Quick Review: Defy Me by Tahereh Mafi

The second book in a trilogy is always a difficult one and this one is no different. I felt it was a little uneven. It first felt a little slow in the beginning and then lose it’s momentum in the end. This was also difficult because this book really lays out all the abuse and trauma that Juliette/Ella has been put through by the Reestablishment. So much of her young life had been taken from her and not just from her but Warner and the other children of the World commanders. It’s very heartbreaking everything that she has been through and everything that continued to be done to her, her sister and friends. I really enjoyed the chapters in Kenji’s POV and was sad when they stop halfway through. MORE KENJI. The ending was sweet but also kinda cruel because for a brief moment they all were in peace that we all know will not last long. So it wasn’t t he best book in the series but it was a good set up to what is to come and reminder of all that is at stack from them.

What I’m Listening to Now: What if it’s Us by Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

I have this audiobook courtesy of one of my local libraries. Huzzah! This is the pick for this month’s teen book group at the local Barnes and Noble (that is attended entirely by adults, many of whom are either employees or former employees, so the discussions are excellent). The meeting is next week, so I have to get a wiggle on with this one. (Which is both exciting and annoying because I’m really into Pachinko right now.)

Quick Review: Lethal White by Robert Galbraith

Lethal White is the fourth Cormoran Strike novel and it begins with Cormoran being visited by a mentally ill young man named Billy who tells him about a murder he believes he witnessed as a child. Before Strike can get into the specifics, Billy flees the office and sends Strike, and his partner Robin Ellacott, on a mission to satisfy his own need to make sure that Billy is okay and that no one is getting away with murder. The tale weaves in and out of London. It ends up at protests (it is set before the London Olympics) and in the Houses of Parliament. It reintroduces characters from Strike’s past. The mystery, in the end, felt a little forced. Or, maybe that Strike just can’t let some things go felt forces. I don’t know. I didn’t love this. In fact, now that it has tied up some story lines relating to Robin and her partner Matthew, I may be done with this book series. We’ll see. I do still very much like both Robin and Cormoran. If you really loved the previous books, I say give this one a go, but if you were only so-so on them, I’d say pick something up you are more interested in.

Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

I’ve really dragged my feet on writing this review because I loved this book so much that I wasn’t quite sure what to say about it. It is the story of Circe, the famous witch from the Odyssey. ONLY SHE IS SO MUCH MORE THAN THAT! This book follows Circe’s life from its beginning to its end and through it we are introduced to so many other stories in Greek mythology. I liked the writing. I liked Circe’s voice. I liked that this character, who I knew from someone else’s story as a minor character, is given her own voice and her own agency and is put at the center of her own narrative. I want more of that in stories. Where are these stories? Send me more of these stories please.

This was so good. Just so good. Ugh. I might actually re-read it again soon, that’s how much a liked it.

Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

I fell in love with the premise of this book immediately. A crew of woman sailors out for revenge against the regime that killed or hurt their families. It just seemed like the book I needed to read right now. Caledonia Styx, the captain is a flawed heroine for sure but she is also a good leader. Wracked with guilt after hesitating to kill the Bullet, member of the so called Army that rules the oceans, that lead to the death of her own family. She builds her ship and crew along with her friend Pieces. Many of her decisions on her personal desire to kill this one Bullet and this at times clouds her judgment. The weight of being the Captain and responsible for the lives of her crew members weighs heavily on her as their mission becomes more and more dangerous. After taking on one enemies ship they take on a Bullet. She doesn’t trust him but he offers her information that she can’t deny and things start moving very fast.

From the very beginning this book was intense. I could feel the tension that the characters were feeling throughout their journey. The story is in Caledonia’s point of view and we get a glimpsed of a determined but also conflicted girl. She is a born leader and has the complete loyalty of her crew but has so many doubts and fears that she can’t see it. Almost the entire book , Pieces tells her how much she needs to let go and trust that her crew has her back and just when I thought the message got through, she does something stupid but I won’t go into that because that would spoil the end. That’s the beauty of this book. It really is about female friendship. Caledonia only succeeds because of the crew she assembled and that’s a powerful message. Often girls are taught to be in competition with each other but we can be so much stronger together. All of the characters are fully fleshed out. We don’t get as much of their back story but we get full character traits and that each girl is their own person. In the upcoming books, I hope we get more of her crew and where they came from and how they joined the crew. I really loved this book and happy and sad that it’s a trilogy because I don’t want to journey to end but I also want to read the next book like right now.

Review: The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

This was an impulse grab that I picked up at the library wayyyy back in January for 24 in 48. I’d read Junot Díaz before, but this is the book that he seems to be known for so I figured it was time that I read it. It tells the story of Oscar de León, nicknamed Oscar Wao, and his family in the Dominican Republic under Rafael Trujillo. The novel is really interesting, the narrative is given by two narrators, Yunior is the main narrator and there are some first-person interjections from Lola, Oscar’s sister. I had to look up a little background, I know very little about the Caribbean (or the US’s interventions in the Caribbean…) but I don’t think you necessarily need to do that in order to appreciate the novel. There is a lot of code-switching into Spanish, which I felt really helped you keep a sense of place in the narrative. And, Oscar is so. very. nerdy. So nerdy. There are geeky references aplenty in the story. I really enjoyed that. There was a little misogyny in the narrative that rubbed me the wrong way (but that’s not a problem of the novel but a wider problem. I was particularly troubled by it in the geeky references…but again, I’m particularly bothered by it in geek culture in general.)

I really enjoyed The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I’m really happy that I read it.

Review: Chronicles of a Radical Hag (With Recipes) by Lorna Landvik

This is the story of Haze Evans, a columnist at a local paper, who suffers a sudden stroke. Saddened by this tragic event happening to their friend, and unsure about what to do with her column at the paper, the staff decide to go back to the archives and run Haze’s columns (and some of the responses) from when she first started writing for the paper. This novel was a touching look into the town of Granite Rock, Minnesota.

The novel was a little slower than I would have liked. But, the only thing that I have to compare it to recently is Readers of Broken Wheel Recommend, and it was definitely faster paced than that. Also, the writing was much tighter, which I appreciated. I really enjoyed meeting all of the characters and watching the different relationships grow and be illuminated. I’m a soppy, kind of water-works sort of person, so I did cry a few times reading this. I think the best part of the story, though, is Sam’s growth through the novel. Sam is an intern (and the son of the editor) who comes to work for the summer and is assigned the task of helping to sort through the columns and responses. Because the columns start in the ’60s and come forward in time to 2016, a lot of ground is covered and a lot of touchy subjects in American history also make an appearance. I felt like the novel treated the subjects it raised humanely and with dignity and that it really touching to read.

If you like stories that take you through a town, then this is a novel for you. It was touching, well-written, and enjoyable.

I got this book as an ARC from edelweiss.

Quick Review: Early Riser by Jasper Fforde

This is an interesting piece of speculative fiction in which humans hibernate in winter. Set in Wales, it follows Charlie Worthing as he joins the Winter Consuls, a group of folks who elect to change their hibernation period so that they can be up during winter to look after the people regularly hibernating. In this world, a company has patented a drug that allows people to hibernate without dreams, which has helped people make it through the hibernation period in greater numbers, which has been great for society. The downside is, a small number of people wake up from hibernation with the drug as nightwalkers, essentially brain dead (and often violent) but sometimes with enough function to be trained to do odd jobs. Charlie has to survive his first winter solving a mystery, facing villains, and avoiding fairy tale WinterVolk.

This was really entertaining. I enjoyed the world that it was set in (and, I’m always here for books set in Wales that implies that all of the community is primarily Welsh speaking). I liked the exploration of what it would be like if humans hibernated. That was really interesting. There were a few conceits that did not work for me, but in general this book was an excellent escape from reality.