The thing about being an assistant stage manager during the first few weeks of rehearsal when there’s not much for you to do is that you have a lot of time to read and absolutely no time to write reviews, which is why I’ve been a bit slow this month, but I’ve done a lot of reading that I really enjoyed, and I can’t wait to tell you all about it. (A book with an ♠ symbol next to it has an asexual character in it!)
1) Saving Francesca by Melina Marchetta
Brief Summary: Francesca Spinelli, a teenager used to staying in the background, must deal with the changes in her life when her mother becomes depressed.
My Thoughts: Melina Marchetta always does this thing where she shows life as it actually is, right down to simple and mundane things, and still makes the smallest moments seem beautiful. I loved Francesca’s growth throughout the novel, and her relationship with her family and friends, and how even the smallest characters felt real and developed. (Justine Kalinsky and Thomas Mackee were two secondary characters I adored). The only thing I didn’t quite *feel* was Francesca’s romance with Will, which surprised me because normally I love Marchetta’s romances, but even with that, the book was great.
2) The Anatomy of Curiosity by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff (ARC)
Brief Summary: Three short stories by three authors, with writing advice mixed in.
My Thoughts: Maggie, Tessa, and Brenna are all so amazing and talented, and I really love that instead of just throwing writing advice at readers, they let us see it in action. (I actually read this book just before attending Leigh Bardugo’s signing for Six of Crows, and those two things in conjunction were just a really powerful experience). I especially loved Maggie’s comparison a first draft to a newborn–it doesn’t look so great when it first comes into the world, but give it a few months, dress it up, take constant care of it, and everyone will be exclaiming over how cute it is. The stories themselves were great too–Maggie’s was my personal favorite, but I loved them all.
3) Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson ♠
Brief Summary: Allison, who has synesthesia, is placed in a mental institution after an incident she believes led to another girl’s death.
My Thoughts: I’m always really cautious of novels that take place in mental institutions, because they tend to revolve around the idea that the situational is only tragic because the character isn’t really mentally ill, and in turn dismiss what the actually mentally ill people might be going through. In this book, while the main character turned out to not be mentally ill, the narrative is respectful of the other characters in the hospital; there’s a moment where Allison realizes that she was wrong to judge them, that she’s more similar to them than she initially thought. I found the actual plot of the book underwhelming, but that could have had something to do with how I’d been spoiled for a certain part of it. The writing in this book was lovely–I really liked the author’s portrayal of how Allison saw the world. Even though I mostly read this to get to Quicksilver, I ended up enjoying it quite a bit.
4) The Posterchildren by Kitty Burroughs ♠
Brief Summary: The stories of students in an academy for teen superheroes.
My Thoughts: LOVE. So much love. This book honestly just filled my heart with joy, except for the moments when it made me tear up a little. I loved all the characters and their different backgrounds and challenges and the friendships they formed. It read a lot like a comic book, and I could tell the author was having a lot of fun writing it and playing with various tropes. It’s one of those books that can go from witty banter to tears and back again, and I loved every moment. I’m so glad the author has the Timely Tales so I can stay in her world for a little while longer.
5) Quicksilver by RJ Anderson ♠
Brief Summary: After the events of Ultraviolet, Tori’s problems are not quite over.
My Thoughts: I’ve said this before, but the way asexuality is handled in this book makes little hearts form in my eyes. I love that the author distinguishes between romantic, sexual, and aesthetic attraction, and that Tori talks about how ridiculous it is that we say “just friends” as though friendship is something inherently less than romance. Plus, Tori is just an amazing character; my first thought after finally meeting her in Ultraviolet was “wow, I’m so glad we get a whole book from this girl!” I will never get tired of the “popular blond girl is more than she seems” trope, okay? Tori is smart, sarcastic, determined, and refuses to take any crap from anyone. She has moments of vulnerability, but she fights through them. She’s just awesome. I had trouble keeping track of the plot, partly because, unlike Tori, I don’t really have a head for technical stuff, but everything that happened with the characters was more than worth it.
6) The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Brief Summary: Magnus finds out that he’s the son of a Norse god and has to go on a quest with an elf, dwarf, and valkyrie to save the world.
My Thoughts: Rick Riordan is my choice of comfort reading, to be honest. No matter how bad of a mood I’m in, two pages of the sass and dad jokes and friendship in his books always makes me feel better. I already love Magnus and Sam and Blitzen and Hearthstone; I just want to hug them all. I wanted them all to hug each other. (But I hope Magnus and Sam stay platonic, just because having them end up together would be too much of a Percy/Annabeth retread. If/when Magnus gets a love interest, I want it to be a surprise). And the chapter titles! I didn’t even realize how much I missed the chapter titles until they were in my life again. I took of a star because certain aspects of this book reminded me of the first Percy Jackson book, but none of that stopped me from loving it. I know some people have complained that Rick Riordan is writing way too many books in this universe, but honestly, I have no problem with it. His books are pure happiness and I could keep reading them forever.
7) Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
Brief Summary: Gods and humans work together to prevent a war.
My Thoughts: This book is so much more complex than the summary made it seem! (Honestly, how do you condense a Brandon Sanderson book into one or two sentences when there’s always so so much going on, personally and politically and everywhere else?) As always, the worldbuilding was brilliant–the magic system is probably my favorite that I’ve seen in a Sanderson book so far, except maybe the Forging in The Emperor’s Soul. I also liked that we had several female characters who were allowed to be awesome AND prominent in the story, which was a refreshing change from most of Sanderson’s other books. (And Siri and Vivienna in particularly were both great contrasting characters with some excellent growth). This is actually the book I would recommend if you’re interested in getting into Sanderson’s works–it’s available for free on his website (along with the earlier drafts), there’s only one book in the series so far, and it’s a fun, intricate, twisty read.
8) The Fire’s Stone by Tanya Huff ♠
Brief Summary: A gang of misfits go on a quest to save the kingdom.
My Thoughts: This was so much more enjoyable than I ever could have expected! I think you all know by now that “a gang of misfits go an a quest” is pretty much My Thing, and I loved learning the character’s backstories and watching them grow closer and help each other overcome their pasts. Of particular note: one of the main characters deals with alcoholism, and there’s an accurate portrayal of his withdrawal and recovery, which I have NEVER seen in a fantasy book, despite how much fantasy characters drink in general. There’s also a really nice slow-burn romance between the two main male characters that I really enjoyed watching develop. I didn’t pay any attention to the actual plot involving the stone; the book was all about the characters for me. I also could have done with less “women being fridged for a man’s tragic backstory”. Other than that, I loved this book; it was fun and exactly what I needed at the time, and I will definitely be reading more of Tanya Huff in the future.
9-10) The Beast of Callaire/The Dryad of Callaire by Saruuh Kelsey ♠
Brief Summary: Yasmin, a descendant of the Manticore, searches for answers during a building war between the gods and falls in love with a girl named Fray, who is more than she seems.
My Thoughts: This author has been on my radar for a while and I’m glad I finally read some of her books. The mythology and gods in the world are quite interesting, if sometimes confusing to keep track of, and I liked the exploration of the many different aspects of Yasmin’s identity and the development of her relationships with the other characters. (The second book is my favorite so far, mostly because we get to see some of the secondary characters explored and developed further). My only problem was the writing–it was dry and hard to get though in places, Yasmin and Fray’s voices sounded pretty much the same, and what on earth does the author have against commas? There are a lot of surprises and reveals throughout the story that leave me wondering where the next book will go. (Also, I’m always there for diverse characters!)
Rating: 4/5 for The Beast of Callaire, 4.5/5 for The Dryad of Callaire
11) Make Much of Me by Kayla Bashe ♠
Brief Summary: Lily attends a music school, meets a lot of friends, and falls in love with Laura, a beautiful girl with a mysterious past.
My Thoughts: This book just made me so happy! (I think this is the fourth book on the wrap-up I said that about? A lot of books made me happy this month). Kayla Bashe’s writing has this absolutely charming innocence to it that I found really delightful. Even though it dealt with some more mature subject matter that made it squarely a YA book, in tone it felt more like a middle grade story, or one of those children’s show episodes where things may get bad, but you know that at the end of the day the bad guy will be defeated and everyone will live happily ever after. I think some readers may find this relentless optimism to be a little bit too much, but I loved it. Also, the writing is just beautiful, and I really enjoyed the boarding school atmosphere combined with the 1920s vibe and the diversity and the many many instances of girls supporting and uplifting each other.
12) Accepting Me by Jo Ramsey (novella) ♠
Brief Summary: Shane is asexual, and wants his family and friends to accept him as he is.
My Thoughts: This was a pretty okay short story that does a pretty okay job explaining the concept of asexuality, though there were a couple of things I had issues with, like the fact that the story didn’t really distinguish between being asexual and being aromantic, and the description of asexuality as “not being interested in sex” when it’s really more about “not experiencing sexual attraction”, which sounds like the same thing but really isn’t. I liked (and could relate to) Shane’s frustration when his friends and family asked him why he wasn’t in a relationship yet, and I liked that the book portrayed asexuality as being just as legitimate as homosexuality or bisexuality.
13) Pale Kings and Princes by Cassandra Clare and Robin Wasserman (novella)
Brief Summary: Simon meets Helen Blackthorn and learns about her past. Also, Sizzy. Lots of Sizzy.
My Thoughts: I liked hearing about the fairies again–the writing of those parts of the story was gorgeous and scary, which is just how I like my fairies. Helen is a beautiful cinnamon roll who does not deserve what she’s going through at all, but I did like seeing more of her, and I’m still holding on to the hope that we’ll get more development for her in The Dark Artifices. Simon and Isabelle’s A-Plot was pretty cute as well.
14) Dust by Elizabeth Bear ♠
Brief Summary: A serving girl and a captured knight escape from a spaceship and end up in a complicated struggle involving political intrigue, angels, accelerated evolution and a lot of other things I can’t even begin to explain.
My Thoughts: I just finished this book yesterday, and I haven’t entirely made up my mind as to whether I like it or not. On the one hand, the author had so many interesting ideas, and I loved the blend of science fiction and fantasy, fairy tales and religion and technology, and the writing was unique and beautiful. On the other hand, the plot was so complicated that I had no idea what was going on 99% of the time, the book felt extremely cluttered and confusing, and–personal preference–I could have done with less “everyone is related to everyone, and everyone (except Perceval) is having sex with everyone”–and yes, incest is a thing, which I can normally deal with but for some reason it squicked me out here. I will probably continue reading this series because I’m kind of intrigued by some of the concepts and, as I mentioned before, the writing gives me chills, but I’m still not sure how I feel about it.
15) The Too-Clever Fox/The Witch of Duva/Little Knife by Leigh Bardugo (short stories)
Brief Summary: Three fairy tales from Ravka.
My Thoughts: I was basically raised on Russian fairy tales, and Leigh Bardugo gets the feeling of them down perfectly with her lyrical and haunting writing style. Every one of her stories has a really powerful twist and a memorable ending. Basically, Leigh Bardugo is a goddess, that is all.
16) Through the Dark by Alexandra Bracken (novella collection)
Brief Summary: Alexandra Bracken is the only author whose novellas constantly hit me as hard as her books.
My Thoughts: I’d already read the first two novellas, In Time and Sparks Rise, but both of them broke me on the reread anyway. (I also noticed the Orpheus elements in Sparks Rise for the first time. That was cool. And upsetting.) And then there was the third novella, Beyond the Night, which was gorgeously written and did a great job highlighting the themes of the series and was basically everything I wanted it to be. I’m sad to say goodbye to the TDM world (give or take a few short stories) but glad I got to go back one last time.
17) Percy Jackson’s Greek Heroes by Rick Riordan (story collection)
Brief Summary: The stories of some classic Greek heroes, as told by our very own Percy Jackson!
My Thoughts: I’ve been reading this book since September–every time I needed a mood lifter, I would pick it up and read one more short story. I second everything I said in my Magnus Chase review–Riordan is really the perfect mood lifter. I enjoyed this book and learned a lot!
1) Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
Brief Summary: More people in space! This time an awkward adorable street fighter and a girl in a red hoodie.
My Thoughts: Okay. So like, I can’t hardly talk about Scarlet. Because here’s my problem: Wolf. Like everyone has that one book boyfriend they’d do anything for *Dramatically points to Wolf* like it’s honestly a problem. I curl up and cry and want to hug him and just like. DUDE WOLF. But also Scarlet and she’s so badass and wonderful.
2) Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Brief Summary: Idiot heist babies go pull off an idiot heist and everyone needs to just kiss already.
My Thoughts: I don’t know what to say about this book that hasn’t already been said truthfully. I was wary of this one thanks to all of the hype around it. It seemed like everyone was screaming about this book. I hadn’t read the rest of the Grisha trilogy but I was curious (and anything with a heist has me interested) so I dove right in. First off let me say as someone who hasn’t read the trilogy I understood everything perfectly! Secondly by chapter five I was already so in love with these characters and I don’t even know how it was possible. I don’t. But this book skyrocketed up to a favorite so so fast.
3) The Falconer by Elizabeth May
Brief Summary: Steampunk. Faeries. Victorian Era. Slow Burn Romance.
My Thoughts: Ahhh this book my friends. It was so good. I loved so much about it. As I said in my main review, I don’t think I gave this book a full fair shot. But as I let more time pass I find that I really did love it. I got the book from the library and I really think I’m gonna have to add it to my collection. Not to mention that cliffhanger…ugh.
4) Cress by Marissa Meyer
Brief Summary: The adventures of precious people in space continues! This time with added pain.
My Thoughts: U G H. This was my first time rereading this book and wow I underestimated how much it would hurt. Knowing things make things worse my friends! But it was still so fantastic, and I picked up so many little things that I never saw before. Which I guess is the real point of rereading. All that really left me at the end of this was a dying need for Winter. Lets be really honest here.