June 2017 books

June 2017 books

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

4.5 stars. I didn't know I needed a book with Vlad the Impaler re-imagined as a girl, but here I am, glad to have read one! This book is INTENSE and a little bit insane. I have never read a heroine (said Vlad the Impaler woman) or a setting (15th-century Ottoman Empire) quite like this one. It's a very brave undertaking for YA and for the most part, the author pulls it off brilliantly.

I can't put my finger on what's holding me back half a star. If I give it time to percolate, I may well decide it's a five after all.

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Rasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the RomanovsRasputin: Faith, Power, and the Twilight of the Romanovs by Douglas Smith
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

When I first started reading, I was so excited because it seemed like this book would do for Rasputin what Rough Stone Rolling did for Joseph Smith. And maybe it does, a little. But where Bushman interprets, Smith (the author of Rasputin) just tells. There is very little collating or evaluating of sources - who is reliable? Whose accounts can we believe? Why do we know what we do, and why don't we know what we thought we did? Those questions remain largely unanswered in this book.

Take an example from the (shockingly short and rushed) chapter about Rasputin's murder. There's a scene where the police pull Rasputin's body from the river and his hands are frozen in a raised, crossed position. Smith quotes Maria Rasputina as saying "it was as though in a supreme effort to save himself he had tried to make the sign of the cross," and then concludes himself that "Maria is engaging in myth-making here." Well, why? Tell me more! This is a book about Rasputin and this is the central scene in his ignominious death! Give me alternate theories, or autopsy reports, or detailed examinations of Maria's motives for saying such a thing!

Instead, there's nothing. He just moves on: "This fanciful assertion that Rasputin died while making the sign of the cross began almost immediately after his murder, and Maria repeats it here in her memoirs. It is part of the Rasputin myth that lives on, refusing to die." That's it! This kind of obfuscation happens over and over again in this book. I'm certain it's more benign than lazy, but I wanted more from such a supposedly definitive biography than a dry, chronological jaunt through any and all accounts of Rasputin with little interpretation or evaluation of the source material.

So I read 200 (of 800!) pages, looked at the photo insert (which is amazing), skipped ahead and read the chapters about Rasputin's death, and called it good.

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Gemina (The Illuminae Files, #2)Gemina by Amie Kaufman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Another solid, heart-pounding, creative read from the Illuminae series. As with the first book, I recommend getting this one in hard copy format if you can. This is a found-footage-style book done right.

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Rose Under Fire (Code Name Verity, #2)Rose Under Fire by Elizabeth Wein
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nearly un-put-downable, though a bit darker than Code Name Verity. It veers every once in a while into the category of fiction I like to call Dramatized Wikipedia Entry, but as I am also fond of saying, it is a very good Dramatized Wikipedia Entry. The stories told in this book are important, and I'm glad a talented writer like Wein is on it.

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Church in English

Church in English

June 30th, outsourced