in Battle Park and customs based on the ideals of Arthurian knighthood and chivalry)
Davis Library This is the other library mentioned in the book.
The Old Chapel Hill Cemetery Deonn adds a mausoleum section that isn’t really there, but otherwise her description of the cemetery is accurate.
Confederate Memorial and Julian S. Carr The tragic parts of this book draw on real Carolina history just as much as the fun parts do.
Davie Poplar I’m not saying I’m just saying that maybe possibly this might be a tree with a hidden door in it, if UNC’s campus had such things.
Go preorder this right now. What are you waiting for?
📚 I’ve got about 100 pages left in #LEGENDBORN & won’t write a full review til I’ve finished but I think the headline will be BLACK GIRL MAGIC + DARK ACADEMIA + ARTHURIANA ON MY CAMPUS! (Affiliate link goes to Bookshop.org.)
How did it take me until just now to consciously verbalize the fact that THE SECRET GARDEN is a Gothic novel? In my heart I always knew, and it was a huge part of its appeal, but it only occurred to me when Alex Acks (@katsudonburi) was tweeting about the archetypes in MEXICAN GOTHIC. 📚