I’m Just Not Smart Enough for Tolkien – A July Reading Wrap-up

My reading lists are typically based off of one thing: my mood. This month, graphic novels seemed to dominate, probably motivated by the fact that I went to see Wonder Woman twice in the theater (Yes, it’s that good!).

Ranked from lowest rated to highest, here’s my reading wrap-up for July:

The Legend of Wonder Woman Vol. 1: OriginsThe Legend of Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Origins by Renae De Liz
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

If I rated this volume on artwork alone, it would easily be 5 stars. Some of the panels are truly stunning and rich in detail. But, when Diana leaves the island of Themyscira and encounters Etta in the U.S., it loses a ton of momentum and charm.

Shadow and Bone (Shadow and Bone, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t typically read YA [insert hoity-toity reason here] , but there are always a few exceptions. Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows is one of them. It’s cinematic, rich in theme and includes a cast of characters who should just be optioned for a CW Network show already. So, what happened with Shadow and Bone? This is supposed to be something of a prequel, taking place years before the events in Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom. It’s flat, it’s dull and flirts dangerously with YA tropes (like superfluous girl-on-girl hate) that make the genre unpalatable to me. It’s a middling precursor to the Six of Crows duology – hard pass.

Smith of Wootton MajorSmith of Wootton Major by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I’m going to admit right off the bat that maaaaybe this shouldn’t have been my very first book to read by Tolkien. Being sort-of a cynic about fantasy, I probably had no business picking this up. But it’s such a charming, tiny little book I couldn’t resist! Written a decade or so after Lord of the Rings, this book seems to be an allegorical-ish fable about fairies. I’m not actually sure, but this edition has a helpful forward, afterward and essay to help explain what Tolkien might have meant when he wrote about a boy who accidentally eats a fairy-star which ends up granting him access to the fairy-woods. It feels disjointed and impersonal, lacking magic or mystery that I would expect from a tale about fairies. The most fascinating part about Smith of Wootton Major isn’t even the story. It’s the inclusion of Tolkien’s unfinished draft introduction for a friend’s book. In it, he explains how he doesn’t even like introductions:

The author meant to speak direct to his reader, and did not want any one else to interfere, telling the author to notice this or that, or to understand that or this, before the tale has even begun. You should be free to notice and like (or dislike) this and that for yourselves at first, without help or (very probably) hindrance. So do not pay any attention to me.

K. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Alex + Ada, Vol. 1Alex + Ada, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This first volume gets a solid meh out of me. It’s another “what-if” scenario about human relationships with artificial intelligence. Maybe it’s because I’ve been spoiled with other stories exploring the same concepts (e.g. Westworld)  that I didn’t find this as compelling.

Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 2Black Panther: A Nation Under Our Feet, Book 2 by Ta-Nehisi Coates
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

“A Nation Under Our Feet” isn’t an easy story-line for a number of reasons. Mainly it doesn’t feel super accessible for fans new to Black Panther’s world and while there’s more action here than in Book 1, readers should still be prepared to read. It’s pretty text-heavy. Book 1 had to bear the burden of laying a shit-ton of exposition for Book 2 to make sense (You can read my upcoming review of Book 1 soon). But, there’s still so much anticipation building that it leaves me feeling worried about what Book 3 can accomplish.

Sirena SelenaSirena Selena by Mayra Santos-Febres
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read this book as part of Pride Month in June. You can read my full review of this book here. Spoiler alert: I liked it!

Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No NormalMs. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Run out and get this for your nieces and nephews, like, right now. Fantastically illustrated and with a protagonist that you’re rooting for from the get-go, this comic is just plain fun.

Saga, Vol. 4 (Saga, #4)Saga, Vol. 4 by Brian K. Vaughan
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I feel like this series can do no wrong. It’s endearingly weird and compelling. This volume seems to lack the urgency that was established earlier in the storyline, but it’s no less imaginative or entertaining.

Lincoln in the BardoLincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book that really challenged the way I read and interpret fiction. Written in verse, this book made me slow down, soak up each sentence and take my time. There is a lot to savor in Lincoln in the Bardo – passages that were funny, disturbing, deeply poignant; all begging to be re-read again and again. Take this passage, for example, when a spirit is contemplating what his death meant to those left behind:

What I mean to say is, we had been considerableHad been loved. Not lonely, not lost, not freakish, but wise, each in his or her own way. Our departures caused pain. Those who had loved us sat upon their beds, heads in hand; lowered their faces to tabletops, making animal noises. We had been loved, I say, and remembering us, even many years later, people would smile, briefly gladdened at the memory.

That’s just one of many passages I marked and dog-eared to return to and contemplate. Easily my favorite read of the month!

Aaaaand, that’s it for July! I’m currently in the throes of a wicked reading slump brought on by an annoying essay collection. How’s your summer reading going? Tell me more below or hit me up on Instagram.

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