Category Archives: Fantasy

Books of February and March

In two months, I only managed to finish 11 books.

There have been times when I didn’t read much on purpose, or read slowly, or decided to read long books. But in the last two months, my company bought a company. Then I went on a very good vacation on about the last days one could take a vacation. When I got back, my company had still bought a company, but we were transitioning to working remotely (and despite everyone’s wishes, it is not necessarily more efficient to work this way, nor can all of my work be done out of the office, so I get through each day trying to end with no more emails than I started with, and if I can pare down my inbox by one or two, that is a victory against my laptop screen that defies multi-program tasks and my laptop guts that are, frankly, meant for shopping and homework, not business–honestly, I do not have time for multiple restarts every day, thus I’m indulging in complaint, even though I definitely know nobody is going to be able to fix this right now).

Eleven books. Only.

I read more slowly when I am able to read as a reader–when I am transported, along for the ride, perhaps not even anticipating and simply letting the story flow over me. Otherwise, I am a fast reader, a fast skimmer when I’ve decided to abandon a read. But in these months, especially March, I’m reading slowly because I simply can’t concentrate.

Abject terror will do that to you.

It’s getting better. I still can’t concentrate. So here’s what I read.

17. I don’t usually count books I don’t finish as read, but I read the vast majority of this and #18. This was a popular YA fantasy that was way too messy to keep my attention, though I suppose fantasy has to be very, very good to keep it as I’ve read so much of it. Whatever you just guessed this book to be, you’re likely wrong.

18. An older middle grade contemporary that I’ve wanted to read for ages. Alas, it hit severe fat-shaming early and kept doubling down on it, and I couldn’t look around that. Really disappointing.

19. Nonfiction picture book on a topic I adore and have personal experience with. It didn’t know what it wanted to be; it can be tough to get the text and the concepts just right, and in concordance.

20. Graphic novel; not this author’s most famous work. I thought I’d been doing so well with learning to read and enjoy these, and I struggled so hard–with where to look on the page, with what I was even looking at. It might have been the limitations of the color scheme; I wanted desperately for everything to come into focus, because I thought I might love the story. Instead, I was just sad.

21. YA contemporary; beautiful, but I was quite surprised to see that what it’s known for is only the tiniest sliver of the book, which raised some questions for me. That’s a more nuanced discussion than I’m going to have here.

Skipping 22 and 23 because I don’t have any particular comments; YA fantasy and MG adventure. By the time this posts I’ll have forgotten them, though they entertained me for the reading moment.

24. This Is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. I guess I can count a re-read if it doesn’t happen more than once a year, and even if it was one of my favorites of last year so I’ve mentioned it more than once… The first time I read this book I worried that I wasn’t smart enough for it even as I was riveted. The second time it bloomed more for me, and rooted; I’m glad it was as good when I went back. I was able to better identify some of what I loved about it–the way the two characters are consumed by each other, how they write their love into existence, how they start enemies to lovers (not a trope I love–can go so wrong) but morphed into conspirators/rivals to lovers (so much better, because they challenge each other and I love a working partnership, and this also finds a solution to tech v. nature), how they began to spiral into each other like DNA, how they have to leave the system to be together and do it anyway despite the risks. How their want to be together is the biggest adventure and absolutely worth the wait.

This book makes me ache.

25. Severance by Ling Ma. Perhaps it amuses me too much that a book about a production coordinator in the time and aftermath of a (fungus-based) world pandemic eschews quotations marks almost completely, and always for dialogue–who else would calculate the spaces saved, the pages, for a story? I liked this because I read it when things were just becoming real; it might be too real for now. Also, my copy was missing the penultimate signature, the climax, and I can’t figure out if that was on purpose or not.

26. Wild Life by Keena Roberts. This is a fun memoir that Kady Heron would have written, about growing up part time in Botswana with parents who are field researchers and part time in the no less wild and dangerous suburban US.

27. Romance; you’re not reading the same ones I am, so I’m saving my fingers.

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Filed under Adult Books, Fantasy, MG, Picture Books, Reading, SF and SpecFic, YA

Books of January

I’ve gotten through 16 books so far this year–which is disastrously low, because January’s reading is supposed to be when I catch up on all the Caldecott contenders! I haven’t had the chance to look at so many of those as usual, but I suppose I can look forward to that for the rest of the year. Here are some selected books and (very) mini-reviews:

4. Pokko and the Drum, Matthew Forsythe: This is about a frog who gets a drum and is too noisy and who ends up in a band; sadly, for some of the bandmates, we cannot eat our friends. Another good lesson is never date a drummer, though do remember I was a percussionist in a past life. This is a really charming book about keeping at it.

9. Crier’s War, Nina Varela: This is an excellent fantasy–layered and complex in exactly the right ways, and structured really well for a series installment. With fantasy, getting the balance of world and characters can be really tough, but this succeeds, and I want to read more about the struggle with what it means to be.

13. Redwood and Ponytail, K. A. Holt: At work, we have this e-reader/audio app so we can access company publications, and while Chronicle published this in hardcover, my employer produced the audio edition (and it won an American Library Association Award). I checked it out not knowing anything about it–including that it was older MG, verging on younger YA, though it all depends on how you count things–and was immediately thrown by the changing POV in verse with a chorus! I really struggle with audiobooks, but because this is verse (which to me sounds like prose read aloud–a recommendation in my ears), the entirety is just under 5 hours, so it’s a good length for me and my ears’ attention span. Anyway, this, particularly Kate the perfection theme, was really harrowing in the back half of the book, but there was the right amount of hope and healing mixed in. It’s also fascinating to think that this book has a place right now, but that for target age readers, the need for books like this is rapidly dissipating. Maybe not everywhere, but certainly enough. (And I wonder if in many ways, it’s going to linger as a book for grownups; there is an older character role model with a very frequent story you don’t hear as often. But, hey, no spoilers.)

15. Truman by Jean Reidy, illustrated by Lucy Ruth Cummins: Aw, a turtle has an adventure! The turtle I acquired in college–one that was cute and tiny and likely not sold legally–went to spend the summer with a friend and was…short-lived. But here, a really cute turtle has an adventure of heart and bravery when his girl goes away…

16. Fry Bread, by Kevin Noble Maillard, illustrated by Juana Martinez-Neal: I loved the sweet simplicity about how food connects us to family, but I really appreciated the back matter–and I am typically irritated by back matter, in part because it’s so often just for adult readers, and because we put it in the back so the front of the book is pretty, even if the information is useful simultaneous with the pretty, and it’s either relevant to the story or it’s not, and it’s a pressure from educators when not all books have to be useful in that way, and argh. Here, it reminds us that even when outsiders see a monoculture, there is a multiplicity of experience, observance, celebration, and so on. It’s smart, thoughtful, and kind, and I’m glad for it.

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Filed under Fantasy, MG, Picture Books, Reading, YA