The Parking Lot Attendant


Debut novel – April 2018

I have really been striking out with books lately. Yet another is The Parking Lot Attendant by Nafkote Tamirat, which is an ARC provided to me by Macmillan Publishing Group in return for an honest review.

I read more than I expected to of this strange “girl hangs out in parking lot with older man” book. All parties involved have ties to Ethiopia, and you sense an undercurrent of the mob or a gang, at least some unsavory goings-on. A sentence on the back of the book claims that this would be “an unforgettable, haunting story of family and fatherhood, national identity, and what it means to be an immigrant in America today.” Really? I read 60% of this book and it’s mostly this girl hanging out in a parking lot where the attendant, Ayale, lets her do her homework in the attendant booth and eventually involves her in “package delivery” when she seems to be hanging around enough to pick up what’s happening.

Her father is largely absent, and when he is present he’s upset about how much time she spends with Ayale but doesn’t take steps to prevent her from going there. I guess she kind of goes to school too? And the book begins with her and her father escaping to an unnamed island to start over, which I suspect is a kind of witness protection, but I am okay never finding out.

If this is what it means to be an immigrant in America today then I apparently don’t get it. This book is written well enough to keep me hooked longer than others have lately, but it is not compelling enough to make me feel guilty about not finishing it. I became tired of the short chapters revealing nothing, and stringing me along without revealing anything. Perhaps this story is too personal to what it’s like to be an immigrant in Boston, and so alienates readers outside the limited sphere of influence. We’re not in on the joke. We’re not in the know enough to connect.

I guess I just didn’t get it. There is an immigrant story to be explored, but this book seems to be reaching out to a very small audience. The writing was good enough to keep me going, but eventually I got tired of Lucy pulling the football out from under me and set the book down. If you are looking for a book about the immigrant experience in America I would seek out Americanah, Homegoing, or Behold the Dreamers, among others.



Heads of the Colored People

heads of the colored people

New release, coming out 4-10-2018

All right everybody, it’s time for me to face the facts. I’ve tried, I’ve read them, and I continue to put them on my TBR, but I think the simple truth is that I don’t like short story collections.

In Heads of the Colored People, you’re presented with a collection of situations that black people of all different backgrounds might find themselves in. The stories help us to realize that black Americans are multifaceted and live a myriad of lifestyles that people may never assign to them based on the established stereotypes and preconceived notions. I am 100% here for this.

These stories were weird though. Well written, but very strange. And not interesting strange, more like “how did you think of these stories other than knowing someone first hand that experienced this” kind of strange. I finished the book, but just barely. I almost gave up a couple of times, once during a story about a white woman who was a fruitarian and working with a reality show to complete her PhD research on distance parenting with her black husband(?) (boyfriend?) and their daughter. We enter the story when the dad takes the daughter to get a sleeping bag so their home can look more desperate to get a crossover episode with the home improvement special, but as they move through WalMart he realizes that something about what they are doing is wrong and after buying her the Elsa Frozen sleeping bag she wanted and lunch at McDonald’s, he returns to the home to let his wife know that he’s leaving and to deal with it. It was…it was really weird.

I think it’s really fun when these theme weeks happen to me without purposefully setting them up, but I think that this is another book that I’m not smart enough to get. This is the kind of book a seminar instructor would assign and then discuss/pick apart with a group of upperclassmen – it’s not a book you read for fun.

But I want to get back to the idea that short stories are not for me. When I say short stories I don’t mean essays that are collected into memoir/creative non-fiction. I mean fictional short stories. I think it’s because I didn’t read a lot of them growing up, and so when I sit down to read a book I expect a connected journey from beginning to end. Short stories make me feel like I’m on a hike, and I know I’m about one chapter into my journey, but when I start chapter 2 I find myself back at the beginning of my hike again. It’s a lot of starting over, and for some reason my mind does NOT like that very much.

This is one of those reviews where I hope that by describing what I didn’t like, you might hear something you do. This was not a bad book, it just wasn’t to my taste – both in structure and content. If you enjoy short stories that challenge how you think about relationships, you might really like this book. I just didn’t.

The Friend

the friend

New Release 2-6-2018

This is one of those books that sucked me in with the jacket description, but once I was inside the book reading the contents, I felt hecka bamboozled. The only explanation I can offer is that I must not be smart enough for what this book was trying to tell me. I thought it was going to be about how we deal with grief, but then it was about sexual things like rape, assault, affairs, and lust. Also this book is about being a writer and how being a writer is multifaceted and difficult and yet unchanging over time.

I’ve read about 5 pages max about the dog. If I am being honest with myself, I was expecting this book to be about how pets help us process grief and move forward.

That is not what this book is about. I mean, I guess it kind of is but it’s sneaked in between all this other…junk.

Hecka bamboozled. I put it down at page 77, just over 33% or so Goodreads tells me. There are so many good books to read; I’m not going to spend my time reading one that feels like it would be assigned for a deep post-feminism writing seminar for which I have not completed the prerequisites. Hard pass.

The Dry

The Dry

The Dry is set in the drought-ridden rural Australian town of Kiewarra, a locale outside of Melbourne. It is the first in a series of Aaron Falk detective novels, and involves Falk returning to his hometown to deal with prejudices from the past, and the murders in the present. Falk has become a federal agent who deals with financial crimes, and so the parents of his now deceased best friend Luke think that he is the best one to root out why Luke might have killed his wife, oldest child, and himself; their family farm was in trouble due to the drought.

If you have been reading my reviews you know that I am very difficult to trick. I don’t read a lot of mystery or thriller novels because my mind often figures out whodunnit early on and then the rest of the book becomes either an exercise in finishing what I start or I get bored and give up.

Jane Harper set up a story where anyone could have done it, and not in the basic “confuse you” kind of way – literally everyone in this terrible little shithole town could be capable of murdering anyone else. Kiewarra feels backwoods and old west and small town insular all wrapped in a nice neat package that is being beaten about by the financial strain brought onto a farming community by a prolonged drought. Most of these people are just terrible, but maybe not by choice but by virtue of their location so you’ll feel a shred of sympathy for some characters too.

I had no idea how this book was going to end. Every time I thought I had it figured out something happened that made me doubt my assumptions. Harper kept my curiosity peaked for 320 pages and I absolutely had to keep reading until I knew who the murderer was because I had to know if I figured it out. The intensity of this book lies in the reader’s need to know. You will find yourself demanding answers alongside Aaron Falk, because this this fucking backwater town isn’t going to stump you or run you out before you get justice.

The sequel to this book is sitting in my office as an ARC and I may just move straight to it because this first one was so good. If you love mystery, if you love a detective novel, if you like a WOAH moment, you should go get this book. It’s intellectually challenging and fun to boot. Go get you some.

The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday Horror

Merry Spinster

New release 3-13-2018

Here at Angry Angel Books the question I get asked all the time is “Why are you angry? What are you angry at?” Honestly I have a lot of trouble answering this question in the moment, but really the answer is more open and generalized. I want to float in on my amazing Victoria’s Secret wings and be angry with you. I want to vent about anything you are angry about and offer to seek out vengeance with you. Nothing makes me feel more happy and powerful than commiserating with other people, complaining, and then getting angry at a common enemy. That feels so fucking good.

Tangentially I think my anger is about so many themes that are prominent right now: equality of all kinds, safety, sexual and medical freedoms. I am angry that these things don’t exist for everyone, and that anger (and to be honest, fear too) motivates me to stay focused and keep writing, specifically about how the books I am reading could help grow understanding on these issues and bring not only enjoyment but action as well.

Now let’s talk about, and to, Daniel Mallory Ortberg.

Dearest Daniel how did you write fairy tales and children’s stories in exactly the way my soul feels at this moment in history? My spirit looked exactly like the thing in the cover art as I devoured the stories of characters that GET THEIRS. You wrote how we should GO FOR IT instead of coping or dealing with it and, more importantly, MAKE THEM PAY if necessary.

This collection of rewritten stories made me feel like I could get not only what I desired, but also the revenge that I am owed. AND I AM OWED.

This is a collection of stories for adult women who want to just be ANGRY, but in a constructive way?

I’m not doing this book justice in any way. I just…I just enjoyed it. I enjoyed it like the wicked queen probably enjoyed watching Snow White fall after taking the bite out of the poisoned apple. I enjoyed it like I enjoyed watching Sam Nunberg flop about on MSNBC last week. This collection scratched an itch so deep in my soul that I felt only satisfaction at the conclusion of each story.

After a few I whispered to myself: Fuck yes.

Let this book shock you. Let this book entertain you. Let this book take you to a place where you are out for YOU and fuck everyone else.

Go get you some.

An American Marriage

An American Marriage

New release 2-6-18

I put this ebook on hold at the library on February 5th and I just got access on the 28th so I was very excited get started on it. I only had 14 days of access so starting right away was very important.

I wrote a very critical review of The Hate U Give last year. This book has been on the NYT bestseller list forever and has received critical acclaim from reviewers and casual readers alike. I think there is a movie or tv show in the works too. This is all fabulous for Angie Thomas. My two critiques of the book boiled down to (1) this is too much stuff to cram into one girl’s experience and still accept it as realistic and (2) it was too obvious when Thomas made her characters sidebar out of the action to “learn you” on something that was important in black life in America. So while her message is important and informational, the delivery of that message left much to be desired, at least to an adult who likes to stay informed.

Tayari Jones’ An American Marriage is everything I wanted The Hate U Give to be and more, which probably speaks to the expected reader level of THUG versus An American Marriage more than anything. Jones explores most of the same themes, but couches them in a realistic, devastating scenario, and challenges you to understand all of the points of view and motivations of all the characters at once.

A man is wrongly convicted of rape and imprisoned only a year and a half into his marriage, and is kept in prison for almost 5 years before his conviction is overturned and he is released. That’s the core that the entire story is woven around. We learn about black relationships: romantic ones, familial ones, friendships, and racial bonds. What is a father? What is a wife? What is fidelity? When is being true to yourself at once both a betrayal of your promise to another person but also the right thing to do?

It is almost impossible for me to write this review. The story is compelling, smart, terrifying, and infuriating in turns, and it is next to impossible to choose a side. Everyone should get what they want but if they do then everyone also loses, but in losing they win the power to move forward? GOD THIS BOOK IS SO INTRICATE AND COMPLICATED. It is a perfect representation of the complications faced by black Americans every day.

Jones has allowed us a window into the anxiety that is simply existing as black in America, and if you don’t understand what that’s all about, especially in the American South, you should go read this book immediately and ask yourself how you could possibly navigate the existence of any of these people and not come out on the other side irreversibly damaged in some way. And perhaps more importantly, after you’ve imagined this, do more than just use the damage of black lives as entertainment and find a way to do your part to move our country in a direction where these injustices no longer happen.

Holy shit this book was so good and so important to read. Go get you some.



New Release 3-6-18

Happiness by Aminatta Forna as provided to me by Grove Atlantic/Atlantic Monthly Press via NetGalley and Edelweiss in return for an honest review.

It has been a long time since I have read a book that I suspected I would like, and then come to find out that it just wasn’t what I expected. I requested Happiness as an ARC because its descriptions on all the “most anticipated books of 2018” lists made it sound like a deep, enthralling novel.

I loved the descriptions in Forna’s writing. Her setting and characters are so vividly described that I have no trouble picturing them. I can taste the food, see the parakeets fluttering, hear the foxes and rabbits crying and screaming. Her writing is gorgeous and should be converted to an oil painting to be displayed for all to see.

Unfortunately this is one of those books where I gave myself until 30% on the Kindle, and then gave myself permission to give up. The writing and language could not save the fact that I did not care about what was happening. I am certain that if I had continued to read everything and everyone that was involved with whatever it was that was happening in the city of London in this book would have been brought together in a grand finish that displays the puzzle in a bright light, allowing you to finally see how all the pieces connect, how all the players mattered to the central idea.

The problem is that I read to escape. I read to be strung along, to be fed at least a few breadcrumbs along the way to make me curious to read more. You can bore me in the first 30% but if you give me just enough to make me wonder, then you’ll hook me for at least another 20%, and by then I’ll know for sure if I’ll finish or set your story aside.

I am not interested in Attila, the Ghanaian native whose ex(?) is in a home in London due to early onset Alzheimer’s. I’m not interested in Jean, the scientist studying the behaviors of urban foxes and creating wild rooftop spaces for landlords in London. I don’t understand why it’s important that these two people have found each other and by the time you throw in that Attila’s niece and her son have been apprehended by immigration authorities and her son becomes lost and they go to find him…I don’t know, man, I just don’t care. There isn’t enough connective tissue here, it just feels like someone is throwing story ideas at a wall to see what sticks.

By 30-50% I should have an idea of the characters, what their individual purposes are, how they relate to one another, and what the overarching goal of the plot line seems to be. By 30% I should be at cruising altitude and about to be offered a drink from the cart. I shouldn’t be wondering if I’m on the wrong plane, or where my seat is, or why I’m on this trip at all.

So while the writing was spectacularly descriptive and enjoyable in its own right, the journey was not clear enough to hook me into the rest of the book. You might try it to see if it’s more your cup of tea, but for me it’s a not so much. Sorry.