You’d think tech week would be a time when I got absolutely no reading done, but I was working on a fairly tech-light show, so I spent a whole lot of time sitting backstage reading on my phone. I got A LOT of reading done; I’m actually pretty impressed with myself.
Also, the theme for this month was supposed to be retellings, but everything changed when Brandon Sanderson attacked.
1) Six-Gun Snow White by Catherynne M. Valente (ARC)
Brief Summary: Dark Snow White retelling with a Western twist.
My Thoughts: Catherynne Valente’s writing is beautiful, which I say every time I read a Catherynne Valente book, but it could not be more true. Somehow, her poetic, fairy-tale-esque writing style blended perfectly with the Western cadence she used. From the title and summary, I went in expecting something light and fun, and I could not have been more wrong. This is one of the darkest books I’ve read this year, but all the darkness serves a purpose and makes the book pack a huge punch. I loved how the author translated various elements of the story (as well as several other fairy tales) into the setting. Snow White is the daughter of a rich white miner and a Native American woman, and the idea of “whiteness” plays a very big part in her story. My biggest complaint is the ending–I’m still not entirely sure what to make of it, though it might solidify for me on further rereads.
2-3) Bitter of Tongue/The Fiery Trial by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson (novellas) (audiobook)
Brief Summary: Lady Midnight hasn’t come out yet and I’m already so sad about Mark, Julian, and Helen Blackthorn. SO SAD.
My Thoughts: So far, the running theme of the last three TSA stories I’ve read seems to be “Polina cries about Blackthorns”; first Helen, then Mark, then Jules. I listened to Mark’s speech in Bitter of Tongue twice, and oh my god it broke me. The focus on Simon and Clary’s friendship in The Fiery Trial also made me emotional, though maybe not as emotional as I wanted to be. I also love that Maureen Johnson gave the character who was named after her a cameo in The Fiery Trial, just because.
4) A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher (ARC)
Brief Summary: Eponine’s story from Les Miserables.
My Thoughts: As I said in my review, this worked as a book of its own right, but not so much as a Les Miserables retelling. The characters just didn’t feel like the ones in the book; if there weren’t references to specific book-only events, I would have assumed the author had only seen the musical. There were other changes to the story that I just found unnecessary, However, the writing was lovely and made me tear up a little, and I loved certain things like Cosette and Eponine’s relationship and Azelma’s character that the author developed on her own.
5) Fairest by Marissa Meyer (reread)
Brief Summary: Levana’s inability to understand how human feelings actually work goes from secondhand-embarrassing to terrifying in about two seconds.
My Thoughts: Another reread, another moment of appreciation to Marissa Meyer for fleshing out Levana so well and making me feel for her and want to run far away from her at the same time. (I spent a lot of this book crying about Evret Hayle. He did not deserve this at all.)
6) Lunaside by J. L. Douglas
Brief Summary: Summer camp romance, art, self-discovery, girls kissing.
My Thoughts: Just a fun cute summer-y story about a girl figuring things out. If you’re looking for fluffy contemporary f/f romance, I would definitely recommend this book to you. Bonus points for how much the things the main characters are passionate about (film, art, books) feel like a part of them as opposed to an accessory, all the female friendships, and the asexual character!
7) All American Boys by Jason Reynolds and Brandon Kiely
Brief Summary: After Rashad is assaulted be a police officer, his life and the lives of those in his community are changed forever.
My Thoughts: An extremely relevant book that asks questions about racism, police brutality, the dark side of what it means to be American, and what we have to do to stop the violence. The story is told in the dual POV of Rashad, the black boy who was assaulted, and Quinn, a white boy who saw it happen. The writing is powerful and full of memorable quotes that sent a chill up my spine, and the journeys of both boys feel very real. I hope this book gets the recognition it deserves and generates a lot of discussion.
8) My Lady King by Kayla Bashe
Brief Summary: The gay animated Disney movie you always wanted.
My Thoughts: A lot of things I said in my mini-review of Make Much of Me apply to this book as well–it deals with YA-ish themes, but feels like a middle-grade book tone-wise. As with Make Much of Me, I was okay with this–I know what to expect from this author, I need a good dose of optimism once in a while. So even though the story was a bit predictable and the villain was an eye-roll-worthy level of cliche, I really enjoyed the story, and found myself saying “aaaawwww” during pretty much all of Keziah and Esdelot’s interactions. I rated this a bit lower than Make Much of Me because I didn’t love the writing quite as much; there weren’t any “OMG what a beautiful sentence” moments that I can recall, and there were bits where the sentences felt very awkward.
9) Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Brief Summary: Rainbow Rowell’s take on Cath Avery’s slash fanfiction of Gemma T. Leslie’s books, which started off as a version of the Harry Potter books in Rainbow Rowell’s book Fangirl. (Confused yet?)
My Thoughts: I was not expecting this book to work nearly as well as it did it! In Fangirl, I always skimmed over Simon and Baz’s sections, and they seemed more like an obvious parody of HP than anything else, so I was really curious as to how Rainbow Rowell would end up making a whole book about them work. As it turns out, the answer is pretty freaking well. She does a really good job establishing a world and characters that fit into the parameter she originally set but still feel like completely their own thing. World-wise, I was especially impressed with the magic system–it seemed so cheesy when I first heard of it, but she made it work. The strongest points of Carry On are the characters and relationships (particularly the romance between Simon and Baz) and the subversion of the Chosen One trope (always fun!). Plotwise, I will say that the book felt a bit cluttered and certain elements were underdeveloped, but I still had a lot of fun with it. The other big problem I had was the bisexual erasure, which is just something I’m sick of seeing.
10) Firstborn by Brandon Sanderson (novella)
Brief Summary: Wait, Brandon Sanderson does sci-fi?
My Thoughts: This is one of Brandon Sanderson’s first works, and it shows. It’s fun and well-written enough, but doesn’t have the originality or excitement that I’m used to seeing from him. Still worth it if you’re a hardcore Sanderson fan who wants to read all his work, or are curious to see him outside his usual genre.
10) Winter by Marissa Meyer
Brief Summary: At some point, everyone gets kidnapped, mind-controlled, or both. Also, kickass ladies and cute romance.
My Thoughts: Honestly, this book was everything I expected and wanted, and although I had some minor complaints, Winter made me so happy I could ignore them. Marissa Meyer does such a good job wrapping up all the characters stories and making sure every one of the main characters’ unique capabilities is used at some point. There are callbacks to previous books and friendship moments between characters who previously hadn’t had significant interaction and so, so many scenes that made me laugh or cry or scream at the book, and I came out of it absolutely delighted.
11) Love in the Gilded Age by Saruuh Kelsey
Brief Summary: Three fairy tale retellings in a connected world.
My Thoughts: I really loved the author’s reimaginings, and I enjoyed her writing more than I did in other books I’d read by her (though it was still repetitive in places). I would have liked to see more connection between the stories–I don’t know if I would have picked up on their being in the same world if I hadn’t known before. That said, what I did see of the world was interesting. I loved the heroines’ courage, intelligence and resilience.
12) Mansfield Park by Jane Austen
Brief Summary: Fanny Bryce’s life is very upsetting.
My Thoughts: Not my favorite Austen book, but I enjoyed it. Everything I’ve said about the writing and humor in her previous books stands here as well. Fanny is a much better character than a lot of readers give her credit for–I liked her quiet strength and her growth. I also seem to making a pattern of liking Austen characters named Mary who I’m clearly not supposed to like. Edmund did absolutely nothing for me, though, and I found the ending really rushed.
13) Tell the Wind and Fire by Sarah Rees Brennan (ARC)
Brief Summary: A Tale of Two Cities with magic rings!
My Thoughts: I don’t want to say too much because this book isn’t out yet, but it made me cry harder than anything I’ve read this year except maybe A Monster Calls. (Which isn’t a spoiler because [a] A Tale of Two Cities, and [b] Sarah Rees Brennan). The writing is lovely, I found myself taking a lot of screen shots on my phone of lines that I loved. SRB’s reinterperetation of Lucie is wonderful as well–I loved her combination of selflessness and selfishness, her protectiveness of those she loves, and the commentary she provided on the expected image of the perfect woman and how hard that is to maintain.
14) The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
Brief Summary: Nope. Not even gonna try.
My Thoughts: [deep breath] This book was EVERYTHING. An intriguing world and premise, well-written characters, and a promise of even more amazing things in the future. It actually took me a while to get into, but once I was into it, I just couldn’t stopped reading. I’m so attached to all of the main characters (especially Kaladin HE IS SO IMPORTANT TO ME) and I can’t wait to see the rest of what Brandon Sanderson is building up to.
1) Winter by Marissa Meyer
Brief Summary: My precious babies are in desperate need of a rope to keep them all tied up together in one place.
My Thoughts: This book was EVERYTHING I WAS HOPING IT WOULD BE. Ugh I can’t get over it. I can’t stop thinking about it. I just. DEAR GOD I LOVED IT SO MUCH I’M GONNA CRY OVER IT FOR A THOUSAND YEARS.
2) The Scorpio Rules by Erin Bow
Brief Summary: AI’s rule the world, and try to keep humans in line, when humans do what they always do, mess everything up.
My Thoughts: I just don’t do dystopians. I don’t. But I mean, overall the book itself was really interesting and I enjoyed it for what it was. I just don’t…do dystopians. But hey if you do them then totally get on this one!
3) The Princess in Black and the Perfect Princess Party by Shannon Hale
Brief Summary: Sondra really enjoys feminist books written for children.
My Thoughts: I was a little disappointed by this book truthfully. Still super cute and like great in all of those aspects, but like, it was missing what made the first book such a great story for little girls to read. I gave it four stars just cause it was a super cute kids book that I still read and enjoyed.
4) On Dublin Street by Samantha Young
Brief Summary: Joss, who closes herself off to everyone and everything, moves in with a super cute girl and winds up falling for her brother.
My Thoughts: Why do crazy ass alpha males have to be a thing? Why? Please explain it to me. I don’t enjoy it. I did like that Young tried to make Joss stand up to Braden and push back. Which is in truth what made me read the whole book, cause it wasn’t AS bad as could’ve been. But still.
5) The Lumberjanes by by Noelle Stevenson, Grace Ellis, Brooke A.
Brief Summary: Girl power to the max, along with friendship and a splash of great laughs.
My Thoughts: I read all 20 issues in a day, so now I’m caught up waiting for the next issue. But I really loved all the fun quirky little stories that were told throughout this really fun little comic.