In this ambitious follow-up to her 2017 memoir, actress Gabrielle Union offers a new crop of essays on identity, trauma, love, and family. There is a self-help bent to parts of this book that I never completely got on board with but overall this follow-up offers fun stories and that catching-up-with-your-wildest-friend over coffee feeling from the first book.…
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.
Kat’s Nonfiction Fall
I had an AMAZING summer reading season but the minute fall came around I hit a major slump! I couldn’t focus on any of the novels I started and entered into my nonfiction era.…
Love Radio by Ebony LaDelle and Zyla & Kai by Kristina Forest
Love Radio and Zyla and Kai both feature teen girls who are excited for their future careers but hesitant about love. That is until they meet their heroes, who are true believers in romance and all the hope it offers.…
Over The Top by Jonathan Van Ness
In this revealing memoir, the bubbly grooming expert from Netflix’s Queer Eye shares their past struggles with addiction, childhood sexual abuse, and disordered eating. Van Ness takes readers along on their often messy and deeply complicated journey to becoming the on-screen persona adored by millions of fans.
Needless to say, this is a heavy read.…
The Guest List by Lucy Foley
On a wild secluded Irish island, friends and family gather for an exclusive celebrity wedding. As the big day approaches, secrets are revealed and one person won’t make it off the island alive.
I picked up The Guest List because all the marketing described Foley as a modern-day Agatha Christie. I went in expecting a parlor room whodunit mystery but that wasn’t what I got. Instead, it plays out more like a modern-day grip-lit thriller.
I was kind of annoyed that all the women’s stories are rooted in motherhood or their relationship with men. Meanwhile, the men’s stories focused on their ambitions and careers.
The setting is key to this story and Foley nails the ominous and desolate setting of the island. It’s very foreboding.
This book is character-driven and therefore lends itself well to audio. Each of the narrators embodies their characters. Narrator Olivia Dowd in particular nailed Jules–the cold, determined, and successful bride–who accounted for everything when planning her perfect wedding except murder.
Overall a gripping slow-burn mystery with a twist I didn’t see coming.