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Reading time! C’mon, grab your friends…

Dreams of my Father by Barack Obama

Wow, that was good. I do not read political memoirs, but I do read personal memoirs that are set against political and cultural change or upheaval. And I do read books that underline how the political shapes the personal, yessir. My overwhelming feeling of this book is that it is a calm and balanced narrative: the voice doesn’t give in to easy goodies/baddies demarcation, even individuals do shitty things to other individuals. There is reason, compassion, fairness and forgiveness. The book covers the years of Obama’s parents’ marriage, and then leads into a biography of sorts. In a clever literary trick, this book tells the story of Obama’s life without it seeming to be about him at all: it’s about the people around him. It’s about the way culture can shape individuals, and the way an individual can work within or against their culture. There’s a fair bit of emotion and challenge in the book: the young Obama comes to terms with the truth of his lionised father’s life, learns tenacity and frustration during his time as a community organiser in South Side Chicago, and meets and is embraced by his extensive Kenyan family. A really good discussion of the forces that shape the world, the people shaped by their forces, and individuals’ lives. An excellent read.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley

Holy balls, what fun! I’d heard a lot of chatter about The Rook when it first came out a couple of years ago, but then I got distracted playing Splice and never quite got around to picking it up. Late last year, I found out the first four chapters are available for free from The Rook Files site and read them in one gripped sitting — authors! Do this! If the first few chapters of your book are addictive, do this! I swear the week between reading those chapters and buying the book was spent in a daze, wondering what was going to happen and whether or not she’d be okay. So, here’s the thrust…wait, hang on, I’ll paste the copy from the book’s webpage, since it’s a much better summary than I could put together:

“The body you are wearing used to be mine.” So begins the letter Myfanwy Thomas is holding when she awakes in a London park surrounded by bodies all wearing latex gloves. With no recollection of who she is, Myfanwy must follow the instructions her former self left behind to discover her identity and track down the agents who want to destroy her.

She soon learns that she is a Rook, a high-ranking member of a secret organization called the Checquy that battles the many supernatural forces at work in Britain. She also discovers that she possesses a rare, potentially deadly supernatural ability of her own.

In her quest to uncover which member of the Checquy betrayed her and why, Myfanwy encounters a person with four bodies, an aristocratic woman who can enter her dreams, a secret training facility where children are transformed into deadly fighters, and a conspiracy more vast than she ever could have imagined.

Hooked? You should be. The Rook is awesome: it’s fun and playful without being flippant or facetious — the humour never detracts from the seriousness of the main character’s predicament. The pacing is flawless and the action exciting. The character deepens, grows, makes friends and enemies, and comes into her strength in a wonderful arc. I don’t have enough good things to say about this book, but the nature of the story is such that I don’t want to give away too much. So I’ll say: go read it! Just read it, okay! You’ll love it. Trust me!

Infidel (Bel Dame Apocrypha #2) by Kameron Hurley

KAMERON PLEASE DON’T EVER STOP WRITING. I plunged straight in to Infidel as soon as I’d finished God’s War (the first in the trilogy). Pro tip: if you like epic fantasy, buy all three of this trilogy at once so you don’t have to pause between them. While the books stand alone, with just enough back story to bring you where you need to be to join in, the overarching arc of the trilogy is wonderful, and worth experiencing in order. Alright, enough pro-tips. I loved Infidel for similar reasons to God’s War. Nyx is unique and amazing as her character, flawed and broken in places, but deeply loyal and courageous. This book picks up some years after God’s War, and Nyx’s team have moved on with their lives, mostly. There’s some cracks below the surfaces of the lives they’ve built, and when Nyx returns with some bad news, a mission, and Bel Dames after her, those cracks blow wide open. The Bel Dames have staged an uprising and although they have used her as a tool and run up against her as an obstacle, Nyx may be the only one to stop them. Infidel expands on Hurley’s brilliant world-building, deepening and diversifying the cultures of the world she’s created. The gap between the two books means the characters have aged, matured and changed in some ways, and Hurley has executed this expertly, yielding brilliant, complicated and believable characters. I’ve already started the third in the trilogy, Rapture, and it tastes just as good as the first two. Marvellous work, Hurley.

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