It’s time to talk about six of the books I’ve read recently! I’ve managed to finish/catch up on two series and read some spooky books for the Halloween season. Let’s get into my reviews!
The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (The Broken Earth #3)
“But for a society build on exploitation, there is no greater threat than having no one left to oppress.”
Content warnings: violence, references to abuse, child death
In the third and final book of the Broken Earth Trilogy, questions are finally answered, characters are reunited, quests are completed, and hearts (namely, mine) are broken.
My thoughts on this book are pretty similar to my thoughts on the other two, since they essentially form one complete story all together. I was constantly blown away by the intricacy with which N.K. Jemisin crafts worlds and stories, blending the two together and pull in tiny details that you never would expect to be important. Just when you think you know where the story is heading, she throws in a curveball and forces you to reevaluate everything. Not only that, but despite the darkness and desperation built into the foundations of this series, it ends up feeling incredibly hopeful. Watching a character who wants to give up over and over refuse to do so, partly because the people around her won’t let her and partly because she can’t admit defeat, is just beautiful.
Still, I did feel lost for large portions of this book, and I get the feeling it would take me many, many read-throughs to feel like I fully have a grasp on this world. Maybe that’s just what I’ll have to do.
Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (The Diviners #2)
“We are made by what we are asked to bear.”
Content warnings: racism, homophobia, alcohol abuse
The second book in the Diviners series picks up a few months after the first, when people across New York City start succumbing to a “sleeping sickness” from which they can’t wake. Even though this book follows quite a few characters, it’s mainly about Henry and Ling, two Diviners with the ability to walk in dreams.
In summary: I would die for Henry DuBois III. That’s it, that’s the review.
Just kidding – I have lots more to say about this book. As with the first book, the biggest strength of this is its setting. Libba Bray is able to bring 1927 New York vividly to life, through descriptions, dialect, and every tiny detail. Plus, she includes the incredible diversity of the time period without shying away from the systemic discrimination that marginalized groups faced every day.
This book involves the storylines of several characters, some of which I was much more invested in than others. As previously mentioned, Henry’s was at the top, along with Ling (they are such friendship goals). The rest of the characters were interesting, but I never felt as invested and there were times that their chapters felt unnecessary. And I’m really not a fan of the way the POV constantly shifts in the middle of scenes. This book could have used some trimming, as it comes in at over 600 pages and I found myself practically skimming some parts.
The Library Book by Susan Orlean
“Writing a book, just like building a library, is an act of sheer defiance. It is a declaration that you believe in the persistence of memory.”
This nonfiction book is about the Los Angeles Public Library and the fire that raged through it in 1986. More broadly, though, it’s about all libraries: their history, cultural impact, and current place in society. Part memoir, part history, and part true crime, this book covers a wide array of library-related topics, all framed around the LAPL fire and the search for the arsonist.
I listened to this as an audiobook, which was narrated by the author, and it was fascinating! I’ve always been a lover of libraries and this made me appreciate them even more. I learned tons that I didn’t even know I didn’t know. It’s easy to tell how much research went into each tiny detail, and a love of libraries comes across in every word. It managed to make me emotional about the community-building power of stories and library spaces, and I was even invested in the arson mystery. I highly recommend this for anyone who loves books, and if you’re reading this, I’m guessing you do.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”
Content warnings: abuse, sexual assault, body-shaming
Growing up in Harlem with a religious mother, Xiomara feels like her voice isn’t heard. She has questions about the world and her place in it that she doesn’t know how to ask. When she discovers slam poetry, though, she finally has a way to express herself.
This book has been getting ALL of the praise (including a National Book Award!) and I FINALLY understand why! I don’t usually read books in verse, which is why it took me so long to pick this up, but I got the audiobook and ended up listening to it in two days and crying through the ending. Not only is the language itself breathtaking – each word carefully chosen to create the perfect sound and rhythm that is beautiful to listen to – but I can tell that this book is going to mean so much to a lot of young people. This book deals with many important topics, from complex family situations to the misogyny built into religion to body- and slut-shaming. Xiomara’s journey of finding her voice is just stunning. I did feel like the ending wrapped up a little too easily, but other than that, this book was basically perfection.
The Dreadful Tale of Prosper Redding by Alexandra Bracken
“Being different – being simply you instead of what other people wanted you to be – was it’s own kind of bravery.”
Content warnings: spiders
This spooky middle grade book follows Prosper Redding, whose old New England family is full of secrets. One of those secrets is that there is a demon living inside Prosper, passed down from an ancestor who broke a contract. Alastor, the demon, is intent on destroying Prosper’s family, which means Prosper has to figure out how to get rid of him before it’s too late.
I love Alexandra Bracken’s writing, and this book was no exception. I’m so glad that I read this around Halloween, because the spooky vibes were spot on! Prosper himself is a hilarious narrator – constantly snarky and saying the wrong thing at the wrong time – and I couldn’t help but love Alastor’s confusion and exasperation with the modern world. This book wasn’t perfect – the pacing felt wonky at times and there was more info dumping than I would have liked – but it was still fun and spooky, and I look forward to reading the sequel!
Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (The Diviners #3)
“The colonizer writes the history, winning twice: A theft of land. A theft of witness.”
Content warnings: racism, homophobia, rape, assault, nonconsensual medical procedures
The third Diviners book continues with the mystery of the man in the stovepipe hat, as ghosts appear across the country and the gang of Diviners attempt to figure out what’s going on.
Much like with the second book, I absolutely adore the way Libba Bray is able to create a vivid setting with her language. And I’m still invested in most of the characters (Henry and Ling continue to be highlights, though sadly they weren’t as prominent in this book). I’m also curious with the mystery threading through this entire series, and definitely eager to see how it turns out in the final book. And I appreciate how Libba Bray doesn’t shy away from the less-than-pretty aspects of American history, such as eugenics and racism and religious extremism.
Still, I’m not a fan of the writing style – it often feels too removed and rushed to get fully immersed in a character. And the POV head hopping drives me crazy! Even though this book felt a little more cohesive plot-wise than the second one, there were still parts that felt unnecessary, which I mostly ended up skimming. The large cast of characters means that there are inevitably the ones that I don’t care about. I went from being somewhat annoyed with Jericho to actively disliking him. I’m still going to read the fourth book when it comes out next year, though, because I’m invested now.
Have you read any of these books? What spooky books have you read for Halloween?