Matt’s Weekly Reads, May 6, 2023


Before I Let Go, Skyland 1, Kennedy Ryan (2022)

Josiah and Yasmen were the couple everyone knew would last forever — until they were derailed by back-to-back tragedies, and their very different reactions to them. Two years later, they continue to be business partners in their restaurant and committed co-parents to two amazing kids. Yet, they are both struggling to move on, and, as old wounds are starting to heal and their old chemistry is starting to return, they both must ask whether it’s too late to start again, together.

This was a great second-chance romance; I’m firmly convinced that love stories between people who know each other so deeply and have seen each other at their best and worst can be the most powerful kind of love story, and are sorely underrepresented in the Romance genre. At the same time, this is also a love letter to the power of therapy in helping us do the work we need to do, and has some great Black Thriving content. The only thing that kept it from being a five-star read for me is that the plot stalled a bit in the second quarter. But overall, this was great.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Romance
  • Psychotherapy
  • Grief and Loss
  • Depression
  • Resilience
  • Black Thriving

My Rating: Premise 10, Atmosphere 10, Main Character(s) 10, Plot 8, Intrigue 8, Relationships 10, Success 10, Writing 9, Enjoyment 9, Lasting Impact 10: TOTAL 94

Weekly Roundup

The Travelling Cat Chronicles, Hiro Arikawa (2012, trans. 2017), 95: A cat reflects on his life with his human, who is in the process of finding him a new home. This should have been a fun, light, throw-away novel, but it far surpassed my expectations of what it ‘should’ be. It was instead a surprisingly profound exploration of connection, love, and loss, and featured the most true-to-life cat main character I’ve encountered yet. (Cats, Pets, Japan, Love, Grief and Loss)

Bloodchild and Other Stories, Octavia Butler (1995), 95: A stunning collection of stunning stories by the queen of twentieth-century science fiction (apologies to Usula Leguin). These stories are incredibly inventive and bring up fascinating questions and ideas it would never have dawned on me to think about. I couldn’t recommend this collection more. (Short Stories, Science Fiction)

The Rebel Angels (Cornish Trilogy 1), Robertson Davies (1981), 91: Sorting out the estate of an eccentric collector brings out all kinds of small-stakes pettiness and intrigue for a group of scholars in this first volume of Davies’ final trilogy. As with all of his writings, a plot summary can’t begin to capture this. It’s a delicious satire of academia (albeit of what is now a somewhat bygone era) and an exploration of the nature of truth and the role of the arts in society. (CanLit, Academia, the Arts, Culture)

The Cat Who Saved Books, Sosuke Natsukawa (2018, trans. 2021), 79: After the death of his beloved grandfather and legal guardian, a reclusive Japanese teenager is brought out of his grief, and his shell, with the help of a talking cat on a mission to save books from ill-use. This is one of the many books out there that fill the “love letter to books” subgenre. It had some interesting things to say about the reading life, but was very opinionated and prescriptive about its ideas about reading. As someone who thinks a broad and welcoming approach to the love of books is best, the message landed a little awkwardly for me. Definitely food for thought and lively debate! (Young Adult, Books, Literature, Reading, Cats, Japan)

The Alcatraz Escape (Book Scavenger 3), Jennifer Chambliss Bertman (2018), 90: Emily and her puzzle-loving friends take part in another of Griswold’s games — this time, an event taking place on Alcatraz. This was a worthy and fun installment in this middle grade series and also offers some important lessons about the price of success and weight of expectation. (Middle Grade, Puzzles, Mystery)

Pure Colour, Sheila Heti (2022), 73: A woman goes on a surrealistic journey of grief for both her father and the dying world. This is very well done — and is far more of an accomplishment than my rating would lead one to believe; my rating system is simply not equipped to handle books like this. Pure Colour is, for lack of a better term, extremely postmodern. (To give you a sense of it, the protagonist spends a fair bit of a time living as a leaf after the universe ‘ejaculates’ her dead father’s spirit into her body…) As such, it’s not really concerned with things like ‘plot’ or ‘character’, but rather on playing with form and ideas. The writing is beautiful and the consistent thread linking the passing of her father with the passing away of life on Earth is compelling. This is certainly not a book for everyone, but if your reaction to the above is more curious than WTF, give it a try. (Grief and Loss, Ecology, Philosophy, Spirituality, CanLit)

2 A.M. at the Cat’s Pajamas, Marie-Helene Bertino (2014), 67: On one December day, the lives of three Philadelphians collide in unexpected ways, in this story of found family, resilience, and music. This came recommended to me and I thought the premise sounded interesting, but it really didn’t work for me. It used a distant, third-person omniscient perspective that gave it a grandeur that really felt at odds with the small-stakes and intimate stories it was telling. It also didn’t help that I didn’t actually care much about any of the stories. (Found Family, Resilience, Jazz)


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