Book Review: The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

The Scorpio Races cover

The Scorpio Races
By Maggies Stiefvater
GoodreadsAmazon | Audible
Series: no
Release date: October 18th, 2011
Rating: OMG, so good
Times read: 3
Recommended by: A student in my book club

Have I mentioned yet that I am a fan of Maggie Stiefvater’s writing? (Spoiler: yes, here, here, here, and here) “Cause I really do. The more of her writing I read the more that I love it. 

The Scorpio Races is an examination of the water horse myth.  Are you aware of water horses?  I may have vaguely heard about them at some point but I had never given them much thought before now.  They are creepy as hell.  Really. You could not pay me enough to get near one.  Horses are big and pretty scary on their own so I found that I needed very little prompting to find the capaill uisce terrifying.

Puck Connolly is (so far) my favorite of Stiefvater’s heroines.  She has spirit nd a sense of humor. In my head this takes place on an island off the coast of Ireland in, like, the 1920’s.  Evidence: general atmosphere, English speaking but not American, I associate horse racing with Ireland, a reporter references the woman’s suffrage movement, the cars are super unreliable, and also just ‘cause. Am I basing this head cannon on flimsy evidence or am I making sense?

Sean Kendrick has made the water horses (one in particular) and the stables his family. I love how self-contained he is. You know how most people have to seek out others in order to be themselves.  Sean is complete unto himself and I love that about him.  There is an inner stillness and certainty to his character that makes him very engaging even when he isn’t doing much.

All the supporting characters are so well realized.  All of them feel like real people.  It seems as if there should be a coffee table book with a photos essay about the people of Thisby including each of these characters. In particular, I found Pucks younger brother Finn to be charming.   I loved that while we are following Puck and Sean and there are the center of the book they are not the center of the supporting characters existence.

The island of Thisby should also be mentioned.  There was such a sense of place in this novel. I swear I could see the cliffs and smell the sea.  I think that the island concept was brilliant in itself.  If the islanders weren’t all trapped in some sense much of the tension of the book would have been lost.  Many of the characters see the island as a cage.  Something to escape. Both Puck and Sean see it differently.  To them the island is not just home it is an inner calling.  Almost as if the island itself is part of their consciousness.  A part of their thinking, A part of their definition of self. 

So much of this book was about expectations.  What you expect of others, what others expect from you, and most importantly what you expect from yourself.  And all of these expectations (know or hidden) are related to Scorpio Race.  It is interesting that the Scorpio Races cause such turmoil on the island and yet I never once questioned it’s existence.  Normally I would not be able to stop myself from thinking that they should stop capturing the scary monster horses and having a race where people die.

I did not find this to be a slow story but I can understand it others do.  When I think back on it very little actually happens.  There is a huge amount of character development and I had all the feels but if I was to break down the plot it would look pretty flat.  I enjoy that type of writing.  If it bugs you then Maggie Stiefvater might not be the writer for you. If you are looking for atmosphere and characters that you feel as if you know then you will find this book a treat.

From Goodreads:
It happens at the start of every November: the Scorpio Races. Riders attempt to keep hold of their water horses long enough to make it to the finish line. Some riders live. Others die.

At age nineteen, Sean Kendrick is the returning champion. He is a young man of few words, and if he has any fears, he keeps them buried deep, where no one else can see them.

Puck Connolly is different. She never meant to ride in the Scorpio Races. But fate hasn’t given her much of a chance. So she enters the competition — the first girl ever to do so. She is in no way prepared for what is going to happen. 

Mini Reviews: Adult Graphic Novels and Memoirs

Mini Reviews: Adult Graphic Novels and Memoirs

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomic
by Alison Bechdel

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: June 8th 2006)
Rating: sharp
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Gabrielle

 Fun Home is Alison Bechdel graphic memoir of growing up in an extraordinary house and funeral home. I am still a bit undecided on this one. It is the story of a woman searching for herself by trying to get to know her father after he is gone. I liked the storytelling and the art, but I had a hard time liking the characters. Specifically, the father. He is unpleasantly sharp and mean. I know that he is hiding a HUGE part of himself from the world and living a lie, but it was hard to see him taking that out on his children. BTW: there is a musical based on this book, and I HIGHLY recommend it.

Fun Home: A Family Tragicomicby Alison Bechdel

Saga: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan,  Fiona Staples

Saga: Book One
by Brian K. VaughanFiona Staples

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: Saga: Book One
Published: November 25th 2014
Rating: I am very invested
Times read: 1
Recommended by: A bunch of blogs

Two aliens from warring planets fall in love and have a baby and OMG now we have to flee from pretty much everyone in the galaxy because they want to kill us. I AM OBSESSED. This obsession is demonstrated by the fact that I owned these books digitally but rebought them as two HUGE physical books which I had to somehow fit into my suitcase on the way back to China. Alana and Marco are amazing, complex, and satisfying characters to cheer on. There is an emotional depth, familiarity, and truth to the story that pulls you in even as the outlandish visuals show you distant planets and beings.


Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Storyby Debbie Tung 

Quiet Girl in a Noisy World: An Introvert's Story
by Debbie Tung 

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: November 7th 2017
Rating: Sigh of relating
Times read: 1
Recommended by: I saw some of her stuff on Pinterest

I have never felt so seen. Debbie Tung is my soul sister. The book follows her through her last year of university and her first few years as "an adult" as she tries to figure out why she never quite feels as if she can fit in. The art perfectly depicts the mood of the comic while at the same time enhances the story. My favorite panels include the engagement, the perfect date night, and her realization of what introversion means and how her inner journey is going to continue. I will be returning to this book again and again. 

Introvert Doodles: An Illustrated Look at Introvert Life in an Extrovert World by Maureen Marzi Wilson

Introvert Doodles: An Illustrated Look at Introvert Life in an Extrovert World
by Maureen Marzi Wilson

Goodreads | Amazon
Series: no
Published: July 25th 2017
Rating: Meeeeeee
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Gifted

Listen, I am a sucker for books like this because if there is anything that I love it is meta-perspectives. This was a gift from a former student, so I have a real soft spot for it. It is much more episodic than Quiet Girl in a Noisy World and not nearly as nuanced but it is funny and relatable and if you are an introvert or close to an introvert well worth the read. My favorite parts were the infographics that the author created to explain the needs and moods of the introverted such as the natural habitats of introverts, a fashion guide, and a tour of any reader's bookshelf. It me.



Book Review: Mariam Sharma Hits the Road by Sheba Karim

I heart this cover!

I heart this cover!

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road
by Sheba Karim
Goodreads | Amazon | Audible
Series: no
Published: June 5th 2018 
Rating: er… yes?
Times read: 1
Recommended by: Twitter and the Hey YA Podcast

Mariam Sharma Hits the Road is the second book that I have read by Sheba Karim the other book being This Thing We Call a Heart. As with the other book, I find myself a bit torn. I didn't love it the way that I thought I would. I had it preordered for weeks if that tells you about my anticipation.

On the one hand, I appreciate that she writes about secular Muslim characters. I don't think that I have read any other author write characters like these. This is the very rare post-first-year of college YA which we don't see enough of. It is also a road trip book with teens who are not lily white which is basically like finding a unicorn. On the other hand, I didn't like most the main characters.

I feel the same about the writing. There is a roughness about it that I find unpleasant. I would be reading along, "Oh, hey, this book is funny and kind of cute." and WHAM there would be some over the top crude joke often involving bodily functions or something unnecessarily sexually explicit. Is it me? Am I just prissy? Do I just have preconceived notions about how these teens should behave? Is my sense of humor just that different? Pooping, speculations about the feel of beards on labia (not my phrasing), nose picking and watching gay porn on the phone at an Islamic community function, are examples of the sophomoric humor that just does nothing for me. It seems forced.

This is #ownvoices representation of secular desi Muslim teens. I don't know how positive the representation will seem especially for Muslims or other desi readers who are more traditional, religious, or less culturally conflicted. There is drinking; there is sex, there is pork, there is SO MUCH LYING TO PARENTS. It made me sympathize with their parents. This was especially uncomfortable since Ghaz's parents were terrible and I in no way wanted to be on their side. Stop making me identify with the adults, Sheba!

If any of this ended in an explosion, I hoped it would be one that made us burn brighter, stronger than ever before.

I appreciated that all three main characters had such a different relationship with their parents. Mariam's almost too free and open friendship with her mother, Ghaz being unable to be the daughter her parents want and the complications her rejecting that personality has, and Umar who has a warm relationship with his parents that he fears will evaporate or explode when and if he finally becomes open about who he is.

There are some fantastic things about this book. The graceful handling of the difference between going on a road trip to the south as a white person and as a brown Muslim person and the difficulties of being at the intersection of several identities especially.

The best part of the book was the friendship between Mariam, Umar, and Ghaz. The love and support that they show one another even when they do not agree with one another's choices or always get along is admirable. We all need friends like that in our lives.

YMMV but I am ultimately glad that I read this in spite of my complaints, and I will most likely pick up Sheba Karim's next book.

From Goodreads:

The summer after her freshman year in college, Mariam is looking forward to working and hanging out with her best friends: irrepressible and beautiful Ghazala and religious but closeted Umar. But when a scandalous photo of Ghaz appears on a billboard in Times Square, Mariam and Umar come up with a plan to rescue her from her furious parents. And what better escape than New Orleans?

The friends pile into Umar's car and start driving south, making all kinds of pit stops along the way--from a college drag party to a Muslim convention, from alarming encounters at roadside diners to honky-tonks and barbeque joints. 

Along with the adventures, the fun banter, and the gas station junk food, the friends have some hard questions to answer on the road. With her uncle's address in her pocket, Mariam hopes to learn the truth about her father (and to make sure she didn't inherit his talent for disappearing). But as each mile of the road trip brings them closer to their own truths, they know they can rely on each other, and laughter, to get them through.