Tuesday, August 29, 2017

2017 book 152

Jaya Saxena and Jess Zimmerman's Basic Witches
I LOVED THIS BOOK! It is just the book I needed to give me strength in these troubled times. It is both empowering and funny, AND it's beautifully designed--the illustrations are perfect. I am gonna go out and get some candles for sure so I can ritualistically improve my life. ;)

Sunday, August 27, 2017

2017 book 151

Shannon Hale's The Goose Girl
I was in the mood for some straight up fantasy, so decided to revisit Hale's Books of Bayern series. This first one is a fairly straightforward adaptation of the traditional fairy tale (which I find weirdly stressful, even though I know it turns out okay), but Hale breathes life into the characters and into the friends the goose girl princess makes along the way.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

2017 book 150

Mamen Sanchez's The Altogether Unexpected Disappearance of Atticus Craftsman
This was a very cute (if heteronormative) novel, translated from the Spanish, about an English publisher whose son has been sent to Spain to shut down a literary magazine run by five women-- and then vanished. But like I said, it's super cute, it's not at all a mystery. It's the sort of heartwarming European novel that is eventually made into a movie starring Dame Judi Dench, or anyway a heartwarming novel that warmed even my curmudgeonly heart. Really great characters here and a lot of humor. A-/B+.

Side note, a bunch of characters are referred to as "Gypsies," and I'm not sure if that is the author or translator's choice.

Friday, August 25, 2017

2017 book 149

Megan Hunter's The End We Start From
This was an interesting and poetic little book about new motherhood during some sort of post-apocalyptic scenario (London flooding, refugee camps, etc). I think this would have resonated more with me if I actually had kids, but it was very well written and compelling. A-/B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on November 7th.

2017 book 148

Patricia Wentworth's Death at the Deep End
I like mysteries about sassy old ladies getting things done, so a few people have recommended the Miss Silver books to me. I no longer remember why I was particularly interested in this one--it's the 20th (!) in the series, first published in 1951--but I found it satisfying as a stand-alone. Miss Silver is apparently a former governess turned private detective, and in this story, she is looking for a missing woman and so goes undercover as a replacement governess at a colony of eccentric artists to see what she can uncover. There are plenty of red herrings and I admit I was imagining some fairly contrived things, only some of which were correct, but Wentworth did have some surprises in store. I liked no-nonsense Miss Silver a lot and may check out more of this series. B+.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

2017 book 147

Ladee Hubbard's The Talented Ribkins
This is one of those books that I enjoyed while I was reading, but was never in a huge hurry to pick back up (though I did read the last 2/3rds in one sitting in a coffee shop today, so it is very readable). It centers on a aging black man from a family full of people with interesting talents--his is for making maps, a skill he has sold to a nefarious businessman, from whom our protagonist has embezzled, and now he has a week to track down 100,000 dollars or else. So he sets off on a road trip around Florida to uncover his old secret caches--and also discovers the niece he never knew he had. I really liked how this wrapped up, though the journey was a little slow (I mean that both literally and metaphorically). I loved the look at his life in Florida and his past as a freedom fighter (or rather, a freedom-of-movement fighter)--really an interesting character. I did wish there had been a little more to this, but it was enjoyable. B+.

Sunday, August 20, 2017

2017 book 146

Kate Milford's Ghosts of Greenglass House
I'm not sure if the sequel to Milford's Greenglass House is AS awesome as its predecessor, but that book is a tough act to follow, and this is certainly still pretty awesome. It's Christmas at Greenglass House again, with just one guest staying at the hotel, when two of the characters from the previous book show up needing a place to lay low after a HEIST GONE WRONG. And then a whole bunch of mysterious characters show up, things go missing, and everyone is a suspect! Milford does a deft job of layering a fun YA mystery with ghost stories and more serious stories about racism and insensitivity. I will say that I spotted one twist immediately and so the conclusion was not AS exciting, but there were still a few twists to go. Really a fun and satisfying story. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on October 3rd.

Friday, August 18, 2017

2017 book 145

Rainbow Rowell's Attachments
I have been longing to reread this for ages, since my mom and my sister and a friend had all recently read it for the first time and loved it! But we're reading it for book club next month and I really prefer my book club reads to be fresher in my mind. Sometimes, though, you've had a long-ass week and all you can do on a Friday is sit on your comfy couch and reread a favorite book all in one sitting. So that is what I did. Rainbow Rowell writes the best dudes (and Lincoln may be my favorite of her dudes) and I love the friendship between the two central women characters (and, actually, all of Lincoln's friendships as well). I mean, I am very excited that Rowell is going to be bringing back Runaways, but I wish she would write like six new perfect novels every year.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 book 144

Octavia Butler's Kindred
I think I say this most months, but the best part of running a book club is forcing my friends to read my beloved books and discuss them with me. :) This is just a masterfully told story, and somehow the visions of the 1810s and the 1970s feel just as relevant today. If you have not read this book, it is the story of a young black woman, a writer, living in California in 1976 with her white husband, when she is suddenly whisked back to antebellum Maryland to save a little boy--a little boy who turns out to be her ancestor. But 1810s Maryland is not a safe place to be a black woman. Not that 2017 is much better. Anyway, this is a book I highly recommend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 book 143

N.K. Jemisin's The Stone Sky
AAAAHH here it is, the final book in Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, very much anticipated (especially since the first two both won Hugos and many other awards). This wraps things up with three narrators: the mother and daughter from the first two books, as their paths begin to draw together, and a third character, who predates the world's destruction and tells of its downfall. And it is really good and very satisfying and a thrilling conclusion to an excellent series. Soon I will reread them all in one go so I can really see how all the details come together. A.

Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 book 142

Jodi Lynn Anderson's Midnight at the Electric
Well, here is an interesting and engaging book, the story of three women all tied to a farmhouse in Kansas* across different time periods. Starting things off is young Adri in the 2060s, training for a mission to Mars and recently come to stay with a distant relative in Kansas, when she discovers the diaries and letters of the other two--a girl growing up in the house during the Dust Bowl, and a friend of that girl's mother in post-WWI England--and longs to discover how their stories turned out. And all three stories are really interesting! And there is a Galapagos tortoise! I liked this very much. A-.

*The description says "Oklahoma" for the section set during the 1930s, but that is annoyingly incorrect. I think the person who wrote the description just didn't know the Dust Bowl was a thing in the entire Midwest, and clearly they didn't read this book. I mean, the characters specifically say they get called Okies despite not being from Oklahoma.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

2017 book 141

Ashley Weaver's The Essence of Malice
The fourth book in the Amory Ames series has an intriguing plot--someone has murdered a famous and wealthy French parfumier, and pretty much all of his relatives are suspects, so Amory and her husband befriend them under the guise of creating a custom scent for Amory. I am here for all the perfume talk, but I am not here for the continual marriage problems between Amory and her husband. For four books she has mistrusted him and he has been keeping dumb secrets. I am tired of them going in circles in every single book. Just leave him and go solve mysteries with your sassy maid! Otherwise, this was entertaining, and I liked the end quite a bit. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on September 5th.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 book 140

Joanna Scott's Careers for Women
This novel starts off really promisingly, focusing on a young woman in New York in the 1950s working at the Port Authority under an interesting woman mentor, the head of PR. But then it just starts jumping around all over the place--New York in the 60s-70s; planning and building the World Trade Center; a young single mother who is befriended by the protagonist, and her little girl; the head of some sort of aluminum company (the father of the aforementioned little girl) and the environmental problems it causes in upstate New York across a couple of decades, and his wife and son and his son's fiancee and the son's fiancee's dead father, etc etc. It is just a lot and it takes too long to come together. I wanted to read the book that was described, about a young career woman in New York, and this was just doing too much. I mean it is interesting from a literary standpoint, but was a bit of a slow read. B.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book is available now.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 book 139

Keris Stainton's If You Could See Me Now
Rainbow Rowell was recommending this on Twitter the other day, which makes a book like must-read for me. And this was super cute and very silly and just what I needed. It centers on a woman in England with a crappy boyfriend and job stress and an awesome best friend--and then something totally unexpected happens. And I won't tell you what bc I was awesomely surprised. Anyway, this has a cute romance, some really great woman empowerment (seriously, this book echoes a lot of conversations I have had and seen other women having about like cat-callers and other indignities suffered upon us by jackass men), and is generally just a lot of fun. An honestly feel-good read. A-.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

2017 book 138

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I remembered thinking this was not that great, but actually it is okay! The bones of an interesting story are there, but the play format doesn't give much to work with--like it's hard to build narrative tension and have good character development with just dialogue, I guess. Is it just my everlasting fondness for (most*) of the characters that makes me like it? Or my love of time travel and alternate universes? I guess it is interesting to read a story that is primarily about someone trying to learn to be a good father, and also magic. Would this be more satisfying if I were seeing it performed, and not just moderately entertaining? I mean, it does read almost like fan fiction, but pretty good fan fiction. Heteronormative fan fiction though.

*Dumbledore remains The Worst even in painted form.

2017 book 137

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The thing about trying to redeem Snape at this late date is that he never ever once showed any kind of kindness or a softer side throughout all these books. Like, even if you excuse his cruelty to Harry by blaming it on his grudge against Harry's father--how can you write off the way he treats Neville? Or Hermione? Fine, maybe he doesn't work for the most evil wizard of all time, but he is still an awful person. And for his only sign of goodness to be "I was in love with your mom for my whole life in a kind of creepy way and then was bummed when she died"--it's not really enough. There needed to be more than a shred of decency. Also Dumbledore is annoying and I am still not sure the wand stuff holds up. Of course, those are minor quibbles to a book that I have read and enjoyed and thought about many, many times. Snape is terrible though.

Monday, August 07, 2017

2017 book 136

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
You know I have read these books too many times and spent way too much time thinking about them, but I still can't puzzle out how the detection of underage magic works. So in past books, the Ministry could tell when anyone (Harry or Dobby) did magic in Privet Drive, and in this one they say that the ministry doesn't track this (as far as I can tell) in wizard homes, because they rely on parents to monitor children's behavior. And then there is the whole thing with the Trace in book 7, which implies that the Ministry CAN detect specific underage wizarding magic. My point is: how can Dumbledore do a whole bunch of magic in Privet Drive in this book and no one says a thing? (Similarly, we don't SEE Arthur Weasley use magic there in the beginning of book 4 but it is implied that he used magic to repair the living room.) Is it like a proximity thing, and it's just that Dobby was closer to Harry than Dumbledore was? Am I (definitely) spending more time trying to figure this out than JK Rowling did? Anyway, I like this book, Harry is kind of a doof but backstory and teen hijinks are entertaining and the end packs a wallop.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

2017 book 135

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I feel like on past reads of this book, I have been like "ugh, Harry, you're so whiny and angsty, get your act together!" but this time was more like, man if Dumbledore had been willing to have an honest conversation or if Snape could get his head out of his own butt for five minutes (like, he must see that Harry is nothing like James Potter when they have their occlumency lessons, but he is still a grade-A jerkface to Harry)--well, let's just say I am much more sympathetic to Harry now and maintain that Dumbledore is kind of the worst. Him and his dumb trickling tear. Meanwhile, I really just want like one scene of Hermione having a conversation with her parents. They seem so supportive and nice but they never get one line in these books! Not really relevant, just so,etching I was thinking about.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

2017 book 134

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I went to see Belle and Sebastian on Monday, when I had just started rereading this, and at one point they has a backdrop of old album covers and I had a very vivid memory of a college summer in the attic room of a rented yellow house, listening to Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, and rushing home from my summer job to read this for the very first time. And rereading it now is still just as thrilling and heartbreaking.