Tag Archives: nina lacour

Favorite books from the beginning of 2017

I’ve been reading a lot more than I’ve been writing here, so I thought I’d do a round up of my favorite books from the first quarter of 2017. These are just books I read in January-March.

middle grade

Ratpunzel by Ursula Vernon: Harriet Hamsterbone continues to basically be the best. Mother Goethel here was genuinely creepy (something I feel Rapunzel retellings often fail to pull off). This series really manages to tackle some big, complicated issues in thoughtful and kid-appropriate ways. So good!

Lumberjanes vol. 5: Band Together: FRIENDSHIP TO THE MAX! (someday I will start a Lumberjanes review with something else) (jk, that will never happen) Look, this volume has mermaids, and also lots of confusion about how an underwater mermaid rock band is even possible, and it contains the immortal line, “I don’t want to die confused” so yes.

Dragon with a Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis: This book is just so comforting (much like a cup of chocolate). While this might sound like faint praise, it’s really not–comforting things are really necessary, and books that lie at the crossroads of smart and comforting are harder to pull off than they look. It’s a unique take on dragons, and I loved Aventurine and her determination.

YA

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour: Okay, I will say upfront that the premise of this book is a bit implausible, BUT please accept it and move on because it is full of LaCour’s most mature, rich writing to date and so many feelings. There’s this feeling that’s common to many young adults of being out of place, of not knowing who you are or how exactly to find out. This book is quiet and specific in its characters and setting and it feels so textured and beautiful.

The Hate U Give by A.C. Thomas: Any praise I have here will be slightly superfluous, but oh this book. I wanted to reread it as soon as I finished. It is so amazing on so many levels, but Starr herself really stood out for me. This is a book about her finding her voice, but at the same time, even on the first page she shines.

The Swan Riders by Erin Bow: To be honest, I delayed reading this one at first because even though I trust Bow, I wasn’t sure how anything could follow The Scorpion Rules. But this one did. It starts small and quiet, but the tension and the implications build until it becomes an incredibly heartbreaking exploration of identity and love and what it means to be a person. I love sequels that dig deeper into the world of the first book, and that’s just what this one does.

Chime by Franny Billingsley: I reread this one at the beginning of the year, and it was just what I needed. Learning to tread new brain paths, learning to love and be loved. Living in the tension between the old and the new. This book is just a LOT in all the best possible ways.

Lucy & Linh by Alice Pung: I realized as I was typing this up that Lucy & Linh (aka Laurinda in its native Australia) has a lot in common thematically with We Are Okay: growing up and moving to a new place, complicated friendships, feeling unsure of yourself and who you are. But Lucy also deals with class and privilege and race, which tie back into the theme of identity and friendship in really interesting ways.

adult

The Spy Who Loved by Clare Mulley: I’ve discovered that I love good biographies of complex, difficult women, and this one is a great example. “Christine Granville” and her life make for an incredible, infuriating, and achingly sad story.

A Crown of Bitter Orange by Laura Florand: While I basically just love all of Laura Florand’s books, this one really hit me in a personal place. It’s a quieter story, more intimate, full of the weight of the past–both family history and historical events. It’s about learning to acknowledge that weight without letting it bind you. And, on a lighter note, I really enjoy the setting and descriptions of the countryside as well.

Everfair by Nisi Shawl: I talked about this one quite a lot already, but I’ve found myself thinking about it regularly ever since I read it. The approach to the story is so inventive and thought-provoking, and the sense of what-might-have-been is both inspiring and heartwrenching.

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor: Math and magic IN SPACE, and family, and culture, and diplomacy, and explosions, all in one short novella that doesn’t have that frustrating too-short-and-too-long feeling that some novellas do. It just makes me happy whenever I think about it, and I can’t wait to read Home.

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Recent Reading: non-fiction and YA

hissing cousinsHissing Cousins by Marc Peyser and Timothy Dwyer: I picked up this double biography of Eleanor & Alice Roosevelt because, I mean, look at that tile! How could I not? It turned out to be (as far as I could judge) a well-researched and well-written look at the complex intertwining lives of these two cousins. Peyser & Dwyer examine the ways in which each woman lived up to her reputation, as well as the ways in which she didn’t. They also look at the long-standing feud between them, and the ways in which this both was and wasn’t reflected in their actual relationship. Definitely recommended for people interested in early 20th c. American history, or women’s history, or complicated family dynamics. My only quibble is that the authors seem reluctant to talk about the wider social ramifications of, say, Theodore Roosevelt and his beliefs and policies in favor of a mostly-positive personal portrait.

The Dthe disenchantmentsisenchantments by Nina LaCour: I picked this one up after reading and loving LaCour’s more recent Everything Leads to You. The Disenchantments has the quirky, artsy, adventure/quest that I enjoyed in ELtY, but for me it lacked some of the depth of character that I saw in that book. Then again, it’s also true that this book falls into the pattern of a boy interacting with an unattainable, brilliant, and unknowable girl. It’s well written, and yet the pattern itself annoys me; if anything, I wanted this story from Bev’s point of view. Still, LaCour’s prose is smoothly enjoyable and the story as a whole does a nice job of looking at that transition from high school to college, as well as the realization that the adults in your life are actually human and complex.

devil you knowThe Devil You Know by Trish Doller: The Devil You Know has been very highly praised by several people I trust, and I really liked Doller’s previous books. This one is part coming-of-age, part romance, and part mystery. I had two somewhat different reactions to it. First, like Dessen’s Saint Anything, I thought Doller did a great job of writing an extremely readable book, which also takes on big issues. I really admired the way she wrote this situation where things slowly start to unravel. And the fact that Cadie is never judged or shamed for the choices she makes also was great. On the other hand, I figured out the mystery really quickly. That said, this is 1) a book written for teens and not for mystery-obsessed adults (me) and 2) not the reason I was reading this book and therefore wasn’t as much of a problem as it might have been. So despite that fact, I would definitely recommend this one if you want that combination of big topics and readability

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