July 2015 Reading Wrap Up–Part One

Polina

I read a lot of books this month, even for me, so I decided to spare you having to go through them all at once by splitting my wrap up into two posts. Expect Part Two to be coming your way sometime in the near future!

1) Gilded Ashes by Rosamund Hodge (novella)
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Brief Summary: A Cinderella retelling. With demons.
My Thoughts: Rosamund Hodge’s writing is beautiful and she has a gift for writing amazing banter and complicated sister relationships and creeping out–all things I love. She writes complex, sometimes ”’unlikeable”’ characters, and breathes such life into them that I can’t help but sympathize with them. Basically, HELLO NEW FAVORITE AUTHOR. I thought this novella’s resolution was a little anticlimactic, but I was still happy with it overall.
Rating: 4/5

2) What We Left Behind by Robin Talley (ARC)
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Brief Summary: Gretchen and Toni’s relationship is tested as they go to college and explore who they are without each other.
My Thoughts: I’m a huge fan of Robin Talley’s writing. Gretchen and Toni’s relationship is lovely and believable, and I like how Talley addresses that people who are in already-established loving and healthy relationships need to work on and reevaluate those relationships as they change, and that’s fine! I also liked that Toni (who in the beginning of the book does not ID as female or male) is in the process of figuring out gender identity–that’s something a lot of people go through, and something I’ve not seen explored in a book. I had a couple of issues that I don’t know how to express right now or even if they’re valid issues for me to express, and I’m saving those for the full review.
Rating: 4/5

3) Me and Earl and the Dying Girl by Jesse Andrews

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Brief Summary: The funniest cancer book you will ever read.
My Thoughts: The highlight of this book was definitely how fun and quick and irreverent it was. Not all the humor worked for me–I had four years of high school boy humor and that’s quite enough, thank you, plus that extended joke sequence about bisexual people was completely unnecessary–but I was laughing more often than not. And because Jesse Andrews took so much care to subvert emotional-journey-type tropes often found in cancer books, the moments where Things Got Real hit me harder than I expected. I didn’t cry, but I got a very empty feeling inside. I really wish the book had been more about Rachel, instead of having her suffering be the catalyst for someone else’s story. I didn’t love it, but it did exactly what it set out to do very well.  
Rating: 3.5/5

4) Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley
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Brief Summary: A retelling of Sleeping Beauty.
My Thoughts: There are a lot of good things about this book, but wow, they are hard to find. The book is dense and slow, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but does make it difficult to get through. Things I liked: the detailed world-building, the combination of magic and practicality, the importance of female friendships in the narrative.
Rating: 3.5/5

5) Ice Like Fire by Sara Raasch (ARC)
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Brief Summary: We tour (most of) the rest of the kingdoms in a scavenger hunt plot. Lots of communication issues. I hope you like cliffhangers!
My Thoughts: Not that much longer than Snow Like Ashes, but somehow feels a lot longer. I was not very into the plot or the worldbuilding. However, there were some really solid character arcs (and my perspective on quite few characters changed!), moments of really beautiful writing, and an ending that I personally think really paid off for the reader.
Rating: 3/5

6) Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray (ARC)
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Brief Summary: In 1920s New York, people are succumbing to the deadly sleeping sickness. Meanwhile, our many main characters are dealing with their own problems, each more complicated than the last.
My Thoughts: I liked Lair of Dreams slightly less than The Diviners, which is still a lot! Just like the first book, it’s creepy and atmospheric and excellently written and the setting feels like another character. I love series like this one with a large ensemble cast of well-developed characters. Some characters who had a bigger role in the first book stepped back a little here, though they still felt very present to me. Meanwhile, Henry gets a lot more focus, and a new character (Ling, who I already love) gets introduced. I loved getting to know these chrcters and watching their friendship develop. I also, as always, love Evie O’Neill, our wonderfully flawed heroine. So much happened, and by the end of the book I was instantly ready to read the next one.
Rating: 5/5

7) The Secret History by Donna Tartt
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Brief Summary: Ever wondered what pretentious East Coast liberal arts students do in their spare time? Apparently,  the answer is murder. Excuse me, “rearranging matter”.
My Thoughts: I liked this book simultaneously more and less than I expected to. My enjoyment stemmed less from the beautiful writing and interesting discussion of the dark side of human nature (though both of those things were present) and more from laughing at how ridiculous the characters were.
Rating: 4/5

8) The Alloy of Law by Brandon Sanderson
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Brief Summary: In an Industrial-Era version of the Mistborn world, a nobleman-turned-crime-fighter-turned-nobleman and his friends investigate a series of thefts and kidnappings.
My Thoughts: Excellent worldbuilding and plot  and action sequences and characterization, as is typical of a Brandon Sanderson book. This one is a lot lighter and shorter than the original trilogy, with some great banter sequences between the characters. Lots of fun, with moments of Feelings.
Rating: 4.5/5

9-13) The Princes Diaries (books 6-10) by Meg Cabot (including three novellas)
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Brief Summary: I’m sure you know by now.
My Thoughts: Overall, much less good than the first half of the series. The situations got more and more implausible, certain subjects weren’t handled very well at all, and by the last book, there was no main character except Tina who I hadn’t wanted to slap at some point. The books are still compulsively readable though, and Mia’s voice is fun and relatable. I liked the ninth book in particular, because it showed how much Meg Cabot was willing to change things up. I also appreciated how Mia’s voice had matured in the last book, and, of course, the obligatory happily-ever-after ending made me smile.
Narration: I listened to books 6 and 7 on audio. I don’t have much to say about Clea Lewis’s narration, but it was funny and sounded a lot like how I would imagine Mia.
Rating: 3/5

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