My monthly reading wrap-up — February 2021

On the left is a white, fluffy goldendoodle and on the right is my husky mix puppy. In between is a stack of books for my

Just like in January, I am so excited for the eight books I got to read this month. I tried to include books by Black writers to honor Black History Month, along with one eARC and even a Western — a totally new genre to me! I also picked up a childhood classic, which was an awesome reminder that children’s books can be as thought-provoking, if not more so, than many adult books.

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi. What a great way to start off February, and as a buddy read with one of my favorite bookstagrammer friends. This story was incredibly told and so unique in its format, as it told the diverging stories of two half sisters unknown to each other on the Ghanaian Gold Coast. This short read still read like an epic and was full of incredible character development. You can check out my full review here.

Outlawed by Anna North. This one was probably the most fun read of February and so different than anything I had ever read. I’m not too familiar with the Western genre, but I typically think ultra-masculine and white, so it was awesome to see that totally flipped on its head in terms of female, racial, and LGBTQ+ representation. It wasn’t my favorite read of the month (a solid three stars), but it was still a fun traipse into the Wild West. You can read my full review here.

The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. This is my first sci-fi of 2021, I believe, and I’m so glad I got a chance to check this one out early by receiving an eARC from NetGalley and TOR. The Echo Wife was my quickest read of the month — I read it in only two sittings! I loved the domestic thriller vibes, and it really forced me to think about the ethical dilemma regarding the technology of cloning. My full review can be viewed here.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett. After reading The Vanishing Half (Bennett’s second novel) last year, I knew that I’d need to add her debut to my TBR. This book is so different than The Vanishing Half, but told with the same level of tenderness. The three main characters — Aubrey, Nadia, and Luke — really hold this story together. While each is imperfect and certainly makes mistakes, this story was full of compassion. I’ll be posting my full review on my blog soon.

The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. How did I go my entire childhood and adult life without reading this wonderful gem of a story?! Well, luckily my mother-in-law gifted me a beautiful pop-up version for my birthday. This is proof that children’s stories can be just as, if not more, full of meaning as any adult book out there. I highly recommend if you haven’t read it already!

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel. Similarly to Homegoing, this amazing, lyrical, evocative story reads like a true, full-length epic, but manages to pack all that meaning and character development into less than 200 pages. This Own Voices story tells the tale of a family separated by their mixed-immigration status and the lengths they go to reunite. My full review can be read here.

Uncomfortable Conversations with a Black Man by Emmanuel Acho. If I could recommend a single book to someone looking to learn more about race in America, this would be it. Acho’s book reads as if you’re sitting down with him having a cup of coffee, while addressing all of the many questions regarding race and the Black experience you’ve probably had. It felt so intimate and compassionate, which is so valuable when it comes to these tough conversations. Check out my review here.

The Removed by Brandon Hobson. In my goal to expand my reading experiences to include marginalized and underrepresented voices, I decided to pick up The Removed, a genre-bending novel about a Cherokee family reeling in the aftermath of Ray-Ray’s death by the hands of police. This was a touching and emotional story. While it wasn’t my favorite book of the month, I certainly enjoyed this new perspective and a different take on police brutality. I’ll be posting a review for this one soon.

What did you read this month, and which book was your favorite? Let me know in the comments below or reach out to me on Instagram!

There’s power in a name: A review of The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans

A copy of The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans being held up against a chalkboard wall.

You know that feeling when a book comes into your life at just the right time? That’s how I felt about this incredible collection of short stories and a novella. Overall, the collection was full of amazing stories that I think are all worthy to be checked out. But for the sake of this review, I’m going to focus on the novella, “The Office of Historical Corrections,” because in my opinion, if you have only time to read one story from this collection, it should be that one.

Quick synopsis: “[I]n the eye-opening title novella, a black scholar from Washington, DC, is drawn into a complex historical mystery that spans generations and puts her job, her love life, and her oldest friendship at risk.”

I read finished this story the day that the Capitol building was stormed by Trump supporters on January 6th. I’m only 25 years old, and I can honestly say this is the first time in my short life I felt truly scared. Scared for our sacred democracy, scared of white supremacy, scared of the consequences of selfish political leaders, and so much more.

The novella’s narrator is Cassie, a worker for the fictional Institute of Public History, more facetiously referred to as “the Office of Historical Corrections.” The job of its employees is to “address a different sort of public health crisis,” says Cassie. “We were the solution for decades of bad information and bad faith use of it. Our work was to protect the historical record, not to pick fights (guideline 1) or correct people’s reading of current news (guideline 2)” (pg. 165).

Warning: the following contains some spoilers. Keep reading at your own risk!

As a reader, I was first struck by how interesting this concept could be if followed perfectly — potentially a solution to people’s distrust of facts by providing an office that is designed to let the public know the truth. But like most things political and governmental, political correctness ends up taking the front seat, which often forces Cassie, who is Black, to choose to either ignore or accept corrections regarding race that don’t really serve to help anyone who it actually matters to, much to the malaise of those close to her, such as her boyfriend, who is also Black.

The plot really picks up when Cassie’s former coworker Genie creates a PR nightmare that requires Cassie — the Office’s token Black employee — to troubleshoot. Genie, also called Genevieve, is following a historical mystery of sorts involving a black man who supposedly was killed in the 1930’s near Milwaukee, but new information suggests he may not have actually been murdered. Genie is there to solve it, and Cassie is there to fix whatever Genie does that reflects poorly on the Office.

Without going into too many details that would severely ruin this story, what I will say is that the ending is truly devastating and unforgettable. But as a reader, I was left with this important message: there is power in naming something and calling a thing what it is. That is the grand lesson that Cassie must learn — whether she actually does so is another question. But the story’s ending in particular reveals not only the incredible freedom and power in revealing the truth and calling something by its proper name, but also the devastating effect it can have when some people choose to ignore it.

So as I read this book and simultaneously watched people storm the Capitol, I was reminded of the importance of putting a name to something and not sugarcoating it. I looked on Facebook and saw “friends” referring to those people as protesters, participating in their constitutional right to peacefully protest what they considered an unfair election. Some people suggested it was fully within the rights of Trump as President to encourage his supporters to simply protest.

But if we are to agree with the premise of “The Office of Historical Corrections,” then it is vital that we call a thing by its name. I am immensely thankful for the hosts of people who voiced what the events of January 6th actually were: insurrection caused by sedition, anarchy, domestic terrorism, white supremacy, an attack on democracy and free elections, and so much more.

I obviously wrote this review in retrospect of the Capitol storming, but it truly took me this much time to both process the events of that day and Evans’ stunning novella. If you’ve made it this far, I hope you found something thought-provoking in this review and are encouraged to read her novella (or hopefully the entire collection) if you haven’t already. I can see this whole short story collection being taught one day in a literature or critical race theory course. It’s just that good. This story is definitely the reason I will always love stories — for the way fiction can express truth and reveal knowledge in a way that transcends the pages and intertwines with reality.

Ambition, identity, and otherness: A review of Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour

A cup of black coffee next to a Book of the Month copy of Black Buck by Mateo Askaripour on top of a wooden table.

So disclaimer: this was my first FIVE STAR read of 2020. Now, I used to throw 5 stars around like they were candy. But the more I read, the more I realized I needed to reserve that rating for the far and few — the ones that touched my heart, made me think differently about a topic, or stuck with me for whatever reason. Black Buck is certainly one of those stories.

The first thing that caught my eye (beyond the colorful, striking cover) was Mateo Askaripour’s very personal dedication — “To all of those who have ever been made to feel less than / I see you.” I love to see who authors dedicate their stories, something so personal to them, to, and I found it very powerful that Askaripour aimed it at basically everyone. After all, who hasn’t been made to feel less than before? And after reading this witty, pointed, and sharp critique of race, ambition, and otherness in America’s workforce, I couldn’t help but think back to his dedication.

Quick synopsis: Darren, a young and unambitious Black man living in NYC, is suddenly swooped up from his job at Starbucks into a sales role at a hot, new startup after a chance encounter with the company’s enigmatic leader. There, he finds himself the token POC in an office that is very, very white. As the story progresses and Darren learns to master the art of sales, he remakes himself into the titular Buck and makes it his mission to help other BIPOC infiltrate the workforce by teaching them to be masterful salespeople.

While Askaripour may not have intended for his debut to be read as a satire, I found it to be one of the freshest, sharpest satires I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. The story was laugh-out-loud funny as it tackled startup culture, racism in the workforce, the intensity of sales, and more. But it was also incredibly cringe-inducing, as I watched Darren face a variety of of microaggressions in the workplace, from being told he looks like basically every Black celebrity, and even more outright and stomach-churning acts of racism.

At times, I remember thinking, there’s no way stuff like this could actually happen — but then again, doesn’t it? As an BIPOC person, I could relate to the feelings of inadequacy or otherness that Darren felt, along with this intense desire to live up to and even succeed the expectations laid out in front of him, both his own and of those around him. While the story certainly felt over the top, the feelings those scenes inspired were real, whether that was relatability, discomfort, even fear or sadness. And that’s exactly what makes a good satire — using these extreme, almost cartoonish scenarios to evoke feelings in the readers that are real and tangible.

Overall, this story was a profound examination of how race plays a role in business and beyond, but I think what it did best was address otherness and create a sense of community and belonging, especially for BIPOC and perhaps other marginalized groups. While I’m no skilled salesman in a NYC high rise, I certainly understand many of Darren’s feelings of needing to fit in and prove himself worthy. And while everyone has arguably experienced feeling like a “less than,” I think any BIPOC can attest that that feeling is sometimes deeply ingrained in us as a result of the system. And while I think many BIPOC readers especially be able to relate to, laugh with, and ache alongside, I definitely think this is a story that anyone can read and gain a whole new perspective.

Welcome to my new blog!

A photo of myself, wearing a red-pink shirt and holding a white hardcover book.

I spent hours pouring over what I wanted to write as my first-ever blog post ever — should I list my favorite books of the year? Do an in-depth review of a book I adored? Feature some of my most anticipated TBRs? But as we turn the page on 2020 (pun certainly intended!), I wanted to start with a little bit about me, why reading is so important to my livelihood, and what my 2021 reading goals are looking like.

About me

My name is Ellie, thus, Ellie Turns the Page! Obviously, I’m a huge fan of books and reading of all sorts, but I prefer fiction, including contemporary and literary fiction, fantasy, science fiction, thrillers, mysteries, and occasionally romance or historical fiction. However, I definitely worked hard starting last year to read more nonfiction, including memoirs and essay collections like Here for It by R. Eric Thomas, Untamed by Glennon Doyle, and The Office of Historical Corrections by Danielle Evans.

While this blog is certainly going to be dedicated to reading and all things book-related, I wanted to share some more about me with you all. So here are some non-bookish facts about me:

  • I’m a native of Cincinnati, Ohio. I currently live there with my husband, Erik — we met in 2017 at the University of Cincinnati and have been together ever since!
  • We have a sweet husky mix named Addie and a Betta fish named Barry. And yes, Addie is named after a literary character 🙂
  • Some of my favorite tv shows include The Office, Avatar: The Last Air Bender, and New Girl. But I’m also a total sucker for some trash tv — like The Bachelor franchise!
  • If I had to choose between this or that, I’d definitely pick mountains over beach, dogs over cats, chocolate over vanilla, and tea over coffee.
  • And my favorite non-reading activity is probably cooking! I’m a vegetarian and love trying out new, meat-free recipes.
My pup Addie with her namesake, Addie LaRue! Photo by Ellie Turns the Page.

Why I love reading

Reading has always been foundational to who I am as a person. As a kid, I was notorious for staying up late to finish whatever book I was on (I’m looking at you, Twilight and The Hunger Games…) — but let’s be real. I still do this nowadays, too! Except it’s usually with a thriller, and it’s because if I don’t finish it I’ll be too scared to sleep.

My real love of books started in high school, however. During my junior year of high school I discovered a book called The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien, thanks to my English teacher, which we read alongside our unit on the Vietnam War. I can truly point to it as the book that revealed to me why stories are so vital — they have the power to make you feel emotions deeply, connect to others, and even keep memories alive. That book lead me to major in English during college, pursue a graduate degree and career in journalism, and now actively engage with other book lovers through my bookstagram and this blog!

My reading goals

While 2020 certainly had its ups and downs, one of the biggest blessings it gave me was time. I was finally not a full-time student, settling into my first job nicely, planning a wedding amidst a pandemic, and quarantining at home. So what better way to fill my time than to commit to reading?

In the isolating moments of the pandemic, I wanted a community to share my love of books with, leading me to starting my Instagram profile @ellieturnsthepage. It started small and was at first simply a record of what I was reading, but slowly and surely it grew into this awesome thing that brings me great joy. It was and still is a passion project to keep me accountable to read, connect with others, give book recommendations, and just savor the joy of reading.

When George Floyd was cruelly killed by cops, America was once again faced with a reckoning — and for me, it was a clear hit on the head about how little I was doing personally to educate myself and stand up for racial inequalities. What could I do to make a difference? I looked at my bookshelf and became fully aware of how white it was. And with a slowly but surely growing following, I realized that starting with my own bookshelf was something I could do. So shortly after, I made a commitment to diversifying my shelf especially when it came to reading Own Voices books by BIPOC writers and those identifying as part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

With 2020 now in hindsight, I used what I learned last year to inform my 2021 reading resolutions. Here’s what I came up with:

  • Read 70 books and review all books on Goodreads.
  • Aim for 50% of books written by BIPOC and/or LGBTQIA+ identifying authors.
  • Start a book blog (check!).
  • Read at least one ARC per month.

Last year I went into my goals casually, but this year, I want to continue to shape my reading to focus on both joy (reading a lot but keeping the number low enough that I can truly enjoy each book) and education/awareness (reading and reviewing books by diverse writers to expand my own perspective and show publishing companies that we as a reading community want more representation in our books!). So here’s to starting this blog officially and for another full year of loving books!

Let me know what your 2021 goals are in the comments below, or reach out via Instagram!