The Kingdom, by Jess Rothenberg
This is a recent YA Sci-Fi/Fantasy about a cyborg princess who is one of the star attractions at an immersive theme park. The princesses aren’t supposed to have independent thought, yet Ana finds herself having real feelings for a young park employee. I read this one on the excited recommendation of some coworkers at the bookstore. It’s a very readable book told in a first-person narrative combined with court records and company memos. I liked it, but didn’t love it. I felt that the ending was not true to the story. It’s like the author wrote the novel, then getting a contract for a series (yes, this will be a series) changed the ending to lead into the next book.
Stargazing, by Jen Wang
I’ve been a big fan of author/illustrator Wang since the first Flight anthology which had an early story of hers. Last year she had a big hit with The Prince and the Dressmaker (that book makes me so happy) and later this year (I read an ARC) will release her first middle grade graphic novel, Stargazing. This book is sweet and funny, but also does a great job of highlighting the awkwardness of sixth grade—trying to fit in, trying to figure out who you are. For the characters in Stargazing, the discomfort also comes from being in a tight-knit Chinese American community and the pressures to be both Chinese and American.
A Free Man of Color, by Barbara Hambly
This was a reread and I’m not going to say much here as I wrote a whole post about this book, except that this is a wonderful book. Great mystery, rich characters that are fully formed—even some of the side characters that don’t have a place in the action. The hero’s mother is one of the least sympathetic/most empathetic characters I’ve read. She’s hard, cold, and judgmental, but given her past, what else could she be. The Benjamin January mysteries have long been a favorite of mine and I can’t recommend them enough.
Sanity & Tallulah: Field Trip, By Molly Brooks
The is the second in this graphic novel series. The first is beyond charming, and this one equally so, but it also raises the stakes for the two best friends living on a space station in the middle of nowhere. When the girls’ class goes on a field trip to a planet the worst-case scenario happens and brilliant Sanity must figure out a way off planet while dreamy Tallulah uncovers secrets held within the planet. This series is meant for kids, but it’s so well drawn (literally and figuratively) that I think it has a lot to appeal to adults too. It definitely satisfies my constant need for good space stories.
The Sweetest Fruits, by Monique Truong
As a huge fan of 19th writer Lafcadio Hearn, I was so excited to find there was a novel coming out about his life. Got the book the week it came out and I loved it. Truong examines Hearn’s chaotic life through the eyes of three women who loved him. His mother, a Greek woman who married an English soldier, his first wife, a former slave in Cincinnati, and his second wife, the daughter of a Samurai family in Japan. This is a beautiful book about a subject I’m interested in, so I loved it. I’m not sure what it would offer (other than lovely prose and authentic voices) to those who don’t know who Hearn is. Still recommended.
What Makes This Book So Great, by Jo Walton
This is a book of blog posts that Walton wrote between 2008 and 2011 reviewing classic Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I started this book months ago, but it was on my night table and I’d only read a chapter or two a night. My list of TBR books got infinitely larger after reading this. Walton has an encyclopedic knowledge of Sci-Fi/Fantasy, and other types of, books. There were so many that I’d never heard of that sounded wonderful. That said, I skipped several sections that reviewed books in long series that I’m not interested in reading. All in all a fascinating read.
Gaudy Night, by Dorothy Sayers
I got this book from the library and as I was finishing the previous book, there is a chapter on it. I didn’t read it then, so I could enjoy the book first. Then I saw a blog post referencing it, and after that it was referred to in an article I read. The universe was definitely telling me to read it. I did and I enjoyed it, even though it was hella long and there wasn’t much mystery. As someone who hasn’t read any Sayer before, it was not what I was expecting, and from what I read, it’s not in her usual style. But I loved the immersion in a 1930s ladies college at Oxford. A lot of the book is taken up with the few choices that women can make for their lives—careers versus family. It was particularly interesting to me since a similar conversation still takes place today. I wouldn’t recommend this book as a mystery, but as a slice of life examination of the lives of women in the 1930s, I would.
The Magnificent Nine, by James Lovegrove
This was a potato chip read. It is a book set in the universe of the TV show Firefly—of which I’m a huge fan—and reads like an episode. The one is the second in a series of three and takes place after the show but before the movie. What can I say? I thoroughly enjoyed it. If you like the show or are a fan of space westerns based on a movie western based on a Japanese samurai movie, you’ll love it too.
The Graveyard Book, by Neil Gaiman
I listened to this on audio—a reread/relisten. This is about as perfect as a book and an audio reading can get. Gaiman reads his Newbery winner so simply that really makes you feel like you’re in that graveyard too. The story follows Bod, a boy whose family was murdered and who is raised by ghosts in a graveyard. It’s a beautiful book about growing up and becoming a real person. If you haven’t read it, do yourself a favor.
Well Met, by Jen DeLuca
This book only tangentially relates to my “romances in bookstore/romances around books” predilection as it takes place, mostly, at a small Renaissance Faire. There is a bookstore involved and a shared love of Shakespeare, so it counts—my official judgment call. In this delightful little romance follows Emily, a newcomer to town, who has moved there after a bad break-up to take of her older sister and niece after a car accident. She gets roped into volunteering to be a wench at the local Faire, but immediately butts head with the organizer, Simon. As this is a romance, you probably can guess what happens, and it does. What makes this a great story is that both Emily and Simon have character arcs, growing and changing to be better people by the end. Much recommended.