We’re almost a week into February, but I’ve been having a pretty productive reading year, so I’m going to start doing monthly roundups of what I read during the month. Let’s Go!
The first book I finished in January was Smokejumper: A Memoir of One of America’s Most Select Airborne Firefighters by Jason A Ramos.
This was a fascinating glimpse into the training of elite firefighters, the ones who jump from helicopters into difficult terrain.
I’m from California, so wildfires are not foreign territory to me – I remember driving by literal camps full of firefighters from all over the state fighting the fires in the hills within view of our house growing up. This was particularly interesting for me because it mentioned fires I remember hearing about in the news.
The next book was Network Effect by Martha Wells.
I fell far down Murderbot rabbit hole towards the end of last year, and Network Effect was just the next rung in that ladder. I do wonder if listening to these on audio created a different experience for me than reading them would have, but I’m not sorry for it. I love to see the expanding of Murderbot’s emotional and social interactions.
This one deals with a lot of changes and ups and downs for the character, and I don’t want to be spoilery to anyone who hasn’t read these yet, but it is such a worthwhile train to get on.
The third book I finished was The Wisteria Society of Lady Scoundrels by India Holton.
I have been wanting to read this for a while and some reviews complain that it is a little too far outside the realm of believability, but my dear, that is what makes it fun. This is a play on Victorian ladies’ societies, but this particular society is for lady pirates – with flying houses, to boot. They use their flying houses to commit all manner of dastardly deeds such as assassination attempts, thefts, and even chasing obnoxious children down the street – but all while following proper decorum.
The whole thing was delightfully bonkers, and the rogue LI was a lot of fun.
Next was Maya and the Rising Dark by Rena Barron.
By chance, I read this only a few weeks after having read Susan Cooper’s classic The Dark is Rising and it was interesting to have those experiences so close to each other. Maya and the Rising Dark is about a girl whose father has gone missing, and to her surprise she learns that he and also MANY of the adults in her neighborhood are secretly gods who defend against the dark.
I think my favorite thing about this story was the way that it encapsulated the feeling of neighborhood folk who are all in each other’s business. And more than that, it hinted in a fun way about how everyone you meet or know casually has a sort of secret life that you know nothing about.
I almost don’t know how to talk about She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker Chan. This book is exceptional. It tiptoes on horror and supernatural themes in a way that feels very natural, especially if you are familiar with Asian narratives and spectres. It follows the life of a young peasant girl expected to be nothing, who steals the fate of her brother who was promised greatness, but dies, as she sees it, without even fighting to live.
I can’t say this one doesn’t hurt a bit, because it does. There are acts of pure ruthlessness and one in particular that feels hard to come back from. But it has such lovely quiet moments, too, and there’s a real elegance to the progression of the rivalry between the dichotomous characters who are both outside of gender norms.
Next was The Weight of Blood by Tiffany D. Jackson. Clearly I have been sleeping on Jackson’s work. This and She Who Became the Sun were both part of a 12 books recommended by 12 friends challenge that I’m doing for the year, and I hadn’t heard of this at all when I asked for recommendations, but I’m glad this came to me. I have never read Carrie, or seen much of the movie, but I think it’s well-enough understood that I had a feeling of what I was getting into: a retelling of Carrie that coincides with a Southern town’s first integrated prom night.
The word I want to use to describe this book is: deft. It juggles race relations, the different ways a parent’s beliefs and actions reflect on and affect their children, the desperation of trying to change a situation that feels outside of your control, and struggling to define yourself when others are so willing to do it for you, all while making this less about blame and more about the things that lead people to make the choices they make. It was really well done.
The last book I finished was a reread (relisten?) to Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor. I’m discovering that as I get older that I often need a bedtime story… and for maximum effect for me (i.e. so I don’t have to worry about if I’m missing anything too much when I fall asleep) I have been relistening to old favorites, and I debated including it on here at all, since it’s an older reread, but I thought it worthwhile to mention that I seem to have particularly vivid and interesting dreams when I fall asleep listening to lush fantasy rather than my own anxiety-spun thoughts.
This has been a chock-full reading year so far. These are all audio but I’ve been working on a few in hand, too. Those do tend to take me longer, and I’m trying to lessen my dependence on audio to a degree, but it’s so useful when you can do more than one thing at once. What have you all been reading?