Sunday, December 30, 2018

Year in Review, 2018

For me, as for many people 2018 was a difficult year, but it was a good year for reading books. I well exceeded my goal of 100 reviews, read more books for adults, reread some kids books I hadn't looked at in quite some time, and consciously read more books by authors who were not straight, white men. I've also been chipping away at reading the Harry Potter series (out loud) to my stepdaughter; we're almost through Chamber of Secrets. I didn't review as many picture books as in previous years as I did not do kindergarten story time last semester, but I do have something in the works that, if it comes together, will mean I'll get to read even more books in 2019. If it comes together, I'll let you know.

Here's the final tally:

Picture Books: 40
Middle Grade/YA: 29
Non-fiction: 2
Novels: 15
Graphic novels: 18
Short Story Collection: 4
Memoir/Bio: 4

Total: 112 books reviewed!

As always, this list does not reflect the fact that there are certain books that I read over and over. In general, I only blog books once (although I have blogged books that were apparently so unmemorable that I forgot I had already read and reviewed them).

Luisa: Now and Then

Written by: Carole Maurel (adapted by Mariko Tamaki)

First line: End of the line...

Why you should read this book: Angsty teen Luisa Arambol falls asleep on a bus and wakes up in Paris, far removed from the sleepy town where she boarded, and even farther removed from the year in which she boarded, for she is soon to discover that she has traveled in time to the future, and the grown woman who shares her name and face and lives in her aunt's old apartment is her, as an unfulfilled adult. The two Luisas, after dancing around each other, begin to share their stories and recollections, while subtly shifting personalities just enough to allow them each to face their inner truths. Eventually they realize that the incident that preceded the younger Luisa's adventure is the same memory that has been holding the older Luisa back from true happiness her entire adult life.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You've rejected your child because you didn't think it was OK for them to be who they were.


Written by: Saladin Ahmed, Sami Kivelä, and Jason Wordie

First line: So, Detective, you think it was negro militants did this?

Why you should read this book: As a black woman living in Detroit in 1972, Elena Abbott can't escape racism and sexism, but as an investigative journalist committed to telling the stories that mainstream news doesn't want to cover, she's pretty much throwing herself into maelstroms of casual bigotry and hatred. But this is actually a Lovecraftian horror story in which Abbott, seeking out connections among murders, mutilations, disappearances, and visions, finds herself pursued by hideous monsters, and the white supremacist ideology at the heart of the problem is the least of her worries as the body count mounts and the story she's trying to cover seems poised to swallow her whole. Just a really stunning graphic novel that seamlessly combines its themes and influences to create something new and remarkable.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You're easily spooked.

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Amber and the Hidden City

Written by: Milton Davis

First line: One more goal, that's all they needed.

Why you should read this book: Amber's upset that her parents are sending her to private school in the fall, when all her friends will stay in the public school system, but those worries evaporate when she's summoned by her beloved grandmother for what she believes will be two heavenly weeks at the beach. It turns out that Amber's grandmother actually wants to take her to a secret and magical African city, where Amber must use her newfound ability to read people's true intentions and select the next leader of her grandmother's people. Now Amber, her grandmother, and a handsome young warrior are being pursued across the planet by people who will do almost anything to keep Amber from her hereditary responsibility.

Why you shouldn't read this book: My edition needed a vast quantity of editing. I also felt like the romance aspect of the story was a bit forced.

Mind of My Mind

Written by: Octavia Butler

First line: Doro's widow in the southern California city of Forsyth had become a prostitute.

Why you should read this book: Doro and Anyanwu's offspring have multiplied, so that many of their descendants are strong and stable, including Mary, a young woman on the verge of breaking through to her adult power. When Mary does come into her talent, she inadvertently creates a psychic pattern that allows her to draw other family members to her, and to help the latents—miserable members unable to stabilize their abilities—mature and become fully functional. Mary's ability, which enslaves her people while it strengthens them, threatens Doro's hold over his own experiments, and a showdown is inevitable.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Not as much enforced breeding and senseless death as the last book, but some.

A Choir of Ill Children

Written by: Tom Piccirilli

First line: We move in spasms.

Why you should read this book: A thick and grimy tapestry of southern gothic intrigue, this book begins with Thomas, a man plagued by history, his own personal experiences and the lives of the ancestors who came before him and left him alone with a giant house, a sizable fortune, and the care of his three brothers, conjoined triplets joined at the forehead. Murder, suicide, and accidental death creep through his story like Spanish moss and rising water, alone with a strange cast of colorful locals and equally colorful out-of-towners. There's a phantom dog-kicker, a mute girl, a bevy of swamp witches, ghosts, monks, and coked out grad students, combined with dangerous weather, and the weight of the world's expectations in this weird and wonderful story.

Why you shouldn't read this book: The morality of Kingdom Come is likely not your morality.

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Wild Seed

Written by: Octavia Butler

First line: Doro discovered the woman by accident when he went to see what was left of one of his seed villages.

Why you should read this book: In a vast, sweeping epic spanning two continents and several lifetimes, Doro, an immortal creature whose power to possess human bodies has taken him far from his human roots three thousand years in the past, discovers Anyanwu, a shape shifting healer, who, at three hundred years old, may be the key to Doro's quest to breed a race of superhumans. Anyanwu, who has known tyranny and loss, relishes her autonomy and is reluctant to bend to Doro's power or submit his experimental breeding program, but as the centuries pass, their relationship becomes deeper and more complex. This gripping novel is the first of a four-book story arc known collectively as the Patternist Series.

Why you shouldn't read this book: Content warning for a seriously abusive relationship.

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Body Music

Written by: Julie Maroh

First line: Whenever people talk about love/It's always "never" and "always"

Why you should read this book: A graphic novel in the form of a collection of flash fictions about sex, love, and relationships that transcend the banal, heteronormative Hollywood ideals, it's the emotional equivalent of a series of swift one-two punches to the heart. Queer, trans, disabled, polyamorous, young, old, fat, confused, uncertain, the characters that tumble through this volume feel fully fleshed and really realized, despite having only the space of a few pages to play through their romantic dramas. Lovely, fast-paced, honest, raw, warm, and rewarding, this is book for people who believe in love in whatever form it takes and maybe don't mind shedding a tear or two for the sake of literature.

Why you shouldn't read this book: You think heteronormative Hollywood ideals are the only romantic ideals.