What started out as a post for my January Read Harder books changed as my reading goal quickly escalated to an attempt to complete the entire challenge before my semester starts on January 29th. At that point, any reading not related to my classes will most likely be confined audiobooks listened to during my commute and household chores.
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
#3 – Genre fiction classic
This is the second audiobook I’ve listened to narrated by Michael York, and I’ve realized that I don’t like his narration style. He is too whiny with some of his interpretations. I’ve also realized that I am incredibly cynical and jaded in that I found John the Savage to be annoying and overly self-righteous. I had very little sympathy for him given how judgemental he was towards Lenina. Other than those annoyances, the book is good – remembering that it was written in 1931, and many of the technologies/ideas discussed didn’t exist or were in their infancy. There are definite parallels to our modern world: drugs/soma to get rid of unwanted emotions, and the blatant push towards consumerism.
Rocket Robinson and the Pharaoh’s Fortune by Sean O’Neill
#4 – Comic written and illustrated by the same person
I had trouble with this comic’s use randomly bolded words. It made it hard to read book, and it took me until a third of the way through to stop seeing them. It really ruined the flow of the story given that so many words were unnecessarily emphasized. Rocket as a character was somewhat annoying, but that’s my personal thing rather than a flaw on how he was written. I did like the adventure of the story though. It reminded me of Tintin.
River of Teeth and Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey
#7 – Western
Because both novellas are being rolled into one book, American Hippo, I decided to read both of them for this task. I will get my largest complaint out of the way first – there weren’t enough hippos, or at least, not enough feral hippos. Both novellas felt like unfinished parts of a whole. There were the seeds of an awesome novel, but it didn’t feel fleshed out. I would have liked more page time for the overall evil machinator, which would have tied the two halves together. I liked the characters, but didn’t really get to know any of them. Basically, this is a solid draft of what could be a kick-ass novel if it were ramped up and expanded a bit.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
#8 – Comic written or illustrated by person of color
I really liked the concept of the magical shawl and Pri having to deal with some serious life changes. However, it didn’t feel like there was a cohesive narrative. Pri was dealing with jealous of over her uncle and aunt’s baby, her mom’s unwillingness to talk about either India or Pri’s father, and the magical shawl she found in a suitcase. While there was some unity through the shawl, it didn’t feel like various elements really got resolved. When I finished, I was still questioning how Pri got over her jealousy, or how her mom’s sister handled the shawls visions of her daughter/husband. It felt like the narrative flitted from one topic to the next without there being something at the end of the story that tied it all together. There was a sort ending with the shawl being shown to help another woman, but no real closure for Pri.
Destiny’s Captive by Beverly Jenkins
#10 – Romance novel written by/about person of color
Even if you are not partial to romance novels, Destiny’s Captive was a fun book, and it lacks in-depth sex scenes, noted because that can be a deterrent to some readers. It had great opening, and the back-and-forth early dynamic between Noah and Pilar was entertaining. I liked that Pilar was a strong character without the stupid decisions/misunderstandings female leads have a tendency to make in romance novels. My only complaint was that at times it felt like things were too rosy – Pilar’s quick acceptance of her marriage to Noah, and Pilar’s acceptance into the Yates clan.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming
#11 – Children’s classic published before 1980
I grew up watching Bond movies, and have read Casino Royale, but never did I realize that Ian Fleming had written a children’s book. I have never seen the movie, so I didn’t have to worry about disappointment that comes from reading the book a favored childhood movie is based upon (cough, cough Bedknob and Broomstick). The story was fun and straight forward, and I liked that it was an adventure with only enough magic to give Chitty Chitty Bang Bang her abilities.
The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher
#12 – Celebrity memoir
I liked this book, but it was only alright. It felt like a good chunk of it focused on Fisher’s affair with Harrison Ford on the set of Star Wars, and all of the included diary entries related to this. As articulate as 19-year old Carrie Fisher was, it would have been nice had other non-Ford excerpts been included. I also would have liked to have heard more of her thoughts overall on both filming Star Wars and its subsequent popularity. The one thing I really didn’t care for were the dialogues/monologues of when she met with fans for autographs, etc… they were annoying and didn’t seem to bring anything to the memoir.
Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
#15 – One-sitting book
Binti was an intelligent, creative, and grounded character; one of better female leads I’ve read in a while. I enjoyed the world building, and liked that cultural perspective was not from a mainstream white Western world perspective. My two complaints were 1) the resolution with the university and Meduse felt simplistic and anticlimactic given how the Meduse were introduced in the story, and 2) the story was too short. I would have loved to see the novella fleshed out into a full length novel. There was so much more detail that could have gone into her dynamic with the Meduse and her experience at the university.
Three Times Lucky by Sheila Turnage
#16 – First book in new to you MG/YA series
Three Times Lucky was an alright book. I liked the overall mystery, but the characters felt undeveloped and Mo was excessively precocious. I like independent girls, but not when it feels unrealistic for the age of the character. My oldest is 11, and I couldn’t see her behaving or talking in way similar to Mo’s.
Fortune’s Pawn by Rachel Bach
#17 – Female sci-fi author with female main character
Fortune’s Pawn is sci-fi with some romance novel thrown in. I did like Devi. she was a strong no-nonsense woman who didn’t seem to make the lame mistakes female leads are wont to do. I wasn’t too sure of what the overall/behind the scenes plot was beyond Devi wanting to survive her year onboard the Glorious Fool in order to join an elite military group. Hints of a large conspiracy are dropped, but never really explained, and I found it somewhat confusing. It also made the novel feel like a set up instead of a complete story. There’s nothing wrong with that, but each book within a series should still have a resolved subplot even if there is a multi-book arc.
Ares & Aphrodite: Love Wars by Jamie S. Rich and Megan Levens (Oni Press)
#18 – Comic not published by DC/Marvel/Image
This one volume story about a wager between a divorce lawyer (Ares) and a wedding planner (Aphrodite) ended up being cuter than I was expecting. Admittedly, my bar was set low when I realized that it wasn’t, in fact, about Greek gods/goddesses, but that was my own fault for not reading past the title when I heard about it. It was a “lover conquers all” story that wasn’t overly saccharine. It didn’t really go into depth with anything, feeling more like a snapshot than a full story.
Devil in a Blue Dress by Walter Mosley
#21 – Mystery by person of color/LGBTQ author
As a general rule, non-magical mysteries are not books I read on a regular basis, but my sister recommended this book to me. It was a fast-paced, well-written, convoluted story that held my attention. Michael Boatman was a great narrator, creating distinctive voices between the characters.