In May, I finished reading Naomi Alderman’s The Power. In case you haven’t heard of it, in this novel, the women of the world acquire the ability to channel electrical power through their bodies. This development flips the world’s gender dynamics. The book follows four characters (three women, one man) through this new world.
I enjoyed most of The Power. In a way, it reminded me of alternate histories like the film Inglorious Basterds, where oppressors are vanquished by people they had underestimated. I read the first half of the book during sessions on an exercise bike and the combination of increased heart rate and the story had me walking away from the gym feeling like I was *thisclose* to shooting electrical power out of my hands.
I must admit I found the last third or so to be disappointing. I’m not sure if it’s simply that things happened in the story that I didn’t want to happen? I think it was also that what I most enjoyed were the smaller-scale aspects – the dynamics between runaway girls taken in by nuns, a mother’s relationship with her teenage daughter. There’s this through-line involving television news anchors that I found quite funny, and a chapter containing some believable subreddit discussions. But the end is mostly about war, and it’s deflating. This effect is probably deliberate, and I may come to appreciate it more in time, but not at present.
I also finished Nicole J. Georges’ book Fetch: How a Bad Dog Brought Me Home. The specificity of this graphic novel memoir pulled me in. Georges’ alternates the story of her dog with stories from her childhood with a neglectful mother. After high school, Georges goes to live in Portland, Oregon, and her memoir also captures that specific scene and all the living situations she had.
For my book club, I read Gabi, A Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero which is a YA novel about a Latina teen, written in the style of a diary. It did remind me of my own teenage diaries at times, so kudos for the verisimilitude. Even so, I had a hard time getting into this one. There is a lot of drama in Gabi’s life and it can seem like too much, but I had to reflect that there are teens that do have a lot of disruptions in their lives. I thought Gabi’s creative writing pieces were great, especially the one that the book’s cover references.
I have two books I requested from Netgalley and I finished one of them in May: Vanessa Riley’s historical romance The Bashful Bride. I liked the premise of the story – Ester, a young sheltered “Blackamoor” woman (as the term was at the time) decides to elope with Bex, an actor she admires, who is also an abolitionist. I really dig the British abolitionists, ever since reading Adam Hochschild’s Bury the Chains. But in the end, though I enjoyed the historical context, I couldn’t really buy the romance, due to getting annoyed at both characters. One keeps a secret for far too long and the other is uncompromising in a grating way.
My favorite book that I completed in May was Luis Alberto Urrea’s Into the Beautiful North. It’s about a young woman, Nayeli, who lives in a small village in Sinaloa, Mexico. The majority of the men from her village – including her father – have gone to the United States for work. This leaves their village vulnerable to bandidos. Inspired by the film The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli and three of her friends leave on a quest to bring back men from the north to protect their town. Urrea is a great storyteller and Nayeli is a great heroine, so I had a good time with this novel. It’s a relatively light and fun book considering the fraught nature of the issue. It is not without pointedness, suspense and small tragedies, but I found myself looking forward to rejoining Nayeli and her crew on their adventures.
The number of books I’ve started but not kept up with in May was a little ridiculous, but it seemed that there were so many books calling my name that I had a hard time choosing a reasonable amount of books to juggle at once.
The books I’m working on for real at the moment are:
A Local Habitation (October Daye #2) by Seanan McGuire
Beyond the Map by Alistair Bonnet (this book is made up of super-short essays on geographical oddities, and I’m taking my time with it.)
I’m also on my church’s library committee now, so I’m looking through a couple of donated books to see if they will be a good addition to our collection.
For my summer reading plans, I was thinking about really leaning into book series. I think one of the series I’ll work through is the October Daye series.
Additional series I could choose from:
The Books of Bayern by Shannon Hale (I’ve read the first three, but would probably need to re-read them at this point.)
The Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner (I’ve read the first two)
The Cazalet Chronicles by Elizabeth Jane Howard (I’ve read the first)
Margery Allingham’s Albert Campion mysteries (I’ve read #2 and #3)
Anthony Trollope’s Chronicles of Barsetshire (I’ve only two more to go).
Julie Mulhern’s The Country Club Murders (I’ve read the first.)
P. T. Deutermann’s Cam Richter series (it’s been a while since I’ve read these, but I think there’s one more left in the series I never got around to)
Re-reading the early books of Laurie King’s Mary Russell series and deciding whether to continue on to the later books I haven’t read.