May 2018 books

May 2018 books

Ghosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster ZoneGhosts of the Tsunami: Death and Life in Japan’s Disaster Zone by Richard Lloyd Parry
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Some books are interesting mostly because of their subject matter - they might be indifferently written but they are gripping solely by virtue of the story they are recounting.

This book, about the 2011 tsunami in Japan, is about something inherently fascinating...and somehow elevates it. It is better and more interesting than it should be, even though by default it should be quite good just based on the subject matter. It's about the tsunami, but also Japan, Japanese culture, Japanese religion, death, loss, nature, municipal emergency preparedness logistics, and ghosts. Actual ghosts.

It is one of the best books I have ever read.

I mean:

"As they marched, Kaneta and his group had intended to chant sutras and sing hymns. But here, among the mess and stench, their voices failed them. 'The Christian pastor was trying to sing hymns,' said Kaneta. 'But none of the hymns in his book seemed right. I couldn't even say the sutra - it came out in screams and shouts.' The priests lurched uselessly through the rubble in their rich robes, croaking the scriptures, getting in the way."

If that sounds bleak, well, this book is pretty bleak. A million (or 16,000) deaths is a statistic, or so Stalin says, so Parry starts out on a smaller scale, focusing on an elementary school where all but a few children died in the tsunami. In those first few chapters, I couldn't bear to read on, but I couldn't bear to put the book down, either. Parry knows just when to zoom out, though - every once in a while he pulls back from the elementary school story to the wider story of the tsunami elsewhere in Japan, and these chapters give you a chance to catch your breath before zooming back in.

This book's Goodreads blurb mentions something about "literary nonfiction" and before reading it I kind of rolled my eyes because that's not even a thing. But you guys, it is a thing! And this book is it.

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Ash PrincessAsh Princess by Laura Sebastian
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Probably 3.5-4 stars. Other reviews have compared this book to Red Queen (which I didn't like) and An Ember in the Ashes (which I loved). But I think it is most like The Winner's Curse, only not as good. In fact, as I read, I kept thinking how The Winner's Curse hit these beats and went through these motions and painted these scenes better...to the extent that I think I will re-read that book soon!

I have a half-remembered list of "YA books that would be better without any romance" floating around in the back of my mind, and this needs to be added to it. There is a - wait for it - love triangle in this book and both sides of it just fall flat. The intrigue and plotting and the female friendships are done so well, though! If you wish you could read The Winner's Curse again, for the first time, give this one a try.

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What HappenedWhat Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The first few chapters of this book were extremely hard to read. All those election day feelings came rushing back and I realized what a conscious effort I make every day to forget the worst things about the fact that Trump is president.

It got easier to read later on. HRC's blind spots are on full display in this book and I am so sure she is exhausting to be friends with in real life. But you guys, this woman is qualified, brilliant, and articulate. Why was she so un-electable, especially considering the person she was running against? (I know, I know, But Her Emails.)

Even though the first part was hard to get through on an emotional level, I enjoyed reading this book about the 2016 election circus from HRC's point of view.

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The Hate U GiveThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

There are books you should read because they're Important, and books you should read because they're Good. This book is both.

(It also has a ton of swear words, but I'll allow it under the Marcus Luttrell rule.)

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June 1st, outsourced

Ultramarathons and childbirth, part 2

Ultramarathons and childbirth, part 2