This has been a crazy month. I was published! My short story, A Boy and the Ocean, is now available on Amazon and Z Publishing House’s website. It’s part of their Massachusetts’s Emerging Authors: An Anthology of Fiction, and I’m so immensely grateful to be part of it. For the story on how everything happened, check out my blog about it here. I’ve also read a ton! This was an insanely busy month for me, so I’m not really sure how everything got done, but like last month, I’m probably sane because of these books.
Also, the first four books in this post were kind of live-blogged during a reading challenge I did at the beginning of the month, which can be found here.
What: The Queen of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
Review: YO THIS BOOK. (I feel like I say that a lot.) I was so blindsided by this book in the best way possible. Going in, I knew I was going to like it. The first one was amazing. Which, speaking of, my review for The Thief can be found here. I absolutely adored that, and this one was no different. I was blindsided, however, by my love for Attolia. I went into this really disliking her, and for a long while, I still didn’t like her, and then WHAM. OKAY. NEVER MIND. She’s awesome and a badass, and that’s all you need to know. This series is so excellent, and I can’t wait to continue it.
This second book follows Eugenides in his next grand adventure, as well as digs a little deeper into the queen of Attolia. War is starting to look imminent, and it may just take an unlikely alliance to survive. (Man, I should write summaries, I’m so good at the cheesy stuff.)
What: Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman
Review: This was so much less than I was hoping. I’ve read a lot about Norse Mythology, and an entire anthology already, so I was going into this for the writing, and I felt really let down. I felt like the story was being orated to me, like spoken aloud instead of read, and it was really bizarre. The writing was just so clunky and odd, and it was hard to get into it. I’m still going to read more Gaiman, though, because I’ve heard such wonderful things about him.
This focused heavily on Thor and Loki and not many of the other gods. It also was kind of one-sided when it came to both of them, often painting Loki only in a terrible light and Thor in a dumb one that just killed a lot of giants. I know he did, but still. He did other things, too. It just enforced the stereotype that a lot of these gods and goddesses have, and that was kind of a bummer.
What: The Bone Sparrow by Zana Fraillon
Review: Oh, this was so good and so sad and so lovely. The story winds between two different children, Subhu, who was born in an Australian detention center and has lived his whole life and never been beyond the fence to the Outside, and Jimmie, whose life is unraveling day by day as she carries around grief for her lost mother and fumbling family. But when Jimmie lets her curiosity get the better of her and she goes down the hill to the Center, she meets Subhu, who helps reconnect her to her mother through stories and, later, helps save his life just as much as he’s saved hers.
This just made me ache inside. It was such a quick, gorgeous little read. The language in it was so lovely, and I was absolutley enamored with Subhu and his view of the world. The Night Sea was perhaps my favorite part of the whole book, particularly when we find out the truth behind it. Every character was so well-developed, and the ending left me feeling fulfilled even though it ends without knowing for sure that everyone is okay. I just adored this.
What: Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody
Review: Hi, yes, I preordered the sequel before I finished reading this because morally ambiguous characters and secret hidden magic powers and gamblers and casinos and shady bad guys that pretend they’re good guys and edgy bad boys that are really big ole softies and the Shadow Game holy what a cool concept. This was so original and wild and exciting. I was hooked immediately by the tagline, ‘House of the Rising Sun’ meets Six of Crows–I mean, come on, duh, of course I’m going to read this, and while I came away still thinking that was a fairly accurate statement, it’s so much more than that. It shouldn’t be compared to anything. Yes, it had a very huge Crows vibe, but it definitely stands on its own. Ugh, these characters. The story. The world. I just love it all. I love it so much.
Ace of Shades, the first of a trilogy, I believe, follows Enne and Levi. Enne has come to the City of Sin to look for her mother, who disappeared a few months ago, and who left her the name of one Levi Glaiyser if she didn’t return in time. What Enne is expecting is someone respectable and gentlemanly, like the world she comes from. What she gets is the Iron Lord, head of a street gang, skilled gambler, and full of bad ideas. Oh, Levi. I love me a bad boy who’s got a difficult past. This honestly just has MARY stamped all over it. When people ask me what my kind of books are, I’m going to throw the Crows duology, this, and ADSOM at them and give them three names: Kaz Brekker, Levi Glaiyser, and Holland Vosijk. Because they’re all why Saints was born.
What: Winterfolk by Janel Kolby
Review: This was so not what I was expecting out of this book, and yet so wonderful. For some reason, I kept thinking there was going to be a supernatural element in this book. Winterfolk follows Rain, who has lived most of her life in a homeless community in the woods, and her journey of courage, hope, and pure determination when faced with the potential destruction of her community.
The thing that stood out to me the most about this story was the writing. I loved that everything was written in Rain’s dialect, not just the dialogue, and the way she viewed the world was so musical when translated into words. Kolby managed to capture a normal part of our everyday world and turn it into something magical, something akin to a painting. I was hooked, too, by every character that we were introduced to and every piece of the past that was slow to unwind. It felt like I was rediscovering old memories with a dear friend, and I loved it immensely.
What: The Unbound by Victoria Schwab
Review: I am endlessly sad that this is over. I know that there’s hope that Schwab will write a third one eventually, but it’s not here yet, and I’m sad because of that. Particularly because, other than The Near Witch, this is the last Schwab book out there until well okay whatever until two weeks hush. It’s sad when I come to the end of an author’s published works, though! This is the second time it’s happened to me this year (finished all of Leigh Bardugo’s books, too), and now my top three are all read, and everything is sad.
The Unbound is the second in (hopefully!) a trilogy. My review for The Archived can be found here. It picks up shortly after the end of that one where Mackenzie is trying to deal with the trauma she endured in the first book and not succeeding very well. Mostly I did a lot of OH GOD NOT WESLEY throughout this book cos he’s my ride or die, and then, toward the end, it was OH GOG NOT ROLAND TOO cos he’s my numero uno. I love boys. I love boys who wear black or are sad or lead double lives or are just little badasses in disguise okay. That’s not to say I don’t also love Mackenzie. I think she may actually be one of my favorite female protagonists out there because she’s just so complex, and she doesn’t let anyone stand in her way. I loved the way the plot in this one closed up some of the lines in the last one while still sneakily opening new ones, and PLEASE GIVE ME A THIRD BOOK I LOVE THIS WORLD SO MUCH.
What: Caraval by Stephanie Garber
Review: This book was complicated for me. It started out as five stars, and it ended around four stars, but then as I was going to rate it on Goodreads, I just–ugh. This book had such potential, and was so good in the beginning, and then it slowly started to turn into something I very, very much do not like. But first, Caraval is about a troupe of performers who act in this wild traveling circus game thing. They’re not traveling this year, though, so our main characters, Scarlet (why nickname her Scar like why that’s dumb) and Donatella (EW WHAT ARE YOU A NINJA TURTLE), are invited to the mysterious island where Legend, the Caraval Master, lurks. Honestly, Legend had the most potential out of all of these characters, and he was the one that let me down the most. So anyway, the game this year is that Tella has been kidnapped by Legend (jkjk not really him
ugh worst plot twist ever because wow so did not see that coming SARCASM) and Scarlet (I refuse to call her Scar) has to save her. But, like, she’s gotta fall in love first, amiright?
This book is so complicated for me. Because I like it. I read it in three days, and I binge-read it. Like, 100+ pages at a time, doing nothing else but that. But I also wanted to gouge its eyes out. Okay. I liked it because the plot was really interesting. I’ve never read anything like this before, and the world definitely promised to be unique. And it was! I really enjoyed this weird, magical island and the weird, magical places on it. It kind of reminded me of Venice a little, which was fun, but also like Narnia in some ways. It was strange, but in a good way. I also liked the characters, but at a distance. Spending that much time in Scarlet’s head was just way too much time. Instalove, my dudes. So much instalove, and it was baddddd. Like, literally from hatred to some very odd scenes while they were both dying and like kind of being vampires? I don’t know, it was seriously bizarre. I did actually like both Julian and Dante from faraway and up close. Dante more than Julian, which is weird because we only see Dante infrequently, but Julian’s instalove also bummed me out, so that kind of made me like Dante more. Who is a super side character, guys, which means I like him based on the fact that he wears all black, he’s got tattoos, and he’s kind of an asshole sometimes, so not liking of an actual developed character here. I’m not even going to touch on Tella because you don’t want to hear my feelings about her. But Legend? COME ON. You build up this ultimate villain, who has only become the ultimate villain because he’s been playing the role for so long, and magic says that if he keeps playing the villain it affects him more, but he wants to do better, he really does, and he begs his brother to stay on the island so he can prove he can be a better person, and there’s just literally so much depth and angst and potential there, and it was SQUASHED. The only glimpse we actually get of real Legend? Taking advantage of a super drunk Tella before leaving her with a note saying that she still owes him and walking away. Like, whatever, you’re so lame. Your mystery is not cool anymore, BYE.
I need to be done with this review. I’m going to read the sequel. Not for some time, but I will eventually because I did enjoy this, but there’s a lot about it I also didn’t enjoy, and I’m confused.
What: The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
Review: I literally (LITERALLY) could not put this down. This review is never going to do this book justice. There is no way I could possibly tell you how much I love it using words. I’d have to put on a full five-act play or something. But first, what is it about? The Wicker King follows two friends, August Bateman and Jack Rossi, on an adventure like you’ve never seen. Jack is suffering from strange hallucinations, ones where he believes he can see another world on top of his own, where the only thing that remains a constant is August. Though August can’t see these hallucinations, he believes Jack completely and is more than willing to go along for the game, right up until it requires either his drowning or the burning of a building.
There are a lot of things to love about this book, and I’ll try to keep this review concise, but I make no promises. To start, the book itself. There is so much more than words in it. If you follow me on Instagram, I saved my Story as a highlight while I was reading this book, so if you want a visual to follow along with this paragraph, check that out. The pages themselves start out white, but slowly start to turn grey and eventually black as fire becomes a more prominent figure in the story. There are all sorts of goodies tucked away, too, like playlists for each of the characters, police reports, brain scans, drawings by August of Jack’s hallucinations, pages of graffiti, and so much more. I felt like I knew more about these characters right from the beginning than I ever have before in other novels. Just the playlists alone give such an intimate insight into who they are as people.
Man, that is such a good definition of king, particularly for this book because jfc these characters are messed up as heck. No spoilers, but August is eventually diagnosed as codependent on Jack, and YEAH. VERY MUCH YEAH. Sometimes in an unhealthy way, but they learn to overcome that at the end, and Ancrum has promised that when we see them next, they’ll be in a much safer space in their relationship. They have a complex relationship, something that on the outside looks like friendship, but on the inside is very strange and uncertain. There are dynamics between them that I definitely didn’t understand this first time through, and that I’m hopeful I’ll manage to pay more attention to the next time I read this. Because yes, 100% yes, I will be rereading this eventually.
Even individually, August and Jack was so interesting. Either one of them could have held my attention alone. At times, it was truly like there were three main characters–August, Jack, AugustandJack.
The plot is outstanding. It’s unlike anything I’ve read before, and it was so convincing that there were times I was absolutely certain that there was only one boy and this was all in August’s head. It wasn’t until we’re given a picture of both boys in the same picture that I let that go and finally believed there were two of them. There were also times when I really, truly believed Jack and thought that I was reading a fantasy novel. (Suffice to say, I’m also stupid excited to read the short story that takes place in the fantasy part of this story.) And even though, in the end, this is not a fantasy novel, I don’t care. It was so magical that I’ve left it feeling much the way I do about those with magic in them, and I believe a lot of that has to do with the language. It’s so vivid and poignant that I can see and feel everything as clearly as though I were standing right there next to them on the hill, surveying Jack’s kingdom.
Five stars is not enough. Not only will this definitely end up in my top 10 of 2018, it’s probably now in my top 10 of all-time. I loved this book more than words can describe.
What: The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume One: At the Edge of Empire by Daniel Kraus
Review: At one point toward the end of this novel, I turned to my friend and said, “Somewhere in the last 500 pages, I’ve unwittingly fallen in love with Zebulon Finch, and if he doesn’t survive this, I’ll be very sad indeed.” And this, dear Reader, is the astonishing truth.
I’ve said a few times in the week I’ve been reading this that while I am enjoying it immensely, I’m not sure I would actually recommend it to anyone. I’d like to now amend that statement by saying that I would not recommend it to the general public, but there are those few who are the same kind of weird as me that I would most certainly recommend it to. This is, to say the least, a Very Odd, Very Uncomfortable, Very Long, and Very, Very, Very Strange adventure. There is no way to prepare yourself for what resides within these pages, so if you’re going to give it a go, I warn you simply: there are disgusting bits, there are romantic bits (albeit very messy), and there are historical bits.
What is this book? In it, you can find a standard midwest shootout with two cowboys (ha!) facing off, sneaking alcohol through the Prohibition, Hollywood-grade WWI war heroes complete with charm, good looks, and Christian behavior, Italian street gangs, a small intermission of something kind of sweet and sad (oh, Mary Leather), lots of murder, some very questionably disturbing passages about medical experimentation, Hollywood in the early 20s, serial killers, drug addicts, and, somehow along the way, the most unlikeable character ever that you will find yourself vehemently praying for by the end. Zebulon Finch, you have my still beating heart.
Did I like this book? No. I am thoroughly enamored by it. Volume two should arrive at my house shortly, and I will consume it as I have been consumed by volume one.
What: History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera
Review: I enjoyed this a lot less than I thought I was going to, and I’m sad about that. History is All You Left Me follows Griffin in two different timelines. One, about two years prior, when he’s discovering what it means to fall in love for the first time, and two, in the present, when he’s discovering what it means to lose your first love. It’s a story about loss in many different ways, and it carries a lot of pain and character development in it, but it also highlights a very unhealthy relationship in a way that felt very normalized.
The main character, Griffin, is one of the most paranoid and damaging characters I think I’ve ever read about. And that’s after having read The Wicker King! Now, you may be scratching your head in confusion becausel this book and TWK both have seriously unhealthy relationships and they both are getting very different reviews, but here’s the thing: Ancrum acknowledges that August & Jack’s relationship is unhealthy af. She is very clear with us that they need help and lots of it. Silvera? Nah. Griffin is totally fine. The fact that he serial-sleeps with people to get back at his ex (who is not even alive to see this “revenge”) is totally normal. The fact that these people then come back to him after he’s all oh I’m so sorry I used you but I’m grieving is just a-okay.
I don’t want to be mean about this book. It came to me highly recommended, and after quickly perusing Goodreads, I see that others have really enjoyed it. The writing was excellent, and the format of the story was one that I like. I just had a very hard time sympathizing with any of the characters, and I found Griffin disturbing as a person, particularly because the only thing considered “wrong” with him was his OCD. (Note: I thought the OCD was very nicely handled, and I put “wrong” in quotations because there is nothing wrong with him. There’s something wrong with the author normalizing the way he uses people after Theo’s death. It makes abusive relationships look like something totally fine for the reader to engage in. Because that’s what Griffin is: abusive.) Suffice to say, I won’t be reading another Silvera book.
Ten books this month! That’s a lot of books! I intended to read at least one to two more, but then I got swept up in editing the first Saints, and my reading time went up in smoke. Last night, I went to Jaho for tea with Alex to work on Saints, and GUYS IT’S FALL. I don’t care if the autumn equinox is not for another few weeks, I GOT CHAIDER! Chaider, if you don’t know, is chai tea and apple cider oh my god and they’d just started serving pumpkin spice latte (ewww), so I asked if they had chaider yet, and he was like, “my dude we literally just got cider in 45 minutes ago so you’re actually the first person we’re serving it to of the season.”
Honestly the happiest person ever last night.
the only thing I have scheduled is concerts, so I’m making a concerted effort to read all my TBR hopefuls for August
Like, I tried. I read two of them, okay, and one of them was 650 pages long (YO ZEBULON FINCH WHAT’S GOOD), and I might be DNF’ing Tess of the Road, and I picked three adult novels which is dumb because I’m always going to gravitate toward YA, so whatever. Here’s my TBR for September (who knows why I’m still trying to trick myself into reading specific things):
- The Death and Life of Zebulon Finch, Volume Two: Empire Decayed by Daniel Kraus
- The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
- The King of Attolia by Megan Whalen Turner
- Bartimaeus: The Golem’s Eye by Jonathan Stroud
- When My Heart Joins the Thousand by AJ Steiger
No one is surprised by my life choices regarding my favorite living dead boy, I’m aware. In a wild turn of events, here are also the preorders that I either didn’t get to in August or have coming in September that I also plan on reading:
- Fierce Like a Firestorm by Lana Popović
- City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
- Vengeful by VE Schwab
- Two Dark Reigns by Kendare Blake
Wow, so I just gave myself nine books to read next month, that’s cool. What do you think would happen if instead of bemoaning choosing my next book and staring in distress at my bookshelf I just picked the next book off my monthly TBR? Oh my word, I should try it.
ARE YOU READY FOR THE BEST SEASON OF THE YEAR?