A mind-blowing book and a necessary break

Plus the problem with Goodreads, the best YA books, and stories about sisters

Hey, readers!

This has been a slow reading week for me. For one thing, reshelving my books has taken a lot more time than I anticipated. Additionally, over at Novel Pairings, Chelsey and I have been recording between 2 and 4 episodes of the podcast and Patreon bonus episodes each week trying to get ahead on content. On top of that, as I get further into my third trimester, it’s just gotten less comfortable to sit for long stretches of time 😂. All of that adds up to not much reading time, but I’m reminding myself that quality matters more than quantity, and I have been immersed in some excellent stories recently.

This Friday (our typical Novel Pairings recording day), Chelsey and I decided we just needed a break after pushing ourselves so hard. It was absolutely the right decision and we both got to spend some time reading books we wanted to read for no other reason than our own enjoyment. It was a great reminder that breaks are essential both for continued productivity and to maintain our enjoyment of our projects. And I’m looking forward to taking a bit of an extended break this week as I spend some time with family. That means you won’t see a newsletter in your inbox next Sunday (I’m pretty sure this is the first week I’ve taken off since starting this!), but that I’ll be back in two weeks with renewed creativity and some more books to share with you!

This week in books.

This week I read…

  • Insurrecto by Gina Apostol. So I loved this book but truly have no idea what to say about it here. It’s brilliant and funny and insightful—it’s also very meta and at times confusing. It follows the story of Magsalin—a Filippina translator who also writes (or wants to write?) mystery novels—and Chiara—an American film maker whose newest project focuses on the Balangiga massacre during the Philippinne-American War. Chiara hires Magsalin to be her translator, but Magsalin has other ideas and begins revising Chiara’s script. Thus, we get multiple stories unfolding simultaneously: Magsalin and Chiara’s road trip, plus each woman’s version of the script (and a few other backstories for good measure). It’s not always clear which version of the story you’re reading so you have to be comfortable being confused and trusting the author. It’s so worth it! I’ll admit that even when I got to the end, not everything “clicked” for me, but I still loved the book for the way it commented on who gets to tell which stories, the voices we choose to prioritize, and the ongoing effects of colonialism. A huge thank you to my friend Katie (@katie_sikkes) for sending me this book. I’m going to be thinking about it for a long time. Amazon | Bookshop

Now I’m reading…

  • Great Circle by Maggie ShipsteadI’m still making my way through this one on audio*. I’m loving it but it’s a slow build! Amazon | Bookshop

  • A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki. This is the FictionMatters Book Club pick for August, and I’m so excited to read it. It’s been on my TBR for ages and I know so many trusted readers who cite it as an all-time favorite. Based on the early discussions of the #fmbookclub crew, I know this will deal with some heavy topics, but also be a beautiful reading experience overall. If you want to read along with us and are a sensitive reader, I recommend searching out trigger warnings (Storygraph is my go-to place for that!). Amazon | Bookshop

*You can get two LIBRO.FM audiobooks for the price of one with my link or by using code FICTIONMATTERS.

Links I love.

I loved perusing Time’s 100 Best YA Novels list.

The “new adult” literature category has confused me in the past. This primer helped.

As an only child, I’ve always loved reading about siblings. Here’s a great list of books about sisters—and why we find these stories so appealing.

Diverse cozy mysteries to boost your mood.

3 great nonfiction audiobooks from Pop Culture Happy Hour.

I’d never heard about Goodreads “reviewing bombing,” but it’s awful and I feel so bad for these authors.

Dolly Parton is writing a book with James Patterson!

This is a great interview with Taylor Jenkins Reid.

End notes.

Watching: I hate to admit this, but I watched an episode of F-boy Island. It is utterly ridiculous and I don’t totally understand the premise (how do they “win”? what is the prize money for?”) but I have to admit I was entertained. On a completely different end of the spectrum, I’ve been exploring MUBI after partnering with them to promote their streaming platform. It’s a really amazing service that offers tons of international and award winning films. If you’re interested in exploring more indie and foreign films, you can use this link to get 30 days free.

Listening: I listened to this episode of Pantsuit Politics on the recommendation of @readwithkat and really appreciated what they had to say about rethinking work. Additionally, this episode of America Dissected about the delta variant was the most informative piece of content I’ve consumed about the current state of the pandemic.

Making: We made one of our favorites this week: crispy sour cream and onion chicken. So good with roasted broccoli and mashed potatoes!

Loving: The FictionMatters Patreon community. I just have to gush about this incredible group of readers for a minute because this weekend, they surprised me at our Biblio Brunch meetup (our monthly Zoom call to exchange book recommendations) with a Biblio Baby Shower! They brought kidlit suggestions from board books and picture books to chapter books and middle grade so that I could get ideas for building our baby’s library. It was honestly the nicest and most thoughtful thing in the world—yes, I cried—and I’m just so grateful for the friendships I’ve made through the wonderful world of books.


Readers, whether it’s for one week or one hour, I hope you get to treat yourself to a break in the near future! For questions, comments, or suggestions, please don’t hesitate to reach out by emailing fictionmattersbooks@gmail.com or responding directly to this newsletter. I love hearing from you!

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Happy reading!

Sara