Miranda Suri's post about the same reminds me that I too need to weigh in on some books I've read. With Spring break and travel, I've done a surprising amount of reading lately.
Fresh for '01...You Suckas: A Boondocks Collection by Aaron McGruder.
What's it about: Black family and friends live in white suburb and try to reconcile urban culture with suburban culture. Political commentary and satire.
Boondocks, at alternate moments, makes me feel savvy, sarcastic, heartbroken, and delighted. This is all overlaid with McGruder's humor, which has its roots in the work of Berke Breathed and Gary Trudeau. Not only do I appreciate the racial interplay and privilege commentary, but I also identify heavily as Huey, the radical on a mission to change the world and true geek. The social commentary is biting, the thoughtfulness that goes into the cartoon is provocative, and I regret that we no longer get the strip. I just don't find the television show quite as good with the reduced cast.
Kat, Incorrigible by Stephanie Burgess.
What it's about: Told from the light and lively perspective of Kat, three sisters learn about their mother's magical legacy while dealing with the demands of their stepmother. Humorous. Young adult or perhaps even middle grade.
I read the British version, which sports the title A Most Improper Magick. This is one of the freshest books I've read in a long time. It is a great mix of adventure, romance, and humor. The sisters in the book represent a real family. They squabble, they love, and they complement each other. This would be a wonderful book to share with the children in your life.
The New Moon's Arms by Nalo Hopkinson.
What it's about: Calamity goes through menopause, which is apparently a mystical time as well as a time of physical change. She takes in a toddler who has mysterious origins.
I'm still trying to coin a phrase for what Hopkinson does as a writer. I'm circling around mystic feminism. The protagonist in this novel is problematic, but in a good way. Calamity is going through some changes and the world around her throws her all sorts of challenges along the way. There's just the right blend of the real and the mystical. If you have a taste for Gabriel Garcia Marquez, you could easily develop a taste for Nalo Hopkinson.
The Secret of Lost Things by Sheridan Hay.
What this book is about: Innocent young girl on an odyssey of self-discovery in a New York bookshop.
I loved this book. I can't begin to describe how Hay pulls off a book about an ingenue that seems both innocent and off color, but she does. Rosemary, the main character, has recently lost her mother. A family friend buys her a ticket to New York, where she begins working at a book store full of eccentric Bohemians. A story of discovery, failed love and illusion takes place against the backdrop of discovering a lost Melville novel. The character is transformed by the end of the book, and so am I.
Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal.
What this book is about: A Jane Austen-like romance of manners coupled with magic and commentary on the creation of art.
This is a quiet family story with magic. Reviewers hail it as what Jane Austen would do if she wrote fantasy, and they're right. Kowal has very skillfully captured much of Austen's finesse in the book. This review captures most of what I would say on the subject. The other piece of the book that fascinates me is that this is obviously a book written by someone who makes things (Robinette Kowal is a puppeteer). As a master costumer, I recognize and appreciate the philosophy that runs through the aesthetic of the book. Along with all the other elements, it really makes the book appeal to me.
The Skewed Throne by Joshua Palmatier.
What this book is about: Rogue-based fantasy with strong female protagonist that examines both government and moral character.
I found the first part of this book very hard to put down. There's a great lead character, lots of relationship tension, and good character growth. I loved the book right up until about the point when Varis leaves the slums. The rest of the book is solid fantasy stuff, but that edgy engagement I found with the first part of the book is lacking. However, I recommend the book if you are a reader of epic fantasy as one you should read.