Monthly Reads: March & April
As a symptom of owning a bookstore, I get asked often about what I’m currently reading. As a response to that, I thought I’d start a bi-monthly blog post listing the books I’ve read in the past month and brief thoughts/reviews on each one. These are by no means in-depth reviews; however, if you’re curious as to what I’m reading, it will alleviate that curiosity.
Note: I do include graphic novels. Some people think that’s cheating, but I say a book is a book.
As you read my lists, I truly hope you’re introduced to something new that you love.
For more suggestions and book lists, check out our 2018 Get Lit Reading Challenge.
I read 4 books in March, two novels and two graphic novels.
The Killing Moon by N.K. Jemisin
I love NK Jemisin, and this book was great! I liked the characters in it even better than the ones in the Broken Earth trilogy. The magic system of dreamblood was innovative and interesting, and the plot was adequate, but what really kept me reading was the characters. They were so real, and I felt for them so much. Also, this books wraps up very neatly, with no loose ends, so I’m interested in reading The Shadowed Sun, book two of this duology, to see how the story continues!
Pro tip: Buy the duology in one volume, it’s cheaper than buying the two individual books.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi **SF/F AND NOT-SO-YA BOOK CLUB PICK**
ISBN: 9781250170972 *IN STOCK AS OF THIS POSTING*
Harry Potter meets Black Panther in this phenomenal West African inspired novel. Adeyemi’s worldbuilding draws the reader in almost immediately, populating your brain with huge panthenaires, beautiful clothing, and rich scents, touching on every sense. She expertly weaves deft storytelling with Nigerian cultural history and larger themes like the violation of bodies, state-sponsored killing, community building, identity struggles, allyship, friendship, bondage and slavery, and gender roles. I have only two small criticisms of this book, for which I criticize almost all YA: Zelie’s internal dialogue of hating herself is a bit overdone (although I fully understood why, it felt a bit whiny to me at parts), and some of the romances in the book were unnecessary (although unlike most other YA, they did not feel forced). Overall, this book hits so many chords. The characters are realistic and believable, the worldbuilding is just phenomenal, the social undertones (and overtones) are on point, the plot is enthralling. I was enraptured from the start.
I wrote a full book review for this book, so if you want more in depth analysis, check it out.
Moonstruck, vol. 1 by Grace Ellis
ISBN: 9781534304772 *IN STOCK AS OF THIS POSTING*
I wanted to like this comic more than I did. I loved the artwork and the personalities of the characters, and I especially loved the diverse representation. The plot/story is simple and not really that exciting. I wanted to love it, and I just thought it was OK. It’s cute and funny at parts, and the art and characters are charming, which makes it worth reading. However, I think this would be an EXCELLENT choice for kids!
Redlands, vol. 1 by Jordie Bellaire
ISBN: 9781534305007 *IN STOCK AS OF THIS POSTING*
Like most first volumes, this is all story setup. You’re introduced to characters and shown their situations. It’s pretty graphic, both with violence and sex. I was led to believe this was a feminist comic, but I wouldn’t necessarily put it in that category. It’s true that all the main characters are strong women, but they’re portrayed as violent witches. Sex workers are treated as inhuman, and women are set up as a lot of the problem in this world. I think the idea is that the women aren’t the problem, they’re trying to *fix* the problems – but their idea of “fixing” involves taking over the police department and sacrificing younger women so they can live forever. Since comics don’t take long to read, I’d be willing to give this another volume, as maybe they’re setting it up like this for a reason. But don’t expect a feminist comic – expect a graphically violent and sexual comic with OK characters not yet well developed and a somewhat interesting plot.
My April reads included one novel, one graphic novel, one book of short stories, and two nonfiction books on writing.
Heavy Vinyl, vol. 1 by Carly Usdin
ISBN: 9781684151417 *IN STOCK AS OF THIS POSTING*
I absolutely loved volume 1 of this new comic! The main character, Chris, is an awkward teenager with anxiety issues (I could totally relate) who gets a super cool job at Vinyl Destination, the local record store, in 1998. She works with other awesome women in this music driven atmosphere, hoping that this dream job will help her figure out who she really is. All of the main characters are badass women who fight the patriarchy, know how to throw a punch, and are super intelligent. I got a great dose of nostalgia for the 90s, related to the characters in a big way, and got the beginnings of a mystery starting to unravel. I highly recommend this comic!
Obsidio by Amy Kaufman **NOT-SO-YA BOOK CLUB PICK**
ISBN: 9780553499193 *IN STOCK AS OF THIS POSTING*
This book is the third and final installment of the Illuminae Files series, which I enjoyed as a whole. The third book was action packed and fast paced, and the format of these books makes them quick and easy to read. It did start to feel repetitive in the third book, as each installment follows a teenage couple with largely similar traits. This last book also took a lot of suspension of disbelief, but I just went with it and tried not to think too hard about it. It did feel a bit anti-climactic, as the stakes were MUCH lower than they were in the second book. But if you’re look for a quick, fun, non-thought provoking read, this series is for you.
Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang **SF/F BOOK CLUB PICK**
ISBN: 9781101972120 *IN STOCK AS OF THIS POSTING*
I can understand why this short story collection is highly lauded and why a lot of the stories included have won awards. It’s SUPER high concept, pretty hard core sci-fi, but it’s also firmly rooted in the world we live in. Although the stories are very different, the thread that connects them all (outside of science) is that humanity is unpredictable. Every story poses a “what if” question about humanity that will truly make you think about life. The concepts Chiang presents in his stories are equally fascinating and haunting. If you think too much about them, you’ll be utterly horrified. But while you’re reading the stories, you’ll get so caught up in the explanations of the concepts and how smart and interesting they are that you won’t remember to be terrified.
My criticism of Chiang is almost the same as my praise: his concepts overtake the stories so much that they render his characters and plots flat and invisible. I couldn’t tell you much about any of the main characters of his stories, and none of the stories have much of a plot, but I could talk for days about the ideas he presented and the structures he employs to present them. I think this is fine, though, because honestly, the concepts and ideas are so fascinating that I didn’t much care about the characters or plots of the stories. If you want to THINK and/or have an interest in pondering heavy life questions and the future of humanity, read Ted Chiang’s riveting, fascinating, unexplainable stories.
Writing the Other by Nisi Shawl & Cynthia Ward
This very short writing book was published in 2005 and is arguably even more relevant today. It lays the foundation for anyone to examine their own biases, particularly in their writing, and gives practical writing exercises and advice to overcome those biases. I would say this book is required reading for any writer who wants to ensure they are not doing real-life harm in building their characters.
Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer
This is a must-read book for writers of any type of speculative fiction, and authors of literary fiction can learn a lot from this book as well. Vandermeer pairs weird illustrations with writing advice on worldbuilding, plot, character, and revision (among other things), offers excellent writing exercises, and got some amazing SF/F writers to contribute essays and short passages. It’s easy to get lost just in the appendix, where talk of LARPing, gaming, and Game of Thrones will make you lose sight of the fact that you’re reading a book about writing. I found this book immensely helpful and fascinating, and I highly recommend it to all writers if you’re looking to improve your craft!
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