Tuesday, May 31, 2022

Reading Update

Book #19 of the year was a non-fiction title, The Feather Thief: Beauty, Obsession, and the Natural History Heist of the Century, by Kirk W. Johnson. This story introduced me to a world I had no idea even existed, of people who make fishing flies, and seek feathers from rare birds to do so. It's a story of true crime. You just couldn't make it up. I couldn't put the book down.

Book #20 was one I read because it was in the anthology I was using with my eighth graders. It was In Search of Honor, by Donnalynn Hess. The book is set in the French Revolution, and I learned a few things I didn't know about that time period. I liked it way more than the kids did. To be fair, that is sometimes the case when I read books with middle schoolers!

Book #21 was The Love of My Life, by Rosie Walsh. I really enjoyed this book, which should have the tagline, "Keep reading. It's not what you think!" The ending was just wonderful. 

Book #22 was Princess Academy: Palace of Stone and book #24 was Princess Academy: The Forgotten Sisters. Both of these were sequels to Princess Academy, which I read aloud to my seventh graders once back in 2007. I hadn't fully realized there were even sequels, but some kids in the library were asking about them, so I downloaded them from my US library to preview. I enjoyed these. They are firmly in the middle grade range, in spite of the subject matter which involves a bride being chosen for a prince. It could have gone in a very "The Bachelor" direction but never does. There's romance but it's extremely tame. What I did really appreciate about these was the social consciousness, something you don't find often in fairy tale type stories. There's a whole plot about the "shoeless" of the kingdom, the people who are neglected and living in poverty. I would definitely purchase these for a library.

Book #23 was Pride: A Pride and Prejudice Remix, by Ibi Zoboi. (I reviewed another book by Zoboi here.) Somehow, in spite of my radar being keenly attuned to YA books with Haitian themes, I had missed this when it came out in 2020. It's one of those few truly successful Jane Austen retellings. Zuri Benitez is a Haitian-Dominican girl living in Brooklyn with her parents and four sisters. When the Darcy family moves into the neighborhood, sparks ensue. It's a story of gentrification, life in New York, and cultural mixtures. Some of my readers might be surprised by the vodou/santería subplot. It's not a huge part of the story but definitely there. Check out the link earlier in this paragraph for evidence that that's something Zoboi has explored before. These things are part of the subculture she's writing about, but some won't like them. 

Book #25 was Passing, by Nella Larsen. This book, set in the 1920s, was first published in 1929. The "passing" of the title refers to the practice of light-skinned African-Americans living as white people. In some cases, even those closest to them didn't know the secret. This book is short but packs a huge punch.

Book #26 was Crying in H Mart: A Memoir, by Michelle Zauner. Zauner is the daughter of a Korean American mother and a white American father. This book is about her fraught relationship with her mother, and especially her mother's last illness and death. It's also about being mixed-race and, most of all, about Korean food. H Mart in the title is a Korean grocery chain in the United States. This is good, but heart-rending. Maybe not the best read in times of stress.

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