Monthly Round-Up: April 2017

So, I know it doesn’t look like it when you see the books below, but my reading actually ground to  a halt for a bit this month. (Most of these were read in March, believe it or not.) Which means, next month’s posting may be kind of light. We’ll see. I pulled an old favorite off the shelf a week or so ago and am slowly working through it, and I read the third in a series that I love, so maybe I can find books to read.

That said, my favorite last month (no surprise here):


Strange the Dreamer

M had some valid criticisms of it, but overall, I thought it was gorgeous.

Middle Grade:

Amina’s Voice
Funny Girl
The Star Thief

YA:

The Thief (reread)
Thick as Thieves
I Shall Wear Midnight (reread)

Graphic Novel:


5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior

Non-Fiction:

Good Clean Fun (audio)

Adult:

Small Gods
Homegoing

What was your favorite this month?

5 Worlds: The Sand Warrior

by Mark Siegel, Alexis Siegel, Xanthe Bouma, Matt Rockefeller, Boya Sun
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Release date: May 2, 2017
Content: There’s some intense action moments. It will be in the middle grade graphic novel section of the bookstore.

This came into the store, and I passed it off to K, since she’s the graphic novel aficionado in the house. She took it, read it, and came home raving about it. Made me sit down and read it (while she read it again over my shoulder!) pretty much right then.

And she’s right: this one’s a winner.

Oona is a sand dancer on one of the five worlds. She’s learning to control the sands, and perhaps see the Chosen One, the one who will fill the prophecy and light the beacons. (Though lighting the beacons is a source of contention: not everyone in the worlds thinks that will save the dying worlds…) Oona’s not a star student by any means; she finds she can’t control the sands. And so when Oona receives a letter from her sister who left a year earlier, she decides, on the eve of Beacon Day (when they choose the Chosen One), to ditch everything and see her sister.

And that’s where the adventure starts. Through a series of accidents, she meets An Tzu, a boy from the slums who has a knack for getting out of tough situations and Jax Amboy, a famous starball player who has a couple  of secrets. Together, the three of them set out to figure out the prophecy and find someone to light the beacons.

That doesn’t do it justice, really. It’s fun, it’s packed full of suspense and adventure, and I love the mythology and lore that the authors have created. I also really liked the different worlds and creatures they’ve created. It’s a inventive story while retaining a sense of familiarity (I mean, how many times have we read a Chosen One story, after all?).

It’s really one of the best graphic novels I’ve read in a while, though.

Thick as Thieves

thickasthievesby Megan Whalen Turner
First sentence: “It was midday and the passageway quiet and cool.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The ThiefThe Queen of AttoliaThe King of AttoliaA Conspiracy of Kings
Review copy provided by the publisher.
Content: It’s a bit slow, and the main character is an adult. There is also some (not very graphic) violence. It will be in the YA section ( grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Turner writes in the introduction to the ARC that you really don’t have to read the other books in the series in order to enjoy this one. It does help, of course, but this one holds its own on its own. And she’s right: it’s been years since I’ve visited these characters, and it didn’t matter that I can’t quite remember exactly what The Thief was about. (Which means I need to reread it.)

Kamet is a slave of one of the high officials in the Mede empire. He’s happy, pretty much, because he’s his master’s right  hand man, which means he has a certain amount of privilege and power. And then, in the course of a single day he is offered freedom from a strange Attolian soldiear, and he is told that his master was poisoned. He doesn’t want to be blamed (and killed) for the murder, so he takes the Attolian up on his offer and leaves.

Most of the book is Kamet and “the Attolian” (you’re not given a name until the end, but if you’ve read the others, you’ll guess who it is) making their escape. It’s not a straightforward thing: they have difficulties, they’re chased by the emperor’s guard, they meet friends and foes alike. It’s not a fast book, it’s not an intense book, but it is an intriguing journey, and the developing friendship between Kamet (who is not always the most reliable narrator) is a delight.

There are some nice twists at the end as well, ones I kind of saw coming but was still delighted by. And Turner helpfully left the door open for another book. Which is always good, because I’ll happily visit this world anytime she decides to set a story there.

Reread: I Shall Wear Midnight

by Terry Pratchett
First sentence: “Why was it, Tiffany Aching wondered, that people liked noise so much?
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Others in the series: The Wee Free Men, A Hat Full of Sky, Wintersmith
Content: There’s a bit more romance, and some illusions to sex (none actual), and the story’s a bit darker than the other Tiffany Aching books. It’s in the YA section (grades 6-8) of the bookstore.

Last time I read this, seven years ago, I called it a perfect ending for a perfect series. It’s still a perfect series. But, going back and rereading this, I’ve realized that this isn’t an ending. More like a stopping place. (And I am glad The Shepherd’s Crown got published. It makes for a better ending.)

That said (follow the seven years ago link for the plot), I still loved this one. I loved that the conflict was the negative opinions of witches, the hate that is so often seen in the face of the unknown. It felt very timely. I liked that Pratchett used old lore to battle the hate (if we know and understand our history, we will better be able to fight against the dark), and having recently read Small Gods, I understood all the references to the priests of Om this time. I adore Tiffany’s practicality (and wish I could figure out how to better roll with the challenges in my life), and I love the humor. There can never be too much NacMacFeegle, and I loved the fierceness with which Jeannie (the kelda) watches over her clan.

Really, these books are such a delight to read.

Homegoing

by Yaa Gyasi
First sentence: “The night Effia Otcher was gorn into the musky heat of Fanteland, a fire raged through the woods just outside her father’s compound.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s non-graphic sex, a lot of swearing, violence, and general difficult situations. It’s in the adult fiction section of the bookstore.

A good, powerful look at two sisters, separated at birth — one eventually sold into slavery in America, and the other remaining in Africa — and the subsequent generations. It’s a powerful look at choices (made by and for individuals) and how those can affect not only individual lives but also generations. It’s a unique way to tell a story — every chapter is a different person, progressing through the generations — and both the writing and the actual storytelling are excellent.

It’s a haunting read, but a good one.

Strange the Dreamer

by Laini Taylor
First sentence: “On the second Sabbat of Twelfthmoon, in the city of Weep, a girl fell from the sky.”
Support your local independent bookstore: buy it there!
Content: There’s inferences to rape, but none action. There’s violence, and some off-screen sex. It’s in the Teen (grades 9+) section of the bookstore.

Lazlo Strange, a peasant orphan from nowhere, has a dream. It’s about a long-gone city, that probably is mythical, and definitely is of no interest to anyone scholarly. And yet, he is drawn to them.

It was more of the same from Taylor, but that more is excellent. I love falling into her world building, and I love her language. So, while it wasn’t a wholly original story (it did feel a lot like Daughter of Smoke and Bone), it was still a delightful one to read.