The Mothers by Brit Bennett
(Riverhead Books, 2016, 278 pages)
I decided to listen to the audio of this book and I am so glad I did. The talented narrator was able to use different voices to portray the different characters. She really brought the story to life. When I first started listening I was worried that it would be a story that would not hold my attention, but I was pleasantly surprised by how quickly it drew me in.
This novel touches on aspects of life that I think many people can relate; the longing for close friendships, a parents’ love, trying to find a place in this world, and even sometimes having to make decisions that could possibly have a lifelong effect on you and/or your loved ones. Bennett writes this story beautifully. She is a great new voice with a compelling debut novel. Definitely an author to keep an eye on.
Star Trek: Boldly Go, Vol. 2
by Mike Johnson and Ryan Parrott; art by Megan Levens and Tony Shasteen
(IDW Publishing, 2018, 144 pages)
Star Trek: Boldly Go features characters from the new films (primarily Kirk, Spock, Uhura, Scotty, and Spock’s father, Sarek) along with those from the Starfleet Academy series, also written by Mike Johnson. It comprises four main stories in different settings—a peace conference focusing on the relationship between the Federation and Romulans; Spock and Uhura helping to rebuild new Vulcan; the mystery of the stolen captain’s chair from the Enterprise that is being repaired; and the search for a woman whose young daughter reports her lost. I enjoyed all of the stories, but the endings of the first two were a little disappointing. Fortunately, each story got better as it went along. Recommended to Star Trek fans of the original series and new films.
Sourdough by Robin Sloan
(MCD, 2017, 272 pages)
I enjoyed Sloan’s previous book, Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore, so when I heard that he had a new book coming out I immediately added it to my “to-read” list. Then it seemed like it was getting blurbed and buzzed about all over the place so I grabbed it off the shelf when I was at the public library (#librarylove). Sloan has a knack for writing unique books with a quirky twist and his sophomore novel only proved that.
Our protagonist is Lois, a software engineer whose life is pretty dull. She works and then she sleeps. Her job has gotten monotonous and she’s not really even seeking out pleasure in her life. But then one night she decides to try delivery from a “restaurant” in her neighborhood. It offers 3 things on the menu, a sandwich, soup, and then a combo called the “double spicy.” It’s as if the food changes her life. She starts ordering it every day and fosters something of a relationship with the two brothers who run the operation. When their visas expire and they have to leave, they make the decision to leave their sourdough starter with Lois, their “#1 eater.”
Lois has never made bread, but the responsibility of keeping the starter alive prompts her to start. At that point there’s no turning back. The bread is amazing and as she gradually introduces it to the people in her orbit she is encouraged to try selling it at the local farmers market. When she auditions for a spot she finds herself selected for an underground market that’s not open to the public. People are doing all kinds of experimental things with food down there… and her contribution is her sourdough (compliments of the unique starter that was gifted to her) and the robot arm she tries to program to help her make it.
It’s hard not to just try summarizing the book. But at the same time, the book isn’t the easiest to summarize. Sloan has a way of deconstructing our society and the things that fascinate us that intrigues you and keeps you reading. If you’re looking for an entertaining read Sloan is your guy. If you also happen to love reading about things that are food-related (which is ALWAYS me) you’re in for even more of a treat (and some sass toward “foodies”).
For a more in-depth breakdown of the book you can check out this review from the LA Times.
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah
(William Morrow, 2016, 299 pages)
Closed Casket by Sophie Hannah features Agatha Christie’s famous detective, Hercule Poirot. In this novel, Hercule Poirot along with an inspector from Scotland Yard and several other guests is invited to the Irish mansion of Lady Playford. Lady Playford has decided to change her will. At dinner, Lady Playford announces that she is leaving her entire fortune to her dying secretary rather than her two children. As you might expect, the secretary does not live to see morning. Who killed him? Poirot is on the case.
The estate of Agatha Christie authorized Sophie Hannah to use Hercule Poirot in her novel. Hannah has written one other Poirot mystery entitled The Monogram Murders. Closed Casket did hold my interest, but the mystery is not as intricately woven as a Christie novel.
You Have Killed Me by Jamie S. Rich and Joelle Jones
(Oni Press, 2009, 184 pages)
You Have Killed Me is the story of a detective hired to find his former girlfriend by her sister. Told from the point of view of the detective, the story was good, but it wasn’t long enough to fully develop the characters. I got the gist of what happened at the end, but to fully understand it I needed to go back to recall the characters. This would be better read in one sitting with characters and events fresh in one’s mind. The black and white art is amazing. I recommend it for a quick read for fans of detective fiction.
Took: A Ghost Story by Mary Downing Hahn
(Clarion Books, 2015, 272 pages)
Very creepy folklore! Fun read.
Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
(Hachette Books, 2016, 260 pages)
Fierce feminist views. Rally call!
What Happened by President Hillary Rodham Clinton
(Simon & Schuster, 2017, 512 pages)
I laughed, I cried, I cursed, but mostly I just shook my head. What Happened has been marketed as the story of the 2016 presidential election, but it’s more than that. The first half of the book is an autobiographical account of Mrs. Clinton’s life and how the events and people close to her helped her get to this point. She also gives insight into her everyday personal habits—her diet, her fashion sense (or lack thereof), and what she watches on tv. In the second half of the book, Mrs. Clinton talks about the policies, spending a lot of time on coal, an issue on which she felt misunderstood. Everything else you would expect to be here is—“those damn emails,” Russian interference, Trump creeping up behind her during debates, etc. She even reads a portion of what would have been her victory speech. Those who should read this won’t, but supporters of Mrs. Clinton will find it bittersweet and lament what could have been.
(aka 5/5 stars)
The Vision (Vol. 2): Little Better Than a Beast
by Tom King; art by Gabriel Hernandez Walta and Michael Walsh
(Marvel, 2016, 136 pages)
Vision is an android, or synthezoid, created by Ultron (a bad guy), but who later defied his creator by joining the Avengers (the good guys). This is not a typical “superhero vs. the bad guys” story though; it’s the story of the Vision and the synthezoid family he created–wife Virginia and twins Vin and Viv–and their attempt to fit into a suburban neighborhood near Washington, DC. The Visions just want to be a normal family, but things happen, and people die. Violence is not the focus of the book though. It’s all about the relationships in this unconventional family and how they protect one another as any family would. I highly recommend this comic book series to anyone.
Ordinary Beast by Nicole Sealey
(Ecco, 2017, 64 pages)
I don’t remember what poem jumped out to me initially as I flipped through, but there was something about the language in this book that compelled me to check it out rather than allow it to be re-shelved. Sealey is the Executive Directer at the Cave Canem Foundation and I always try to stay on top of the poetry they spotlight and the prizes they award. A collection by the Executive Director was surely going to find a place in my hands.
Her work in Ordinary Beast was accessible, thoughtful, and creative. There were more than a few poems that I had to stop and reflect on. Not to mention Sealey’s poetry had me going out of my way to look things up so I could better understand various references and what she was trying to spotlight in some of her poems. When a poet can inspire you to delve deeper, you know you’re in good hands.