February 2024 Books

February was kind of a reading slump for me.

Books Reread

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan
**Book Hangover Alert
Heroes of Olympus book 3 of 5
This book is just so excellent. I really enjoy the first two books, but this one, when the team is all assembled? *Chef’s kiss* Now that the seven Greek and Roman heroes are all assembled, the quest to defeat Gaia can begin in earnest. This book focuses on the team’s first task, following the Mark of Athena to recover the Athena Parthenos. I’m really impressed by Riordan’s ability to navigate POV with so many important characters. I’ve been thinking a lot about craft lately and his books are just so well structured from a craft standpoint.
10/5 pairs of Chinese handcuffs

New Books Read

Hodder Children’s Books

The Arrival by Shaun Tan***
This is a lovely little graphic novel told in only pictures. It follows our protagonist as he moves to an unfamiliar, fantastical land and has to adapt to new cultures and customs, make new friends, and not lose himself along the way. It’s so lovely and heartwarming and the way the art tells the story is really impressive. I also love the world Tan creates and all the little creatures that populate it.
3.5/5 lil creatures

Tor Books

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
**Book Hangover Alert
It was so hard to fulfill my obligations while I was reading this book because I just wanted to keep reading it. I love McGuire’s Wayward Children books, but honestly, this book is on another level. It is so good. Alchemist James Reed is attempting to build the Doctrine of Ethos, believed by alchemists to be the fundamental force of the universe. But when he creates two children to embody the Doctrine, he fails to take into account their humanity. Roger and Dodger were created for a purpose, but must find their own way. I feel like that was a very inadequate blurb, so just ignore it and go read the book. This book also has ace rep, which we love. I see you Dodger. Also, not really important, but I learned so much about Hands of Glory? And they are way cooler and have way more lore than JK Rowling made it seem like in Harry Potter.
5/5 timelines

Tethered to Other Stars by Elisa Stone Leahy***
**Book Hangover Alert
CW: bullying, microaggressions, racism
Another absolute banger. I read this for my world building class this quarter and it was fantastic. Middle grade novels do not get enough praise. Wendy is a middle schooler trying to fit in to a new school, keeping her head down and avoiding the notice of ICE, when Luz, an undocumented immigrant, takes sanctuary at the church near Wendy’s house and refuses to be deported. Wendy faces bullying, injustice, and the struggles of making new friends. This book tackles a lot of really big issues in such an empathetic, human, and approachable way.
5/5 telescopes

National Geographic Books

Blind Man’s Bluff by James Tate Hill***
This is a fascinating memoir about a man who lost his sight as a teenager but continued to pretend that he could see much better than he could. The story follows his journey through internalized ableism to self-acceptance. I enjoyed this. I thought it was really interesting, though I do feel like Hill could have grappled a little more explicitly with internalized ableism and societal ableism. By the end of the book, it’s understood that he’s come to terms with his own blindness, but I guess I would have appreciated more of a critique of ableism. Hill made some interesting POV choices, telling a couple of the chapters in second person. While I think that was a cool choice and it let me as a reader feel I was experiencing what he did, it did get a little tiresome to read after a while. I think it may have been better to restrict that POV choice to the prologue and tell the rest in first person. But that’s probably just personal preference.
3.5/5 screen readers

Before the Borderless: Dialogues with the Art of Cy Twombly by Dean Rader
**Book Hangover Alert
This book is a collection of ekphrastic poetry on the art of Cy Twombly. When I was the Editor-in-Chief of the Rappahannock Review, we published a poem by Rader that appears in this book, though the version in this book is revised a little. I’ve been thinking a lot about ekphrasis lately as I’m getting ready to teach a course on the interplay between image and text. This whole book was so good. I wouldn’t say I’m a huge fan of Twombly’s art, but Rader’s poems bring them a lot more meaning and dimension for me. And conversely, when I look at the art, the poems gain new meaning as well. I’m really impressed by Rader’s use of white space and enjambment, and I highly recommend this book to poetry and art lovers.
4/5 paintings

Broadway Books

A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson*
My dad has been bugging me to read this book for forever, and now I finally have. It gives a good background for understanding Western science up to 2003. I prefer Bryson’s travel writing, just because I’m generally more interested in that, but this book did have some good general knowledge things that I’m glad I know now. It was published in 2003, though, so some things are now outdated. I would personally have been more interested in learning about women’s contributions to science and scientific inquiry form non-Western countries, but I guess that wasn’t the goal of this book.
3/5 male scientists

Guards! Guards! by Terry Pratchett*
City watch book 1 of 8
Discworld book 8 of 41
It’s always a good day to read a Terry Pratchett book. The Night Watch, led by Captain Vimes, is a bit of a joke in Anhk-Morpork, capital of the Discworld, but when a mysterious Brotherhood begins summoning dragons as part of a plot to put a puppet king on the throne, Vimes has got to shape up and get to the bottom of it. This book has all of the trademarks of a wonderful Terry Pratchett novel, plus some cute swamp dragons.
3.5/5 dragons

*This book only includes straight, white, cis people.

**Book Hangover Alert indicates the kind of book that will leave you full up on love. Satisfied, but wishing the book never had to end. You’ll be laying on the floor with no idea what to do with yourself (other friends have called this feeling Good Book Depression or say that certain books necessitate Floor Time). This is the kind of book that gets its teeth in you and won’t let go easily. After the last page you’ll be thinking about this book for a long time. You’ll bother all your friends trying to get them to read it so that you won’t be alone in your Hangover.

***This book is part of my Books for a Social Conscience series! Read The Arrival for a visual telling of an immigration story. Read Tethered to Other Stars to learn more about undocumented immigration and racism and microaggressions as they affect children and families. Though I feel like it could have done more, Read Blind Man’s Bluff to learn more about internalized ableism and to learn more about an experience of blindness.

Reads marked as part of the Books for a Social Conscience series will regularly address topics like race and racism, colonialism and post-colonialism, LGBTQIA+ experience, feminism, BIPOC experience, social and political issues, history, identity, class, disability experience, immigration, gun violence, poverty, colorism, environmentalism, and more! The goal of these books is to diversify the stories we’re reading, grow our empathy for those who are different from us, and amplify voices who are often silenced.