Your Next Great Read: Amy's Book Reviews

Published Monday, March 25, 2019
Tade Thompson

4 out of 5 stars
Rosewater is a city in a near-future Nigeria that formed around a mysterious alien biodome that appeared eleven years ago. Every year, the dome opens and releases healing to those gathered around the dome. This is known as The Opening, and it attracts people from all over, especially those with medical issues.

Kaaro is a sensitive whose ability has brought him into the notice of a government agency, S45. He has lived in Rosewater from the beginning and has even been inside the biodome, an occurrence he has no intention of repeating. But when other sensitives like Kaaro begin dying, he’ll have to go against his superiors in order to figure out what’s really happening.

Tade Thompson’s Rosewater presents such a strange and fascinating future. But it’s the fact that it’s not so different from our present that makes certain aspects truly eerie.

Rosewater follows a “then” and “now” narrative showing the beginnings of Rosewater and then the current state of sensitives dying respectively. The story drives almost towards an intersection of these timelines as we get closer to learning about the possible motivations for the lifeform landing on Earth.

Kaaro is an interesting choice as our main character. He doesn’t fill what one would think of as the classic hero role. He even on occasion says essentially that same sentiment. His working for the government has been a role more forced upon him than a mutually agreed upon job. He’ll buck authority, yet also fulfill the tasks given to him, he just likes to do it in his own way, in his own time.

The world in Rosewater was particularly intriguing. It’s a rather contained story with everything taking place within Nigeria. But every time another place in the world was mentioned in passing it would always draw my attention. Like the fact that America has apparently cut off all communication with anyone outside the continent. I’m so interested to find out what is going on in the rest of the world, and how it’s all connected to the alien lifeform currently in Rosewater and the event of its “landing.” Tade Thompson doesn’t give readers much in the way of answers to these musings, and with the title of the second book being The Rosewater Insurrection I can’t imagine that we’ll move out of our current location.

There are a lot of interesting secondary characters that Kaaro encounters. The ending of Rosewater left me feeling that it equally tied up Kaaro’s conflicts yet left the overarching conflicts open. I’d love to see another character take up the mantle and see the world from their perspective. If anything is for certain, Rosewater is full of the unexpected.

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Good Riddance
Elinor Lipman

3 out of 5 stars
After her mother's death, Daphne is left with her 1968 yearbook. It is an object that, for reasons unknown, Daphne's mother cherished deeply. In it, Daphne finds copious amount of notes about the class of '68 updated with each reunion that Daphne's mother also attended religiously.

Having no connection to the yearbook herself, Daphne decides to throw it out after she's just moved into a smaller apartment. Instead, however, one of her new neighbors, a documentary film maker, retrieves it from recycling and has the idea that the contents would make a perfect film. As Daphne tries to stop this from happening at all costs, she has to contend with some long-held family secrets finally making their way to the surface.

Typically, I'm a pretty big fan of the quirky, sometimes scatter-brained, female characters that are at the forefront of books like Good Riddance. So I'm not really sure what was different about this read for me than others. I think it didn't reach that good balance of dealing with the serious issues as well as funny situations Daphne finds herself in upon learning of her mother's past. I felt like the serious issues Daphne discovers about her family are, more or less, swept under the rug so to speak. I never really felt that closure by the end. I'm not saying that things always have to end tied with a bow, but I felt like none of the revelations that come at Daphne in this book are properly dealt with. And this goes for everything from the confrontations with her neighbor (that kinda just peter out) to her family interactions.

I did enjoy the whole idea of how we don't really know our parents. How, as our parents, they're put in this kind of theoretical box and any kind of life that is outside of our purview is oftentimes overlooked. I feel like Daphne's going through a kind of reckoning when she learns of her mother's past and it breaks into Daphne's view of her as her mother, the mother she loved her whole life. It definitely throws Daphne, but I liked the simplistic, yet sweet note that Elinor Lipman ends this issue on.

Overall, Good Riddance was an enjoyable read. While it didn't hit all the points I typically look for in this type of book, I was interested to see where the story would lead.

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Written in Red
Anne Bishop

4.5 out of 5 stars
Written in Red takes place in a modern, alternate reality where Others, or terra indigene, dominate over the humans. Luckily Anne Bishop provides a little “history of the world” introduction to explain things a little. The Others are the ruling faction in Thaisia (what we consider America). In the beginning all that humans were to Others was meat (literally). Over time, the Others have come to understand the usefulness of the humans, and in turn, the humans have become clever in their dealings with Others. Although there is an uneasy truce between them, they both recognize the benefits of each other. Regardless, if a human crosses an Other, you won’t hear from that human again.

Meg is a human, but not just any human she is a cassandra sangue, or a blood prophet. Written in Red opens with Meg running away from the compound where she has been kept since her birth. Cassandra sangue blood is very valuable and so they are kept as property. They don’t get to interact with the outside world. The only reason they receive good education is so they know how to describe their visions. They are provided for in every way. Many would say this is a fair trade for their blood, but not all. Meg has a vision that shows her how to escape, and she takes it, but it also may mean her death.

I was really impressed with the world Bishop created. At first it was a little complicated because it does take place in modern time and I was trying to acclimate it to our world, but it is its own world with its own set of rules. The big cities have courtyards where the Others live and do business so they can enforce the rules. Meg is hired as the liaison because the Others recognize the fact that some humans only want to interact with other humans.

The story moves along at a leisurely pace dealing mainly with Meg and her new role as liaison in the courtyard working her way around the Others. She’s still cassandra sangue, however, and she still has visions. We don’t know when the visions will play themselves out and oftentimes they are little more than a scattering of images. The book builds with the anticipation of when/where we’ll see Meg’s vision come to pass. There’s also the fact that Meg’s former keepers are not happy that she escaped and are willing to go to extreme measures to get her returned.

I liked Meg. She’s naive and vulnerable, but she’s also smart, and this lends itself to her learning the ins and outs of navigating in the courtyard. The Others kind of adopt Meg in their own way and become very protective of her. She brings a freshness to their world because the Others are also unfamiliar with humans. They don’t like to interact too closely with humans and at times it’s endearing and funny to see them trying to accommodate her.

I don’t think I’ve read another shifter book where they were so completely animalistic. They only wear their human skin in order to interact with humans, if they had it their way they would be in their animal form all the time. They are gruesome in that they don’t hide the fact that you will be their food should you choose to break a rule. So it’s interesting to see them become a little more human in the process of learning about “the Meg,” as they sometimes call her.

The story in contained in this book, but there are overall conflicts that will be touched upon as the series goes on. Also, while there is no romance in this book, the potential is there. I look forward to seeing how everything develops.

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