Time for another round of mini-reviews! I’ve been a little neglectful of my book reviews lately, mostly because I am trying to move beyond book reviews in this blog. But I do love reviewing books, and reviews – whether I are writing or reading them – are actually an important component of librarianship.
Reading reviews is essential to collection development. When we purchase books for the library, we often don’t get to read a book before it ends up on our shelves. Reading reviews gives us a better idea of whether the books suit our patrons. But writing reviews is equally important. Writing reviews allows a librarian to practice distilling the qualities and values of a book into an easily digestible description, a necessary skill for those reference librarians who still get to offer readers’ advisory services. So while I will continue trying to integrate more librarianship into this blog, I will always be sharing my book reviews with you. And now, to the reviews!
- Morning Star – Morning Star is the conclusion of the Red Rising trilogy. I reviewed the first and second books (Red Rising and Golden Son) earlier, so you know I had to give you my final thoughts. With Darrow cast down from on high at the end of Golden Son, I could barely conceive of a third installment. But Brown could and did conceive of an intensely harrowing and beautiful conclusion. The same themes of classism, violence, corruption and power are tackled, but Darrow reaches the end of his harrowing heroic journey, finally growing into a man. Character loyalties continue to swirl, but I am constantly in awe of Brown’s ability to allow the reader to see both sides. No character is truly evil (except, maybe, the Jackal). But you also don’t feel like Brown is shoving the duality of human nature down our throat. It is merely true to the character of Darrow to be constantly second-guessing his own choices and analyzing his judgments of those around him. People are lost to the cause – I cried during one loss – and Brown is still the master of the twist that will bring you low even as it lifts you up. It’s a hefty and heart-wrenching series, but it is totally worth the effort it takes to learn about one possible future of humanity. If reading history keeps us from repeating our mistakes, perhaps reading science fiction can allow us to avoid making these mistakes in the first place.
- Library of Souls – Library of Souls is the conclusion of the Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children trilogy, after Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children and Hollow City. The series is a dark and atmospheric look at a boy’s journey after he discovers the stories his murdered grandfather thrilled and scared him with as a kid are true. Jacob has discovered the place where his grandfather met all the peculiar children he told stories about. After facing down hollowgasts and wights, he goes on a quest to rescue the kidnapped Miss Peregrine. Library of Souls opens with just himself, his friend Emma Bloom and a peculiar dog, in a race to find his friends and save them. After discovering a newfound power over the enemy that terrifies him, he begins to recognize – and then constantly question – the hero in himself. But will he be too late to save his friends? I loved this series. The dark atmosphere, the classic hero’s journey, the quirky and snarky characters: I loved it all. Perhaps it wrapped up a little too neatly for some tastes, but young adult novels tend to do that. The movie comes out in December of this year. With Tim Burton at the helm, it has a chance of living up to its written counterpart.
- One of our Thursdays is Missing – One of Our Thursdays is Missing is the sixth book in the Thursday Next series, which begins with The Eyre Affair and moves forward from there. It’s actually the second to the last book, but it’s currently gunning to be my second favorite of the whole series so I thought it deserved a review. In the next installment of Fforde’s wildly inventive fantasy mystery series, Thursday Next is missing! But which one? A Thursday from the fictionalized series of Thursday’s life is on the case. But is it really the fictional Thursday? Or is the real Thursday, hiding from her foes in plain sight? As Thursday hunts for herself, she wonders about her own identity, how to make the name of Thursday Next mean something, and how to stop her character’s stand-in from ruining her book. I loved being introduced to the real world through the eyes of someone who grew up in the BookWorld (probably). With the exception of the first introduction to Thursday, this is my favorite of the series. If you love the world of books, you won’t be disappointed in this snarky and out-of-the-box (and book) series.
- The Color Purple – I’m rounding out this list of reviews with a classic: The Color Purple by Alice Walker, which won both a Pulitzer and the National Book Award (and it’s also consistently banned/challenged by schools and libraries, which is a glowing recommendation to me!). While I am not a contributing member to the Our Shared Shelf, Emma Watson’s (of Hermione fame) feminist inspired book club, I’ve been interested in seeing what she’s chosen each month. When I saw The Color Purple pop up, I saw it as a sign. I tried once to read The Color Purple and I had too much trouble with the dialect to get through it. Maybe this time I would make it? And then I discovered that we had the audiobook, narrated by the author. It’s much easier to understand unfamiliar dialects when you are hearing them, because you aren’t spending so much time trying to figure out what word the author meant. If you are looking for a great female African American author to diversify your reading selection, look no further. This book is excellent, forcing the reader to grapple with important issues of racism, feminism, abuse and sexuality. And Alice Walker does a beautiful job narrating, a talent not all authors have. Read it. Or better yet, listen to it. You’ll be glad you did.