Dec 7, 2015

I Lost Track of my Quarters: Best Books I Didn’t Review

I Lost Track of my Quarters: Best Books I Didn’t Review

My attempts to do one of these posts every quarter have obviously failed, but hey, the intention counts for something, right? Here are this year’s previous instalments, and here’s one final go — the best books I read but didn’t blog about over the past few months, in approximately a hundred words per entry:

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson:

The Sky is Everywhere by Jandy Nelson
This novel deals with the same themes as Nelson’s I’ll Give You The Sun, though the latter is better executed. Which is, of course, a very good thing: it’s wonderful to watch an already excellent author improve with each novel. There’s already plenty to love in The Sky is Everywhere, though: it’s about Len, a teenage girl grieving the death of her sister, and it manages to convey how this loss changes her while resisting what Helen Oyeyemi calls “the terrible lie”: the idea that a woman could ever be more interesting in death than she was in life.

Bitch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro:

Bitch Planet Vol 1: Extraordinary Machine by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Valentine De Landro
THIS COMIC. It was everything the Internet promised and more. Bitch Planet takes place in a terrifying future where all too familiar patriarchal power structures reach their logical conclusion, and women who don’t fit the mould are sent to the Auxiliary Compliance Outpost (an offworld prison commonly known as Bitch Planet) for “rehabilitation”. DeConnick and De Landro introduce us to a group of prisoners forced to form a team to compete in a deathly game that will be broadcast for entertainment, and then go on to tell a story about resistance and subversion and what systemic disempowerment looks like. It’s amazing and I want more.
Bitch Planet Penny Rolle

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho:

Sorcerer to the Crown by Zen Cho
Another book that completely lived up to my expectations: Sorcerer to the Crown is a delightful historical fantasy that evokes Austen and Heyer, and yet does something crucially different: it centres the narrative on characters of colour and refuses to look away from the systemic inequalities that have affected their lives. None of this means, however, that they can’t carve out their own space in the world, and this is exactly what we watch Zacharias Wythe (the Sorcerer Royal) and Prunella Gentleman (a talented magician and all-around amazing lady) do. I’m currently discussing this book with a group of blogging friends, so expect many more enthusiastic words after the holidays.

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens:

First Class Murder by Robin Stevens
This just might be my favourite Wells & Wong mystery to date, which is saying a long. Hazel and Daisy’s third murder investigation takes place on a train: after the traumatic events of the previous Easter Break, Hazel’s father takes the two girls on a holiday on the Orient Express. Of course, trouble seems to follow the Detective Society wherever it goes, and it’s not long before there’s a murder on board. First Class Murder features séances, international espionage, secret identities, cream teas, and a thoughtful look at Europe in the 1930s and at horrors past, present and future.

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood:

The Heart Goes Last by Margaret Atwood
The Heart Goes Last is not one of my favourite Atwoods, but it’s still a Margaret Atwood novel, which means there’s plenty to love. It describes a future where environmental catastrophe and corporate greed have combined to create a precarious, brutal reality for the majority of the human population. Charmaine and Stan swap their lives in a car that could be broken into at any minute for a regulated existence at Consilience, a “social experiment” where stable jobs and a home of one’s own are within reach, if only you agree to spend every other month in prison. As I’m sure you can imagine, the remainder of the novel is devoted to exploring exactly how it all goes wrong, with Atwood’s customary humour and wit.

All About Love by bell hooks:

All About Love by bell hooks
In these essays, hooks examines love in both the private and the public spheres. In her clear and engaging prose, she outlines how building a world where everyone is free to love openly and truthfully means dismantling current power structures and systems of oppression. Some of the chapters in All About Love resonated more with me than others, but overall I found it a very useful book — especially as someone who personally believes in living openly and with kindness, but knows that the exertion to do so is often used to silence women who challenge injustice and power. hooks’ thoughts brought me clarity, and I really appreciate that.

Jem and the Holograms Vol 1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell:

Jem and the Holograms Vol 1: Showtime by Kelly Thompson and Sophie Campbell
Jem and the Holograms is pure joy. It made me as happy as Lumberjanes did, for many of the same reasons: it takes place in a world populated by a wide range of girls and women who have complicated, important relationships with each other, and whose right to be and do whatever they want is never called into question. It’s also about two rival all-girl bands, and it’s filled with music and friendship and romance and an amazing colour palette. I loved it so much I break into an involuntary grin every time I think about it.

Jem and the Holograms cast of characters

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki:

Supermutant Magic Academy by Jillian Tamaki
Supermutant Magic Academy is strange is the best possible way: it’s about a group of teens who attend a paranormal school, and it tells their stories through vignettes full of offbeat humour and insight. Supermutant Magic Academy started as a webcomic, and it takes a while for the story to find its footing and for all the individual moments to add up to a cohesive narrative. But Tamaki becomes increasingly assured with each panel, and eventually it all falls into place. I loved these kids, I loved their voices and their sarcasm, and I loved how the book plays with the rules of the magical school narrative.

Marsha from Supermutant Magic Academy


  1. I also have a handful of books I haven't written about yet. Sorcerer to the Crown is on my list but I was worried that it wouldn't meet my expectations Perhaps I'll make it one of my holiday reads.

    1. Do! It's a perfect book to sink into over the holidays, I think.

  2. Some of these are on my tbr and I'll just put the rest on there right now! :D I have high hopes Santa will deliver.
    Haven't heard of the Wells & Wong mysteries, sound right up my alley!

  3. Wait, have you told us about Robin Stevens before? I am always in the market for a mystery series that will fill the hole in my heart left by Elizabeth Peters's perfectly timely and reasonable but nevertheless heartbreaking departure from this world.

    Yay to Bitch Planet! I'm catching up on comics this month, and Bitch Planet's on the docket and I am sooooooo ready to love it. I'm also enchanted that you liked the Tamaki book. I saw it by chance at the Strand when I was in New York last month -- hadn't realized it existed -- and am v. excited to read it. The Tamakis are excellent.

    1. I have! I don't think I wrote a full-length post about any of them, though, because I'm sucky and lazy :P But they're awesome and you'll love them, and Robin Stevens came to my library and is the nicest and coolest. I think they have different titles across the pond for some reason - the first one is Murder is Bad Manners.

      yay, I can't wait to hear what you think of Bitch Planet.

  4. Dude! How do I not know about the Wells & Wong mysteries?! I will have to hurry and get to this third one though because the Orient Express is my favorite!

    1. Clearly I didn't do a good enough job of caps locksing about these books :P THEY'RE SO GOOOOOOD. Read them now. I've never read Murder on the Orient Express, which this book pays tribute to, but now I really want to.


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