On the blog:
- A slice about the new book club for two that my mother and I started
January isn’t even halfway over, and I’ve already knocked out two titles on my #MustReadin2019 list and BOTH were five-star reads. Jerry Craft’s New Kid won’t be published until February, but it’s a must purchase/must read. It’s about twelve-year-old aspiring artist Jordan who wants to go to art school but who has been sent by his parents to a prestigious (and fairly white) private school instead. Craft hits all the right notes capturing what it’s like to be the new kid, and his graphic novel is all the more powerful for focusing so closely on race. Craft is exceptionally good at catching all the microaggressions that Jordan experiences–the teacher who constantly calls him by the name of one of the other Black kids, the librarian who recommends “gritty” urban realist novels to him, the classmates who assume he’s on financial aid. Jordan keeps his sense of humor through it all, makes some great new friendships, and even learns to speak up when it matters most. This is a very funny book that manages to be full of heart and keep a bit of an edge–not easy to pull off. Interspersed with Craft’s full-color story are short black-and-white examples of Jordan’s comics.
We love to hike in my family, but we are also notoriously underprepared–leaving coats at home on a day when it starts to snow, forgetting the extra bottle of water on a 95-degree day and assuming we’ll be ok without it, leaving lunch in the car because we’re only walking for thirty minutes…. and two hours later, still on the trail, we’re starving. So I’m pretty sure that Donner Dinner Party is an accurate picture of what would have happened to us if we’d been pioneers in the nineteenth century. It’s a harrowing story of bad preparation, bad advice, bad decisions, and bad luck leading to the deaths of most of the party. And those who do survive mostly do so only because they cannibalize the ones who died! Still, it’s a Nathan Hale graphic novel, so there is plenty of humor. I especially enjoy the chatter among Nathan Hale the spy, the hangman, and the British soldier that frequently interrupts the main story.
My mother and I are reading together to complete Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge this year, and the first category we tackled was historical romance written by an author of color. I don’t read much genre fiction, but I came to Tempest with an open mind. The set-up was engaging: a mail-order bride comes to Wyoming Territory to marry a widowed doctor and take care of his daughter. And I liked the first eighty pages or so, which introduced the characters and, aside from the opening gun fight, had a kind of leisurely pace that allowed for character development and interaction. But then I got to the first sex scene, and I began to struggle. The quality of Jenkins’s writing completely changes in the sex scenes. Her straightforward clear prose clogs with flowery adjectives and adverbs and so very many cliches. The rest of the book did not feel very consistent. Some of the more interesting characters more or less disappear, and action scenes that resolve too quickly take the place of character development. The setting had the potential to be really interesting, and clearly some research went into the writing of the book, but I would have liked more detail and accuracy. I did find it instructive to read the (largely very positive) reviews of this book on Goodreads and discover what readers of historical romance like so much about the book–a protagonist with agency, independence, and humor who stays in control of her destiny throughout the story, even when married.
I’ve read several TED books now, and while I love the idea of them, I don’t think they always work as well as a TED talk. A short talk tends to feel complete and fully realized. These short books, on the other hand, tend to feel more like an outline for the more in-depth book I really want to read. Like the other TED books I’ve read, A.J. Jacobs’s Thanks a Thousand is a quick read with a provocative and engaging idea at its core, but it also feels hasty and underdeveloped. Jacobs decides to embark on a gratitude project and focuses on his morning cup of coffee: he will thank a thousand people who had a hand in its production. His journey takes him to the obvious places–his local coffee shop to thank the barista, a coffee plantation in Colombia to thank the farmers–and to less obvious places–phone calls to the makers of coffee cup sleeves and lids, visits to warehouses that store coffee, and research into the history of pallets. There are some worthwhile insights on gratitude and mindfulness along the way, though I longed to pick up another book about gratitude (and another book about coffee production) afterwards to deepen my understanding and insights.