bookish posts reviews

Recent Reading: Yoon Ha Lee, Theodora Goss, and Sara Farizan

Oh boy, it’s been a weird, tough couple of weeks over here. Some sort of late-winter funk hit me pretty hard and I’m just now finding the motivation to write about books again, even though I’ve been reading the whole time. All three of these could easily be their own post but at this point I’m going to wrap them up and move on.

Dragon Pearl by Yoon Ha Lee

The latest release from the Rick Riordan Presents imprint (an endeavor that I have 10,000 thoughts about and am endlessly fascinated by) and it’s by Yoon Ha Lee, whose adult fiction I’ve loved for years, and it’s a middle grade scifi? Obviously I was going to read this!

Initially, I found the story slightly baffling in places–there were several moments where I expected some emotional fallout or repercussions from a plot point that just…didn’t happen. But once I adjusted to that, the second half of the book was really lovely and the end made me choke up a little. There’s a glorious sense of wonder and eeriness that a lot of scifi I like conveys, and that’s present here too. This is science fantasy in a lot of ways, and yet I found the ship scenes and the fox magic equally compelling.

(It’s also all about siblings and friendship, those two eternal middle grade themes that are my favorites!)

I’m not sure if there’s a sequel planned for this one, but I could easily see it working–or letting it be a standalone with a beautiful ending full of love and loss and possibility.

European Travel for the Monstrous Gentlewoman by Theodora Goss


Look, I liked the story a lot, and I’ll even say I liked the experience of reading this book, but IT’S SO LONG. And I both love long books and sometimes feel like they could have been edited down a lot. In this case I finished reading and still really think that the length wasn’t entirely earned. Especially in the middle section, there were a lot of “this happened and then this happened” details which moved the characters around the map to the places they needed to be but made the whole effect kind of plodding. I get that this is 1) very consciously hearkening back to the Victorian doorstoppers of yore and 2) very consciously a travelogue where details of traveling make a lot of sense. But still! I would have been fine with a few things not being spelled out and some pages being cut.

That said, I do really like the actual story. The concept of the Athena Club–the daughters and creations of the protagonists of Victorian SFF–is one that could be a bit hokey but is quite powerful in Goss’s hands. She allows the main characters to be brought together by affection, but mostly by circumstances. They have very different attitudes towards their fathers, towards the world, and towards themselves. And so the relationships between them are all complex, with disagreements and sometimes a feeling of almost being trapped together. At the same time, they’re learning how to be protagonists of their own story, rather than passive creations. And I enjoy the asides a lot!

So, despite the length, I’m still planning to read the third (and, I believe, final) volume of the Athena Club when it comes out!

Here to Stay by Sara Farizan

I didn’t really have a lot of expectations from this book (sometimes I know exactly when and why I decided to read a book and other times I have no idea) but I ended up liking it quite a bit. It’s a book about race and prejudice, but equally about family and friendship and what it means to be part of a team. Without being a “redeem the racist bully” storyline at all, there are some surprises from a couple of characters and we get to see Bijan’s growth in his relationships as well.

Also, I just liked Bijan a lot. Since it’s a book that’s so focused on big, heavy topics, there’s always a chance that it could feel trite or forced. But Bijan has a nice snark to his narration that keeps the story feeling realistic overall.

I did personally find one aspect of the storyline to be wrapped up a little too simply. But aside from that, Here to Stay does a great job of tackling some really important topics in a way felt thoughtful and genuine, while also being a kind and funny look at one boy’s story.

bookish posts

Weekly reading review: 9/23-9/29

What a week! What an awful week! Wouldn’t it be great if we didn’t have to say that, oh, every single week? Anyway, in the midst of *gestures towards the world* this mess, I did finish some books that on the whole were pretty good.

What I finished:
The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter by Theodora Goss: I really enjoyed this one–and it’s been a bit since I found a book purely enjoyable. It’s super white, but I otherwise liked it immensely & found in it a bit of hope.

A Festival of Ghosts by William Alexander: Alexander’s books pretty much always hit the right spot for me, and this one is no exception. A sequel to A Properly Unhaunted Place, there’s a nice depth to this continuation of Rosa & Jasper’s stories.

Point of Dreams by Melissa Scott & Lisa Barnett: The other Astreiant books are all ebooks and not owned by my library, so I jumped ahead to this one. These are nice for a certain reading mood, and I appreciate the worldbuilding here a lot.

Sadie by Courtney Summers: This is a searing read, with a spot-on replication of a true crime podcast. I appreciate the heart and the technical ability here. I also keep wondering if this is a book for teens, or a book about teens. Neither is better or worse, exactly, but I guess I question the YA label for this one a bit.

Winter Tide by Ruthanna Emrys: Oh, such mixed feelings here. The surface level writing and characterization are pretty cool, and I appreciate the intent of the project. Buuuuuuut, I felt mildly to very uncomfortable with some of the nuances and conflations underneath the surface.

What I’m currently reading:
The Likeness by Tana French [ebook] (I kind of forgot about this one, whoops)
Bruja Born by Zoraida Cordova: I liked Labyrinth Lost quite a bit, so I’m excited about this one. Not very far yet, but it’s pretty gutsy and engaging so far!

What I’m planning to read next:
A Trust Betrayed : The Untold Story of Camp Lejeune and the Poisoning of Generations of Marines and Their Families by Mike Magner
Foundryside by Robert Jackson Bennett
Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rena Rossner
Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik