A Menagerie of Three Stars: Mini Reviews

Ah, the three star, right in the middle. Some three stars books are there because they’re slightly disappointing. Others get three stars because they’re interesting and decent, but not quite great. They may even be the start of a series I will enjoy greatly, but they’re by first time novelists or finding their footing.

My late 2018 summer reading was full of three out of five stars. And let me be clear, all of these books, I’m very likely to continue reading the series (if applicable) and following the author’s work. Continue reading “A Menagerie of Three Stars: Mini Reviews”

Books I Read in 2018 & Think You Should Read in 2019

In 2018, I hit 100 books read, just under the wire. I opened and ended the year reading trade paperbacks of Saga, volumes 8 and 9 respectively.

I also attempted to do a book a week (52 books) challenge. I made it 33 weeks, or 63% in my completion of this challenge. I, of course, read comic books too, and a few other books. I stretched myself to review the challenge books, which I ended up finding a bit too daunting and slowing down my progress.

I’ve upped my level of grading — on a 1-5 scale — and what I consider a 5 vs a 4 vs a 3. I had far less 5 star books in 2018, and it wasn’t because I read less books.

My goal #1 in 2018 was to read more full prose and less comic books, success. Goal #2 was to clean up my comic to-read pile. I feel failed at that after I got sick this summer.

This year, I’m looking to read 100 books again, and I’d like 40 of them to be books I already own. My single issue comic book pile does not count, but graphic novels and all my other books do.

Here are my book recommendations for those I gave 5 stars to in 2018:

Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles1. Exit Stage Left: The Snagglepuss Chronicles by Mark Russell and Mike Feehan

Genre: pink lions who don’t wear pants, personal is political, 1950s, comics
Recommended for: those who felt everything in 2018

Impactful. Exit Stage Left was impactful and left a mark each time I read it. I smiled. I cried. I felt things. This book follows Snagglepuss who navigates the Cold War as basically Tennessee Williams. Continue reading “Books I Read in 2018 & Think You Should Read in 2019”

The Hate U Give: A Great American Novel

The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: 2017 Goodreads Choice Award

Review contains no spoilers you wouldn’t find on the back of the book or in the upcoming movie trailer.

My post-The Color of Money read was supposed to be “light.” Hahahaha. This is what I get for never reading the backs of books as they can be spoilery. In many ways, The Hate U Give is a great complimentary read to The Color of Money.

This fictional book is about being a black teenage girl in today’s America, and it deals with layers of identity, trauma, growing up, and current societal ills. Thomas’ writing is so engaging, and I definitely stayed up too late to continue reading.

Starr was an incredibly easy main character to like and care about. I both personally, through lived experiences, understood Starr’s trauma so deeply — we both lost close friends as teens to hate (albeit in different ways) — and didn’t at all — my white privilege. I loved her family, and how she learned about her voice. Continue reading “The Hate U Give: A Great American Novel”

The Many Lives of Nichelle Nichols in Beyond Uhura

Beyond Uhura by Nichelle NicholsBeyond Uhura by Nichelle Nichols
Rating: 4/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a biography

Nichols is an incredible person. Full stop. I’m so glad I read this book, and I recommend it to anyone who’s a Star Trek fan, interested in Nichols’ life, or generally curious about Hollywood and performing from the late 1950s to the early 1990s. Let me tell you, Nichols leads a life.

Beyond Uhura was published in 1994 when Nichols was 62. This was an interesting period in Star Trek history because creator Gene Roddenberry had just died; it was clear there would be no more Star Trek: The Original Series (TOS) movies; Nichols and other cast members had started publicly talking about William Shatner (TOS’ James T. Kirk) being a shithead; and many TOS actors wrote or would write autobiographies in this decade.

Nichols is a clear storyteller. And you can see how the stories presented here are the stories she tells herself about her life, her career, and her worldview. These I’m sure are mostly the stories she’d honed from the 1970s to Beyond Uhura’s writing on the convention circuit and in interviews. Though I will never say no to hearing again the story of how Martin Luther King Jr. convinced her not to quit TOS. Continue reading “The Many Lives of Nichelle Nichols in Beyond Uhura”

Rural Queer Girls in the Miseducation of Cameron Post

The Miseducation of Cameron PostThe Miseducation of Cameron Post by Emily M. Danforth
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a book that has been made into a movie

I have to stop reading books that remind me too much of my childhood. This story centered around Cameron, a tween/teenager growing up queer in rural Montana in the late 80s/early 90s. Cameron is about seven or eight years older than me and my rural hometown was more populous, but wow, the little cultural connections and relations I made while reading this were numerous.

The Miseducation of Cameron Post starts off slowly. I had a hard time getting immediately swept into the narrative, perhaps because it did remind me of small town Oregon. Where you spend your days outside with the girl you have a crush on. However, unlike Cameron, my crushes (except one) never panned out to be actual queer girls. Continue reading “Rural Queer Girls in the Miseducation of Cameron Post”

Finding Your Power — a Book Review for Ruin and Rising

Ruin and Rising (Grisha Verse #3)Ruin and Rising (Grisha Verse #3) by Leigh Bardugo
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a young adults bestseller

Last books in a series that leave me with a strong emotional impact always tend to get higher ratings. I’m not sure if Ruin and Rising is a 5-star read, but it absorbed me. I read The Color of Money, then The Hate U Give, and then this, and I joked with my boss that this was my light reading.

SPOILERS ahead… Continue reading “Finding Your Power — a Book Review for Ruin and Rising”

The Color of Money Is a Must-Read — a Book Review

The Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth GapThe Color of Money: Black Banks and the Racial Wealth Gap by Mehrsa Baradaran
Rating: 5/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a book recommended by a friend

The Color of Money should be required reading. Certainly, for anyone in economics, social justice, or who really wants to understand the mechanisms of money in America, particularly for black Americans. Often we forget — especially those of us born in the “colorblind” 1980s and 90s — that the United States is a young country. Slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction (and its failure) aren’t ancient history. Jim Crow and the 1960s Civil Rights movement were basically yesterday. And that all those things have lead to mass incarceration, extreme poverty, and broken economic systems of today.

What Baradaran’s book does is connect all these things together through money and formalizing of banking. Though the advent of the American economy — slavery — through how the economy operates up to the recent Recession. She breaks down assumptions and failed methods (both ones with good intentions and bad intentions) to build black wealth with cold, hard facts.

The Color of Money lays out how trickle-down economics has worked for no one, especially those at the bottom. Continue reading “The Color of Money Is a Must-Read — a Book Review”

Not Enough in Start with Why — a Book Review

Start with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take ActionStart with Why: How Great Leaders Inspire Everyone to Take Action by Simon Sinek
Rating: 1/5 stars
#52Challenge prompt: a book that challenges your viewpoint

Don’t waste your time reading this book. Watch Sinek’s TED talk on this instead; it covers everything you need to know. Start with Why is the talk stretched from 18 minutes to 256 pages, and wow, Sinek doesn’t have anything new to add.

I will up front admit that I only read part of this. Life’s too short for bad books, and I subscribe to the Nancy Pearl method of when to put down a bad book. Take your age subtract it from 100, and give the read that many pages. I’m at 66 pages, but I cannot remember how far I got into this book before skimming ahead to see if it got any better. (Okay, Pearl says to wait until you are 50 to do this, but given the current world, life seems short for any of us.)

I don’t entirely blame Sinek for the book’s horribleness. Continue reading “Not Enough in Start with Why — a Book Review”

Taking My Time with Binti — a Book Review

BintiBinti by Nnedi Okorafor
Rating: 5/5 stars

#52Challenge prompt: the first book in a trilogy

Note: Attempting a spoiler free review here.

Sci-fi and fantasy are both genres that sometimes blend together in ways that I’m unsure what to call a book. Binti is that way. Though perhaps Binti is sci-fi with a mix of magical realism. Magical realism for an invented world, invented peoples, and magical realism because racism never made the people of this universe think beyond a tradition.

I used to read quickly, especially when I was still in school. My partner handed me a Kindle — which I don’t usually read on, preferring like lots of folks paper — and told me Binti would take me 30 minutes to finish. The Kindle clocks you. It took me slightly over twice as long to read Binti. Continue reading “Taking My Time with Binti — a Book Review”

What’s in a Lady?: Review for Rucka’s Alpha #52Challenge

Alpha by Greg RuckaAlpha by Greg Rucka
Rating: 2/5 stars

#52Challenge prompt: an adventure/espionage novel

My initial impression: Rucka went on a vacation to Disneyland, got disgusted by the ridiculous capitalism, and wrote a book about terrorism in “WilsonVille,” a Disneyland-like place by a Disney-like company. I will admit this didn’t put me on the right foot with Alpha. I greatly enjoy going to Disneyland.*

However, Rucka is not wrong in that theme park terrorist attack would be eye capturing and make for a good thriller setting. Many other reviewers referred to Alpha as “Die Hard, but in Disneyland.” Which is why I won’t be talking too much about its plot details. And warning, Alpha is set up to flow into a sequel.

Rucka plays to many of his strengths here with precise detailing and his incredible knowledge of the workings of the military, intelligence organizations, terrorist cells, and weapons. He gives credit in the back for a park map drawn to assist his writing, but not shared in my paperback version.

So, why the 2 stars? (And yes, my rating isn’t about Disney.) Continue reading “What’s in a Lady?: Review for Rucka’s Alpha #52Challenge”