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Badenheim 1939
Aharon Appelfeld, Dalya Bilu
Queen of the Conqueror: The Life of Matilda, Wife of William I
Tracy Borman
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Sam Barone

The Diviners

The Diviners - Libba Bray More like 0.5 stars, but I guess I'll round up for the originality of Bray's overall idea. Her execution though? Woof. I see a lot of reviews, even of the 3-stars-or-less variety, commending Libba Bray's research. Did we read the same book? I guess if you only have a passing knowledge of the 1920's (something something speakeasies, jazz), a general idea of flapper culture (even though they would never have called themselves flappers!), and you seem to recall hearing that something called the Harlem Renaissance once happened (in, I guess, Harlem? It involved black people, right?) you might feel like you got a healthy dose of new historical information out of this book, but for me it read like every other barely-informed book about the 1920s ever. Besides all the flapper stereotypes, Bray's version of Harlem is at best half-baked, and at worst, insultingly simplistic. She seems to have spent more energy making sure her white characters were wearing historically accurate hats than she did on getting anything right about the Harlem Renaissance. Her most well-realized black characters are still cardboard cutouts; the rest are just colorful scenery. At her best in this book Libba Bray seems to have a tin ear for dialogue, which makes the Harlem chapters even more cringeworthy when she attempts African American Vernacular English. And I can't even think about her allusions to the Harlem Renaissance without getting upset. Would it have killed her to make a freaking timeline? She puts artists and writers who likely never even met in the same places at the same time, and loses any historical credibility in the process. The least believable part of this book is not the demon serial killer, nor the guy who is part robot, nor the crazy occult museum. It's that Libba Bray seems to expect us to believe that what we read (or, like me, slogged through) is anything more than a second draft. I understand that the she is targeting a YA audience, but another famous juvenile and YA author (M.T. Anderson) says that you should never insult kids' intelligence but not writing the absolute best book that you can. Young people are completely capable of keeping up with you if you challenge them! This, unfortunately, was my first Libba Bray book. It will likely be my last.