The theme for this summary of superb reads is definitely sustainability. I’ve returned to some favourite authors, hoping for something good, and got it. I tried a few new authors only to end up adding several new books to my mountainous TBR.
The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
Reread. I actually had little to no memory of the story, which is a bit disturbing. The same thing happened with The Fountains of Paradise (Clarke), which I vaguely remembered the beginning of, but not much else. Anyway, this time I listened to the audio, and as always, I got a lot more out of the book.
The Lathe of Heaven is pretty much what I’ve come to expect from Le Guin. It’s thoughtful and easy to follow with a protagonist who at first feels as if he’s plot flotsam, but who proves worthy by the end. I enjoyed the character growth and the overall comment on society.
The end in this instance wasn’t quite what I expected, which might be why I didn’t rate the book higher back in ‘o8. Or it could be that sometimes I have a hard time reading concept books myself and do better with the audio version.
The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August by Claire North
My Goodreads review for this one reads: Wonderful.
Thanks, past me.
To elaborate, this is my new favourite Claire North. I’d read Touch previously and adored the difference of it. Harry August is similar in that it’s very different and very worthwhile.
Basically, the story covers the first fifteen lives of the apparently immortal being, Harry August. As you’d expect, much of the book is about the how and why of Harry’s perennial existence, and the effect it has on him, others like him, and the world in general. The mechanics of Harry’s continual rebirth, and how those like him communicate across the ages, are fascinating to read. But what makes this book stand out, aside from Harry’s voice, and Harry, himself, is the other layer. The friendship that ties the book together from beginning to end. Strip away all the “other” and this is the story of what friendship can mean, especially to those who have lifetimes in which to develop it.
Foundryside (Founders #1) by Robert Jackson Bennett
Simply put, Foundryside is a fantastic book. Super easy to read and engaging from the very first page. It was funnier than I thought it would be, often in a sly sort of way. More gruesome in parts, too. And sweet. And super thoughtful. Very clever. So, basically, fantastic.
I often find it difficult to connect with female characters but had no such issues here. I also liked the slight twist on usual tropes and the inclusion of queer characters. Science fiction and fantasy are becoming a lot more representative of the world we live in, regardless of whether the book is set here or not. To me, that’s important.
I previously enjoyed the Divine Cities and I’m really looking forward to the rest of this series.
The Music of What Happens by Bill Konigsberg
I would happily shelve this next to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. That could be the sum total of my review if you’ve read Aristotle and Dante. And it’s very high praise.
For the uninitiated, The Music of What Happens has the same blend of painful youth, life lessons, and friendship. The book speaks to all youth, and the struggle with identity, whether sexual, racial or just being a human being.
I loved the food truck adventures and was hungry pretty much the whole time I listened (this was another audiobook read). I laughed and I cried (thankfully I was alone on the creek trail at this point). All the stars from me.
If you’re not reading Bill Konigsberg yet, start with my favourite, Openly Straight, and work your way here!
The Huntress by Kate Quinn
Amazing. One of the most engrossing and fascinating books I’ve ever read. I was glued to the page and fully invested.
I really didn’t know much about the book going in, except that at some point, I’d added it to my library hold list. When it turned up, I sort of shrugged and dove in, hoping for the best… and became instantly enthralled.
I loved the adventure, the humour, and the love stories, but mostly, I enjoyed reading about Nina’s journey west, from The Old Man to Boston. She’s an absolutely brilliant character! I’m definitely inspired to look for more from Kate Quinn.
Fool’s Errand (Tawny Man #1) by Robin Hobb
Another one-word Goodreads review: Wonderful.
Honestly, sometimes you don’t need more, particularly with an author as prolific as Robin Hobb… and when you’re talking about the first book in the third trilogy of a series that began the year before you graduated high school. (In other words, a long, long time.)
Because it had been a while since I set foot in this universe, it did take me a little while to catch up, which is why I appreciated the slower beginning to this book. The first part is quiet and might not sweep a new reader in quite as quickly as Assassin’s Apprentice. It had the feel of the author also returning to this world and remembering with the reader why it’s so beloved.
What I really appreciated was the slow and gentle rebuilding of the friendship between Fitz and the Fool. I also just loved the story, Fitz’s development and our introduction to new, obviously important characters.
The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne
I had to wait for a day (to finish crying) before I wrote this review and during that time, I kept thinking back over certain passages and tearing up. I couldn’t settle into another book.
While reading The Heart’s Invisible Furies (which is pretty much the best title ever), I often thought the more tragic and coincidental aspects of the story might be a little too tragic and coincidental. But by the time I had reached the latter parts of the book, and then the end, I couldn’t imagine Cyril’s story being told any other way.
The events of his life snip corners away from Cyril’s character in an irretrievable way. He’s such a sad figure by the end. They also unflinchingly expose the awfully fallible society within which he was raised. Anything gentler wouldn’t have worked as well, nor allowed the high points and humour to have shined quite as brightly as they did.
This book is funny. Surprisingly so. Horribly so. I laughed despite myself more than once. It’s also very, very sad, and I cried a lot. Unabashedly at times. I also wept after I had finished, while thinking back, and while describing some of the moments to others.
A wonderful story, magnificently told. I’d ordered a paper copy for the keeper shelf within minutes of finishing and bookmarked several of John Boyne’s other books. Now to find the time to read them!
A Chip and a Chair (Seven of Spades #5) by Cordelia Kingsbridge
As with the rest of the series, A Chip and a Chair is superbly written. The relationship between Dom and Levi survives the watertight test (just) and just as importantly, both characters come to terms with themselves. This is something that’s missing from a lot of romance novels (in all subgenres). I’m all for happy ever afters, but to me, the relationship of a character to themselves is always just as important.
So, without spoilers, my guess for who the killer might be was spot on—but I did wonder from time to time (book to book) if I might be wrong. The author throws in a few expert twists and really had me believing a certain other character might be the Seven of Spades. It worked, and had the added bonus of being a very uncomfortable realization.
Las Vegas is a city I’m extremely familiar with due to almost yearly visits with family over the past two decades and it was kind of shocking to bear witness to events in the final book.
I waited for the last book to be published before reading the final three in one marathon session, which is unusual for me. I can usually spread a series out over a year or more. But the suspense is high and the need to stop the killer as well as see Dom and Levi set straight is pretty compulsive.
Can’t wait to see where Cordelia Kingsbridge takes us next.
Swing by Kwame Alexander and Mary Rand Hess
I picked this one up because of the cover. It’s so energetic and matches the rhythm of the book perfectly. Swing is one of the titles offered by the free summer reading program Sync, audiobooks for teens. The program runs for fourteen weeks with two new offerings every week. Click through for more information.
Swing is the story of Noah, who has a lot of feelings and isn’t sure what to do with them, and the advice given to him by his best friend Walt, who takes on the name Swing to better further his own ambitions. The book is a combination of lyrics, poetry, and story.
The highlight of Swing is the narration of author Kwame Alexander. There are many moments where the story takes on a performance note, and the words become poetry.
That ending, though…