Apr. 12th, 2017

juushika: Photograph of a stack of books, with one lying open. (Books)
Title: Archangel (Samaria Book 1)
Author: Sharon Shinn
Published: Ace Books, 1997 (1996)
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 380
Total Page Count: 212,180
Text Number: 646
Read Because: personal enjoyment, ebook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: Before he can assume the leadership role of Archangel, Gabriel must marry—but Rachel, the wife selected for him, betrays every expectation and reveals many of his society's fatal flaws. The plot and character arcs are fairly predictable, although Rachel's incandescent stubborn streak is a gift; the slow-burn romance begins well but overstays its welcome, and the repetition causes by alternating PoVs exacerbates all these factors. Most of the fun is found in picking out the SFnal aspects hidden within the worldbuilding—they're consistent, though underdeveloped, and have interesting interactions with the philosophical elements of the plot; I expected the sequels expand on them. I love fantasy misunderstood as science, I don't care about angels, and I'm ambivalent about drawn-out, antagonistic romances; on a personal level, this was mildly successful but not something I'd particularly recommend.


Title: Love Is the Drug
Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson
Narrator: Simone Missick
Published: Scholastic Audio, 2014
Rating: 3 of 5
Page Count: 350
Total Page Count: 212,530
Text Number: 647
Read Because: reading PoC, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A pandemic upsets the life of Emily Bird, a Black student about to graduate from a prestigious prep school. The social politics of prep school, race, and economic class; the edge of an apocalypse; a romance, a mystery, and significant character growth: there's so much going on here, and yet, somehow, not quite enough. The themes and diversity are fantastic, albeit delineated, but it's the plot and romance that let things down. The thriller/mystery is too insubstantial to carry so much of the book, and the romance tips towards tortured and saccharine. But Johnson's writing is strong, dense, unexpectedly challenging, with engaging variations in address, and she tackles an ambitious timescale and sociopolitical context. If this were less restrained by genre convention or presumed audience age, it could have been more complicated and satisfying; what it is instead is a mild disappointment, but I may pick up more by the author because I think her voice has great potential.


Title: Binti (Binti Book 1)
Author: Nnedi Okorafor
Narrator: Robin Miles
Published: Scholastic Audio, 2014
Rating: 4 of 5
Page Count: 90
Total Page Count: 212,620
Text Number: 648
Read Because: reading PoC, audiobook borrowed from the Multnomah County Library
Review: A mathematician leaves her home village to attend a prestigious alien university, only to stumble into a war. Binti packs a fairly straightforward plot, a significant amount of worldbuilding, and satisfying character growth into novella length, and it's a successful balance: there's a lot going on, but it's vivid rather than dense. The beats—mostly in the conclusion—are predictable, but the themes are valuable enough to counterbalance that, and Binti is a fantastic character. This is one of those solid 4-star books: it didn't quite blow me away, but it was engaging and made me want to read more by the author.

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