In February I thought I’d get to work on my Netgalley ratio. I sit at around 50%, nowhere near the suggested 80%. At one point in the month I made it to an all time personal best 61%… but then I added some more to my shelf in proper self-sabotage fashion.
The Four Winds- Kristin Hannah
Amazing! Well written and researched. A mother's Grapes of Wrath. I've heard nothing but praise for Kristin Hannah and now realize it is well earned! I look forward to reading more from this author.
The Four Winds starts as a story about a young woman desperate for love and worth and evolves into a story of strength, bravery, struggle, and hardships for migrant workers escaping the Dustbowl during the great depression. The writing is so emotive. It is heartbreaking and infuriating. A wonderful use of fiction to teach history as something that not just happened, but that was lived by real people, that shaped a generation. It encourages readers to put things into perspective in present day by remembering where we've been.
On a narrower scale, this story perfectly captures motherhood. The unconditional love, the fear, the pride, the sacrifice.
The Lost Apothecary- Sarah Penner
A very engaging dual timeline story told in three distinct points of view. There is an ominous tone that keeps the reader engaged, as well as the interesting way the present storyline mirrors the past one.
The author was a bit heavy handed in her vilification of men, and there was an annoyingly excessive withholding of information by the characters.
The audiobook was well produced with separate narrators for each POV.
Ikenga- Nnedi Okorafor
I was very excited for Nnedi Okorafor's first middle grade book. This read as older middle grade; I believe the characters are 12, but they felt older to me (this could very well be a difference in culture as Americans tend to treat their children as less capable and independent than other countries/cultures do). The plot deals with grief in a very real way. Nnamdi responds with anger to his father's death (murder) and ends up distancing himself from his friends and family.
The plot hinges on the fantastical way Nnamdi expresses this anger: having been gifted an Ikenga figure by the spirit of his father, Nnamdi has the ability to become a Hulk-like (Hulk being his favorite superhero) vigilante, thwarting the attempts of a notorious group of criminals. Like in all vigilante stories, there are those in the community who fear and spread lies against him.
This all sounds very unique and intriguing, but I felt pretty bored and at 80% through the audiobook, haven't quite decided if I am committed to finishing it.
I love the setting and atmosphere, as well as the criminal characters (their names and signature crimes), but I feel like the character development overall falls flat, as well as the transition from scene to scene, conflict to conflict...very much how I felt reading Binti.
I don't believe my failure to connect with the story is an issue with the book itself. I can objectively say it is a good story, just not for me. For every qualm I have I can give myself a reason why I may not like it. Ultimately this is a book that is important in allowing African children to see themselves reflected as heroes of a story, and I am neither African, nor a child... this book was not written for me to connect to and I can appreciate that.
The Underfoot vol. 1: The Mighty Deep- Ben Fisher
This was like reading a post-apocalyptic Redwall meets Rats of NIMH! Really fun, beautifully illustrated and colored- visually a huge success! The story line was similarly engaging, with a cast of lovable characters who have a delightful chemistry and a history the reader only catches glimpses of based on their interactions, but still manages to fully develop them.
The world building on one hand is easy to grasp- it is Earth and therefore familiar, but on the other hand leads to many questions: where are the humans (the "giants that were"), has there been an apocalyptic event, a natural disaster?
Some of the action scenes were surprising violent/graphic, but not upsettingly so... they just caught me off guard when first starting and still unsure of the target audience. (Young adult to adult, I would think). The use of animal characters made the story appealing to a nostalgic familiarity (Redwall, NIMH, Watership Down), while the subject of survival in a world left behind appeals to a present day climate crisis anxiety, with young characters just coming into their roles, and older characters bringing their history/experience/knowledge to the situations.... at age 34 I feel like my age lends to establishing a balanced connection to all parts of the story.