Book reviews: the one where I slay all the challenges.

Welcome to the first book review Thursday of 2017! I can’t remember exactly when I made Thursday my duly designated day for book reviews last year, but it seems to work out nicely, so I think I’ll try to stick to it for now. If it stops working, we’ll revisit the format. But for now, let’s press on!

Since the new year is still brand new, and because most of the past month has been spent festivity-ing with my sister, I’ve slacked a bit when it comes to spending quality time with my books. If I’m home, I tend to be cooking or talking or playing games with Kim and the fam. And if it’s time for bed, I usually manage to get in a page or two before my eyelids get very heavy. This is all an apology for “only” having two books finished to review for you. I’ll try to do better, boss.

difficultwomenDifficult Women, by Roxane Gay (2016, Grove Press, 260 pages, hardcover). I picked this up – okay, really because I’ll pre-order anything Roxane Gay publishes: fact. But also because it satisfies both the collected stories written by a women and the micropress challenges from BookRiot‘s READ HARDER challenge. Because my personal rules for the challenge mean I can only check-off one challenge for each book read, I chose the short stories challenge. (I have my eye on Irenosen Okoje’s forthcoming Speak Gigantular for the micropress.) Short stories usually aren’t my jam. If you tell me they’re linked – like these – you’ll get a much better chance of getting me to jump into the pool. Ms. Gay’s writing, as always, was impeccable. Voice might not be the most critical of the holy triangle [voice, characters, plot][which, uh, is there a MOST critical?], but if it was, you’d find me hard-pressed to find someone who could wield her instrument with as much precision and beauty as Gay. The stories center around women of difficult natures, nasty women if you will, and how they have earned their badges of honor. These women are survivors, all. Many of them have stories that will make you cry – one of them quite literally, and you figure out how to do that quietly at two in the morning. 2. a.m. So you should pick the book up, with a pack of tissues – and highlighters and pens and your most critical eye. Because stories like these are even more important right now. 5 of 5 stars.

sunisalsoastarThe Sun Is Also a Star, by Nicola Yoon (2016, Delacorte Press, 348 pages, hardcover). This book, too, satisfies both the #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks challenge, and one of the ReadHarder challenges. Santa gifted this to me after he remembered how much I enjoyed (most of) Nicola Yoon’s debut novel last year. (That ending, though – so problematic.) This YA novel was certainly written a bit tighter; Yoon has grown into her voice and knew when to jib the plotline and when to jab. There were several decision points towards the end where her plot could have jumped the tracks and gone in bad, cliche places, but she saved it. It was satisfying to watch her avert the crisis. Because she is certainly a talented writer who knows how to make her characters jump into life, who isn’t afraid to play with stereotypes, and bonus points for all the hair tropes she touched on. Usually a novel with so many small, choppy sections with shifting points of view will bug, but it worked for me here. When more than a few side characters (and yes, inanimate objects and philosophical ideas, too) had had a turn narrating and we still hadn’t had any white characters, I started getting nervous every time I started reading a new section. I wanted so badly for this jewel of a book to smash it out of the park without a single one. And you know what? Yoon pulled it off in the most spectacular way. There’s a challenge for that in READ HARDER, for those who are playing along. Yoon is quickly becoming a go-to YA author of mine, and I can’t wait to see where she goes next. 4 of 5 stars.

What are YOU guys all reading this week? Is everyone’s reading energy all kickstarted from their holiday bookish haul, like mine?

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