That’s a wrap for December! I had a fantastic reading month in terms of quality of books, and I was able to catch up somewhat with my Book of the Month Club picks by reading three of them this month. Two of those even ended up being two of my favorite BOTM picks overall! And while I did only read one 5-star book, the quality of the 4-star books I picked up was fantastic, and December ended up hosting some of my most memorable reads of the year.
Number of books read: 7
When did I acquire the books I read? August 2017 (The Bear and the Nightingale), October 2017 (Her Body and Other Parties, The Power), November 2017 (Turtles All the Way Down, Future Home of the Living God)
Here are my reviews:
Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (5 stars) – this short story collection absolutely lives up to the hype. If you like gorgeously written magical realism short story collections and you are also a feminist, I’d highly recommend this book. It’s unsettling and also beautiful. One of my favorites of the year, for sure. Machado uses magical realism to tell stories about women’s bodies and the everyday violence inflicted upon them; she explores what it means to be a woman in a variety of creative settings. My favorites of the collection were “The Husband Stitch,” “Inventory,” and “Real Women Have Bodies.”
The Power by Naomi Alderman (4.25 stars) – The Power won this year’s Bailey’s Prize, which first put it on my radar awhile back. Since then, I’ve been reading a lot of “meh” reviews that made me really hesitant to pick it up; I’m really glad that I did. I tend to be a fan of near-future female-centric SF, and this one ended up being no exception. The premise of The Power is that women evolve an organ that gives them the ability to deliver an electrical shock through their hands, not unlike an electric eel. This ability first arises in tweens, who are able to transfer the power to older women as well, and once it becomes widespread society begins to rapidly change. It’s told from multiple perspectives: there’s the daughter of a crime lord in England; the mayor of a city in New England; a foster child who becomes a religious prophet; and a male journalist from Nigeria. From each of these characters, we’re able to see gender roles flipped on their heads and an exploration of what would happen if all women were able to easily physically overpower men. It’s a fast-paced novel, and although there are many sentences and paragraphs that pack meaningful and emotional punches, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s beautifully written. The other issue I had was that I kept thinking that this story could be told in so many different ways; you could take the premise of The Power and imagine hundreds of different ways the course of history could go. You could even take the exact same events of The Power but present the story differently by focusing on only a single character, perhaps, or with entirely different leads. I definitely thought this was a good book, but I’m just not certain that this was the best version of the story that could have been told.
The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (4 stars) – this is one of those books that I knew I’d like as soon as I started hearing about it. It’s a historical fantasy set in Russia that focuses on the clash between Christianity and the older folk religion of the region. It’s told in a mythical, fairytale-ish way and focuses on Vasilisa, daughter of a rural nobleman, who possesses magical abilities that set her apart from everyone around her. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be looking to pick up the next book.
Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (4 stars) – I’ve only read one John Green book previously (The Fault in Our Stars; none of his others have sounded that interesting to me) but I knew I wanted to read this one after I heard that the main character had anxiety and OCD. This is definitely the kind of book that has strength in the characters rather than the plot; I loved Aza, the main character, and I thought that Green wrote her very well. The subplot about searching for the missing billionaire, however, did not make a ton of sense for me, and I had a lot of issues about how certain things were handled. Overall, though, the strength of the writing and Aza herself carried me through the book, and I definitely enjoyed it.
We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (4 stars) – throughout this entire book, I just wanted to give the main character a hug. He’s going through a lot–his boyfriend killed himself, his father left, he’s being bullied at school, his grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and his brother treats him terribly. Oh, and he’s being repeatedly abducted by aliens, who are giving him a choice whether or not to save the world. The problem is that he’s so depressed because of everything else in his life that he just doesn’t really see the world as worth saving. Over the course of the story, he has to confront and work through various emotions and issues, and also meets an intriguing new love interest in the new kid in town, Diego. It’s a serious contemporary YA with a science fiction twist, and I thought it was very well-written; I rarely read contemporary YA, but this was great.
Air Awakens by Elise Kova (3 stars) – this is the first book in a romance-heavy YA fantasy series about elemental magic, and I liked it okay. The writing had a LOT of structural issues, but it was still fun and I liked the love interest, who sort of reminded me of Loki from the Thor movies. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to continue with the series, though, because although I enjoyed it, I definitely wasn’t blown away.
Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (3 stars) – In this book, Cedar, a pregnant young woman with Native American heritage who was raised by a white family, has to contend with the unbalancing of the world once evolution appears to start moving backward and pregnant women begin giving birth to genetic throwbacks from earlier types of humans. Unfortunately, this was mostly a miss for me. Louise Erdrich is definitely a very good writer, and I liked the family dynamics that she set up in this book, but the near-future SF premise is something that I’ve seen done so much better in other works. The plot was disjointed and full of plot holes; the worldbuilding in terms of what was actually going on was really under-developed. I really wish another author had taken this premise and written it in a better way, because it could have been so much more interesting.
And here are the books that I purchased in December: