Saturday, May 19, 2018

2018 book 84

Nisha Sharma's My So-Called Bollywood Life
Look, this is a fairly typical contemporary YA romance--cute characters, somewhat contrived issues, inevitability, occasionally awkward writing--with Indian main characters and a lot of Bollywood references (the protagonist loves Bollywood films and has a movie review blog, and wants to go to film school), plus a whole fortune-telling prophecy aspect. The love interest was perhaps a bit too perfect (but very likable), and I loved the protagonist's family (particularly her grandmother), but I kept wishing the story would just hurry up and get on with it. B.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

2018 book 83

Laurie J. Marks' Water Logic
The third book in Marks' Elemental Logic series continues the trend of being great and engrossing, if also occasionally weird and confusing (although the ending here made all the previous stuff work really well). Now we just have to wait for the conclusion. A/A-.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

2018 book 82

Laurie J. Marks' Earth Logic
It is such a joy to just be completely wrapped up in a story and its world, even if you're not sure how things are going to turn out and things are sad along the way. The second book in this series is just as engaging and interesting as the first, if slightly weirder and occasionally more confusing. But I love this world and these characters and the sense of kindness and generosity and optimism in it all. Great stuff. A/A-.

Monday, May 14, 2018

2018 book 81

Laurie J. Marks' Fire Logic
This has been on my to-read list for a long time, but based on the description, I assumed it was the usual formulaic YA magic sort of story--when it is nothing of the sort. For one thing, most of the characters are super gay, which is unremarkable in this world, and for another, it's all just really smart and slyly funny. It's got the usual magic users and war and politics stuff in the mix, but the plot never goes where you think it will. I loved how found families were portrayed, and how they all work on healing themselves and each other. This book was a little bit weird and a lot awesome, and I can't wait to read the next in the series. A.

Content warning for brief references to rape.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

2018 book 80

AJ Pearce's Dear Mrs Bird
This story--about a young woman living in London during WWII, who wants to be a Lady War Correspondent but accidentally takes a job at a women's magazine working for the brusque advice columnist, and starts secretly answering readers' letters—was delightful and heartbreaking in equal measure. I liked that there was plenty of war torn London, and a little bit of wartime romance, but that the main deal was the relationship between the protagonist and her best friend. Lady friends forever! Anyway, I liked this a lot. A-.

Friday, May 11, 2018

2018 book 79

Rumaan Alam's That Kind of Mother
This is the kind of book where, the whole time you're reading, a voice in the back of your head is going "wooooow" for the writing, but also is terrified for the characters because everything feels so precarious. The story centers on Rebecca, a new mother in the 1980s, a white woman, who lures a kind and experienced La Leche consultant, Priscilla, away from the hospital to be her new nanny. And later on, Priscilla becomes pregnant--and dies in childbirth--and Rebecca adopts the baby--who is black. Alam touches on privilege (Rebecca is both white and wealthy, a poet), race and class issues, motherhood, and so many other important things, but never in a didactic way. The story is sometimes slow moving but not in a frustrating way--it feels lived in. It's also a trenchant look at our current political climate and maybe a blistering indictment of well-meaning white liberalism? There are a lot of layers to tease out here but this work is a tour de force. A slow burning scorcher of a novel. A.

Sunday, May 06, 2018

2018 book 78

E.K. Johnston's Star Wars: Ahsoka
I’ve been binging Star Wars: Rebels this weekend, and I was vaguely familiar with Ashoka from the Internet, but was curious enough about her backstory that I wanted to read this novel about her adventures between the Clone Wars and her joining the rebellion (plus. Johnston is an excellent author). I imagine if you have actually watched the Clone Wars cartoon, there is not a ton of new info here, but I found it to be an enjoyable Star Wars story with a badass heroine (plus yay for girls crushing on girls and sisters sticking up for each other). A-.

Saturday, May 05, 2018

2018 book 77

Martha Wells' Artificial Condition 
Yayyyyyyy more Murderbot stories! This second volume picks up pretty much where the first left off, with the rogue Murderbot on a mission to find out about its past—with the help of a talented (and nebbishy) spaceship (I am so into spaceship AI characters, please recommend some more to me). As with the first one, the writing and pacing here are on point—I often wish novellas felt more robust but this is a perfectly entertaining and discrete story. Can’t wait for the next one. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on Tuesday.

Friday, May 04, 2018

2018 book 76

R.F. Kuang's The Poppy War
This is the first of a new trilogy that is getting a ton of buzz--it's a really well-written fantasy story set in a world much like early 20th Century China. It centers on Rin, a war orphan, who works herself to the bone to make her way to an elite school, where she will learn to be a military leader--and learn from a mysterious, eccentric shaman that some folklore is real. And then she must decide whether to heed her teacher, or do anything to get power for her country. Parts of this were a bit slow, and the war scenes were just awful and brutal to read (trigger warnings for descriptions of rape and torture). It also ends in a fairly grim place. I am curious to see where the story goes, though, so will probably read the next volume when it’s released. B+.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

2018 book 75

Michelle Markowitz and Caroline Moss' Hey Ladies!
When I first read the Hey Ladies columns in The Toast, I thought they were hilariously over the top—but subsequent life experience has shown me that it’s actually a spot on parody (ok, maybe it actually is sliiiightly over the top). This book is I think all new content, chronicling a year in the lives of our eight Hey Ladies via their group email chains and texts. I basically cackled the entire time I was reading this. I will say that the way it is formatted means it’s probably better to grab this in print or read it on something like an iPad, just as an FYI. Super hilarious all around. A/A-.

Sunday, April 29, 2018

2018 book 74

Britta Lundin's Ship It
First of all, I am super here for more cute YA books about girls in fandom, and this was mostly a very cute one. It centers on a teen girl who is involved with the fandom of a particular tv show, where she writes fic shipping the two male leads—and then they come to a local con and she asks about the characters' relationships, and one of the actors shoots her down. So the struggling show's PR team rigs a contest to have her accompany them on their convention circuit and hopefully get some good press. Meanwhile, she is super intrigued by a cute girl she met at the con and is trying to figure out what is up there. I liked that the POV is divided between her and the actor—who is frankly more sympathetic some of the time (she is needlessly cruel on occasion, but in an angry teen way). I liked this a lot—very fun story and I wouldn’t object to a follow up. A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on Tuesday.

2018 book 73

Anne Tyler's Clock Dance
Tyler's books are generally satisfying to me—and I liked this one even more than her last couple—but describing their plots never makes them sound as good as they are. Is this why more domestic stories are looked down on, because why they’re so magical is just something that has to be experienced? This one centers on a woman at various points in her life, in 1967, 1977, 1997, and primarily in 2017, when a confused phone call finds her caring for a family across the country. Anyway, I thought this was a very well done story, and the description doesn’t get at how large it really is. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released in July.

Thursday, April 26, 2018

2018 book 72

Becky Albertalli's Leah on the Offbeat
HOW does Becky Albertalli write the CUTEST and best books. Leah was one of my favorite characters from Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda, so I was so excited that the sequel book—which finds the kids on the verge of high school graduation, and Leah struggling to come out to her friends as bi—focused on her. This is more delightful nerdery (Leah has a fan art tumblr and is obsessed with Harry Potter and Sailor Moon, and so now you know why she is my fave, she's also a music snob and I love it) with a super charming narrative voice. Anyway, this was great and you should read it. A/A-.

2018 book 71

Kevin Kwan's Rich People Problems
The third book in Kwan's trilogy is more of the super fun, over-the-top same, and I love it. Satisfying resolutions to most of the many story arcs, and I would not complain if Kwan wanted to revisit these characters/this world.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

2018 book 70

Kevin Kwan's China Rich Girlfriend
I swear, these books are just ADDICTIVE. Several books I have been eagerly anticipating came out this week, but as soon as I finished rereading Crazy Rich Asians I immediately dove into this one instead. This one is slightly more overwrought/cheesy (more noticeable on a second read) but still VERY entertaining, as Rachel and Nick have more hilarious. high-rolling, high stakes adventures. Team Astrid for life, though.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 book 69

Kevin Kwan's Crazy Rich Asians
The trailer for the movie was released yesterday, which of course made me want to reread the whole trilogy! I had to fight not to stay up super late last night to read it all in one sitting, because it is that fun and engrossing EVEN THOUGH I HAVE READ IT BEFORE. Kwan has a great sense of plot and timing, he's wickedly funny, and he makes you care about the characters. I can't wait to see them all on the big screen.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

2018 book 68

Jessica Day George's The Rose Legacy
A new book by Jessica Day George is always a treat, and this was an especially charming fantasy story, centered on a girl who's been shuffled from relative to relative all her life, and now she's being sent to live with an uncle who lives outside her kingdom, where she learns that much of what she knows is a lie. Also there are some amazing HORSES. Like there is a horse POV character who made me cry more than once. If you want to read an awesome fantasy horse girl book, get this immediately. I have no idea if this is the first in a series or not, but I fervently hope it is. A/A-.

A review copy was provided by the publisher. This book will be released on May 1st.  

2018 book 67

Margery Sharp's The Nutmeg Tree
My usual review will be prefaced with a bit of a story; bear with me. I recently read this NYT essay about Sharp, and remembered that this book had been on my to-read list at some point, and then a bunch of Sharp's books went on e-book sale and I bought this (and several others). As soon as I started reading, I recognized the humorous scene opening scene and was puzzled—when had I read this and why hadn’t I finished it? And then, this:

So then I remembered why I stopped last time. But that essay was fresh in my mind and I really did want to read something light and a bit silly—which this, a story about a flighty sort of woman whose daughter summons her to help convince her grandmother to let her get married, and hijinks ensue—was. I mean, aside from some weird comments about Armenians, and a rather abrupt ending. How do I grade a book that is charming except for some casual bigotry? B?