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bookish posts reviews

What I read: week 6

Phew! I did manage to read a lot more last week than the week before.

Last year, I really loved the first Aru Shah book by Roshani Chokshi. While I found Aru Shah and the Song of Death to be very delightful, it also felt overly long–my major complaint with the Rick Riordan Presents books so far. The story adds in a few new characters and shades in the world of the Pandevas a bit. This aspect was my favorite, maybe unsurprisingly as I generally love how a second book in a series can really deepen the world that was set up in the first one. I’m definitely here for the next book, though I hope there’s a little more Boo and a little less questing. [read for the first time 8/3]

I found The Luminous Dead by Caitlin Starling engaging; in particular, the combination of a very, very character-driven story and a real respect for the limits of technology made for a slightly different slant on a scifi story. Though I suppose Suzanne Palmer’s Finder might also fit in that category. Anyway, you know how that division between “soft” scifi and “hard” scifi is largely rubbish and used to devalue books written by women? Yeah. This story is all about Gyre and Em, but it also takes the mechanics of the situation very seriously. If you’re a reader who likes a bunch of action and plot, this isn’t necessarily one I’d recommend. If you’re a reader who likes an atmospheric and tense story that’s largely about trust and grit, read on.

At the same time, the relationship between the two women was–look, I don’t think anyone in this story is getting a lot of points for emotional healthiness. The shifting landscape of Gyre and Em’s time together is by turns gripping and troubling. I found the end hopeful, and yet I don’t know if I exactly what that hope to be fulfilled. If anyone has read this and wants to talk spoilers with me, please do. [read for the first time 8/5]

The latest book in the great E.L. Konigsburg reread, A Proud Taste for Scarlet and Miniver, proved to be slightly less exciting than I had remembered. I’m not sure whether I’m just over books about monarchs, or if this just hit me at a bad moment. I don’t think it’s Konigsburg at her strongest, though. From the B’Nai Bagels to Claudia, she’s at her best when she shows this marvelous insight into childhood, and here that’s totally absent. [reread, 8/5]

Bone Black by bell hooks has been on my TBR list for quite some time, but I finally got around to reading it. I’m so glad I did; it’s now on the list of my favorite memoirs. I love the way hooks uses memory as a shifting perspective and a way to return to images and moments again and again. Of course much of the book is centered around Black girlhood, and it’s framed within a tradition of Black women writers. There are other moments that felt more universal to the experience of growing up as a girl, and I appreciated those as well. I shared a few quotes on Twitter just after reading; this is one I can definitely see returning to in the future. [read for the first time 8/6]

I read Restart by Gordon Korman for a work book club, and I have to admit that I doubt I would have finished it just under my own steam. The themes and ideas here are interesting: what do you do when you have a chance at a fresh start? Can someone ever really change? But the treatment of those themes didn’t take into account any big systemic things like racism, sexism, and so on. And the sentence level writing was often clunky and repetitive. Restart is a 2019-2020 Young Hoosier Book Award nominee so clearly other readers have valued it more than I did. [read for the first time 8/8]

I don’t remember exactly why I decided to read Sincerely, Harriet by Sarah W. Searle. I’m glad I did, as it’s a thoughtful graphic novel with an intimate look at invisible disabilities. I appreciated the way the story draws connections with older generations and experiences. It is a sad story though, in many ways, and I wasn’t quite expecting that tone going in. While it wraps up nicely in the end and I’m glad I read it, I wish I had known that going in. [read for the first time 8/8]

 

Categories
bookish posts reviews

What I read: week 1

I don’t know that I’m back, exactly, but I miss talking about books in longer form than Twitter really allows. So, for now I’m going to aim for a once-a-week rundown of what I’ve been reading recently, and we’ll go from there. 

Goblin Mirror by C.J. Cherryh is not exactly my favorite Cherryh, but it does demonstrate her ability to deliver a claustrophobic atmosphere that’s really, really effective. I did like some of the twists and turns in the storyline, but I still haven’t read any Cherryh that tops the Foreigner series for me. (Speaking of which, maybe I just need to reread all of them!) [read for the first time, 6/30]

Tiffany Jackson has been quietly delivering some knock-out gut-punch books for the past few years–I am still upset about Monday’s Not Coming. But Let Me Hear a Rhyme, while intricately plotted and full of secrets is a little less reliant on a surprise twist. It’s a love letter to 1990s Brooklyn and rap, but it’s also about finding hope and connection in the midst of grief. Great book, and I can’t wait to see what Jackson writes next. [read for the first time, 7/1]

My book club decided to read some E.L. Konigsburg together and it’s been super great. First: From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler which is a practically perfect gem of a middle grade book and one which holds up really quite well. I had read it several times in the past, but not in the last few years and I loved revisiting it. Claudia in particular is just a (relatable) delight. [reread, 7/5] Then, I gulped down Jennifer, Hecate, Macbeth, William McKinley, and Me, Elizabeth, which I think I had only read once in 5th grade. It’s an extremely slim book, but it’s full of accurately fifth grade observations about the world. Elizabeth is such a pill, and I loved her for it. Not quite the heights of Mixed-Up Files, but still pretty delightful. [reread, 7/6]

At this point in time, quite a few people know about the Soviet airwomen known as the Night Witches. But did you know they were only one of three regiments formed by famed pilot Marina Raskova? Elizabeth Wein’s A Thousand Sisters lays out the history of the Raskova regiments and their joys/challenges/fates. It’s a thick book, but a relatively quick read–however, be warned that it’s a bit like the Last Jedi, with loss after loss after loss. The bravery and camaraderie of these (mostly) long-gone women shines off the page, and I downright cried after one death in particular. I wasn’t quite sure what the intended age of the audience was at times, but overall I’d recommend it for mature middle school readers through adults. [read for the first time, 7/6]