Reading Wrap-up: August 2017 Edition

Here we are again.  Another month come and gone.  Without further ado, here is my (very belated) list of what I read in August:

1) An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir.  This novel/series has been on my radar for quite a while and I’m glad I finally started it.  Tahir creates a vivid, brutal world inspired by the Roman Empire, yet one in which the magical and mundane exist side-by-side.  I will let you find and read the plot synopsis for yourself, but one thing that I appreciated was how Tahir never pulls any punches.  Sometimes, when reading young adult fiction, there is a sense that no matter what happens, the protagonist(s) will make it to the end.  When the heroes of An Ember in the Ashes throw themselves into danger there is always the worry that they might not all make it out alive.  It’s a refreshing and exciting (not to mention stressful) change to what I’ve come to expect from YA books.

2) Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi.  I really loved the nods (subtle and not-so-subtle) to Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland – not least of which is the fact the protagonist of the story is named Alice.  I haven’t read much middle grade (at least not since I was in the target age range for such novels), but I was both charmed by the story’s whimsical nature and moved by it’s moments of gravity.

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Blasphemies

The hate that spews from your lips,
Reverberating in the dark corners
Of human hearts,
Is an insidious, cancerous thing.

I thought I was immune
To your wrathful blasphemies –
That my own soul would reject
Such abject, naked rancor.

But even as I thought it,
Basking in my foolish surety,
I realized:

The pain you’ve caused
In spreading your hate,
Has made me hate you
In turn.

Reading Wrap-up: July 2017 Edition

Another month has come and gone, and more books have been consumed.  For the month of July: two novels!

1) A Brief History of Seven Killings by Marlon James.  This is the nearly-700 page behemoth that took me the better part of two months to read.  It is a semi-fictionalized accounting of an assassination attempt on Bob Marley in December of 1976 and the attack’s aftermath in the following decades.  This is a huge leap outside of what I normally read, but I am so glad I picked this up after listening to Marlon James speak at the LA Times Festival of Books back in April.  To say that this novel is dense is an understatement: the cast of characters is as sprawling as the story – each point of view possessed of their own distinct voice and dialect – and the stream of consciousness narrative style Marlon employs forces you to slow down and take in each and every word, every moment, lest you miss something.  But what struck me most was the richness and humanity of each perspective; for no matter whose eyes I read the story through, even those who did despicable, horrible things, I couldn’t help but understand (if not agree with) the reasoning behind their actions.  This book is definitely a time investment, but one that is well worth it.

2) The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden.  An original fairy tale based off of folklore and legend?  Count me in.  I can’t say I’m all that familiar with Russian folklore, upon which this novel is based, but after reading this I’d love to dive deeper into it.  The story here is a bit of a slow burn, but once it starts to pick up about halfway through it doesn’t let up.  When I started The Bear and the Nightingale I was under the impression it was a standalone novel; and while it still certainly reads as such, it was to my delight that I learned upon finishing it that there is a sequel coming out later this year.  If fairy tales, folklore, myths, and legends (with a dash of the supernatural thrown in) are your jam, pick this one up.

America, The Dream

I’ve been thinking a lot about The American Dream.

Not so much the “anyone can be anything if they work hard and put their mind to it” American Dream, but the idea of America itself – the nation the founding fathers imagined it might be, if given the chance.  A just nation, a free nation, one in which all men are created equal, with certain unalienable rights.

Both interpretations are, of course, fictions.  As a country we have never lived up to either, not for everyone.  And in some cases – the institutionalization of slavery, the genocide of native populations, the illegal internment of Japanese-American citizens during World War II, just to name a few – we as a nation have flagrantly betrayed the ideals of The Dream.

And yet The Dream persists.  People from all across the face of the earth still flock to our shores, on the promise of The Dream.

It persists, I think, because we as a nation refuse to give up on it.  Because we either want or need to believe that it can one day become reality.

Personally I don’t believe that will ever happen.  It certainly won’t happen in my lifetime.  But perhaps if we are always moving towards the ideals of The Dream – always striving to make this country more just, more equal for everyone who calls it home – maybe we’ll be all right in the end.

The United States of America is a country as flawed as its people, and those flaws – while not insurmountable – are great.

And yet for all their flaws, its people have the capacity for greatness, too.

Happy Fourth of July.

Reading Wrap-up: June 2017 Edition

I know I said last month that I wanted to be a bit more active here on the blog.  Whoops.  Only two posts for all of June.  Even this reading wrap-up is coming out later than normal.  I swear I will one day come up with a posting schedule and stick to it.  One day.

But now, for what I read in the month of June:

Technically speaking, I only got through one novel in its entirety.  Though I did manage to read the vast majority of a nearly-700-page monstrosity, so that almost counts as two.  But I’ll include that in my July wrap-up once I’ve actually finished it.  So the one and only novel I finished in the month of June is…

Within the Sanctuary of Wings by Marie Brennan.  I’m sure none of you are surprised by this, as I’ve been mentioning this series ad nauseum for several months now.  But now the series is done and I had a serious case of book hangover after finishing it – which is partly why it was the only book I was able to finish in June.  I’ve hyped up this book series enough in my previous wrap-ups, so I won’t repeat myself.  Give them a read.  They are definitely worth your time.

And that’s it!  That’s all she wrote (er, read).  Until next time, everybody!