Thursday, September 1, 2016

Month in Review: August 2016

Month in Review: August 2016

So, I'm back. Summer was summery. The kids fought too much, and I am delighted to have them back in school.

I read an astonishing 24 books in August, although at least one of them was very short. After a summer reading adult books almost exclusively, I got back into reading kidlit and YA to keep up with the Missouri state readers awards in those categories.  

Adult books (mostly fiction)

1. Along the Infinite Sea by Beatriz Williams - My first Williams novel. This was for my in-person book club, and it was just okay for me. As with most dual storyline novels, I felt like the storyline set more in the past was the stronger one and carried very little for the other narrative stream. My book group seemed to really like it though. 

2. Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson - This was great, but not as great as Brown Girl, Dreaming. Seriously if I could get everyone to read Brown Girl, I would. My sci fi/fantasy-loving husband did, and he loved it too. But Another Brooklyn was good, and short. It leaves you wanting more. It is about a group of girls growing up in Brooklyn in the 1970s.

3. Arrowood by Laura McHugh - This was pretty good. It is about a woman who returns to the Iowa town where she and her family had lived before her sisters' disappearance.

4. Here Comes the Sun by Nicole Dennis-Benn - Dennis-Benn's first novel is a powerful story about a family of women living in Jamaica. It is about the desperate pressures of poverty and getting by. This was one seriously messed up family.

5. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi - Another amazing debut novel! Also depressing. Two girls in Ghana live very different lives, and we watch as their families' stories continue to diverge through the generations. It covers 300 years of colonization and African and American history. 

6. Imagine Me Gone by Adam Haslett - A wonderful novel about the reverberations of mental illness in a family and the medicalization of mental illness and how we treat it. Chilling. Also it gets bonus points for introducing me to kratom the week before it became a banned substance. I saw a story on it last night and was like, "Oh! Oh! I know what that is!"

7. March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, & Nate Powell - Part two of John Lewis's graphic novel that follows him on his journey from college student to political activist and major player in the Civil Rights Movement. Book Two covers the Freedom Riders and the March on Washington.

8. Siracusa by Delia Ephron - Two couples travel to Italy together and come back changed. Not my cup of tea, but I knew that going in. I just wanted to be entertained. I wish it had come together differently. The big event that we learn about at the end was a major turn-off for me, and the teasing style annoyed me at times. 

9. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel - Honestly I finished this on August 1, and it feels so long ago. A sci fi novel. We discover something strange buried in the earth, and it goes from there. I am not sure what would be considered a spoiler, so I will leave it at that. I liked the characters and their interactions.

10. The Natural Way of Things by Charlotte Wood - Another one that feels like I read it ages ago. A chilling premise that feels too possible in this day and age. Then I find out that it is loosely based on something that happened in Australia in the 70s! This one gets bonus points for its feminist themes. Feminism is my jam.

11. The Sport of Kings by C. E. Morgan - A sweeping saga about a man and his horse farm. Sort of. But also racism, family, and a powerful critique of our social structures. This felt overly long. The author tended to wax poetic at times, and it didn't always work for me. Morgan is definitely a talented writer, but WTH was that ending? 

12. The Story of My Tits by Jennifer Hayden - A graphic memoir about author's life with her breasts: starting with their development and ending with her battle with breast cancer and covering all of her life and relationships in-between. I picked this up partly because I know someone with the same name as the author, then that friend was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was good, not great.

13. Underground Airlines by Ben H. Winters - A novel set in an USA where the Civil War didn't happen, not only is there still slavery in a handful of states, but racism everywhere seems to be more overt. A slave catcher, a sort of undercover operative of the US Marshals Service, is hunting an escaped slave in Indianapolis. I thought this was very interesting, but it suffered in comparison to the next novel.

14. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead - I am going to tell you right away that this novel is part historical fiction and part speculative fiction. I didn't realize that going in and was very confused until I learned to just roll with its anachronisms and inaccuracies and embrace the journey. It is a classic hero's quest story, and it is phenomenal.

15. The Unseen World by Liz Moore - A girl tries to crack the code of her father's mysterious past. This was a pageturner for me. Well, really, I listened to it, but I finished it in just 1-2 days, which means I listened at every available minute. It has faded a little since I finished it, but still a good literary novel with a hint of science fiction.

16. Girls & Sex by Peggy Orenstein - I took a huge break in the middle of reading this to finish things that had to be read right then, and the book suffered for it. Ultimately I would recommend this to anyone raising daughters. I have boys, but I read it because 1) feminism, and 2) I want to raise my sons to be good people who are respectful to women.

Young Adult books

17. Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway - A preliminary nominee for the 2017-2018 Missouri Gateway Readers Award. Emmy & Oliver are best friends, when Oliver is kidnapped by his father. He is returned 10 years later, and they struggle to reconnect. This was just okay for me. 

18. Falls the Shadow by Stefanie Gaither - A girl's sister dies and is replaced by a clone, then the clone is involved in a death. Is it part of a larger plot? I found this one's premise more interesting than the previous book, but it was still just okay for me. Falls the Shadow is a 2016-2017 Missouri Truman Readers Award nominee. 

19. Some Boys by Patty Blount - Grace says she was raped at a party, but everyone at school seems to be on his side. She is bullied and made miserable, but refuses to hide or back down from her story. Does it matter that he used to be her boyfriend or that she was drinking and dressed provocatively? This was good. Some Boys is a 2016-2017 Missouri Gateway Readers Award nominee.

20. What We Saw by Aaron Hartzler - Kate went to a party, got drunk, and was escorted home by a male friend. After she left a girl may have been raped. This book focuses more on the people who stand by and do nothing. The girl that was raped is only in it briefly. The focus is on Kate as she struggles to figure out what happened and how it affects her relationships with her classmates. I found this more thought-provoking than Some Girls. What We Saw is a preliminary nominee for the 2017-2018 Missouri Gateway Readers award. 

Middle Grade books

21. Red Berries, White Clouds, Blue Sky by Sandra Dallas - A somewhat simplistic story about a girl whose family is interned in a camp in rural Colorado during World War II. This could be a good introduction for kids to a troubling episode in our nation's history. A 2016-2017 nominee for the Missouri Mark Twain Readers award.

22. The Lost Tribes by C. Taylor-Butler - A good middle-grade sci-fi adventure story about a group of kids who are starting to suspect that their parents are more than they seem to be. The book features a racially diverse group of kids. (Disclaimer: The author is a friend of a friend.)

23. The Worst Class Trip Ever by Dave Barry - A wildly implausible story about a group of eighth grade kids who suspect that the people sitting behind them on an airplane are up to no good and set out to foil their terrorist plot.

So many good books this month, but the standout favorite is The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. So, so good it makes it hard to think about other books.

24. Harriet the Invincible by Ursula Vernon - An easy read with lots of pictures good for a child that is reading chapter books. My boys both enjoyed Vernon’s Dragonbreath series, so I picked this one up to see what it was like.

**I am having huge problems getting images to copy into my blog right now, so I am skipping pictures of book covers for right now. I am not sure if it is me, or Blogger, or my new to me Mac. Anyway, I apologize.

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