Family Life

Joyful Reads from February

Hello! I’m Joy, and I love to read. I consider it my greatest talent and favorite hobby. Another one of my preferred pastimes is recommending books to anyone who is the least bit curious. Seriously. I am always volunteering book recs to people near me, whether they ask or not. I thought it would be fun to bring this passion to Baton Rouge Parents Magazine. I will share with you every book I read month by month and what I think about them. You can also follow me on Instagram at @joyfulreadswithjoy! 

January Reads 

Anatomy: A Love Story by Dana Schwartz
WOW. Dana Schwartz has accomplished something special and momentous with this novel. As a history buff and a high school English teacher, I have read and taught a great deal about the Regency period, about Frankenstein, about Mary Shelley and Jane Austen, etc. But I have never read anything modern that captured the setting and the scientific curiosity like this novel! I will offer it as a companion to Frankenstein when I teach it, and I may even use passages in class. From purely a reader’s standpoint, this novel moved so quickly and powerfully. I am just in awe!

Summary: In 1817 Edinburgh, Hazel Sinnett is a wealthy Scottish young woman, the daughter of a Royal Navy Captain and the presumed fiancée of a Viscount heir. A life of comfort and nobility does not interest Hazel, though. Her interests lie in medicine, surgery, and human dissection. She is determined to study medicine and become a physician despite society’s refusal to see women as intelligent beings. In her quest to study medicine, she encounters a young “resurrection man” who sells corpses to the medical university. Together, they endeavor to make Hazel’s physician dreams come true, even if that means grave digging at midnight. Just as Hazel starts her dissections, the pair discovers a dark trend among the dead bodies that means someone is doing more than medical surgery in the Edinburgh streets.

I already was a fan of Dana Schwartz from her addictive podcast @noblebloodtales and other guest spots on podcasts, but she has amazed me with this suspenseful and historical page turner. I’ve never read anything like it, and it made me want to read more about early medicine and anatomy. I want everyone to read it so we can talk about it!

What I loved: the setting! 1817 Scotland! Allusions to Mary Shelley and Frankenstein, the in-depth descriptions of surgery and medicine, the ferocity and brilliance of Hazel, the kind ragamuffin Jack, the allusions to other spooky nineteenth century tales, and of course, a mystery with a twist. Appropriate for ages 14 and up FYI.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie 
Reading this mystery novel was a little more special because I buddy read it with my son. This was the first Agatha Christie novel for my big 11 year old and my first in like 25 years! I chose Death on the Nile for my Book of the Month partly because of the new movie and also for this cover. My son saw it when I unpacked my box and scooped it from me. He devoured it quickly. I read it in a few days, and I really enjoyed the mystery and suspense.

Summary: Linnet Ridgeway is an American heiress who has just purchased an English estate. After a rapid romance with a British stud, she and her new hubby depart on a journey up the Nile. They are joined by an assortment of characters, including the well known Hercule Poirot, the Belgian detective. When a murder occurs, everyone is a suspect. Poirot has to use his tools of observation and deduction to solve the crime as bodies continue to fall.

Death on the Nile was a lot of fun, especially because it became a Buddy Read with my son. Now he wants to read more Christie mysteries and watch their adaptations. This isn’t my usual fare, but I enjoyed getting lost in the story and the 1930s language.

The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois by Honorée Fanonne Jeffers
Deep breath. This novel is a masterpiece. Honoree Fanonne Jeffers has accomplished an incredible feat, creating this multi-generational text that chronicles the Creek tribe, the English settlement of Georgia, the horrors of slavery, the pursuit of Black education, the familial bonds of a family, ancestral trauma, and the concrete support of Black women. This epic saga of an African American Georgia family and their ancestors encompasses a myriad of issues and historical impact. It is thick and intense, but an absolute must.

Summary: Ailey Pearl Garfield is a brilliant descendant that her ancestors are greatly proud of. One of three girls, she is our first person narrator in this wide-reaching novel. Ailey takes us through her life: the discoveries, the pain, the trauma, the joys, the comedy, the family drama, and the love. She tells the story of living in “the City,” an unnamed Northern metropolis, and visiting Chicasetta, Georgia, her family’s home. Ailey is not our only story, though. Fanonne Jeffers takes us through centuries with the various voices from Ailey’s ancestry. Every voice, every life weaves together a detailed tapestry of the varied Black experiences that the characters live.

The Love Songs of W. E. B. Du Bois is amazing. Honoree Fanonne Jeffers somehow captured African American history in a way I’ve never read before. This is an exceptionally researched historical novel that actually discusses the process of such research. The granular individual stories bring every historical detail alive. My goal for Black History Month was to read this, and I finished at 10:30 on February 28. My feelings are so wrapped up in these characters. I feel attached to them, and I have carried them around in my mind and heart the last couple of weeks. I absolutely love this book.

Warning: this novel is devastating. Sexual assault, molestation, domestic violence, addiction, drug use, slavery, and depictions of violence occur multiple times.

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