This is my last super-busy editing week for a while, and I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to having time for my online friendships. I'm so behind on blogs, websites, Twitter, Instagram, and Litsy.
What fun it's going to be to read and chat, garden and take walks -- just as soon as my workweek returns to normal. Although I'll miss this week's 70F temperatures, I'm sure that spring will hold many more great days for reading on the deck. I can't wait to get out the furniture, buy some plants, and set up my little escape spot. I'm more relaxed just thinking about it.
What I Read Last Week
Cristina Henriquez's Book of Unknown Americans (Knopf, 2014): I read this novel for a book club, and didn't know much about it before I started reading. Books on immigration are important in light of today's political climate, and Henriquez's contribution offers a little different perspective. First, the setting is in Delaware, not an area we typically associate with Latino immigration, and second it introduces us to a community of new Americans who show us that not all Spanish-speaking immigrants share a common story. The details of everyday life, both for the newly arrived and for the well settled brought this book alive (learning a new language, trying to fit in at school, shopping for groceries). In addition, the characters' stories help us understand the mix of fear and hope that accompany those who leave home for a new life in a strange land. Highly recommended.
Sylvain Neuvel's Waking Gods (Del Rey, 2017): This is the second book in the Themis Files series, which defies (for me, at least) classification. The novels take place in the near future and mix many themes and genres: science fiction, global politics, dystopia, technology, anthropology, romance, thriller, genetics, aliens from another world. The story is told through documents, interviews, individual reactions, and more. I'm sure the books are awesome when read in print, but I pretty much insist you listen to the audiobooks (Waking Gods, Random House Audio; 9 hr, 2 min). The books are read by a full cast, and the overall production is fabulous. The individual performances are so believable that I truly felt as if I were eavesdropping on people talking rather than listening to an audiobook. Don't miss this series. I'm already waiting impatiently for book 3.
Joan Didion's South and West (Knopf, 2017): I listened to this short audibook for AudioFile magazine (which see for my full audiobook review). I'm not quite sure what to think about this collection of thoughts and essays, which are divided into two sections. First we learm of Didion's experiences in the South and then her observations after she returned to the West, mostly during the 1970s. Frankly, I don't know what Didion's point is, except to say she's comfortable in California and didn't always feel comfortable in Mississippi. Narrator Kimberly Farr (Random House Audio; 2 hr, 51 min) did a fine job on the audiobook, but even a good performance couldn't make me love this book. Recommendation: it's short enough that you could take a chance.
Scott Westerfeld's Spill Zone (First Second, May 2017): This is the first in a new graphic novel series. In the not too distant future there is some kind of event that leaves an entire city destroyed and contaminated with a variety of weird creatures and mostly dead humans (kind of immobile zombies). Our hero, Addie, is a motorcycle-riding photographer who risks entering the quarantined city to take pictures, which she then sells. The profits are used to support her and her younger sister, who was one of the few people to have survived the event. The plot captured my attention enough that I read the book straight through, and I especially liked the relationship between the sisters. Alex Puvilland's artwork is emotionally expressive and does a good job conveying action. Unfortunately, too much of the mystery is left unknown, so I didn't connect well with Addie's world. I'll likely read the next installment, but I can't fully recommend this graphic novel.
Books beyond the Pages
After reading The Book of Unknown Americans, I wanted to know more about author Cristina Henriquez. Among the materials I found, was the following video in which she shares how writing the novel led her to start the Unknown Americans Project to give voice to the many different immigrants to the United States, each of whom has a story to tell. Take a look:
Author Gene Luen Yang, the National Ambassador for Young People’s Literature, is challenging us all (young and old) to Read without Walls. I'm taking the challenge, and I encourage you to join in. All you have to do is read one book of your choice that is either about someone who doesn't look like you, is about a topic you don't know anything about, or is in a medium or format that you don't normally explore. For more information, visit the website (where you'll find activity sheets and a newsletter) and watch this video:
I'm a fan of author Philippa Gregory's historical novels and am looking forward to the Starz series The White Princess, based on a novel in her Cousins' War series, which focuses on the War of the Roses. This book tells the story of two Elizabeths, one the daughter of Edward IV and the other the wife of Henry VII. The books and the series will, of course, appeal to readers interested in British history and the royal families, but fans of The Game of Thrones should know that the politics of this time period also inform George R.R. Martin's work. The series starts on April 16. Here's the trailer: