I can’t sugarcoat this: Last week sucked. Between work, the weather, and the general upheaval of moving from one blog to another even though I didn’t technically have to and am therefore entirely to blame for my sudden decision to start a new book blog and the troubles that accompanied it (thanks, me), I was a very unhappy kitty-dragon. (If you’re unfamiliar with me, I always draw myself as a little zombie-eyed creature with kitty ears and a dragon onesie. I can’t say this is a realistic portrayal, but the onesie is real enough.)
On the plus side, I’m all settled into the new blog and I got to take off the “Under Construction” page after about nine days of agony and secrecy, so I can finally start blogging again! For the first post that didn’t involve introducing myself and explaining why I felt the sudden urge to move blogs, I thought I’d do this Fellowship of the Ring book tag, because I love book tags and I love that this one is LOTR-themed. I first saw this when Lori posted it, and she in turn got it from Nandini Bharadwaj, who created it back in 2018. Also this kinda has something to do with Book Tag Tuesdays, which I suggested a couple of tags ago and have since mostly forgotten, but some is better than none, right?
A book that taught you something.
Americanah (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). Race is so deeply ingrained in American culture that it didn’t occur to me that it might baffle people who are not from America. Case in point: Ifemelu, one of the two protagonists of Americanah, leaves Nigeria as a young adult and is surprised to find that race is a Big Deal in America. Having moved from a country where race didn’t matter to a country where everything is about race, she is forced to learn about systemic racism and civil rights from scratch. Her unfamiliarity with American racial politics later causes a rift in her relationship with her American boyfriend, Blaine, who becomes extremely upset when she skips a protest that was important to him.
A book that left a mark on you.
The Curse of Chalion (Lois McMaster Bujold). This is one of my favorite books of all time, a story where the princess arranges her own marriage against the objections of the old men who are supposed to be her guardians. I would take this book to a deserted island every time, because it’s just that amazing. (And now I need to try to read it in French.)
A book you finished in one sitting.
Heart Berries (Terese Marie Mailhot). This one deals with Mailhot’s experiences with bipolar II, and I’m thankful it wasn’t longer because it was beautifully done but excruciating to read.
A book that features an unlikely friendship.
The Girl with the Louding Voice (Abi Daré). When Adunni first arrives at Big Madam’s house, she meets Kofi, a (in his words) highly educated personal chef. Kofi seems stuck-up in the beginning, but he treats Adunni kindly, often giving her more food than Big Madam wants her to be given, pushing her to apply for a scholarship, and trying to protect her from Big Daddy. Though somewhat abrasive on the surface, he calls her chale (“friend”), and seems to care for her as he would for his own daughters.
A book that pleasantly surprised you.
Homegoing (Yaa Gyasi). The structure of this book was a complete surprise, in the best possible way. I’d known going in that it was about two half-sisters born in Ghana, but I’d thought it would follow their two stories. Instead it branched off, following one person from each generation of their descendants up until the present. Some characters appeared in more than one chapter, but each chapter was more or less a self-contained story, showcasing what was happening to one descendant in one particular moment in history. As a result, the story never got old. It was so good.
A book that made you laugh.
The Map of Time (Félix J. Palma). I wasn’t expecting this book to be funny, but it was actually hilarious. The second half of the book follows H.G. Wells around London as he investigates supposed time travel incidents, talks smack about his fellow authors, and paints walls with cow shit. He also writes, occasionally. Eventually he meets Bram Stoker and Henry James, and is completely underwhelmed. (also Lori I know you’re not going to like this part but I consider it comedic gold so in it went)
If Wells recognized any merit in James, it was his undeniable talent for using very long sentences in order to say nothing at all. And James must have felt the same disdain for Wells’s work as he felt for James’s world of lace handkerchiefs and indolent ladies tormented by unmentionable secrets, because his colleague could not help pulling a face when he introduced himself as H.G. Wells.
He also doesn’t think much of Arthur Conan Doyle, if this exchange is anything to go by:
“Some, however, were thoroughly convinced by my explanation, like your fellow author, Conan Doyle. The creator of the infallible Sherlock Holmes has become one of my most vigorous defenders, as you will know if you’ve read any of the numerous articles he devotes to defending my cause.”
“Doyle would believe in everything, even fairies,” said Wells derisively.
LAAAAAAAWL. I love you Arthur but I’m afraid he’s got you there ???
I actually had kind of a weird saga with the audio of this because I went looking for the audiobook right after I’d finished the print book but Audible said it wasn’t available, but I randomly looked again just now and it is available so I’ve grabbed it before they can change their minds which is fortunate because now I really want to read it again. #headdesk
A book/series that you think ended too soon.
The Girl in Red (Christina Henry). I’m still salty over the ending because it explained absolutely fucking nothing. In the end, I really think Henry didn’t know herself what the monsters were or where they came from. I think she ended the book the way she did because she didn’t want to have to come up with an origin story for them, or maybe just because if she did it was uncomfortably close to Alien. Either way, the ending pissed me off and I thought the book needed at least 100 more pages.
A book with memorable side characters who stole the show.
Purple Hibiscus (Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie). By “side characters” I really just mean Aunty Ifeoma, who is an unstoppable badass. Not only does she give Kambili and Jaja a safe place to get away (more or less) from their father, she also gives them multiple opportunities to learn how to play with other children, starts to introduce them to parts of their heritage, and raises her own children to express their opinions openly, which is a freedom that was never granted to either Kambili or Jaja. At the end of the book she moves her family to America following years of difficulties at the University of Nigeria, where she was a professor. In short, she’s wonderful, and I sure hope she had a better time in America than Aunty Uju (Americanah).
A good book with a bad/average cover.
Chocolat (Joanne Harris). I haaaaaaate books with movie stars on the covers. I don’t care who was in the movie. Gimme the original edition that was printed before there was a movie. Book covers that double as portable billboards are just annoying. As to why I bought this particular edition knowing damn well that Johnny Depp and Juliette Binoche were on the cover, all I can say is that it was cheap.
A book that had great potential but disappointed you in the end.
See What I Have Done (Sarah Schmidt). I had such high hopes for this book. It’s a speculative retelling of the Lizzie Borden story, featuring POV chapters narrated by Lizzie, Emma (her sister), Bridget (their maid), and Benjamin (some random dude who was hired to beat up Mr. Borden but never actually delivered). I didn’t like the writing and Lizzie was a spoiled brat, which didn’t make for very pleasurable reading. I did like Emma and Bridget, but obviously Lizzie was in both of their stories so that didn’t help much. I actually wrote a full review on this right after I read it in 2018, and will post it here later as part of the book review consolidation project that I just this second came up with.