Friday, February 5, 2016

What Are You Reading? January 2016 Edition

I read a lot of books.  I've read even more since I graduated from college and got a part time job at my local library.  I track my reading on Goodreads but I've decided to post monthly updates here as well.

January total: 17
Year to date: 17

Throne of Jade (Temeraire, #2) Novik, Naomi
Book of a Thousand Days         Hale, Shannon
Full Cicada Moon           Hilton, Marilyn

Creativity, Inc.   Catmull, Ed

Hilda and the Black Hound       Pearson, Luke
How Mirka Caught a Fish (Hereville #3)  Deutsch, Barry
Amazing Fantastic Incredible: A Marvelous Memoir     Lee, Stan

Picture Books
Not All Princesses Dress in Pink Yolen, Jane
The Boy and the Cloth of Dreams     Koralek, Jenny
Kami and the Yaks       Stryer, Andrea Stenn
Sheila Rae, the Brave Henkes, Kevin
The Terrible Plop           Dubosarsky, Ursula
The Supreme, Superb, Exalted and Delightful, One and Only Magic Building     Kotzwinkle, William
Amy Elizabeth Explores Bloomingdale's Konigsburg, E.L.
Fish Eyes: A Book You Can Count On   Ehlert, Lois
Cecily G. and the 9 Monkeys   Rey, H.A.
My Little Sister Hugged an Ape  Grossman, Bill


Shannon Hale knows how to write a good book.  And "Book of a Thousand Days" is no exception.  It's presented as the journal of a lady's maid, Dashti, who has been bricked up in a tower with Lady Saren, who has refused to marry the brutal warlord her father has chosen as her bridegroom.  Dashti has secrets of her own, and the story develops from the difference in temperament between the two young women who barely knew each other before being trapped together.  It's a fairy tale that takes the mundane details of this kind of captivity very seriously, and addresses the trauma that is both precursor and symptom of their imprisonment.  Plus, it's the only fantasy novel I know of set in a society based on the peoples of the Central Asian steppe.

"Hilda and the Black Hound" and "How Mirka Caught a Fish" are both excellent contributions to very strong comics series.  It's still great to see the proliferation of well-developed heroines in middle-grade comics.  In the same vein I also highly recommend the "Zita the Spacegirl" books, and anything by Raina Telgemeier.

"Throne of Jade" is a book that I'd skip if I could go back in time.  It's got some great positives-- intelligent wisecracking dragons, alternate history, Regency setting-- but then dives into some deeply uncomfortable Orientalism in its depiction of China.  While I respect historical (or alternate-historical) fiction that includes characters with historically realistic prejudices, it's somewhat more problematic when the narrative acts to promote the "rightness" of their prejudices. And the scheming Fu-Manshu-ness of the Chinese villains in this narrative plays right into the hands of some of the worst things Europeans have believed about Asian culture. 

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