October Mini Reviews
Here are a few books I've read this month that just get quick reviews - constrained by time, interest, or nothing special to say.
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver, A Darker Shade of Magic #1 by V.E. Schwab, Native Tongue #1 by Suzette Hayden Elgin, Ghostland by Duncan Ralston, Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik, and Don't Tell a Soul by David Rosenfelt.
I Wish You All the Best by Mason Deaver
Genre: YA, General Fiction
Published 2019, 328 pages
On one hand this is sort of a 'standard' YA romance with all the attendant angst and uncertainty. But, it certainly is NOT standard in that it tries to accurately convey the feelings and fears of a nonbinary teenager and whether to come out or not and then how to deal with the fallout when they do come out. Since I don't know anyone who identifies as nonbinary, I can't speak to the authenticity of the feelings or situation, but it certainly *feels* true.
I think what the book accomplishes is twofold: It brings a teen's uncertainty and fear about how to handle sexuality, when it's something other than hetero, out into the open. It's got to be excruciatingly difficult to talk about it to family and friends. Second, it shows how people are all alike and no matter how you identify, feelings and decisions and uncertainties exist and flourish. No one is exempt.
Ben comes out to his parents who throw him out of the house. He goes to live with his sister, starts at a new school, and tries to find his way through all his confusing feelings. There are no explicit relationship details shared, just a blossoming attraction. It's mostly about a young man trying to be brave enough to live in the world in the way that he sees himself. That's hard for any of us, but especially hard when you go against the "norms".
“The more I stare at my body, the more I hate it. It's the same feelings I had before I realized I'm nonbinary. Things just aren't where they're supposed to be, and I feel like I'm larger and smaller than myself at the same time. Like nothing adds up.”
A Darker Shade of Magic #1 by V.E. Schwab
Published 2015, 400 pages
This is a fascinating premise for a book - four different co-existing Londons in the 1800s and only a couple of magicians have the power to travel between them; each are ruled by a separate royalty family. Kell is a great character - a magician but also a bit of a smuggler. When a transaction goes sideways, he meets another great character, Delilah. Delilah, at 19, wants nothing more than to be a pirate, AND, she's a talented thief. Put the two of them together and they get into all sorts of trouble, but also create a bond and help each other survive dangerous situations.
There's lots of action, fully realized characters, the hero isn't a perfect guy but has plenty of faults. I'm definitely going to read the rest of the series!
Reading Challenge: #Popsugar20 #30: about a world leader (fiction or non)
Native Tongue #1 by Suzette Haden Elgin
Published 1984, 335 pages
I wanted this book to be better, more engaging. I chose it for the "made up language" category because the feminist angle sounded intriguing. Women who make up their own language? Sure!
However, while there was lots of language mechanics, the actual made up language didn't show up till the very end of the book.
"Nazareth thought for a moment. First there would be the narrative frame that would shelter the direct sentence, and the triple particle that would disambiguate the three embeddings. Then the very simple message .... The other half of the narrative frame . . . some honorifics . . . "
Set in the future with travel between planets and negotiations between humans and alien races, the women are the translators. But they are essentially treated as slaves, as property, as objects. They have absolutely no free agency. They have to have written permission from a man to buy even a loaf of bread. So, right off the bat, I'm annoyed....it's a little TOO extreme. :) So these oppressed women start developing a secret language to communicate around the men. This book is touted as a feminist classic - and maybe the series will make it more palatable as I assume the women will regain their power. But as a first book, it didn't do it for me.
Reading Challenge: #PopSugar20 #18: with a made-up language
Ghostland by Duncan Ralston
Published 2019, 414 pages
I found this book to complete a reading challenge category; it's not one I would normally gravitate toward. I join challenges to expand my reading but I could have done without this one. It was barely ok. I would think it might be considered YA because the main characters are teenagers, BUT the level of violence and bloody descriptions might not be appropriate for all teens.
Two kids (a boy and girl) are friends and share a love of horror - games/movies/books, etc. A horror 'amusement park' opens in their town and they go on opening day. The park is marketed as a place to see real ghosts and they're given special glasses to see them and then all hell breaks loose.
The cover phrase is "people are dying to get in. the ghosts will kill to get out" and 7/8 of the story is about the disaster of the technology collapsing and freeing all the ghosts. Death and mayhem ensue with lots of blood and guts and long descriptive sections of all the gruesome dead bodies as the two kids race from one place to another to try to get out of the park. It became pretty repetitive and skimmable. Overall, underwhelming and pretty forgettable.
Into the Jungle by Erica Ferencik
Genre: General Fiction
Published March 2020, 352 pages
This thriller is not the usual psychopathic killer but is actually Mother Nature. The jungle is a dangerous place to be and Lily is challenged to figure that out to stay alive. A runaway from the foster system, she steals enough money to get to Bolivia but she struggles when she can't find a job. She meets and falls in love with Omar, who is from a remote jungle village. A tragedy draws him home and Lily goes with him.
The story is well written and gripping in places. Lily is only 19 and has survived foster care with a false, forced bravado. She discovers that isn't going to be enough to keep her alive in this foreign, dangerous environment. It's SO evocative of the bugs and critters and dangers of the jungle that I NEVER want to go. She's definitely a plucky protagonist. Or a foolish one.
Don't Tell a Soul by David Rosenfelt
Published 2008, 306 pages
This novel is a stand alone by the prolific David Rosenfelt (usually writes the Andy Carpenter legal thriller series). Though I haven't read all his books, I found this quick read to be a strong thriller using the "innocent good guy gets framed for murder" trope. It's suspenseful; the good guy's uncertainties are believable; the pacing is quick as it builds to a good finish (though a bit abrupt), and it's a solid mystery. Definitely recommend for a weekend getaway read!
Reading Challenge: #Popsugar20 #25 cover with only words, no art