126 The Hate U Give

hateugiveby Angie Thomas, 2017

Starr Carter is sixteen years old when she witnesses the police shooting of her friend Khalil. Pulled over for a seemingly routine traffic violation, things quickly go south when Khalil demands to know why he was stopped, is frisked, and returns to the car to ask Starr if she’s okay. There appeared to be a gun in the car, they say of the hairbrush sticking out of a pocket in the door. He was dealing drugs, they say with no evidence of such in the car. One more gangbanger out of the way, they say, while knowing nothing about Khalil and the life he led. It’s a sad day when a book like this is necessary and, yet, here we are, and this book is so very necessary.

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119 Dark Matter

darkmatterby Blake Crouch, 2016

Sliding Doors, meet quantum mechanics! 

If there’s one trope I find tiresome, it’s science-fiction that serves as a masquerade for the heteronormative love story. I’m looking at you Interstellar and Arrival and, now, Dark Matter. Now, I’m not entirely dead inside. I like a good love story on occasion – Jane Eyre is one of my most favorite books – but when I come to sci-fi, I expect it to be more than just a ruse for a man and a woman to find their happily ever after. Which isn’t to say that I didn’t like reading this book or that I didn’t find the story creative or engrossing, because I did, but if I had wanted to watch Sliding Doors, I would have watched Sliding Doors. I don’t drink my whiskey with water and I don’t need my sci-fi made palatable with romance, thank you very much.

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113 Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

aristotledanteby Benjamin Alire Sáenz, 2012

There is always the risk when reading immensely popular books of your expectations exceeding the book’s reality. I was prepared for this to be the case when I finally got around to Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, a much lauded book online and on BookTube for its depiction of a relationship between two teenage boys. Young adult novels positively depicting gay relationships are still something of a novelty, so we’re in a place where most books that do this, regardless of the quality of the writing, get a pass simply because they address a subject that is marginalized and, in some cultures, taboo. In some ways I believe Aristotle and Dante is getting that pass, but I was pleased to find that, in other ways, it is wholly deserving of the attention it has received.

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111 The Austere Academy

austereacademyby Lemony Snicket, 2000

Fifth verse, same as the first. Snicket has yet to deviate from formula in The Austere Academy, the fifth book in A Series of Unfortunate Events, but that doesn’t mean it’s not still enjoyable to read. In this installment we see the Baudelaire orphans transferred to the care of yet another idiotic adult, a Vice Principal Nero at Prufrock Preparatory School. The three are expected to do ridiculous things – Violet to memorize the stories of the boring Mr. Remora, Klaus to measure all the objects Mrs. Bass demands, and Sunny to serve as Nero’s administrative assistant – and no one believes them when they insist that the new, amazing Coach Genghis is really Count Olaf in disguise. To be honest, I’d have tired of this by now if it weren’t for Snicket’s cleverness, which continues to permeate each one of his stories.

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109 The Miserable Mill

miserablemillby Lemony Snicket, 2000

I remember from my first reading of these books that they become somewhat formulaic. We have certainly reached that point as there is little to distinguish the plot of The Miserable Mill from those that have come before it. The Baudelaire orphans are again placed in the care of an ignorant adult, Count Olaf dons a disguise in an attempt to capture them, no one believes the orphans when they insist that he has found them, and then eventually Olaf’s evil plan is unveiled and he escapes to scheme another day. This doesn’t mean that the Series is any less fun to read for its reliance on a tried and true formula, but it does render them less new and exciting as the tale winds on. Continue reading