10 April 2017

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 4 Mini Reviews & 3 Bookish Videos

4 short book reviewsThis 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

Review of The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina HenriquezCristina 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.

Review of Waking Gods by Sylvain NeuvelSylvain 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.

Review of South and West by Joan DidionJoan 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.

Review of the Spill Zone by Scott WesterfeldScott 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:


Deb Nance at Readerbuzz 4/10/17, 7:15 AM  

The first time I realized that Hispanic immigrants were a diverse group was when my son was in elementary school. Each child in the bilingual class wore shirts with a flag of his/her country of origin. Immigrant children, I was surprised to discover, aren't just from Mexico! Stereotypes, stereotypes...our minds seem to love these. I'm very interested in this book.

Majanka Verstraete 4/10/17, 7:46 AM  

The White Princess looks interesting! I hope you enjoy reading this week.

My It's Monday! What Are You Reading? post.

Sarah (Sarah's Book Shelves) 4/10/17, 8:00 AM  

Glad you loved Unknown Americans...I did too. I'm actually "speaking" (not sure what this means exactly) at a book club this week and they read this book. But, I read it so long ago that I'm a little hazy on the details, so I'm going to watch this video (and read some reviews) to refresh my memory.

Susie | Novel Visits 4/10/17, 8:50 AM  

I'm looking forward to the days being warm enough to read outside, too! I'm itching to plant the flower pots and set up the furniture, but I think I'll need to wait a couple more weeks. We've barely hit 60 this spring!

Loved The Book of Unknown Americans. It's such a timely story!

bermudaonion 4/10/17, 9:16 AM  

I think I'd like The Book of Unknown Americans. I've always liked stories like that but they're particularly relevant now.

SuziQoregon 4/10/17, 10:54 AM  

The White Princess looks promising.

Kathy Martin 4/10/17, 10:58 AM  

I just got Spill Zone on Friday. It is next on my stack. The Themis Files sounds good. I'm not a fan of audiobooks but will look for the print book. Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Laurel-Rain Snow 4/10/17, 11:46 AM  

I'm curious about The Book of Unknown Americans. Thanks for sharing...

Enjoy your week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Daryl 4/10/17, 12:19 PM  

Spill Zone seems/sounds a bit like Susan Ee's trilogy Penryn & The End of Days ... and yet not .. Ee's books are not graphic novels .. you'd like them i think

Harvee 4/10/17, 1:40 PM  

I'm guessing that like Joan Didion, I'd be more comfortable in California than Mississippi too!

pussreboots 4/10/17, 1:57 PM  

I'm adding Unknown Americans to my wishlist. I've been consciously trying to "read without walls" for two years now.

I'm posting while on my road trip, thanks to my trusty smart phone. It's Monday! What are your reading?

Greg 4/10/17, 7:30 PM  

Spring and reading outside sound great! We had two days of nice temps here and now it's raining again (it rained all last week). Ah well the good days are coming. Waking Gods has really caught my eye, the initial reviews I've seen in the past few days have all been positive.

I haven't read any of Philippa Gregorys work but I've heard good things, and I love the look of that show!

Nise' 4/10/17, 7:55 PM  

Looking forward to warms days to read outside. I want to read The Book of Unknown Americans.

grammajudyb 4/10/17, 8:01 PM  

Thanks for the intro to The Book of Unknown Americans. It's new to me. I've been absent from my reading blogs and an anxious to change that soon. Maybe warmer weather, furniture back out on the deck, flowers in pots and a tall glass of iced tea will be just the incentive I need to get back in the swing of it. Thanks for the inspiration!

westmetromommy 4/10/17, 11:00 PM  

I definitely want to read "The Book of Unknown Americans." I've actually had it out from the library a couple of times, but I never had a chance to read it before it was due!

Unknown 4/11/17, 2:26 PM  

I really liked The Book of Unknown Americans actually thanks for reminding me I never posted a review! Being an Spanish-speaking immigrant I related to it very much. Thanks for the great note about it :) I tried to add my link but it says I can only do it if I have a blogger blog which I don't think it ever happened before to me :(

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