We’re halfway through February and I’m doing pretty good for my reading goals this year. I’m sticking (mostly) to not buying new books for my #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge; I added another book to my ReadHarder challenge; and I found two more favorite books for the year. I even read two books for the #ComicsFebruary challenge and I’m not even participating in it! Let’s see what we have this week, shall we?
Smaller and Smaller Circles, by F.H. Batacan. (University of the Philippines Press, 2007, 155 pages) I borrowed this through my library’s e-lending library and finished it for the “Read a book by an author from Southeast Asia” ReadHarder challenge. I’ve found the most delightful candidates for the challenges on my very own TBR list, delightfully! Circles is a bit of a hard-boiled crime investigated by Jesuit priests (alas, not time-traveling ones), and while I’ve mostly moved away from the genre – crime, not Jesuits – I really enjoyed this story. There was quite a bit of social justice, with enough commentary on a developing nation’s emerging infrastructure to keep me both intrigued and second-guessing the reliability of the narrator vs. author’s voice. Which was which? That criticism aside, and that of the grisly nature of the crime(s), I enjoyed where the story took me, even when it was a bit predictable. My only other criticism was that I needed a sticky note to keep track of the many characters. Nothing worse than an Agatha Christie, numbers-wise. 3 1/2 of 5 stars.
Rock, Paper, Scissors, by Naja Marie Aidt. (Open Letter Press, 2015, 345 pages, e-book) Honestly, I can’t remember how this book ended up on my TBR, but I borrowed I borrowed it from the library simply because it was available. It’s the story of a grown son who finds a secret about his recently departed father, and who chases it down a path of escalating problems, violence, and family instability. Which, okay, enough already with these stories. If they’re well executed, I can be more forgiving, and perhaps it was the fault of being a story in translation, but I just didn’t get that here. I found an emotional gap between myself and the story and I couldn’t quite bridge it. 1 of 5 stars.
Cherry Money Baby, by John Cusick. (Candlewick Press, 2013, 400 pages, hardcover) This was a holdover from two Christmases ago, a book Santa grabbed from the used book store, and then I couldn’t seem to work into my rotation. It must have been instinct. Cherry is a girl who loves her shitty little life – from her inconsequential job, to her trailer house she shares with her dad, and her engagement at a young age to her high school sweetheart. But then comes a glamorous chick Ardelia with all of her money tempting Cherry away, and then a baby on top of all of that, and voila – plot. Except I was always hyper-conscious of the omnipresent Author writing the Plot, perhaps because the author was a guy writing the consciousness of a teenaged woman and that’s tricky under the best circumstances. Meh. Didn’t work here. 1 of 5 stars.
The Royal We, by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan. (Grand Central Publishing, 2015, 454 pages, library hardcover) Imagine the funnest romp of a story you possibly can, based loosely on Prince William and Kate Middleton’s romance, except where Kate is a clumsy and adorable Iowan college student transplanted from Cornell to Oxford as an exchange student. Oh, and Bex Porter (new-Kate) just happens to end up in Prince William’s (er…Prince Nick’s) dorm hall and become good friends with his good friends. JUST TRUST ME! This is going to be your favorite beach read, even with the heft. In fact, partly because of the heft, because you’re not going to want the story to end! I spent the first part of the story leisurely reading, then the second half racing my sister Rhianyn to the next juicy plot twists. AND GREAT GOOGLY MOOGLY is it better if you’re racing to the VERY juicy plot twists! It helps if you can suspend your logic and reasoning just a smidge. I promise it will all be worth it, especially if you like your rom-coms with a bit of brains. Everything about this was charming and wonderful and would Hollywood please hurry up with the movie already?! 5 of 5 stars.
No More Heroes, by Stephen Thompson. (Jacaranda, 2015, 208 pages, paperback) You know how some book summaries just grab you and you have to special order the paperback because no one seems to carry it? Guess what happened here. Yep. But, see, our protag was on the train in London when a terrorist’s bomb detonated, and he helps save a few lives. Not quite accidentally, but certainly not by any heroes’ measures, if you ask him. And then he gets a bit messed up in the head, and we spend the novel helping him sort out his PTSD. It worked. I wish I hadn’t jumped through all of those hoops special-ordering, because it wasn’t anything spectacular, but it was definitely a decent bit of story, and a pretty good examination of how PTSD can play out. 3 of 5 stars.
I Am Princess X, by Cherie Priest. (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015, 232 pages, hardcover) I bought this just before I started #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks and I am so glad it squeaked in under the wire! This is the book you all MUST read for #ComicsFebruary! I had tried borrowing the e-book from the library, but my Cloud Reader kept freezing whenever I tried to load it. I hadn’t read so much as a single page – I had only seen the cover. You know – that cover that is one of the best covers in the history of book covers. I just knew it was a book I wanted to read. See, Libby and May grew up as the best of friends. Libby would draw this princess of theirs, and May would write the stories. What started as a recess game became a hobby and then an obsession as they grew up through elementary, middle, and then high school. They had other friends, but none as close as each other. Then one night Libby’s mom fell asleep at the wheel and the two went into Puget Sound, killing them both. Which is sad and heartbreaking enough, except when May (who has moved with her mom to Atlanta) comes back to visit her dad one summer, she sees Princess X stickers pop up all over the city. Is Libby really dead? Which – ZOMG! Of course that sucked me in! What really killed me though were the comics that appear with the text of each section – they are really good, you guys. They’re not just gratuitous, they’re integral and necessary for the story line. And while the ending read just a bit like a “teen novel”, I have to say the crossover execution was huge. The storyline was different, the format was new, the art work was killer – there wasn’t anything I didn’t love. I will definitely be reading this with my comics-happy almost-10-year-old, and I don’t think for a second I’ll be bored the second time around. Oh, and bonus points for having diverse characters who weren’t diverse just for the sake of having them. So many of my favorite things. READ IT, you guys! 5 of 5 stars.
So there you have it – six more books to read or not-read. I’ll have another batch for you next week, but if you need some spoilers, I’m gonna go ahead and say you’ll want to also read Nimona, and if this book I’m currently reading keeps going strong, Francisco Stork’s The Memory of Light, too.