Hello, everyone! Since I’ve been so painfully behind on reviewing books this month, I thought I would post a big wrap-up on everything I read. In January, I read twelve books, one play, and one comic collection, which is particularly amazing since I spent the first half of the month in a bit of a reading slump (I finished Avatar and it was so good I felt like no book could fill the hole it left behind) and the second half starting school. I probably won’t be able to get as much reading done the next few months, so I’m just enjoying this while it lasts.
1) Everlost–Neal Shusterman
Brief Summary: Two teenagers die in a car crash and discover a secret world of children and teenagers who died, but whose souls stayed behind.
My Thoughts: This was one of my favorite books in high school, so I was really looking forward to rereading it. Unfortunately, I don’t love it quite as much as I used to. The characters felt too trope-y and two-dimensional for my liking, the humor was sometimes overly childish, and there were times where the book just dragged on. Still, Shusterman’s concepts and worldbuilding are excellent; I loved everything about the system he developed in Everlost, and the way he just kept unfolding new surprises. I also really enjoyed the voice of the main character, Ally, and was interested in a couple of secondary characters. I’m looking forward to rereading the rest of this trilogy and the Unwind Dystology whenever I can get to it.
2) Afterworlds–Scott Westerfeld
Brief Summary: An eighteen-year-old moves to New York to work on her soon-to-be-published book, a paranormal romance about a teenage girl who gains the ability to speak to ghosts.
My Thoughts: Darcy’s story was unique, hilariously meta, and gave me an insight on the publishing world. I liked how flawed Darcy was, and the way her relationship with her girlfriend Imogen developed. However, I felt like Darcy’s many problems were resolved too quickly, and it bothered me that she didn’t face consequences for a lot of her mistakes. Darcy’s novel, which is told in alternating chapters with Darcy’s own adventures, has moments of good writing, but is thoroughly generic, based on insta-love, and very difficult to get through. That may have been the point, but it didn’t make the chapters any more enjoyable to read. However, I really liked the connections between the novel and the events in Darcy’s life.
Rating: 2.5/5 for Lizzie’s story, 4.25/5 for Darcy’s. I’m adding a little bit extra because Darcy’s story felt so fresh and new. 4/5
Full Review Here
3) Heir of Fire–Sarah J Maas
Brief Summary: So much happens I’m not sure I can describe it one sentence. Lots of character development, lots of preparing for war, lots of politics, lots of fighting, lots of friendship, lots of feelings.
My Thoughts: The best Throne of Glass book so far! Celaena’s character arc is phenomenal, the build-up of her friendship with Rowan destroyed me on the inside, the world is developed, the characters grow, the writing is amazing, and the book ends on a note that makes me FEEL ALL THE THINGS for multiple reasons. Celaena Sardothien is such an amazing character and I cried about her multiple times while reading this. This book was mostly set-up, but it was set-up done in the best way possible. Currently waiting with bated breath for Queen of Shadows. Right now, the only thing stopping me from counting this book with my favorites is that I feel super uncomfortable with the way characters of color are treated in the narrative.
Full Review Coming Soon
4) My True Love Gave to Me: Twelve Holiday Stories
Brief Summary: Twelve short romantic stories, generally focusing on the holidays.
My Thoughts: This was pretty okay? I didn’t read all of it–I read Laini Taylor’s first, then read from the beginning up until Gayle Forman’s, then lost interest because I didn’t know any of the remaining three authors. (This is a bad habit I have when reading anthologies). My favorites were by Stephanie Perkins (which surprised me since I feel very ambivalent about her full-length books) and Laini Taylor (which didn’t surprise me one bit). The former had very strong dialogue and believable characters and the usual Stephanie Perkins humor, while the latter had some of the most beautiful writing and imagery I’ve ever seen. The rest were mostly pretty good–some were cute, but they all seemed to run together.
5) Strange and Ever After–Susan Dennard
Brief Summary: Eleanor and the Spirit Hunters continue to search for Marcus, while Eleanor’s relationships with Daniel and Oliver develop and she works to learn to control her power.
My Thoughts: This book had all the hallmarks of the rest of the series–good pacing, strong plot, multifaceted romantic and platonic relationships, a flawed and complex heroine, and a theme of difficult choices running through. I had a problem with the way one of the characters in the series was handled–I discuss this in more detail in my review, which should be up next week. However, I thought this was a very fitting (see what I did there?) ending to a very good trilogy.
Full Review Coming Soon
6) Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Lost Adventures
Brief Summary: A collection of short bonus comics taking place during the Nickolodeon series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
My Thoughts: The comics didn’t add anything new to the story, and they weren’t particularly amazing examples of storytelling, but they were fun, mostly in-character, and sometimes filled in the gaps in the TV show. My personal favorite stories were “Relics” and “Going Home Again”. I probably won’t be reading the Avatar continuation comics since I’ve heard extremely mixed reviews, but I had a lot of fun with this one and I’m glad I read it. It was just what I needed to help me deal with show withdrawals.
7) The Time of Your Life–William Saroyan
Brief Summary: A whole lot of people walk into a bar.
My Thoughts: I was in a play reading of this one with a local theater company, which was a lot of fun. The characters were likeable enough, but none of them really captured my interest, and the plot felt a little shapeless. I do love the message of the play (“In the time of your life, live—so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the misery and sorrow of the world, but shall smile to the infinite delight and mystery of it.”) and the humor and the energy and the optimism maintained even through the sadder moments.
8) Winterspell–Claire Legrand
Brief Summary: Faerie steampunk retelling of the Nutcracker where everyone is more than a little frakked up.
My Thoughts: This is definitely not for everyone. I loved the unique concept, the world, the writing, the flawed characters, the interesting and sympathetic but ultimately terrible female villain, and the main character’s development. I did not love the rushed ending, the male love interest and how quickly he was forgiven for a certain thing he did, and the use of the Depraved Bisexual trope. This book was also a lot more sexual than I expected; the sexual elements were handled with varying degrees of success and squickiness.
9) Steelheart–Brandon Sanderson
Brief Summary: Good news: people start getting superpowers. Bad news: these people (Epics) are evil and want to rule over everyone else. David joins a group called the Reckoners to fight against them, and uses his gun, his extensive knowledge of Epic powers and weaknesses, and his spectacularly bad analogies to avenge his father’s death.
My Thoughts: Even though I never connected to the story or any of the characters, I have a lot of appreciation for Brandon Sanderson’s ability to craft a compelling story, develop a detailed world, and keep me on the edge of my seat all of the way through. This book had some of the best storytelling and action I have ever seen, and I can’t wait to read the rest of the series.
Full Review Coming Soon
10) Scarlet–Marissa Meyer
Brief Summary: Sci-fi Little Red Riding Hood Retelling intertwined with Cinder’s continuing story.
My Thoughts: It took me waaaay too long to read this, but once I finally did, I loved it! Marissa Meyer’s writing is so effortless and easy to slip into, and I love how seamlessly she combines the original fairy tales with her own vision of the characters, and Cinder’s story with Scarlet’s. Scarlet and Wolf were both great additions to the story; I loved Scarlet’s temper and fierce loyalty, and Wolf pretty much broke my heart. I liked Kai from the beginning, but this is the book where I started to love him. Cinder’s arc learning about her past and reconciling herself with her new role as [spoiler] is wonderful, and her friendship with Thorne is adorable. One detail I love is that in the first book, Cinder’s actions were frequently motivated by Peony, and here Scarlet’s goal is to find her grandmother. Ladies being motivated by helping other ladies is A+. This was a great book, and I read Cress almost immediately after finishing it.
11) Angelfall–Susan Ee
Brief Summary: Angel and teenage girl kick ass together in a post-apocalyptic world.
My Thoughts: Short, easy-to-read book that blends paranormal with dystopia in the best way possible. I love that Penryn is ruthless and a little bit terrifying and decided to torture someone within the first fifty pages of the book, and I love that we get an explanation for why she is that way, that she had to fight and fear for her safety long before the angels arrived. I love the dynamic between her and Raffe, the usual snarky-banter-going-from-hating-each-other-to-being-a-team-and-maybe-even-a-little-kissing thing. I think I’m going to need some more exploration of the angels and their motivations before I completely fall in love with the series, but I assume that’s what the next book is for. I also wish Penryn’s sister Paige felt more like an actual character and less like every saintly-disabled-child stereotype ever. (I did like the twist at the end, but it felt like it was more about Penryn than Paige and that bothered me). Still, this was a good start, and I will read the next book when I can.
12) Snow Like Ashes–Sara Raasch
Brief Summary: A confident, self-aware lady soldier tries to figure out her role in taking back her currently-conquered kingdom and does some awesome fighting.
My Thoughts: This book was an extremely pleasant surprise! I’m still not sure whether I liked the worldbuilding set-up or thought it was somewhat gimmicky, but I have to admit Sara Raasch developed the setting a lot better than I thought she would. The real highlight of the story for me was the protagonist Meira, who is brave and devoted to the fight and loves her country and friends wholeheartedly and is willing to admit to her flaws. She also made me laugh a lot, which I didn’t expect (my personal favorite moment was her excitement over hitting things and observing shirtless men). She was a delight to read about, and her arc progressed in a great and natural way. I loved the reveal at the end (though I didn’t love another thing that happened, and I can’t go into that for spoilery reasons). There were a few weak points in the story, but it was a great, original fantasy with an understated romance, a complex but ultimately loving mentor relationship, and an excellent heroine.
13) Cress–Marissa Meyer
Brief Summary: Rapunzel…in space!!! Also, lots of feelings.
My Thoughts: I will fangirl in more detail if/when I do a full-length review of this book but I LOVE THE LUNAR CHRONICLES SO MUCH YOU GUYS. The books are fun and easy to read and all the main ladies have different backgrounds and strengths and worldviews and they’re all awesome in their own ways and the story effortlessly balances romance and action and character development. One thing I enjoyed here was that there was a bit more of a group dynamic on the Rampion, though understandably we didn’t get to enjoy too many group scenes before the Bad Stuff happened. Cress was strong in her own way despite being physically small and naive and initially viewing herself as a damsel in distress, which I really appreciated. Her dynamic with Thorne was every bit as adorable as I had been led to expect. Thorne has so much potential for growth and I can’t wait to see it in the next book. However, Cinder continues to be my favorite–she had some amazing moments and character development here. Cress is my favorite Lunar Chronicles book so far, and I can’t wait for Winter–we see a glimpse of the character Winter near the end, and she seems fascinating.
14) The Darkest Part of the Forest–Holly Black
Brief Summary: Several very unusual teens must protect their very unusual town from the local murderous faeries.
My Thoughts: WOW. I’ve always been a fan of Holly Black’s work, but this book is just…on another level. The atmosphere is wonderfully creepy and mysterious, there are so many beautiful sentences that I had to pause and reread a few times before moving on, and the plot and pacing of the story are exactly what they need to be. Hazel, Ben, and Jack were very well developed (especially considering that this was a standalone) and I teared up over each one of them a few times. In particular, I loved the unfolding reveals of secret throughout the book; the story opens with a lot of questions and slowly gives us satisfying answers. I was also very excited to read a book with a strong emphasis on sibling bonds, since those are a weakness of mine. The juxtaposition of the magical world and the real world is perfect. Honestly, this is the kind of book where I had to sit very still for a few minutes after finishing it and just…take it all in because it was so. amazingly. good.
Favorite Book: Cress + The Darkest Part of the Forest
Least Favorite Book: My True Love Gave to Me
When Polina told me about this I loved the idea and decided to jump on board with her! Especially since this month I read some books I didn’t get to review simply because of school starting. I do have to say star ratings will be difficult with me. I’m such an easy person. YOU GET FIVE STARS! AND YOU GET FIVE STARS!! AND YOU?? YOU GET FIVE STARS!!! But I will do my absolute best to behave. I promise. As such here are my books from January, I read 6 novels, 1 spoof book, and 3 manga.
1-3) Ouran High School Host Club 6-8–Bisco Hatori
Brief Summary: The continuing saga of Ouran High School Host Club. Which includes a girl who is dressing as a boy to help repay her debt, and so much hilarity it’s hard to even explain.
My Thoughts: All right, so this is like my guilty pleasure. My sister got me hooked on the anime and then told me I had to read the manga because apparently there’s so much more in it. Well now that I’ve read eight volumes I have to agree with her. Trust me, if you haven’t heard of this one, just pull up Netflix and go watch it. You will not regret these choices. I’ve been reading these slowly because I just simply don’t want it to be over. I love all of the characters so much.
4) Obsidian–Jennifer L. Armentrout
Brief Summary: First book in a series that takes the classic paranormal romance with an alien instead of everything else under the sun.
My Thoughts: I needed a nice relaxing sappy romance novel, and that’s exactly what I got from this book. Daemon and Katy’s bantering was probably my favorite thing of the entire book. I loved their relationship and how it worked they had great chemistry and Armentrout did a really great job balancing out the way the two of them were able to reach common ground. Add to all of this that the story had a pretty great plotline that flowed nicely. I really enjoyed it and the series, even if I am well aware it isn’t much more than teen Harlequin romance novels.
5) Onyx–Jennifer L. Armentrout
Brief Summary: Picks up right where Obsidian left off. The stakes get bigger, and the romance gets better.
My Thoughts: All right, yes, I went right into the second one, I loved these lighthearted romance novels (even if I did text a friend of mine the cover to show her basically how wonderfully trashy they are). In this one, we pick up with new twists and turns around the DOD, and Daemon trying to convince Katy that he loves her. Yeah, that’s basically the plot, and it’s wonderful. The way that Armentrout writes their banter just has me so happy forever.
6) How To Tell If You Cat Is Plotting To Kill You–Matthew Inman
Brief Summary: Honestly I’m not even sure what this book was exactly.
My Thoughts: There were parts of this book that were actual perfection, I laughed so hard I was crying, and then there were pages that I flipped through bored. Parts of it felt like there was no point to it even being in the book. For sure get this one from the library and read it that way rather than going out and buying it.
7) Opal–Jennifer L. Armentrout
Brief Summary: Now that Katy is changed and someone is back, it’s time to get the full gang together and make a move against the DOD.
My Thoughts: Okay yes that was cryptic but I’m trying to do this without spoilers. Truthfully this was my favorite of the series so far. I loved the way Armentrout was able to touch on subjects with Katy and keep things light while rolling through the difficult subjects. I was really happy to see sibling bonds and that things that happened in the last book weren’t ignored. Oh my God this is hard to write without spoilers.
8) The Darkest Part of the Forest–Holly Black
Brief Summary: People who live in a world with the Fae their entire lives have to learn to not just fear the Fae but work with the Fae.
My Thoughts: UGH this book. I don’t even know what to say here. It was an absolute fantastic book. I adored every moment and every second of this book. I read most of it in one sitting and just wanted to keep going. This book was absolutely a new favorite that I’m just head over heel in love with and it’s so hard to summarize it in this little section.
Full Review Coming Soon
9) Fairest–Marissa Meyer
Brief Summary: The backstory of Queen Levana from The Lunar Chronicles
My Thoughts: Whew this book. I am more scared of Levana than I ever have been in my life. She’s truly scary and psychotic and everything a good villain should be. Every one of her motives could be explained away, and everyone was so wrong, and it was terrifying to see and watch. Meeting Channary was great as well, getting to see her sister was a wonderful thing, even if she wasn’t at all what I expected. But even still it was missing that typical Lunar Chronicles…spark. Something was missing from this book and I don’t know what.
Full Review Coming Soon
10) The Jewel–Amy Ewing
Brief Summary: In a fascinating world where young girls are brought as property for their wombs, to carry royal children for the women who can’t, we meet a rather boring girl.
My Thoughts: I WANTED to like this one. But it became very clear about half way through the book that I was reading not for the characters at all, but instead reading for the world that I absolutely loved. The world kept this so book actually interesting and got me to keep reading through a boring main character that, honestly, I forgot existed.
Full Review Coming Soon
Favorite Book: The Darkest Part of the Forest + Fairest
Least Favorite Book: The Jewel