Frances Hardinge has created another incredible world. In Raddith, disgruntled people can grow curse eggs that, when released, do terrible curses. This is because the country butts up against The Wilds—a swampy forest that is magical and super creepy. Kellen has the ability to reverse curses, but this causes its own trouble. A nefarious group is gathering cursers for a revolt. Kellen and his companion Nettle are in the thick of the plot and have to find a way to stop it in time. This book is really a story about abuse and the chain of harm that one instance of abuse can instigate. It’s sad and strange and very hopeful.
(As an aside, I wonder if we could put all her strange worlds together as one planet—Deeplight, Fly By Night, A Face Like Glass, Gullstruck Island, and now, Unraveller.)
A Tale for the Time Being, by Ruth Ozeki
This genre bending story is tragic, infuriating, and full of beauty. Nao is a sixteen-year-old living in Tokyo and being mercilessly bullied. Her father is suicidal after losing his job. She is planning on killing herself, but only after telling the story of her great-grandmother through a diary. Ruth is a writer living on a remote island on the Pacific coast of Canada who finds Nao’s diary when it washes ashore a year after the Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami. As she and her partner read the diary, they worry about what happened to Nao. I do recommend this book, but be forewarned, the bullying is truly terrible.
Yellow Boy, by Alex Luu
This is a poetry chapbook left in my little library. It has no ISBN. In my effort to read more poetry, I thought I’d give it a try. It is a lovely work. Luu is a Vietnamese American from Southern California and is a slam poet. Themes take on the discrimination he faces, the hardness of his father and grandfather, how redemptive love can be. Here are some lines that stuck with me:
“They wonder why I have Buddha around my neck, but a Bible in my hand; They ask me what my religion is. I tell them I will believe in whatever will make me a better person.
“How well you do them proud Taking a black boy from his family And cry self defense; That you were scared for your life? Now, ain’t that white privilege? Killing a black man, while playing both the victim and the hero?”
“Breathing in the breath of broken tongues, I am the sum of every hour of sleep My father lost to keep food on the plate.”
Meet Me In the Margins, by Melissa Ferguson
A cute romance about an aspiring author and current editor at a small publishing house and the introduction of her new boss—an experienced editor from New York who is also the son of the owner. As Savannah is rushing to get her manuscript in shape for a looming deadline, she finds a secret editor who helps her anonymously. She is also facing the impending marriage of her sister to her longtime ex. Fast and sweet, this is a fun read. Caveat, the gaslighting she faces from her family is terrible. It made me so angry.
Shuna’s Journey, by Hayao Miyazaki
This was an early manga of Miyazaki’s, from the early 1980s, and is revealing as to where his work came from and how it grew. Nausicaä certainly grew from this tale of climate change, greed, and a journey to solve the problem. Not amazing but worth the read for fans or kids.
Devil in a Blue Dress, by Walter Mosley
I’ve read some of Mosley’s nonfiction, but never his landmark book. I needed a good mystery and this hit the spot. He really brings home the city of LA in the late 1940s. Easy Rawlins is a great character—trying to stay on the right path but always getting knocked off it. Faced with entrenched discrimination and friends who’ll do anything to get by, he is the center of a tornado that could take him at any time. Very good book.
Captain Carter: Woman Out of Time, Jamie McKelvie
In this alternate history version, it was Peggy Carter who became the super soldier and who went into the Arctic ice to save New York during WWII. Newly awakened, she goes to the UK and reluctantly begins working for S.T.R.I.K.E., which is being undermined by a manipulative Prime Minister. This story was Awesome. It reminded me how good superhero comics can be when they are done right. Highly recommend, even for non-comic readers.
The Haunting of Tram Car 015, by P. Djèlí Clark
A steampunk Egypt that has developed advanced technology with the help of Djinni. The Ministry of Alchemy sends agents to investigate a tramcar that seems to be possessed by a spirit. At the same time, a vote for women’s rights is coming up in parliament bringing thousands of women to the city. Senior agent Hamed al-Nasr will have his hands full trying to navigate bureaucracy, pagan religions, and a host of women activists. Super fun novella. It’s a follow-up to another novella set in the same space, which I’m definitely going to read.
You Just Need to Lose Weight, by Aubrey Gordon
Nobody writes, or talks, about anti-fat bias like Aubrey Gordon. She is so smart, well-researched, educated, and erudite, that when she talks on a subject, I know that I will get a lot of great information. This book is just like her podcast, “Maintenance Phase.” It talks in-depth about twenty “myths” that fat people hear all the time. She takes each one apart with documented research and offers ways that allies can help and questions for all of us to check our anti-fat bias. Highly recommend.
Station Eternity, by Mur Lafferty
Reread. I listened to this one in January and couldn’t stop thinking about it. Such a good mystery with so many tiny clues that I needed to read it to really understand how the mystery was solved. Loved it the second time even more.
If I Survive You, by Jonathan Escoffery
Finally! Finally finished this book I started for one of my committees last year. It’s really good, though not entirely my sort of thing. It is a series of interconnected short stories about a Jamaican-American family in Florida—mostly centered on Trelawny, the younger son. It covers themes of being a light-skinned black man in the South with parents who have accents; the treatment a sibling who is not the favorite; and how family bonds are the hardest to break even when they are not healthy. Escoffery is a very talented writer. The first and last stories are both written in the second person and it is done so well, I couldn’t help but be drawn in. I would suggest this book for people looking for contemporary literary.