Matt’s Weekly Reads, September 24, 2022


A Prayer for the Crown-Shy, Becky Chambers (2022)

I cannot express how much I love the Monk and Robot novella series. This is the second novella (and possibly final — it was originally announced as a two-book series and I haven’t come across anything to suggest this plan has changed), about the continuing journeys of Sibling Dex and their robot companion, who has entered human society on a mission to understand what it is humans need. The publisher, Tor Books, refers to the genre as ‘solarpunk’, a form of optimistic science fiction for the climate change age. And that’s as good a descriptor as any. This is a post-dystopian world, where humanity has come out the other side from having had to reassess its relationship to technology and ecology. There are no pat or easy answers here, just a lot of questions in a difficult but hopeful new world. Our guides in that world are wonderfully kind and curious — characters I’d love to know and befriend in real life. It’s been a long time since I’ve read something that has made me think and rethink more than these books, in the best ways possible.

Read this if you’re interested in:

  • Post-Dystopian Settings
  • Ecology
  • Permaculture
  • Bioethics
  • Artificial Intelligence

My Rating, 10/10

Reads in honour of Canada’s National Day for Truth and Reconciliation (September 30):

  • Me Funny, Drew Hayden Taylor, ed. (2005), 8.5/10: This is a great collection of essays from Indigenous writers about Indigenous humour (see my August 13 post for my review of his similar collection on Indigenous sexuality). I thought most of the essays in this collection were strong, insightful, and, thankfully, funny. (Indigenous Perspectives, Humour, Essays)
  • Resurgence: Engaging with Indigenous Narratives and Cultural Expressions in and beyond the Classroom. Christine M’Lot and Katharine Adamov Ferguson, eds. (2022), 10/10: This is an excellent resource, primarily aimed at teachers wanting to better integrate Indigenous content into the classroom; but don’t let the intended audience keep you from reading it. The wonderful thing about the approach of this book is that it is just as much about readers’ thinking through ideas of Indigenous resurgence and decolonization for themselves and all of their overlapping communities as it is about how to teach content. It’s excellent and accessible, filled with essays, memoir, poems, pieces of art, music, and links to other great resources. (Indigenous Perspectives, Decolonization, Resurgence, Education)
  • Think Indigenous, Doug Good Feather (2021), 6.5/10: I generally enjoyed the content of this book that tried to encourage all readers to explore their own indigeneity (no matter where they are ‘indigenous to’), through the primary lens of the author’s Lakota heritage. I rated it a bit low here because it didn’t quite do what the introduction set out to do; the author warns of cultural appropriation and the need to find one’s own resources, but doesn’t really show how one go about that. (Indigenous Perspectives, Spirituality, Lakota, Sacred Practices)
  • As We Have Always Done, Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (2017), 9/10: This is a book on Indigenous resurgence that is deeply skeptical of the possibilities of reconciliation between Indigenous peoples and settler states. It is therefore a challenging read, and I am not its intended audience and my reaction to it is in many ways irrelevant. But, that said, it is a very worthwhile and insightful read, written by someone on the forefront of the Indigenous radical resurgence movement. (Indigenous Perspectives, Nishnaabe, Resurgence, Gender, LGBTQ2S+)
  • Siha Tooskin Knows… , Charlene Bearhead (2020), 1010: This is a charming series of short children’s picture books introducing kids to different aspects of Indigenous (Nakota) culture through the eyes of an eleven-year-old boy who learns about his culture from his grandparents. (Indigenous Perspectives, Nakota, Children’s Literature)

Weekly Roundup

  • The Hacienda, Isabel Cañas (2022), 9/10: This recent release follows a young mestizo woman who marries the lord of a Mexican plantation in the aftermath of a civil war, only to find herself fighting for her life in a house that seems intent on killing her. The book has serious (and intentional) Rebecca vibes, but also brings in the conflicts between urban and rural, and Indigenous and settler populations and belief systems that have featured strongly in Mexican history. This is a Gothic novel in all the best ways, with enough paranormal elements to make it a perfect read for ‘spooky season.’ (Mexican History, Gothic Novel, Haunted House)
  • The Night Gardener, Jonathan Auxier (2014), 7.5/10: This is a creepy middle grade novel perfect for spooky season! When two Irish children separated from their parents find work at a grand but run down English house, they discover the house has a secret — but is it a blessing or a curse? (Middle Grade, Historical Fiction, Fantasy, Victorian Era, Paranormal)
  • Other Birds, Sarah Addison Allen (2022), 7.5/10: If you like Allen’s heartfelt brand of lightly magical storytelling set in charming Southern towns, you’ll find much to enjoy in this story of a high school graduate who moves into her late mother’s condo on the South Carolina coast and befriends the other residents in the complex. Unfortunately, while I did end up liking it by the end, I didn’t love it. It took me a long time to settle into the story and even longer to care. But, the pieces came together in the end and I definitely ended up enjoying it. (Small Towns, New Adult, Ghosts)
  • The Rivals of Casper Road, Roan Parrish (2022 – NEW RELEASE September 27), 7.5/10: This is a delightful addition to the Garnet Run series (this is book 4; there’s no need to read them in order, though all of the characters from those books return here). Whereas some of the earlier books in the series dealt with some pretty important issues, this felt more like a ‘typical’ romance novel where the relationship at the heart is pretty much the only important plot. I struggled a wee bit with the initial premise, but once the narrative moved beyond overly-competitive neighborhood decorating and prank wars, and settled into Bram and Zachary’s relationship, I quite enjoyed it. (LGBTQ2S+, Romance, Small Towns, Halloween)
  • You’re a Mean One, Matthew Prince, Timothy Janovsky (2022 – NEW RELEASE October 4), 7/10: This fish-out-of-water, opposites-attract queer romance didn’t quite work for me, but more because of who I am as a reader than because of a flaw in the story. Matthew Prince is a spoiled son of fabulously rich parents, who is shipped off to his grandparents’ small town for a month in the wake of one scandal too many. There he meets Hector, a scholarship student at the local college, who is good-hearted (and good-looking), but has little patience for Matthew’s lifestyle and attitude. I have to say, I struggled a lot with Matthew’s character for most of the book; he’s enough to make even a die-hard moderate want to ‘eat the rich’. But of course, the length of his journey only makes his redemption all the sweeter. I’d particularly recommend this to those who enjoyed Tessa Bailey’s It Happened One Summer. (LGBTQ2S+, Romance, Small Towns, Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous, Coming of Age, Fish out of Water, Opposites Attract, Eat the Rich)

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