Book Thoughts

A couple people have asked me about book recommendations, so based on my 2017 reads I’ve whipped up a few random lists for you. The only way I could think to do this was by creating a few categories, because everyone’s taste is different.

P.S. Not all of these books were published in 2017, but I read them all last year.

Books that teenaged Theresa would have <3 <3 <3 and fangirled all over

  • The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
  • The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
  • Want by Cindy Pon
  • The Crown’s Game by Evelyn Skye
  • Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

Books that I think everyone should read

  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
  • Parable of the Sower by Octavia Butler
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor
  • See also, the next list.

Books that are devastatingly good (but also nearly destroyed me or messed with my head)

  • The Broken Earth books by N. K. Jemisin
  • The Changeling by Victor LaValle
  • My Sister Rosa by Justine Larbalestier

Books for fairytale lovers

  • Roses and Rot by Kat Howard
  • The Girl Who Swallowed the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
  • Ash by Malinda Lo
  • Forest of a Thousand Lanterns by Julie Dao

Books for the worldbuilding afficionados

  • The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
  • The Stars Are Legion by Kameron Hurley
  • A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Newest comfort reads 

  • Archangel’s Shadows by Nalini Singh
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Insta-buy Authors

  • Renee Ahdieh – Historical fantasy + romance
  • Sabaa Tahir – Big not quite grimdark epic fantasy + romance side plot
  • Margerie Liu – Monstress graphic novels

Compulsively readable, oh God I dislike those tropes, but why am I so invested?  Someone help me I have a problem…

  • The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare (Have you seen the TV show? I can’t wait for season 3 – also I’m glad they aged up the characters, because some of these themes are kinda iffy for YA)

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Journal

Writing:

I finished the rewrite. I can’t believe it. I thought I was way behind, but I caught up and just couldn’t stop. I was crying when I reached the epilogue. Sometimes I feel stupid that my own writing makes me cry, but when it happens I know I’m on the right track. I know what emotional payout I want at the end of this story, now I need to fix the rest to make it so.

I am confident I can make it more so, but it will take a few more edit passes to get it in shape to send to beta readers. It grew from 60k to 70k, and since I always write sparse, I’m pretty sure it’s going to grow a little more. It’s a little thin on backstory and a few heartbeats are missing.

Reading Diversely:

I read 55 books last year, and the majority of them were by diverse* writers. A weird thing happened over the course of the year. Not only did I find myself enjoying more books, my baseline for what a good book is changed as well. I realized that as a POC, my expectation was pain.

I didn’t know what it was like to have another option. For joy in fiction free of microagressions, for not having to steel yourself to insults or exclusion, for finding characters that you can identify with more closely, to see the marginalized to find their own way to happiness even if the world doesn’t change. This felt revelatory in so many ways.

And as a weird side effect, books where the representation is done badly have become glaringly obvious. When there are microagressions in the first chapters, I find it usually means marginalized characters will be treated  worse later on in the story. These things are connected, not just small errors, but indicate a way of thinking/viewing the world the author hasn’t examined.

Despite that, I’m even more convinced that any writer with empathy, and the will, can learn to be better at writing characters with the marginalizations they don’t share. I noticed that those writers who are disabled etc. often did better including characters of other races etc. Because they cared about inclusion, it showed.

But there’s no perfect end state for learning how to write more inclusively, just a lifetime of learning, and willingness to keep an open mind (and yes, making mistakes that you learn from). That said, no one story will satisfy everyone, because it’s just one story. And that’s why we need so many more.

*Diverse by race, sexuality, gender, disability, etc.

Reading:

  • The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld
  • The Fisher of Bones by Sarah Gailey
  • When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
  • Truthwitch by Susan Dennard
  • The Education of Margot Sanchez by Lilliam Rivera
  • The Devourers by Indra Das

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Book Thoughts

The Changeling Book Cover The Changeling
Victor LaValle
Fiction
Spiegel & Grau
June 13, 2017
448

 

Let me tell you what it can be like being a new mother. You go home from the hospital, with a bundle of flyers, already worn down to the bone. "You will get frustrated," the flyers warn. "BUT DO NOT SHAKE THE BABY". You heard a long time ago that if you don't sleep for a week, you'll die, but you discover this is not true. You don't die, even though you don't sleep, but weird thoughts start to creep through your head. You know the baby would fit in the oven, you start to believe that if you don't stare at the baby all night she might die. Delirium becomes your resting state. Arguments flare up, because everyone's so tired that patience ran out months ago. And there's the ever present terror that some small error will end in catastrophe, and if anything went wrong it would destroy you.

This book captures that feeling all too believably. "The Changeling" falls into the uncanny territory of horror. What's real? What's imagined? Is it magic? Or postpartum depression? Maybe everyone's just so damned tired that they've lost it? The tale goes beyond the snapping point, into territories I didn't venture, but dreaded during those terrified wakeful nights.

The novel blends the realities of modern parenting: cell phones and Facebook posts, with children's books and folk tales. There are trolls and trolls. You could call it a fairy tale, but if it is, it's a dark one.

This book is eerie, but compulsively readable. It will be on my mind for a long time.

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