Friday, August 18, 2017

2017 book 145

Rainbow Rowell's Attachments
I have been longing to reread this for ages, since my mom and my sister and a friend had all recently read it for the first time and loved it! But we're reading it for book club next month and I really prefer my book club reads to be fresher in my mind. Sometimes, though, you've had a long-ass week and all you can do on a Friday is sit on your comfy couch and reread a favorite book all in one sitting. So that is what I did. Rainbow Rowell writes the best dudes (and Lincoln may be my favorite of her dudes) and I love the friendship between the two central women characters (and, actually, all of Lincoln's friendships as well). I mean, I am very excited that Rowell is going to be bringing back Runaways, but I wish she would write like six new perfect novels every year.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

2017 book 144

Octavia Butler's Kindred
I think I say this most months, but the best part of running a book club is forcing my friends to read my beloved books and discuss them with me. :) This is just a masterfully told story, and somehow the visions of the 1810s and the 1970s feel just as relevant today. If you have not read this book, it is the story of a young black woman, a writer, living in California in 1976 with her white husband, when she is suddenly whisked back to antebellum Maryland to save a little boy--a little boy who turns out to be her ancestor. But 1810s Maryland is not a safe place to be a black woman. Not that 2017 is much better. Anyway, this is a book I highly recommend.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

2017 book 143

N.K. Jemisin's The Stone Sky
AAAAHH here it is, the final book in Jemisin's Broken Earth trilogy, very much anticipated (especially since the first two both won Hugos and many other awards). This wraps things up with three narrators: the mother and daughter from the first two books, as their paths begin to draw together, and a third character, who predates the world's destruction and tells of its downfall. And it is really good and very satisfying and a thrilling conclusion to an excellent series. Soon I will reread them all in one go so I can really see how all the details come together. A.

Monday, August 14, 2017

2017 book 142

Jodi Lynn Anderson's Midnight at the Electric
Well, here is an interesting and engaging book, the story of three women all tied to a farmhouse in Kansas* across different time periods. Starting things off is young Adri in the 2060s, training for a mission to Mars and recently come to stay with a distant relative in Kansas, when she discovers the diaries and letters of the other two--a girl growing up in the house during the Dust Bowl, and a friend of that girl's mother in post-WWI England--and longs to discover how their stories turned out. And all three stories are really interesting! And there is a Galapagos tortoise! I liked this very much. A-.

*The description says "Oklahoma" for the section set during the 1930s, but that is annoyingly incorrect. I think the person who wrote the description just didn't know the Dust Bowl was a thing in the entire Midwest, and clearly they didn't read this book. I mean, the characters specifically say they get called Okies despite not being from Oklahoma.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

2017 book 141

Ashley Weaver's The Essence of Malice
The fourth book in the Amory Ames series has an intriguing plot--someone has murdered a famous and wealthy French parfumier, and pretty much all of his relatives are suspects, so Amory and her husband befriend them under the guise of creating a custom scent for Amory. I am here for all the perfume talk, but I am not here for the continual marriage problems between Amory and her husband. For four books she has mistrusted him and he has been keeping dumb secrets. I am tired of them going in circles in every single book. Just leave him and go solve mysteries with your sassy maid! Otherwise, this was entertaining, and I liked the end quite a bit. B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on September 5th.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

2017 book 140

Joanna Scott's Careers for Women
This novel starts off really promisingly, focusing on a young woman in New York in the 1950s working at the Port Authority under an interesting woman mentor, the head of PR. But then it just starts jumping around all over the place--New York in the 60s-70s; planning and building the World Trade Center; a young single mother who is befriended by the protagonist, and her little girl; the head of some sort of aluminum company (the father of the aforementioned little girl) and the environmental problems it causes in upstate New York across a couple of decades, and his wife and son and his son's fiancee and the son's fiancee's dead father, etc etc. It is just a lot and it takes too long to come together. I wanted to read the book that was described, about a young career woman in New York, and this was just doing too much. I mean it is interesting from a literary standpoint, but was a bit of a slow read. B.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book is available now.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

2017 book 139

Keris Stainton's If You Could See Me Now
Rainbow Rowell was recommending this on Twitter the other day, which makes a book like must-read for me. And this was super cute and very silly and just what I needed. It centers on a woman in England with a crappy boyfriend and job stress and an awesome best friend--and then something totally unexpected happens. And I won't tell you what bc I was awesomely surprised. Anyway, this has a cute romance, some really great woman empowerment (seriously, this book echoes a lot of conversations I have had and seen other women having about like cat-callers and other indignities suffered upon us by jackass men), and is generally just a lot of fun. An honestly feel-good read. A-.

Wednesday, August 09, 2017

2017 book 138

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Cursed Child
I remembered thinking this was not that great, but actually it is okay! The bones of an interesting story are there, but the play format doesn't give much to work with--like it's hard to build narrative tension and have good character development with just dialogue, I guess. Is it just my everlasting fondness for (most*) of the characters that makes me like it? Or my love of time travel and alternate universes? I guess it is interesting to read a story that is primarily about someone trying to learn to be a good father, and also magic. Would this be more satisfying if I were seeing it performed, and not just moderately entertaining? I mean, it does read almost like fan fiction, but pretty good fan fiction. Heteronormative fan fiction though.

*Dumbledore remains The Worst even in painted form.

2017 book 137

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
The thing about trying to redeem Snape at this late date is that he never ever once showed any kind of kindness or a softer side throughout all these books. Like, even if you excuse his cruelty to Harry by blaming it on his grudge against Harry's father--how can you write off the way he treats Neville? Or Hermione? Fine, maybe he doesn't work for the most evil wizard of all time, but he is still an awful person. And for his only sign of goodness to be "I was in love with your mom for my whole life in a kind of creepy way and then was bummed when she died"--it's not really enough. There needed to be more than a shred of decency. Also Dumbledore is annoying and I am still not sure the wand stuff holds up. Of course, those are minor quibbles to a book that I have read and enjoyed and thought about many, many times. Snape is terrible though.

Monday, August 07, 2017

2017 book 136

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
You know I have read these books too many times and spent way too much time thinking about them, but I still can't puzzle out how the detection of underage magic works. So in past books, the Ministry could tell when anyone (Harry or Dobby) did magic in Privet Drive, and in this one they say that the ministry doesn't track this (as far as I can tell) in wizard homes, because they rely on parents to monitor children's behavior. And then there is the whole thing with the Trace in book 7, which implies that the Ministry CAN detect specific underage wizarding magic. My point is: how can Dumbledore do a whole bunch of magic in Privet Drive in this book and no one says a thing? (Similarly, we don't SEE Arthur Weasley use magic there in the beginning of book 4 but it is implied that he used magic to repair the living room.) Is it like a proximity thing, and it's just that Dobby was closer to Harry than Dumbledore was? Am I (definitely) spending more time trying to figure this out than JK Rowling did? Anyway, I like this book, Harry is kind of a doof but backstory and teen hijinks are entertaining and the end packs a wallop.

Sunday, August 06, 2017

2017 book 135

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
I feel like on past reads of this book, I have been like "ugh, Harry, you're so whiny and angsty, get your act together!" but this time was more like, man if Dumbledore had been willing to have an honest conversation or if Snape could get his head out of his own butt for five minutes (like, he must see that Harry is nothing like James Potter when they have their occlumency lessons, but he is still a grade-A jerkface to Harry)--well, let's just say I am much more sympathetic to Harry now and maintain that Dumbledore is kind of the worst. Him and his dumb trickling tear. Meanwhile, I really just want like one scene of Hermione having a conversation with her parents. They seem so supportive and nice but they never get one line in these books! Not really relevant, just so,etching I was thinking about.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

2017 book 134

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
I went to see Belle and Sebastian on Monday, when I had just started rereading this, and at one point they has a backdrop of old album covers and I had a very vivid memory of a college summer in the attic room of a rented yellow house, listening to Fold Your Hands Child, You Walk Like a Peasant, and rushing home from my summer job to read this for the very first time. And rereading it now is still just as thrilling and heartbreaking.

Monday, July 31, 2017

2017 book 133

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
And here is where the story really kicks it up a notch, and it's easy to just sit down and read the entire rest of the series from this point on. (Though am I the only one who thinks of Kate Beaton every time Sir Cadogan and his fat pony are mentioned?) But seriously, the temptation to stay up late to finish rereading this is REAL, and I have read this book easily 15-20 times before. Just gripping stuff. Though I do side-eye Harry for trying to kick a cat. Leave Crookshanks alone, ya big jerk. Of course, that is nothing compared to Snape in this book. That guy is really awful and no one will ever convince me otherwise. ANYway, Happy birthday, JK Rowling and Harry Potter!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

2017 book 132

J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
I guess I am back to rereading Harry Potter while I wait for the public library to have the budget for e-books again (massive sigh). But I mean, any reason is a good one to reread Harry Potter books, especially on Harry Potter weekend! I do admire how much Rowling laid the groundwork in the early books for everything that happens later--really solid details for sure.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

2017 book 131

Silvia Moreno-Garcia's The Beautiful Ones
I admit to being a little bit surprised by Moreno-Garcia's latest--it feels a little more conventional, a little more Western European, than her previous two novels (Signal to Noise and Certain Dark Things). It's set in what seems to be a historical Western Europe analogue, in a world where some people have telekinetic powers--including two of our main characters, a man who makes his living performing magic tricks (but like, actual magic) on stage, and a naive young woman who is interested in the natural sciences--and in him. The third point of this triangle is the performer's first love, a bitter woman who was forced to marry for money--to the naive girl's cousin. I read parts of this with dread because I honestly couldn't tell if it was the kind of book where things were going to work out or not, and I really liked the young girl character and worried about her. This was an enjoyable read, but it didn't feel that different from other books I've read (which means it will probably appeal to fans of like Mary Robinette Kowal). B+.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on October 4th.

2017 book 130

Leena Likitalo's The Five Daughters of the Moon
This is a pretty interesting fantasy novel--the first in a duology--inspired by the Russian Revolution and the Romanov children--only here, all five are girls (and the youngest is afflicted with something more magical), in a more matriarchal society, each of whom takes turns narrating the story of their crumbling empire. The Rasputin analogue here is even more disturbing than the real deal (trigger warnings for mind control and mentions of rape) but I loved all five sisters and their relationships, and am eager to read the sequel (out in November). B+.

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

2017 book 129

Kate Racculia's Bellweather Rhapsody
This was one of my favorite books of 2014, and I realized recently that I remembered almost nothing about it besides the first scene--where a little girl witnesses a murder-suicide at a hotel--and that the action takes place years later, when a girl goes missing from that same hotel room at a high school music competition thing. Which, I mean, is the bare bones plot! But it isn't really a mystery, it is more just a really compelling story about music and family and finding connections, and also trying to solve a mystery a little bit. I declare that this book HOLDS UP and also that it is set in 1997 and the pop culture references are on point.