Book Reviews

October Reads

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!

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Is today not the best day ever or what?  I’ve been fortunate enough to read a lot of amazing books this month, many of them spooky, and thus, I decided to add a little fun thing to this month’s spooktacular reads.  (I’m never going to stop, BYE.)  For all Halloween-appropriate books, there will be a spooky rating of one to five skulls and a very small description of why they deserve whatever amount of skulls they got.  There are a few books in here that are not spooky, they were just books I felt like reading, so obviously they don’t have spooky ratings.

I hope your Halloween has been fantastic!  I’m posting this early because my night is full of fun.  I’ve got a free Halloween yoga class to teach that’s got monster rice krispies, themed music, and weird poses for 90 minutes, and then I’m off to get witchy in the woods with some lovely women.

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What: Unbroken: 13 Stories Starring Disabled Teens by Various Authors
When: 9/29-10/2
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: I adored this.  I started this in September, but was sadly unable to finish it over the weekend, but also was happily able to spend more time with it.  I read about three stories at a time, usually in a day, and just spent some time with each individually before moving onto the next.  There were 13 short stories that all contained protagonists with some kind of disability, and that ranged anywhere from romance to straight up scifi.  It was badass.

I honestly want novels of so many of these short stories.  Dude, especially that super scifi one that took place in space–that was amazing.  I loved so many of these characters for so many different reasons, and I feel like this is definitely a book I’m going to go back to frequently.  So many of my short stories have transformed into novels, and these all have that same kind potential–they’re just so big and full of life and so, so good that I would read the heck out of any of them in longer form.  I truly enjoyed this.  Plus, there’s something for everyone genre-wise, and all of the characters and writing are magnificent.

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What: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer by Lish McBride
When: 10/1-10/9
Rating: ★★
Spooky Rating: 💀  This was not scary, and I’m disappointed.  The tagline on the cover says it’s either a funny scary book or a scary funny book.  This wasn’t even funny.  It’s got the usual gang of mythical creatures (necromancers, werewolves, vampires, faeries, etc.), but that’s about as spooky as it gets.
Review: Okay, so this took me eight days to read because I stopped about 100 pages in to read the below book that I could not even imagine reading both at the same time.  One of the best sequels ever at the same time as this terrible thing?  Nah.  Not happening.  Normally, when I don’t like a book, I have very intense emotions (recent examples: The Lantern’s Ember and Caraval), but this?  This?  I disliked it so much that I think I mentally checked out about 50 pages in and never mentally checked back in.  Why didn’t I DNF it?  I’m having a hard time DNFing right now, and I think that’s because I’ve spent so much money on books this year, but WOW, I should have DNF’d the HELL out of this.  God, it was awful.  All of it.  Characters (boring), writing (oh god don’t get me started it was straight out of misery and first person/third person at the same time and the narration was just awful), plot line (yeah I’ve totally never seen this plot before EYEROLL).  Bad.

This follows Samhain Corvus LaCroix (I actually like his name because of book-related reasons) in discovering that surprise he has super special necromancy powers and he’s actually way more powerful than anyone they’ve ever seen before.  There are werewolves that have been crossed with faeries.  There’s one split second of a vampire.  There are ancient necromancers and not one single moment of hey this is what necromancy looks like in this world just straight up here’s a necromancer you should already know what that means.  There’s a cat that sometimes turns into a dragon.  Lawn gnomes that fight back!  (They actually wear red caps, though, so that was kind of neat.)  Tons of faery lore, but no faeries.  Did you want to know what any of the characters looked like before you’ve known them for 100 pages?  Too bad.  I’m going to stop now.

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What: Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
When: 10/3-10/7
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: It’s taken me a while to write this review.  I keep writing reviews for the books around it, and then promptly ignoring this one.  I don’t know how to put into words what I felt while reading this.  My review for Strange the Dreamer, the first in possibly(?) the series, is here.  Strange also made it into my Top 10 of 2017, and Muse will probably make it into my Top 10 of 2018.  (You know, I’ve already relegated so many books to that list that you can probably guess them before it even comes out.)  Muse picks up right where Strange left off—-Lazlo has made it up to the citadel with Sarai, Weep is in straight-up panic, and Minya is pissed.  This world first sucked me in because it was about a librarian, Lazlo Strange, who was overwhelmingly in love with a city, Weep, who had disappeared from history.  When representatives of Weep suddenly show up in his city and Lazlo is given the opportunity to go to Weep, his lifelong dream, you betcha he takes it.  He spends some time there, trying to solve the puzzle of a floating citadel in the shape of an angel hanging out over Weep.  Gods and goddesses once tormented Weep by stealing their women, killing them if they tried to leave the city, and actually eating the real name of Weep so no one would remember them, but now the citadel has gone quiet after a mass murder of the gods and goddesses, and they want to figure out how to remove it.

Trust me, that summary does a much better job than explaining these books than the actual ones do.  I was so put off by the summary for the first book that it took me ages to read it.  This sequel did not disappoint.  I started reading it as soon as I got it, and I was just completely and totally entranced by it.  I’ll admit, I was super weirded out by Lazlo/Sarai since Sarai’s, you know, dead and all, so he’s basically having sex with a ghost, but whatever.  It’s a weird world, and I guess I should just be happy she’s still around at all.  Truthfully, the romance in these books has always been a little whatever it’s weird I’m going to ignore it, and that didn’t change in this one.  I’m here for Lazlo when you boil it down to the basics, and my goodness, he was so amazing in this one.  All of them were, really.  I enjoyed getting to learn about Minya’s past, I loved literally any scene with Azareen in it, and Suheyla (is that how you spell her name?) was the MVP.  Though I did think Feral, Ruby, and Sparrow were kind of shunted off to the side and only in scenes so we didn’t forget they were there.  The writing was fantastic, and THE PLOT.  Guys.  I was astounded by the twists and development in this.  Like, legit had moments where I just sat there thinking holy magic Laini Taylor is a freaking genius.  This book proved her skill as a master storyteller, and now I definitely need to get my butt to reading her other books.  Ugh, and don’t even get me started on every single time Sarai described Lazlo’s nose as “shaped by stories,” I CAN’T.  Lazlo’s nose being broken by falling books continues to be my favorite thing ever in these books.

I think it’s safe to say that I adore these books, and also, look at this magnificent art by Tara Spruit.

Okay, bye, that’s all, I love these books and if you like high fantasy/magic/stunning characters/gorgeous writing/wild plot twists/BOOKS/stupid boys turning into complex men/powerful women/JUST ALL THE GOOD THINGS, go read them.

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What: Locke & Key, Vol. 1: Welcome to Lovecraft by Joe Hill & Gabriel Rodríguez
When: 10/8
Rating: ★★★★
Spooky Rating: 💀💀💀💀  This was more about the art than the story that made it scary for me.  There was a lot of gruesome artwork going on, but what really got me were those panels where Bode is talking to the well, telling his echo that he’s not coming down to her anymore, AND THEN SHE CLIMBS OUT OF THE WELL.  Nope, no thanks, that was nope.
Review: Unsurprisingly, I loved this.  I am 100% a Joe Hill fan, and will absolutely buy anything with his name on it at this point.  I’ve been super hyped to get around to reading this, though, and it did not disappoint.  Locke & Key follows three kids (Bode, Kinsey, Tyler) after the brutal murder of their father during their move to Keyhouse, a seriously badass-looking Gothic manor in Lovecraft, MA that has doors that do creepy things when used with the right key.  Mainly, in this one, it turns people into ghosts when you walk through it.

The art in this was so good.  This took me a few hours to read because I was so absorbed in the artwork and really wanted to spend my time sitting with it.  The story was super weird and set some really good building blocks for the story as a whole.  I’m definitely getting volume two the next time I’m out bookshopping.  I had so many questions coming out of this, which I liked because I knew there was more.  Hill manages to still weave his excellent storytelling through a different (and shorter) medium, and volume one is like the setting of a grand stage.  Big, weird, creepy things are coming, and I can’t wait.

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What: The Loneliest Girl in the Universe by Lauren James
When: 10/9-10/10
Rating: ★★★★★
Spooky Rating: 💀💀 Okay, I was not planning on giving this a spooky rating, I just wanted to read something set in space, but WOAH.  This reminded me a lot of the creepy parts of Sunshine.  The astronaut dreams were terrifying.  When we finally found out what J had been doing, I was horrified.  HER MOM.  Yeah, this was a wild ride.
Review: Okay, I’ll be perfectly honest, I kind of set myself up not to like this.  I don’t know why, just the summary and the title were making me a feel like this was going to be a boring romance, but it was space, so I got it anyway, AND BOY WAS I WRONG.  When we first meet Romy, we know very basic details: she’s on a spaceship alone headed to a planet very far away because NASA finally figured out near-light speed, and she’s alone because a bunch of astronauts died preceding her parents’ untimely (and very mysterious) death, and she’s responsible not only for this ship but for the entire generation of embryos that she’s carrying to Earth II.

This reminded me of Sunshine (the space movie with Chris Evans & Cillian Murphy where they travel to the sun to reignite it) during its creepier moments, which, if you’ve seen the movie, that gives you an idea of how damn creepy this book got at times.  I was so not expecting this to be scary!  And once you hit that twist, man.  Oh boy.  This was a lot.  It was really cool to not know all the details behind what had happened on Romy’s ship, but to slowly piece it together throughout the book.  I really enjoyed the characters in this a lot, and the writing was fantastic.  I really felt like I knew The Infinity, the ship Romy is commanding, and I believed in her.  The whole thing was very believable, actually, which was probably why I liked it so much.  Definitely worth the read if you’re a space or mild scifi fan.

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What: Dracula by Bram Stoker
When: 10/9-10/29
Rating: ★★★
Spooky Rating: 💀💀 Both of these skulls go purely to Dracula himself and the creepiness with which he was described.  Not a single other part of this book was scary.
Review: This book has taken me Dracula’s entire life to read, and that’s 100% due to the Mina chapters.  I wrote that sentence before I finished this, and I take it back, it’s due to all of the chapters.  This just didn’t hold my attention.  I mean, it took me 20 days to read, and most of those were me avoiding it before just buckling down and forcing myself through it.  I’m a huge contemporary YA fan, so it takes a lot for a classic to stand out to me, and this just didn’t.

This follows Dracula, an Un-Dead Vampire who is hellbent on taking over London, and the ensemble of men and one woman hellbent on stopping him.  The vampire lore is really quite lovely in how in-depth it goes, and the settings were great, but other than that, this was boring.

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What: Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys
When: 10/11-10/15
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: THIS WAS SO GOOD.  Okay, to be honest, between buying this and reading it, I completely forgot what it was about, so all I knew when I started was that it was something at sea and I was pretty sure it was based on real life.  Totally did not realize I was about to embark on a WWII journey because I didn’t reread the summary.  This follows four different narrators—-Joanna, a nurse trying to keep her newfound friends alive; Florian, a young man duped into helping the Nazis steal art and trying to hide from his past; Emilia, a Polish girl trying to hide both her pregnancy and her heritage; and Alfred, a Nazi supporter.  Yeah, I don’t have a lot to say about Alfred.  I hated him, and his chapters were awful, but I guess it’s good to see both sides.  The story itself is about the biggest maritime tragedy of all time, the sinking of the Wilhelm Gustloff.

I thoroughly enjoyed this, and will definitely be picking up more by this author.  I really loved the short chapters in a way that left me saying oh I’ll just read one more really quick and then 100 pages have gone by.  It made getting to know the characters a different experience as I really had to hold onto any bits of information I was given and allow myself to slowly fall in love with them.  The writing was gorgeous, and the story itself was both harrowing and well done.  It didn’t shy away from the brutalities of war, but there were also some really nice small, quiet moments in between, as well.  This was excellently crafted, and I would recommend it to anyone looking for a different sort of YA.

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What: Song of the Dark Crystal by J.M. Lee
When: 10/12-10/16
Rating: ★★★★
Spooky Rating: 💀 This honestly wasn’t that scary.  The only reason there’s even a skull rating here is for the art because holy that first picture of Amri made me jump a little.  Plus, the spiders.  Yuck, no thanks.
Review: My review for the first book in this series can be found here.  I actually liked this a lot more than the first one, and I think a lot of that had to do with the narrator.  This is because I’m biased toward this sort of narrator—-the bumbling, awkward, kind of thinks they’re the worst at everything sort of person.  I really, really love those characters, so right off the bat, I enjoyed this more.  This is not to say that I didn’t like Naia as a narrator, just that I was in love with Kylan as a narrator before I even started reading.  The story was really engaging.  I loved learning about the Grottan Gelflings, the description of their caves was a lot better done than any of the other descriptions of the world of Thra, and I just felt a lot more connected to the characters this time around.  It was just much more well done than the first one.

This picks up right where Shadows of the Dark Crystal left off.  Naia and Kylan have just escaped the Skeksis and are on the run again.  They quickly stumble into old friends, meet new ones, and embark on one hell of an adventure.  We get to learn a heck ton more about the different Gelfling races, some really cool lore, and I just found out that Amri is the narrator for the next book, so hold onto your socks, kids, this series is going to continue to be fantastic.

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What: Reign of the Fallen by Sarah Glenn Marsh
When: 10/17-10/19
Rating: ★★★
Spooky Rating: 💀💀 Man, okay, this wasn’t that spooky, but it still had creepy shades and other dead things, so I’m giving it two skulls for that.  Plus, cool necromancy lore.
Review: I’ll be honest, this was a big let-down.  The cover is gorgeous, the title is enticing, and the summary really hooked me.  This promised to contain a lot of awesome necromancy lore, a spooky story where the Dead rule eternal, and a harrowing adventure of subterfuge and mutiny.  It follows Odessa (whose name I forgot constantly since everyone calls her Sparrow, which was never really explained aside from some tattoos of birds on her arms, but whatever), who is a Master Necromancer, and who is responsible for the killing and raising of the king, someone who has been dead for centuries, but also, in a really awesome surprise twist, isn’t the villain.  We’re actually meant to like the king a lot, and I did, though I kept waiting for him to turn bad because that seems like the predictable route, right?  Why did I expect the predictable?  Because literally everything else was.

To be fair, I did not expect the first major death in this story, but once it came, I kind of had this moment of oh yeah of course we’re going to spend the entire middle of this book drowning our sorrows in numbing potion before falling in love with the sister of Odessa’s previous love of her life because that’s not weird at all.  Also, Hadrien?  Come on.  I’m so sad, but mostly because I really, really loved him, and there was absolutely no indication that he was anything less than genuine at any point in the story.  I just wanted a tiny bit.  It was like a complete 180 for his character, and it made no sense.  The lore was pretty great, especially after having read Hold Me Closer, Necromancer, and the writing was okay.  I even liked most of the characters.  But beyond that?  The story was lacking in big ways, and I’m not going to read the sequel.

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What: Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon
When: 10/19-10/20
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Pretty much from chapter one, I knew I was going to like this story.  It’s about Madeleine, who loves books, who has a disease that forces her to stay inside or she dies, and who inevitably falls in love with the new boy next door.  (This is the kind of predictability that I like.)  It was recently made into a movie, which I liked more than the book until about 45 minutes in, and then it kind of went downhill.  I’d give the movie maybe 4 stars, and the book was way better.  After Maddy starts talking to Olly, she starts wondering what the Outside is like and if she could possibly have a different future beyond her safe white rooms.

Ugh, this was good.  There was one point where you can see me slowly falling apart on Twitter (I’ve started live-tweeting while I read, and it promises to be stupid and full of capslock).  I knew that there was going to be drama soon, but I didn’t want it because everything else was SO DAMN CUTE, and then the literal next chapter is the first time she goes outside.  This was just adorable.  The love story makes me want to roll around on the floor screaming into a pillow with delight.  The writing was really great, especially because we get different forms of it—-either Maddy just talking, the text convos between her and Olly, her Life is Short spoiler reviews about books, diagrams and pictures.  The characters were everything I wanted them to be, and that plot twist.  I honestly did not see that coming, and it was pretty wild.  And!  Bonus!  I posted on my Instagram story (I also kind of live chat about my reading there, so go check it out) that I wanted to read everything else by Nicola Yoon, and one of my super fabulous friends brought The Sun is Also a Star to my yoga class so I could borrow it, so that’s exciting.

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What: Good Morning, Midnight by Lily Brooks-Dalton
When: 10/21-10/25
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: WOW.  Just wow.  I expected none of what this book was, and I ended up loving it so much.  It follows two different story lines—-Augustine & Iris, who have found themselves alone in an Arctic research center after declining to evacuate when there’s some kind of apocalypse situation that we don’t ever really find out about; and the Aether crew (Sully, Harper, Thebes, Ivanov, Devi, Tal), who are on their way home after moon-hopping the four Galilean moons around Jupiter.  The crew of the Aether abruptly lose contact with Earth, and Augustine’s research center is abandoned when there’s a massive crisis on earth, leaving both sets of characters stranded in a hostile environment.

I actually really, really like that we never find out what happened to Earth.  We get hints (my favorite is when the Aether is almost home and they see that the dark side of the Earth is literally dark—-no city lights anywhere), and we know that it was pretty bad and that all communication has been lost, but that’s about it, and I enjoyed that a lot.  It let me focus more wholly on the characters and the setting, which we don’t often get to do because we’re so wrapped up in the plot of something.  The characters were all so well done, and I felt like I knew each of them, even each of the different astronauts, that I would have liked an individual story in each person’s POV.  (I’m glad we didn’t, I’m just saying I liked them enough that I would have accepted that, too.)  The setting was wow.  The descriptions of the Arctic were gorgeous, and the descriptions of the Aether made my little space heart happy.  This was just so a soft, quiet little book of beauty and loss, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

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What: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
When: 10/21-10/23
Rating: ★★★★★
Review: Ohhhhh, this was good.  This hurt in the best kinds of ways, and it was just so good.  It tells the story of Darius, who is named after Darioush the Great, though he feels like he definitely does not live up to his namesake.  Because his grandfather is sick, his family “goes home”, which Darius finds such an odd turn of phrase because going back to a place you’ve never been feels like visiting, but by the end of the book, Darius truly feels at home and like going back to America is leaving home.  On a trip to Iran, Darius is introduced to his history and heritage, struggles through trying to fit in, and ultimately, starts to figure out that it’s okay to not be okay sometimes.

This was delightful.  Not only were almost all of the characters POC, but it didn’t take place in America!  Or a fantasy world!  It was so refreshing to be able to learn a lot in a YA novel, and the settings were done with such vivid description that I felt like I was there sneezing under the brilliant sun with Darius.  The story is one that we can all relate to, feeling uncomfortable in our own skin, and it wasn’t just glossed over or made to seem like not a normal thing.  It was the focal point of the story, and it was so realistic and so well done.  I truly enjoyed the characters, the setting, the writing, and the story.

However.  This would have been more delightful if it didn’t feel like we’d been queerbaited.  This was just fine on its own without romance in it.  I actually really enjoyed that it didn’t have romance in it.  But the summary led me to believe there was going to be.  A lot of the text led me to believe there was going to be.  And yet, in all the discussions Darius has about his insecurities and uncertainties and not being okay, it’s never once even kind of touched on.  The setup is there.  All it needed was a few lines, really.  But the fact that we so obviously swerved around it when it was right there was disappointing.  And I promise you I’m not reading between the lines.  This still gets 5 stars, but it left a very, very minor sour taste.

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What: Preacher, Volume 1: Gone to Texas by Garth Ennis & Steve Dillon
When: 10/25-10/30
Rating: ★★★★
Spooky Rating: 💀💀💀 This is mostly due to the sheer amount of gore in this  It is not for the faint of heart.
Review: This was, at times, better than the show, and at other times, the show was better.  I like a lot of the decisions that the show’s creators/writers decided to make, and I feel like the story is (somehow) a lot more linear in the show, though that’s mostly to do with how we’re introduced to the main three.  I could honestly take or leave the art, though the gallery pictures were phenomenal.  I really enjoyed the story, and I’ll definitely be reading the next volume.

The first volume of Preacher follows up to about the second/third episode of the third season, which I haven’t watched yet, sadly.  They’re both excellent representations of each other, and I think they’ve done a fantastic job with the show.  The story itself follows three characters—-Reverend Jesse Custer, who’s literally searching for God, Tulip O’Hare, his ex-girlfriend turned hitwoman, and Proinsias Cassidy, a vampire who’s just here for the fun.  It’s weird, it’s gory, and it’s definitely going to make you grimace and then laugh and then feel bad about both.

Two things I would like to note.  There are definitely bits of the show that aren’t in the comics, and maybe they’re in later volumes, but the whole New Orleans bit isn’t in here, as well as the three of them meeting Cassidy’s friend and staying in his apartment (not Si, the one in the show, spoilers is why I’m not saying who he is).  Also: the way they portrayed Jesse, Tulip, and Cassidy in the show is, respectively, a little more badass and less of a womanizer for Jesse, waaaaay cooler and gorgeous for Tulip, and scary accurate for Cassidy.


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And that’s a wrap on spooky books!  I managed to read 4 out of 5 of my TBR for this month, which I’m super happy about, and a few extra spooky books!  I’m definitely off the spooky train for a while (she says, after buying so many last weekend), and I’ve been craving fantasy a lot lately, so here’s my TBR for November:

  1. Mirage by Somaiya Daud
  2. A Conspiracy of Kings by Megan Whalen Turner
  3. Furyborn by Claire Legrand
  4. Things I Should Have Known by Claire LaZebnik
  5. Ink by Alice Broadway

The last two are the last ones I have from earlier this year, from my February book haul, and I always feel better heading toward Christmas with books from the first half of the year read since I’ll inevitably get more books for the holiday.  I do still have some from May, though, so hopefully I’ll be able to get them in soon.  I also have one preorder this month (The Lying Woods by Ashley Elston), and a book that a friend lent me at the end of October that I want to get to (The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon).  I’ve got big plans for the last books of 2018.  I’m currently 10 books ahead of my goal, and it’s definitely looking like I’m going to pass 100 total, so I want to close out the year with a bang.

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