Tuesday, February 20, 2018

2018 book 33

Becky Chambers' A Closed and Common Orbit
The second book in the Wayfarers series is not a direct sequel, but more of a spin-off, focusing on a few characters from the previous book and their adventures elsewhere. It’s just as good, though, and maybe even more moving (I just for some reason am really gripped by the portion of the novel where an AI in a space shuttle is raising a little girl, but all of it is really interesting and profound). Ughhhhh, when will book three be out!

Monday, February 19, 2018

2018 book 32

Becky Chambers' The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet
I was excited to reread this for book club and am glad it holds up to a second reading. Interesting world building, great characters, spaceship adventures etc etc. I will also say that based on reports from fellow book clubbers, it is just as appealing to people who don’t usually read sci fi as it is to diehard fans. I of course am about to immediately start rereading the second book, and wish the third one was out already too.

Saturday, February 17, 2018

2018 book 31

Karen Healey and Robyn Fleming's The Empress of Timbra
This is a strong entry in the fantasy with court politics/other politics genre, anchored by the sibling relationship at its core. It starts with the son of a fisherman whose beloved father dies at sea, and then he finds out the man wasn’t his biological father when his mother brings him to court, where his father is a Baron—and where he meets his younger half sister, also a bastard, the daughter of the Empress' Witch. I guessed a fair amount of the political plot, but finding out if I was right was still an interesting and intense journey, and it didn’t go entirely as I expected. I also liked the world building here a lot (there is some interesting gender stuff) and found parts of this very funny and parts very moving. It looks like this is the start of a series and I am eager to read more. A/A-.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

2018 book 30

Mary H.K. Choi's Emergency Contact
I read this because it was blurbed by Rainbow Rowell, which makes sense, because it has a very Fangirl vibe. And not just because the protagonist is just starting college and wants to be a writer! But because it is about insecurity and vulnerability and learning to make friends and learning to make peace with your family and learning your craft and learning to open up to a cute boy (who is also a compelling POV character in his own right). GREAT stuff. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in March.

Wednesday, February 14, 2018

2018 book 29

Melina Marchetta's Jellicoe Road
Don’t mind me, I’m just over here weeping after rereading one of my favorite books/comfort reads (why do I love books that make me cry?). This one has two generations of teens with complicated relationships and backstories, lots of secrets, territorial wars, and a little bit of romance. It also is all about learning to be vulnerable and to let people in. It’s just a lovely and moving and gripping story.

Monday, February 12, 2018

2018 book 28

Robin Stevens' A Spoonful of Murder
In the sixth Wells and Wong mystery, the girls find themselves in Hong Kong to mourn Hazel's grandfather—but soon they’re caught up in a murder and kidnapping case! I love these books and I love the girls' friendship, and I especially loved getting to see Hazel on her home turf and taking the lead for once. Stevens apparently did a lot of research and her depiction of 1930s Hong Kong is vibrant. Another great entry in the series. A/A-.

2018 book 27

Tayari Jones' An American Marriage
Jones' Silver Sparrow was one of my favorite books of 2011, so I was eagerly anticipating this novel, especially once the hype kicked in AND it was made an Oprah book. I am please to say it lives up to the hype and then some. It's the story of an upwardly mobile black couple, married just a year and a half, when the husband is put in prison for a crime he didn't commit. It's a beautiful novel, told from both of their POVs and occasionally some others, and also told through their letters. I think I would have thought this novel was GREAT any time I read it, but it feels particularly resonant in early 2018. Just gripping and masterful and GREAT. A.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

2018 book 26

Tamora Pierce's Tempests and Slaughter
I feel like I usually like Pierce's books, though I perhaps have found some of the more recent ones overly simplistic. She's going in the other direction here, though--there's a young boy with powerful magic (and a powerful case of puberty, geez louise) and his two friends, one of whom is one of the heirs to the throne, the other of whom is The Girl (who the protagonist has a crush on, of course), and there are lots of politics and magical school things and interfering god and societal issues (it's a brutal society) going on. This did not feel like a Tamora Pierce book to me, in some ways, and I can't pinpoint why--she's had boy protagonists before, so that's not it, though I guess there is usually not as much focus on said boy's penis. The narration also feels really choppy. On the other hand, there is a pretty awesome magical bird as well as a crocodile god, and I liked both of them a lot. I just thought this would be a fun read, but it’s actually a huge bummer. B.

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

2018 book 25

Kate Greathead's Laura and Emma
I found this book very READABLE, but am still not sure whether I liked it. It centers on a white woman in New York City, from 1980-1995, each year a little vignette of a chapter, starting from a one night stand with a mysterious man that leaves her pregnant. She is from your prototypical very wealthy, cold, white New York family, and is an exemplar of the same, so I found her fairly unlikable (but interesting), and the book really needed more from her daughter towards the end. I thought the writing here was stellar but the story itself was lacking for me. B/B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in March.

Sunday, February 04, 2018

2018 book 24

Whitney Gardner's Chaotic Good
I admit I was first drawn to this book by its adorable cover, but the description was immediately appealing too! It’s about a teen girl, a talented seamstress/designer who is super into cosplay, whose family has just moved to Eugene from Portland. When she’s targeted by misogynistic trolls on tumblr, and then a comic book store guy is horrible to her, her gay twin brother helps her dress as a boy so she can feel safe. And then her boy persona gets invited to play D&D, and she falls for the DM, and she’s trying to complete a portfolio for fashion school—well, and stuff goes down! But this was super cute and I loved it, the narrative voice was super likable. And it nails a lot of how current culture hates women and doesn’t even realize it. Great stuff. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in March.

2018 book 23

Justina Ireland's Dread Nation
Ireland's latest novel is a doozy—it’s set in the 1880s, in a world where the Civil War came to a screeching halt when the dead of Gettysburg began to rise, slavery was made illegal but black and native children were conscripted into “schools” to be educated to fight zombies—and protect white civilization. Our protagonist is a black teenage girl with a healthy amount of smarts and sass, not to mention a good hand with a pair of sickles, at one of said schools. The plot is definitely captivating and I liked the characters—especially the friendships between various women—a lot. It looks like this is the start of a series and I am HERE FOR IT. Badass teenage girls fighting zombies and lamenting about corsets is my jam. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in April. Content warning for a lot of vicious racist and sexist characters (but the story of course acknowledges they are awful.)

Friday, February 02, 2018

2018 book 22

Rainbow Rowell's Carry On
Rowell's books are comfort reading for me--satisfying, sweet, and a little bit sad (JUSTICE FOR LUCY!!!!!!!). She's having a lot of fun with this one, and I love how the magic uses language and pop culture (Rowell recently had an interesting twitter conversation about how this worked in translation, so I was paying extra attention to it this read). I love this story and these characters so much.

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

2018 book 21

Nancy Atherton’s Aunt Dimity Beats the Devil 
The sixth Aunt Dimity book finds Lori in the north of England to evaluate an old library in a possibly haunted manor. But of course Lori isn’t afraid of ghosts! Or of looking for archival evidence to solve old mysteries! I did cringe every time the word “gypsy” was used but otherwise this was an entertaining outing in this series. B/B+.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

2018 book 20

Alice McDermott's The Ninth Hour
I put this on hold at the library so long ago that I no longer remember why I wanted to read it. It was perfectly fine—the story of a three generations of a family in 20th century Brooklyn, and the nearby convent of nuns and and their nursing work. I kept thinking of A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, but it’s neither as gritty nor as resonant as that classic book. I liked the nuns and found them much more interesting than the mother and daughter they’re helping, but I don’t feel like this story will stick with me. B/B+.

Monday, January 29, 2018

2018 book 19

Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity's Christmas
This was not my favorite book in this series, and not just because I am predisposed to dislike books involving Christmas. This one centers on a mysterious homeless man, and Lori and a bunch of new characters (including a North Carolinian bookseller with a very preposterous dialect) are trying to figure out who he is and whether or not he's insane. Lori acts really weirdly in this one though (she is obsessed with two different dudes who are not her husband), and I found her kind of off-putting. There is also more Christian Values/churchifying than in the previous books, something I hope will taper back off in later volumes. B.

Sunday, January 28, 2018

2018 book 18

Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity Digs In
The fourth Aunt Dimity book finds our small British village in an uproar after an archaeologist and his team come to town—and the pamphlet proving the Roman finds are a hoax has been stolen from the vicar's desk! Haha, I love a cozy mystery with totally low stakes. I also love this series because it has prominent stuffed animals (I am partial to stuffed bunnies, myself) that may or may not be magical. It’s nice to read something so gentle. A-/B+.

2018 book 17

Chelsey Johnson's Stray City
This book has been getting SO MUCH buzz, and I was like, well, it can’t live up to the hype, but it seems interesting, let’s give it a look-see, and then I just sat and read it all in one sitting because it really is that GOOD. I feel like describing the plot doesn’t do it justice, so the quick version is: a young lesbian woman in Portland in the late 90s, coming off a bad breakup, gets involved with a DUDE and ends up pregnant. But that is almost all besides the point to me; it is so much more about community and found families and love and hope and growing up and art. It’s just wonderful. Seriously, I was just engrossed and enchanted the entire time. A.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in March.

Saturday, January 27, 2018

2018 book 16

Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity's Good Deed
The third Aunt Dimity book picks up two years after the first, and finds our heroine back in England, struggling with distance in her marriage, when her father in law vanishes, leaving behind a mysterious note. Soon she and the hilarious and precocious girl next door are on a road trip to try and track him down—and uncover the secrets of his British cousins. The mystery here is even more vague than in the previous two, but I just find these books really entertaining and delightful. A-/B+.

2018 book 15

Nancy Atherton's Aunt Dimity and the Duke
No ghosts in the second Aunt Dimity book, which flashes back to show how the friendly and helpful neighbor couple from the first one met—with the help of Aunt Dimity, of course! This one involves a duke, a possibly murdered rock star, a missing lantern with magical powers, a pair of cool little kids, and a lot of gardening. I liked it a lot, even if it did lean a bit hard on the benevolent lord o' the land sort of stuff. B+.