Bookish, Wrap Ups

Book Wrap-Up: November 2018

It’s November, and it’s time for another reading wrap-up!

I read 16 books in the month of November.  I’m excited to review them all!

A note about this and future wrap-ups: WordPress has updated their “word processor” editing space (for better or worse), and I’m still learning how it works.  I think some of the things I’ve done in reviews in the past won’t work anymore.  So, formats and content may be changing in the future.  Thanks for continuing to read, despite the lack of continuity! 🙂

Saga, Vols 7, 8, & 9
Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Saga is a comic series set in a world where a civil war has been raging between two groups of people: those who live on a planet, and those who live on the moon of the planet.  The series is told from the perspective of Hazel, the love child of two people, one from each side of this war.  The story follows their race through the cosmos, as enemies on all sides pursue them.  These three volumes continue the narrative that is in full swing, fleshing out side characters and introducing new teammates.

I still love where this is going!  The 7th volume was probably my favorite to date.  I think the writing is excellent.  The 8th feels like a filler volume, but the story is still heartfelt and emotional.  While I recognize that 9 is sad (for spoilery reasons), I didn’t find it as devastating as others may (What can I say?  I like sad endings.).  I’m kind of bummed that this series is going on hiatus, but I will be eagerly awaiting the next volume when it finally arrives!
I would recommend this series to people who like sci-fi, diverse representation, and comics that don’t fit the typical “superhero” genre (while still being fantastical).

Seraphina
Rachel Hartman

This book is set in a world where dragons and humans have learned to live in peaceful hostility.  Dragons can take on human form, and they exist in the human world to help maintain connections between the races.  One day, a member of the royal family is killed–and it seems that a dragon has done it.  The book follows are girl named Seraphina, who has a secret that could destroy her if it gets out.  Our protagonist gets pulled into the mystery, wherein she will learn about herself, her history, and the real meaning of family.

While reading this, I was once again reminded of how little I enjoy fantasy.  This book was great; the plot was good, the characters diverse and unique.  But, it was still a fantasy world.  And trying to keep track of language, terms, and places was not my cup of tea.  I would highly recommend this to fantasy lovers.  But I don’t want to finish the rest of the series.

Red: A Crayon’s Story
Michael Hall

Red is a red crayon–but he isn’t very good at it.  As hard as Red tries to draw red things, as much as Red’s family encourages and helps him, nothing works.  Then, one day, a fellow crayon suggests Red draw something blue…
This book is all about discovering your identity, particularly when your insides don’t match your outsides.

This was so cute and fun.  I feel like it made its point without being too snarky.  It’s a healthy look at identity for a kid’s perspective.  I would recommend it to adults as much as kids.

The Disenchantments
Nina LaCour

Colby has been looking forward to graduation for so long, because instead of going to college, he and his best friend Bev are headed to Europe.  All that stands between them and their dream trip is a tour with Bev’s band–The Disenchantments.  Then, on the first day of tour, Bev shatters Colby’s dreams: she’s not going to Europe; she’s going to RISD in the fall.
This book follows Colby, Bev, and her two bandmates, on a tour across the western United States.  Told from Colby’s perspective, we watch him deal with this blow and wrestle through what this means for his future.  And, at the same time, he has to deal with the feelings he’s had for Bev for a long time–feelings that have only grown more complicated with this most recent betrayal.

In the end, I loved this book, although I admit that it made me uneasy at first.  In the beginning, Colby read as your typical “nice guy” who is angry for being in the “friend zone.”  However, this little theme dials back quickly, and what we’re left with is an excellent story about friendship.
I love how LaCour writes characters, particularly side characters through the eyes of her narrators.  In this book, she does a good job of capturing how much Colby cares about Bev.  I also love how her main characters hit these beautiful, subtle moments of self-discovery.
I would recommend this book for good friend-group characters, as well as those who enjoy contemporary YA fiction focused on character development.

Every Day
David Levithan

Every day, A wakes up in a different person’s body.  A doesn’t know why this happens; all A knows is that A is the only one who experiences life this way.  And that life is super lonely, until he meets Rhiannon.  She’s the one person A thinks could maybe understand–and could maybe be more than just a one-day-long acquaintance.  But, how do you tell someone that you already know them, when you switch bodies every time you wake up?
This book explores themes of identity while also looking at the bonds of love and attraction.

I didn’t hate this book as much as I expected to.  I actually liked A a lot.  I know this book raises some pretty serious issues around consent–and I don’t disagree with those.  So I do keep from most highly recommending this for that reason.  It has an ending I love, by which I mean most people think the ending is horrible.  So, if you like mushy, happy endings, avoid this book.  Overall, I’d recommend it as part of the queer canon (a decent look at fluid identity/gender), but not as a healthy example of romantic relationships or as  a book with a happy ending.

Dress Codes for Small Towns
Courtney C. Stevens

Billie isn’t your typical preacher’s kid.  She’s rough around the edges, more comfortable in old boots than dresses–and she may be falling in love with her girl-best-friend.
This book is set in a small town, where the biggest honor a girl can get is a Molly the Corn Dolly.  This is part of a festival that a local, beloved grandfather puts on every year.  When the festival founder passes away unexpectedly, Billie and her friends step up to save the festival.  They could use some good mojo, considering they accidentally almost burnt down Billie’s dad’s church…
As if saving the town’s crazy contest isn’t enough, Billie finds out she’s on the ballot for a Corn Dolly.  And those feelings she has for her friend are growing stronger.  But she can’t screw up, because another slip up from the pastor’s daughter means the family has to hit the road.

Like The Disenchantments, this was another great book about friendships.  I liked Billie a lot, and while we have entirely different personalities, I related to many of her struggles.  I also liked the treatment of the exploration of sexuality.  It didn’t fall into some of the same ruts we see when a bi/pan/questioning character is exploring whom they are attracted to.  I think the writing was a little weak, and some of the plot was hard to follow.  However, I would still recommend it as a great small-town story with interesting characters.

Vox
Christina Dalcher

What if every woman, girl, and grandmother was only allowed to speak 100 words a day?
This story is set in a not-so-distant future of the United States, where wristbands restrain females from speaking more than they should.  Jean used to be a doctor, studying medical solutions for aphasia (the inability to speak/use the correct words, most often associated with having a stroke).  Her research was cut short when her words were cut off.
But now, the president is calling.  His brother has just had a stroke, and a solution to the aphasia question is suddenly personal.  And, in exchange for her help, the government is willing to negotiate.  Jean accepts, but with the hidden agenda that she will figure out a way out of this mess–for her and her daughter.

This was one of my biggest disappointments of the year.  I had really been looking forward to reading it, but the story itself was a huge letdown.  The first thing I didn’t like about it was the huge cheating trope that wound its way through the whole book.  I don’t like this type of storyline, ever, and the story was literally inundated with it.
The second thing I didn’t like was, while this story was about women’s loss of voice and implied that 1 woman was going to take back her agency, she relied completely on men to do it.  And, in the end, a man wore the “hero’s crown.”
And, on top of that, the blatant criminalization of religion was frustrating.  I’m not saying Christians don’t practice some archaic habits when it comes to women.  What I am saying is, faith in a higher being (regardless of who/what that being or thing is) gives some individuals hope, and this author chooses to remove all potential benefits from faith to make a political point.
I would not recommend this book.  There are others that do a better job.

When Dimple Met Rishi
Sandhya Menon

Dimple is so over all the traditions her Indian mother wants her to take on.  She just wants to go to camp to learn web development.
Rishi isn’t so against these Indian traditions, and all he wants to do is go to San Francisco to meet the girl he is betrothed to.  He thinks Dimple knows about him; she has no clue.

This book was cute.  It wasn’t necessarily remarkable.  And it was hugely predictable.  But I would certainly recommend it to romance lovers everywhere.

Giraffe Problems
Jory John and Lane Smith

A giraffe’s problem is most certainly his neck.  But a conversation with a turtle may show him, that neck can be useful sometimes.

This was adorable, mostly because it had a giraffe in it.  I liked it a lot!  A good one for classrooms everywhere!

Invisible: The Forgotten Story of the Black Woman Lawyer Who Took Down America’s Most Powerful Mobster
Stephen L. Carter

Carter recounts the story of the life of his own grandmother, Eunice, who broke boundaries and challenged standards.  This book recounts many of her victories–and a couple defeats.  In all of it, he tells a story about an important person from our history.

I wanted to enjoy this book more than I did.  I appreciate what Carter was trying to accomplish.  However, I think the overall book was very unfocused.  A specific story is named in the title, but that story does not make up the majority of the book.  I got a little bored at different points, but that’s because Carter spends so much time telling all of his grandma’s story in loving detail.  This is definitely a book for history buffs, and its an important story to add to our knowledge.

Once Upon a River
Diane Setterfield

One night, a girl turns up at a tavern on the Thames–and she appears drowned.  Then, she opens her eyes.  No one is sure who the girl is–there are two families who have lost young, blond children about her age–and she’s not talking, so no one can ask her where she’s from.  This book follows several clusters of characters, as the ripples of the girl’s discovery and recovery course out and through the area.  And through all of it flows the mystery: who is this girl, and what does her appearance in this town mean?

I have a full review of this book posted, so I’ll keep this brief:  The story is good.  I feel like there are too many characters to keep track of, but they’re engaging and fun.  And while I thought the ending was interesting, it didn’t surprise me–Setterfield explores many similar themes to her other books.  I’d recommend this one, still, to those who like magical realism and literary fiction.  [But I would still recommend The Thirteenth Tale first.]

Jar of Hearts
Jennifer Hillier

Geo has spent the last five years in prison for helping her ex-boyfriend kill her best friend.  Now, she’s back out, but so is her ex.  And women are dying.  This story is told in the past and the present, as readers slowly discover what exactly happened that night almost 20 years ago, and as Geo figures out why Calvin would be back for more blood.
[TW: sexual assault, abuse, rape, bullying, possessive partners]

This was a pretty decent mystery.  I won’t say I didn’t figure out the ending before we got there, because I did.  But these characters were  pleasantly complicated, very gray, and it was hard to love or hate any single one of them.  I like that kind of complexity.  I felt that the domestic violence and sex scenes were a little explicit, but the rest of the book was really good.  I would recommend it as another domestic thriller.

What If It’s Us
Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera

Arthur and Ben meet at the post office one day, when Ben is dropping off a box of stuff from his ex-boyfriend.  The two lose touch in the New York City shuffle, but both of them can’t help thinking–was the universe bringing them together?  We follow them through a series of bumps and misfortunes as they try hard to answer the question, “What if it’s us?”

I LOVED this, and I flew through it, and the whole thing made my heart laugh, melt, and sing.  It wasn’t perfect, but it was still engaging and exciting.  I greatly preferred Arthur to Ben, but I thought the two characters made a convincing couple.  And the ending was this beautiful blend of Silvera and Albertalli.  I would recommend it to fans of either.

Anatomy of a Misfit
Andrea Portes

Anika is the self-proclaimed third-most-popular girl in school.  The most popular girl, Becky, is a bullying terror.  And Anika is terrified that Becky is going to catch her making out with the class nerd… This story follows Anika on a path to self-discovery as she navigates what really matters.
[TW: abuse, suicide, bullying, hate language, slut- and fat-shaming]

I’m a little bummed that this month ended on a sour note, but I was unimpressed with this book.  The ingredients for the story were present, but the execution was super weak, even for a debut YA book.  The plot points were disjointed–particularly in the end–and the main character was despicable without really being redemptive.  I also didn’t like the trope of “bullying the bully.”  I don’t see that as a solution.  I may try another book by Portes, but I wouldn’t recommend this one specifically.

And then the end.

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1 thought on “Book Wrap-Up: November 2018”

  1. Wow! What a great reading month! I love Saga! I pick up a volume any time I feel a reading slump coming on.

    I have to agree with your thoughts on Vox. It had so much potential but I had a lot of problems with it, especially the cheating and something about the writing didn’t work for me.

    Like

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