The Devil In Silver by Victor LaValle

Since I read The Changeling last year (and had it immediately become one of my favorite books of all time) and now I find myself buying any book of Victor LaValle’s that comes through the store.  (Well, I made my parents buy this one from the bookstore I work at as a Christmas present for me when they came to visit.)  LaValle is the master of magical realism.  Each of his books that I have read so far start out as a completely normal novel of realistic fiction until it suddenly isn’t.  And this book was no exception.

The Devil in Silver follows Pepper, a man who ends up in the mental ward of a hospital one night because the police don’t feel like doing paperwork.  From there, LaValle shows a crossroads of America, showing us all different kinds of people who call this hospital their home. From the quite old to the quite young, he gives lives and full backstories to characters who, in other literature, tend to just become flat characters.  Added to all that is the man with a bison head who climbs through the ceiling and attacks people.

LaValle questions what it means to be “sane” as well as looking at the good and bad sides of mental illness treatment.  On top of that, he has created a crazy mystery plot that never stops moving (even when the characters themselves are having a hard time moving due to being drugged and/or tied down).  Out of the three LaValle books I have read, this is my number two.

4-stars

My 2018 Reading Challenges!

So for 2018, I am doing 2 different reading challenges.  Here they are if you want to play along!

First of all, I am doing the Book Riot Read Harder Challenge, which is as follows.

  1. A book published posthumously
  2. A book of true crime
  3. A classic of genre fiction (i.e. mystery, sci fi/fantasy, romance)
  4. A comic written and drawn by the same person
  5. A book set in or about one of the five BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China, or South Africa)
  6. A book about nature
  7. A western
  8. A comic written or drawn by a person of color
  9. A book of colonial or postcolonial literature
  10. A romance novel by or about a person of color
  11. A children’s classic published before 1980
  12. A celebrity memoir
  13. An Oprah Book Club selection
  14. A book of social science
  15. A one-sitting book
  16. The first book in a new-to-you YA or middle grade series
  17. A sci fi novel with a female protagonist by a female author
  18. A comic that isn’t published by Marvel, DC, or Image
  19. A book of genre fiction in translation
  20. A book with a cover you hate
  21. A mystery by a person of color or LGBTQ+ author
  22. An essay anthology
  23. A book with a female protagonist over the age of 60
  24. An assigned book you hated (or never finished)

Then, I am also doing the Book Cellar Reading Challenge that I helped create for work!

  1. Book based in Chicago
  2. Book written by a Chicago author
  3. Book recommended by a bookseller
  4. Book with a title that makes you hungry
  5. Book you wish you read in school
  6. Book written under a nom de plume
  7. Book published by a small press
  8. Book from a genre you rarely/never read
  9. Book published before 1950
  10. Book written by a National Book Award Winner
  11. Book translated from another language
  12. Book written for kids

If anyone needs help with recommendations for any of these categories, let me know!

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Also I recommend making a fun star chart like my roommates and I have.  It is really motivating.

Renegades by Marissa Meyer

I have had friends telling me to read Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series for years and just haven’t gotten around to it so I jumped at the chance to listen to the audiobook of her newest book.

Renegades questions what it means to be good or bad.  In a world where those lines are very defined, Meyer brings us two protagonists, one from each side, that really mess with your brain.  From Nova’s point of view, the Renegades let her down and let her family get killed and the Anarchists took her in, gave her a place to live.  To Adrian, the Renegades are the only family he has ever know and he, as a Renegade, is made to feel like a hero on a regular basis.  So what happens when their paths cross?  Who is on the right side of history?  Is there a right side?

Meyer not only manages to deal with these difficult questions but also creates a great adventure.  The plot never stops moving (which is super impressive because this is a super long book) and she takes the reader through endless twists and turns.  She has thought up a really interesting world filled with superpowers that, at least to me, seemed incredibly unique.  Even when I started to get worried about the book slipping into YA trope world, she managed to pull it out and put a fun spin on things.  Nova and Adrian both don’t fall into the stereotypical gender roles that YA books tend to.  This book was a commitment (especially when listening to it) but it was worth it.

4-stars

The Perfect Nanny by Leila Slimani

I have to admit, I am usually a little skeptical when a thriller is getting a lot of press because I have been burned too many times before.  But The Perfect Nanny was showing up on so many lists and there was a galley taunting me in the back so I decided to give it a try.  I finished it in less than 24 hours and it only took that long because I had to go to sleep and work.  Otherwise I don’t think I would have moved until I had finished it.

This book is more of a character study than a stereotypical thriller, which is why I think it worked for me.  There isn’t anything surprising that happens, really.  You are told on the first couple of pages what happens and the rest of the book goes back in time.  Even though I knew what was going to happen, I kept hoping that something might change.  The mystery and intrigue was happening more in my own head than in the actual book.

Slimani has created such interesting characters.  They all felt so incredibly real and it hurt my heart knowing what was going to happen to them.  There is something insanely fascinating in watching a person completely fall apart and Slimani shows us that like a wizard.  If you are looking for a lot of action and intrigue, this isn’t the book for you.  But if you want a well written book with great characters, you need to read this.

4-stars

Satellite by Lauren Emily Whalen

I love when I have to read books for work and end up loving them! (Because when the other direction happens, it is so incredibly heartbreaking.)  Satellite, Whalen’s first YA novel, is a great piece of realistic YA fiction.  She deals with first love, family dynamics, as well as confusion as to what it means to be a person.  Her characters sound like real teenagers, smart yet still confused in certain aspects of the world.  Quite a few YA novels these days aren’t able to do that and it breaks my heart.  Thankfully, Whalen has nailed their voices.  She also also managed to create a family mystery that kept me hooked from the very beginning.  The novel is short but packed full of entertainment.  No word or page is wasted.  I even read the whole thing on the computer because I needed to know what was going to happen (which isn’t a normal thing because I have a hard time reading off computer screens and they hurt my eyes).  A well crafted, fun (yet quite sad at times) read.

If you are in Chicago on Friday, join us at The Book Cellar for Lauren’s launch party at 7pm!  There will be cake!

4-stars

The Sweetest Kind of Fate by Crystal Cestari

I absolutely loved The Best Kind of Magic and have been gazing longly at The Sweetest Kind of Fate on my bookshelf for months, saving it for a time when I really needed it.  And that time finally came.

I absolutely love Amber Sand and the fun world that Cestari has created.  When I met her for the launch of the first book, I said to her, “Everyone has been describing it as Buffy meets Gilmore Girls but it is really more Buffy meets Veronica Mars” to which she very much agreed with me.  This book had both Veronica Mars and Buffy references and my heart was so incredibly happy.

This book is filled with some much humor while also dealing with heavier topics.  She looks into the complexity of what makes a person, not allowing any character to fall into a terrible stereotype.  (She made me like Ivy, which I didn’t think was possible after the first book.)  I love living in Chicago but reading these books makes me wish that I could live in Amber’s magical Chicago.

These books are so great.  I love them so much and need more of them in my life.

5-stars

I have been lucky enough to host both of Crystal’s launch parties and she is just the greatest.  Really, read these books.  And, if you are in Chicago, come see her and many other awesome YA authors at the Chicago Young Adult Book Festival on April 14th!

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I love these books and absolutely adore the author.  She is the sweetest human alive.

A False Report by T Christian Miller and Ken Armstrong

One of the requirements for my reading challenge this year is to read a book of true crime (something that I find fascinating but end up getting freaked out by in the end) and so I pulled this book off of my bookshelf where it had been sitting for months.  A False Report tells the story of multiple rape investigations in a string of serial rapes.  It shows the bad in police work as well as the very very good.  It’s a very important look into house cases are worked on as well as the technology that exists that is making it easier to solve what used to be cold cases.  They also do a good job of delving into the mind and history of the attacker, attempting to figure out why he did what he did.  In today’s climate, books like this are important and this one is so incredibly well written.  Also, there are some amazing female detectives out there that we never get to hear about.

4-stars

Payback on Poplar Lane by Margaret Mincks

I have to admit, I was nervous going into this book.  I’ve read some middle grade children’s books lately that have had some questionable messages in them and having “payback” in the title made me worried.  But this book was great.  It’s a story about how to be a good person, how to treat other people, as well as teaching kids to use their creativity to their advantage.  Minck’s flips between two different characters, creating unique and silly  voices for each one.  I found myself giggling out loud.

4-stars

Red Clocks by Leni Zumas

In a world where women’s rights to their own bodies are constantly being threatened, Red Clocks by Leni Zumas doesn’t feel so far fetched.  While not being as immediately horrifying as The Handmaid’s Tale or Future Home of the Living God, Zumas has crafted a tale that shows how women from many different walks of life are changed as the laws are changed.  Her writing style is unique, using descriptors rather than names to describe characters, which causes each character to be very much their own person as well as being very relatable.  Everyone will find someone or parts of many different characters that they relate to.  I absorbed this book and believe that it is an important read.  A good reminder that only slight policy changes can completely uproot people’s lives.

4-stars

2017 in Review

I know, I know.  It’s February and a little late for doing a 2017 in review but I’m only getting back to blogging now so this is when it’s happening.

Last year I read a total of 125 books.

I did a reading challenge with my roommates.  I completed it and this is what I read for each category:

  • A Book You Read in School
    • The Princess Bride by William Goldman
  • A Book from Your Childhood
    • The Bad Beginning by Lemony Snicket
  • A Book Published Before 1900
  • A Book Published in the Last Year
  • A Non-Fiction Book
  • A Book That Is/Is Becoming a Film
  • A Book Published in the 1900s
    • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • A Book Set in Your Hometown/Region
  • A Book with Someone’s Name in the Title
  • A Book with a Number in the Title
  • A Book with a Character with Your First Name
    • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
  • A Book Someone Else Recommended to You
    • The Best Kind of People by Zoe Whittall
  • A Book with Over 500 Pages
  • A Book You Can Finish in a Day
  • A Previously Banned Book
    • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • A Book with a One-Word Title
  • A Book Translated from Another Language
    • Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas De Robles
  • A Book That Will Improve a Specific Area of Your Life
    • Behind the Scenes by Mick Napier
  • A Memoir or Journal
  • A Book Written by Someone Younger Than You
  • A Book Set Somewhere You Would Like to Visit
    • Prince in Disguise by Stephanie Kate Strohm
  • A Book by an Author You Have Met
    • Gangster Nation by Tod Goldberg
  • A Book by Jane Austen
    • Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen
  • A Graphic Novel
  • A Science Fiction Book
  • A Biography

My favorite book of last year was Spoonbenders by Daryl Gregory.

My favorite YA read was Zenn Diagram by Wendy Brant.

My favorite middle grade read was Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend.

Overall I got a lot of great reading done.  And I am already on my way to a great year of reading in 2018!

Thanks for reading!