Wrap Up: May 2020

Last month I read 17 books. I also I finished my JourneyAThon and Bookemon TBRs.

I track stats including genre, special formats like plays or graphic novels, some types of representation for authors and main characters, and my star ratings. I also track the different book “projects” I’ve created for myself. You can read the descriptions for each project on my About page.

The stats and reviews for last month’s books are:

wrap up may 2020

Projects
6 #projectnew
10 #projectSAMS
1 #projectreread
8 #projectTBR

Authors
14 by a woman
6 by an author of color
1 by a queer author
2 by a Jewish author

Main Characters
13 with a woman main character
5 with a POC main character
2 with a queer main character
0 with a Jewish main character

Genres
2 Nonfiction
3 Contemporary
8 Fantasy
2 Historical
2 Sci-Fi

Other
1 Poetry
1 Graphic Novel
5 DNF

Ratings
4 star
1 1.5 stars
1 2 stars
0 2.5 stars
4 3 stars
2 3.5 stars
3 4 stars
1 4.5 stars
1 5 stars

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12799420Prudence by Gail Carriger 3 stars
JourneyAThon: Haroyell – first in a series

A step up from the Finishing School series but a step down from the Parasol Protectorate series. Carriger’s fun, quirky, often absurd narration carries the reader through when thin, almost nonexistent plot doesn’t. Unfortunately, squeezing monolithically presented Indian culture and myth into this steampunk alternate history with a totally unnuanced, British-centric imperialist focus made me wince throughout. The most WTF moment was an Indian character somehow mistaking Rue for a Hindu deity. REALLY, Carriger?!

12799435Imprudence by Gail Carriger 3.5 stars
Bookemon: Dragon type – continue a series
Bookemon: Team Instinct challenge – book featuring the color yellow
JourneyAThon: Garon – book from your favorite genre

Fun and adventurous, and I like many of the side characters. But Rue feels more like a convenient focus that keeps the thin story together rather than a dimensional person in her own right; I don’t connect to her. A lot of the shenanigans and dynamics feel very reminiscent of the Finishing School series. The plot is basically just the ship floating into danger and *shockingly* being attacked, over and over again.

31570825Competence by Gail Carriger 4 stars
Bookemon: Water type – book with a beautiful cover
Bookemon: Team Mystic challenge – book featuring the color blue
JourneyAThon: Denasa – book with a blue spine

Rue is so much better as a side character, and the twins are so much better as narrators. This book also introduces something closer to resembling an actual plot.

I ADORE Percy and his inner thought structure. I ADORE his and Prim’s relationship. I ADORE Tasherit’s cat-ness, and the whole thing with her and Percy and tassels was 5 stars all by itself.

The very, very strong found family dynamic explored in this book left me squeeing with happiness and satisfaction. The characters and relationships were at their finest in this book.

31570843Reticence by Gail Carriger 4 stars
Bookemon: Team Valor challenge – book featuring the color red

Utterly delightful. There still wasn’t any plot to speak of, but the characters made me laugh so much I didn’t care.

At first I thought it forced and unnecessary to give every single main character a romantic partner, but Percy and Arsenic pair so well together I can’t complain. I love them SO MUCH.

52278999._sx318_sy475_Snug by Catana Chetwynd 4 stars
Bookemon: Flying type – graphic novel, comic, or manga
JourneyAThon: Karonia – graphic novel

Laugh-out-loud funny. Alternately sweet and profound and often both. A feel-good collection.

20204640The Other Wind by Ursula K. Le Guin 4.5 stars
Bookemon: Ground type – book off your owned TBR
Bookemon: Team Mystic challenge – set in another, non-Earth related world
JourneyAThon: Nialas – predicted 5 star read

I can’t pretend I understood everything going on (e.g. Lebannen’s extreme aversion to the Kargish princess didn’t make complete sense). However, the themes of life, death, cycles, and balance are exquisite. There were moments of such simultaneous subtlety and profoundness that I cried. These books demand multiple rereads to fully soak in because of Le Guin’s mastery. Probably the best written fantasy series I’ve ever read.

37819The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy star DNF
Bookemon: Team Valor challenge – by an Asian author or about Asian culture/mythology
Bookemon: Fire type – standalone

The very distancing character-hopping 3rd person narration, timeline incoherence, and lack of any character development in favor of just stating things that happened (supposedly for some theme or other) are not for me.

46439Gate of the Sun by Elias Khoury 2 stars DNF
Bookemon: Team Mystic challenge – by a Middle Eastern author or about Middle Eastern culture/mythology
Bookemon: Rock type – over 500 pages
JourneyAThon: Hallowgate – book that features death

The writing is beautiful and I really like the themes, but I just don’t have it in me to read 530 pages of what is almost stream of consciousness.

653711Crystal Singer by Anne McCaffrey star DNF
Bookemon: Psychic type – set in the future

Chapter 1: Main character can’t be #1 in her field, rage-quits after 10 years of training despite infinite other career possibilities in the field

Chapter 2: Main character physically restrained by stranger, thinks it’s not yet time to call for help despite help being readily available because she’s apparently somehow not technically in “personal-liberty infringement” zone yet

Me: Nope

339721Quantum Lyrics by A. Van Jordan star DNF
Bookemon: Ice type – poetry
Bookemon: Poison type – outside your comfort zone
JourneyAThon: Dupressa – short book (less than 250 pages)

The kind of poetry that pretends edgy phrases and random flashbacks are somehow deep and meaningful.

39082248Moon of the Crusted Snow by Waubgeshig Rice 3 stars
Bookemon: Team Instinct challenge – by a Native American author or about Native American culture/mythology
JourneyAThon: Graevale – book with a black and white cover

I liked getting a new-to-me perspective of the strong Anishinaabe community life and culture, including the insight into how that culture has changed/been reclaimed over time in response to white oppression.

The trajectory of the story seemed slow and ultimately fizzled into nothing at the end. The writing overall seemed weak, although it was strong in portraying the seclusion of the reservation and the harshness of the winter. Those elements especially gave the book a well-crafted horror vibe at times.

17645._SY475_The Penelopiad by Margaret Atwood star DNF

This book has no right at all to model its name off of epic poetry like the Iliad.

It is an unfocused rambling of a self-absorbed most un-Greek character ever to claim the association. The inane detail on Penelope’s afterlife is pointless.

It masquerades misogyny as feminism (Penelope CONSTANTLY slut-shames her cousin Helen and describes herself as a not-like-the-other-girls proper woman and wife–she knows because people told her so so often she fake-modestly almost never believed them, tee-hee *hides face* I’m a good girl I am). What is the most important Greek idea of hubris, precious?

Somehow Penelope is aware enough of the modern world to understand electricity but not museums, which have existed far longer?!?!

What a disappointment.

41724928._SY475_In the Vanishers’ Palace by Aliette de Bodard 1.5 stars

The “romance” started from the moment one character took the other prisoner and NEVER developed on the basis of…well, anything at all, let alone anything a healthy relationship should be based on. In fact, the list of reasons against the two of them getting together grew longer.

As interesting as the role of words in magic was, the worldbuilding with the plagues and magic and how the palace works were disconnectingly convoluted, random things just thrown around and alluded to with flowery language that failed to ground me in any level of understanding.

37487167._SX318_Sigil Witchery by Laura Tempest Zakroff 5 stars

The author is exceptional at making ideas clear and approachable, even for this non-artist reader. She weaves together history, meaning, and inspiration perfectly, providing examples while making it clear how each reader can pursue their own symbolism. She also provides practical art supply tips and other resources.

24881196Bringing Race to the Table edited by Crystal Blanton 3 stars

An important topic. As with most anthologies I’ve read, some sections were good, some lackluster.

I wish the authors/editor used footnotes/endnotes because in-line citations made some essays extremely difficult to read. One essay I had to bow out of because in-line citations inside of nested parenthetical thoughts spanning multiple pages made it impossible to follow. A reader shouldn’t have to map out a paragraph on a separate piece of paper like a mathematical equation to understand it.

I was impressed with the range of identities and perspectives throughout the essay collection, especially since many of the authors were willing to share their personal experiences, which helped ground a lot of the ideas discussed.

95912Seventeen Against the Dealer by Cynthia Voigt 3 stars

Better than the last few books in the series, but still nowhere near as good as the first three books. There was so much space wasted on unnecessary landscape descriptions, and the themes or “lessons” throughout seemed thin and stretched just to make a buck—I mean book out of them. The ending did not at all have the satisfying weight of finishing a seven-book series. What I liked most were the side character dynamics with Sammy, Maybeth, and Gram, though Sammy and Maybeth’s subplots were introduced and then in Sammy’s case unfinished and in Maybeth’s case completely dropped.

31290944._SY475_Heartstone by Elle Katharine White 3.5 stars

White does a fantastic job of taking the Pride and Prejudice template and transforming it into the context of a lush fantasy world that’s interesting and complex all on its own, making the template feel fresh. The added danger and action helped too.

I disconnected from a chunk of the middle that seemed to lag, but once Aliza visited Daired’s estate and the family started to settle into its fun dynamics, I fell back in love.

I appreciated White adding a tiny bit more depth to the characters of Aliza’s mother and Curdred compared to the original.

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