Category Archives: bookish posts

January and February releases

I realize that it’s slightly ridiculous to publish this post when February is almost over at this point. On the other hand, I tend to be a completist and it feels wrong not to. And there are some books out in the last few months that look GREAT, so I want to highlight them anyway.


great-green-room binti stef-soto

January

Pathfinders: The Journeys of 16 Extraordinary Black Souls by Tonya Bolden (juvenile nonfiction)

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (adult historical fantasy)

The Silver Gate by Kristin Bailey (mg fantasy)

In the Great Green Room by Amy Gary (biography)

History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera (YA contemporary)

Stef Soto, Taco Queen by Jennifer Torres (mg contemporary)

Dreadnought: Nemesis by April Daniels (YA SF)

Crossroads of Canopy by Thoraiya Dyer (adult fantasy)

Caraval by Stephanie Garber (YA fantasy)

The Careful Undressing of Love by Corey Ann Haydu (YA fantasy)

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor (SF novella)


piecing-me-together amberlough american-street

 

 

 

 

February

Empress of a Thousand Skies by Rhoda Belleza (YA SF)

Amberlough by Lara Elena Donnelly (adult historical fantasy)

Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones (YA fantasy)

Miranda and Caliban by Jacqueline Carey (adult fantasy)

The Last of August by Brittany Cavallaro (YA mystery)

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (YA contemporary)

The Wish Granter by CJ Redwine (YA fantasy)

Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson (YA contemporary)

American Street by Ibi Zoboi (YA magical realism )

Long May She Reign by Rhiannon Thomas (YA fantasy)

A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab (adult fantasy)

1 Comment

Filed under bookish posts

Everfair by Nisi Shawl

everfairEverfair is a story that spans decades and continents. It tells the history of a country that never was, one where “Fabian Socialists from Great Britian join forces with African-American missionaries to purchase land from the Belgian Congo’s “owner,” King Leopold II. This land, named Everfair, is set aside as a safe haven, an imaginary Utopia for native populations of the Congo as well as escaped slaves returning from America and other places where African natives were being mistreated.” (source) It lies across blurred genre lines, at the meeting point of steampunk, historical fantasy, and alternate history.

Everfair is told through a multitude of voices, from King Mwende to Lisette Toutournier, Reverend Thomas Jefferson Wilson to Martha Hunter. It is in a sense the story of an idea, a different kind of grand experiment, more than one person or their personal experience. At first this was disorienting for me–I’m very much a character-based reader. But I realized that in fact that this is the point: that Everfair the country is herself the main character, and that the patchwork of people who make up her history are telling her story, rather than their own. So, the main emotional arc is not exactly that of Lisette, or of Daisy, or any of the others. It is of their collective experiences, their various viewpoints, coming from different backgrounds, races, beliefs, and genders.

This approach also lets Shawl resist flattening any one character into a type. Each of the sympathetic characters shows flaws as well as greatness; each of the less sympathetic characters shows greatness as well as flaws. Although the characters are in some ways secondary to the history of what they made, they are not comforting. They also challenge the reader and the reader’s assumptions. We see Daisy’s limits when she cannot look beyond her own whiteness. We also see Martha’s real care and worry for George later in the story. Neither the country nor the characters are held to an impossible perfection; it is through the contradictions and flaws that both become real.

After finishing the book, I kept thinking about the image of prosthetics that appears throughout the book. It’s one of the most steampunk-y elements: the beautiful, deadly mechanical hands that are made for the survivors of King Leopold’s regime whose hands were cut off. It’s an image that seems to underscore the heart of the book: that the history and trauma that have passed cannot be undone, and yet that the story does not have to end there. That another story, with dirigibles and steam-powered hands, with heartache and work and courage is also possible.

In short, I found Everfair to be a reimaging of the past that thinks deeply about implications and patterns. It takes people as they are, and shows the weight and burden of leadership. It is too clear-sighted to truly be a utopia, but it is also hopeful. The ending, full of possibilities, asks us to take up the task of reimagining the world–by both acknowledging the real traumas and looking for the rest of the story.

Other reviews: Amal El-Mohtar at NPR; Jenny at Reading the End; Jaymee Goh at Strange Horizons

 

Save

2 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

January 2017 round up

Books already talked about

Dared & Done by Julia Markus

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord

The Reek of Red Herring by Catriona McPherson

Return Fire by Christina Diaz Gonzalez

Other books
A Little Taste of Poison by RJ Anderson: This one is the follow up to one of my favorite books from 2015, A Pocket Full of Magic. It was delightful to be back with Isaveth and Quiz, and I enjoyed the school setting of this book as well as the complications that arose from the resolution of the first book. I do think the set up portion took longer than I expected it to, and I wished for more of Isaveth’s family, because I think they’re delightful. But overall, this is another solid middle grade mystery.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: This was a reread, the first book I finished this year. It’s one of my favorites (the humor! the language and word-play! BRYONY!) and it fit especially well with some things I’ve been thinking about in regards to my personal life and this year. But mostly, I just love Billingsley’s books and especially this one: a story about a prickly, unkind girl whose voice shines from the very first page.

Bandette v. 2: This series manages to be incredibly charming and incredibly menacing somehow at exactly the same time. The tone is light and cheerful and the storyline flows along merrily until you realize that actually the villains are pretty terrifying. It’s a very weird mental adjustment, but I like it.

Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill: This is one where my personal reaction and my professional reaction are totally different. Personally, it just didn’t resonate for me–the story is a little too condensed, and we don’t spend enough time seeing the characters get to know and appreciate each other. However, I absolutely see the value in it, even though it didn’t quite work for me as an adult reader, and I’m glad I know about it and can recommend it to the readers who need it.

A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand: Florand’s latest release in her Provence series is absolutely lovely. Tristan hasn’t been my favorite character in the previous books, but as usually happens with Florand, I wound up really appreciating him in a new way. And Malorie won my heart almost from the first page. This is one that meant a lot to me personally, which is really why I haven’t written a longer review–I think I have too many feelings about it to do it justice! Beautiful, as usual.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl: review coming soon

Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard: review coming soon

Ancillary Sword by Ann Leckie: Continuing my Ann Leckie reread and ooohhhhhhhh, I have so many thoughts and emotions and reactions to this book. It manages to do so many things so well, and there are moments that are just so beautifully written. Leckie’s control of Breq’s voice is fabulous. But perhaps one of my favorite things is the way we begin to see what Breq can’t, reading other characters’ reactions differently. I can’t wait to reread the third one and have lots more feelings about what it means to be human + found families + surviving trauma.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: I can’t BELIEVE I waited this long to read Binti, because it is outrageously beautiful and amazing. I really like Okorafor’s work in general, and this one is just great. It’s a novella, and the first of at least two, so there’s a slightness to it. But there’s also a lot packed into the pages: family and culture, diplomacy and building trust, math as–religion? experience? Plus spaaaace. Most of all, though, Binti’s voice is so clear and vivid right from the first sentence. I can’t wait for the next one!

Let Evening Come – Jane Kenyon: I recently discovered Kenyon’s poetry and wanted to check out a collection. Overall, this is a powerful set poems, though there are a few that certainly stand out more than the rest. I loved the juxtaposition of nature imagery with a kind of rejection of sentimentality that runs throughout.

The Smaller Evil by Stephanie Kuehn: I loved Kuehn’s first book, Charm & Strange, but haven’t actually read any of her subsequent work. This one, dealing with a cult in California, was a little bit difficult because my adult brain with a lot of experience reading and thinking about cults was yelling things the whole time. Certainly, the ending wasn’t a surprise to me. However, that isn’t to say that  teen reader won’t like this a lot and find that the ending works for them.

Other posts
Favorite children’s & YA read in 2016

Favorite adult books and reading notes in 2016

2017 releases I’m excited about

Currently reading: 1-19

Books that have been helping me lately

Newsletter + news

I don’t think I’ve ever mentioned here that I’m writing a newsletter now! It goes out monthly, with reflections, recipes, interesting links, and whatever else I’m interested in when I sit down to write it. You can check out the first two and sign up right here.

2 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, monthly book list, reviews

Booklist: books that have been helping me lately

I was travelling last Friday, Inauguration Day, which meant that I couldn’t avoid all the TVs in the terminals. But I was also prepared: I had a list of books that have been helpful to me in one way or another, and I did a Twitter thread with the titles. This post is based on that list, with a few additions. This is a highly subjective list, obviously, but I hope that if nothing else, it inspires you to think about what stories are important to you right now.

MS. MARVEL by G. Willow Wilson. Yes, all of them.

AN INHERITANCE OF ASHES by Leah Bobet. YA sff.

ROLL OF THUNDER, HEAR MY CRY by Mildred Taylor. Middle grade historical fiction.

SORCERER TO THE CROWN by Zen Cho. Published adult, great YA crossover, historical fantasy.

ROSE UNDER FIRE by Elizabeth Wein. YA historical fiction. (Content-wise, may not be for everyone, but wonderful)

NOMAD by William Alexander. Middle grade SF.

The Imperial Radch books by Ann Leckie. Adult SF.

FIRE AND HEMLOCK by Diana Wynne Jones. YA fantasy.

THE FIFTH SEASON by NK Jemisin. Adult SFF.

CHIME by Franny Billingsley. YA historical fantasy.

WHITE IS FOR WITCHING by Helen Oyeyemi. Adult fantasy.

A HAT FULL OF SKY and the rest of the Tiffany Aching books by T. Pratchett. YA fantasy

BURN, BABY, BURN by Meg Medina. YA historical fiction.

EXIT, PURSUED BY A BEAR by E.K. Johnston. YA contemporary. (Sort of. Mostly.)

THE GIRLS AT THE KINGFISHER CLUB by Genevieve Valentine.

JAMES TIPTREE JR: THE DOUBLE LIFE OF ALICE B. SHELDON by Julie Phillips

3 Comments

Filed under book lists, bookish posts

Recent Reading: Markus, Lord, McPherson, Gonzalez

Photo of Return Fire by Christina Diaz Gonzalez on a wooden background

Dared & Done by Julia Markus: After having a months-long thing about Markus’s biography of Annabella Milbanke Byron (Ada Lovelace’s mother), I definitely had to read her first biography about the marriage of Elizabeth Barrett and Robert Browning. I have a lot of feelings about Elizabeth Barrett Browning–mostly due to the fact that I wrote part of a senior thesis on the Sonnets from the Portuguese. In fact, Markus’s look at the Browning’s marriage as it relates to the sonnet sequence was probably the strongest part of the book for me. It’s very solidly researched and does a nice job of teasing out the circumstances of the Browning’s marriage in particular as opposed to Victorian marriage in general, and contrasting it with some of their friends who were less conventional. However, there were times when the organization was a bit confusing–jumps in chronology that muddled rather than clarified–and I found it less emotionally affective than I expected.

The Start of Me and You by Emery Lord: I’ve been hearing good things about Lord’s books for a couple of years now and finally actually read one! Oddly enough, this is set in a suburb of Indianapolis, with a setting that felt very much like the suburb of Indianapolis where I work. Both setting and voice are an interesting contrast with The Fault in Our Stars; perhaps unsurprisingly, I vastly prefer The Start of Me and You. Paige’s story is thoughtful and nuanced, with a lot of care shown for all the characters. Plus, Paige has a strong group of girl friends, and I loved they way they interact and grow together. Add in a slow, careful romance, and a quiet and realistic depiction of healing from trauma. I will definitely be looking for more of Emery Lord’s books!

The Reek of Red Herring by Catriona McPherson: This is book 9 in the Dandy Gilver series, and it’s a strong entry. I have to admit that I find Alec a good deal more annoying than Dandy seems to. He certainly doesn’t add much to the story for me. Nonetheless, there’s a lot of interesting stuff about local folk traditions, and a nice creepy factor to the solution to the mystery. As usual, this is right at the line of cozy vs not, which is one of the things I appreciate about the series.

Return Fire by Christina Diaz Gonzalez: After Moving Target, Cassie Arroyo and her friends pick up right where they left off. This is a fun middle grade adventure/fantasy. It’s quite fast-paced, with a lot of excitement and even an explosion or two. But there are also some deeper questions about family, and destiny, that add some weight to the story. I’m not sure whether this is the last installment, but it ends on a satisfying note.

Save

3 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

Currently reading: 1-19-2017

current reading 1 18

This stack of books is already out of date–I finished Pilgrim at Tinker Creek yesterday and am still processing my final reaction to it. I’m trying to be more organized about my reading this year, and only read one book at a time. So far I’m sticking to it, but reading patterns come and go and it’s likely that halfway through the year I’ll be happily in the middle of five books at once and bouncing back and forth.

But at the moment, I have one non-fiction, one adult fiction, one YA, one middle grade, and one reread in my active stack. Except that Binti is so short that I have two adult fiction in this stack. Both SF–it’ll be interesting to compare the two. I started Dark Orbit a while back–in December, maybe?–when I was on a lunch break with nothing to read. It’s an engaging mystery, though it’s really just getting started at the point I’ve reached. Binti I have literally heard nothing but good things about, and I have to catch up with Okorafor’s backlist. (So excited for Akata Warrior!)

I have also started A Little Taste of Poison before I needed to prioritize some other library books that were due back. I’m expecting to enjoy it a lot–RJ Anderson is both a favorite author and a friend, and we like many of the same books. Including, of course, the Sayers that were mild inspirations for both this one and last year’s Pocket Full of Murder.

Ancillary Mercy is a dearly beloved reread. I wanted to come back and pick up the rest of the trilogy after I reread Ancillary Justice last year and gave R. a copy of the first one for Nativity. Also, in some ways I think Ancillary Mercy is my favorite? But I’ll just have to reread them all to find out for sure.

We Are the Ants was a Cybils-nominated title that I heard good things about but never got to. I have not even opened it yet, so I have no idea what my reaction will be!

Up next on the non-fiction front: The Spy Who Loved, which is a biography of SOE agent Christine Granville, a subject almost guaranteed to make me burst into tears at least once.

3 Comments

Filed under bookish posts, reviews

2017 releases I’m excited for

For all that 2017 is already shaping up to be quite something, there are a number of books that I’m really looking forward to reading! These are just a selection–I could have picked a lot more.

EDIT: I forgot The Pearl Thief, Elizabeth Wein’s Code Name Verity prequel, only because I’ve already read it so it was marked in a different category. (P.S. It is very good.)

8 Comments

Filed under bookish posts