26 November 2018

Stacked-Up Book Thoughts: 5 Books for Your Reading List

5 short book reviews from Beth Fish ReadsThere's good news and bad news on the reading front. A long holiday weekend doesn't stop me from working, and my spare time is spent cooking, not reading. On the other hand, there is all that audiobook time when in the kitchen and cleaning the house!

We watched one book-based movie this week (To All the Boys I've Loved Before) and finished up the PBS version of The Woman in White. We thought the first one was cute and fun, and we liked the gothic atmosphere, costumes, and acting of the latter.

I can hardly believe we're into the last week of November. I got into a mild panic about the December holidays because I haven't even made my gift list yet. I know we'll pull it off, but life is currently crazy, crazy.

Here's what I read last week.

thoughts onHow Long 'Til Black Future Month by N. K. Jemisin (Orbit; November 27): Holy cow this book is amazing. First, take a second and absorb the cover. I'm in love. This book is a collection of Jemisin's shorter pieces, but instead of reading like short stories they all read like novellas. I'm so impressed with how complete each story is. The book begins with a message from Jemisin explaining how she came to write these pieces. The stories are related by the themes Jemisin's fans are used to seeing: feminism, otherness and wanting to belong despite being different, relationships, motherhood, the powerful versus those who seem to not have power, fertility, and dreams. Some of the pieces were expanded into her novels (fans will have no difficulty recognizing these stories), and some explore a kind of dystopian future. I also liked the mix of settings, including a futuristic New York, a Katrina-suffering New Orleans, and off-plant settlements. I listened to the unabridged audio edition (Hachette Audio; 14 hr, 10 min), which was read by an amazing cast of narrators. This was not a full-cast production; instead a single narrator read each story. I didn't find any weak links here. Shayna Small, Gail Nelson-Holgate, Robin Ray Eller, and Ron Butler presented Jemisin's style and characters brilliantly. I can't recommend this audiobook more highly. (For more, see my upcoming review with AudioFile magazine)

Thoughts on Spellslinger and Shadowblack by Sebastien de CastellSpellslinger (Orbit paperback, July 2018) and Shadowblack (Orbit paperback, August 2018) by Sebastien de Castell: I loved the first book in this fantasy so much that I immediately read the second. I believe there will be six books in all and that first four are currently available. This is the story of Kellen, the son of powerful magi and a member of a politically powerful clan. The only problem is that his magic, which should manifest itself before he turns 16, is slow to ignite. The books are about what happens when Kellen learns the truth of why he can't weave a spell and what he learns when leaves his home city and family to live in the greater world as a kind of outlaw (and, in fact, there is a bounty on his head). I really liked the world building and the role magic plays in Kellen's land. We meet those with magical power and those without, we meet the powerful and the weak, we meet loners and clanspeople, and we even meet a few sentient creatures. Kellen is on the run with his "squirrel cat" partner and a woman traveler who teaches the boy how to survive on his own. There's a bit of a wild west feeling about the books, but the setting is unique. Here are some things I like about the books: Although Kellen has an interest in a couple of girls he meets, there is (so far) no love story. Kellen is clever and smart but makes lots of mistakes and is often struggling to balance his baser instincts with loyalty and doing the right thing. There's a lot of action. Kellen's squirrel cat is a smart aleck, and I love the ribbon of humor that winds it way through the stories. There are surprises but also familiar tropes. If you're looking for a new fantasy series that does not involve a love triangle and that would appeal to both teens and adults, I'd give this one a try.

I listened to the unabridged audiobooks (Hachette Audio: 10 hr, 58 min; 9 hr, 35 min) both read by Joe Jameson. Jameson has narrated a ton of audiobooks, but I think this is my first experience with him. I liked the way he delivered the humor; upped the tension in the action scenes; and created solid, believable voices for the characters. I'm so glad I decided to give this series a chance and highly recommend it. (Review copies provided by the audiobook publisher)

Thoughts on Click by Kayla MillerClick by Kayla Miller (HMH Books for Young Readers, January 2019): I didn't realize when I picked up this very cute graphic novel that it wouldn't be available until January. I don't usually like to review books so far ahead, but such is life. This is Miller's debut graphic novel, and I thought it was a lot of fun. Olive is comfortable being friends with a number of her classmates, but when their teacher announces a fifth-grade talent show, she is dismayed to find that all of her friends have teamed up to work on their acts. Although they are excited to tell Olive about their ideas, no one invites the girl to join their act. Instead of being a woe-is-me story, this is an uplifting tale of how Olive came to terms with understanding herself and her relationship with her classmates. I loved how she found her own solution and refused to let her well-meaning and understanding mother step in to make things right. The messages here are light handed but important--for example, we can have friends of different genders and skin colors, it's okay not to have a single best friend, and sometimes friends do things we don't understand but that doesn't mean the friendship is over. Plus Olive shows us that by thinking a little outside the box (with the help of her aunt), we may be able to solve our own problems in a way that highlights our own personality. The artwork is colorful, fun, and expressive, and readers young and old will easily relate to Olive. I was trilled to see that another Olive story is in the works.

Thoughts on Little Dancer Aged Fourteen by Camille LaurensLittle Dancer Aged Fourteen by Camille Laurens (Other Press, November 20, translated from the French): A few years ago I read and featured a historical novel about Degas, the ballet dancers he sketched and painted, and his famous wax / bronze statue of the Little Dancer (The Painted Girls; guest post by Cathy M. Buchanan). When I heard of this nonfiction account of Marie van Goethem, the young dancer who modeled for the famous artist, I felt drawn to it. This nicely researched book is only 150 pages, but Laurens packs a lot of thoughtful information between the covers (including photographs of Degas and his work). She puts the life of adolescent ballerinas into the broader sociocultural world of the mid-1800s, noting that (by law) the age of sexual majority was only 13 years and that young dancers had limited opportunities both during and after their association with a ballet company. The child dancers of the Paris Opera were called rats, and this quote sums up their life:

The little rats are Cinderellas without fairy godmothers, they don't become princesses, and their carriageless coachmen remain mice as gray as the cotton ticking of their slippers. They are children who work. (p. 40)
Laurens goes on to discuss the possible relationship between the artist and his model, Degas's influences for how he rendered Marie's features, and Degas's place in the art world. All the while, she tries to find clues to what happened to Marie after she was fired from the Opera for absenteeism (likely because she was modeling for Degas). What was the girl paid? What were her options? What was her future? Laurens doesn't have answers for all her questions, but her stark picture of the young dancer's world will stick with me and has broadened my reaction to the small statue. (review copy provided by the publisher)

15 comments:

bermudaonion 11/26/18, 8:12 AM  

How Long 'Til Black Future Month? sounds like a must read. I think I'd like Click and Little Dancer Aged Fourteen too.

I hear you on the holiday panic feeling. I started decorating yesterday and have so much more to do. The store will be crazy busy for the next month and we have company coming.

Susie | Novel Visits 11/26/18, 8:45 AM  

Little Dancer sounds fascinating. I also read The Painted Girls and really liked it. You have me very curious to find out more about the Marie and her life as Degas's model.

Laurel-Rain Snow 11/26/18, 10:15 AM  

I am drawn to How Long 'Til Black Future Month? Thanks for sharing!

Enjoy your upcoming week, and thanks for visiting my blog.

Emma at Words And Peace / France Book Tours 11/26/18, 12:03 PM  

The Painted Girls was awesome!
I love all you book covers!
My post is here: https://wordsandpeace.com/2018/11/26/its-monday-what-are-you-reading-nov-26/

Kathy Martin 11/26/18, 12:46 PM  

Nice variety of books. I like the sound of Spellslinger.Come see my week here. Happy reading!

Vicki 11/26/18, 1:24 PM  

Nice variety, they all sound good.

Yvonne 11/26/18, 4:17 PM  

Those books do look good. I can't believe we are in the last week of November either. Time really does fly.

AJ Sterkel 11/26/18, 8:39 PM  

I had a bit of end-of-year panic, too. There’s still so much stuff I need to get done. Hopefully I’ll get my decorations up in the next few days. Have a great week!

Aj @ Read All The Things!

Mystica 11/26/18, 8:45 PM  

Some unusual reads. Enjoy them all.

pussreboots 11/26/18, 11:28 PM  

The NK Jemisin book is on my wishlist. Click looks good too. My weekly update

rhapsodyinbooks 11/27/18, 12:01 PM  

Shamefully, I have yet to read anything by N. K. Jemisin even though I know I would love her books! One of these days...

Nise' 11/27/18, 8:36 PM  

It is crazy that we are past Thanksgiving. I've got to get my focus cap on and get on with it!

Greg 11/27/18, 11:26 PM  

I thought To All the Boys was really cute too. :)

thecuecard 11/28/18, 5:10 PM  

Yeah I'm curious about the Little Dancer girl or rat as the ballerinas were called. Sounds like her life might have been bleak? I wonder what happened to her ....

Daryl 12/10/18, 8:19 AM  

finally i am able to sit and read/catch up with my blog reading .. and of course you've got a new fantasy series for me to add to my wanna read it list .. thanks!

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