Reviews of the Week with Michelle Obama, The Parkland Student Journalists, and George R. R. Martin

Every weekday we feature a different review on Booklist Online. These reviews are notable for different reasons—they may be starred, or in high demand, or especially relevant to the current issue’s spotlight. We’ve collected the reviews from November 19–November 21 below.

 

Monday, November 19

 Becoming, by Michelle Obama, Read by Michelle Obama

Who but Obama herself could narrate the story of her life? With impeccable pacing, the former First Lady’s warm reading immediately pulls listeners close for what feels like an intimate chat with a friend. Her cozy and eloquent prose employs a cadence that translates well to the audio format, and her familiar voice adds another dimension to her very personal story—one that is deeper, more revealing, and sublimely genuine. Family stories evoke warm tones, even when there’s a note of prickliness underneath, as when relating the tedium of early piano lessons with her strict aunt, or the pique of having her husband take a writing retreat to Bali while still a newlywed. Listeners will take notice when, in the midst of describing their workaday lives as young professionals, her tone turns to firm reassurance that life goes on after fertility challenges.

 

Tuesday, November 20 

We Say #NeverAgain: Reporting by the Parkland Student Journalists, Edited by Melissa Falkowski and Eric Garner

From the aftermath of the February 14, 2018, school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, comes this collection that stands alone as a primary source document. A few pieces from the journalism and broadcasting faculty accompany dozens of short essays and photographs by student journalists of the Eagle Eye, the high-school newspaper and student broadcasters from WMSD-TV, the school TV station. Frank and sincere, if occasionally repetitive, the student essays capture the raw aftermath of a tragedy from the closest vantage point one can find. They examine the situation from myriad angles; a recent British transplant comes at it as a so-called outsider, while those closest to the heart of the #NeverAgain movement on Twitter examine their newfound celebrity and respond to public critiques. At the same time, it’s a document about the inner workings of a high-school newspaper suddenly thrust into a spotlight far beyond what staff writers could ever have imagined.

 

Wednesday, November 21

Fire and Blood, by George R. R. Martin

Martin has done it again. Delving even deeper into the already deeply explored world of the Song of Fire and Ice series (which began with A Game of Thrones​, 1996), he has composed a broad, sweeping exploration of the Targaryens, one of the most prominent families of the Seven Kingdoms. Fire and Blood is a history of the only dragonriders to escape The Doom of Valyria, beginning with King Aegon I and extending to the coming-of-age of Aegon III, some 130 years later. Presented as the transcription of an archmaester’s writings, this first volume of the History of House Targaryen of Westeros reads a lot like Thomas B. Costain’s Plantagenet histories. Rather than a dry recitation of dates and names, the dragonriders’ history is brought to life with carefully chosen facts alongside brief descriptions of conflicting sources and stories where those facts are in dispute. This leads to a beautiful weaving of the wars, marriages, deaths, dragons, and politics that shape the world Martin has created, leaving the reader feeling like this is a true history rather than a piece of fantasy.

 

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About the Author:

Michael Ruzicka, Office Manager, was raised in suburban Los Angeles, received a BA in Creative Writing/Poetry at UC Santa Cruz, then moved to Birmingham, AL, where he spent five years owning an independent bookstore and earned an MLIS. He has brought his librarian skills to Vanderbilt’s Television News Archive, Battle Ground Academy, The Museum of Contemporary Art-Chicago, and the Chicago School of Professional Psychology. Michael is very excited to be a part of Booklist and call Chicago his home.

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