I have been trying to get my May Hub post written for a month and half. The post has been sitting as is for over two weeks, and I still have not written my thoughts on one of the books (I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina and Stacey Robinson). I am going to call it good at this point just to get it out.
Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
I read Pashmina in January, and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. The concept of the magical shawl and its use to help Pri deal with serious life changes was good, but the narrative was not cohesive. If the shawl is there to help Pri, then each time she used it, then she should have walked away with another piece of information to help her deal with her problems. This wasn’t the case, and ultimately, we never learned how Pri overcame her issues to be satisfied with her life. So much more could have been done with a magical shawl that gave women a new perspective, allowing them to better their lives.
#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
The pros of this book were the diversity of voices, topics covered, and the creative layout. The con was the lack of density – meaning it have been better if there had been more. It felt like an appetizer instead of a full meal.
The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
I listened to Gentleman last year, and didn’t like it. The second time around and I still don’t like it. The book is essentially Monty whining his way across Europe, completely oblivious to how his words and actions hurt those around him. It’s not funny. If it’s satire, then the humor is beyond me. Monty is an entitled jackass, I get that his personal life is awful, but it’s hard to have sympathy for him when he treats everyone around him so selfishly. Everything is about Monty. Even when he learns of Percy’s epilepsy, Monty views it in relation to how it will affect him (meaning Monty) and his access to Percy. There is pretty much zero character growth for any of the characters, and only in the last 10 minutes of the book is there a whiff of growth potential for Monty. The book tried to be too much. It would have been better if it had focused on Monty, Percy, and Felicity, and their growth as human beings, and not on some conveniently lucky adventure that would have been better as a separate story.
She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from a book about an 11-year girl who goes on the lam with her released convict father while he tries to find a way to protect her from a kill order. It was surprisingly gripping – I had a hard time putting the book down. The narrative flowed and was well-paced. I loved how Harper used words and cadence, and how he allowed Polly and Nate to grow. Definitely a book I will read again.
As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gilman
I have mixed feelings about this comic. It was a very uncomfortable read both in the careless racism exhibited my most of the characters, and the weird anti-male, Christian overtones. Bee, the camp leader, was squicky in her fanaticism. I did like the friendship Charlie and Sydney, but that’s about it. The comic also ended in the middle of the story. It was not a natural stopping point. I had to reread it several times to figure out why the story ended there, and I’m still not entirely clear on it.
The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
I almost put this book down after the boring introduction. While it was a set up, and explained aspects of the following story, removing it wouldn’t have taken anything away from the narrative. Once past that, however, and The One Hundred Nights of Hero was a dark, beautiful, and painful feminist fairy tale. The framing is similar to Arabian Nights and Scheherazade, though in this case a young woman must protect her friend/mistress from unwanted sexual advances by telling stories to her would-be assaulter. The running theme throughout was how educated and/or powerful women can be scary to men.
Sandwiches!: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering
Sandwiches! is essentially a cookbook with interesting tidbits of information thrown in. It was interesting and mostly well-researched – some of the dates relating to baseball off by a century. I believe they meant the 1700s/18th century as opposed to the 17th century (which would be the 1600s). While there are references to the origin game, early incarnations of the game as we know it came about in the 1700s, with the first actual baseball taking place in the mid-1800s. I put less stock in the facts presented because of this, though all three of my children were enthralled by the recipes and illustrations.
An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
The magical world operates invisibly along side daily life in NYC, and it’s time for a magical competition to determine which House will be in power until the next competition. The magical world is dark and corrupt, and given that magic has been waning, they will do what needs to be done in order to retain their magic/power. Told from multiple POVs, the story focuses mostly on Sydney, the mystery of her origin, and how she uses her underdog status to upend the status quo. The pacing was a bit slow at times, but the story was very, very well-conceived.
Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield
I read Spill Zone last year and thought it was intriguing, but somewhat vague. I found I liked it more the second time around. I was able to catch details and nuances I didn’t see before. While it ends with many questions raised, and almost none answered, I am curious as to how some of the threads will play out in future volumes, especially with Vespertine, and Addison’s “change”.
Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
The poetry felt a bit disjointed. Individual poems were good and/or wrenching, but it was hard to see how they all flowed together thematically. It is still a solid work of poetry, and I can the potential for it to resonate with the right reader. My favorite poem was “What I Talk About When I Talk About Black Jesus.”
The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler
This was a fast and fairly interesting read. The writing was a bit juvenile, so I’d range this more for middle school than high school readers. I liked the sidebars, but they were mini-chapters unto themselves (snippets of information, they were not), and their placement was awkwardly in the middle of chapters, which ruined the reading flow. The lack of illustrations, diagrams, and eye-catching photographs was a big mark against it. Give the readers an illustration of what The Whydah looked like, or at least of ships similar to her. Give the readers photos of the cool treasure, like the African gold. A syringe is not captivating. All my gripes aside, for what it is, The Whydah is a solid little read.
Kindred: A Graphic Novel adapted by Damian Duffy
I listened to this book in 2017 and absolutely loved it. I was a bit trepidatious about the graphic version because I didn’t know if it would stand up to the audio version. Duffy ended up doing a good job with translating the material into a visual format. His angular drawing style (while not my favorite) worked well with the rawness of Dana’s experiences.
Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
I love how Reynolds uses words, and I love how he formatted Long Way Down. Verse worked beautifully for Will’s story, and each word had meaning, packing a punch, moving Will forward. It’s Will’s journey of learning about his family history, how the cycle of violence has both directly and indirectly affected him – the “whys” behind the cycle of violence. There is no judgement or moral lesson given, just a look at how toxic “rules” can be. The ending was the only sticking point for me because of its ambiguity. But having a straight ending would have put the story into good vs. bad territory, which would have caused it to lose credibility.
A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming
My first thoughts on this book was that the writing felt juvenile, especially in the beginning. I read a similar book recently, The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley, and it quality of the writing was much better. I had to push through the writing style of Hope because I wanted to read Doaa’s story. I am glad I did because her experiences and the obstacles she overcame were incredible. I cannot imagine living through and surviving such traumatic experiences.