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MCB
Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #13
December 20, 2018
The Best 20 Novels I Read in 2018!
Dearest friends and fellow book lovers!

It's been a hot minute since my last email landed in your inbox. I admit. I disappeared. Like poof I was gone. Mea culpa. Yet, it doesn't feel right to end the year without one more email from Mad Cool Books. To give you a quick explanation as to my personal whereabouts, in August, I moved to LA and got a full time job. As if it wasn't enough to adjust to, in September I found out I was pregnant. While it's awesome and very welcome news, I had no idea how much work being pregnant really was. The first trimester was pretty brutal. I was nauseous ALL THE TIME. And all sorts of funny things were aggravating my nausea -- like looking at Instagram (I'm still Insta-suspicious. It seems that the little human growing inside of me has some insights.). Even listening to music and yes, even reading some books, made me sick, and I seriously had to take a break from everything besides the bare, basic living.

These days, I'm much better, my belly is peacefully growing, and I'm presently trying to catch up to my 2018 reading challenge of 120 books (I originally gave myself a challenge of 120, thinking 'HA! This will be so easy, and I'll def read at least 130.' But as it turns out a bun in the oven can mix things up in a very interesting way, and I still have 8 books to go this year! Please slide recs for quick books into my inbox:)

Still, I credit reading with some of the best moments and adventures of my year. In this final email of the year, I have decided to make a top 20 of my favorite novels I've read this year. They weren't all necessarily published in 2018, just books I read and loved this year. Since I'm a huge fan of young adult genre, I divided my list into young adult and adult books. My intention is that this list will serve you like a guide to self-book-gifting for Christmas and well-beyond :)

What were some of the best books you have read this year? I need to know. Let me know by replying to this email.

PS: What is the future of Mad Cool Books, you may ask. To be honest, I'm still trying to figure it out myself. It seems that sending it weekly is a little bit too breakneck for a pregnant, full-time employed lady. Maybe I'll send emails in seasons, biweekly or monthly. Do you like lists like this? Any ideas? Let me know!

Love & happy holidays,
Katarina
Photo: Rawpixel/Unsplash
Top young adult books
Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand: Best characterized as a feminist horror, Sawkill Girls took me by surprise. It's vividly moody, dark and twisty and very satisfying until the end. Think: monsters, isolated islands, horses going wild for no apparent reason.
A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi: Mafi is a prominent YA fantasy writer, but in this novel she barely made anything up. She dipped into her own experiences as a hijabi girl growing up in the post-9/11 America. It's about prejudice, how terrible people can behave to a teenage girl, and how breakdancing helped her out of it. It was even nominated for the National Book Award if that makes a difference to you.
Sadie by Courtney Summers: For some reason, I read a large amount of YA thrillers this year even though it's not my usual genre. From among them Sadie, was not only the most original but also the most chilling one. It's a story of a tragic road trip of 17-year-old Sadie, which told through a dual perspective -- Sadie's urgent and blood-freezing real time voice, juxtaposed against a leisurely voice of a true crime podcast.
The Cruel Prince by Holly Black: Fantasy is perhaps the most indulgent and the most popular subgenre of young adult lit. If you wish to dip your toes into it, but (rightfully so) are worried you might stumble into something not so great and very trope-y, trust me and just pick this one up. This novel is well-executed, even, hella juicy, and so much fun to tear through. Think faeries, royal intrigue, and a ton of action.
Scythe by Neal Shusterman: This utopian trilogy (third one is still not out yet) seriously blew my mind. Set in a world where death stopped naturally occurring and special caste of humans called scythes have to administer it in order to avoid overcrowding, the world is governed by all-seeing, all-knowing, infinitely good Cloud. (Humans uploaded so much into the cloud that it gained consciousness.) Be prepared for some serious metaphors about religion and separation of church and state.
The Astonishing Color of After of After by Emily X.R. Pan: After the death of her mom, young girl travels to Taiwan to uncover family secrets.This one was pure raw grief and beautiful writing. You'll adore it.
The Flowers of Evil by Shuzo Oshimi: I declare this one to be my most favorite manga of all times. There are four big volumes out now in the States, which means you can indulge in the complete series. It follows sexually frustrated youth in a small Japanese town, and if you liked Netflix's 'The End of the Fucking World,' you'll love this one.
The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas: Kara Thomas is without a doubt one of the best YA thriller writers out there right now, and her latest one is chilling, twisty, and surprising -- all that with a big dose true crime feel.
Princess Jellyfish by Akiko Higashimura: Do you read manga? Not yet? Can we make a deal right here where you promise me you'll give this genre a shot? Start with one of the most hilarious manga series out there. With 9 volumes out in English, you can dive into a complete series of this wacky world of nerdy girls with no social skills and hot crossdressing boys.
Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski: The first book in a duology, this sci-fi novel has been gifted to me as part of bookish Secret Santa organized by my beloved podcast, 88 Cups of Tea. It's a strange sci-fi about a young girl who fights for a chance to become an astronaut. It also featured intergalactic travel, aliens in peril, and meditation while submerged in a blue gel.
Top adult books
An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green: This novel received so much hype that I almost didn't pick it up. (I mean who am I to read over-hyped books, right :) Luckily, I did because this books was SO down my alley. It has everything I want in a novel: aliens, New York, discussions on internet fame and (im)possibility of find agreement with someone who has a very different opinion than you.
Žítkovské bohyně (The Godesses of Žítková) by Kateřina Tučková: I have nothing but an endless sea of love for this Czech novel which initiated me into an almost forgotten part of the Moravian folklore -- women called goddesses. They were women who could do magic, heal a disease, conjure love, or even kill. The novel also explains why the communist regime was so determined to wipe them out. This book is available in several other languages incl. Arabic, Macedonian, Italian or Polish, but unfortunately English version is still missing. If you can read any of these languages, do yourself a favor and pick this gem up!
The Witches of New York by Ami McKay: I admit freely that I'm partial to witches and other supernatural elements in the novels I read. But this novel is more than just a witchy book. It's also an impeccable historical novel set in New York City's Gilded Age.
My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh: What a weird (and awesome) novel this is! The main character, a young NYC woman, decides to sleep off her misanthropy in a year-long pill-induced nap. Fascinating journey and one of the year's most applauded piece of fiction. Get on it!
Night Film by Marisha Pessl: A near-cult classic by a nea-cult writer. An obsessive investigative journalist decides to look into what appears to be a suicide of a daughter of an enigmatic director of horror movies. Irresistible and juicy, my favorite parts of this novel were the mystery surrounding the director Stanislas Cordova, detailed fictional horror movie plots, and the witch factor (because duh).
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer: Meg Wolitzer is one of my most favorite writers, and I will read whatever she writers. And even though my most favorite by her is 'The Interestings,' her newest novel is a very worthy, delicious piece of fiction which happens to map the roots of feminism from the 1960s until today.

Circe by Madeline Miller: If you guys don't know about Madeline Miller, it's highest time you found out. This lady likes to retell the Greek mythology in a completely fresh and a very intelligent way (she is a university classics professor, after all). This novel is a story of a goddess, perfect to sooth your hunger for feminism in fiction.
When Katie Met Cassidy by Camille Perri: This book is plainly and simply a lesbian rom-com you have been waiting for. It's a fun, lovely, super-quick read that will make you smile like a lunatic. Book gods, can we get more rom-coms featuring same sex couples or non-binary folks, please? Thank you.
Stray City by Chelsea Johnson: Set in the 1990s and 2000s in Portland among the "lesbian mafia." After a bad breakup the main character gets knocked up by a man (!) and decides to keep the baby despite the shock of her community. The best characters ever. Read it!
Are you loving Mad Cool Books? Forward it to a book-loving friend or two :) Do you have any feedback for me? Or perhaps a burning desire to tell me about a book you LOVED? Email me at katarina@madcoolbooks.com. I respond to all emails!
© Copyright: Katarina Hybenova, 2018. Mailing address: 1158 1/2 Oak Grove Dr., Los Angeles, CA.
To ensure delivery to your inbox (not to social or junk folders), please add my e-mail address, katarina@madcoolbooks.com, to your address book. (Here's a quick tutorial how). If you received this email from a friend, you can subscribe here.

MCB
Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #12
August 28, 2018
Here's the perfectly sensitive and intelligent back-to-school book you've been waiting for
Hi mad cool readers!
Here's a confession: I do read a lot of young adult contemporary novels but I wouldn't necessary recommend them to anyone but similarly inclined readers. While often heart-warming and fluffy, they're usually very light reads. HOWEVER, the contemporary YA read I'm about to recommend today is different. It still has all the good stuff, but it also offers tons of delicious substance.
PS: Thanks to Aeriel B. for an excellent recommendation!
So let's get right into it!
xo
Katarina
Photo: @simonteen
Mary H.K. Choi: Emergency Contact
394 pages/9 hrs and 6 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: moms, college, so much texting
Snapshot: A college freshman Penny is coming to terms with her imperfect mom while falling for a complicated older guy.
Why I think you need this book: Sensitive and intelligent, 'Emergency Contact' is one of the best examples of its genre. Period.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
'Emergency Contact' is one of those "silent books" which is how the publishing world likes to call books that are not easily summed up in one, highly attractive sentence. However, don't let that prevent you from picking up this glorious gem.

Eighteen-year-old Penny Lee is Korean-American (don't expect any cliches) and a daughter of a single mother. While her mom is one of "those desirable women," Penny is angry and slightly emo. She has a lot of resentment for her mom, who had her at a young age, and who has always been more a friend than a parent to her. All of this becomes very apparent as Penny leaves for college and has very little to no inclination to call or visit her.

At the same time, Penny's roommate introduces her to her "uncle" Sam, a 21-year-old, hot, tattooed barista/baker/aspiring documentary filmmaker, who is our second perspective in the book. Sam has a whole set of his own mom issues. He grew up in a trailer park, basically neglected, with a mom who has an untreated addiction and depression. Moreover, his terrible but super-gorgeous girlfriend just announced that she's pregnant with his baby.

After Sam suffers a panic attack in public, Penny becomes his "emergency contact," and the two begin a texting friendship. The ongoing question of the book is whether these two will get over their hangups and manage to dedicate themselves to their art and other fun stuff IRL tends to offer.

Guys! This book! It was so excellent! Moreover, I found myself enjoying the story more and more as it progressed. 'Emergency Contact' is your perfect back-to-school book that you'll fall for/into.

Let me know if you decide to pick it up by replying to this email or commenting on my Insta!
New to Mad Cool Books? I've gushed about all the these books already! You can read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books on our website.
Sayaka Murata: Convenience Store Woman
Neal Shusterman: Scythe
Tara Isabella Burton: Social Creature
Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Meghan Maclean Weir: The Book of Essie
Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung: Snotgirl
Marie Marquardt: Flight Season
Fiona Mozley: Elmet
Camille Perri: When Katie Met Cassidy
Emily X.R. Pan: The Astonishing Color of After
Melissa Broder: The Pisces
  • Are you loving Mad Cool Books? Forward it to a book-loving friend or two :)
  • Do you have any feedback for me? Or perhaps a burning desire to talk to me about a book you LOVED? Email me at katarina@madcoolbooks.com. I respond to all emails!
© Copyright: Katarina Hybenova, 2018. Mailing address: 1158 1/2 Oak Grove Dr., Los Angeles, CA. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
To ensure delivery to your inbox (not to social or junk folders), please add my e-mail address, katarina@madcoolbooks.com, to your address book. (Here's a quick tutorial how). If you received this email from a friend, you can subscribe here.

MCB
Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #11
August 20, 2018
When a really terrible relationship is better than none.
Hi friends, near and far!
Between moving from NYC to LA, starting a new job, and figuring out a whole new life, I was forced to skip last week. Not delivering on my promise to recommend you a stellar novel every Tuesday made me really sad, but now I'm back stronger and better organized than ever!
This week, I'm recommending a perfect little Japanese novel with a large message!
Let get right into it!
Katarina
Sayaka Murata: Convenience Store Woman
176 pages/3 hrs and 21 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: the spirit of a convenience store, relationships, humans and their really annoying expectations
Snapshot: Nothing seems to be flipping people out more than a woman in her mid-thirties who is not only unmarried but also doesn't have a career.
Why I think you need this book: In less than 200 pages, Sayaka Murata, a critically acclaimed author from Japan, kills it. Also because you probably don't read enough Japanese books.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
If you live in a society, Japanese or other, the worst sin you can commit is to be a woman in her mid-thirties who is unmarried and doesn't have a career.

Thirty-six-year-old Keiko has never had a relationship, sex, or an inclination to try either. Moreover, for the past 18 years, she's been working in a convenience store. This literally makes her unemployable anywhere else. Not that Keiko wants to leave her job. She loves how the bright clean convenience store gives a clear framework to her days (the pay includes a duty to keep herself reasonably healthy and well-rested for the next day) as well as to interactions with other humans (every customer should be cheerfully greeted: "Irrashaimase! ").

Really, the only problem in Keiko's life comes from people who surround her. Her sister, parents, friends, and co-workers simply don't get her. She is like a weird inconvenience, an error in the system they have to deal with. They frequently question her about her non-existing love life and job situation, and when her usual non-committal answers start to fail her, Keiko decides to take matters into her own hands.

In the convenience store she meets a man. A co-worker, he's also maladjusted to the society, but where Keiko is kind and non-confrontational, he is anything but. Shiraha is basically the worst kind of a guy. He's totally sexist, really lazy; he owes a ton of money, and makes enemies wherever he goes. After he gets fired from the convenience store, Keiko decides to make him an offer. If he lives with her, Keiko will take care of him and feed him (basically like a pet). Maybe now that she has a man, her friends and family will get off her back.

Friends, this novel is a breath fresh of air. The author skipped any romantic comedy cliches you may expect and kept it real from start to finish. This novel sold 600,000 copies in Japan (!!!) and is currently taking American bookstores by the storm. Don't miss out because the hype is well-deserved!

Cool fact about Sayaka Murata
Sayaka has herself spent long years working in a convenience store. The success of her novel in Japan is ascribed to a decline of traditional family as well as birthrates. This new demographic sees themselves in Keiko. Read Sayaka's profile on the NY Times.
New to Mad Cool Books? I've gushed about all the these books already! You can read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books on our website.
Neal Shusterman: Scythe
Tara Isabella Burton: Social Creature
Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Meghan Maclean Weir: The Book of Essie
Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung: Snotgirl
Marie Marquardt: Flight Season
Fiona Mozley: Elmet
Camille Perri: When Katie Met Cassidy
Emily X.R. Pan: The Astonishing Color of After
Melissa Broder: The Pisces
  • Are you loving Mad Cool Books? Forward it to a book-loving friend or two :)
  • Do you have any feedback for me? Or perhaps a burning desire to talk to me about a book you LOVED? Email me at katarina@madcoolbooks.com
© Copyright: Katarina Hybenova, 2018. Mailing address: 1158 1/2 Oak Grove Dr., Los Angeles, CA. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
To ensure delivery to your inbox (not to social or junk folders), please add my e-mail address, katarina@madcoolbooks.com, to your address book. (Here's a quick tutorial how). If you received this email from a friend, you can subscribe here.

MCB
Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #10
August 7, 2018
Learning the 'art of killing' in a world without natural death
Hello friends!
I hope you're finding beauty in these dog days of summer! For me, A LOT has changed since my last email! Namely, my husband, two cats, and I moved from NYC to LA. We drove across 13 states in 6 days, and the move is also the reason why this newsletter is SO late!

But to stay on point, here's my weekly perfect novel recommendation! Since it's August and it's really hot, I say screw reality, and let's dive into utopia! And not just any utopia, but a utopia as written by a National Book Award winner, Neal Shusterman!

Love & books!
Katarina
Neal Shusterman: Scythe
435 pages/10 hrs and 32 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: death, religion, cult-like untouchables
Snapshot: In a utopian world where death no longer naturally occurs, somebody has to die at the hands of a Scythe to avoid overpopulation.
Why I think you need this book: You'll love this high concept novel with even better execution.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
In the not so distant future death, disease, and poverty no longer exist. Moreover, there is no need for government. Humans have uploaded so much data to the cloud that eventually it gained consciousness and took over the world. Loving, efficient, and just, Thunderhead (as the cloud now calls itself) is somewhat of a god.

The only matter it doesn't like to get mixed it is human death. Because even though humans don't naturally die and can live forever, somebody has to die in order to avoid over-population.

Death is administered by a special class of humans--the so called Scythes. They are a select, elite, and priest-like group that is virtually untouchable by Thunderhead. They wear long robes and the decision who and how they die is purely theirs. Scythes should be adhering to a strict moral code, but not everybody does, and the new wave of priests enjoy their celebrity-like status among the general public a little too much. Mass killing get a little too popular as well.

In the midst of the tension between the new and the old guard of Scythes, two young people, Citra and Rowan, become Scythe apprentices and have to learn the "art of killing" even though they don't want to. Soon they learn that only one of them can become a full Scythe and the loser has to be killed by the winner.

Highly political and juicy, you will find so many parallels to religion and morality in this book.

Scythe is the first book in a trilogy, and luckily for us, the second book, Thunderhead, has been published a couple of months ago. If you love the concept just as much as I do, you can marathon both books! The third book, The Toll, will be published sometime in 2019.

Enjoy! And as always let me know if you read Scythe.
Cool fact about Neal Shusterman
Born and raised in Brooklyn (!!), Neal Shusterman is a big name in children's and young adult literature. To get an idea on how amazing human being this guy is, watch his 2015 National Book Award recipient speech.
New to Mad Cool Books? I've gushed about all the these books already! You can read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books on our website.
Tara Isabella Burton: Social Creature
Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Meghan Maclean Weir: The Book of Essie
Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung: Snotgirl
Marie Marquardt: Flight Season
Fiona Mozley: Elmet
Camille Perri: When Katie Met Cassidy
Emily X.R. Pan: The Astonishing Color of After
Melissa Broder: The Pisces
  • Are you loving Mad Cool Books? Forward it to a book-loving friend or two :)
  • Do you have any feedback for me? Or perhaps a burning desire to talk to me about a book you LOVED? Email me at katarina@madcoolbooks.com
© Text copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
To ensure delivery to your inbox (not to social or junk folders), please add my e-mail address, katarina@madcoolbooks.com, to your address book. (Here's a quick tutorial how). If you received this email from a friend, you can subscribe here.

MCB
Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #9
July 31, 2018
If Talented Mr. Ripley was a hot New York woman with a huge Instagram following
Hello fiction lover!
Today is a wild day for me as I'm moving away from New York (Eeeek! and also Waaa!), and as you read this, I'm in a car somewhere headed to the West Coast. If you want to see how my road trip is unfolding, watch my Instagram stories for the next week.
And how am I saying goodbye to this wonderful city? I'm recommending a hot, wildly buzzed about, glitzy New York novel. Are you in for one last party with me? Read on!
Love ya!
Katarina
Tara Isabella Burton: Social Creature
273 pages/8 hrs and 43 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: toxic friendship, identity fraud, murder, glitz
Snapshot: If the Talented Mr. Ripley was a young New York woman with a celebrated social media presence.
Why I think you need this book: This delicious novel will take you to some of the insanest New York parties all the while wearing a sequin vintage gown.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
Picture two New York women. The first one is Louise. At 28, her looks are average, she lives in Sunset Park, Brooklyn, and works four jobs. Life has taught her to be humble and stay in her lane.

The other woman is Lavinia. She's 23, heart-stoppingly beautiful, rich, and living on the Upper East Side. Lavinia is the kind of person who while dressed in an outrageous gown attracts/creates the most unforgettable moments. Like reciting poetry on a New Year's early morning at Coney Island. Lavinia is also a spoiled brat.

The two women strike an unlikely yet intoxicating friendship full of parties, fabulous outfits, and social media photos that "Everybody Likes." Soon Louise is invited to live with Lavinia on the Upper East Side (though she never receives her own key) and her life starts to resemble magic as well.

But as it happens there is a thin line between intoxicating and toxic friendships. Quickly, Louise and Lavinia find themselves out of love. Louise realizes she's not the first live-in fabulous friend Lavinia has had, and Lavinia starts to notice missing bills and credit cards.

And then one night Lavinia dies...

Guys, I love Tara Isabella Burton's voice! It's cheeky and knowing, and as a reader you're given a wink, an in into this wild tale. Also Burton does three things extremely well:

1. Her characters are bursting from the page. Louise and Lavinia are both amazing and totally infuriating at once. Besides them there is a whole cast of weird side characters that form this glittery New York party scene. Email me if you got the kick out of the whole Henry Upchurch joke :)

2. PARTIES! Ah, Burton clearly knows a thing or two about a wild New York party. Her party style is flapper, glittery, wild, awe-inspiring, with a touch of danger.

3. Social media renown. Who would ever thing that a Talented Mr. Ripley-like tale would work so well in the age of Instagram. It does! With all the Likes and over-the-top fictional emoji. (Think a dancing fox emoji and a wiggling Hula-Hoop girl emoji and a cat that rolls over and over doing somersaults emoji.)

Loves, I have to insist you get on Social Creature. During the days while I was reading it, I found myself randomly excited not knowing immediately why. Then I realized I was excited for the moment when I'd be able to pick it up again. And honestly that's ALL I want in a book.
Cool fact about Tara Isabella Burton
There seems to be about 100 cool facts about Tara - like she has a PhD in religion from Oxford and spends her time in Tbilisi, Georgia?!!? She literally makes me want to start an interview podcast :) But my fave is Tara's Instagram. It's a great visual aid to imagining the outfits Lavinia and Louise would wear.
New to Mad Cool Books? I've gushed about all the these books already! You can read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books on our website.
Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation
Meghan Maclean Weir: The Book of Essie
Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung: Snotgirl
Marie Marquardt: Flight Season
Fiona Mozley: Elmet
Camille Perri: When Katie Met Cassidy
Emily X.R. Pan: The Astonishing Color of After
Melissa Broder: The Pisces
  • Are you loving Mad Cool Books? Forward it to a book-loving friend or two :)
  • Do you have any feedback for me? Or perhaps a burning desire to talk to me about a book you LOVED? Email me at katarina@madcoolbooks.com
© Text and photo copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
To ensure delivery to your inbox (not to social or junk folders), please add my e-mail address, katarina@madcoolbooks.com, to your address book. (Here's a quick tutorial how). If you received this email from a friend, you can subscribe here.

MCB
Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #8
July 24, 2018
Sleeping off misanthropy in a year-long, pill-induced nap
Hello my dearest book people!
Another Tuesday means another Mad Cool Book recommendation from your book-obsessed friend! This week I'm gushing about an explosive literary hit My Year of Rest and Relaxation by Ottessa Moshfegh. In this book, the main character decides to sleep for a year in order to cure her lingering disinterest in the world and misanthropy. It will blow you mind!!
PS: This year I've already read 81 books. Do you wanna know what I'm presently reading? Why don't we become friends on Goodreads? Add me here.
Sending love & books your way,
Katarina
Ottessa Moshfegh: My Year of Rest and Relaxation
290 pages/7 hrs and 14 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: pills, misanthropy, insane psychiatrist
Snapshot: To reinvent herself a young woman decides to take a year-long nap, enlisting the help of an in-fucking-sane psychiatrist .
Why I think you need this book: At a maximum volume, this provocative book provides a peek into a Manhattan life which is devoid of any substance.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
The unnamed main character of My Year of Rest and Relaxation is a 24-year-old woman who decides to take a year off from life and spend it sleeping. The idea is that at the end of it she will emerge reinvented, a new person capable of interest in life and people.

Our main character has everything. She is drop-dead gorgeous, comes from money, has a degree in art history from Columbia, and lives in a pretty apartment on the Upper East Side. Yet there is very little that makes her interested in being awake besides Whoopi Goldberg's movies she likes to watch on her VHS (The book is set in 2000). The main character's life is full of terribly superficial relationships with terrible people, and if we're being honest she is pretty terrible herself.

The main character's now deceased parents were terrible--cold, distant, and alcoholic; her best friend, a bulimic social climber is sooo terrible; her on-and-off Wall Street banker boyfriend will make you scream how terrible he is, and her former boss, a Chelsea gallery owner, shows truly terrible art. But by far the worst is the main character's psychiatrist who readily prescribes her insane amounts of sleeping pills in combinations that are least likely to trigger the attention of insurance companies.

Soon, the main character dives into a pill-induced sleep. We follow her sparse waking hours which are filled with bodega trips for coffee, hours in front of TV, and vapid conversations with her best friend. But as she starts to mix her pills like a crazy DJ, adding ever harder drugs to the mix, she starts to live an alternative life while asleep. When she wakes up, she has no recollection of buying a fur coat that hangs in her closet, getting depilated, or attending an art party, the polaroids of which surround her. In her sleep, she's even capable of showing compassion to her best friend whose mother is dying of cancer. The main character starts to live a life, she perhaps wishes she could live awake.

Despite all this terribleness, this book is excellent! The main character is fascinating, and her descend into a pill-induced year-long sleep is nothing like I've read about before.

Totally outlandish, weird, and out-loud bold, this novel will keep you turning the pages until the very end (which BTW is totally worth it). My prediction is you will read it in one sitting.

Cool fact about Ottessa Moshfegh
My Year of Rest and Relaxation isn't the first Moshfegh's novel to feature an unlikeable female character. In her debut novel Eileen, the main character is an unloved 24-year-old who smells and works in a boys' correctional facility. In an interview, Moshfegh called out the sexism of the debate over the likability of female characters and said she despised how much people dwell on the fact that her female characters are not nice or nurturing, but you know, human.
New to Mad Cool Books? I've gushed about all the these books already! You can read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books on our website.
Meghan Maclean Weir: The Book of Essie
Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung: Snotgirl
Marie Marquardt: Flight Season
Fiona Mozley: Elmet
Camille Perri: When Katie Met Cassidy
Emily X.R. Pan: The Astonishing Color of After
Melissa Broder: The Pisces
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  • Do you have any feedback for me? Or perhaps a burning desire to talk to me about a book you LOVED? Email me at katarina@madcoolbooks.com
© Text and photo copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
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Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #7
July 17, 2018
The-Kardashians-for-the-Bible-Belt-Went-Wrong Kind of a Book
Book lovers! Hello!
I am SO excited to tell you about this week's Mad Cool Book! Like so many books in the past, I discovered it thanks to my book club (Here's a shoutout to A + K! Love ya, gals!). I originally picked up a copy of The Book of Essie in the library, skimmed through the synopsis, and came upon two words ("preacher's daughter") which made me go like, "meh." What a mistake! Only after I read it for my book club I realized that this book is mercilessly subversive, extremely important, and most of all, incredibly absorbing! I hope you'll love it!

Sending love & books your way,
Katarina
Photo: @aaknopf
Meghan MacLean Weir: The Book of Essie
336 pages/11 hrs and 3 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: reality TV, feminism, gay rights, Bible Belt
Snapshot: Preacher's daughter and a reality TV star devises a plan to take down her family after she learns she's pregnant.
Why I think you need this book: I hate to use that word, but Essie is SO badass, and you'll be rooting for her from the start until the end.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
The book opens at 17-year-old Essie eavesdropping on her mother discussing her future and the future of her unborn child with the producer of their family reality show. (The first sentence literally goes like, "On the day I turn seventeen, there is a meeting to decide whether I should have the baby or if sneaking me to a clinic for an abortion is worth the PR risk.") She knows she has no say over the matter. Or at least not a direct say.

Essie is anything but your typical teenager. She has been in the spotlight of cameras and the nation's hunger for a preacher's wholesome family since before her birth. "Six for Hicks" is a reality show about her family and basically your "Keeping up with the Kardashians" for the Bible Belt. Essie's dad is a preacher in a (scary) mega church in a small town who every Sunday delivers his reliably racist and homophobic sermon. While Essie's mom is the perfect, God-fearing housewife on the screen, in reality she's cold and calculating, and there's nothing she wouldn't give for money and fame. Essie has an older sister, who mysteriously hasn't showed up at home since she left for college, and an older brother who is about to announce his political career. Hicks family is insanely rich (which somehow is totally fine with the Bible) and on the screen happy and content even though there might be a secret or two that might ruin everything.

And then Essie devises a plan. She will not only win her freedom, she will also take her bigoted family down.

Guys, this book was such an awesome ride! Meghan Weir is ruthless in her merciless tearing down of bigotry and lies. I applaud her.

And I hope you'll love this book as much as I did. Make sure to drop me a line if you pick it up!
Cool fact about Meghan Weir
Megan Weir grew up in a rectory herself! Her dad was a preacher and while The Book of Essie is not the story of her life, you gotta admire the dedication with which she cuts through the hatred masquerading as religious faith.
Read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books here.
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© Text copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
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Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #6
July 10, 2018
A Wacky Graphic Novel About Social Media Influencers & a Maybe-Murder
Hi book lovers!
Last time I checked my Instagram, everyone was on the beach! And if you say 'beach,' you immediately must say 'book.' And not just any book, but a mad cool graphic novel!

This is the first time I'm recommending a graphic novel, and I hope you'll love it. I personally am a big fan of graphic novels and manga, and I'm always on a lookout for the next awesome thing. And while I read plenty of them this year, Snotgirl is definitely something special!

SO dive in and let me know if you want me to talk more about graphic novels!

Sending love & books your way,
Katarina
Bryan Lee O'Malley & Leslie Hung: Snotgirl Vol. 1 and Vol. 2
Both volumes are 136 pages
Keywords: cray influencers, allergy bouts, murder, girl love
Snapshot: As soon as social media star Lottie Person meets mysterious Cool Girl weird accidents start to follow them around including maybe a murder. Also she might be in love with her.
Why I think you need this book: This graphic novel is hysterical! Also REALLY pretty and weird enough to be your next obsession.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
Lottie Person is really pretty, wears effortlessly chic clothes, and has a TON of followers and admirers. Every Saturday she hangs with her two friends, Cute Girl and Normgirl, at what they like to call 'Haters' Brunch.' Lottie's life appears to be truly perfect. At least on the screen.

Off the screen, things are a little bit messier. Lottie is far from glamorous, particularly when she suffers from terrible allergy bouts and often finds herself basically covered in her own snot. (Yeah, the title Snotgirl isn't metaphorical :) Moreover, her boyfriend dumped her for a younger version of herself, and her friends are just really awful human beings.

And then one day, while ordering her usual hal-caf cold brew with non-fat almond milk and one pump of lavender syrup, she meets Caroline aka Cool Girl. Caroline is oh so pretty and oh so damn cool, and Lottie decides to make her her BFF. Also she is crushing on her pretty hard which includes sex dreams and maybe murdering her. Question mark.

At the same time Dr. Dick prescribes her an experimental allergy medication which works like magic, but also makes everything a little hazier and blurrier. And that's when truly weird things start to happen. Maybe even a murder. Or two. Or three. But who can tell for sure. :)

Guys, Snotgirl is so on point and SO hilarious. Especially if you're familiar with the details of lives of social media influencers and their fake digital lives. (Have you seen the movie Ingrid Goes West? So this is similar in feel and taste:) One of my favorite moments takes place in volume 2 when another murder goes down, this time at a desert hotel. But the girls are dressed up already and decide to still do their sunset photoshoot because murder or not, they can't leave without sufficient amount of content. The story is truly wacky!

There are two volumes of Snotgirl out so far, and I recommend you just buy them both and take them to your next beach trip. Graphic novels are particularly great if you've been lazy with your reading and need a confidence boost by actually finishing a book. You'll finish Snotgirl in no time.
Cool fact about Leslie Hung
In volume 2 of Snotgirl, comic artist Leslie Hung included her though process and sketches of the characters and how she developed their outfits. For example, there's a ghost of a murdered fashion blogger at one point in the comic, and the ghost wears Free People. "I liked the idea of the ghost in a dress that could easily be interpreted as very boho chic or a bit modern Victorian," she writes. "The ambiguity of whether something is old or new, or if it looks good or bad, is something I think even super-fashionable people struggle with at times." I loved this.
Read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books here.
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© Text and photo copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
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Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #5
July 3, 2018
A Moving Novel About A Friendship Among Three Young People
Hi book lovers!

This week's Mad Cool Book will definitely make you cry and among other places take you to an immigrant youth detention center. I really hope you'll take it to the beach with you, perhaps even tomorrow, on Independence Day, when we'll jointly wonder about what it means to be American and what values represent the country.

Definitely email me back if you pick up this book or if you wanna talk about any other Mad Cool Book. And don't forget to tag me in your beach + books Insta photos, @madcoolbooks! I need to see what you're reading :)

Love & books,
Katarina
Photo: Wednesday Books
Marie Marquardt: Flight Season
352 pages
Keywords: friendship, immigration, grief, and AGAIN friendship
Snapshot: Three young people strike an unlikely friendship in a Florida hospital.
Why I think you need this book: Not only is this book totally moving and beautiful, it also offers a glimpse of life in youth immigrant detention centers.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
If you've been consuming news lately and wondered what life is like for young immigrants at detention centers, you must pick up Flight Season. This coming-of-age novel is a perfect example of how fiction adds color and feeling to the fabric of the world around us; how it can transport us and allow us to feel what someone very different feels. I keep saying it over and over again: reading fiction leads to compassion and empathy better than anything else.

Flight Season is a story of three young people told through three perspectives. They meet in a Florida hospital and change one another's life forever. I read this book almost entirely while on a flight from LA to New York and ugly cried at least twice. (Thank god the woman next to me was sleeping the entire time, and my husband is already used to similar displays of emotion from me from behind a book.)

We meet Angel, an 18-year-old indigenous Guatemalan, who is suffering from a strange, all-encompassing ailment. He has a bad rep with the nursing staff. He's not your ideal patient exactly. He likes to pretend he doesn't speak English and plays little pranks at the grumpy Brazilian-American nursing student TJ. TJ is overworked and sleep-deprived because every day after his work at the hospital, he has to pick up a shift at a family restaurant. When a summer intern Vivi comes into the picture, he is sure she's just a spoiled, clueless brat from a fancy Ivy League school who faints at the sight of bodily fluids and her hobby is to get stupid wasted. But then Vivi connects with Angel like no one has before, TJ might have to change his opinion. Only Angel knows that Vivi has more in common with him than meets eye. Vivi's dad has recently died, she got nearly kicked out of Yale, and her mom is in total denial about their dire financial situation.

Flight Season is what people in publishing like to call a quiet book. It doesn't have a sexy concept that is easily summed up in one sentence and makes you wanna drop everything to tear through its pages. Yet I think it shouldn't be overlooked. In a little over 300 pages, it packs an emotional punch; it has a strong message, and shows so much love, friendship, and compassion like very few books I've read. Take it to the beach with you tomorrow or any other day, and let me know what you thought!
Cool fact about Marie Marquardt
Marie Marquardt is a writer and an immigration advocate. For years she has worked for and is currently a chair of El Refugio, a Georgia non-profit that serves detained immigrants and their families. She has a monthly newsletter called #ReadForChange in which she recommends one important book a month.
Read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books here.
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© Text Copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Photo: Wednesday Books. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
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Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
Issue #4
June 26, 2018
Our first guest recommends an atmospheric masterpiece
Happy summer, book lovers!

Welcome to the fourth issue of Mad Cool Books, your pocket-size newsletter recommending one stellar novel a week. It's the last Tuesday of the month, which means I have an esteemed bookish guest for you to recommend their favorite read!

This week, I'm super-proud to present novelist and filmmaker Magdalena Waz (pictured below). Magdalena and I have worked together at Bushwick Daily and later were members of the same writers' group. I have nothing but huge love and respect for this mega-talented human being. Moreover, she has great taste in books, and I'm sure you will devour what she's picked for you!

I totally tore through Magdalena's debut novel, Return on Investment, which came out in 2016. It's a story of four college grads who invent rather unusual and slightly morally ambiguous jobs for themselves in this jungle called the gig economy. Her most recent project is an excellent web series My Astronaut, the finale of which is about to premier this week. Magdalena not only co-wrote the series but also has a lead role in it. It's a really cute and sometimes cringe-worthy story about a woman willing to leave behind everything for a civilian mission to Mars and the boyfriend willing to do anything to keep her on Earth. Guys, get on the show before it's huge and everybody talks about it!

And now let's get to Magdalena's Mad Cook Book!

xo,
Katarina
Fiona Mozley: Elmet
311 pages/7 hrs and 37 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: family, mystery, rural
Snapshot: The novel dives deep into the troubles of a family living off the grid in modern-day England.
Why I think you need this book: Sometimes it's good to get a taste of winter in the summer months.
Magdalena's Non-Spoiler Book Talk
Elmet is like a drone video of a far away and dangerous land you want to visit. It's a novel about atmosphere and the feeling of a place. Densely-packed with detail, the story is narrated by a boy named Daniel who is not quite aware of the fact that being a teenager who doesn't go to school, doesn't have a cell phone, and spends his days playing in the woods with his sister Cathy isn't exactly normal.

His family has always lived a little unconventionally. Part of that has to do with their lower socioeconomic standing and the other part of it is a little less clear. They've built a house on some land that is nearly-theirs in a rural part of England, and they spend a few seasons making the place their home. But of course, the trouble starts when Mr. Price, the landowner, comes knocking. He doesn't want payment, really. He wants to use Daniel's dad for some business he has, and as a wealthy landowner who owns pretty much everything in the village, his business is sometimes legal and sometimes less legal. Daniel's dad refuses and rallies the villagers and day laborers against the landowners instead. They go on a rent and labor strike.

And just when things look like they're going to pan out for everyone, Mr. Price throws a wrench into the plan. What happens next had me on the edge of my seat and simultaneously thinking about how owning the land under someone's feet is as good as owning them.

I loved stepping into this mythical, timeless place shrouded in a heavy fog only to realize it hits a lot closer to home than I had expected. The novel was on the shortlist for the Man Booker Prize, but that's not why you should read it. Read it because through the honest eyes of a teenager it shows us what it means to call a place home and how our legal definitions of ownership and family are wildly different from our experience of those things. Read it because it's a family drama with enough mystery and beautiful writing to keep you turning its pages well past bedtime.
Cool fact about Fiona Mozley
Fiona Mozley not only writes hellishly good family mysteries, she's also doing a PhD in the concept of decay in the later Middle Ages. She lives in York (the old one, not the new one :) and works part-time in a local bookstore.
Read the previous issues of Mad Cool Books here.
  • Are you loving Mad Cool Books? Definitely email me back about your thoughts about Mad Cool Books newsy and the books you've read!
© Text & Photo Copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
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Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.

Issue #3
June 19, 2018
And the hot lady in a suit walks in the room.
My beloved bookish friends!
Welcome to the third issue of Mad Cool Books! Do you know how excited I am for this week's pick? This excited -> ????????????????????
When "Katie Met Cassidy" is not only the perfect queer rom-com, it's also simply the perfect rom-com. Period. Give in to the summer reading mood, let the ocean waves splash at your feet and breeze lull you into peacefulness while you pour over the pages of this gorgeous story!
PS: Loves, make sure you GET Mad Cool Books in your main inbox, not in the promotions inbox. Add my email address (katarina@madcoolbooks.com) to your contacts. Here's how.
Happy Pride, everyone!
xo,
Katarina
Camille Perri: When Katie Met Cassidy
272 pages/6 hrs and 21 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: OMG - it's love, lesbian, NYC, dive bars
Snapshot: After a broken off engagement to a man, Katie finds herself in the arms of a suit-clad woman, Cassidy.
Why I think you need this book: "When Katie Met Cassidy" is the perfect juicy, riveting lesbian rom-com that's been utterly missing on our book shelves. Also it's a great way to celebrate the Pride month!
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
Katie is a total mess after her super-annoyingly pretentious fiancé breaks up with her. She can barely keep up with her busy work life of a fancy NYC lawyer when she meets an intriguing opposing counsel, Cassidy. Cassidy is basically the antithesis of the everything the Kentucky-born-and-raised Katie is about. While Katie is blond and traditionally beautiful, Cassidy is sharp, wearing a short hair cut and a personally tailored man suit.

Katie's curiosity about Cassidy is definitely aroused, even if all she wants to do is to get drunk and wallow in her post-break-up misery. (Haven't we all been there?) But somehow Cassidy keeps showing up in her life--even outside of work--and keeps being way too interesting. The two end up getting drinks (and getting wasted af) at Metropolis, a divey, stinky, sticky lesbian watering hole where writings on the bathroom door claim Cassidy to be the best lover ever.

After they sober up, the accidental showing up in each other's life continues, and the two are bound to fall in love. As in all good romantic comedies, there is witty banter, friends, allies, and enemies, and most importantly there are obstacles the two must overcome. For one, Katie has lived all her life believing she was straight, and so this sudden Cassidy crush doesn't seem to compute. Moreover, what will her ex and his friends think? Not to mention Katie's conservative family.

Cassidy on the other hand resists the relationship because she hasn't exactly been known as the girlfriend material. At 30, she still revels in picking up women in bars and come morning never seeing then again. Could it be that the time for her to settle down has arrived?

"When Katie Met Cassidy" is like an especially addictive ice cream you can't get enough of and keep popping into your mouth until there's nothing left. This book is also a little like an emotional VR vizor. Put it on and feel the falling in love as if it was real! You know how some books claim to be about two people falling in love, but really you're only being told someone is falling in love, and you never really feel it? Well, "When Katie Met Cassidy" delivers on its promise, and you will fall in love alongside with its characters, butterflies fluttering in your stomach included. And I mean what better illustrates that love truly is love than a perfectly gay rom-com?

There are plenty of queer books out there that tackle important and difficult issues (and don't get me wrong, those books are really important), but a simple love story between two women is almost a revolutionary act. Queer people rarely see themselves as heroes of epic romances, and luckily Camille Perri is changing that. And succeeding mightily! I pray for a movie adaptation and predict a cult status for "When Katie Met Cassidy" in only a few short years!


Cool fact about Camille Perri
Camille Perri writes seriously addictive books. (Honestly, she could be called the book-drug dealer!) Her first book, "The Assistants" (read it too!!), talks about student loans and young women in the city, and is also totally glorious. I read both of her books basically in one sitting.
Giveaway
The winner of last week's Instagram giveaway is @maggiexs. How do I determine the winners? I use an old-timey Slovak counting song :) Follow @MadCoolBooks on Insta for more bookish fun!
Read previous issues of Mad Cool Books here.
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  • Also definitely email me back about your thoughts about Mad Cool Books!
© Text & Photo Copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
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Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
June 12, 2018
Following the red bird to Taipei

Dearest book lover!
I have decided on what books to feature this month several weeks ago. Little did I know that today's novel would be so (unfortunately) relevant.
Last week we lost Anthony Bourdain, a beloved chef and food explorer, to suicide after a years-long struggle with depression. This week's book also dives into the dark waters of mental illness and its often tragic consequences. While this novel is really sad, it's also beautiful, transformative, and full of hope. And a little bit of hope is something we all could use right now. As the author, Emily X.R. Pan points out, talking about suicide--and research backs her up--does not increase ideation or risk. It actually makes a significant difference. It is the stigma perpetuated by not talking about depression that kills.

I'm also giving away this week's book and announcing last week's winner. You can find both at the end of this email.

Friends, I want to make this email as useful and pleasant to receive as I can. Do you have a suggestion? Shoutout? A novel recommendation? Just reply to this email. I'll def get back to you!

And now let's dive together into "The Astonishing Color of After."
xo,
Katarina
Emily X.R. Pan: The Astonishing Color of After
480 pages/11 hours and 51 minutes of audiobook time
Keywords: loss, mental health, Taipei,
Snapshot: After losing her mother to suicide, Leigh travels to Taipei to uncover her family's secrets.
Why I think you need this book: You'll read it lost between reality and magic, in a state of awe about its beauty and sadness. In the end, it will spit you out a different person.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
It is super-rare that a debut novel is as gorgeous and as Emily X.R. Pan's "The Astonishing Color of After." It's the kind of book you want to curl up with somewhere where nobody can see you and silently cry into its pages. Because if you have a heart, you will cry. Oh you will. But it is the good kind of cry. The kind that brings relief and purification from whatever you're going through in real life.

Our main character is Leigh Chen Sanders, a 16-year-old daughter of a Taiwanese mom and an American dad. She has synthesia and often attributes colors to feelings and events. Also she has a huge crush on her childhood friend Axel, but despite the appearances, her life is far from perfect. Her mom has been suffering from severe depression for years, and that colors every aspect of her life. Furthermore, her dad grows ever more distant, always traveling for work and often disapproving of Leigh's artistic ambitions. And then one day, the unthinkable happens. Leigh's mom kills herself.

On the night before the funeral, Leigh is awakened in the middle of the night. Propelled by some kind of a strange power, she steps in front of her house and watches a red bird flopping its wings. In that moment, it is absolutely clear to her. Her mom is the red bird. The red bird tells Leigh that she needs to go to Taiwan and meet her grandparents.

The request wouldn't be extraordinary, if it wasn't for Leigh's mom who has been estranged from her Taiwanese family for years. Leigh has never met them, wasn't even allowed to talk about them; she has never learned the language.

Still, the request seems so urgent that Leigh soon finds herself in Taipei, determined to uncover her family's secrets. Caught somewhere between reality and magic, Leigh travels through her own as well as her family members' memories. She has to go to the places her mom used to love. She finds old photos, letters, and artifacts. All the while grieving her mother who keeps appearing as a red bird, guiding her closer to the truth.

Guys, I can barely put in words how profoundly this book affected me. I'm staring at its cover as I write this, feeling my eyes fill with tears. If you like stories that don't just skim the surface but travel deep, deep, into the core of emotions, this book is for you. Furthermore, I loved that the book takes partially place in Taipei, and I got to "experience" the city, its food and culture.

If you plan on buying this book, look for it in the young adult section of your fave bookstore. Yes, I kept this information on purpose for the very last paragraph, in case you're the kind of adult who thinks YA books are about vampires and angsty teens :) Whether you're 17, 27, or 87, you will adore this book. The days of Twilight are long gone, and young adult lit has been produced some of the most diverse and paradigm-shifting books I've read. So don't worry, and hold that YA book proudly! :)
Cool fact about Emily X.R. Pan
There's a family story in the book (and it's not a spoiler) that Leigh's grandmother was sold as a baby to another family who raised her as a bride for their son. This is an actual story from Emily's treasure chest of own family secrets. She revealed it in an episode of 88 Cups of Tea podcast (which btw is my most beloved bookish and writerly podcast ever!!)
Giveaway
1. Head to my Insta @MadCoolBooks, give me a follow, and comment on the pic of "The Astonishing Color of After," and/or
2. Have your friend subscribe to Mad Cool Books and email me their name + email. You both are in.
This contest is for U.S.-based book lovers only.

Last week's winner is Insta user @empireofthedog :) Congrats!!
People ask me how I determine the winner. I literally use one Slovak children's counting song :)
Read previous issues of Mad Cool Books here.
© Text & Photo Copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina, Thomas Helbig.
To ensure delivery to your inbox (not to social or junk folders), please add my e-mail address, katarina@madcoolbooks.com, to your address book. (Here's a quick tutorial how). If you received this email from a friend, you can subscribe here.

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Mad Cool Books
A bite-size newsletter recommending one perfect novel once a week with a special focus on female, LGBTQ+, immigrant, and POC writers.
June 5, 2018
Ever wondered how is sex with a merman?
Hello World!
Welcome to the first ever issue of Mad Cool Books, your weekly, bite-size novel recommendation newsletter!

My name is Katarina Hybenova, and you likely know me as the former boss at Bushwick Daily. Mad Cool Books is my new passion project. I read 130+ books a year, and each Tuesday at noon I'll send you info about one novel I was head over heels for! Additionally, once a month, I'll invite an esteemed bookish guest to share their fave novel with you!

Many of my friends say they'd love to pick up a good contemporary novel but often find it hard to know what's worth their time. There are so many releases every month! So many book listicles! So many kinda pretentious book reviews! (Sorry, serious book publications!)

Mad Cool Books is neither. I recommend only one book at a time in a simple and easily digestible way. I truly hope you'll love it.

You should know that I don't get any commission when you decide to buy a book I recommend. The sole purpose of Mad Cool Books is to share that life-changing, all-consuming, transformative reading experience only a good novel can provide!

If you think this newsy is dope, why don't you forward to a friend or two? (New peeps can subscribe here.) If you're like, ew words, ew pages, no hard feelings, please unsubscribe here.

I'm also doing a giveaway, so read all the way until the end to find out how you can win this week's novel!
Now let's get into it!
Melissa Broder: The Pisces
270 Pages/8 hrs and 19 mins of audiobook time
Keywords: merman, sex addiction, Venice
Snapshot: Will the encounter with a merman help love & sex addict Lucy to overcome her difficulties in relationships with men?
Why I think you need this book: Because you don't have to be an addict to relate to the darkness of Lucy's experiences. Also the book is outrageous and funny AF.
Non-Spoiler Book Talk
When Lucy, a perennial PhD student, decides to split from her long-term boyfriend, all hell breaks loose. Suddenly single, Lucy is a total mess. Think passed-out-in-a-car-on-pills-and-donuts kind of a mess. She even gets arrested and has to go to therapy.

Thinking that a change will do Lucy good, her older sister invites her to house- and dog-sit for her in Venice, CA while she's abroad. Lucy arrives to Venice where she has to attend a group therapy. She immediately hates it, claiming the other women there are totally bat-shit (ehm). Despite her therapist recommendations, she goes on a string of terrible dates with men she meets online and finds herself oscillating between trying to get better and falling deeper into the grips of her addiction. And it's not pretty.

One night, she takes a walk on a beach shore and meets Theo, a young, hot guy, who is bobbing in the water, and for some reason doesn't want to come out. Lucy concludes that he's just a cute swimmer, and the two start to meet regularly--always at night, Lucy always on the shore, Theo always in the water. But soon the truth comes to the surface (pun intended :), and Theo admits to being a merman. Fishtail or no fishtail, the pair starts a passionate love affair. (In case you're wondering about the logistics of this, Theo's fishtail starts after his dick :)

While the sex is the greatest Lucy has ever experienced, she's an addict with unhealthy tendencies, and we witness her descent into the darkness which may cost her everything.

You guys! While the premise of this book--a hot relationship with a merman--is quirky and makes me grin, make no mistake. This book intense and dark. On several occasions while reading it, I found myself wanting to toss it into a freezer like Joey famously did in Friends.

Author Melissa Broder sweeps those dark corners of human psyche without hesitation or fear. She goes places other writers may not want to go. So just be ready.

Also I should tell you there's a ton of sex in this book. And it's outrageous! Definitely not just the metaphorical dot dot dot. While I personally I would take the dot dot dot over the detailed descriptions of the actual sex anytime, I get why it's in there. It serves the purpose. Plus you know how everyone's talking about the importance of female gaze? This is it. Don't expect anything less but an oral sex on a period.

But all the darkness and outlandish sex aside, Broder will also make you laugh out loud. A supreme poet and Twitterer, basically every other line Broder delivers is a punch line. Melissa shoots her words like bullets!

I haven't read anything like "The Pisces" before, and I found myself thinking about it long after I finished it. I really hope you'll be into it too!
Cool fact about Melissa Broder
Before moving to LA, Melissa spent a bunch of years writing poems and organizing poetry events in Brooklyn. I personally met her in 2010 when I interviewed her for a no-longer-existing Brooklyn publication. Melissa was so chill, she agreed to my cray photo shoot idea: to arrange Christmas lights all over her while photographing in the darkness on a long exposure. That photo still exists somewhere :)
Melissa has published several acclaimed poetry collections, started a viral Twitter account @SoSadToday which led her to doing an advice column on Vice about mental health, and later to a book of essays "So Sad Today."
Giveaway
You guys!! To celebrate the launch of Mad Cool Books, I'm giving away one copy of "The Pisces." To enter the contest, do one or both of the following:
1. Head to my Insta @MadCoolBooks, give me a follow, and comment on the pic of "The Pisces," or
2. Have your friend subscribe to Mad Cool Books and email me their name + email. You both are in.
This contest is for U.S.-based book lovers only, sorry!
Are you into "The Pisces"? Are you planning to pick it up? Definitely let me know if you do! You can either reply to this email or message me on Insta.
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Keep reading!
Love,
Katarina

© Text & Photo Copyright: Katarina Hybenova 2018. Mailing address: 662 Onderdonk Ave, Ridgewood, NY, 11385. Icon attribution: Turkku, Nook Fulloption, Artem Kovyazin, Pixel Lab, Anton Barbarov, AomAm, Cezary Lopacinski, Hat-Tec, Maria Kislitsina
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