August has held some wonderful things, but I can’t deny that getting through it was more than a bit difficult and that I’m glad it’s now over. However, I did read some great books this month!
Joan of Arc by Helen Castor: I read this because I heard an NPR interview with Castor and was intrigued by the fact that she wanted to set Joan within her historical and political context–giving the background that surrounds her rather than continuing the exceptional individual narrative. Unfortunately, I think the balance was too strong on context and too short on Joan; I finished with a much better understanding of 15th c France and almost no sense of Joan as a person.
Wish Upon Jasmine by Laura Florand (review coming soon I promise)
The Serpent Garden by Judith Merkle Riley: I love Judith Merkle Riley’s books so much. I said on Twitter that she feels like an antidote to the kind of hyper-gritty book that Game of Thrones often represents. The time period is not a gentle one, but the relationships between people and the real culture and support between women all combine to make this a lovely & satisfying book. (Plus I really enjoyed the main character.)
The Jumbies by Tracy Baptiste: A really lovely middle grade fantasy, based on Haitian folklore. I loved the way Baptiste examines the intricacies of family, without leaving any easy conclusions. Corinne is a great protagonist, who makes mistakes but also cares about her father and her friends.
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older: I absolutely loved Shadowshaper–I had been hearing great things about it for months before it came out, and they were all deserved. Sierra’s relationship to her art, to her family and its secrets, to her culture and its joys and sorrows were all wonderful. And Older weaves in so many current issues, in a way that felt pointed but also real and earned.
Thrilling Adventures of Babbage and Lovelace by Sydney Padua: An incredibly fun, thoroughly researched graphic novel about the pocket universe adventures of Charles Babbage and Ada Byron Lovelace. Katy was the one who mentioned this and I’m so glad she did; I enjoyed it so much. Even the footnotes are fun!
This is Not a Test by Courtney Summers: So I liked the characters in this one, and Summers’ taut, elegaic prose really works well here. But I’m just fundamentally not very interested in zombie books, I guess. I don’t feel the urgency and sense of stakes, and so while the conflict between the students and the exploration of Sloane’s reactions kept me reading, it didn’t ever complete engage me.
Point of Honour by Madeleine Robins: Alternate history Regency mystery. I read this a few years ago and didn’t quite enjoy it. But this time I loved it; loved Sarah and her integrity, her desire to do the right thing and also her mistakes and blind spots. Robins also writes about the London underworld without seeming gratuitous or voyeuristic, which is all too rare.
Binny for Short by Hilary McKay: I absolutely adored the first Binny book, as well as most of McKay’s books. I wasn’t quite sure what to make of this one at first, as it cuts Binny’s story with the story of Clarry in the 1910s. While I think it ultimately worked, I didn’t love it quite as much as the first one. Still, any McKay book is better than many others.
Petty Treason by Madeleine Robins: Second Sarah Tolerance book. I don’t think the mystery aspect is quite as strong with this one, but I loved reading about Sarah just as much. I also appreciate that Robins doesn’t give her instant or miraculous detecting abilities; it’s clear how much time and effort Sarah puts into her work.
Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen: This is actually the first Sarah Dessen book I’ve ever read, and I thought it was fantastic. Dessen takes on some big issues, including a great depiction of girls watching out for each other around a creepy guy, while at the same time writing a satisfying romance. Sydney’s journey is wonderfully written. I’ll definitely be reading more Dessen.
Bayou Magic by Jewell Parker Rhodes: Maddie goes to stay with her mysterious grandmother in the Louisiana bayou. This is a lovely, quiet book, full of beautifully described magic. Maddie’s growing love for the bayou and its people drive the whole thing, while underneath there’s the threat of its destruction. I’d be curious to know how kids react to this one, since it hinges on a now historical event that they won’t know/remember in the same way as adult readers.
Loki: Agent of Asgard: I’ve been slowly dipping my toe into superhero comics, largely via other peoples’ recommendations. I think Preeti Chhibber mentioned this one on Twitter and I’m glad I picked it up–it’s a good entry into this storyline and a lot of the sharp humor and interesting characterizations I love about Ms. Marvel are here too.
The Wicked and the Divine, vol. 1: I remain somewhat undecided about this one. I appreciated it a ton: the storyline, the diversity, the lovely art, Laura herself. But I’m not sure if I actually liked it. I will definitely read the next volume (I have it on hold already) and we’ll see.
Voyage of the Dawn Treader by C.S. Lewis: Audiobook narrated by Derek Jacobi
Sad Cypress by Agatha Christie: Audiobook narrated by David Suchet
Dandy Gilver and an Unsuitable Day for a Murder by Catriona McPherson
Dandy Gilver and a Bothersome Number of Corpses by Catriona McPherson
Brain Camp by Faith Erin Hicks
Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear