Well, I read so many books and talked about almost none of them. Also, it is May 16. Here we are.
Unbeatable Squirrel Girl by Shannon and Dean Hale: I love the Squirrel Girl comics, and I enjoyed this middle grade chapter book about Doreen Green. I will say, though, that I didn’t find the story worked quite as well when translated to words instead of comics. I’m not sure exactly why this is, except maybe that part of Squirrel Girl’s charm is her very normal appearance (except for the tail) and that visual shortcut isn’t possible in a chapter book.
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders: So, I had a really erroneous notion of what this book was going to be, and I struggled with the gap between my expectation and the book as it is. I mean, the idea that one character is in a SF book and the other is in a fantasy book is neat, but in the end the themes and love story didn’t feel super new. I feel a bit churlish for not loving it as much as others did–and I do think it’s very well written from a craft perspective.
Alone Atop the Hill by Alice Dunnigan: Kate recommended this one when I asked about biographies of women of color–and I’m glad she did. Alice Dunnigan was the first Black woman to be a Capitol Hill reporter and this book excerpts her biography in a way that gives us a sense of what she had to struggle with to make that possible.
Piecing Me Together by Renée Watson: I loved this one so, so much and wanted to write a whole post about it, but I’m not sure when I’ll get to it. So for now, I’ll just say that just like This Side of Home, Watson’s second YA book is incredibly thoughtful and complex, and so strong on character and relationships. I appreciated how layered it is in terms of the different intersections of identity shown.
Keeping Hope Alive by Dr. Hawa Abdi: The memoir of a female doctor in Somalia, who semi-accidentally became a leader of a whole community. The story sometimes jumps unexpectedly, but it’s clearly personal and vivid, so I didn’t mind that here. It’s an interesting look at how to keep going in the face of really horrifying situations.
Elizabeth’s Women by Tracey Borman: This had been on my TBR list literally for years, so I finally checked it out. I liked it, generally speaking, though somehow the men just kept creeping back in. (#misandryalert) But Borman is a good historian and a decent writer and the idea of looking at Elizabeth’s life through her many complicated relationships with other women is a great lens to examine an already much-examined subject.
The Buccaneers’ Code by Caroline Carlson (audiobook): Third in the Very Nearly Honorable League of Pirates trilogy. This one had been on my to-read list since it came out and I finally used an e-audiobook as a way to get through it. Which makes it sound like I didn’t like it–I did enjoy it quite a bit, though I think that at least for an adult listener, the pacing was a bit slow and the characterization a bit uneven.
Savage Beauty by Nancy Milford: Weirdly, reading this biography of Edna St. Vincent Millay made it much easier for me to understand what Amy Gary was trying to do with In the Great Green Room: the brilliant woman with a troubled love life and a sister who outlived her, and who the author had unique access to. The fact remains that Milford has the sensitivity and contextual ability to succeed where Gary doesn’t. While this left me feeling more sad about Millay than anything else, I do think it’s worth reading if you’re interested in her or her era.
Iris and the Tiger by Leanne Hall: reviewed here!
The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: Book 2 in a planned…six book series, I believe? On the one hand, it’s really not doing anything incredibly new, but it does have just enough interest in the conflict and the characters to keep me interested while I’m reading it.
Beacon at Alexandria by Gillian Bradshaw (reread): It had been a bit since I revisited any of Bradshaw’s work and now I’m kind of wanting to do some focused rereading of her books. I think this one is probably still my favorite–or at least very close–mostly because Charis is such a great character. The degree to which this is kind of three separate books in one is pretty fascinating to me, though.
Seal Up the Thunder by Erin Noteboom: So, I love Erin Bow’s prose books and she mentioned on Twitter that she had a poetry collection–which I knew and had forgotten! I ordered it promptly and really liked it. The poems are sly, witty, and warm, treating their Biblical themes with respect and affection. My favorites were “oh the gates” and “Resurrection” (which I’d already read but which worked even better for me in context). If religious poetry can be too sentimental for you, this is a great antidote.
The Inquisitor’s Tale by Adam Gidwitz: Historical fantasy loosely inspired by real French historical figures. I really liked this one–maybe more than I expected to–and found that it was a deep and thoughtful look at different marginalized experiences. It was also a more emotional read than I expected, so all in all, I can really understand why this one has received so much acclaim.
Miss Ellicott’s School for the Magically Minded by Sage Blackwood: This is a very delightful book about fighting the patriarchy and hatred, also a dragon. I really liked the main character, and the interactions between the older and younger generations was fascinating. Plus, I hope I mentioned the dragon? I will say that I don’t think the tone of the cover art particularly fits the book, which is both more serious and richer than the kids on an adventure suggests.
Bandette v. 3: House of the Green Mask: Bandette! I do really like this series, though I’m starting to feel the desire for a slightly more resolved arc. However, the art and storyline, plus the low key romance is keeping me invested in this one.
In Darkling Wood by Emma Carroll: There’s been an interesting mini-trend recently of middle grade books that hearken back to WWI in some way. (Hilary McKay’s Binny Bewitched is one, and I swear I thought of another one but of course didn’t write it down!) In Darkling Wood is quite sad–sadder than I was expecting, even once I figured out some of what was going on. The historical bits are pretty unrelenting, which made me perhaps not enjoy this one, or believe in the current-day resolution as much as I wanted to.
Lumberjanes v. 6: Sink or Swim: FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX–no but really, one of the things I loved about this one is the way it shows that you can mess up and still have friends at the end of the day. Also, there are some Revelations about the world that are exciting! I’ve heard the next arc is fantastic & I can’t waiiiiiit.
Wintersmith by Terry Pratchett (reread): My least favorite Tiffany Aching, BUT even my least favorite is still pretty marvelous.
The Collapsing Empire by John Scalzi: Scalzi is a fluffy sci-fi writer–the kind I reach for when I want something that will entertain while taking almost no brain power. This is a fun little conceit and I may well read the rest of the series when it comes out. (I don’t feel like I need to over-praise Scalzi, because he gets plenty already.)
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander (reread): I hadn’t reread any of the Prydain books in a really long time, and I thought it would be a nice time to do that. I do really like The Book of Three, which is funnier and fresher, and also much, much shorter than I remembered. However, the treatment of Gurgi seems like the worst kind of paternalistic racism, so that’s…not great.
Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie (reread): Leckie is so good at building up emotion over the course of the three books so that by this one she doesn’t even have to say it, just telegraph it and let us fill in the rest. And the part when [spoiler redacted] asks if they can be a Cousin & the answer is just too much. I’m going to have to lie down just thinking about it.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner (reread): The number of lines that have second or even third layers to them on rereading is truly impressive–even more so when you know those were built in after the fact! (THICK AS THIEVES COMES OUT NEXT WEEK!)