May in (Reading) Review

Another month gone! My reading month started off strong and devolved. Right now I'm in the middle of a teeth-gnashingly annoying reading slump. Hopefully this will be resolved over the course of the next month, but for the meantime, here are my favorites from May! There are some AMAZING books in here, guys...

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, by Stephanie Oakes.* Minnow Bly was raised in a cult and escapes when she's seventeen, minus her hands. Now the cult camp has been burnt to the ground and its leader found dead. Minnow may be the only person the authorities have who knows what happened that night, but she's not talking. This book is...WOW. The voice is completely captivating, and even when the plot strains credulity (VERY briefly, in only a few tiny little moments), this debut novel is overall a shivery, nail-biting rush. Pick up if you're interested in questions of faith and justice, or in having your stomach twisted into knots while you read.

Uprooted, by Naomi Novik.* You've already heard me gush about this novel, so I won't spend time repeating myself. This is creative fantasy playing on familiar tropes. Read if you loved McKinley's Beauty as a child, or if you think you're too smart for the "average" fairy tale retelling.

Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption, by Bryan Stephenson. Bryan Stephenson tells a harrowing story about the state of the United States criminal justice system (and more specifically, death row). This book showed up on several "Best of" lists last year, and has been called the nonfiction To Kill a Mockingbird, not without reason. This book is simultaneously horrifying and hopeful.

The Traitor Baru Cormorant, by Seth Dickinson. This book has been getting a TON of attention, even though it won't be out until September. And yes, it deserves that attention. Apparently this book was pitched as Game of Thrones meets Guns, Germs, and Steel, and even though that sounds like a weird comparison, it's strangely apt. Baru Cormorant is a child when her island is conquered and absorbed into the Empire of Masks, and she vows to do whatever it takes (seriously, WHATEVER it takes) to free her home. Dickinson is playing a LONG LONG LONG game here, and Baru gets so deep into the political machinations that there came a point where I had no idea which way was up. Moral ambiguity, brutal war, decimation of entire populations... What is right? What is wrong? Keep this one on your radar if you are interested in complex and gut-wrenching fantasy that will make your eyes twitch with terror.

The Hobbit, by J. R. R. Tolkien. This one's a re-read with my fiance, and once again I'm struck by how delightful Tolkien's language is. This is while he was still telling the story to his children and hadn't yet fallen into the hole of WORLDBUILDING!!!!!, and it's evident in Bilbo's grand adventure.

The Fifth Season, by N. K. Jemisin. I'm a big fan of Jemisin's. This is the first installment in her new fantasy series, publishing in August. There's not a whole lot I can tell you about this book without feeling like I'm giving a whole lot away. If you've enjoyed Jemisin's previous work but aren't totally sold on the jacket copy (like me), give it a try. The blurb is...accurate, and yet...much smaller than the story being told. War. Magic. Domination. Civilization. Systematic degradation, coercion, slavery. Don't pick this up looking for happy. This is a bleak, bleak read. But so compelling.

Books read: 18. ...And it looks like I'm still on the science fiction/fantasy kick. Not a problem!

*These books will be my June staff picks at Porter Square Books.