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  • Writer's pictureIlena Alvarez

Valentine's Day: A Survival Guide

Updated: Jul 11, 2023

Valentine's Day is a day loved or dreaded 'round the world and the reasons for these strong, antagonistic feelings are obvious. This post is for those who feel the latter emotion.


If you need a couple of reading recommendations to get you through this Day-Which-We-Will-Not-Mention, here they are:


This is at the top of my to-be-read pile. As soon as I read its description, I knew I had to read it and I know it was going to make me cry. Here is the publisher's description:


"In this exquisite story of family, food, grief, and endurance, Michelle Zauner proves herself far more than a dazzling singer, songwriter, and guitarist. With humor and heart, she tells of growing up one of the few Asian American kids at her school in Eugene, Oregon; of struggling with her mother's particular, high expectations of her; of a painful adolescence; of treasured months spent in her grandmother's tiny apartment in Seoul, where she and her mother would bond, late at night, over heaping plates of food.


As she grew up, moving to the East Coast for college, finding work in the restaurant industry, and performing gigs with her fledgling band--and meeting the man who would become her husband--her Koreanness began to feel ever more distant, even as she found the life she wanted to live. It was her mother's diagnosis of terminal cancer when Michelle was twenty-five, that forced a reckoning with her identity and brought her to reclaim the gifts of taste, language, and history her mother had given her.


Vivacious and plainspoken, lyrical and honest, Zauner's voice is as radiantly alive on the page as it is onstage. Rich with intimate anecdotes that will resonate widely, and complete with family photos, Crying in H Mart is a book to cherish, share, and reread."




The publisher's synopsis for Notes on an Execution (Please note this is the UK cover):


Ansel Packer is scheduled to die in twelve hours.


He knows what he's done, and now awaits the same fate he forced on those girls, years ago. Ansel doesn't want to die; he wants to be celebrated, understood.


But this is not his story.


As the clock ticks down, three women uncover the history of a tragedy and the long shadow it casts. Lavender, Ansel's mother, is a seventeen-year-old girl pushed to desperation. Hazel, twin sister to his wife, is forced to watch helplessly as the relationship threatens to devour them all. And Saffy, the detective hot on his trail, is devoted to bringing bad men to justice but struggling to see her own life clearly.


This is the story of the women left behind.


Blending breathtaking suspense with astonishing empathy, Notes On An Execution presents a chilling portrait of womanhood as it unravels the familiar narrative of the American serial killer, interrogating our cultural obsession with crime stories, and asking readers to consider the false promise of looking for meaning in the minds of violent men.



(Please note this is the UK title.)


Mrs. Death has had enough. She is exhausted by her job and now seeks someone to unburden her conscience to.


She meets Wolf, a troubled young writer, who - enthralled by her stories - begins to write Mrs. Death's memoirs. As the two reflect on the losses they have experienced (or facilitated), their friendship flourishes. All the while, despite her world-weariness, Death must continue to hold humans' fates in her hands, appearing in our lives when we least expect her . . .





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