Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Let's Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Title: Let's Talk About Love, Author: Claire Kann

Let’s Talk About Love is a young adult romance about a young woman named Alice who has a crush on a boy, doesn’t know what she wants to be when she grows up, and is an on-again, off-again fight with her best friend.

While I found this book frustratingly slow at times, there were a number of things I liked about it. In particular I liked…
  • …the diversity. Both the main character and her love interest are people of color. Alice is a young African-American woman in college and Takumi is a slightly older Japanese American man working towards becoming a teacher.
  • …that the Alice works at a library part-time. In fact, the library is where she meets Takumi. 
  • …that I got to learn something new. Let’s Talk About Love was a gentle introduction to asexuality and biromanticism, two things I have only recently become aware of.
  • … the intersectionality – Not only does this story feature POC characters but the main character is an African-American woman who is also asexual and biromantic and all of her identities contribute to who she is and pose their own set of issues.
  • …that the story acknowledges micro aggressions and other crap that people of color constantly deal with.
  • …the acknowledgement of the struggle of being the only one or the first one. Alice struggles over how to handle telling people about her asexuality. She is happy in her identity but at the same time doesn’t want to have to constantly explain herself to people. She doesn’t want this one thing – her sexuality – to be the characteristic that defines her in people’s eyes. That felt honest.
Overall, I enjoyed this although it was slow at points. While an interesting character, Alice is also immature and her immaturity got old pretty quickly. Her go-to solution for dealing with any problem is to run away and avoid it. There is a long stretch of book where it is mostly Alice finding ways to avoid her family and friends. On the upside, it allows her to spend more time with Takumi.

Speaking of Takumi, I wanted more from him. Or I would love to read another book from the point of view of a character like him. Alice tells a story from her high school years when her and a bunch of girls created profiles on a dating app and then had a contest to see which of them attract the most boys. One of the White girls in the group tells Alice she will probably lose because Black women, along with Asian men, are considered the least desirable in the dating world. Now the main love story of this book involves a Black woman who is asexual and an Asian man. At one point Alice tells Takumi in all honesty although she really likes him romantically she is not interested in having sex with him. I wanted to know more about how he felt, particularly in light of story Alice told earlier.

Let’s Talk About Love is Claire Kann’s first novel. She did pretty good her first time out. It was definitely worth the read and I look forward to reading he next book.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey

  Cibola Burn (Expanse Series #4)  Without the natural resources of Earth or the military might of Mars, the people who live on the asteroids belt have always been treated like second class citizens. It is not particularly surprising then that when the ring opens up thousands of new worlds and one of them appears to be earth like - that is with air, water and other things humans need - a group of Belters decide to make it their new home. The Belter group names the new planet Ilus and sets up a settlement. Unfortunately for them, like colonial powers of the past the global powers that be don't especially care whether someone else got their first. They see land they want and assume they have to right to take it. The earth based UN government decides to assert its "rights" by issuing a contract to Royal Charter Energy (RCE) that gives the corporation the "rights" to New Terra (otherwise known as Ilus) and all its resources. The fact that people are already living on Ilus/New Terra matters not at all to RCE or the UN. But it matters to Ilus’ new settlers and to show it matters, the settlers set off an explosion as an RCE ship tries to land on the new planet, thereby beginning the first war in the new frontier. The UN's Chrisjen Avasarala and the OPA's Fred Johnson send James Holden and the crew of Rocinante to keep the peace until the global powers can come up with a more permanent solution.

Cibola Burn started off a bit slow. The first half of the book is basically argument and fight after argument and fight between various the settlers and RCE, with Holden in the middle trying and failing to make peace or at least stop the killing going on. 

As Holden fails to bring any measure of peace the planet starts mobilizing its own defenses against its human intruders. This is where things began to get interesting. There are death slugs, water organisms that make people go blind, and something that makes space ships stop working and fall out of the sky. But even natural disasters (to the extent anything on alien planet is natural, I suppose it has its own version of what's natural) aren't enough to stop people from bickering and so the fights and arguments continue on the ground and in space where each faction has a ship floating on stand by (along with the Rocinante). The series started with a mystery in space – what happened to Julie Mao and what the protomolecule was. Now everyone knows about the protomolecule and story is how people are reacting to it.

New point-of-view characters are introduced in Cibola Burn. There is someone from each of the relevant factions. Basia is a settler whose son was one of the kids who were kidnapped in the previous books. Holden and crew were able to rescue some of the children but they didn’t make it in time to save Basia’s son. Havelock who first made an appearance in Leviathan Wakes as Miller’s partner shows up here as one of the less sociopathic members of RCE’s security team. Elvi is one of the RCE scientists. Her sections were funny but mostly I enjoyed Holden and the investigator/ Miller. I really hope there is more of the investigator/Miller in books to come (despite Holden’s attempt to prevent that).

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

China Rich Girlfriend by Kevin Kwan

China Rich Girlfriend (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy)The soap opera that began in Crazy Rich Asians continues in China Rich Girlfriend. This wasn't quite as good as the first book. Mind you, there is still plenty of excessive spending, sumptuous food, and planet sized egos. The tension in the first book was all about Asian-American Rachel meeting her rich boyfriend's family for the first time in Singapore, how she would react to their billionaire lifestyles, and how they would react to her. This second book in the series introduces Rachel's long lost father and his family. They are just as crazy rich (and plain crazy) as Nick's family but given that Rachel is meeting them for the first time and is therefore not as close to them as Nick was to his family the stakes felt much lower. Rachel and Nick who are ostensibly the main characters, are more observers than participants in the craziness, which further has the effect of putting distance between the reader and the story. I did like this. I just hope the final book in the trilogy packs a bit more punch.

Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan

Crazy Rich Asians (Crazy Rich Asians Trilogy)The story begins in New York with young professors and couple, Rachel Chu and Nick Young. Nick, who is originally from Singapore, invites his girlfriend home for the summer to meet his family and attend his best friend's wedding. Rachel says yes. She has the usual "meeting boyfriend's family for the first time jitters" but figures everything will be fine. Unfortunately, she has no idea what she has said yes to. It turns out Nick's family is crazy rich and old, old as in the kind of family that can trace its roots back to whatever the Asian equivalent of the Mayflower is. Accordingly, they are snobby and obsessed with associating with the right kind of people. American-Asian Rachel from a no-name family with only a middle-class sized bank account just doesn't quite measure up.

Nick is clueless for a large part of the book. Like only a rich person could, Nick never thinks about money - having it or not having it. He doesn't worry about impressing people or fitting in. His life has always been one of relative ease and so the possibility that Rachel would be shocked to discover how crazy rich (and crazy snobby) his family is simply never occurs to him.

There is a parallel story about Nick's cousin Astrid who a few years earlier married a middle class man. Astrid's husband Michael is smart, hardworking, and successful but he's not from a wealthy family with old roots and therefore never completely feels accepted by the family. Like Nick, Astrid doesn't notice her husband's discomfort. (This isn't to say I liked Michael. He has issues to work out but his feelings were understandable once he got around to explaining them to his wife.)

Most of the book reads like a soap opera about rich people and their problems, and I was totally down for that. I loved books and shows like Gossip Girl and Downton Abbey and this reminded me of those. Then the story took a turn. Rachel's learns a shocking secret about her family, which kind of fits in with the soap opera theme but also came out of nowhere and at the end leaving little time to really develop that story thread. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the book overall. There's nothing earth shattering or deep here, but it's fun. I will definitely read the next book and watch the upcoming movie.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

Read-a-Thon 2018

It's time for another read-a-thon! Perfect timing too. I am behind on my various reading challenges. The read-a-thon is a chance to catch up. Of course, I started late but who can blame me? It's starts at 5 a.m. I love reading but getting up at dawn to do it, that's crazy talk. But now I am up and the coffee is ready. Time to start reading!


Wednesday, January 10, 2018

The Trespasser by Tana French

The Trespasser  Detective Antoinette Conway is on the murder squad, just like she always dreamed, but at times it is closer to a nightmare. The only woman on the squad, Conway is constantly subjected to harassment. But she keeps going, solving cases with her partner Stephen Moran, the newest addition to the squad and the only person who seems happy she's there.

Conway and Moran are assigned a new case. At first it appears to be pretty cut and dry - a lover's spat going horribly wrong and ending with a young woman getting her head bashed in. They bring in the boyfriend for questioning because of course, the boyfriend, but something doesn't seem right. Something is missing. Conway and Moran insist on following up on loose ends, which seems like a reasonable and thorough way to conduct a case and yet another detective - a veteran detective at that - keeps pushing them to close the case and just arrest the boyfriend. Something is definitely up.

Tana French has written six books now for her Dublin Murder Squad series and I've read every one. What I have loved about her books, especially the last two and this one is that I feel like I'm getting a comment on something true about life or society in addition to the mystery. With Broken Harbor it was the housing crisis; with The Secret Place it was girls' friendships and how the world tries to tell girls who they should be. With The Trespasser it's sexism and harassment and the way that kind of treatment can twist a person up. Conway has good reason to distrusts her fellow detectives. People try to screw with her in ways that are not only disgusting but that potentially damage her cases, which is scary because she is a murder detective after all. Screwing up her cases means violent criminals could go free. It twists her up. Conway doesn't know who to trusts so she trusts no one, which in turn makes it that much more impossible to make friends with anyone on her squad.

It took me a little while to get into this one. The first half focused on an obvious suspect but I knew it couldn't be that easy. I kept waiting for the real story to start. Once it did, I was all in. One of the interesting things about the Dublin Murder Squad series is that each books is told from the point of view of a different detective. The last book was Moran's point of view and of course here it was Conway's. I wouldn't mind getting more books that center on these two detectives. They're a good team.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood by Trevor Noah

Born a Crime: Stories from a South African Childhood Born a Crime is Trevor Noah's memoir of his childhood in South Africa. He was born during apartheid when miscegenation laws were still on the books in South Africa, making his conception - his mother is Black and his father is White - literally a crime. Given that Noah was born during apartheid, I expected stories of violence and sadness. I wasn't expecting to laugh as much as I did. There is some violence and sadness but I laughed more than anything else. Noah tends to see the positive side of life and the absurdity of it. At least that is how he comes across in this book.

In addition to providing plenty of laughs, Noah uses his childhood to comment on issues relating to race, gender, poverty, and family. Even though he was talking about his childhood in South Africa, he could have been talking about ghettos in America. I heartily recommend this.