Let’s Talk About Hard Things is a collection of stories and anecdotes that illustrate the challenges and benefits of making the effort to talk about difficult topics with those we love. The author, Anna Sale pulls some of the stories from her podcast; Death Sex and Money. She named the podcast after the things that affect all of us, but are difficult if not forbidden to be discussed in polite company. The book is divided into five parts corresponding to the topics covered; Death, Sex, Money, Family and Identity.
I found the topic of Death to be soothing in a way. I’m the sort of person who gets awkward when trying to talk about death or soothe someone in mourning, and Sale confirms that this is normal. The people who often think they are good at it can actually be the worst. Being frank and honest in conversations about death should be your guiding star.
The topic of Sex starts with the relatively benign aspects of sexual preferences and then shifts to an eye-opening account of extreme infidelity. It’s hard to withhold judgement with some of the stories, but the perspective is that these things need to be discussed. Sex is humanity at our most vulnerable, and thus conversations about it can be fraught.
The topic of money is also about priorities. Money defines us in ways we don’t like to admit. Sale touches on the different ways people relate to money from a psychological standpoint. The accounts she provides show how a difference in priorities could make one person’s seemingly rational spending can be seen as a serious betrayal in their partner’s eyes. I feel like money is the topic we all need to be better at talking about and this chapter has a lot of insight.
Family felt like more of a medium for hard conversations than a topic of them to me. Family can be challenging to talk with candidly because they know us so well. They know our hot buttons and might have created a few, and sometimes resist our attempts to change. This chapter talks about letting go, about choosing when to stand our ground, and when to chill out on our own personal take letting our brethren have their own views. Sometimes we can choose to be right, or choose to have peace. We need to decide which path is correct for us.
Identity talks about politics and social issues. Having lived through the past 5 years, I don’t imagine anyone reading this doesn’t understand how fraught these topics can be. The accounts in the book grapple with the question of how do we have a particular identity or view whilst maintaining relationships with people who don’t share that identity or sometimes openly disdain it. The answer of course is you have to listen and decide if the relationship is more important than your respective identities. There isn’t any magic to simply respecting another person’s viewpoint.
Ultimately, the book is just a sampling of just a few of the wonderful interviews Sale’s podcast covers. And while I found it helpful and nuanced, it did in the end feel like a long-form flyer for the podcast, which to be fair I am definitely adding to my Spotify playlist. It is a valuable book in it’s own right. If you want an enjoyable and helpful take on the topic, this book is a good one. If you want a deeper dive, you may want to go straight for the podcast.
One to five stars; everything is rated these days. It goes beyond products. You can rate your professor, your doctor, the medicine you take, the park you visit or even the mountain pass you drive over. According to Google Reviews, Satus Pass is a 4.1 star experience. Snoqualmie—4.4. Five-star rankings are arbitrary, but often exhibit a more outsized influence on our lives than we would like. Small business owners for example, need to monitor Google and Yelp carefully, as a single one-star review can weigh heavier than a dozen five-star reviews. Rankings matter, but who can measure what they really mean? What is the tangible difference between a restaurant pulling a 4.4 star average and another with a 4.7?
It’s the absurdity of rating everything in our lives that serves as the linchpin of John Green’s latest work, “The Anthropocene Reviewed: Essays on a Human Centered Planet.” Best known for his well-received young adult fiction novels—In 2017 I reviewed his previous book “Turtles All the Way Down” for this column quite favorably—this is Green’s first major foray into adult non-fiction. Across 40 essays, Green reviews—sort of—different aspects of the Anthropocene, the geologic age in which humans saw their rise, and likely fall. It’s quite a potpourri of topics, including Indianapolis (4 out of 5 stars), plague (1/5), air-conditioning (3/5), Canada geese (2/5), and the teddy bear (2.5/5). If it seems like Green is trying a bit too hard to be clever and meta here, that’s because he probably is. One of his biggest strengths is arguably how self-aware he is in his writing, which has made for some sublime genre-bending fiction over the years, but that same self-awareness can hinder him, too.
In the end, the essays aren’t really “reviews” because they rarely stay focused on the merits of the subject at hand. They serve as a jumping off point for Green’s musings about our planet, the beauty and sorrow of living here, and the difficulties of the current global moment we find ourselves collectively enduring as best we can. It makes me wonder if the 5-star gimmick was really necessary at all? Green is famous enough that a collection of his essays would sell well enough without this contrivance.
As for the reviews/essays themselves, I found them a bit hit or miss. Some I found incredibly poignant and touching, such as his essays on “Halley’s Comet” and “Googling Strangers,” while others failed to leave an impression on me. But such is the nature of the essay collection, different essays will speak to different readers.
If the five-star rating does mean anything, the book seems to be speaking to people. Reviews of “The Anthropocene Reviewed” average 4.8 out of 5 stars on Amazon (n = 2,265 as of writing), and 4.5 out 5 on Goodreads (n = 12,809), and a #1 place on the New York Times Bestseller List. Perhaps it will speak to you.
As for my personal rating of “The Anthropocene Reviewed,” I’ll abstain. Not everything needs to be placed on a five-star scale.
82 year-old Hubert Bird has lost touch with his friends, has no patience for the courier who occasionally rings his doorbell wanting to leave parcels with him for the neighbors he has had no time nor inclination to get to know. When the doorbell rang that day, Hubert was in no mood to accept another parcel, he was waiting for a phone call from his daughter Rose. It wasn't a courier it was a young woman, Ashleigh and her toddler daughter Layla, his new neighbors who were determined to make his acquaintance. As Ashleigh rambled on, Hubert became increasingly impatient, so when the phone rang he shut the door in Ashleigh's face, answered the phone and settled into his chair with his cat Puss curled on his lap.
Rose had moved to Australia twenty years ago, he would have loved to have had her closer, but her weekly phone calls were enough for now. Rose worried about him since his wife Joyce had died. She was concerned that he was lonley and cut off from friends. Hubert reasurred Rose that he was fine, that he had a wonderful and active social life....the problem was it was all a lie--one that would soon be exposed. Rose was planning a visit. Hubert had been meticulous in his lies. He kept a notebook beside the phone so he could refer back to the people, places and events he had spoken of with Rose. With her impending visit, he HAD to make friends, he HAD to create a real life to resemble the fake one he had created for his daughter and he HAD to do it fairly quickly.
So begins this delightful and poignant novel by Mike Gayle. At times wonderfully light-hearted and humourous, it is at the same time a story of heartache and suffering.
As a Jamacian immigrant living in South London in the 1950's, Hubert Bird had experienced more than his share of heartache. He had left everything he knew and loved in search of a job and a better life...something Jamaica did not offer him at that time.
He found the job in a department store. He also found the love of his life, Joyce Pierce. When Joyce announced to her family that she was pregnant and that she and Hubert were going to marry, her racist family turned their backs on them. Joyce, his daughter Rose and his son were Hubert's entire world and then his world began to fall apart.
When Joyce developed dementia, her constant care required his constant attention and he lost touch with his friends. A drug addicted son and a daughter who had accepted a professorship at an Australian university, Hubert found himself alone with no desire to venture into the world that he had turned his back upon until that fateful day when Ashleigh knocked on his door and forced Hubert Bird to take a small step back into the world.
In their second novel, Casey McQuisten fully establishes their role in the romance genre. After the runaway success of their first novel Red, White, and Royal Blue, a novel about the first son of America falling in love with the Prince of Wales, McQuisten was beloved among LGBTQ romance fans, and with their newest novel, One Last Stop, catches lesbian lightning in a bottle. One Last Stop, a novel about two women falling in love on the New York Subway system, is all about found family, former child detectives, becoming a real adult, breakfast foods, trying to figure out what to do with your life, and a time-travelling punk lesbian from the seventies. I wouldn’t blame you if the premise seems a bit difficult to get into, but from page one, all these ingredients come together in a wonderfully natural way.
August is a former child detective trying her best to get through the day. Her life has never been calm, and she’s learned to not get close with anyone. This comes tumbling down when she becomes roommates with a close-knit group of friends: a junk sculptor, a pessimistic loner, and a self-proclaimed psychic, along with the lovesick drag queen/accountant who lives a few doors down. If that wasn’t hard enough for the always-annoyed August, she’s fallen in love with the kind, mysterious girl on the Q Train, Jane Su. Their connection is instant, but when August asks Jane out, she turns her down. However, August soon finds out that Jane is trapped on the New York Metro, from the seventies, and suffering from memory loss! McQuisten beautifully depicts grief, crushes, rejection, falling head-over-heels for someone you aren’t supposed to, relationships, and the feeling of the unknown, in a way that both crushes and uplifts you.
If any of this sounds good to you, take a chance on One Last Stop, and fall in love with romance this summer. Even if you think that you hate cheesy romance novels, there’s something for everyone here.
If I were to tell you that “every 68 seconds an American is sexally assaulted” (Rainn.Org), you probably would question if that was really true. That means that by the time you’re done reading this article, 3 people would have just been victimized. I wish that I had made that statistic up but sadly it is the truth. You and I both know someone who has experienced this, whether we are aware of it or not. Sexaul assault has dug its ugly claws into our society and it has affected us all. In order for this statistic to change, we must have hard and uncomfortable conversations about it.
That is why when I heard about this book, “#ChurchToo”, I knew I had to read it. Emily Joy Allison shares her experience with purity culture in the church and how it enables abusive behavior. I am thankful for her bravery in speaking out about the dangerous mentalities purity culture creates and why the church needs to wake up to how harmful this teaching is. As a follower of Christ who has experienced the purity culture movement, I know how hurtful it can be. This book will challenge what you know as a christian and if you allow it to, it will bring freedom from doctrine that is outdated and complacent in ignorance.
Now you’re probably thinking, I was raised in the purity culture and I would never support a teaching like that! A church would speak out against it and assaulting people isn’t what it is about at all. You are right, that isn’t an ideal the church would officially support, but the consequences tied to the teachings can lead there. And that is where the problem lies. Purity culture is full of victim blaming, shaming people, dismissing the wrong consequences, fear, creating toxic habits, and raising individuals who don’t understand consent. Not all churches endorse this, but there are quite a few that do.
The church has fallen short when it comes to how sexuality is spoken and taught about. As believers of God we should be a safe place to take refuge in. We should be the person that people can confide in with their pain. We should be the ones that fight for injustice and stand up for what is right. God is love and so are we. And so the question begs, was purity culture born in love or in fear? Is it rooted in control and force? These are not easy questions but they must be asked.
As you read this book I hope that you will commit to being open to listen, to being empathetic, and to being willing to change. I am asking you to be brave and look at your biases. I am asking you to look at who you believe God to be and ask Him what He thinks of purity culture. We can do better and it starts with one person at a time. We are either a part of the solution, or a part of the problem. I hope that we choose to fight for what is right and we choose love over fear. Here’s to freedom friends!
Violet Savoie has a plan. A dream, rather. To open her own tattoo shop, which caters to supernaturals in need of permanent charms. As a powerful Seer, she has the potent magic to cast every kind of spell. Except the kind to give werewolves control over their beastly side. And her business partner Nico needs help in the worst kind of way.
Nico Cruz has a secret. A motive, rather. To subtly stalk and seduce Violet until she finally recognizes they are fated to be together. Ever since their heated encounter in Austin on New Year's Eve two years earlier, he's been dying to get his hands-and his tongue-back on her body. He knows a woman like Violet can't be courted in the usual way. Luckily, Nico has no scruples about misbehaving to get what he wants.
But when his former pack roams into town, and an old friend is far too interested in Violet, his focus shifts to the threat venturing into his territory. Nico may come across as the quiet, broody one, but the intruders are about to regret stepping foot in New Orleans. And when Violet goes missing, no charm or spell can keep Nico's wolf at bay.
*Juliette Cross made some awesome bookplates to sign and put in her books. They will come loose with the book and you can place her signature wherever you like :)
It is always nice when a book surprises you. Yes & I Love You was more than the title suggests. Yes, it is certainly a romance novel, but it also deals with things most of us don't think about when talking about inclusion in books. The main female character, Hollyn, has tourette syndrome and suffers panic attacks. The disease affected the character's daily life but didn't define who she was. The author, Roni Loren, holds a master’s degree in social work and spent years as a mental health counselor, and it is clear her experiences helped her here. She represented the illness well and did a great job at demonstrating how anxiety and other daily things we take for granted made things harder for Hollyn.
Hollyn is very successful in her field. She runs a popular blog and her word is the law. If she recommends your business or entertainment it is certain it will be successful. But because of her tourettes she hides behind the screen and no one knows what the popular reviewer "Miss Poppy'' looks like. With the growth of youtube videos, tiktoks, etc., her boss wants Miss Poppy to come out of hiding. She doesn't own the Miss Poppy brand, so her choices are to evolve and face her fears or lose her dream job.
It is around this time that her life crosses paths with the new barista at work, who instantly thinks she dislikes him because of the faces she makes whenever she sees him. The new office coffee guy also happens to be an improv actor at night. With his help (after a number of misunderstandings) Hollyn might just be able to face her fears and face a camera. And with her help, Japer might get the attention he needs for his improv group to succeed. He will help her, and she will in turn watch his group and review them.
Although this is a solid plan that will benefit them both, they didn't count on liking each other so much and their past baggage and life struggles does not make giving a relationship between them a shot easy.
If you are looking for an easy to read book this summer, that is lighthearted while also touching on something substantial that is a struggle to many, give this little romance novel a try!
Can you believe Spring is almost over? Time is definitely flying by.
Spring at Inklings has been good, and we are so very grateful for all our wonderful customers. Our local authors got a lot of love and our top sellers were once again Cascade Killer & Cascade Vengeance by Robert Phillips, and Murer and Mayhem in Central Washington &The Hidden History of Yakima by Ellen Allmendinger. Another title that has been on our bestselling list and sold well again this spring was The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse by Charlie Mackesy.
But if you have already read these wonderful titles, here are a few other bestselling titles at Inklings this spring:
Amanda Gorman was the youngest poet to deliver a poetry reading at a presidential inauguration. Her inaugural poem is now available in a little collectible gift edition and it has been a favorite this spring.
Why not celebrate the beauty of springtime with another title from the #1 New York Times best-selling author of The Little Blue Truck!?
In this springtime edition Little Blue Truck goes out for a ride with his good friend Toad. The sun is shining and the flowers are blooming, it's a beautiful spring day! Who will Little Blue Truck and Toad see along the way? By opening the flaps you will meet all of the sweet baby animals just born on the farm. A super cute read for the little ones.
"A beautiful and heartbreaking story based on Greek Mythology. I could not put it down and read it in two days" (Rachel Fowler, Inklings Bookseller)
"Patroclus, an awkward young prince, follows Achilles into war, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they have learned, everything they hold dear. And that, before he is ready, he will be forced to surrender his friend to the hands of Fate. Set during the Trojan War." (Publisher's Marketing)
"Somewhere out beyond the edge of the universe there is a library that contains an infinite number of books, each one the story of another reality. One tells the story of your life as it is, along with another book for the other life you could have lived if you had made a different choice at any point in your life. While we all wonder how our lives might have been, what if you had the chance to go to the library and see for yourself? Would any of these other lives truly be better? In The Midnight Library, Matt Haig's enchanting blockbuster novel, Nora Seed finds herself faced with this decision." (Publisher's Marketing)
"Kate Quinn is a master storyteller, and this book is a must read. I recommend it to readers who enjoy historical novels set in London during the war and are interested in the codebreaking that helped end the war." (Lisa Martin, Inklings Bookseller) This story is based on facts and follows three female codebreakers at Bletchley Park and the spy they must root out after the war is over.
It isn't surprising that this title made the list, currently a must watch on Netflix it is selling well. Fans of fantasy and young adult novels are bound to love this series. The story follows Alina, an orphan girl and soldier who unleashes a powerful magic within her when her regiment is attacked. Such a display of power gets the attention of the army leader, and he is not all he seems.
"Ryland Grace is the sole survivor on a desperate, last-chance mission--and if he fails, humanity and the earth itself will perish. Except that right now, he doesn't know that. He can't even remember his own name, let alone the nature of his assignment or how to complete it...
An irresistible interstellar adventure as only Andy Weir could deliver, Project Hail Mary is a tale of discovery, speculation, and survival to rival The Martian--while taking us to places it never dreamed of going." (Publisher's Marketing)
Jennifer Armentrout is a bestselling author and you might recognize her name from some of her other titles like The Problem with Forever (a personal favorite of mine). From Blood and Ash is an action-packed fantasy with plenty of romance and twists and turns, it is perfect for fans of Sarah J. Maas and Laura Thalassa.
"Dog Man and Petey face their biggest challenges yet in the tenth Dog Man book from worldwide bestselling author and illustrator Dav Pilkey. Dog Man is down on his luck, Petey confronts his not so purr-fect past, and Grampa is up to no good. The world is spinning out of control as new villains spill into town. Everything seems dark and full of despair. But hope is not lost. Can the incredible power of love save the day?" (Publisher's Marketing)