August 30, 2017

Releases I'm Ready For, Fall 2017

Lately my reading time has diminished, because I've been trying to get as much writing as possible accomplished while I also have a lot of other things going on. This extra-busy state is likely to continue for a while, but I do intend to find time in the upcoming months for these books I've been anticipating!

GEORGE AND LIZZIE by Nancy Pearl (September 5): I'm a longtime fan of librarian, interviewer, and action figure Nancy Pearl, so I was excited to hear she's publishing her first novel. Even better, it's one about family relationships and secrets. Though early reviews are mixed, I'm curious to check this book out.

SOURDOUGH by Robin Sloan (September 5): I wrote a glowing review of Sloan's debut, MR. PENUMBRA'S 24-HOUR BOOKSTORE, so this is one of those cases where I'm nervous about whether an author's second book can live up to my hopes. Happily, advance readers are enthusiastic about this new geeky adventure through the Bay Area tech world, which prominently features some of my favorite topics: food and bread.

LITTLE FIRES EVERYWHERE by Celeste Ng (September 12): Again, this is a second novel from an author with a debut I greatly admired, the powerful family story EVERYTHING I NEVER TOLD YOU. Ng's new book involves two Ohio families whose lives become entwined, and it sounds like it's going to be another incredible read.

PROVENANCE by Ann Leckie (September 26): If you're a science fiction reader and haven't tried Leckie's Imperial Radch trilogy yet, consider this another reminder to pick up ANCILLARY JUSTICE. I loved that series! No need to read the trilogy before PROVENANCE, however, because this book introduces new characters in a different part of the Ancillaryverse. It's the story of a woman on a quest for power and lost artifacts, and it's sure to include richly developed people, cultures, and conflicts.

ARTEMIS by Andy Weir (November 14): Weir's first novel, THE MARTIAN, was a ton of fun, combining a thrilling survival story with fascinating space science. ARTEMIS promises to deliver more thrills and science, plus a heist plot, and it's set on a moon colony. I can't wait!

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Rosie Cima performs some excellent data analysis and visualization to measure the gender balance of The New York Times Best Seller list: "If we are looking for a single category to explain why women are better represented among best-selling authors today, the Literary/None category is our best candidate. Most best-selling books fall into this category, and its change over time closely matches the overall gender ratio, shifting from extreme bias in the 1980s to close to parity in the 2000s."

August 3, 2017

July Reading Recap

July was a busy month, writing and otherwise, so I haven't had time to post since my last batch of book reviews. I also didn't have quite as much time for reading, but I did enjoy two new novels:

THE CHANGELING by Victor LaValle reveals its core premise in the title, and if not for that hint, you might get quite far in before guessing that dark, supernatural forces are at work. While the book describes itself as a fairy tale in the opening sentence, the first third is the realistic story of a family in contemporary New York City. Apollo is raised by a hardworking mother and starts his own career at an early age, buying and selling used books. He meets Emma at a library book sale, and they fall in love. Their baby is born under some unusual circumstances, but their experience of parenting an infant is full of the normal joys and pressures, with too many photos shared on Facebook and not enough sleep.

When the novel takes a turn, it's a very, very dark one that will make it not suitable for all readers. Even then, the full nature of the horror isn't revealed for a while. The story shifts through several apparent realities before the end, and Apollo has to battle numerous types of evil. Throughout, the characters are portrayed with as much care and detail as when this started as an account of a family just trying to get through the day.

LaValle has crafted a stunningly disturbing story with a ton of emotional impact. It's a harrowing read, but it earned a place on my list of favorites.

MADE FOR LOVE by Alissa Nutting: Hazel decides it's time to leave her husband when he wants to implant a chip in her brain to connect the two of them wirelessly. Byron's the genius founder of Gogol, the tech megacompany built on collecting and analyzing everyone's data, so for him, it's the natural next step in human relationships. For Hazel, it's the final straw after a decade trapped in a controlling marriage. She flees Byron's compound, aware that his surveillance abilities are limitless and afraid that he may kill her if he can't get her back. She seeks refuge at her father's house, where she discovers Dad has just purchased and married a sex doll. After that, things get weirder.

All the events in this story are over-the-top and bizarre, which made for frequent laughs, constant surprises, and occasionally some trouble connecting to the characters. That said, Nutting does an admirable job creating layered characters with real emotions and anxieties in the midst of this somewhat alienating plot. I was always concerned about what was going to happen to Hazel and the others, and it was always more odd than anything I could have guessed. Nutting is imaginative, to say the least, with the skill to render her story worlds in vivid, compelling, hilarious detail.

Good Stuff Out There:

→ Charse Yun considers the complex issues involved in Deborah Smith's flawed translation of Han Kang's "The Vegetarian": "I can't emphasize enough how different Han Kang's writing style is in Korean. Han's sentences are spare and quiet, sometimes ending in fragments. In contrast, Smith uses a high, formal style with lyrical flourishes. As one critic noted, the translation has a 'nineteenth-century ring' to it, reminiscent of Chekhov." (Thanks, Book Riot!)