I’ve been meaning to read Straub forever so when I spotted this pretty cover (it’s so shiny in person) on the library shelf and saw it was about a 40-year-old woman who wakes up as her 16-year-old self, I decided to give it a go. This was an introspective and gripping speculative novel. It shares a lot of DNA with the second season of Netflix’s Russian Doll (the book came out a month before) so if you were a fan of that I think you’ll love this.…
Jess Reviews The Broken Earth Series by N.K. Jemisin
The people of The Stillness live at the will of the Seasons–world-ending tectonic disasters that occur without warning.The Stillness has not always been this way and this current season might just be the last.
I bought the box set of this series in 2018 and have just gotten around to reading it. This immersive series is a dynamic blend of science-fiction and fantasy that is must listen on audio. Narrator Robin Miles did her thing with these audiobooks. She has amazing range and her multifaceted performance highlights the epicness of this earth-bending series.
A fantasy series is a successful read for me when I CANNOT figure out how the author came up with the story, world or concept. To that end, this series is a smashing success. The characters and the struggles they encounter felt real and lived in. There are actual worlds in Jemisin’s head. That is the only explanation.
The Fifth Season
Life in the Stillness, a vast dystopic landscape, revolves around Seasons– apocalyptic natural disasters that occur without warning. The earth has it out for humanity and the only ones who can control it are Orogenes, those born with the ability to control kinetic and seismic energy. To be an Orogene is to be feared, enslaved, and abused.
The first book follows Essun, a 40-year-old Orogene in hiding, as she attempts to outrun the current apocalypse to exact revenge on her son’s murderer. Unfortunately, this is not an ordinary Season and Essun is soon pulled into a large conspiracy that will change everything.
I don’t know what I can say about Jemisin’s award-winning series that hasn’t already been said. It is an immersive and well-imagined tale. Her storytelling is unique (it’s in the second person) and she masterfully weaves multiple POVS in an unexpected way. I will say it took me a few chapters to get into, but once you get into the flow it’s hard to put down.
A majority of the characters are Black. Ir is delightful reading a fantasy book where caucasian features aren’t the automatic default. There is also a healthy intersection of LGBTQ characters and representation.
My only critique is that I had a hard time picturing exactly what the setting looked like. They mention gaslights and horses so at first, I imagined a dystopian early 20th century–but something about the clothes and the way medical devices are described felt a little more 90’s ? IDK. Maybe it’s supposed to be like Mad Max vibes ?
The Obelisk Gate
Jemisin’s storytelling ability is still going full force in the second book. Essun and her motley crew of travelers have been volun-told into joining a utopian underground community. In between dealing with community politics, Essun learns the whole truth about this very unusual season. This is a stationery book and I was sad to see we don’t get to watch the characters travel.
Essun’s ten-year-old daughter Nassun has a POV and look, I’m not the biggest fan of children’s POV in brutal adult books but I think this one worked well. Nassun has to grow up fast as she learns about her potential as an Orogene and what it means to sacrifice. One of the characters, Chaffa, is a Guardian whose job is to control Orogenes in a harsh but gentle manner. I’m not really understanding what Jeminisn is doing with this character or what they add to the story. This character’s origins, motivation and purpose just never made sense to me.
The Stone Sky
The world’s fate is now in the hands of a mother and daughter on two sides of a millennia-long war.
My favorite part of this book is the flashbacks that finally reveal the origin of The Stillness and what the mysterious Stone Eater creatures are. Reveals like this are why I enjoy speculative/dystopian stories. This book languidly moves towards the finale, which honestly wasn’t as massive and action-packed as I thought it would be. I thought the ending was fitting but I can’t say I truly understood parts of it or that it gave me the emotional punch I was hoping for.
I’m sold on Jemisin as a writer and am up for checking out her other series. These last few years I’ve been diving into fantasy by POC writers and it never disappoints. I think there is freedom to storytelling when you break away from the stereotypical fantasy setting
Pastoral England where?
Anyway… I’ll wait here until someone casts Danai Gurira in the movie adaptation.
The Only Black Girls in Town by Brandy Colbert
Part mystery, part coming-of-age narrative this is a captivating story of friendship, found family, and what it means to belong.
There have been quite a few new developments in 12-year-old Alberta Freeman-Price’s life. Her best friend is suddenly more into boys than surfing, her surrogate mother is moving in and, most exciting of all, a Black girl moved in across the street. Alberta is ecstatic to have another Black girl in the majority-white oceanside town of Ewing Beach. But Edie Whitman, with her Brooklyn pride and goth aesthetic, is not at all what the sunny, surf-loving Alberta expects.…
Kat Re-Reads Some Books!
The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen
Sarah Dessen was one of my favorite YA authors as a teen but I haven’t read much outside of my old faves. This is a quasi-reread because I started this book years ago but never finished it. l picked it up again because I noticed the audiobook had been re-recorded by Rebecca Soler, one of my faves. I’m not sure why this book and Someone Like You have new audiobooks but I’m not complaining because Soler is a great narrator!
I can see why this book is a fan favorite, it’s about a straight laced teen who learns it’s okay to have a little bit of chaos in life. I think there is a certain freedom in learning that if something goes wrong it’s not the end of the world. Plus there is the attractive, artsy, reformed bad boy with a heart of gold.
But I thought this book was a little twee and overly earnest at times, particularly the reveal of the birthday present. I mean….wouldn’t Wes have known about it? Speaking of Wes, he really wasn’t giving me much. I didn’t understand what exactly he saw in Macy.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
It’s been almost a decade (how???) since I read this and, for the most part, it holds up well to re-reading. I mean, there is definitely some phrasing around Romani people and disabilities we may not use today. Going into the book knowing how it ends was a fun experience, I noticed reveals in the text I hadn’t noticed the first time around. In the interview at the end Taylor says she didn’t see herself as a storyteller before this book and I literally don’t see how. The way she weaves this story together is incredible. I hadn’t remembered that the Akiva/Madrigal backstory is told completely out of order but it all comes together perfectly in the end.
This time around I found myself imagining Karou looking a little like Anna Taylor Joy because of her big doe-like eyes. I also sort of saw the chimera as being like the animals in Bojack Horseman, I had such a hard time imagining them and like, how their mouths moved when I first read it.
And look, at the end of the day this book is a colonizer romance and there is a bunch of Fantastical Racism but I think Taylor meets the challenge. There isn’t a lot of both side-ism and it’s clear in the text that the seraphim are colonizers and colonizers are always in the wrong.
I think this is the perfect series to binge, I am so amped to finish this series! I can’t believe I waited 3 years for the next one….it’s also occurring to me that I haven’t listened to another Hvam audiobook since this one. I need to change that….it looks like she recorded new versions of the Vampire Academy audiobooks
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
This book has had one of the longest hype trains I’ve ever seen in modern YA. I read it 3 years after the initial hype and now, 3 years after that, it’s all over TikTok and social media thanks to the TV adaptation.
I think what draws readers to this book is Bardguo’s compelling character work. Kaz gets talked about a lot as a myth maker but all of our protagonists have had to mythmake themselves to survive their individual trauma. Bardugo creates stakes for each character (well, except Wylan) on how the mission is their chance at breaking free from what haunts them.
The audiobook holds up well to a re-listen, I could listen while working because I knew the contours of the character and plot. I don’t think I gave Fred Berman enough praise the first time around. When it came to voicing Kaz he understood the assignment. Kaz’s rough voice is such a predominant feature of his character and I think that’s why Freddy Carter’s Kaz felt like he was missing an edge in the television show. Speaking of Kaz, in my original review I said he was a Draco In Leather Pants, but he’s not. I read this before I’d read the original trilogy and the Darkling is the Draco In Leather Pants
The Black Kids by Christina Hammonds Reed
8 Hours 55 Mins | Simon & Schuster Audio | Historical | 8/04/2020
I don’t typically seek out “Black trauma” books so I don’t know what possessed me to pick this up but I am so glad I did. The Black Kids is an evocative, stunning and salient (historical?) YA set during the L.A. Riots following the Rodney King verdict.
Our protagonist is Ashley Bennett an upper-class Black teen in Brentwood trying to get through the end of her senior year; while just a few miles away South Central is on fire. Throughout the book, Ashley contemplates the good and bad in the world and tries to figure out her place in all of the turmoil.…
You Should See Me In A Crown by Leah Johnson
336 pages | Scholastic Press| Contemporary | 06/2/2020
17-year-old Liz Lighty is an unconventional candidate for Campbell County, Indiana’s prom queen–but she needs the scholarship money that comes with the crown if she wants to attend her dream college next fall. Lucky for Liz, she has a dream team of friends ready to help her rock the competition.…