Monday, July 30, 2018

Recent Reads | July

Lately I've been roping my reads for the months into my monthly roundup posts, but this month I had quite a number of good books to share and wanted to highlight them on their own. My picks were all over the literary map: a memoir, a series installment, lyrical prose, lyrical poems, nonfiction, and "smart" fiction.

No Ashes in the Fire: Coming of Age Black and Free in America by Darnell L. Moore*
No Ashes in the Fire is both a memoir of growing up black and queer in a predominantly poor, black town and a social commentary on race, gender, sexuality, and class. It can be difficult to review a memoir -- who am I to say whether someone is correctly telling their own story -- but this is especially so in this case, where Moore's experiences are so different from my own. No Ashes in the Fire is a chance to observe someone else's life and learn from their experiences.

Sourcery by Terry Pratchett
Sourcery is the fifth installment in Pratchett's Discworld series, and marks a return to the adventures of the "wizard" Rincewind. Rincewind, along with some one-dimensional but humorous side characters, must act to save the Discworld from the power of "sourcery," a greater magic than ordinary wizards can access. 

Winter by Ali Smith
It took me a while to get into this one; Ali Smith has a very particular writing style and sometimes I click with it and sometimes I really don't, and I was worried that after adoring Autumn I would be disappointed by Winter. However, once I slowed down enough to really appreciate the language, I remembered why I love Smith so much. Winter is told primarily through the perspective of Sophia and her son Art, both a little eccentric, as they try to make sense of what they see in the world. It's set against the backdrop of Christmas, where Art, his pretend girlfriend Lux, Sophia, and Sophia's sister Iris are all gathered at Sophia's house. As with Autumn, Winter brings in some more contemporary political elements; Autumn focused more on Brexit but Winter talks of Trump multiple times.

Useless Magic by Florence Welch
Lyrics, poetry, art, and journal entries from the heart and soul of Florence Welch. Obviously, there's nothing I don't love about this collection.

High-Risers: Cabrini-Green and the Fate of American Public Housing by Ben Austen
A fascinating history of Cabrini-Green, the iconic public housing project in Chicago, High-Risers weaves together historical facts, personal stories, political motives, and public opinion to tell the full story of the much maligned place of controversy. Built in the 1940s on top of slums, Cabrini-Green housed thousands and thousands of people on just 70 acres of land. High-Risers focuses on the stories of the people who lived there, both those who moved in shortly after it opened and those who only briefly stayed, and is a stark yet unsurprising picture of politics and greed getting in the way of a good idea. A well-developed and intriguing, if equally frustrating, read.

The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
Starting this, I really didn't think I'd like it -- the choice of words, particularly at the beginning, came off heavy-handed and just too much at times, in addition to the characters being rather unlikeable. Over time, as I was determined to read the whole thing, it began to win me over as it became more of a story and less of a showing off of words. The Corrections is a sweeping family tale, told from multiple perspectives, about the Lambert family: Enid, the anxious mother; Alfred, the dad with Parkinson's and dementia; Chip, the wayward son who's convinced he'll make it as a playwright; Denise, a fired restaurant chef; and Gary, an alcoholic banker. The central plotline revolves around everyone making it home for one last Christmas before Alfred is gone, but the storylines follow each person's life story and expands on what each character knows and doesn't know about the others.

* I received a free copy via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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