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review 2018-06-07 17:36
Wake of Vultures by Lila Bowen
Wake of Vultures - Lila Bowen

I’ll begin with a disclaimer: this isn’t my type of book, though from its marketing I thought it might be. First, because while it has a fantasy plotline, the setting and tone are more horror-tinged paranormal, full of monsters and gruesomeness. Second, because it really is a young-adult novel, in the sense of being an easy-to-read, action-oriented adventure populated by simplified characters and featuring a 16-year-old Chosen One who is unrealistically functional for her age and life experience, with a heavy emphasis on People Are Different and That’s Okay. Adding a couple of sexual assault scenes doesn’t make an adult novel of something not written in an adult register; it just means your YA is dark and risqué.

At any rate, this book follows a standard fantasy plotline: Nettie, a mistreated orphan of mysterious parentage who is shunned in her town, discovers supernatural powers, loses her mentor, learns she is the Chosen One, and goes on a quest to defeat an evil villain. The setting is interesting – an alternate version of the Old West, specifically Texas around the 1870s – and the author tries hard to make the book diverse: Nettie is part-black, part-native, bisexual, and genderqueer. This effort is in my view only moderately successful: the characterization overall is not particularly deep or complex; Nettie doesn’t have any consensual sexual encounters or a relationship; and Nettie’s racial heritage functions mostly just as the reason people are occasionally mean to her. She was raised by white people and the only important non-white characters in the book are two native siblings who, in the traditional role of irritating fantasy allies, are much more knowledgeable, skilled and committed than the protagonist but inexplicably pop in and out of the story rather than sticking around long enough to be helpful, presumably because if they simply took over the quest there wouldn’t be much action left for the clueless young protagonist. But this is better than including no diversity at all.

It’s an action/adventure type of book, with a cliffhanger at the end of every chapter and even a literal one at the end of the novel (I read the preview of the sequel online to satisfy my curiosity, which does not extend to reading another book). The narrative is full of “cowboy” talk: “The Rangers were doing their level best to give off an air of relaxation and ease, but any feller with sense could see that underneath the calm they were jittery as junebugs at a jaybird party.” At least the author has committed to her setting.

Overall, this isn’t a book that did much for me; I’d have appreciated more interesting characters or a plot that contained more than a quest to kill a monster, with something or other attacking our heroes every chapter. But if you like dark paranormal YA with a dash of horror and don’t mind the standard fantasy plot, this book may well be for you.

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text 2018-01-01 06:00
December Books

 I read 34 books for December. 11 were audiobooks and 12 were graphic novels. I had a few not-so-great reads, but the majority were 4 stars or above. Not a bad way to end the year.

 

 

5 Stars

Now I Rise (The Conqueror's Trilogy) - Kiersten White Moxie: A Novel - Jennifer Mathieu  

 

4.5 Stars

Forest of a Thousand Lanterns - Julie C. Dao  Girls Made of Snow and Glass - Melissa Bashardoust  DC Comics: Bombshells (2015-2017) Vol. 5: The Death of Illusion - Marguerite Bennett,Elsa Charretier,Laura Braga,Mirka Andolfo  

 

4 Stars

I Can't Make This Up: Life Lessons - Kevin Hart,Neil Strauss  The Gatekeepers - Jen Lancaster  Renegades - Marissa Meyer  Goldie Vance Vol. 3 - Hope Larson,Jackie Ball,Brittney Williams,Noah Hayes,Sarah Stern  SLAM! Vol. 1 - Pamela Ribon,Veronica Fish  Scythe - Neal Shusterman  The Empress - S.J. Kincaid  This Mortal Coil - Emily Suvada  Wonder Woman Vol. 4: Godwatch (Rebirth) - Greg Rucka,Liam Sharp  The Black Witch - Laurie Forest  The Power of Moments: Why Certain Experiences Have Extraordinary Impact - Chip Heath,Dan Heath  Tokyo Ghoul, Volume 1 - Sui Ishida  It's All Relative: Adventures Up and Down the World’s Family Tree - A. J. Jacobs  Giant Days Vol. 1 - Whitney Cogar,Lissa Treiman,John Allison  Giant Days Vol. 2 - Max Sarin,Lissa Treiman,John Allison  Giant Days Vol. 3 - John Allison,Max Sarin  Giant Days Vol. 4 - John Allison,Max Sarin,Liz Fleming,Whitney Cogar,Jim Campbell  I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter - Erika L. Sánchez  Animosity Volume 1 - Marguerite Bennett,Mike Marts  

 

3.5 Stars

Textrovert - Lindsey Summers  Ten Thousand Skies Above You (Firebird) - Claudia Gray  That Inevitable Victorian Thing - E. Russell Johnston Jr.  First We Were IV - Alexandra Sirowy  Learning to Swear in America - Katie Kennedy  

 

3 Stars

Dream On (The Silver Trilogy) - Kerstin Gier,Anthea Bell Release - Patrick Ness  

 

2.5 Stars

27 Hours - Tristina Wright  America Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez - Gabby Rivera,Joe Quinones  Cave Carson Has a Cybernetic Eye Vol. 1: Going Underground (Young Animal) - Gerard Way,Jon Rivera,Michael Avon Oeming  

 

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text 2017-12-30 14:51
December Wrap-up
Old Celtic Romances - P.W. Joyce
Sigil Witchery: A Witch's Guide to Crafting Magick Symbols - Laura Tempest Zakroff
Fairies:: A Guide to the Celtic Fair Folk - Morgan Daimler
Dreamtime Dragons - Nils Visser
The Grand Phantom - Harold Cloninger
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens
Plum Dandi Knits: Simple Designs for Luxury Yarns - Alicia Plummer,Melissa Schaschwary
The Mermaid and Mrs Hancock - Imogen Hermes Gowar
The Toy Makers - Robert Dinsdale
About Time: Einstein's Unfinished Revolution - Paul Davies

Yes, there's one more day but although I'm getting close to finishing Uprooted by Naomi Novik, I definitely won't be finishing any other books before January 1st.

 

I seem to have given myself a lot of non-fiction to read this month. Mostly from Netgalley.

 

I expect to finish Uprooted between today and tomorrow so I'm counting 11 books for the month. Not bad for me!

 

The stand out ones besides Uprooted (which I'm really enjoying) would be The Toy Makers and the Dreamtime Dragons Anthology. Both have given me a lot of reading pleasure. I enjoyed the re-reading of A Christmas Carol too. 5 of the books are non-fiction so only a couple of meh books.

 

I also got through some of the samples backlog again. I've only got about 80 left. I collected a LOT over Halloween!

 

I still have some non-fiction reads in progress so that may slow me down for January reading, but I seem to be averaging more in a month than I used to. I blame all of you.

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review 2017-12-29 22:16
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid
Exit West - Mohsin Hamid

This is a fantastic novella. It’s a parable of globalization, but its brilliance is in rendering real, three-dimensional characters even from a brief scene or description.

Exit West is set in the modern world, beginning in an unnamed Middle Eastern country on the brink of civil war, where two young people meet in a classroom and are propelled by circumstances into a premature intimacy. The difference between this book and the real world is that when Nadia and Saeed – and millions of others around the world – decide to flee or to immigrate, they do so by way of doors that randomly appear and allow teleportation from one part of the globe to another.

Some have criticized this decision for erasing the harrowing travel that is a hallmark of many real-world refugee experiences, which it does. But I don’t think telling the story of refugees is Hamid’s primary goal, though it is part of the book. The doorways allow him to speed up globalization, take the world’s growing interconnectedness to its breaking point in a brief span of time, and ask big questions about what how world will look in the decades to come, with ever quicker travel combined with massive disparities in wealth and security. How much sense do borders really make in today’s world and the world of the future? Can we afford to limit our focus to our own countries? What happens as people continue to flee from poor and war-torn parts of the world to Europe and the U.S. – how will richer countries respond and be changed?

There’s a lot packed into this short book, measuring over 200 pages only due to generous margins and spacing, as well as two blank pages between each chapter. But what holds it together is the vitality, complexity and humanity of the characters, our protagonists and the people they encounter as well as the characters we briefly meet in vignettes from all over the world. The book can sometimes be hard to read, especially for long stretches, because the characters’ circumstances are often tough, and when they are as real as people you know, it’s impossible not to care. Then too, the writing is excellent: not flowery, but assured, every word in the right place.

Overall, a fantastic book, with great characters, an involving story and a lot of food for thought. And while the subject matter can be difficult, it never becomes hopeless. I highly recommend it.

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review 2017-12-19 16:36
Wild Beauty / Anna-Marie McLemore
Wild Beauty - Anna-Marie McLemore

For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.

The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.

 

What person who has ever gardened wouldn’t rejoice to have the talents of the Nomeolvides family? They have flower power just waiting in their hands and when they touch soil, lush plants in full bloom appear magically. No waiting for things to grow and fill in, no waiting period!

But there is a price to be paid and it’s a steep one. The women (and they are all female) can never leave this estate and if they fall deeply in love, their lovers eventually magically disappear. This leads to stunted relationships, as the women fear to fully engage their emotions. The youngest generation, the girls just coming into their own, make a sacrifice to the land, hoping to deflect this destructive love-magic, and a young man appears in their garden. He can’t remember his name or where he has come from, but his presence changes the balance of things.

Watching the family negotiate these changes is engrossing—there are some rather heavy-handed “morals” worked into the story, but one needn’t dwell on them. There’s the rich/poor dichotomy, a definite message about caring for the earth and for other people. Not bad messages, just rather blatant.

And that cover? I’d be happy to own a copy of the book just for that lovely cover!

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