Recent Reading, June and July 2016

Written by Natalie Luhrs

I'm a lifelong geek with a passion for books and social justice.

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July 20, 2016

I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading lately and thought that instead of beating myself up for not having the time to write full blown reviews, that shorter reviews would also do the trick. I’ve tried to make a practice of reading for at least 10 to 20 minutes a day and it’s made a big difference for me. It’s not that I don’t still love to read, because I do, but I have so many other things I also want to work on or need to do that taking the time to read tends to be one of the things that doesn’t happen unless I make time for it. (That thudding sound you hear is all my relatives falling over in shock at this admission, as the situation used to be the exact opposite.)

Without further ado, here are a few books I’ve read over the last couple of months.

Roses and Rot, Kat Howard

rosesandrotI’d been hearing lots of good things about Howard’s Roses and Rot and it did not disappoint. I had to read it very slowly, lest it overwhelm me–until I hit the last third or so at which point I became obsessed with finishing it. Howard’s language is beautiful and my heart ached for both Imogen and Marin. I don’t normally care for Tam-Lin stories, but I loved this one, because it was about sisters and because it reminded me so very much of Charles de Lint’s Memory and Dream, both in subject matter but also thematically. And like Memory and Dream, Roses and Rot has a bittersweet ending–the only kind of ending a story like this can have.

The Bees, Laline Paull

The Beesthebees got a lot of buzz (sorry-not-sorry) when it came out in 2014 and I picked up a copy when it was on sale and it promptly languished in my electronic TBR. I kept looking at it and thinking that I should read and I’m really sorry I didn’t read it earlier–this book an astonishingly audacious accomplishment. The main character is Flora 717, a lowly sanitation bee, and we follow her as she moves through different roles in her hive–she’s an unusual bee in that she’s curious, determined, and given opportunities; bee society is highly stratified. I couldn’t put this book down and even though I could see the shape of the narrative, I didn’t care because Paull’s narrative voice is just extraordinary. I simply can’t recommend this one highly enough. So, so, so great.

Trade Me, Courtney Milan

trademeI’d picked up Trade Me quite a while ago, too. And it’s not that I was saving it, exactly, it’s more that New Adult didn’t seem like quite my thing. How foolish I was: I should have known better. This was really good and it’s everything you’d expect from one of Milan’s novels: interesting and conflicted main characters, thoughtful explorations of the conflict, and an acknowledgement of systemic and structural power imbalances. Tina and Blake feel like real people with real problems and while I figured out what Blake’s problem was fairly early on (Milan does a good job signaling this to the reader, it is a potential trigger for some people), I was engrossed in watching him get to a point where he could talk about it.  I loved the relationship between Blake and his father and the way the tech milieu more than just window dressing. Good, crunchy stuff.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman, Lindy West

shrillOh, Shrill. Like Roses and Rot, I had to read this one in small pieces for fear of being overwhelmed, but a different kind of overwhelm. I’ve read a lot of books of feminist essays and this was the very first one I’ve ever read that has centered fatness in quite this particular way. This is a collection of essays and memoir by West, who I know mainly from her writing about rape jokes and for a piece she did on This American Life where she actually received an apology from a troll and talked to him–both these stories are recounted in Shrill. I loved this book from beginning to end because I saw so much of my life experience echoed in hers. That’s rare thing for me and it’s the sort of thing that drives home the fact that across the media spectrum, this is why representation is so important.

What have you been reading lately that you’ve enjoyed? Make some recommendations in the comments!

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  1. A.C. Wise

    I just started Rot and Roses this morning, and I’m really digging it so far. I recently finished Experimental Film by Gemma Files, which I adored, and Singing with All My Skin and Bone by Sunny Moraine, which is a fantastic collection.

  2. Jenine

    The best things I read in June and July were a biography and 2 not-new novels. The biography is Behind the Mask: the Life of Vita Sackville-West by Dennison and that was my favorite. I’d heard of her in the Bloomsbury circles but hadn’t known much about her at all except for affairs with women. Girl With a Pearl Earring by Chevalier was next, I hadn’t read it before. It was dreant and visual and full of hidden history (women, servants, children, working class). Last was What’s the Worst That Could Happen by Westlake. I found the conservative thief Dortmunder a good companion.


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