Book Review: The Gilded Wolves

The Review

I have to admit, it took me a few chapters to catch the tone and premise of The Gilded Wolves, but once it hit its stride, I was hooked.

39863498NY Times Bestselling author Roshani Chokshi’s newest fantasy novel follows a group of down-and-out teens– smart, wily outcasts, artists, and academics on the run. Thick with magic and lush worldbuilding, Chokshi takes the reader into an 1880s Paris and introduces us to powerful Houses who must safeguard historic religious artifacts known for their immense power. Which Houses can be trusted, and should one of our narrators be allowed his place of honor in the Houses again? Only time will tell.

There are several adventure plots in this novel that made me think Six of Crows , as well as a similar need of multiple third-person narrators to tell the story well. The strongest sections, I thought, came from the points-of-view of Laila, a performer with a mysterious past, and Zofia, our STEM-loving fish-out-of-water. Love subplots add interest, but aren’t the major focus of the book (which I appreciate).

A few downsides: the ending wrapped up a bit strange, timeline-wise, but there’s a clear lead in to at least another book. Will I pick it up? Probably! Chockshi builds her universe with so many interesting mythological and pan-religious ideas that I find myself already wanting to pick up the next in the series.

Great group of heroes, fun adventure, and neat magic– what else can you want?

The Details

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

Publication info: out January 15, 2019 by Wednesday Books

Add it on Goodreads, or pre-order from Amazon or IndieBound

 

Thank you NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

Book Review: Illegal

The Review:

Illegal is a graphic novel by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin, with a primary audience of 35963837children (probably ages ten and up), and this is the kind of book that every child should have access to.

Colfer and Donkin trace the fictional path of Ebo, a young Ghanian boy, as he makes his way to Europe in search of his siblings Kwame and Sisi. Ebo encounters sickness and peril on his journey, all written by Colfer (of Artemis Fowl fame) and Donkin (DC comics work) and illustrated by Giovanni Rigano. The illustrations are beautifully colored, with lots of wide shots to give readers an idea of what kinds of places Ebo travels through.

illegal screenshot 2Colfer starts the book with an epigraph from Elie Wiesel’s “no human being is illegal” quote. What this graphic novel does, even more than a traditional novel would, is let a young (or not-so-young) reader place themselves in the shoes of an immigrant attempting to find refuge. In this particular story, the person is a young Ghanain boy seeking Italy’s shores, but the wider message is applicable to all people searching for safety.

In short, beautiful illustrations of a fictional, but realistic, story. Highly recommended.

The Details

Illegal by Eoin Colfer and Andrew Donkin (Sourcebooks Jabberwockey)

Publication Date: August 8, 2018

Add it to Goodreads or puchase on IndieBound or Amazon

 

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

May Wrap-Up

 

Reading Wrap-Up

Percentage jealous of everyone at Book Expo right now: 1000%

Books finished this month: 8

ARCs finished: 2, and one in progress.

may2018 211.PNGMysteries read: 4! The ARCs were both recommended mysteries. First, Hollywood Homicide by Kellye Garrett, which was a fun second-in-the-series to the has-been actress turned amateur PI theme Garrett has going. Very voicey, very enjoyable. Second, Ruth Ware (an auto-buy author for me) has a new book called The Death of Mrs. Westaway about a mistaken identity, inheritance, and enough twists to tie a thousand bags of bread closed. Worth checking out, for sure.

Audiobooks listened to while feeding baby in middle of the night: Lots… might even be off about my count this month because I haven’t been keeping as careful track. I am grateful for Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles for keeping me company at three AM. Just enough plot and action, and the prose is straight to the point.

Best of the Month: And then There Were None by Dame Agatha and The Death of Mrs. Westaway

Writing Wrap-Up

In a bout of creative energy and desparation for something adult to do, I finished my edits on my novel during naptimes the first two weeks of the month! I forgot just how

may2018 170.JPG
The snoozer

much newborns sleep (and I’m glad I didn’t wait, because at five weeks old he’s beginni

ng to want to be entertained and stay awake longer). Have already received the first set of beta-comments and will be sorting through them next week, and I’m feeling generally good about where this book is right now. Have to enjoy the good creative energy when you have it!

Wrote and submitted three essays this month. One has been accepted (pending publication at a great venue, can reveal next month) and two being reviewed. It’s nice to work on the shorter stuff while waiting for the next step on the longer.

 

Life, Etc

 

Baby birds in the nest outside: 4

Ball games attended: 2 (with more on the way)

Bugs swatted: 20,000

Average steps/day: 3,500 (will work back up to 10,000 eventually!)

Number of days that went too quickly this month: 31

Pairs of new pairs of glasses (first time in five years): 1

may2018 300

(They’re very Velma, I think. I’m a fan)

Book Review: BABY TEETH by Zoje Stage

The Review:

This novel is the heartwarming story of a mother-daughter bond unlike any other…

Just kidding. I originally requested this book because of the blurb in the PW announcement which compared it to THE BAD SEED:

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While I’m a bit of wimp when it comes to horror and thriller as a genre, “bad children” stories have always been a bit of an interest. The original BAD SEED showed a young girl who terrorized classmates, killing one with a pair of tap shoes, all the while cuddling up to Daddy during bedtime stories. Only the mother suspected her bad behavior, which eventually drove her mad. BABY TEETH lives up to the comparison, but luckily takes its own path at this kind of story.

Stage’s debut follows Suzette, mother to seven year old Hanna, as she struggles with the increasingly more disturbing behavior. Hanna shows one face to her mother and one to her father, and her choice to not speak makes education and home life very difficult– meaning that Suzette is homeschooling Hanna as the novel opens and experiencing some troubling moments as her daughter not only begins to talk to her, but also talks about being possessed by a 17th century French witch.

I won’t spoil anything here, but Stage builds the suspense well in this book, stacking complications on top of each other like Jenga blocks. I stayed up late more than one evening trying to get through a difficult section. You can almost feel the unsteady sanity of the household start to topple. One really interesting aspect of this book is the physical health of Suzette, whose history with Crohn’s is a major component of her character (as well as making up some of background with her own mother.)

The alternating perspectives of Hanna and Suzette can be jarring, but they are necessary. I found myself actually cringing while reading some of Hanna’s sections, but Stage doesn’t let the reader look away and keeps the voices separate enough to suspend disbelief.

If you’re looking for a creepy read, make sure you add it to your to-read stack.

The Details

Baby Teeth by Zoje Stage, St. Martin’s Press out July 17, 2018

Add it to your Goodreads  or preorder on Amazon, B&N, or IndieBound

 

Thank you to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review

October Wrap-Up

Reading Life

Total Books Read: 17*

*(please note some of these were middle-grade and one of them was a graphic novel. Still, pretty happy about making to-read stack progress this month.)

Scottish time-travel novels I finished reading that I have a lot of opinions on: 1 (if you want to hear them, I’d be more than happy to chat.)

Books about aliens that I read this monthThe Fifth Wave, Armada, Dawn. Out of the three, I highly recommend Dawn. Highly.

Debut novels read this month: 6

Total books this year so far: 134. Met/beat my challenge. Now trying to get to 150 before the end of the year.

Best of the Month: I have a lot of favorites. Marlena by Julie Buntin was a stunning book about toxic friendship and I could not put down Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. American War by Omar El Akkad (which I talk about here) was soul-shaking. Absolute favorite, though, was The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker. It will rank on my favorite list of the year, I can already tell.

Writing Life

wwBig article out this month from Electric Lit on Wonder Woman’s problematic past. I hope you’ll check it out, if you haven’t yet. It was my passion-project essay this summer, so I’m happy to see it in the world.

I had a big burst of productivity on a manuscript I’m abandoning for the time-being. It’s been abandoned before, poor thing. It’s my cicada novel, that re-emerges every two years in a slightly different form. I’ll let it settle a while again before I figure out what it’s meant to be.

INSTEAD, I’m planning on NaNo-ing, or at least trying to, with a shiny new idea that I’ve got outlined. With small kids and a job, it can be hard to keep up with the daily word count but I’m still giving it a shot. Even if I only get 500 words a day, that’s better than nothing! If you’re NaNo-ing, add me (rmm is my user name) and we can cheer each other on.

Life, Etc

Lots of sick kid cuddles this month, lots of grading, and lots of nail-biting and reading the news. Taking a bit of a social media fast in November to help focus on my work and family a bit more. It always helps me refocus.

Happy Halloween! Here was my costume this year, and if you don’t get it, you’re totally not fetch.

halloween 2017

 

 

Southern-Set Book Pairings to Try

It’s funny how books end up accidentally being in conversation with one another, just because you happened to pick them at the right time. Those accidental connections and conversations between texts are some of my favorite things about reading, so I have a few suggestions for book pairings if you’re stuck in a reading rut.

The American South has never been a particular interest of mine. I’ve taken classes about Southern lit, but not being from the South myself meant a certain amount of distance or extra context needed. For some reason, though, I keep picking up great Southern-set books this year that I can’t stop recommending. In an ideal world, I would adore seeing these authors in conversation with each other on an actual panel, but life rarely works like that. If you have further suggestions for either category, let me know in the comments!

Modern Southern Art and Trauma Narratives

I reviewed Nick White’s debut earlier this year, and I just finished Whitaker’s novel last week. I couldn’t put either down easily. White’s book is as points disturbing and thrilling, unraveling the narrator’s past at a “homosexual rehabilitation” camp. Whitaker’s book follows two women as they archive their childhoods in animation and the ways their relationship sustains and complicates their lives.  Both texts tackle film, memory, and trauma in the American South in really interesting ways and an AWP panel with these authors would be worth the plane ticket anywhere, in my opinion. Let me know if this becomes a thing, because these two authors have some very interesting ideas about creativity and the way art twists the past.

Too-Real Civil War-Themed Dystopias

In Ben Winters’s novel, slavery continues to exist in four of the US states. One young black man works as a bounty hunter to recover a slave called Jackdaw and gets sucked into an abolitionist ring called Underground Airlines. I won’t ruin the plot further, but this book is a dystopian thriller, which seems to be Winters’ sweet spot.

Omar El Akkad’s book, on the other hand, while dystopian, shifts more toward the literary than the commerical, and is one of the most sober books I’ve read this year. El Akkad was a journalist for years, covering stories from the Arab Spring to Guantanamo Bay, elements which clearly appear in this book. American War is set during and after a second Civil War.  Readers trace the history of a girl, Sarat, and her transformation from civilian to warrior. What her cause becomes remains the question up until the end of the novel.

These books are incredibly different in tone, but what they hold in common is a a kernel of unrest and brokenness that speaks to why dystopian novels are so powerful. I can’t guarantee that if you loved one, you will love the other. I will say that they both get at the heart of personal choice in the face of a national crisis.

 

I would love more book suggestions for either category! Post below if you’ve got them!

Book Review: ARTEMIS by Andy Weir

The Review:

I nearly bailed on this one– but am glad I didn’t.
Like many readers, I was blown away by THE MARTIAN. With such a huge breakout book, a second book has high expectations.

What this book isn’t: like THE MARTIAN in theme or character
What this book is: a rouge-ish caper for the future of the moon

Jazz , our narrator, was born in Saudi Arabia, and her single father moved her to the moon colony Artemis at age six. Because of the reduced gravity, Jazz’s prospects for ever living a safe life back on Earth are limited, but no fear– she’s made a life– or multiple lives– for herself on the moon. Not only is she a delivery girl, but also a smuggler with big ambitions, all while trying to get her permit to lead expeditions on the surface to rich tourists.

When offered a job with a fee she can’t turn down, Jazz gets more attention than she’d like and that kind of attention comes with knives and death threats. A caper helps ensure not only Jazz’s survival, but the future of a democratic moon colony, and her crew is up to the challenge– almost.

The reason I nearly ditched the book early on was a “man writing woman” tone to Jazz’s character. For instance, she describes how good she looks in an ensemble she’s putting on as a disguise. Similarly, Jazz talks often about liking sex, or having it a lot, but never seems to have sexual attraction at all on the page. When it does happen, it feels forced. However, Jazz is entertaining to follow because of her wry sense of humor and distinct, if twisted, understanding of right and wrong.

Much of Weir’s first book laid on the shoulders of the title “Martian,” but the strengths in this book come in the ensemble cast of complicated, riotous personalities. Jazz’s father is a favorite character in the book, as are her various personalities in power that she comes up against– the policeman Rudy, the head of the tourist tour program, Bob, and former best friend, Dale.

Weir paints an interesting setting for this novel. Unlike THE MARTIAN, ARTEMIS focuses not one what is possible in the very near future, but what could be possible in the next fifty years. The characters live in interconnected bubbles with all the necessary components of life. Weir’s books are “sciencey” sci-fi, but never so overly technical that the reader gets lost.

Over all, the first fifty pages are a bit of a character study and the “love” plots of the book don’t work well for me as a reader, but the rollicking plot and chemistry of the characters kept me hooked. As far as I’m concerned, a good follow-up book with room to grow for his third.

The Details:

ARTEMIS by Andy Weir (Crown Publishing)

Release Date: November 17, 2017

Find it on Amazon, B&N, Parnassus, or add it on Goodreads!

 

Thank you to NetGalley for an advanced copy in exchange for my honest review

Shelfies

Follow-up on last post with a few shelfies (book shelf selfies). How do you arrange your library? Color coordination makes me smile!

Black & White
Green shelf in progress

Library Book Sale Love

Stopped by a library book sale recently and picked up too many  just enough new books. The money all goes to the library, right, so it’s half good deed and half “I need to get rid of some old books  build more bookshelves” fervor. (I’m officially done with strike through for this post, so don’t fear.)

Walking into a library book sale feels like going on a first date. Your expectations are high, but you’re trying to moderate them. You’re willing to give your heart away, but not too quickly. Always, always, you’re hoping to meet the right one. Luckily, with books, there’s no right “one“. I dug through stacks and found seven (seven!) copies of The Poisonwood Bible, several copies of Midwives, but also lots of new-to-me books.

On my stack of finds? Zadie Smith’s On Beauty and Ann Patchett’s Bel Canto, as well as a Calvino slim-but-heavy read called Cosmicomics and In Her Shoes by Jennifer Weiner (who I’ve discovered just in time for my summer break). I picked up a few other books as well and now I’ll get to fit them into their new, color-coordinated-by-spine-color home until I get a chance to read them. Yes, color-coordination can make some things hard to find, but I like to think that my copy of Silent Spring doesn’t mind sitting next to Gaiman’s Stardust or my copy of Middlemarch next to Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim.

Want another good reason to support library book sales near you? They don’t hurt the authors you love, in fact, they can really help you find new authors to love (which can help you find their newest book!)

Long story short, I snuck in a big bag of new books this weekend, so if you don’t hear from me for a while, you’ll know where I am…

 

Book Review: How to Survive a Summer

The Review

 

Five boys went in, but only four came out.

Ten years ago, Will Dillard’s preacher father put him in a “homosexual rehabilitation” camp which ended tragically. Now, Will is distanced from his family, but firm in his identity. Life seems to be falling into place as a film student when suddenly a new movie comes out which seems eerily familiar.

A new horror release becomes an instant cult classic, but when the horror movie twists the narrative he knows, Will goes in search of the past of the camp, his fellow campers, and his family.

This book, White’s debut, weaves together a tight but chronologically varied narrative. White ekes out the details in the present and past so skillfully that I felt him answering questions as they came to mind. Like another literary debut this year, Kea Wilson’s We Eat Our Own, the elements of violence and suspense are only heightened by the literary language.

Briefly paging through early reviews on Goodreads of the novel, I found myself cringing at the criticism of Will’s character as “unlikable.” Will’s character isn’t always likable, but that’s not the point of a narrator. He is the narrator because he moves the story– and Will does. He makes decisions, whether the reader wants to peek through their fingers to watch the outcomes or not. Often painful, but always believable, Will is a narrator I will remember.

A review on this book would be amiss not to mention the cast of majority LGBT characters. Zeus and Will’s love story was unlike one I’ve ever read, and watching the changes in the campers from past to present was one of my favorite connections in the book.

Recommended! Pick up a copy of this and/or recommend it for your local library.

The Details

How to Survive a Summer by Nick White, Blue Rider Press

Release Date: June 6, 2017

Buy on Amazon, B&N, Parnassus and add it on Goodreads!

Thanks to NetGalley for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.