I’m back! Except not really, cause I am on a bit of a writing hiatus, but a little bit back! I’ve been reading some really good books this year, and I wanted to talk about them somewhere that is not-Goodreads. So this post is going to be a tad informal and probably less structured than you might have come to expect from the blog. Here we go!
The Epic Crush of Genie Lo by F.C. Yee (Amulet Books, August 8)
This book was legitimately one of the funniest things I’ve read all year. I had never read any of the Chinese myths that form the foundation of the novel, so it was delightful getting to learn about them right next to Genie. Okay, she doesn’t really find it as delightful as readers likely will, because all Genie cares about is getting into an excellent college, and anything else is a distraction. But when Quentin Sun comes frolicking into her life, Genie finds out that college might have to take a seat as she battles ancient enemies come to life, and learns of her own past self…thing…object? It’s complicated.
F.C. Yee’s writing style is so much fun. Like, laugh-out-loud, pause-to-lie-down-on-the-couch-and-shake-your-head kind of fun. Genie practically leaps off the page, butting heads with Quentin and his stubborn quest. I will say I wasn’t expecting the romance that pops up in the latter half of the book, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t wholeheartedly enjoy it. In Yee’s hands, Genie’s story takes on nuance and genuine joy in her culture, and I loved the ride.
Everyone’s an Aliebn When Ur an Aliebn Too by Jomny Sun
I never thought a bouncy castle would make me want to cry, but there you are. Jomny Sun (also known as Jonathan Sun) is a Canadian comedian who’s quite well-known for his funny and poignant Twitter feed, but in this picture book, we follow the aliebn Jomny, left on Earth to gather intelligence on humans. Except, well, none of the humans seem to be around as far as readers can tell. What Jomny does find are various other Earth inhabitants–an egg in the middle of an existential crisis, a loquacious beaver, a bear who welcomes Jomny with open paws.
While the lessons they teach him aren’t exactly what the other aliebns were expecting, Jomny’s observations and experiences will likely draw tears and laughter alike (I must admit to both during my reading hours). There’s a sense of comfort in how Jomny sees Earth as a place of both joy and sadness, and how what we choose to focus on can get us through each hard moment.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire
I didn’t read Every Heart a Doorway until about a month after it came out, but when I did read it, I finished in exactly an hour and immediately wanted to reread it. Seanan McGuire’s backlist is extensive, but out of the few books I’ve gotten to read, I’ve greatly admired her ability to build a world that feels so palpably real, even if it isn’t. In Down Among the Sticks and Bones, she continues that work by laying out the bloodied stones and twigs of two characters from the first Wayward Children novel.
Here’s where I admit that when I started reading Sticks and Bones, my terrible memory was blanking on exactly who Jacqueline and Jillian were. After the first chapter, I did not have that problem anymore (what a first chapter, wow). But their story in Doorway didn’t overwhelm my reading experience, rather, it rested just out of sight, visible, but it allowed this prequel to breathe on its own. Yes, there were recognizable allusions. Yes, I knew how the story would end. But my heart hurt anyway, my eyes continued to read, knowing where we would land, and the choices that were inevitable, even in their despair. I loved every single page of this book, but let’s just say I was really, REALLY glad to have the third book in my possession on the same day I finished it.
The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente
If you’ve been around me for any period of time, you’ve probably heard me wax poetic about Catherynne M. Valente’s writing. When it comes to lyrical and heart-punching prose, it’s Valente who’s almost always top-of-mind for me, and her ability to weave that same magic across genres means I always have something new to read. In The Refrigerator Monologues, she gives voice to six women fridged (killed for the emotional development of a male character) in their own stories. Let me tell you, this isn’t exactly the first thing you might think I’d read in a mall food court, but I zoomed through the novel and tried not to throw my A&W fries across the table multiple times.
The Hell Hath Club is populated by women that readers will likely recognize from various comic book properties, and their stories are infuriating and heartbreaking. Despite the sad start, Valente refuses to let them trail off into memories. There’s a sense of growing and indomitable power in the interludes where we see these women interacting with each other, gaining strength and validation from knowing they deserved so much more. We know how their stories end, and the novel asks us to remember and to make sure our stories don’t end the same way.