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bookish posts reviews

What I read: weeks 3 & 4

I love a good middle grade graphic novel and that’s exactly why I picked up Kayla Miller’s Camp. The focus here is squarely on friendship and the strains camp can put on two best friends who rely on each other. It’s fine; I liked the way Miller tests the limits of friendship without letting it break, and the way one person in a relationship may need more space than the other. But I was a little disappointed that it was so white and straight, and in general I just wanted a little bit more. [read for the first time 7/15]

At this point I don’t quite know how many times I’ve read Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie. It’s still a book I turn to when I want something that I know will be both healing and challenging. I loved the finale of Breq’s story, and especially the ending. There’s one line a little over halfway through the book that always makes me cry and the last chapter is one of my favorites, even if it’s also an emotional whallop. [reread 7/17]

I also reread a childhood favorite, Pepper & Salt by Howard Pyle. It’s a slightly unusual set of fairytales and in fact Pyle wrote them himself rather than collecting them. While there are some images and attitudes that aren’t okay with me, I did enjoy revisiting these stories. There’s an underlying pattern to a lot of fairy tales that I realized has really stuck with me over the years. [reread 7/18]

My friend Sophie recommended Say Nothing by Patrick Radden Keefe and I’m glad that I read it. While it’s not quite comprehensive, focusing fairly narrowly on a few people who were majorly involved in the political landscape of the Troubles, I appreciated the look at a time of history that I didn’t previously understand very well. Keefe is a good non-fiction writer and does not indulge in my pet peeve (constant speculating about what people might have seen). His sympathies are fairly clear and he’s making a case for the guilt of a particular person, but he also treats the people he writes about with sympathy. [read for the first time 7/19]

I decided to reread all of the Vorkosigan books, and Cetaganda was next up. It’s not my favorite; there’s an awkwardness to the underlying gender themes that doesn’t quite escape Bujold’s attempts to give the Cetagandan women some power. But there’s some nice Miles & Ivan stuff here, and I always enjoy that. [reread 7/22]

Jerry Craft’s New Kid has been recommended a lot recently, and I understand why. It’s a thoughtful look at one kid’s experience as a young Black boy in a private school. The micro- and macro-aggressions that Jordan and the other Black students and teachers experience are counterbalanced by the bonds he forms with a few other students. The art wasn’t my favorite style ever, but it’s in service to the story and I appreciated the touches of humor it added. [read for the first time 7/24]

I wanted to read something light on a Friday and Sarah Zettel’s A Taste of the Nightlife seemed like it would fit that bill. Urban fantasy about a chef who cooks for vampires, what’s not to like? It was fine for that mood, although I don’t know that I’ll read any more of the series. [read for the first time 7/25]

I liked Holly Black’s The Cruel Prince last year but just now got around to reading The Wicked King. Like the first book, I’d say this is a frothy, sharp story. It’s not doing anything particularly original plot-wise, but I enjoy Black’s fairyland here. [read for the first time 7/28]

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bookish posts reviews

Three of a Kind: Young women coming into power

fistful of skyA Fistful of Sky by Nina Kiriki Hoffman: This is a marvelous and deeply weird book–weird in the sense that I’m not sure if I actually liked it or not. The children of the LaZelle family are supposed to come into their power in their teens, but Gypsum alone of her siblings has reached her twenties with no power at all. She has determinedly made the best of this. But then she abruptly comes into quite a strong power, except that it’s a twisted power, a curse power. What follows is Gypsum’s attempt to come to terms with her own power and find her place in the family that had often ignored her.

It’s also, as I said deeply weird in ways I can’t explain because they would be spoilerific. Suffice it to say that some of what Gypsum has to reconcile is the deeper and darker parts of her own personality, and that the ways she does this are fairly unique. I loved the bits about the magic. On the other hand, some of the family dynamic made me uncomfortable and I can’t tell the degree to which this is intended. I’ll also mention that Gypsum is fat and fairly comfortable being fat, although I can’t really say how accurate or sensitive the portrayal is.

bad luck girlBad Luck Girl by Sarah Zettel: This is the third in the American Fairies trilogy, following Callie LeRoux in her quest to find and free her parents and escape from the fairy relatives who wish her harm. I like Callie and her story, although I did feel that this third book was a little unfocused at times.

On the other hand, I really liked the way Callie’s arc in this one is all about coming into her own, learning the limits and contours of her power. She stands at the crossroads of several identities: black and white, fairy and human, and she must figure out who and what she wants to be. She also is struggling to understand the politics of the fairy courts. Despite all these shifting pieces, she is clearly herself, and also clearly wants to help others, particularly the half-fairies who the courts despise and see as a food source. I loved this, and the sense that she cares about those on the outside because she has been there herself.

personaPersona by Genevieve Valentine: I would like Genevieve Valentine to write all the things, please and thank you. In the first two books I’ve talked about, the power is mostly magical, or at least is magical on the most obvious level. Here, in the slightly distant future, Suyana Sapaki is the Face of the United Amazonian Rainforest Confederation. She and her country are not among the rich and powerful. She takes her job seriously, but she is not important.

But then someone tries to assassinate her, and a Korean photographer named Daniel Park saves her, despite himself. What follows is really a complex unwinding of layers and identities as both Suyana and Daniel are forced to come to terms with who they really are and where their allegiances should like. They have both been keeping secrets, and it’s hard for them to trust each other let alone the other players in the game.

What I love about this one is the sense of possibility–both that this version of the future could be exist in some alternate universe, and the potential in Suyana and Daniel as they try to not only stay alive but change the course of history.