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broodings from the burrow

August 5, 2018

into the stacks 2018: april
posted by soe 12:39 am

We’re getting closer to being caught up on book reviews. In April I read four books:

#Notyourprincess: Voices of Native American Women, by Lisa Charleyboy

This collection of poetry, artwork, quotes, and short prose comes from women of some of the Native American tribes of Canada and the United States. It offers a broad perspective on what it means to live at the intersection of female and indigenous at this moment in time and includes pieces from students, tribal leaders, scholars, artists, and professionals, demonstrating that no single voice can speak for everyone’s lived experiences.

Pages: 109. Library copy.

Obsidio, by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I can’t tell you how sad I am that The Illuminae Files trilogy is done. This was the first series in a while that I’ve found so compelling, with its innovative use of text and graphics in its doorstopper-size volumes. Set in space in the future, the first book is told as a dossier assembled for a corporate executive whose company invaded a distant planet that was running an illegal mining operation and the steps they took to cover their tracks. The second and third books continue to share information through ephemera, but instead of a single file, it’s presented as evidence in a court case, sharing the back story of why the company is on trial. Obsidio builds on the two earlier books, bringing us back to the teen protagonists we’ve all come to love — teen computer genius Kady, flight commander Ezra, strategist Hanna, criminal Nik, and hacker Ella — and introducing us to new ones — nurse Asha and soldier Rhys. And AIDAN, the copy of the copy of the once murderous AI who has saved everyone time and time again, is back, too, but with new, troubling analysis of the situation on the space ship. How long will Kady be able to keep him focused on their survival? And will Beitech, the company that sparked this intergalactic escapade, ever be brought to justice?

You’ll come for the space adventure, but stay for the kissing.

Pages: 615. Library copy.

Strange the Dreamer, by Laini Taylor

Lazlo Strange is an unusual orphan turned (briefly) monk turned librarian turned (eventually) adventurer, joining an assemblage of people from across the land to reclaim a city (it used to have a name that was stolen from everyone’s memories and thenceforth became known as Weep). The town has been made to suffer since gods parked their monstrous home (a ginormous floating rock with a palace on top of it) overhead, and the residents are looking to move it by any means necessary. Unfortunately, they weren’t aware the palace was still occupied by a handful of teen demigods, one of whom in particular, who vividly remembers and is scarred by an event that happened in their childhood, is NOT excited by the prospect of being evicted. Will Lazlo be able to build a bridge between the two communities?

The first of duology, this book was a weird reading experience for me. I didn’t find it particularly compelling when I was in the process of reading it, but when I wasn’t reading it, I routinely found my thoughts straying to would happen next and how the characters were doing. I’m guessing this means I didn’t love Taylor’s writing style (I didn’t particularly like Daughter of Smoke & Bone back when I read it either), but that I did love her characterization. Despite that, I look forward to seeing how the story is resolved this fall.

Pages: 544. Library copy.

Sing, Unburied, Sing, by Jesmyn Ward

Jojo, who turns 13 in the first chapter of this book, and his little sister live with their maternal grandparents and, sometimes, their mother, Leonie, who has a drug problem. Jojo is trying to learn how to be a black man, emulating his beloved grandfather, while his white father is in jail — the same jail (Mississippi’s State Penitentiary, Parchman) where his grandfather was wrongfully imprisoned when he himself was a teenager. When they learn his father is about to be released, Leonie packs the two kids and a friend into the car and drives to pick him up, but they also pick up a ghost that’s been lingering around the prison grounds and takes him back to her parents’ house, as well.

The book starts off violently — they’re slaughtering a farm animal for food — and violence is never far away from the story, which seems to be a theme across Ward’s books. Whether it’s the tempestuous relationship between Leonie and Jojo’s father, the uncontrolled rage of a drug dealer’s son, the senseless death of Leonie’s brother back when they were young, the all-too-familiar reaction of a white police officer to a black family, his paternal grandfather’s racist reaction to their visit, or the untold ending to his maternal grandfather’s prison tenure, violence surrounds Jojo and his family. It is as inescapable as and intertwined with the ghosts that haunt them.

I wanted to like the book, which won the National Book Award last year and that seemed to draw some inspiration from Toni Morrison’s Beloved, more than I did. I hadn’t been thrilled with it all along, but the final pages felt rushed and like Ward took the let down of an easy way out that should have been better developed throughout a complex, layered novel.

Pages: 285. Library copy.

Total Pages: 1553

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