PopSugar – February

My dedication to timely completing all book challenges this year is paying off. I hit and passed the halfway mark for PopSugar in February. I’ve been trying to stay focused on challenge books instead of being lured by the siren’s song of every other book. If I can finish the main list of 40 books by the end of April, I will be thrilled.

Kindred by Octavia Butler
#5 – Author is person of color
I loved Octavia Butler’s Xenogenesis/Lillith’s Brood trilogy, so I thought I would give another one of her books a try. Time travel is one of my preferred genres, and the concept of Kindred seemed interesting – a modern African American woman traveling back to antebellum Maryland multiple times for the purpose of keeping her white, slaveholding ancestor alive. Dana’s journeys were fascinating and horrifying. She had to learn to navigate the reality of being a slave while attempting to keep herself psychologically separate from it.

The Marvels by Brian Selznick
#7 – A story within a story
I was absolutely in love with the book for the first 400 pages (the illustrated story), and then the prose section happened. The prose story was well-written, but it ruined the magic created by the illustrations. I felt like the rug had been pulled out from under me when the connection between the two stories was revealed. Ultimately, though, it was a beautiful story. A sad story, but a beautiful one.

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
#8 – Multiple authors
I remember hearing about this book before it came out, and thought it sounded interesting, but not one I would ever read. While it was a fun, tongue-in-cheek fantastical reimagining of how Lady Jane Grey became queen, it was also trite, mired in tropes and clichés, suffered from a lack of solid rules of magic, and had many moments of characters behaving stupidly.

Casino Royale by Ian Fleming
#9 – Espionage
I grew up loving James Bond (especially Sean Connery), and both of my parents were fans of the books/movies. Espionage isn’t really my genre of choice, but I figured giving Bond a go wouldn’t be too awful. It’s definitely a book of its time, especially in how women are treated. I prefer the movies, even though I know they are equally sexist.

Feed by Mira Grant (Seanan McGuire)
#11 – Author uses pseudonym
A blood and guts zombie book, this is not. It is political espionage set against the backdrop of a post-zombie apocalypse world. Blogger journalists are part of the staff, covering a presidential candidate on the campaign trail, and end up uncovering a conspiracy. Aspects of it are eerily similar to some of the behind-the-scenes machinations going on in current politics.

El Deafo by Cece Bell
#13 – Author/MC has disability
This felt like a down-to-earth telling about Cece Bell’s experience as a child, warts and all. I can’t imagine the social intricacies of navigating elementary and middle school while wearing a phonic ear, the frustrations of dying batteries, or dealing with people treating you like a small child who equate lack of hearing with a lack of competency.

Eleventh Grave in Midnight by Darynda Jones
#16 – Book published in 2017
I really enjoy this series (though I don’t recommend binge reading/listening as the character flaws tend to be overwhelming). Charlie is still willingly obtuse and complains about not understanding how to use her powers, even though she doesn’t make an effort to figure them out. Uncle Bob and Reyes are still keeping secrets from her in the name of “protection”, and then keep getting mad at her when she doesn’t do what they want her to. That being said, Charlie finally, finally started to experiment with her powers, and Reyes finally, finally started showing her how to use them. We also got to learn more about Reyes’ past, which was good. But the overall series plot didn’t advance much.

Rolling in the Deep by Mira Grant
#17 – Involving a mythical creature
My sister has been after me for a long while to read this, and I finally broke down because I realized it fit a needed category. I’ve read books by Seanan McGuire, but found them to not really be my thing (even though I’m a fan of urban fantasy). However, I absolutely loved Rolling in the Deep. Yes, you already know how the book is going to end before it even starts – that’s kind of the point. What makes the story fun and exciting is how it gets there. She did a fantastic job with her mermaids. No buxom beauties here, but instead, highly evolved deep sea predators.

The Bees by Laline Paull
#21 – Book from a nonhuman perspective
The Bees was a quick read, and held my attention, though I was still able to put the book down. The hive was a religious dystopian society, and completely non-human (and completely non Nature Channel). How the bees interacted, how they were controlled by the Queen and Sages, was fascinating. The worldbuilding was a little uneven at times, specifically with regard to the anthropomorphization of the bees. However, it was an enjoyable read.

The Diabolical Miss Hyde by Viola Carr
#22 – Steampunk
Steampunk has been one of my favorite genres since I stumbled upon Soulless by Gail Carriger almost five years ago, so finding a book for this challenge consisted of pulling from an already long TBR list of steampunk titles. I liked the riff on Jekyll and Hyde, but the the pacing was off and there was a lack of plot focus – too much going on. Neither plot nor characters were captivating.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
#27 – Title is character’s name
This book was much shorter than I expected it to be. Given how the book was written, it wouldn’t have worked in a longer format. It had a dreamlike quality to it, and was disjointed, offering fairly superficial snippets of Margaret’s life instead of in-depth narration. That being said, the style fit with her personality of never quite behaving the way an adult should.

Desert Queen: The Extraordinary Life of Gertrude Bell: Adventurer, Adviser to Kings, Ally of Lawrence of Arabia by Janet Wallach
#32 – Book about an interesting woman
Getrude Bell was a very singular woman, and had an incredibly solid understanding of the geopolitical climate of the Middle East. She also had strong personal connections with many of the region’s powerful men. There are definite parallels between how Great Britain et al. wanted to reshape the Middle East after WWI, and how current international relations with the Middle East stand.

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