As those of you who follow me on Goodreads know, I’ve done an awful lot of reading in my absence from this blog. Because I’ll never catch up if I write a full review of each book I’ve read, I’m going to attempt to rate and summarize concisely here, with any key thoughts and impressions for you. Anyone who wants more information about any of these books, please leave a comment or send me an email! I’d love to rant. I will be doing a full review of The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater, including pictures of me unboxing my autographed copy from Fountain Book Store, but that review won’t be up for at least a month, because I’m going away for a while. Shortly after my return, I will also review the lovely Hannah Heath’s story Skies of Dripping Gold, which I was very impressed with. I could be convinced to do one or two more reviews I suppose, so if you want one for a particular book, speak up!
Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry: This story follows Echo and Noah, two troubled teens in Kentucky with an attraction as dark as their pasts. I found their story a bit cliche and the writing a bit simplistic, but it handled some real issues very well. I also had the pleasure of meeting McGarry and listening to her give a talk. She was engaging and entertaining, with plenty of advice for young writers and dreamers. Her personal struggle and story is incredible. My biggest complaint was her obvious- and self-professed- focus on commercial writing rather than more literary, flowery, deeply meaningful writing. Still, we all need these kinds of easy contemporaries, and I enjoyed Pushing the Limits, and would definitely read more of McGarry’s work when I need a nice, comfortable story world to fall into. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard, Book 1) by Rick Riordan: I had huge expectations for this one, considering that Percy Jackson was probably the first “fandom” I was ever in. However, I was super hesitant to read it, because Riordan had disappointed me in the past (Heroes of Olympus drove me insane!!!). That being said, I was hugely, hugely conflicted about this one. On the one hand, it was entertaining, easy reading. However, I was disappointed by the lack of real Norse mythology I absorbed while reading, which was a huge goal of mine going into it. I loved Magnus, and his connection to Annabeth, but I felt Riordan tried too hard to be funny and current. The next generation isn’t going to get a “Blank Space” joke. Also, I felt he was forcing diversity in his characters for a political reason that didn’t really match the story, which was very distracting. I will continue the series, but I’m glad I borrowed this one. Rating: 4/5 stars
The Visit by Friedrich Durrenmatt: I read this classic tragicomedy for my IB English class, and was both delighted and confused by all the layers. It’s like seven-layer dip, in play form! The Visit follows the little town of Gullen, which is destitute. Their only hope is in the generosity of the wealthiest woman in the world, who hails from their town. But there’s a string attached to her proposed one billion dollar donation: the murder of her former lover and prospective mayor of Gullen, Alfred Ill. The literary value of this play is huge, and I think it makes several very important points about human nature. However, this play is also incredibly, incredibly odd, and the many allusions Durrenmatt makes are not accessible to the 21st century reader. I’d love to see this performed to contrast the reading and viewing experiences. I loved this, but was super, super confused the whole time. Rating: 3/5 stars, Important Book
The Raven King (The Raven Cycle, Book 4) by Maggie Stiefvater: I. AM. DEAD. STIEFVATER HAS KILLED ME. THIS WAS BEAUTEOUS. PERFECTION. MY FEELS ARE DEAD. I will write a rant for the beauteousness of this book, I swear. If you haven’t started this series, what are you doing? My reviews for Book 1, Book 2, and Book 3 are slightly more coherent. This series is everything I never knew I needed. Rating: INFINITY STARS. ALL TIME FAVE. WRITING GOALS.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Book 1) by Laini Taylor: So… I was supposed to read this book over a month for my book club, and I finished in less than two days, according to my status updates on Goodreads. Wow! I didn’t see this engrossing world coming! It’s beautifully written, stunningly constructed, and wonderfully unique. I thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed this. The plot follows Karou, a girl with one foot in the human world, and one helping demons. Angel vs. demon wars ensue, based on a star-crossed love that transcends past and future. It’s awesome. Having finished the whole series, I actually think Daughter of Smoke and Bone was the weakest installment, and it’s a fabulous read. The “fated love” aspect of the story was the only even remotely troublesome part, but I was so, so satisfied with how it all turned out. Rating: 5/5 stars
Days of Blood & Starlight (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Book 2) by Laini Taylor: One of the best second installments to a series I’ve ever read. The twists and turns were killer, and the character development was stunning!! Also, Taylor walks that fabulous line where the reader can see how everything might work out, but yet all those little misunderstandings get in the way, and it is torturously beautiful!!! Lots of great characters added, and the world building (which is epic, by the way) is so much more detailed. Rating: 5/5 stars
Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of Smoke & Bone, Book 3) by Laini Taylor: Wow. Wow. I did not see so much of this coming. This story got huge, even more so than it already was, which was pretty gigantor. The characters suffered SO MUCH. This series is epic fantasy at its finest, and the last book delivered on all of my expectations. It also added so, so much!! My only qualm was that I felt like it ended too abruptly, with the possibilities for another book too open. THERE WASN’T ENOUGH RESOLUTION. I cry. Anyhoo, great, great way to end a series. This nearly 700 page monster took me only three days. Rating: 5/5 stars
Daughter of Smoke & Bone series: Fantastic epic fantasy with beautiful writing and lovable characters. One of the series I want to refer back to for inspiration in my own writing. This series made me want two things: 1) All of Laini Taylor’s books IMMEDIATELY and 2) Mik and Zuzana forever. I may do a whole series review at some point. Rating: 5/5 stars
Da Vinci’s Tiger by L.M. Elliott: I really like historical fiction, so this novel was a refreshing change after all the epic fantasy. It was well-written and about a time period in Italy that I knew almost nothing about. The story follows Ginevra, a girl in Renaissance Florence who wants to make her mark on the art world, but is constrained by the social rules around her. Her relationship with Leonardo Da Vinci, artist to muse, is deeply explored. I loved the fact that this story is based on a real woman, who scholars do know existed. The author’s note at the end was fascinating! I found Ginevra kind of annoying, especially in the beginning and middle of the book, and would have liked more historical context, but overall it was a solid historical fiction. Rating: 3.5/5 stars
Vicious by V.E. Schwab: This story is a great introduction to V.E. Schwab! I had never read anything of hers before, and I was very, very impressed. Vicious follows college roommates Eli and Victor who were once practically brothers, but who are now on a quest to kill each other. The reasons for their conflict become clear as Schwab deftly jumps between narrators and timelines. When you read this, pay attention to the header that tells you where and when each chapter takes place! The characters are great- all anti-heroes! This story takes a real look at morality, and the places where shades of grey really do exist. Schwab also created an awesomely creepy atmosphere. I was darkly fascinated. Rating: 5/5 stars
Lady Susan by Jane Austen: Well, I have now read every full-length Austen work!! I read this with Brandy in the Quirky Reader’s Club. Lady Susan is the shortest of Austen’s novels- I read it all in one sitting. It’s told entirely through letters, which is a favorite format of mine. It had all the typical greatness of an Austen- love, disreputable characters, and plots of marriage! My biggest complaint was that it just ended. All of a sudden. A final letter explained what happened afterwards, but basically that was the end. I was SO disappointed! I think Austen died while working on this one, though, which explains why it ends the way it does. Great entertaining read. I can’t wait to watch the movie adaptation, Love and Friendship. Rating: 4/5 stars
Doctor Thorne by Anthony Trollope: Honest confession: I had never even heard of Victorian author Anthony Trollope before I watched the Doctor Thorne miniseries on Amazon Prime (which I watched because Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey mastermind, adapted it). I loved the miniseries (I have a fatal weakness for period dramas), and once I figured out it was a book, I was desperate to read it! The book, while slightly different from the miniseries, did not disappoint. It was easy to read, full of social commentary without losing entertainment value. The plot follows the woes of the Gresham family, a noble, landed family that has gone completely bankrupt. The son, Frank Gresham, must marry money to save the family, but his heart is already set on his penniless neighbor, Mary Thorne, who is the niece of the local Doctor Thorne. Told mostly through Doctor Thorne’s eyes, the story follows Frank, Mary and all around them as secrets are exposed and English social conventions clash with young love. Trollope’s writing is funny, and his character engage your heart- even the black ones. This did not feel like a 600 page classic, but a lighthearted contemporary! I will definitely be reading more of Trollope’s work. Does anyone have any suggestions? Rating: 4/5 stars
His Majesty’s Dragon (Temeraire, Book 1) by Naomi Novik: This may be the best book I’ve ever gotten for free, because my library was giving away rejects. My biggest regret is that I only grabbed the first book, when I could have had the first five in the series! His Majesty’s Dragon catalogs the story of Captain Will Laurence, a stuffy British Naval Captain fighting in the Napoleonic Wars when his ship captures a dragon’s egg. When the dragon hatches, it will only respond to Laurence, forcing him to leave his beloved Navy behind to serve in the Aerial Corps instead with his dragon, Temeraire. Laurence and Temeraire become very close, and their relationship is a highlight of the story. It’s well-written, in a style reminiscent of both J.R.R. Tolkien and Victorian authors like Austen and Trollope. The choice of setting dragons in the Napoleonic Wars was truly fascinating as well. Laurence’s attitudes, particularly towards women, were irritating. I realize that’s how it was at the time, but it still frustrated me. Otherwise, great, if unconventional fantasy! Rating: 4.5/5 stars
Throne of Jade (Temeraire, Book 2) by Naomi Novik: The second book following Laurence and Temeraire takes them on a journey to China! I liked the idea, but I was frustrated by the tensions between some of the characters, which seemed unnecessary, and by the rapid resolution, which made everything too trite and easy. Throne of Jade did a great job of engaging with issues that really would have been problems in societies that use dragons in warfare, instead of using the magic of books to take away real problems. Though I was frustrated by the character conflicts this created, I appreciated the gesture. I can’t wait to read more in this series! Rating: 3/5 stars
A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, Book 1) by V.E. Schwab: I actually read this before I read the two Temeraire books, but I didn’t want to break the series up in reviewing them. I have never been more confused about my feelings for a book than I was while reading A Darker Shade of Magic. This story, which follows a thief and a magician as they travel between four fantastic versions of London to return a stolen and powerful magical artifact, had everything I look for. Great characters, a really unique system of magic, a convincing plot line, and excellent writing. I have no idea why it took me over a week to finish, and I was just…bored? tired? uninterested? every time I picked it up. I really enjoyed it by the end, but I had tremendous difficulty getting through it. FOR NO REASON. I’m deeply frustrated with myself, but I am very interested in the sequel. Rating: 4/5 stars
A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, Book 2) by Sarah J. Maas: I don’t know if I have ever had the opportunity to rant at length about my love for SJ Maas before, but here it is: I LOVE SJ MAAS’S CHARACTERS AND WRITING AND WORLD AND UGH. I LOVE IT. I read A Court of Thorns and Roses a while back and stayed awake until 4 A.M. doing so! It was amazing! I wish I had reread it before I read A Court of Mist and Fury, but tumblr was spoiling things and I just couldn’t wait any longer. I LOVED the direction Maas went here. I think one of her great strengths as an author is to write the struggle of characters who have survived traumatic events, and ACOMAF is definitely an example! I LOVE all the new characters and relationships. My only problems with it are the repetition of plot lines. They spend about 60% of the plot running around stealing things, and it felt very, very repetitive after a while. My other big problem is the detail of the intimate scenes between the characters, which kind of come without warning. I definitely skimmed through some parts because I just don’t like that much detail about my favorite characters’ sexy times. It loses a star for making me uncomfortable, but honestly, the last 30% of the book was SO INTENSE. I am super pumped for the last book!! If you haven’t read anything by SJ Maas, go check her Throne of Glass series out immediately! Rating: 4/5 stars (purely because too much sex)
Whew, I was a busy reader! Has anybody read any of these? Do you have any recommendations for me? I was kinda all over the place, genre-wise. What have you really enjoyed reading recently? Comment below!