Angel Picks: Best 5 of 2016

If you are new to Angry Angel Books, welcome! If you would like to read about me you can go HERE or if you have been a reader for a while plThere are so many new things coming in 2017 and we would love for you to be a part of them.

Here are my Angel Picks from 2016. These are not ranked or in any particular order. Just the best five I read this year based on my own humble opinion, and based partially on the ratings I gave on Goodreads (I’m Angry Seraph there, if you want to connect). Please note that these books are not necessarily books written in 2016, I just happened to read them in 2016. Full reviews are linked in the titles.

homegoingHomegoing (2016), by Yaa Gyasi

The story of two sisters and their descendants on different paths through history. This is a beautiful story of what family means, what struggle is, and how to find peace. I cannot wait to read more of Yaa Gyasi’s work. Her voice is an important one.


shrillShrill: Notes from a Loud Woman (2016), by Lindy West

Lindy West’s voice in this book provides representation and strength in a world where obesity and overweight are the norms. This book reminds us to question society’s expectations and pressures while listening to what makes you happy, no matter your weight


Cover Kitchens of the Great MidwestKitchens of the Great Midwest (2015), by J. Ryan Stradal

A journey through one woman’s influences on others and her movement towards independence from a past full of tragedy. This book is the beautifully told story of the ripples in her wake. What really stood out about this book was that it was about this woman without actually telling us what she was doing every minute.

bright-placesAll the Bright Places (2015), by Jennifer Niven

A young adult novel which explores grief and the mental struggles that young people deal with. We see two teens fall in love and experience loss. This book speaks to my need for truthful representation of real phenomenon in books, but that also made me question whether this book should be classified as YA. A powerful and beautiful story.

girl-with-giftsThe Girl With All The Gifts (2014), by M.R. Carey

This is the first book I have read in a long time that I feel offers a decent solution and future in a world of zombies. It explores “human” relationships, expands our understanding of what it means to be human, and shows how we can teach children to live in a world that exists, and not a world that has passed. All important lessons in our world today.

Angry Picks: Worst 5 Books of 2016

There were several books that I forced myself through this year that made me angry when I was finished because it felt like reading them was a waste of precious time. These are the angry picks from 2016, all titles linked to their full reviews.

gfcGold Fame Citrus

This book started so well. Divided into three parts, the first part says “let’s do Cormac McCarthy’s The Road but less depressing” and then the other two parts don’t do that. I’m not sure what the other parts were doing. Books that make me think we’re going one place and then don’t make sense at all make me very angry.

lily-octopusLily and the Octopus

This book combines many things I hate, but I didn’t know it until the end. Thinking this would be similar to “The Art of Racing in the Rain” (LIKE IT SAYS ON THE FUCKING COVER) I decided ugly crying through a dog dying was worth a beautiful love story about man’s best friend. RUN FROM THIS BOOK. DO NOT WALK. RUN.

pandemoniumDelirium #2: Pandemonium

Now, you know how you have that friend who is the hot friend and you know full well you are the “normal” friend but you really want to be the hot friend? Lauren Oliver REALLY wanted her Delirium trilogy to be the Hunger Games or Divergent. IT IS NOT. The first book isn’t on this list because it was VERY good. Books 2 and 3 are VERY NOT.

requiemDelirium #3: Requiem

And book 3 gets an extra special shout out for NOT HAVING A FUCKING ENDING. Just because our main character finds a modicum of resolution DOES NOT MEAN WE HAVE RESOLVED THE CONFLICT SET UP IN THE BOOKS. Oh my god I almost threw this book out the window and simply reimbursed the library for it so no one else had to read this unsatisfying trash.

girl waits with gunGirl Waits With Gun

Now, this one didn’t make me irate, it made me pull out the classic mom line: “I’m not mad, just disappointed.” This book was so good at the beginning: independent women in a time when women were actively expected NOT to be independent facing off against a powerful man over damages owed and then…BORING REPETITIVE SNOREFEST. Maybe I should try book 2 and see if it improves.

Angry Angel Gifts

As we move through the holidays and closer to the new year, Angry Angel Books is making plans for the future. It has been a fantastic year seeing this blog grow, and I have definitely mastered the art of the holds list at the library.

There were obstacles, mostly in the fact that I am admittedly poor and had to wait on those new releases from the library instead of purchasing them straight away. I read at the speed of Lucille Ball trying to shove chocolates into her mouth, but the supply of chocolate was not quite as fast.


I’ve been brainstorming and while I know many blogs go for straight donations, that didn’t feel right to me since my blog isn’t very far reaching right at the moment. My mind kept returning to how thankful I was about your readership and the library for helping me to have access to so many good books, and came up with this idea.


Angry Seraph Amazon Wish List

I created an Amazon wish list with some upcoming 2017 releases. If you would like, click the link above and take a look around. I’m going to be keeping a very close watch on popular books in 2017 and keeping this list updated. If you are interested in a book you don’t see on the list, just message or post on Angry Angel Books on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

So how will it work? If you enjoy my reviews and want to contribute to my site, choose a book to purchase or pre-order and the site will send it directly to me. When purchasing or pre-ordering make sure to leave a gift message to indicate one of three things.

  • This is a gift! Buying a book for me to either keep or donate or gift as I will. I love books! Please include your address so I can send a thank you note. gifts
  • Send it back to you so you can read it! Want me to read and review it first? Great! Want the book you bought for yourself afterwards? Fantastic! In the gift message please give me your name and shipping address and I will send to you right away once the book has been read. return-to-sender
  • Donate! If you would like this book to be donated to a specific organization or library, even if it’s near you, please include the info in your gift message or DM me on Twitter or Facebook and it shall be done.


This is something I want to continue through 2017, and whether people use this or not I will be continuing to review and enjoy books that I hope you enjoy as well. There are more new additions in the works, but this was the first one I could share now. 🙂 Happy Holidays!

The Mothers


Brit Bennett’s book The Mothers is one of the realest books I’ve read in a long time. So many elements of this book would happen in real life exactly as they are described. I appreciated how she treated the delicate matters of the book with the attention and realism they were due instead of trying to paint a pretty picture or offer up convenient happy endings.

The three main characters Luke, Aubrey, and Nadia all follow their own paths and are affected by the choices of the others. Luke is an aspiring football player who becomes injured and has to get a job and return home. Nadia is a high school student who is overcoming her mother’s suicide and planning to attend college. Aubrey is a survivor of rape and domestic abuse, living with her sister and finding comfort in the ministry at Upper Room Church. Luke’s father is the pastor at Upper Church, and Nadia’s parents attend Upper Church when her mother commits suicide and then her father begins serving much more fervently. The stories of these three are very tightly intertwined.

Nadia begins a secretive relationship with Luke in her senior year and becomes pregnant. She wants to get rid of the baby and so Luke goes (unbeknownst to Nadia) to his parents, admits what he has done, and they give him the money to give Nadia for her abortion. After getting the abortion everyone moves on but wonders what might have been.

Mothers are all throughout this novel. Nadia as a former mother. The effects of her mother’s suicide. Aubrey’s mother’s decision to stay with her rapist and abuser, necessitating her escape. Luke’s mother’s decision to fund the abortion. And throughout the book we hear commentary from a heavenly “WE,” the matriarchs of the church, the older ladies who have seen things.

I saw myself in Aubrey; escaping a past that I have to try to be better than. I saw myself in Nadia; making tough choices in order to better myself but also still wondering what might have been, constantly in motion and wandering. I saw myself as Luke, a could-have-been that has to find a way to redefine my life to match my current reality. Tackling all these personal journeys is difficult enough, but doing it in the midst of a close knit community that is all too enthusiastic about being nosey and offering judgement makes living very tough and complicated.

This book was a beautiful read; my only complaint was that it was not another world for me, not an escape. Echoes of my own experience resonated throughout the pages and there were some chapters when I began crying without realizing it, remembering something from my past. I’m sure that tonight I will dream of this book, and wake up with tears wet on my cheeks.

Gold Fame Citrus

gfcI’m writing this review on Friday night after a week of preparing to go on winter break (I’m a teacher) so my brain is pretty fried. I will say this though, I don’t think that being overworked contributed to my reaction to this book at all. (Spoilers towards the end. Fair warning.)

When it starts you think it’s going to be like The Road by Cormac McCarthy, but before full apocalypse sets in. Then it becomes a story of a changing landscape, where people need only adapt and accept the waterless world in which they live. The ending strips this visage from our eyes and exposes the harsh reality that there is no hope, only restocking, refueling, and retreat.

I don’t think I’m smart enough to understand what this book was about. Well, I take that back. I’m smart enough to understand, but I don’t think I’ve read enough of the books or seen the movies that the author credits as inspirations in her acknowledgements to get the references. Was this book an inside joke? An homage to all these other things she loves? Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery I guess, but I’ll readily admit that I was not part of the club that got it.

I lived in the Southwest for 3 years and I loved it. I still miss it. The beginning of this book is totally a possible future for that area of the country, but then it takes a sharp left turn and never recovers despite its auspicious beginning. I’m upset I didn’t just put it down once I realized that I wasn’t enjoying it. Life is too short to spend time reading books that you don’t enjoy.


Also the book was all about them and this kid Ig and then they just left her with those nomads and drove off into the sunset and one and maybe both of them commit suicide? I’m confused? Was this book about hope in the face of tragic circumstances? About taking risks for the sake of the children? That children are our future? I. WAS. FURIOUS. when they just walked away. OK crazy desert people, you can have this kid that we gave up everything for, bye now!

Ugh. I’m going to have to try her other book Battleborn because this one was an epic fail for me but I do want to give Watkins another chance.

The Regional Office is Under Attack!

regional-officeThis is one of the weirdest books I have read all year. No background is provided for the current situation and we are asked to take for granted that the organization that works out of the regional office helps to stop forces of interdimensional darkness from harming the Earth. I chose to read it kind of like X-Men except instead of Professor X we have Oyemi, instead of Cerebro we have Oracles in their kiddie pools of blue goo, and instead of mutants we have girls, LOTS of girls with different kinds of powers that aren’t really explained either, just that the Oracles tell Oyemi and her sidekick Mr. Niles where to find them and they “recruit” them into service. The girl soldiers travel across time and space and dimensions, all as directed by the regional office.

Focus is given to two girls in particular: Rose and Sarah. Rose is recruited by the attackers and Sarah is recruited by the regional office directly, specifically Mr. Niles. Rose is trained with a group of women tasked with overtaking the office, and Sarah acts as Mr. Niles’ right hand woman. He offers Sarah the chance to get revenge on the people who abducted her mother years ago, and to help her with that he gives her intelligence, resources, and a nanotech mechanical arm. Constant references to multiple popular movies and superheroes help guide us through both perspectives of this attack.

Interwoven with the actual action, there is a research paper type narrative which brings together evidence and conjecture to theorize why this attack happened and how the office fell. This paper presents us with the historical information in a scattered fashion to help support the forward motion of the rest of the book. I’m not sure who would be writing such a paper or why, but it serves its purpose.

If you don’t look too deeply or demand to know too many details, this is a fun, action-packed book. You’ve come in just as the battle is beginning! It’s like finding The Avengers or Pacific Rim on a TV station and deciding to watch even though they are on the final battle and you’ve never seen the movie before. It’s exciting even if you don’t know how they got to where they are.

If you do look deeply, you’ll notice that despite the overwhelming feminine power theme, men control much of the action. The female superheroes are sent on their missions by Mr. Niles, and a man named Henry was found by the oracles as a way to enhance their recruitment techniques; Henry can convince these girls to do anything! Also the focus on just Rose and Sarah doesn’t seem to have a purpose. Without deep back stories we could have heard from many more of the agents: Emma, Jasmine, any of them. Why the story had to go between only Rose and Sarah escaped me, and without details on the rest of the team on either side it was difficult to invest emotional energy in the story. Most stories can be divided into plot-driven and character-driven, but this book seems to be something completely different.

Despite this, Manuel Gonzales gives us a fun, fast, exciting battle where we see just what people are capable of. I recommend this book if you have time to just blast through it. It’s a good time.

How to Be a Woman

womanHow important is a good title? I know that it’s important not to judge a book by its cover, but I do it a fair amount, and if a title is too stuffy or weird or preachy I’ll usually pass over it unless someone has specifically recommended the book to me. In this case my book group recommended How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran, and so I gave it a chance.

In memoir form, Ms. Moran has managed to lay out all the juiciest paper topics for a women’s study class near you! Now with more emphasis on porn! I laughed through chapter one and was tempted to buy the audiobook, but then I kept reading and, well, my teacher’s brain just latched onto what seemed to be the first chapter of a dissertation on a multitude of topics that any women’s studies major would delve into. In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve laid out the themes for you here.

Chapter 1: masturbation discovery; the need for passion in porn

Chapter 2: public hair, why how we deal with pubic hair is related to porn, why other areas of the body aren’t as sexualized as pubic hair and don’t matter as much to shave. “If we asked men to shave this much they would laugh at us”

Chapter 3: naming your vagina (and porn’s effect on the process) and boobs.

Chapter 4: tasting menstrual blood (yes, really), feminism is about having a vagina and wanting to control said vagina, using the word feminism incorrectly

Chapter 5: underwear and how it oppresses us, love-hate relationship with bras

Chapter 6: fat is not just a descriptor, it is a swear word and a weapon, say it until it loses its power and feels normal; confused about whether she thinks fat is okay or not; enjoying eating/consensual relationship with fat vs. eating problem

Chapter 7: The most tangled issue of all: systemic sexism

Chapter 8: Love as woman’s work; bachelor vs. spinster; being in a relationship for the sake of being in a relationship instead of because it makes you happy; alone in a room with other people

Chapter 9: Strip clubs bad, burlesque good, if gays go wild for it it makes it okay for women (yes she actually makes this point)

Chapter 10: weddings; women care, men don’t. women get “one day all about you” before going back to obscurity, men don’t obsess about having the perfect day, they get treated as special all the time.

Chapter 11: clothes, handbags, and shoes and why women worry more than men about them

Chapter 12: having kids, raising kids (I got really angry with her as I read this chapter. She spends 11 chapters explaining feminism, spends chapter 12 spitting the usual bullshit about having kids)

Chapter 13: Then she makes it up to me with a chapter about why not to have kids and why it isn’t any better or worse than having kids as long as you are doing what is right for you.

Chapter 14: choose role models carefully; just bc rich doesn’t mean inspirational; how we are in a codependent relationship with the media that tears down actual role models (she spends a fair amount of time talking about Lady Gaga here)

I’ll leave the last two chapters for your own discovery because I enjoyed them the most and they are the most difficult subjects for feminists to agree on and come together about.

I have the same complaint about this book as I had about Luvvie Ajayi’s “I’m Judging You” – lack of depth. Moran’s stories are cute and funny and sometimes gross, but we only get glimpses of the deeper issues she is trying to address. It’s like every chapter is a version of yelling SQUIRREL! at a very excitable golden retriever. Masturbation in girls is something we should encourage and celebrate SQUIRREL! women dress for work much differently than men because we are expected to make a statement SQUIRREL! we ask women when they are having kids because we want to know when they are going to go away and do what’s expected of them SQUIRREL! My mind was reeling from feminist issue to feminist woe without any time to either grasp the issues tightly enough or connect with Moran personally.

I would recommend this book as one to be included as required reading for a college course on feminism, women’s issues, education, psychology, or any field dealing with children and relationships. It has the greatest hits of why the patriarchy must be smashed with a small helping of encouragement to keep trying. Because some of this shit is INGRAINED and isn’t going to go away overnight. Chapter 7 spoke to me the loudest, because the dangers of trying to enact feminism in the workplace without alienating oneself or worse, being fired, is a briar patch.

I’m just not sure if I enjoyed this book. I feel like I just got more depressed as I read on, thinking of how a lot of this will never change in my lifetime. Other times I felt thankful that I didn’t feel the societal pulls that most women do (clothes, handbags, shoes, kids, makeup, shaving, etc.) but felt equally separated from my sisters who may struggle with these expectations. When I was done I put the book down and said “what now?” I guess I would recommend it so that it can tear down some of the walls you might have up, expose ways that you might be unwittingly supporting your own oppression, and give you permission to bypass that next pair of uncomfortable heels. You might even catch a belly laugh or two in the process.

All The Bright Places


Part 2 of books about suicide week here at Angry Angel Books brings us to All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. I did not want this book to end because I knew what was coming and I felt myself flinching away from the later chapters.

Our story begins with Theodore Finch in the bell tower of his school, and Violet Markey who finds herself there also and is talked off the ledge by Finch. (Sidenote – Every time I read her last name I read it as Malarkey instead of Markey, shout out to Joe Biden I love you please don’t leave.) Since Violet is the popular one, people assume that she talked “Theodore Freak” down and doesn’t get into trouble. Finch totally falls for her and we get the beginning of what seems like a typical YA romance in high school type book. They pair up for a Geography project which requires them to wander around to Indiana’s famous sites and away we go.

I knew immediately. The signs of manic depression/bipolar were too bright and clear to miss. Finch is just coming out of the depressive phase and is climbing into the mania phase when the book begins. A young reader might mistake this for the usual falling in love trope that you see in so many other YA books, but Jennifer Niven keeps it very real. Finch is able to distinguish between the asleep (depressive) and awake (manic) stages of his emotional and psychological status, but when his counselor suggests that he might have bipolar disorder, he rejects the idea and the help, not wanting to be labeled.

Violet is also a possible risk. After surviving a car accident in which her older sister was driving and was killed, she is struggling with letting go, with her guilt that she might have been responsible, and the reality of being a survivor which comes with its own questions and issues. Finch’s mania comes across as encouraging and exciting to her young eyes and he draws her out of her shell and brings her back out into the world. She is swept away by his unbounded enthusiasm for life.

This is an absolutely beautiful book, and the last section just tore me apart. I had to work very hard not to cry as Violet moves through the final wanderings that are required of the Geography project that she and Finch were partnered up on. I’ve mentioned books that would be excellent for teaching before, and Niven’s book must go on that list. I would not use it at the high school level though; I would want to use it in a college level psychology or education curriculum and ask students to describe the signs, suggest interventions, and highlight the risk factors that led to the ultimate result. This is labeled as YA fiction but it is instructive for all ages.

The end of the book provides a list of many places you can go to or call for information or help with mental illness or suicide, and Niven takes the time to emphasize that the person who is thinking about committing suicide isn’t always the only one that ultimately needs help. The survivors of suicide also require support. People who live with mental illness every day need support and we need to break down the stigma surrounding the discussion and labeling of mental illness so that people will not be afraid of asking for the help they need.

Please read this book. It is beautiful and heart-breaking and real, and while I do read to escape the world, sometimes it’s nice to read a book that is real life. We can experience something horrifying, terrifying, or sad in book setting so that maybe we are more prepared to recognize and deal with these kinds of issues when we meet them face to face.

If you think something is wrong, speak up.
You are not alone.
It is not your fault.
Help is out there.


End of Watch

end-of-watchApparently it’s suicide week here at Angry Angel Books. I didn’t do this on purpose, it just happened that way. Today we have the final book in Stephen King’s Bill Hodges trilogy, and boy oh boy for those of you that might have issues with suicide or reading about suicide, tread lightly in the last few chapters of this one.

My reviews on the previous two books are linked here:

Mr. Mercedes
Finders Keepers

When we arrive in End of Watch, it is apparent that Brady Hartsfield a.k.a. the Mercedes Killer, has become something more. The drugs that his doctor has been using to experiment on him with and the knock upside the head from Holly Gibney have combined to create a telekinetic monster. When in close proximity to others he can attempt to enter their consciousness and take over their mind, and he has created a way to access the minds of others from a distance through the use of a Game Boy-esque device called a Zappit. As I was reading I kept picturing a touchscreen tablet but really it’s more like a buttons and directional handheld game console. At some point his consciousness leaves the body of Brady Hartsfield for good and takes over the body of another, and we’re off to the races.

This book was released in 2016, and I hear Mr. King sending several messages with this book. First, and perhaps most loudly, that engagement with technology is a double edged sword. He celebrates technological intelligence with his characters Holly and Jerome, showing how technology can be used for good or at least against evil. As we see Holly thwarting plans, we find children walking like zombies, guided by the voices within their screens, ready to commit suicide as a result of being seduced by the programs on their devices. The hypnotizing effects that have been well documented in video games are used as weapons. The very supernatural movement of Brady from consciousness to consciousness speaks not so subtly of the easy access bullies, predators, and other unsavory characters have to the internet and anyone connected to it. There is plenty of research that speaks to the harmful effects of social interaction online and the constant need to perform and be accepted; when you add people who are purposefully doing harm to that environment the results could be disastrous.

Secondly, that suicide resulting from interactions online is more dangerous than just the individual death. I learned about suicide clusters and how they are exacerbated by the internet and social networking sites, and I was thankful that King took the time to reveal these new aspects of suicide as they exist today as if to say “this isn’t just about being wary of technology or finding a balance in your life, this technology is a weapon of mass destruction.”

Finally, and to my own sensitivities most disturbingly, King lets his readers know that this can touch anyone. We read about a gay teenager dressing in drag and blowing his brains out in front of his terrible father. A fat woman who had been bullied and teased all her life (fat and rural). A Christian teen that takes out his entire family with a shotgun to get their reward in heaven. We fly through multiple suicides as a result of Brady’s website and device setup and we’re treated to a kaleidoscope of how devastating the internet can be with or without the presence of supernatural mind control. No one is safe, but we can be prepared.

The book is full of small joys. I love Holly Gibney and her desire to maintain her relationships with Jerome and Bill despite her battles with anxiety and mental illness. Jerome’s battles with his blackness in the face of his family’s success and separation from what he feels is traditional blackness. Maybe I was reading too much into it, but I thought I saw a small nod to traditional Maine direction giving towards the end, which whether I saw it correctly or not, was enjoyable.

One large difference was that this book did not leave me with a sense of foreboding, as though the threat had been dealt with but it could return, but a sense of purpose. So many Stephen King novels end but then you’re still scared or on edge. This trilogy ended with a feeling that it was over, and a short epilogue by King says if you need help, call the hotline, get help, you are not alone. I think this is a major reason that this book has been included on many “best of 2016” lists. It is the first King book I have read where I felt hope at the end, and not nervousness. The plot attacked a very real, growing societal concern and offered hope and closure and growth.

From Mr. Mercedes, to Finders Keepers (which was my favorite of the three), to End of Watch, King takes us on a magnificent journey through human behavior and the dangers of getting lost in technology and our own psyches. If you’re looking for some books to keep you company this holiday season, seek out the Bill Hodges trilogy. You won’t be disappointed.