Broken Monsters — Review

January 26, 2015

There are a lot of communities in Detroit and Lauren Beukes’s Broken Monsters shows the interconnected stories of members of these communities who find themselves caught up in the horror of a reality-busting crime.

In the first part of the book, an unusual body is found — the upper half of a young boy is fused with the lower half of a deer. The investigation of this crime is the undercurrent that runs throughout this book. Bits of magical realism and the fantastic start to creep in as the book progresses, which adds layers of unpredictability to the narrative.

Broken Monsters is creepy and unsettling and fascinating. Beukes’s writing grabs you and doesn’t let you go.

The Fever — Review

January 24, 2015

The first book I read in 2015 was The Fever by Megan Abbott.

Deenie Nash, her brother Eli, and her father Tom have settled into a decently stable life after her mom moved away, but that stability is shaken when Deenie’s best friend has an unexplained and terrifying seizure in the middle of class. As hysteria sweeps the school and town, more girls fall ill, and Deenie — who remains fine — seems to be the link.

In some ways, this book went in an unexpected direction, but I could almost see this being an episode of some police procedural like Law & Order: SVU when it came to the motivations and behaviors of some of the characters.

I also really did not like the ending. Generally I am not a reader who needs everything to tie up perfectly, but I felt like The Fever waved away a lot of issues that it raised earlier on in the narrative. It was an engaging read, but the last quarter of the book fell a bit flat for me.

The Last Batch of 2014

January 14, 2015

In my life I am constantly reading and though I try to stay consistent in my reviewing, I am usually a bit behind in that area. Yes, I’ll pause for your gasps of shock and disbelief. It’s a new year and there’s a new crop of books, so I figure why should I bring my backlog with me? So now you’re getting little snapshots of many of the books I read in the latter part of 2014. Some books won’t be mentioned here because I plan to talk about them in a slightly different context. But more on that later.

Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Americanah follows Nigerian teenagers Ifemelu and Obinze into and out of other countries as they enter adulthood and navigate race, romance, and relationships. Sharp, funny, and fearless, it’s a great read fro pretty much anyone.

 

The Woman Who Would Be King: Hatshepsut’s Rise to Power in Ancient Egypt by Kara Cooney

Hatshepsut was the longest reigning female pharaoh in Ancient Egypt, but her rise to power and the circumstances of her reign are shrouded in secrecy. The language of this book kind of bothered me — the whole thing was necessarily somewhat speculative, but the continuous hedging irked me. I would have preferred a disclaimer at the start that allowed it to be written with clearer, more certain language.

 

Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

Boy, Snow, Bird is an enchanting reimagining of a classic tale. This book is masterfully inventive and Oyeyemi’s strong, brilliant, beautiful voice shines through.

 

St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell 

This collection of essays is just as weird as I would expect something from Karen Russell to be. I didn’t like this collection as much as Vampires in the Lemon Grove (which is newer). There is a kind of extra melancholy streak to these stories besides the dark twisty-ness of other stuff of hers that I’ve liked.

 

Anything That Moves: Renegade Chefs, Fearless Eaters, and the Making of a New American Food Culture by Dana Goodyear

Dana Goodyear jumps —tastebuds first— into “foodie” culture and the world of extreme eating, following devotees of ultra-authentic ethnic cuisines, raw food aficionados, and so much more. I would eat maybe two of the things described in this book, but I’m bizarrely fascinated by these people and their lifestyles. Sometimes I wish she would have dug a bit deeper or described a bit more, but this was an enjoyable read.

 

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

A superflu wipes out huge swaths of the population. Fifteen years later, a roving band of actors and musicians travels between communities of survivors performing Shakespeare. The narrative hops between the Traveling Symphony and the decline of civilization immediately after the pandemic. It’s a vivid and utterly transfixing novel.

 

The Martian by Andy Weir

Due to a series of unfortunate events, astronaut Mark Watney is living alone on Mars. And no one knows. With no way to signal Earth, a limited food supply, and a dogged determination to stay alive, Watney puts his skills and smart-assert to the test. I read this in 24 hours. I did not stop. I completely blew off familial obligations while reading this over the holidays. I have no regrets.

 

A Rogue by Any Other Name by Sarah MacLean

This is the first romance novel I’ve read in quite some time, and I really enjoyed it. It’s the first book in the Rules of Scoundrels series which revolves around London’s most exclusive gaming hell. I won’t say much about it, but it’s significantly less ridiculous than a lot of other historical romance tends to be.

 

So now you’re mostly caught up to where I am now with my current reading. As I mentioned before, this isn’t a complete list of everything I’ve read this year, but I think it gives a pretty good picture. There will be a few other things that mention books from 2014, but my 2015 book reviews will start popping up here pretty soon. We’re moving onward!

Those of you who follow me on instagram (and if you don’t you’re missing awesome book pics …and cat pics, but shush) know that I was super excited about Amy Poehler’s Yes Please. I started reading it almost immediately after I finished Not That Kind of Girl. It was so weird going straight from Dunham’s book to this. Lena Dunham is quite the controversial and polarizing individual (perhaps more than she should be and I have loads of opines about that re: the media and public perception of/reaction to a woman being successful and owning her sexuality and poet at a relatively young age). Then there’s Amy Poehler, whom I love and everyone loves and if you don’t I may subject you to a rigorous background check to make sure you’re still a good person because how can you not be pro-Poehler?! But I digress…

Poehler writes about funny things and difficult things and sad things, all with honesty, grace, and humor. The book does occasionally feel a bit gimmickry, but not overwhelmingly so and since she is a comedian, I expect a little schtick.

I whole-heartedly recommend this book. It was a quick, fun, and funny read and it made me think about a few things — like how you should say “yes please” to anything that life throws at you. And for that I thank Amy Poehler. I may have read this in 2014, but it’s 2015 now, and having a “yes please” attitude going into the new year seems like a good idea.

Well, the New Year is upon us and with it comes every possible promise of personal betterment. I’e never been particularly keen on New Year’s resolutions, perhaps because I fear both commitment and failure, but that’s neither here nor there. The point is: the kind of resolutions I can get enthusiastic about are, unsurprisingly, reading-related.

I was 9 books shy of my 100-book goal for 2014, so I’m shooting for it once again in 2015. Additionally, I want to further diversify my reading. I read a good amount of women writers and writers of color as it is, but I want to make a more conscious effort to do so. I also want to read more in translation, as that is an area in which I am lacking.

For a very brief moment I entertained the idea of echoing my friend Elizabeth’s resolution to not buy any books. Yes. Any. With the idea that it forces one to read the tons of books already in one’s possession. But I’m all about attainable goals and, besides, it runs somewhat counter to my other goals for 2015, so instead I’m just going to try to read more of the books I already own. That’s a compromise, right?

I’m also going to continue tracking my reading and I hope to better organize my bookshelves. Those might not be reading goals, but they’re book related and reading-adjacent, so I’m including them.

So these are my 2015 resolutions. They are resolutions I believe I could keep, and that’s the beauty of it.

Do you have reading resolutions? Regular resolutions? Tell me all about ’em!