Inconvenient Daughter

Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey

A 5-Star Book Review

  • Representation and the search for identity?
  • Complicated mother-daughter relationship?
  • A battle to define self-worth?
  • Beautiful writing that made me want to cry?

Inconvenient Daughter by Lauren J. Sharkey checks all the boxes for me to make it a 5⭐️ book. I loved this surprisingly brutal novel because of it’s characters and prose, and I highly recommend Inconvenient Daughter as a next read!

Rowan Kelly lives on Long Island with her parents and younger brother, but from the moment her 5-year-old peers question where her “real” mom is at Kindergarten Drop-off, she knows that she is different. Rowan and her brother were adopted from Korea by a white couple, and while there are details available about her brother’s bio parents, Rowan knows nothing. From the outset, Rowan’s perceived other-ness drives her decisions and her search for acceptance.

What I loved about Inconvenient Daughter:

The Representation

Rowan’s story of being a transracial adopted child is not often one that I’ve seen in a novel, and I am here for it. I have friends who were adopted, and I could relate Rowan’s story to what they’ve shared about their own experiences. This book remained true to Rowan, despite all of her bad decisions, and her feelings about being adopted, not knowing about her bio parents, and questioning whether she was truly wanted by her Irish-Catholic parents who do not look like her.

The Complex Relationships

Rowan and her mom have the usual teenage girl/mom fights about clothes, school, and boys, but underneath those explosive arguments, Rowan believes that ultimately Mom did not want her, did not accept her, and will not be satisfied with Rowan’s decidedly average achievements.

The Search for Self-Worth

The bulk of this novel is about how Rowan grapples with the desire to be worthy of others. She seeks outward praise from her mom and in intimate relationships, which lead to startling consequences for this young woman.

The Writing

Ms. Sharkey uses multiple timelines to tell Rowan’s story, giving us a look at what happened in childhood and young adulthood and then switching to the present to let us feel how all of those experiences shaped Rowan in the now. The prose is stark – beautiful and dark while remaining simple and clear, making this book all the more powerful.

I listened to Inconvenient Daughter as an audiobook, but I plan to find a physical copy to add to my shelves because I loved it so much. At 232 pages, this short book packs so much into the story, and I know I’ll want to revisit it in the future – a true indicator that this is a 5-star book.

Five Stars for Firekeeper’s Daughter

Firekeeper’s Daughter

By Angeline Boulley

A 5⭐️ Book Review

Firekeeper’s Daughter has been on my TBR list since my Book of the Month order this summer. I can’t believe I waited this long to read it!

This book wasn’t what I expected, but I’d heard great reviews. Because of the cover, I thought it would be more of a fantasy read, but you know what happens when you judge a book by its cover, right? Luckily, the real story here was so much better than I expected.

Daunis Fontaine is a dutiful daughter. She balances her life between her hometown and the Ojibwe reservation with respect and honor as she cares for her family and friends. Having opted not to go away for college, she is putting her dreams of studying science to the side in order to help others.

But all isn’t well in her community or with Daunis. Her mother, Grace Fontaine, still grieves for Daunis’s father, Levi Firekeeper Sr., who she was unable to marry when she got pregnant with Daunis because of her age (16) and her parents’ misgivings about Grace being with an Ojibwe man. By the time Grace returned home, Levi had found another woman, who bore him a son, Levi Jr. Despite the familial tensions, Daunis and her half-brother remain close, even after their father’s death.

That is not all. There’s an epidemic of meth in the community, and Daunis loses a loved one in a shocking event because of addiction. That leads her to work with the FBI and on her own mission to find out what’s killing her loved ones. The story weaves together culture and gender roles and social issues in a way that feels simple, but is filled with complexity beneath the surface.

I opted to listen to this book despite having a beautiful copy on my shelf. While I will say I felt like it was a little long in parts, every chapter contributed to the story. I rooted for Daunis and felt such satisfaction – and sadness – in the end. This is a well-deserved 5-star book for me!

A Winning Hand Against the Ace of Spades

Ace of Spades

By Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé

A 5⭐️ Book Review

Sometimes a book sits on my TBR for a long time because I know my expectations are so high that I don’t want to ruin them by reading it. Anyone else?

Luckily, Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé exceeded my expectations and more. This book is amazing, and I was shocked to learn that this is the author’s debut novel. It’s smart, socially aware, and engaging, and I’ve continued to think about it since I finished yesterday. All of that equals a great book in my opinion!

Devon and Chiamaka are seniors at Niveus Private Academy. They both have high hopes for their futures, but Aces wants to dash all those dreams to the side. This anonymous bully knows their secrets, and isn’t afraid to tell. Devon, a quiet musician who is determined to fulfill his mother’s wishes of going to college, and Chiamaka, an overachieving It Girl who considers popularity as important as her college applications, are desperate to confront Aces, so these polar opposites join together to bring the masked texter down.

This book has been marketed as Gossip Girl meets Get Out, and I can see the parallels in so much of the plot. With race, sexuality, social status, and money factoring into all parts of this story, Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé created a world where you don’t know who to trust or what to believe, and then she brought it all home to an incredibly satisfying ending.

I listened to this one on audiobook but am glad have the lovely hardcover to add to my collection. Isn’t the cover great? The audio was amazing, and I would love to see Devon and Chiamaka’s story brought to screen.

P.S. If you read this one, be sure to read the Author’s Note at the end. It’s fantastic!

With the Fire on High

Book Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

I’ll be honest. I picked up With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo because it fit the “a book set in a restaurant” 2021 PopSugar Reading Challenge prompt. But I am so very glad I chose it!

This was an audiobook for me, and listening to the story really brought the characters, the recipes, and the conflicts to life for me. I cheered for Emoni throughout her journey as a senior in high school as she navigated some big life decisions while being a mom to the adorable Emma and granddaughter to her spitfire abuela. Emoni is a realistic character with heart and pride and lots of pressures, and that’s what made the book so special. I loved seeing her blossom as a person and as a chef!

A definite 4⭐️ book for me!

To Listen or Not to Listen: Audiobooks are the Question

Do you listen to audiobooks? I’ve only started listening to them in the past two years, primarily during the walking portion of my daily commute to my Chicago office. The pandemic turned that upside down, of course. (I miss you, Chicago.) Now, as I’m trying to get healthier, I’ve started using audiobooks on my walks around the subdivision. Not as exciting as walking to Michigan Avenue, but I don’t have to navigate around pigeon droppings any more. 🙂

My Rules for Listening to Audiobooks

I have a few rules about audiobooks that I’ve found work best for my listening enjoyment.

  1. Nonfiction listening only. I’ve tried fiction audiobooks, but my mind wanders and I lose track of the characters. I’m much better off listening to nonfiction, particularly memoirs.
  2. The listening time should be less than 10 hours. My interest wanes after about 8 hours, if I’m being honest.
  3. When possible, choose an audiobook with the author as narrator. Only the author truly knows how the words should sound. Listening to Jen Lancaster or David Sedaris read their own memoirs is much better than even the most professional narrator, IMO.
  4. Do an activity while listening, like exercising or sewing, but don’t drive. Never drive while listening. This is how accidents happen. Trust.
  5. Listen at 1.5x to 2.0x playback speed. This definitely varies by the narrator’s speech patterns, but I’m a fast talker and prefer to listen to the same. I haven’t found an audiobook that I enjoyed listening to at 1x.

October Audiobook Marathon

So, with those rules in mind, I’ve been on an October audiobook marathon. Here’s a recap for you.

Daring Greatly by Brené Brown

Have you experienced the great wisdom of Brené Brown? You should. She is a queen in my book. Her research and insights about vulnerability and connection are life-changing. I plan to read the physical book from my bookshelf soon, but for now, listening to Daring Greatly was a good step forward for my own mental health. My only complaint for the audiobook was that I would have loved for Brené to narrate her words here.

We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

We Should All Be Feminists is a short audiobook, but it’s amazing. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie narrates, and her accent is both soothing and empowering. This is a book for anyone looking for answers about where women should have roles. Spoiler Alert: It’s everywhere!

Me Talk Pretty One Day by David Sedaris

This is my second audiobook by David Sedaris. I didn’t love Squirrel Seeks Chipmunk, but Me Talk Pretty One Day is so popular, I didn’t want to miss out. This is another case of how the author-as-narrator makes an audiobook even better. I felt like David was walking next to me while telling me hilarious stories about his life.

Happiness is a Choice You Make by John Leland

You know how sometimes you choose to read a book after only skimming the description and you assume one thing based on the title only to discover that the book is about something very different? Just me? Okay, perfect readers…

I neglected to understand that Happiness is a Choice You Make was about John Leland‘s experiences over a year with the elderly. There were touching moments, but three years after losing my dad and having an aging mother made this book a little too personal in soul-searching ways that I’m not ready to face. Still, I was too far invested into listening before I realized this, so I finished it.

Wolfpack by Abby Wambach

Before listening to Wolfpack, I knew three things about Abby Wambach: 1) she is an excellent soccer player, 2) she is married to Glennon Doyle, who I think is fantastic, and 3) she wrote a book. This short audiobook taught me so much more. Abby is insightful, empowering, and a damn good writer. Her humility and genuine desire for a better humanity shines through here. And again, listening to the author narrate this book made a big difference. I’m a fan.

Get Out of Your Head by Jennie Allen

I really need to pay more attention to the book summaries on my Libby app.

In listening to Get Out of Your Head, I wanted to buy in to more of what Jennie Allen described. I am a Christian, but other than praying each day, I don’t actively participate in my religion. There’s a lot of personal baggage there. I didn’t realize this book was a Christian self-help book, but I took away some valid ways to stop my negative thinking patterns. The book was fine and Jennie is a good narrator, but my own stuff got in the way of truly enjoying it.

What I’m Listening to Now: The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster

This weekend I started listening to The Tao of Martha by Jen Lancaster. I read the book when it was released back in 2013 and enjoyed it. I love Jen’s humor and snark, and her memoirs are some of my favorite books ever. Needing a little of that joy right now, I decided to try one of her audiobooks. So far, it’s been a great choice. P.S. – Jen’s recent book, The United States of Anxiety, is an excellent read that I highly recommend.

Do you listen to audiobooks? Tell me some of your favorites!