Okorafor’s intricate world building envelopes completely - I avoid any details here because every new facet surprises, deepening that desire to turn the page of this hero’s journey. Binti’s mind, the mind of a harmonizer, is tested in every way on her journey to Oomza Uni, a school that has never been attended by one of her people. She will traverse the stars and her home, Earth, coping with the changes to her form and mind as they accumulate.
Kelly Barnhill (Newberry Award winning author of The Girl Who Drank the Moon) wrote us some creepy lullabies. They operate at the tip of the top of your ears, whispering like a voice from another time, a smirk in the voice of a dreadful lady from the past, the future, from right now but far away. Like a kitten resting near a roaring engine, you bask in the warmth of the rage at the center.
For fans of The Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi, pirate stuff, alternative U.S. history, elemental magic, queer airship captains, Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, and Haitian history as it connects to African mythology. Written in Creole dialect, The Black God’s Drums is immersive, fast-paced adventure in an alternate Civil War Era New Orleans.
This is my favorite book.
Generations of people have lived and died on the Matilda, sent from a dying planet to find new home for the human race. Strict hierarchy is physically defined by the alphabetized levels of the ship, with a unique culture in each cavern. Resources are divided ruthlessly, attributing all abuses and hypocrisies to The Heavens' will. Solomon touches on everything in this book, but what keeps me rereading are their insightful musings on gender and trauma. In the midst of a twisty, fast-moving plot, they produce compassionate scenes that put (beautiful) words to those unnamable moments of gender dysphoria and euphoria, of living in a sexually violent society, and confronting generational traumas.
In all its gruesome beauty The Power is, like many books, a vision of the lessons we hope, hope, hope we will never have to learn in earnest. Perspective switches from one well-crafted, dynamic character to the next as the world realigns itself and as they try to realign the world after a new evolutionary trait arises in women. Alderman's fourth novel, written while being mentored by Margaret Atwood, is defined by a grandeur and precision that exists alongside a distinct lack of ego - the absence of that ego allowing questions and theories that have never been pondered to unfurl and take root.
Disclaimer: Be prepared for a few hours of slack-jawed, mind-blown uselessness after finishing this book.
Ewing's poetry is addictive and sharp, perched gracefully in the doorway to abrasive. She writes about Chicago as if she was in the dirt when the first settlers came. As if her observations come from the distant past, situated in a corner of the city where you can see past now, far into the hazy future. pg 18 and pg 72
I had too much to say about this book to just do a paragraph, so I have a few bullet points to avoid rambling.
- Wonderful prose, even in the darkest moments of the book.
- El Akkad's research and understanding supports every brushstroke of the story: the Bouazizi Empire and how the war came to be, the disappearance of the coasts, the roll of recruiters in a war torn republic and the misinformation that physical and ideological separation fosters.
- Intimate portrayal of the radicalization of an American into a terrorist, as well as how it's done on a wide scale. Homes and families destroyed by war leads to young anger, which is channeled back into the same war - we see it, but have we really felt it? This book brings home that faraway cycle in a way that sinks into your bones.
- He lays out a family and a character that is beautiful and pure and representative and - most importantly - American. Showing how regardless of race or language or geography the right set of conditions will turn a child into a soldier, killing and dying in the name of a cause they don't understand.
- Firsthand accounts and histories of the war bookend the chapters, providing a small portion of governmental perspective.
Bonus: favorite prologue of the year.
One of the Boys is the perfect execution of a novel about the notion of being a man, drugs, mental illness, familial love and loyalty, as well as what abuse does to a young mind. Magariel's debut novel, clocking in at 165 pages, has not a single unnecessary syllable. His deliberate writing has no mercy, so you have no choice but to stare directly into both the insidious nature of addiction and the purity that is a son's love.
Come for the gender discussion, stay for the tense prose and dissection of post WWII masculinity. Koelb doesn't ask or answer questions, instead opting to peel back certain corners of the wallpaper, illustrating that however you came to it, proving oneself to be a man is an endeavor that has left many people emptied out.
A haunting and graceful work of speculative fiction, When the English Fall is the diary of an Amish man called Jacob. A solar storm brings the world grinding to a halt. The effects are slower to reach Jacob’s isolated community, a trickle of information and violence.
I sort of broke the rules with this one and watched the movie before reading the book. Not sure what I expected, but I could never have guessed what I was missing. In dreamy (nightmarey?) prose Heim dazes you into the space between reality and certainty using characters so intent to know truth that they weave their own versions of it. I could go on and on about the narrators and how they mirror all the ways we lie to ourselves, but instead I'll just tell you to read it and try to have someone around to hug you when you finish it.
After this book, I couldn't drive through a peaceful suburb without conspiring to myself about the entanglements and scandals there. Sarah is a perfectly apathetic anti hero representative of what happens when the transition from youth to adulthood takes too much out of a person, leaving a shell filled with static boredom and surrounded by ambient fear. She's so smart though, and funny. Her situation makes you feel for her, but she pulls no punches about the fact that she got herself there. All of his characters are like that, people that on paper should be boring if not outright annoying but end up being so honest, so real that you fall into them. You understand and grow to like them. And most importantly you absolutely have to know what's going to happen to them.
When there are no good guys in a story, are the bad guys really bad? The voices in The Lie weave a complicated web of manipulation and general assholery that sucks you in until you look up to find yourself suspended in the eye of a hurricane of callous deceit. Kultgen presents these characters under an unforgiving bare light bulb of truth. The vulgar playboy, the dinky best friend of said playboy, and the socially ambitious debutante all expose themselves with each turn of the story. The amazing feat in this book is that in the midst of all these acidic personalities the author somehow manages to focus a piercing light on one thing: humanity, in all its treacherous glory.
Doyle is a favorite author of mine, and this is my favorite of his books. Henry Smart starts out as a boy hustling in 1900’s Dublin, charming and starved. He finds himself in the Irish Citizen Army at 14 during a post office occupation, finding the purpose and love and danger that drives his life and this book.
Quentin Coldwater learns that there is a school where magic is taught, a revelation for him after a life of reading about the Chatwins, a family that discovered a magical land a la the Narnia books. As you read you can tell that Lev spent a lot of time sitting back thinking, "Okay, but what would that actually BE like?" The effort put into making magic feel real and plausible is what makes this trilogy special. Be sure to have the second book at hand, the ending of The Magicians
In this installment, things get a little grittier. Quentin is sent off to Brakebills South, that reads like magical basic training/torturous boot camp. Meanwhile, Grossman switches perspectives to a female character that we met in the first book, who has since descended into a frantic and deeply flawed search for the magical world. If the first book's purpose was to dip the reader's toe into the magical world, this book's is to sink you to the depths - and it does so quickly and without mercy.
In the final and third book of the series Quentin has done his coming of age. Having been a king and a professor, he gives magical crime a try and as can be expected he runs into a lot more trouble than he signed on for. When I started this book, I was a bit worried Grossman was stretching the narrative, but it didn't take long for everything to come together in a great show of adventure and humanity.