Recent Reads

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Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates

This is simply required reading. Coates’s latest, about growing up black in America, is written as a letter to his son. His writing, as always, is completely absorbing and powerful. There are enough articles floating around the internet about why you should read this. (And some terrible articles from raging racists, of course, and their existence alone is a reason you should read the book.) No matter who you are, read this book. And then have your family and friends read this book.

In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
I had hoped to love this book and alas, did not. It’s well done and captures the lives and trauma of a town plagued by tragedy after tragedy. There was plenty I did enjoy about it. However, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. I also think 1950s suburban America is just not my cup of tea.

Paper Towns by John Green
This was a re-read for me before I saw the movie. I first read it right after it came out when I was 18. I think the story overall was more interesting at 18, but the message is something that impacted me then and stayed with me. “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person” was stuck in the back of mind and served as a reminder throughout college and into adulthood. Seven years later and this book still got to me.

Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
I’ve been making an effort to read more comics and graphic novels. I graduated university with a degree in graphic design and clearly I love words so the combination of graphics and writing is something I do appreciate. Yet somehow they can be harder for me to get into. Probably just takes time to really enjoy. Anyway, in anticipation of Netflix’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones I decided to to pick up the original comics. I liked this second volume better than the first. And I love Jessica Jones as an ex-superhero character. I’m not sure the male writers of this completely did her justice but still found myself into the story. Hoping the Netflix series is even better.

More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
If you would like something gritty and heart-wrenching, well here you go. This book is worth the hype I saw all over my Twitter feed. The book follows Aaron Soto after his father’s suicide while he tries to come to grips with both what his father has done and thoughts about his own sexuality. Then there’s the Leteo Institute which has a memory-alteration procedure which looms over the whole story. The cast of characters in this is fantastic and it somehow covers so many different topics in little ways.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I put this off for too long. Because it’s the 21st century, I’ve followed Roxane Gay on Twitter for a while and she’s pretty kickass. This collection of essays is also pretty wonderful. The book isn’t strictly about Feminism. It’s more about Gay and her experiences as well as pop culture. While some of the pop culture references were lost on me, I still liked these essays. Gay has important things to say whether or not they are “new” things (as some reviewers find this not revolutionary enough). You have to repeat some things before people get them. When it comes down to it, I just like Roxane Gay. She is personable and funny and can also talk about big topics in way that is easily understood.  With any collection of essays, I enjoyed some essays more than others. But overall felt they were well-written and worth the read.

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Zeroboxer by Fonda Lee

I read this earlier this year and have been wanting to talk about it and it’s TIME. I’m into sports, but not so into boxing. However, if zero gravity boxing existed that might change things for me. How the book describes the sport is completely amazing. I became more engrossed in these fictional matches than I have been in many real life sporting events.

Aside from the awesomeness of futuristic sport, this book has a lot going for it. Here’s what I liked:

  • World Building: Lee does a fantastically well at building a complex world without over-explaining or making it confusing. I am not exactly well-read when it comes to Sci-Fi, but the world she creates is different than a lot of what I have read. I think the uniqueness of zero gravity boxing helps. There have been comparisons to Ender’s Game (which I love), but while there are some similarities I don’t find them truly comparable. Completely different tone, different message, and so on.
  • The Action: There is a lot of detailed action in this and it’s amazing. Sometimes I get bored with play-by-play fight scenes, but Lee makes them so tense and engrossing. God, do I wish this sport was real so I could watch it.
  • Characters: The story centers around zeroboxer Carr and his rise to fame. The book made me root for Carr, but not always entirely love him which is what I want from my MCs. I am drawn to characters who aren’t entirely lovable. Carr is adored by his fans and the general public, but not always lovable for his reader and it makes the story much more interesting.
  • The Sports World: What I liked most about this book is its subtle satire about the sports world and advertising. Carr is assigned a brandhelm (basically a publicist) Risha (who is beautiful and… you can see where this is going…). Carr is seen as marketable and gets a bunch of sponsorships. As someone who worked only briefly in sports, but got to see a glimpse of how this all works, I loved how Lee handled this. Branding – whether it’s a company or a person, in sports or elsewhere – is obviously a Big Deal in corporate America. So how Carr is treated is relevant. When I recently read about how Serena Williams doesn’t get as much sponsorship money as some of her counterparts, I instantly thought of this book. People become brands and it’s strange how that works in our world.
  • The Messages: Besides the publicity commentary, there are a few other things happening in this book that I won’t talk about to avoid spoiling anything. However, what’s nice about this book is the story isn’t over-burdened by these many ideas. The plot is first and foremost about Carr and his conflicts. The questions are there and they don’t necessarily have answers. The book delivers the action-packed fun but also gives you a few things to chew on if you wish.

I think the one negative of Zeroboxer for me is the characters didn’t feel fully developed. Carr of course comes far by the end, but I wanted more in the beginning with him and Risha and a few other characters. The character relationships didn’t feel as strong as they could have been.

If you enjoy Sci-Fi and/or sports you should definitely read this book. Even if you don’t enjoy some of its commentary, it’s still so much fun. And if you don’t like Sci-Fi or sports, this might temporarily win you over.

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Backtrack

I’ve read many wonderful books this year and would usually write about them on my other tumblr, but I fell away from that. To make up for it, I decided to list some* of what I’ve read the past six months (how are we at the halfway mark already????). A few of these will get longer reviews later on since they deserve more than blurbs, but I wanted to get some recs on here.

As many have said, YA is really coming up big lately. I’ll save you my ramblings on that (for now). But there’s a fair amount of genre mixing going on YA fiction that’s appealing. So I’ve ended up reading quite a few books labeled “Young Adult” that really feel like they’re for any age. Anyway…

* excluded series and books I didn’t enjoy as much. Will write about series in another post.

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