I bought the complete Inheritance Trilogy ages ago and only got around to starting the first book in the series while on a plane a few days ago. I wisI bought the complete Inheritance Trilogy ages ago and only got around to starting the first book in the series while on a plane a few days ago. I wish I hadn't waited so long, because I really loved The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms and can't wait to keep working the rest of my way through the series.
The world of the Inheritance Trilogy was once created and ruled by three gods - the god of the moon, the god of the sun, and the goddess of dawn and twilight. At some point long in the past, the gods had a war in which the goddess was killed and the god of the moon was enslaved. In the present day of The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, the world worships Itempas, who is the god of sun and of order, while Nahadoth, the god of the moon and of chaos, is enslaved to the family who rules all the human nations. The heroine, Yeine, is the daughter of the heir to the ruling family, but her mother had married someone from another nation and renounced her claim as heir. Yeine suddenly finds herself summoned to Sky, the home of the ruling family, where she learns that she has been declared one of three possible heirs for the family - though as she learns more she finds that her role there is really to die as part of the ceremony that enables her grandfather to pass his powers on to whichever of the heirs is truly chosen to replace him.
My only complaint about this book is that Yeine didn't really feel believable - she learns too much too easily, everyone seems to fall in love with her, and she turns out to be basically The Chosen One. I loved the world and the situations Yeine ended up in enough that I could forgive this, but it did make the difference between this being a four- or five-star story for me. That said, though, I will definitely be continuing on to read the rest of this series!...more
I read the novella Binti because I'd heard good things about Nnedi Okorafor and this 96-page story would meet another of the Book Riot Read Harder chaI read the novella Binti because I'd heard good things about Nnedi Okorafor and this 96-page story would meet another of the Book Riot Read Harder challenges: "Read a book under 100 pages." I'm really glad I'm doing this challenge, because it's getting me to pick up a lot of things I might otherwise have kept putting off!
Binti is about a teenager from a remote tribe in the Namib Desert, set sometime in the far future when interplanetary travel is possible and humanity has come into contact with many other alien life forms. Binti's tribe is made up of masterful artist-scientists, but they keep to themselves and never stray far from their desert, let alone leave the planet. She has been accepted to the universe's most prestigious university, and when her family forbids her to go, she sneaks out and boards a spaceship for Oomza Uni anyway - and is suddenly forced to wrestle with feeling like an outsider even among other humans from her part of the world. Things get even more complicated for Binti when her spaceship is boarded by a hostile alien race.
I really enjoyed the character of Binti and the world Okorafor created, and I'm definitely looking forward to reading more from this author....more
What a weird book! I really loved it up until the end, where the weirdness ballooned to a point where I wasn't sure what was actually happening in theWhat a weird book! I really loved it up until the end, where the weirdness ballooned to a point where I wasn't sure what was actually happening in the novel anymore. So I'm only giving it three stars, but the rest of the novel really deserves more than that - it's just so unsatisfying at the end.
I hadn't read any Helen Oyeyemi before, and I wouldn't have picked this as my starting point except that I've been trying to steer my 2016 reading choices around meeting all the goals on the 2015 and 2016 Book Riot Read Harder challenges (since I didn't know about the challenge in 2015), and one of the 2015 challenges was to read a book written by an author under the age of 25. Oyeyemi wrote The Icarus Girl, her first novel, at 18 and was published by age 20, so I picked this book based entirely on her age and without knowing a thing about the book itself.
I didn't expect this to be so creepy, but this novel I picked without knowing anything about the story starts out just feeling a bit weird and surprises you partway through by being pretty much a horror story. It's about a lonely eight-year-old girl who is prone to hiding in small spaces and to throwing massive tantrums. She lives in England, where her white father grew up, but early in the book she and her parents take a trip to Nigeria, where her black mother grew up, so that she can meet her mother's family. She takes an instant liking to her grandfather but is disappointed to realize none of her cousins are her age, so she feels just as lonely in Nigeria as she did in England - until she meets Titiola. Jessamy can't speak Yoruba and knows she's saying her new friend's name wrong, so she calls her TillyTilly instead. The two girls become fast friends, but Jess gets a creeping suspicion that something is odd or off about TillyTilly - but she's so grateful to have a companion that she doesn't let herself think about this very much.
Things only get really weird when Jess's family goes back to England, and TillyTilly turns up there too. Jess is so grateful to have a friend that she doesn't question this at first, but TillyTilly gets more singleminded and obsessive in her friendship with Jess, and she starts hurting people she thinks are being mean to Jess. It also becomes impossible to keep pretending that TillyTilly is a normal human girl, and Jess is left struggling with whether she's going crazy (is TillyTilly some kind of horrible imaginary friend?) or whether she's being haunted by a ghost or evil spirit. TillyTilly's behavior gets more and more dangerous, and nothing Jess does can make her go away.
The story is fascinating, and I really wish Oyeyemi had found a better way to tie it all together at the end - but then again, this is a first novel, written when she was a teen! I am really looking forward to reading some of the things she wrote after this, as The Icarus Girl shows a huge amount of promise and had me engrossed and on the edge of my seat all the way up until that bizarre final section. ...more
For most of this book, I was sure The Murder of Roger Ackroyd was going to turn out to be my favorite of the three. The writing is strong, the characters are interesting, and every person was a likely suspect but none of them seemed to be the obvious culprit. I did not see the twist coming at all, but - without saying anything more so I don't spoil the story for anyone else - I didn't like what she did in that twist, so my enjoyment dropped off a bit in the last couple of chapters.
I don't think I'm going to continue reading any more Agatha Christie for a while, but her books are definitely fun to read and keep the reader guessing. I'll probably come back to her novels eventually and read more, but I don't feel compelled to keep going now that I've read the three that are supposed to be her best....more
The Girls is one of the big buzz books of 2016, and I can see why - I read it over just two days because I couldn't put it down. Based loosely on theThe Girls is one of the big buzz books of 2016, and I can see why - I read it over just two days because I couldn't put it down. Based loosely on the Manson Family murders, it's atmospheric and creepy, the story of a teenage girl falling in with the members of a cult one aimless summer and very nearly ending up going along with them on the night they commit a gruesome mass murder. While most of the book is about that summer, parts of it are told from Evie's perspective as an older woman, looking back with curiosity and discomfort at how close she came to that moment. Even though she never committed a crime, and never even knew about the group's sinister intentions for that night, she sees how easily she could have joined them in that killing spree if she had been there.
This was very nearly a five-star book for me because it's such interesting reading, but it doesn't really go very deep - it's deliberately hazy in its storytelling since it focuses on a main character who is mostly passive, letting things happen to her and just rolling along with them as a small way of rebelling against her parents' divorce. She becomes fascinated by a slightly older girl in the cult, follows her around, and doesn't think very much about what she's doing because she only cares about being close to Suzanne. It all feels very dreamy, which works well as a style while you're reading the book but also doesn't let you get to know any of the characters very well. I would have liked to know more about the girls and about the cult leader; nobody's motivations are very clear. It's a very engrossing read, though, and if the topic sounds at all interesting to you I recommend picking it up....more
Don Quixote is on my "someday I will get around to reading this book" list, but it is a) really long and b) from the beginning of the 1600s and so I kDon Quixote is on my "someday I will get around to reading this book" list, but it is a) really long and b) from the beginning of the 1600s and so I know reading it is not a minor undertaking. In the meantime I decided I'd at least learn the plot of the novel by reading this graphic novel version, which turned out to be a lot of fun!
I can't compare the graphic novel to the original to know how much was changed or left out, but it definitely covered a lot of ground in its 300 pages and gave me a good sense of the storyline of Don Quixote, including lots of side stories the characters tell to amuse or impress each other, and the meta-story of Cervantes insisting that he is not the author of a fictional tale but the adaptor of a history that had been written in Arabic. The artwork feels simple and cartoonish in the way it exaggerates people's physical features, but is actually quite detailed. The art style is very well matched to the narrative style, with its blend of serious self-importance and barely-hidden humor.
I really enjoyed reading this graphic novel version. It's not a replacement for reading the actual novel, but I definitely know more about Don Quixote now and still hope to read the novel at some point....more
I'm trying out the Serial Reader app, which sends you installments of a classical novel each day in roughly 15-minute portions. I read A Tale of Two CI'm trying out the Serial Reader app, which sends you installments of a classical novel each day in roughly 15-minute portions. I read A Tale of Two Cities in high school but remember precisely none of it....more
Asking for It is a really well researched and well written book about rape culture - our contemporary culture, where men can generally feel safer thanAsking for It is a really well researched and well written book about rape culture - our contemporary culture, where men can generally feel safer than women, where men's words are given more credibility than women's, where jokes about raping people are still told and still sometimes get laughs in response.
I waffled on giving this four or five stars, because I'm very glad I read it but there's not really a lot of new information here; I don't feel like I learned a lot or had my eyes opened to things I hadn't already thought about. I settled on five because I'm really glad this book exists, and I can see it being incredibly powerful for a younger reader who's figuring things out for the first time, or for men who are willing to take some time to examine their privilege. I think for most adult female readers, Asking for It will be compelling and get the blood boiling a bit about this world we live in, but it isn't saying much we don't already know.
Harding does a fabulous job of striking a balance between being academic and humorous in her writing. She backs up everything she says with research; she examines how rape affects people across gender, race, class, and sexual orientation; and she knows the power of laughter in letting off some steam. I appreciated her moments of levity and thought her personality in the writing really helps keep this book from going too far into dry academic-writing territory.
Definitely recommended, especially for high school and college age readers, but it's a pretty compelling read even if you're already fully on board with everything Harding has to say....more
I'm very conflicted about The Queen of the Night. I devoured the first half - the prose is gorgeous, and the story it's setting up has lots of promiseI'm very conflicted about The Queen of the Night. I devoured the first half - the prose is gorgeous, and the story it's setting up has lots of promise. But right around the midpoint of the book, everything started feeling like a slog. It took me several days of halfheartedly chipping away at it before I found myself invested in the story again. I raced through the final sections, but my enthusiasm never climbed up to the level it had held during the first half.
The main character of The Queen of the Night is a beloved and highly successful opera singer who learns that a composer and novelist are working together to write an opera with her in mind for the lead part. When she starts reading the novel, though, she finds it based far too closely on her own young life to be chance - someone who knows her past intimately is trying to make it public. She begins to look back over her life - from orphan to circus performer to servant to courtesan to opera student - trying to figure out who could be behind the novel. She recounts her history and in turn meets up with different key figures from her past to try to feel out whether they are responsible.
The book tries so much to follow the structure and ideas of opera that it sometimes feels too melodramatic, its characters too wooden. My biggest complaint with the book is that the main character has almost no agency. This is Paris in the late 1800s and women certainly didn't have the freedoms men did, but for most of the book she seemed so resigned to the things that were happening to her. Furthermore, I found the central romance unconvincing and didn't understand her obsession with this man she had never properly met and hardly knew anything about.
One thing I did particularly like about The Queen of the Night is that nearly all the secondary characters in the book are real people, making the book quite informative about the arts and politics of the years leading up to and following the Franco-Prussian War. I really enjoyed the setting and the cast of characters, and the writing really is lovely. It's just so very long, and after a while everything feels too abstracted - I stopped caring about the characters or believing in their romances and conflicts. I really wish this had held up the momentum it built in the first half, but eventually The Queen of the Night felt like it was trying too hard to be an opera in novel form and fell apart a bit as a novel....more
I really enjoyed this book, which takes a very funny look at the American death industry and our attitudes about death. The author is a young morticiaI really enjoyed this book, which takes a very funny look at the American death industry and our attitudes about death. The author is a young mortician (host of the YouTube series "Ask a Mortician") who feels that America has sanitized death out of our lives so fully that we live in fear and confusion about it. She wants to promote "good deaths," helping people both come to peace with the reality of death and make more educated decisions about end-of-life care.
This book is part memoir about her journey into the funeral industry and part guidebook about death - scientifically, physically, historically, culturally. There's a lot of really interesting information here, and I thoroughly appreciated the author's sense of humor - she's good at pointing out absurdities and never taking herself too seriously without veering too far in the direction of writing "a funny book about death."
Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a great companion to the much heavier Knocking on Heaven's Door, which I read recently and highly recommend. If you read Smoke Gets in Your Eyes and want to know more about the end-of-life issues Doughty touches on in her final chapters, Knocking on Heaven's Door is an excellent follow-up with a lot more information on that subject; and if you read Knocking on Heaven's Door and felt emotionally exhausted after it, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes is a much more lighthearted take on some of the same subject matter....more
I read and enjoyed And Then There Were None recently, but the casual racism throughout the book made it hard for me to get too enthusiastic. I knew II read and enjoyed And Then There Were None recently, but the casual racism throughout the book made it hard for me to get too enthusiastic. I knew I wanted to give Agatha Christie another shot, so I borrowed Murder on the Orient Express from the library and found it a more enjoyable book to be reading in the twenty-first century. It still suffers from some sweeping generalizations about different groups, though it's mostly Europeans stereotyping people from other European countries and from America, without getting race or religion involved.
The plot of Murder on the Orient Express is pretty well known (there's a murder! on a train!) and if you haven't had the ending spoiled for you at some point in your life - which I hadn't - it's a fun read. Poirot leaps to some pretty tenuous conclusions (I'm still not sure how he felt so entirely convinced that he had correctly identified the dead man), but it's fun to watch the puzzle pieces snap together and finally to understand the situation that had led to a murder on a cross-continental train trip. ...more
The Girl with All the Gifts is the sort of book that's best approached without knowing much about it, so I won't say much about the plot. It's a thrilThe Girl with All the Gifts is the sort of book that's best approached without knowing much about it, so I won't say much about the plot. It's a thriller that I read in just a couple of days because I was eager to know what would happen next, but it suffers from very stereotyped characters and doesn't ultimately do anything new or different beyond its main concept - though the main concept is very clever and is based on an actual condition affecting ants and other insects.
I'm torn about whether or how to recommend this; if you like dystopian thrillers and don't mind a small amount of body horror, you'll probably find The Girl with All the Gifts at least passingly enjoyable. If you try to analyze it or pick it apart like we did in my book club, it falls apart pretty fast, though; there isn't a lot of depth and the characters are such stereotypes that there isn't much to discuss about how they grew or changed over the course of the book....more
I really like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's writing, and I found Half of a Yellow Sun completely gripping. It's set in the 1960s in Nigeria and Biafra anI really like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's writing, and I found Half of a Yellow Sun completely gripping. It's set in the 1960s in Nigeria and Biafra and focuses on two sisters and their households during periods of peacetime and war. Parts of the book are set in the early 60s as Kainene and Olanna begin relationships with their partners, neither of whom are in any way satisfactory choices as far as their wealthy parents are concerned - Kainene's partner Richard is a white writer from England who has moved permanently to Nigeria, and Olanna's partner Odenigbo is a professor with a strong revolutionary streak. Other parts are set later in the 60s, when Biafra secedes from Nigeria and enters a three-year period of war and starvation as Nigeria attempts to quash the secession.
Toward the end, the book has some pretty difficult and gruesome scenes, particularly after Odenigbo's houseboy Ugwu is forcibly conscripted and has to serve as a soldier. However, what Half of a Yellow Sun does beautifully is ease the reader slowly from scenes of normal everyday life into more and more difficult situations. For much of the book, the main characters are leading vibrant, relaxed lives, and the focus of the book is on relationships and human drama. Then there's talk about faraway atrocities, and excitement over the new state of Biafra. Even after the new country is living in an obvious state of war, there's a long period where the characters experience it only intellectually, discussing faraway cities where the war is actually playing out. Kainene and Olanna's parents flee to London and are horrified that their children refuse to join them, but the family's wealth makes it easier for both Kainene and Olanna to relocate several times to safer cities in Biafra - though particularly for Olanna, we see the increasing squalor as she begins to have to move into whatever house or shared living situation becomes available. The reader hardly notices the point when the book stops being primarily about the relationships between the characters and instead becomes focused on each character's survival, but the effects of war and starvation become increasingly obvious until the book is entirely about struggling to find any food at all, hiding from air raids, dodging soldiers in the streets, and burying people on a daily basis.
I didn't love that the book wasn't entirely chronological - it's instead told in four parts that alternate between early and late 60s. I know Adichie did this to create some mystery (why have Olanna and Kainene stopped talking? why doesn't Olanna's daughter have a name?), but I think the book would have just as much punch if we came on those details sequentially. Other than a bit of confusion that came from jumping forward and backward in time, though, I really loved Half of a Yellow Sun and think it is very much worth reading in spite of its length and difficult subject matter....more
Oh, this book is so good! I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about it before it was published, and I hope people keep talking about it and reading it.
If IOh, this book is so good! I'd been hearing a lot of buzz about it before it was published, and I hope people keep talking about it and reading it.
If I Was Your Girl is about high-school friendship, romance, and the secrets people keep from each other. Amanda has just moved from the Atlanta suburbs to a rural area several hours away. She's surprised at how quickly she makes friends in her new town, and soon she finds herself the recipient of several quiet confessions. She shares some secrets of her own: she's a virgin, she's never been drunk or high, she attempted suicide in her old town. She keeps her biggest secret closely guarded, though: For most of her life, she was called Andrew. She had been badly beaten up in her old town and knows that her secret is more dangerous than most.
I thought Meredith Russo did a beautiful job of portraying both typical teenage concern about how much of oneself to reveal to others and the very specific fears that come with whether to admit to being trans. Many of Amanda's friends fear their secrets will make them pariahs; Amanda fears her secret will get her killed - but nevertheless she longs for the radical honesty of being able to reveal every detail about herself and still be loved.
I particularly appreciated the author's note at the end, which addressed my biggest hesitations about the content of the book - Amanda is able to have surgery at a young age that her mother most certainly couldn't have afforded, and after her transition she's stereotypically beautiful and passes perfectly as female. Russo admits that she made a lot of things as easy as possible for Amanda so that there would be no barriers for her readers accepting Amanda as being fully a teenage girl. There is very little young adult fiction with trans main characters, and Russo addresses many ways that trans experiences can be very different from Amanda's but I think makes a compelling argument for why she gave Amanda the life and experiences she did. Russo's words at the very end about loving yourself and seeking help if you're suicidal completely choked me up. ...more
Long Red Hair is a sweet but very short graphic memoir spanning a period of more than twenty years as the author struggles with being unpopular in schLong Red Hair is a sweet but very short graphic memoir spanning a period of more than twenty years as the author struggles with being unpopular in school, begins to identify as bisexual, comes out to her very supportive family, and wrestles with failed relationships and an unexpected period of celibacy. It's told in brief vignettes, mostly in chronological order but with occasional flashbacks.
I enjoyed the book, but there isn't a lot to it - it sets excellent scenes but doesn't go very deeply into any of them, so it feels dreamlike rather than giving a lot of details about emotions and recollections like you'd expect from a longer memoir. I'd love to see Meags Fitzgerald extend the stories in Long Red Hair into something significantly longer....more
The Martian is a gripping story, one I didn't want to put down because I wanted to make sure Mark Watney made it home safely. With the recent movie anThe Martian is a gripping story, one I didn't want to put down because I wanted to make sure Mark Watney made it home safely. With the recent movie and all the hype around this book, I think everyone knows the plot already: Astronaut Mark Watney gets stranded on Mars because his team had to leave the planet in a hurry and all signs indicated that he had died in the freak storm that was forcing them off the planet. He's badly injured and needs to figure out how to survive alone on a hostile planet without any means of communicating with Earth.
Watney is a joker who can find the humor in almost any situation, though this is a dual-edged sword for the book. It keeps the pace of the book fast and lighthearted, and it's obvious that one of the main reasons Mark is able to survive on his own for so long is because he can find ways to make himself laugh. However, the book loses some of its punch and horror by filling every situation with one-liners - until quite late in the book, most of the bad things that happen feel pretty minor because we're hearing the whole thing in Mark's voice and he so consistently downplays any reason to worry about what's going on. And worse, Mark's jokes are usually innocuous but sometimes fall squarely into "tone-deaf white dude" land, like when he briefly makes contact with NASA and tries to express his frustration with them by telling them their wives and sisters are prostitutes.
I definitely enjoyed reading The Martian, and it's a great choice if you want something light and compelling. It's not especially well written and it's definitely flawed in a lot of ways, but the story is so engaging that I think most people will enjoy it....more
I decided recently that I should read an Agatha Christie novel. I'd never read one before! So when one with a title I recognized turned up as an AmazoI decided recently that I should read an Agatha Christie novel. I'd never read one before! So when one with a title I recognized turned up as an Amazon $1.99 deal, I decided that would be the one I started with.
I knew that And Then There Were None was not the original title and that it had previously been published as Ten Little Indians. I didn't realize until after reading the book that even Ten Little Indians was a huge attempt at sanitizing the original title of the book. Oof!
The story is compelling and I read the whole thing in an afternoon. I loved the mystery it was setting up and couldn't wait to find out how the author was going to tie everything up at the end. However, it turns out the reason I didn't have even the faintest idea of how the mystery would be resolved was because the ending is so convoluted that it takes two different epilogues to explain it all. I would have still given the book four stars in spite of that, but the casual racism that pops up in different points throughout the book was another stumbling block for me and is the reason I ended up only giving this book three stars.
I'm definitely going to read some more Agatha Christie - I really enjoyed And Then There Were None in spite of some significant flaws....more
This was such a delightful book to read. Juliet is a college student from the Bronx. She's Puerto Rican, chubby, asthmatic, and has finally decided toThis was such a delightful book to read. Juliet is a college student from the Bronx. She's Puerto Rican, chubby, asthmatic, and has finally decided to come out to her family as gay on the same evening she's flying across the country to Portland for an internship doing research for a famous white lesbian writer.
I loved Juliet's personality and how sincerely she wanted to get her head around who she is as a person and how she fits into all the different communities she encounters. This is great as a Queer 101 book since Juliet is learning so many things for the first time, but it also holds up really well as a coming-of-age story even if all the things she's learning are old hat for the reader.
Honestly, the only thing that kept me from giving this book its last star is that it is in desperate need of some basic copy editing (at least in the Kindle edition). It was bad enough that I kept getting pulled out of the story trying to navigate the weird comma placements. I hope those issues get fixed in future editions because this is such a fun story to read....more
I was so conflicted about this book! It's really beautifully written, but the characters didn't feel real enough for me to understand their motivationI was so conflicted about this book! It's really beautifully written, but the characters didn't feel real enough for me to understand their motivations - we get a lot of surface about Carol and Therese but not enough glimpses of their inner workings to figure out what they saw in each other. Carol is repeatedly cruel and dismissive of Therese. Therese's interest in Carol feels obsessive. The Price of Salt is supposed to be significant for being one of the first same-sex romances to have a happy ending, but I had a hard time reading the ending as happy when their relationship felt so completely dysfunctional to me.
The story itself is so interesting, though! It's a proto-Lolita without all the consent issues. Carol is significantly older as well as more experienced than Therese, and this is the source of a lot of the imbalance in their relationship, but they're both adults, mutually entering into a decision to take a road trip across 1950s America. The scenes on the road are the best parts of this book, and Carol and Therese have certain moments where they really feel like they're in a balanced relationship, but Carol is still so secretive, which results in a lot of cruel behavior that made me wish Therese would stand up for herself and get the hell out of there. I had to keep reminding myself of how young Therese was - she often felt older than her years, but it's really not that surprising that a 19-year-old would be obsessive about their extremely attractive, older love interest and fail to realize how awful that person is being toward them.
I really liked the experience of reading The Price of Salt, but it didn't work for me as a romance and so the "happy ending" felt ambivalent at best for me. Carol needs to deal with her divorce first and figure out how to treat another person like a human being! Therese needs someone who will care about her as much as she cares about them! Augh!...more
There isn't a separate Goodreads listing for the short story/novella "Black Dog," so I'm marking this book read but not giving it a star rating sinceThere isn't a separate Goodreads listing for the short story/novella "Black Dog," so I'm marking this book read but not giving it a star rating since I have no plans to read anything else in the collection.
Neil Gaiman's books are all either immediately available or have really short wait lists through my library's digital collection, so it would appear that I will be reading the whole extended American Gods universe before my book club meets this weekend.
"Black Dog" is set shortly after The Monarch of the Glen, while Shadow is still wandering around Scotland. (It makes a passing reference to "The Monarch of the Glen," which is the only reason I feel confident it comes after that story - they're each self-contained enough that otherwise they could have happened in either order.) While still suffering from having a protagonist who just stands there while things happen to him, "Black Dog" has an interesting premise and plot, and I really enjoyed reading it. It's about the black dog myth in the UK, which holds that people may see a large black dog following them shortly before their death. Shadow finds himself caught in a small Scottish town when a particularly nasty storm hits, and the black dog turns up, and then Shadow has a mystery on his hands (which he actually figures out on his own, so he does show a little bit of initiative and thought here for once). I really enjoyed this story, which was a relief after how much I hated "The Monarch of the Glen."...more
Anansi Boys is a "sequel" to American Gods only in that it's set in the same world and shares a minor character with its predecessor. Mr. Nancy/AnansiAnansi Boys is a "sequel" to American Gods only in that it's set in the same world and shares a minor character with its predecessor. Mr. Nancy/Anansi the Spider is a sidekick in American Gods and a mostly absent father in Anansi Boys; the books are self-contained stories that don't need to be read together or in any particular order.
I didn't find the overall concept of Anansi Boys as interesting as I found the ideas at the root of American Gods, though at least Charlie Nancy is a more complex character than Shadow is. Charlie is still a pushover who mostly allows things to happen to him, but he has an inner life that gives reason to his actions and inactions. The plot of Anansi Boys relies on a pretty farfetched string of coincidences, and too many situations are resolved with far too much ease, but it was still a fun and compelling story that I read quickly and don't regret spending time with....more
This novella is everything that's wrong with American Gods without any of the things that made American Gods work for me. It takes place sometime afteThis novella is everything that's wrong with American Gods without any of the things that made American Gods work for me. It takes place sometime after the end of American Gods, almost like an epilogue or lost final chapter. Shadow has been drifting around Europe and is currently in the north of Scotland. Like in American Gods, things happen to him and he just goes along with everything, this time in spite of pretty heavy warnings that he's letting himself be put into a bad situation. However, "The Monarch of the Glen" doesn't have characters or story interesting enough to make up for Shadow's lack of curiosity. It's boring and didn't tell me anything new about Shadow or the world of American Gods....more
I read American Gods a few years ago for a book club, and I read it again now for a different book club, this time in the 10th Anniversary Edition, whI read American Gods a few years ago for a book club, and I read it again now for a different book club, this time in the 10th Anniversary Edition, which has about 12,000 words of additional text and is meant to be the author's definitive edition.
American Gods is not a particularly well written story, but I like the world enough that I can forgive a lot of its clunkiness. The idea is that as various people groups moved to America, they brought their old gods with them, but in contemporary society those gods have been mostly forgotten and have had to find new ways of getting by on the fringes of society as con men, prostitutes, or in other similarly unsavory roles. At the same time there are also new gods, gods of airplanes and technology and the media, who want the old gods out of the way so they can enjoy people's full attention.
The new gods are shallow and unlikeable. The old gods are frequently unlikeable too, but they're far more interesting and complex. Part of the fun of the book is trying to figure out which character maps to which god before the book reveals that god's most commonly used name.
Shadow, the main character, doesn't have a lot of depth to him; this makes some degree of sense as his life was recently turned so completely upside-down that he's too stunned to be able to react well to the unusual situations he suddenly keeps finding himself in. That said, it's not generally a hallmark of great writing to have a main character who just lets things happen to him and does whatever he's told for most of the book's trajectory. The book succeeds in spite of Shadow more than it does because of him.
My overall reaction to American Gods is a lot like my reaction to re-reading Dragonflight and the other Dragonriders of Pern books, though not with the same level of embarrassment as American Gods is not nearly as badly written: the world-building is so clever that the book itself can coast along on its fascinating premise. It's far from perfect, but it's still a lot of fun to read. I wouldn't ever tell anyone to go out and read American Gods (and I definitely wouldn't ever tell anyone to seek out the Pern books), but if anyone asked me whether they should read the book, I'd tell them yes, it's a fun and interesting book in spite of its flaws....more
I had a lot of concerns going into The Invention of Wings, because it's a book by a white author set in antebellum South Carolina and told alternatelyI had a lot of concerns going into The Invention of Wings, because it's a book by a white author set in antebellum South Carolina and told alternately through the viewpoints of a white woman and her black slave. The white woman (a young girl at the start of the novel) is somehow fully enlightened to the horrors of slavery; her slave is strong-willed and intelligent. It felt all too easy for this book to fall into cliches.
I didn't realize that Sarah Grimké was a real person and that a lot of the things that seemed too forward-thinking and too good to be true about her were actually based on her real life. She and her sister Nina were were among the first women to speak and write publicly about abolitionism and feminism. The book had mostly won me over before I got to the author's note at the end and learned that the story was based on real people's lives, but I felt much better about it after learning that fact.
My biggest complaint about The Invention of Wings is that it tends a little bit too much toward fantasy - both in terms of romance and in terms of the stories about the slaves (which the author admits are made up; the real Handful actually died quite young and her entire adult life was invented to give a counterpoint to Sarah's story). I learned about the Grimké sisters from this book, and I'm grateful for that, but the book ultimately felt like more fiction than fact. I enjoyed the book a lot more than I expected to, but for me it falls into the camp of being worth reading if it falls into your lap, but not necessarily worth seeking out....more
Loving Day is engaging and funny, but a little too goofy for my tastes. It's about a pale-skinned man with a black mother and a white father who grewLoving Day is engaging and funny, but a little too goofy for my tastes. It's about a pale-skinned man with a black mother and a white father who grew up always having to defend and fight for his blackness. After his divorce, he comes home to Philadelphia, where he almost immediately learns about a teenage daughter he never knew he had. Suddenly thrust into fatherhood, he decides to educate his daughter on blackness, and the two discover a group called the Melange Center that wants to help mixed-race people learn to embrace both sides of their heritage. The group begins to look more and more like a cult, and Warren finds himself seriously contemplating burning down his house as a way to escape his financial and situational woes.
The book is clever and makes a lot of good points about race in America, but it veers off into absurdity quite a bit - and Warren is a very deeply flawed character with some pretty terrible ideas about women as well as about race. It's worth reading, but I was definitely conflicted about it....more