I have a few books I’ve been putting off reviewing simply because I don’t have much to say about them. That isn’t necessarily because I didn’t like them, I just can’t come up with a lot of words for them. So, I’m going to do a bit of a “at a loss for words round up” and get these in the bank. I’ll put the link to my favorite in the Amazon link box.
Little Fires Everywhere (4 Stars)
by Celeste Ng
Pearl and Maya move into the wealthy, mostly white suburb of Shaker Heights. They’ve been mostly migrant up until now- Maya is an artist and she goes where inspiration takes her and her daughter Pearl has been along for the ride since she was born. When they move into a duplex owned by the Richardson family, and Pearl becomes friends with the Richardson kids, things that used to seem so simple start to unravel.
I really enjoyed this book and, having been in High School in the 90s, this ended up being an especially identifiable story. Granted I didn’t grow up in a suburb as wealthy or quite as white as the one in this book, but even so the kind of white privilege that this book explores is pretty much the same flavor that I grew up surrounded by. It does such a great job of exploring it in a kind, but unflinching way and it is something that is really needed in our world.
The younger characters are really well done. It is hard to write teenagers after you stop being one. Ng has a handle on how to stay in that mindspace and write effectively and realistically, both the good and the bad, that teenagers are capable of.
Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orisha Book 1) (2 Stars)
by Tomi Adeyemi
This book has gotten a ton of buzz around the podcasts and sites I follow and I was really excited to start it after having it on my library hold list for two months. This may have been to its detriment, unfortunately.
This book, set in the mythical land of Orisha, follows a young maji girl Ziele as she tried to help her people overthrow the ruling k’osidán people and restore magic to the world. The maji control the elemental magic of the world, or they did until the genocide committed by the current King Saran caused magic to seemingly disappear from the planet.
This is a YA series, and it shows, which, while not the end of the world for me, is less than ideal, given how many fabulous YA series are out there. From all the hype I had heard I had expected something a bit more cohesive with a bit more depth to the characterization and the world building. It kept reminding me of something but I could not put my finger on it until someone in the Cannonball Read FB said she was inspired by The Last Airbender and… yeah that was what it was reminding me of and… it really shows.
The plot is fine. The characters are fine, if a little one note. Ziele is, of course, a tough, emotionally closed Girl With a Past. She is a whiz with a staff, because of course. Her brother is the popular one that sacrifices an “easy” life to help her, etc.etc. None of it is bad at all, it’s just been done. I don’t think this would have bothered me nearly as much if I hadn’t been told from so many outlets how amazing and groundbreaking this book is. Essentially, I’m glad I read it, but I really don’t see myself picking up the second one at this point.
I do really love that the author based the series on her West African culture, that the world is pretty clearly based on the African continent and that most of the people that inhabit this realm (at least as much of it as we see in this volume) are POC. It is really great to see not just diversity, but to completely ignore European history/geography/mythos and let another perspective into the Fantasy realm. That is great, and I want to see more perspectives creating fantasy worlds and having those worlds get this kind of attention in the mainstream.
A Duke By Default (3 Stars)
by Alyssa Cole
I haven’t read a true Kissing Book since I was about 20, which is when I kind of got tired of the formula and the hard bound gender roles. Then I was listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour’s Book show and one of the guests mentioned that she loved Alyssa Cole and especially loved A Duke by Default. She went on to describe a book that sounded like a lot of fun, and I knew other people had liked Cole’s writing and it was available at the library, so, why not?
Well, I think I may have to work more Kissing Books back into my rotation, especially if I can find more like this one. The lead, Portia, is so relatable. She feels the the screw up basket case of her very wealthy, super successful family and she really just has such normal-person flaws, even though really, she’s doing just fine and if she would cut herself a break she may be able to see it, which was refreshing. Tavish, her paramour, is a bit older and he’s a rough around the edges, gruff, swordmaker who loves teaching kids swordsmanship and who, we come to learn, is also a Duke, like the British royalty kind.
It does have some of the typical “if you two would just TALK about FEELINGS you would both avoid a whole hell of a lot of heartache!” That you get in Romance novels, but at least this one has characters drawn well enough that while you are frustrated you still get it. Plus there are also side characters in the book saying “Just talk! You are both obviously crazy about each other, edgit!” which does help the frustration, since it’s so clearly acknowledged. It’s also good and steamy when things get good, which, lets face it, is why we read these books. I really liked the diversity in the books, as well. I like it just in general, but given the book is set in Scotland, so many authors seem to forget that people from all over the world have been moving in and out of there for a whole hell of a long time, and there are major cities including Edinburg, where this book is set, so it isn’t just a bunch of pasty white folks running around and this book shows it.
I don’t have much else to say on this one. You want a fun, sexy little escape? Read this one, it’s good.