Sunday Coffee – Break

Over the last couple months, especially this last month, I’ve had less time to spend on blog-stuff, and less motivation to go along with it. This has only increased as we’ve started remodeling our basement. With the boys getting out of school in a few days, a big change on the horizon, and a personal renewed focus on my health, I think I’m going to take a few months away from the blog. I’ll still be reading/commenting on others’ blogs, but I want to take some time away from reviews and other posts. Of course, I might get the itch to return in a few weeks instead of a few months, and if that’s the case, so be it. But I should be back by the time the kids start school again this fall at the latest. In the meantime, I hope you’re all well, and that you have a lovely summer season!

ETA: A few reviews may show up through the summer if I get around to writing out my thoughts on books I read. However, I’m not really here in full capacity and won’t be responding to comments or anything until after I’m back in August or September.

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Pantsuit Nation, by Libby Chamberlain

Note: While I’ve listed Libby Chamberlain as the author, she’s actually the editor of this book and the person who put it all together. The content of the book is from many different individual sources.

Not long before the 2016 election, a secret group was created on Facebook called Pantsuit Nation, intended to be a safe place for supporters of Hillary Clinton. The group exploded in membership both before and after election night. This book is made up of contributions from the members of that group, split roughly into sections: before the election, election night, after the election, and the protests that came together around inauguration. Entries are sometimes long, sometimes short, and accompanied by photos. The book is, in essence, a visual exploration of why people supported Clinton and the way they felt throughout this election process. There is anger, fear, sadness, determination, and hope. There are people from all walks of life and all kinds of viewpoints. There’s little more than I can say other than to encourage people to read.

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Protected: A Beautiful, Terrible Thing, by Jen Waite

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This One Summer, by Mariko and Jillian Tamaki

Rose’s family goes to a cabin by the beach every summer. Barbecues, ocean dips, silly movies with her friend Windy from the next cabin over…only this summer is different. To say more would be spoiling it, so I’ll leave it at that.

To avoid spoilers, I’ll just comment on the two bits of this book that stayed thematic throughout. The authors tackle the complexities of family when family is in a rocky place, and the difficulties of even minor age differences while in the preteen and early teen years. Both were handled very well. I enjoyed the story and the art, and liked that this was more of a snapshot of a time period than a story with a definite beginning and end.

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Protected: The Savage Dawn, by Melissa Grey (audio)

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A Face Like Glass, by Frances Hardinge

The underground city of Caverna is known for two things: first for the magical delicacies they create (wines that erase specific memories, perfume that convinces you to trust the wearer, etc), and second for their doll-like faces. Babies born in Caverna have no facial expressions. They must learn them, and Facesmiths – those who create and teach Faces – are a special kind of elite. But when an overground girl of five turns up unexpectedly in a vat of curds in the cheesemaster’s tunnels, everything changes. Neverfell’s face moves on its own, and so she must be kept hidden from the rest of Caverna or else risk being used as a pawn in deadly court scheming. Only no one can tell this growing child why she’s hidden away, lest the knowledge appear in her open, guileless expressions.

Let me start by saying that this is one of the best books I’ve read in a long time. Because of the stressful situation my family is currently in, it took nearly a month to get time to read the entire book. However, the slow read was perfect for me right now. Hardinge puts together an amazingly well-developed world. Though the narrative shifts between characters, it stays primarily with Neverfell, aged twelve for most of the book. Because of Neverfell’s ignorant viewpoint, the reader gets to experience the world firsthand, and in a way, come of age with her. We are never quite so naive and trusting as she is to those around her – her maturity is stunted due to her limited knowledge and interactions with others – but we get to experience her disillusionment and growth alongside her.

This book is marked as YA at my library but I’d venture to say that it could be read YA or adult. Many of the characters are very complex, especially those who would count as the more positive characters. Everyone has been touched by Caverna’s politics and machinations. There were many thematic elements in common with classic-style dystopia (think 1984 rather than Divergent) focusing on stratification of the poor and the rich (a timely subject in today’s world, I think). The book also focused on growing up vs growing wiser, on the manipulation of emotion through masks, on the bonds of family both natural and acquired, on the way missing/manipulated memories affect behavior, and on the effects of living so long that life becomes virtually meaningless. Two of the hallmarks I often see in YA were absent: There was no romance whatsoever, and while the magic was an integral part of this society, the book was not about the magic.

A Face Like Glass is a standalone novel with an ending both hopeful and sad. Actually, I can say “hopeful and sad” sum up much of the book, and perfectly described one of my favorite exchanges of dialogue. Because this is a minor spoiler, I’ll white it out, but the spoiler is a very tiny one, so feel free to highlight to read:

“We are used to danger,” the faceless voice assured her. “It comes with our job. … We look out for our own because nobody else will. Do you know how many courtiers have been willing to risk their lives for one of us?”

“No. How many?”

“One,” came the answer. “Precisely one in five hundred years.”

The sedan door opened. Pulling off her goggles, Neverfell…turned toward the man who had been speaking with her…and found herself looking into the face of the manservant she had saved at her first banquet.

End spoiler.

I can’t recommend this book enough. It’s beautiful.

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The Perfect Stranger, by Megan Miranda

Leah Stevens is looking to start over, anonymous, after a scandal at her previous job as a journalist. Emmy Grey, her former roommate from years ago, is also looking for a fresh start. The two of them relocate to a small town in Western Pennsylvania. Not long after they arrive, however, a woman who looks eerily similar to Leah is attacked, and Emmy disappears completely. The two cases seem tenuously connected, and the police aren’t sure whether to believe Emmy exists or not, with no paper trail, no background, no evidence. Leah is left wondering if she ever knew Emmy at all, or if there is something even darker happening around her.

This was a good thriller. I rarely feel wholeheartedly good about every aspect of thrillers, but I liked this one a lot. The characters felt real and none of the twists were out of the blue or shock-factor twists. The background stories unfolded gently and at a good pace. The conclusion was solid. This is the first I’ve read from Megan Miranda but I imagine I’ll read more from her in the future.

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The Invisible Library, by Genevieve Cogman (audio)

Irene is a junior librarian in a library that exists outside all worlds. Her job is to retrieve manuscripts from various alternate worlds so that the library may preserve them. She’s just come back from a tedious mission and is looking forward to some off-time for her own researches – but then she’s saddled with a trainee and a deceptive assignment that throws her into a chaotic world and up against one of the Library’s greatest enemies.

I came across this book via a recommendation from Kristen from We Be Reading. Back in April, I previewed this book along with a dozen others I had waiting on my to-investigate list, and decided that this was indeed one I wanted to read. During Readathon, I attempted to continue past my preview, but something didn’t click. I didn’t know if it was the book itself or the fact that I’d just finished a book that I’d found compelling and my brain didn’t want to switch gears yet. I put The Invisible Library aside for later perusal, and began it on audio in mid-June.

There’s one section near the beginning of the book – Irene meets her student, Irene looks up details on this mission, Irene meets a personal enemy who wants to take her mission from her – where once again, I almost stopped reading. Not sure what it is about this section, but something about it rubbed me wrong both times. However, I had the same experience with one little section at the beginning of The Raven Boys on my first and second attempts to read that one, and pushing through the second time helped. I acted on that previous experience, and I’m glad that I did. While I wouldn’t say The Invisible Library grew on me nearly as much as The Raven Boys, I did really enjoy the book. The plot was excellent and world-building very thorough. Irene was a wonderful strong female protagonist with enough individual quirk to keep her out of cliche circles. Her student/trainee/assistant Kai was fun in that he didn’t play by normal rules, and I liked the chaos-infested London that they’re sent to. (Though, sidenote, I do wish it was not always London!!) The ending was perfect – fully closed up yet open to further volumes – and I looking forward to reading further into the series.

Performance: The audio was read by Susan Duerden. I’ve experienced her audiobooks many times and I love the way she reads. It was finding out that she read this book that caused me to switch from print to audio, and probably the reason I was able to iron over that one rubbed-wrong spot in the story that got me both times. I imagine I’ll continue reading further volumes via audio.

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