I had high hopes for this month, but I ended up feeling so slumpy. Nothing sounded good and I had no motivation to actually read. On the other hand, I did catch up on some graphic novel series and ended up doing some rereads so I read more than it felt like I did.
These are some books that I’ve read recently that I think are perfect for the fall season. Atmospheric, lyrical, and perhaps a little spooky.
Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
This book is centered around Shakespeare’s family–specifically his wife and children. It’s interesting, though, because Shakespeare himself is never actually mentioned by name. Despite that, Agnes (his wife) is such an interesting character and Shakespeare’s absence just made me want to pick up a biography on him. This book took me a little while to get into and I thought the writing was a little too flowery for my taste, but in the end I still really enjoyed it. I could definitely tell that this book hit me different now that I’m a parent than it would have before I had kids. There were just so many mom feels–the desperation to protect your kids from anything and everything…it was real.
I honestly can’t believe I haven’t read this book before now! Holly Black is so masterful in creating these parallel worlds that are close to what we have now, but with one fantastical twist. I thought the beginning of the book very smoothly introduced the world and its rules. I also thought the flashback chapters were a great way of creating context without interrupting the story or forcing characters to unrealistically reflect on something. I really liked Tana as a main character and loved that she stuck to her guns throughout the story. I often have a problem with these “immortal beings falling in love with average mortal girl” story lines, but I thought for once we were given a compelling reason as to why Gavriel fell in love with her–there legitimately was something different about Tana. I definitely thought something was up with the San Francisco Coldtown and that they were get involved, but that didn’t end up happening. I can’t believe this is a standalone book! I really feel like we need a book specifically exploring the San Francisco Coldtown.
Overall Rating: 4 Language: None Violence: Heavy Smoking/Drinking: Mild Sexual Content: Mild
I just want to start this review by saying that I enjoyed this book. Reading over my notes, I had some issues with it so it might seem like I didn’t, but I really did. It’s very The Westing Game meets Knives Out and I was super into it. In general, I liked Avery as a character, though it feels like JLB tends to write the same protagonist into all her books. Don’t get me wrong, I like that character, but they’re pretty interchangeable between books. I liked that Avery had a strong relationship with Libby and I hope that gets explored more in future books. I also really liked the puzzle aspect and it was enjoyable for me to watch Avery try to figure them out. My main issues really all center around the romantic subplot. First of all, I hate–HATE–love triangles involving siblings (usually brothers). It just feels like there’s no way for that to end well in the long run. Second, I’m really over the “hot bad boy gives protagonist an annoying nickname” trope. It just feels so cringe to me. Every time. Lastly, THERE IS NO COMPELLING REASON WHY JAMESON AND GRAYSON ARE SO PROTECTIVE OF AVERY. They just ARE all of the sudden and it’s like…why? In the end, though, I liked this book and am FOR SURE reading the next book in the series.
Okay, since finishing this book I’ve read some pretty negative reviews about it and that just makes me so sad! This book has my whole heart and I realize it’s not going to be for everyone, but some people are really just missing out. This is different from any other book Schwab has written, but it still has her signature worldbuilding. It’s more magical realism than fantasy like some of her other books have been, but I feel like that makes the entire story more poignant. There’s this pervasive sadness throughout the book–even when Addie is with Henry, you just feel like any happiness cannot possibly last. I really liked that Schwab didn’t gloss over the beginning of Addie’s story while she’s figuring out her curse. I feel like I really liked having that backstory as a reader and her struggle provided some good perspective. Despite the romantic subplot with Henry, this story is not about the two of them or even about Addie and Luc–it’s about Addie alone and the ending makes that very apparent. This story was beautiful and heartbreaking and I’ll admit to sobbing through the last couple chapters. (Honestly, my only qualm is that Schwab used the word “palimpsest” like 50 times throughout the book).
I very much enjoyed Turton’s debut, The 7 1/2 Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle and was pleasantly surprised to hear that he had a new book coming out! This book is just as twisty a mystery as Evelyn Hardcastle was, but with even more of a supernatural element to it. Right off the bat, it felt like there was a lot going on–we were meeting all kinds of characters and learning the backstory for the legend of Old Tom–but at the same time nothing was really happening. Our characters were running around doing a lot of things, but not learning anything. As the book progressed, I did feel myself getting more and more invested in figuring out what the heck was going on, but I also became certain that there were only two possible endings. One of those endings would be a great payoff, but the other would be incredibly lame and ruin the book. In the end, I thought the “solution” was pretty good, but felt a little rushed in its explanation. Regardless, this was the perfect book to be reading this time of year. Slightly spooky and very atmospheric.
Vicious/Vengeful by V.E. Schwab – I’m very impressed by V.E. Schwab at this point. This is the best depiction of an antihero that I’ve ever read.
Reviews: Vicious, Vengeful
The Big Year by Mark Obmascik – I read this after rewatching the movie. Just as delightful. Review
The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – I’d been meaning to read this book forever and I finally did it. Amazing. I understand why it has the reputation it does. Zusak is a masterful author.
The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern (reread) – For some reason I started doubting whether this book was as good as I remembered it being. After an audio book reread, I can confirm that it is for sure.
You’d Be Mine by Erin Hahn – I didn’t expect much from this book, but was hit hard with unexpected emotion and characters with a surprising amount of depth. Review
Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno – THIS IS WHAT HISPANIC CULTURE IS. The timing of when I read this book could not have been more perfect. Review
First & Then by Emma Mills – I love the relationship between the main character and her cousin and that it doesn’t take a backseat to the romance. Review
I think I’ve mentioned this before, but ever since I started my job at the library last year I’ve been reading more adult books (rather than YA). Even though I had to leave my library job at the end of May, I’ve still been reading adult books! Here are a few that I’ve read since then (and I’m only just now noticing that all of these covers are red).
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch
Going into this book, I knew it was about alternate timelines but nothing else about it. As the book starts, I felt like not much was happening and I was just waiting for Jason to figure out that he was in an alternate reality. With that being said, I did feel like the narrative picked up significantly when he and Amanda started traveling to different timelines. I liked the few chapters we got from Daniela’s perspective. It made me wonder what I would do if I started noticing small changes like that in my own husband. Without giving too much away, I thought the big discovery that happened 3/4 of the way through was mind blowing but also made perfect sense and really turned up the stress levels. One thing that didn’t make a ton of sense to me was the box itself. I didn’t really understand how it just…WAS in every reality. I feel like it should only exist in the realities in which it’s been built and you should only be able to travel between those realities? Like bus stops. I don’t know–maybe I’m just not understanding the science. Overall, I thought this book was pretty good and interesting, but it wasn’t AMAZING. 3.5/5
After the first book, my expectations for this one were HIGH. It didn’t quite live up to those expectations, but I still liked it. I thought the beginning was a lot slower and the time periods were harder for me to keep track of–I think there were maybe too many different Sydney time periods. As the story finally started to unfold, I wasn’t sure how all of the characters were going to fit together, but when I did start to see it, it was glorious. I thought Schwab did a great job of creating a new antagonist while also making room for Eli to continue being Eli. I wasn’t super invested in the mini-plotline of Sydney resurrecting Serena. I know they were sisters but…I just don’t see how Sydney could possibly think that would be a good idea–especially with her resurrection powers being less predictable on EOs. So yeah, in the end I didn’t think it was as good as the first book, but I liked it and I enjoyed how all the pieces fit together. Seems like there’s potential for a third book? I’d read it. 4.5/5
I like that Ivy isn’t stupid. That feels kind of weird to say, but sometimes main characters can be a little clueless? I like that we get to see her explanations for how and why she’s manipulating/evaluating people. She’s observant–other characters can’t easily pull one over on her. I liked this world that’s been created. It’s Harry Potter-esque (what magical world isn’t at this point?) but from a non-magical perspective. I thought Ivy’s musings while watching the teenagers doing flippant magic was really compelling. If I were in Ivy’s place I would also be frustrated at seeing kids do stupid magic. You could do so much more and you’re using your magic to change the color of your locker? Or something dumb like that. One issue I did have was that Ivy really didn’t want Rahul to know she wasn’t magical, but I feel like she said 1,001 dumb, non-thinking things to him that would have tipped him off. But overall, I thought this was a really great mystery (and one that I was actually able to solve myself before the end!) and I could maybe see this becoming a series? Like Ivy could go investigate other magical cases. We’ll see. 4/5
Victor has been thinking about the moment he would confront his former best friend Eli for a long time. For 10 long years while in prison to be exact. He wants to punish Eli but unfortunately for Victor, Eli is a little…unkillable. With Victor’s former cellmate Mitch and a runaway named Sydney by his side, Victor will put his plan into motion and finally find the justice he’s been seeking.
TL;DR – Schwab’s storytelling devices keep the plot moving quickly and the suspense high. While there are no good guys in this book, there are plenty of likable characters.
I loved this book so much–possibly more than her Shades of Magic series (which I also LOVED). I first encountered this author’s YA books (under the name Victoria Schwab) and was immediately hooked on her world-building. I had no idea what was to come when I made the leap to her adult works. Her skill in creating likeable “bad guys” is out of this world. Victor is not a good guy. He’s done bad and questionable things, but I still REALLY LIKE him. It’s the darnedest thing. All the characters, in fact, are incredibly well fleshed-out. They all have depth and I felt like the reader gets to know them on a deeper level than we do most characters in books. And don’t even get me started on the antagonists… (so evil, but also evil isn’t quite the right word?).
The world that Schwab has created for this story isn’t that different from the one we’re currently in except for the existence of EOs (ExtraOrdinaries). The entire concept of EOs isn’t necessarily revolutionary (think X-Men) but the way that they get created in her world seems entirely too plausible. What Eli and Victor do with that information also seems extremely realistic (without being too spoilery).
This story could have been told in a really linear, straightforward way, but that’s not how Schwab has decided to tell it. Chapters all start with a reference to an event: “6 hours before”, “10 years ago”, “The day before”. That kind of thing. This lets the reader know that we’re building up to some big event, but we don’t know exactly what it’s going to be until it’s almost upon us. This creates an almost unbelievable amount of tension as we’re left trying to figure out what we’re building up to. The way the different timelines and the story is woven together is just plain genius.
You guys. This book is GOOD. Highly, highly recommend if you’re looking for something a little sci-fi-y but not like, too sci-fi-y. I would also recommend if you’re just plain looking for a good book to read.
Overall Rating: 5
Sexual Content: Mild
I’m hoping I get my groove back this month at least. Towards the end of June, I felt my groove was on its way back, so we’ll see if that continues. It may get thrown off because we’ve got a family reunion to go to, but for now I think I’m getting into a rhythm and I hope that’s reflected by my reading.
Since I’m reading Jane Eyre through Serial Reader, it’ll probably still take me a month or two before I finish it. And I’m working through the Flavia de Luce mysteries on our morning walks, so those will be ongoing as well. Does anyone have any good, light series that they’d recommend as audiobooks? I’d prefer a series with lots of books that is different from the Flavia de Luce mysteries (and that won’t have a million holds on them *cough* Harry Potter *cough*). I could see myself getting tired of the Flavia mysteries and wanting to switch off every other book.
What are you guys reading this month? Let me know in the comments!
You guys. Where we’re at in California is SO HOT. We’ve been told that if you can survive July and August then you’ll make it, but I’m all like JUNE HAS BEEN UPPER 90s/LOW 100s EVERY DAY SO HOW COULD JULY AND AUGUST BE WORSE. Guess we’ll see.