sprite writes
broodings from the burrow

July 13, 2017

into the stacks 2017: february
posted by soe 1:41 am

Half-Finished Blanket and Finished Novel

Instead of telling you what I’m still reading and knitting now (Book: finished tonight; excellent. Knitting: just past the halfway done point before the borders; baby arrived last week) for Kat’s Unraveled Wednesday, I’ll show you a photo and move on to reviews of the four books I read way back in February:

Furthermore, by Taherah Mafi

Alice Alexis Queensmeadow is both excited for and dreading the upcoming Ferenwood ceremony during which each child gives up their most precious magical power (which supports the landscape, which in turn supports its people) in exchange for a task, and ultimately an adult future in the society. Alice, born without color in a world in which its brown-skinned people and their lush homeland are vibrantly hued, has put up with a lot — a father who disappeared three years earlier, a harried mother now addicted to ferenberries, and triplet younger brothers who are loved more than she. But she has honed her gift and is ready to hand it over to her community, until something goes awry. With no other obvious choices, she finds herself running away with Oliver, a boy who says he knows where her father is, but that he cannot free him without her help. They slip through a crack in the world to Furthermore, where the magic has whole different, and varying, properties. Oliver seems to know how to navigate this new place, but how much can she really trust him?

Drawing upon inspiration from Alice in Wonderland and A Wrinkle in Time, this middle-grade novel is an enjoyable read for fantasy fans with an appreciation for language. (I’d put it in the same category as Francis Hardinge’s Fly by Night, although maybe not quite as good.) A companion novel is due out later this summer.

Pages: 416. Library copy.

Attachments, by Rainbow Rowell

Back in the early days of the internet, sometimes companies employed people to monitor its usage, concerned that employees would be wasting precious time by chatting away or shopping or looking at porn. And this was before cat videos and animated gifs… But anyway, Beth and Jennifer report for a newspaper where such a policy is in place. They know their conversations are being read (or, at least, might be being read), but after a warning or two, there’s radio silence from their IT department, so they assume they’ve escaped notice. Turns out, though, it’s not actually true. Their emails were flagged, but the IT guy, Lincoln, found their conversations so entertaining that he just stopped issuing citations to them, but he kept reading — and starts to take more than a coworkerly interest in Beth. Lincoln (who despite everything I write after this point, actually seems like a really nice guy) knows this is wrong, that although it started out professional, it’s moved on to pervy and ends up stalkerish (in the most positive, constructive definition of both words, if such a thing is possible). But he’s bored and frustrated with his own life — which has led him to earn several degrees, but not to move out of his mother’s house or to expand his group of friends beyond his D&D group — and Beth is … something unknown? Particularly since she doesn’t actually know he exists. Although she has mentioned a cute IT guy she sees occasionally…

I liked the book, which shifts between epistolary sections between Jennifer and Beth and narrative sections dealing with Lincoln’s life, since it deals with some of the complexities of an office romance, without there actually being an office romance, per se. However, its use of pre-Y2K tech makes it feel a little more dated than I think it should, and obviously with Lincoln as our protagonist, we’re given a very rose-tinted version of some creepy behavior. That said, Rainbow (in her debut novel) is a master of cute romances, and, despite your misgivings you’ll find yourself rooting for Lincoln to grow up, fess up, and hook up before the book is over.

Pages: 323. Personal copy.

Gemina, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, with artwork by Marie Lu

The second book in the ephemeral Illuminae Files series, this novel centers around two teens on the Heimdall space station: Hanna, the strategist daughter of the station’s captain, and Nik, the nephew of the station’s crime boss and Hanna’s drug dealer. If you have not read Illuminae (which won this year’s Cybils prize for young adult speculative fiction), stop reading right now to avoid spoilers and go rectify that situation. Do not be deterred by the size of the book; it and Gemina are both page-turners and you’ll be done with it before your arms get tired of holding it up.

Back? Okay, spoilers: The year is 2575 and Heimdall is the ultimate destination of both a ship containing the sole survivors of a planet attacked and its rescuers as well as a group of corporate mercenaries intent on exploiting their mole to destroy both the passengers and the residents of the station. Hanna and Nik — with the help of Nik’s cousin, who goes by the hacker name of Little Spider, as well as those aboard the Hypatia — must battle Black-Ops forces, a sentient space virus, and time itself in order to save the day? Do they make it? Wouldn’t you and the evil corporate stooge receiving these reports like to know…

Have you been looking to combine the narrative structure of Brian Selznick’s recent novels with the world building of Doctor Who with a spattering of teen romance to keep things interesting? If so, this is the series of books for you. If not, aren’t you now? Get started now, before Obsidio, the third (and I think final) book in the series, drops next March.

Pages: 608. Library copy.

Swing Time, by Zadie Smith

The story opens with our unnamed narrator having been discharged from her position. We don’t know specifics, but there are reporters and a lover and a vacant London apartment and no concerned voicemails from loved ones. There is, however, the constant of dance, particularly as embodied by the titular Fred Astaire film.

Dance is what our narrator had in common as a child of the ’80s with Tracey, who lives in the public housing block across from her and who is the only other black girl in her dance class. While our narrator’s family is helmed by a woman with aspirations for a bigger life, Tracey’s family is headed by a mother on the hunt for a man to take care of her and a father who is absent not because he’s a dancer touring with Michael Jackson or Prince but because he’s doing time — and is a sleazy human being to boot. After Tracey is accused of juvenile malfeasance and the two head off to different schools, the once BFFs tread ever-dissecting paths. Tracey’s, we learn, leads to family, while our narrator’s leads to a career in the arts, although maybe neither in the ways the girls had envisioned and also, ultimately, maybe neither quite as exclusively as they’d thought.

I wanted to like this book, but I just didn’t care about the narrator or her problems. I didn’t not care enough to stop reading, and I suspect that’s because I was supposed to feel the same ambivalence that our protagonist felt toward her own life, so the novel was doing it’s job. But life is short and there are too many books, so while I gave the book a three-star review for its skillful execution of its goal, unless you think the story sounds interesting, I’d say skip it.

Pages: 453. Library copy.

Book stats:
4 books
1800 pages
All print.
3 library copies, 1 owned
All fiction
Diverse main character(s): 2
Audience: 2 adult, 1 YA, 1 MG

Author stats:
4 women, 1 man
Own voices: 2
Country of residence: 2 American, 2 Australian, 1 British

Category: books,knitting. There is/are 4 Comments.

Your reading never ceases to amaze me! And, that blanket is looking great!

Comment by AsKatKnits 07.13.17 @ 1:25 pm

that baby is one super lucky baby!! lovely blanket 🙂

Comment by karen 07.14.17 @ 7:53 am

@Kat: Aw, thanks! I wish I were faster!

Comment by soe 07.16.17 @ 2:16 am

@karen: Thank you! He’s adorable, and I can’t wait to meet him later this month!

Comment by soe 07.16.17 @ 2:16 am