Bookish Brains Issue 1

Letter from the Editor:

When I was in elementary school and created my first email address, I founded an indie newsletter called The Goofball Times. Essentially, it was a weekly periodical comprised of weather reports, sports updates, a joke section, a creative writing portion, and whatever other current events I decided to include. I couldn’t have done it alone, though—I outsourced various research to my friends at the time; for example, Steve was in charge of emailing me the joke before the deadline. Then, I would send the completed newsletter via email to a handful of friends and family.

I don’t recall how many issues The Goofball Times ran, although my mother has them all printed out and filed away, my old email address now defunct. However, it was a noteworthy first attempt which naturally led to my later intrigue with running a blog, because, despite the drama of my friends missing deadlines or shirking their “commitment to the newsletter,” I had a lot of fun with it, and so did my charmed readers.

Now, I recollect that project with oozing fondness, and, inspired by the “me” of the early 2000’s, I would now like to launch a new series on my blog entitled Bookish Brains; this will be a brief collection of reading updates, including the materials I’m reading and reviewing, as well as what’s happening in the bookish-sphere.


Star Daughter by Shveta Thakrar

I’m currently reading this YA fantasy book for the book club I co-host, The Moody Book Club! (Check out @themoodybookclub on Instagram for more information.) I’m currently on page 195/435, and so far I find it really charming! Sheetal is an almost-17-year-old who is half-human and half-star, and when she accidentally harms her mortal father, she must seek out her mother—a star!—for her help, the first time she’ll see her in ten years. I like that the main character has blemishes and frizzy hair (so relatable) and that her best friend Minal is sapphic! It’s beginning to drag just a little bit for me though, especially because I know I’m not within the target age range for a book like this.

Felix Ever After by Kacen Callendar

After a six-month wait period, this audiobook finally became available to me on Libby! I’m at 11% of this contemporary YA book at the moment, and so far I am struck by excellent portrayal of emotions. It’s first-person narrated by a character named Felix who is a trans youth living in New York City. Adolescence is such a difficult time in our lives, and to be trans and so misunderstood by so many people is an experience I can only imagine must be isolating. I’m glad to be listening to this character’s perspective and am enjoying the narrator’s audio, which is so conversational and natural!

The Lady and Her Monsters: A Tale of Dissections, Real-Life Dr. Frankensteins, and the Creation of Mary Shelley’s Masterpiece by Roseanne Montillo

  • Nonfiction / Biographical
  • Published in 2013
  • 287 Pages

Last month I read Frankenstein, and in the 1831 author’s note, Mary Shelley described for the reader the origin tale of the novel, that on a dark and stormy night, Percy Shelley, Lord Byron, and herself had begun a contest of who could write the best scary story, and the consequent circumstances of her muse. However, in Montillo’s part-historical/part-biographical body of work, Montillo reveals that Mary Shelley likely rewrote the past in this famous anecdote and conflated the brilliance of her late husband Percy Shelley because of her immense guilt.

The Lady and Her Monsters
begins by providing scientific and cultural context for the inception of Frankenstein, as well as a biographical account of Mary Shelley’s life and those involved in her life. Although there are some moments when the reader may wonder, “Where is Montillo going with this tangent?” she always brings it back to the main threads, providing a comprehensive understanding.

A bit grotesque, the phenomenon of public enthrallment with human dissections and the massive grave-robbing and body-snatching demand (which apparently still exists today in clandestine sectors) was fascinating to read about. Back in the late 1700’s and early 1800’s, England’s enthusiasm for hangings couldn’t even keep up with scientists’ demand for deceased bodies to dissect.

Overall, I highly recommend this book for gaining insight into the circumstances that influenced Mary Shelley’s creation of Frankenstein and The Last Man, and for learning about galvanism and human dissection in an accessible writing style.

Animal Wife by Lara Ehrlich

  • Fiction / Short Stories
  • Published in 2020
  • 164 Pages

Over the summer, I came across the indie press Red Hen Press and purchased this short story collection basically because the cover is so appealing.

Comprised of fifteen stories, this body of work focuses on themes such as the domesticated female experience, girlhood blossoming, human/animal relationships, and extreme, ascetic lifestyles. Varying between first- and third-person narrators, these stories typically depict quiet, somber, discontent girls and women. While some are purely fiction, others incorporate some bits of magical realism.

While the book was enjoyable to read, I am not necessarily blown away by it. The writing is lyrical, concise, yet meaningful. There were several bits of writing I noticed throughout the book, such as characters “sitting with their knees touching” and I couldn’t tell if I found that a charming quality of Ehrlich’s stories or an unimaginative crutch. I appreciated her creativity and the perspective from which she was writing, but I also found it quite dull and uninspired in other areas. Personally, as a reader, I prefer exploring the female experience in books; however, this felt like she gave a rather flat account of girlhood and womanhood.

I will say, this book was quite poetic and if nothing else, lovely-ish to read. The first story ends with a “Huh?” moment and I was happy to see that the final story is a sister piece to the first, providing necessary information to improve understanding of the first. I do recommend this book to those who want something easy to read for leisure, but I do not advise dropping all the other books on your to-read list for this one, because you will likely be disappointed.

Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury

  • Fantasy / Magical Realism / Fiction
  • Published in 1962
  • 215 Pages
  • Takes place in Green Town, Illinois in October

An autumnal classic, this novel follows two 13-year-old boys Will Halloway and Jim Nightshade as they encounter a suspicious, mysterious carnival which comes to town one late October weekend.

Watch my review of this book on my YouTube channel, Slanted Spines!

I am Malala by Malala Yousafzai

Because it’s Nonfiction November and because I said I was going to read this this month, I really want to get to this one! This will be a reread for me, so hopefully I will naturally fly through it. However, because there are only a few days left in the month, so perhaps I’ll have to table this pick for next month.

On Wednesday, ViacomCBS announced that it intends to sell Simon & Schuster to Penguin Random House for over $2 billion. This news sent the book community into a panic at this potential megapublisher.

However, this is not entirely surprising news for the book industry. In 2013, Penguin and Random House merged, and as media companies increasingly look towards streaming platforms to make their money, the book publishing industry is struggling to keep churning profit. At the beginning of the pandemic, Simon & Schuster had announced it was up for sale, hit by the destabilization of the economy and turmoil within the company. Despite this, though, Simon & Schuster actually had an increase in profits this year, although with the finalization of its sale to Penguin Random House, they will use the cash to pay its accumulated $21 billion debt.

Combining these two large publishers would reduce the major global book publishers from five to four companies, which is creating much concern within the book community. Writers are concerned that this will make it harder to sell their manuscripts as this merge decreases competition. Additionally, people believe this may lead to company layoffs and larger obstacles to breaking into the publishing profession. Of course, the CEO of Simon & Schuster, Mr. Karl, maintains that it is too early to discuss any of that, and that the company would still retain its creative independence within the larger corporation.

Many feel that this acquisition would lead to a monopoly on the book market and many are calling for antitrust laws to prevent this merge. To read more about this, check out this article on The New York Times.

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Released on November 24, this 384-paged sequel had many readers rushing to the stores. It takes place shortly after its predecessor, Ready Player One, and involves a similar action-packed adventure which Wade Watts must embark upon. Reportedly, this novel contains many of the beloved 80’s references which charmed readers in the first book, and whether or not it’s actually any good, this nostalgic science fiction novel has the internet buzzing! It is currently averaging 3.90 out of 5 stars on Goodreads.

Barely Functional Adult: It’ll All Make Sense Eventually by Meichi Ng

This series of short stories features “Barely Functional Adult,” the comic protagonist, who Ng uses to depict a balance of hilarious yet seriously relatable incidents. Based off my first impression, it seems like readers of Allie Brosh’s Hyperbole and a Half would enjoy this!

Thanks so much for reading! For more Book Reviews, check out this page!


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