April Reads 2017 Part One

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This has been a good reading month so far, and I’d like to credit two things in particular. 1) I somehow managed to get my thesis to my committee very early in the month, so the stress/workload is slightly relieved (for now) 2) I kinda want to “beat” Suzi after her crazy 13 book recap in March. When I made it to 8 books midway through the month, I decided to post the first part of my reading recap to keep them to a manageable length–but check back at the end of the month to see how if I kept up the momentum!

Starting off with the book I tried to sneak into my March Reads, but just barely ended up in April instead, it was about time I finished Stolen by Lucy Christopher since I originally started the novel in April 2013, but recently picked it up to read from the beginning. (Psst–interested in seeing what I am currently reading? Follow me on GoodReads!) Anyway, the reason I abandoned Stolen was because I was listening to the audiobook and I had a hard time paying attention, but I had no such issue with a hard copy and quickly devoured it over the last week of March.

Stolen is a letter written by a teenage girl, Gemma, to the man who kidnapped her from the busy city of London and took her to live with him in the Australian outback. Her kidnapper, Ty, isn’t the traditional creepy old man psychopath, instead he’s young, fit and even Gemma thinks he is handsome the first time she meets him. But alone in the wilderness, can he make her fall in love with him?

I was actually surprised by how slow the pace was in Stolen for a novel about a kidnapping, which is partly why I had a hard time with the audiobook initially. However, the story itself drew me in, as did the setting. I really loved the details of the Australian outback and I don’t actually think I’ve read a novel set there before. I am a little conflicted over Ty, I mean, he did kidnap her so it seems kinda like a cheat to make him handsome and kind with a tortured past, but at the same, Christopher shows that one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to kidnappers. I did think the Stockholm Syndrome aspect of the story was really well done, I mean, there were times I was even rooting for Ty. By the end of Stolen, I wasn’t sure how I felt about him, because Christopher did such a good job telling the story from Gemma’s perspective. Christopher has two other published novels, and I definitely plan to pick up The Killing Woods in the near future. I am sure it won’t take me 4 years to read!

I really like graphic novels, but I tend to like the strange, weird, quirky ones and that means that a) there are only so many available and b) they are generally kinda expensive to buy and difficult to find that the library. When I had a chance to read Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten, I was pretty sure that this story of Lint Boy and Lint Bear, who live in a cozy dryer home until one day Lint Bear is stolen by an evil woman who hates dolls, and Lint Boy tries to save him, would be strange. It was.

First off, the images in Lint Boy are beautiful, strange and adorable at the same time.

Images from an advance copy of Lint Boy by Aileen Leijten, not final.

I really love the art from Leijten, and I would easily pick up another book by her in the future for that reason alone. The ink and watercolour combination is gorgeous. The story itself has a cute premise and I love the beginning, but unfortunately the motives and plot are just a little too simple for me. There’s an evil villain who is really a caricature of evil, which might be the case in classic fairytales–which Lint Boy definitely seems reminiscent of–but I would have liked slightly more depth. That said it’s a quick, cute read which would likely fare slightly better with a younger audience.

I shared Black Iris, a dark and twisted mystery, on the blog last year and now I’ve finished up the Cam Girl by Leah Raeder, the author’s third book. Several years ago, Raeder (now Elliot Wake) and I swapped young adult novels to provide feedback, so I don’t give proper reviews to his work, but I wanted to share it regardless. To be honest, I’m not sure I would have picked up Cam Girl if I wasn’t already familiar with the author, given the content is quite mature–as you may suspect from the title–so if that makes you uncomfortable, then skip this one.

In Cam Girl, Vada moves across the country for art school with her best friend/sometimes more, Ellis, when a car accident leaves her arm injured and another boy dead. Unable to make art, Vada instead becomes a cam girl, and it’s just an escape until she forms a serious bond with one client. But what about her bond with Ellis? And what really happened the night of the accident?

Like Black Iris, Cam Girl is a dark, heavy and graphic novel with some really beautiful writing, and although it does get a little bogged down in itself for a mystery, it always comes back. If you are looking for an unexpected novel in the New Adult genre, I definitely recommend checking out Wake’s writing. His latest novel is Bad Boy, and I actually read that this month as well!

I used to love to bulk order books from an online outlet every once in awhile–until I had to move several times and donate a ton of unread ones and learned my lesson, but one I held onto because it was small and I was still curious was Waxworks by Frieda Hughes, whose parents were Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes. Yeah, no pressure.

She has choices now, and if age
Should outweigh her womanhood
Before she finds a husband,
She’ll use a cell donor for the extra
Chromosomes, or be cloned.

There’s absolutely no reason to expect a daughter’s poetry to be like her mother’s, and in fact, it would probably feel fake if it was, so I wish I hadn’t gone into Waxworks with any expectations, but I did. I really loved Plath growing up (so cliche I know), and this collection, which features odes to all different kind’s of people, which can be interesting at times. A lot of it doesn’t feel that novel or exciting, but there are some intriguing moments, like the quote I’ve included from the poem “Cinderella”. The main issue I had was that I rarely felt any emotion in response to Hughes’ poems, and so I doubt I’ll reach for her work again.

Bad Boy by Elliot Wake is the fourth and most recent book by the author formerly known as Leah Raeder. This novel features characters (and plenty of spoilers) from Black Iris and Cam Girl, but adds a new one as the main narrator, Ren. Ren is a transgender vlog star, who makes videos about his transition. He’s also a member of the notorious vigilante group Black Iris where he acts as the enforcer, and beats men who have hurt women. But after an unexpected twist to a Black Iris job, Ren ends up being the one in danger.

There’s a lot of intensity to Bad Boy and it surprised me that it was so much shorter than Wake’s previous two books, although it was still jam-packed with plot. What the shorter length did mean was that I didn’t find the romance element to be as strong, and I didn’t feel enough of a connection between Ren and Tamsin, except for a few moments. Again, this is a New Adult novel which is very graphic in the content, so it won’t be for everyone, but I am very glad I had the chance to read it. Bad Boy is a dark and introspective novel, and the fact that Wake wrote this as somebody who is transgender himself, makes it an especially valuable perspective. I’m all caught up on Wake’s writing now, but I will definitely pick up whatever he publishes next.

Forest of Ruin by Kelley Armstrong is another book I had been reading for far too long and was excited to finish up this month–seriously, finally making a really good dent in my unfinished book stack. This is the final book in a trilogy, so I won’t say much to avoid spoilers, but I’ve got reviews of the first book, Sea of Shadows, and the second book, Empire of Night, already posted.

This young adult fantasy trilogy is told from the perspective of twins, each with an important role in the empire to help keep people safe. Unfortunately, there’s been a lot of danger going around and in Forest of Ruin it is finally time for the last battle. Armstrong’s writing is always really easy to read, and even though I don’t often reach for fantasy novels I really enjoyed this series, it’s just a little less intense at moments than her novels normally are, probably because of all the world-building required. Still, especially the last quarter of this book I just devoured. In terms of how things ended, while it wasn’t exactly how I wanted, it was certainly still satisfying.

I definitely recommend the Age of Legends series if you are looking looking for a young adult fantasy novels with all kinds of creatures, a whole cast of great characters and in particular, two really tough–but different–twin heroines.

Another graphic novel! As I said, I don’t read these as often as I’d like, but I managed to borrow Zombies: A Record of the Year of Infection: Field Notes by Dr. Robert Twombly by Don Roff and Chris Lane from the library as an ebook, and I really loved it.

Zombies takes place in 2012, when a biologist goes on the run after zombies start attacking, and this notebook is the record of his observations and encounters. I really “notebook style” books–I was a huge fan of Amelia’s Notebooks growing up–so this is like that…but with zombies. The story is intense, and even though the standout are the gorgeous illustrations, I thought it was well-written as a journal as well. That ending! I really hope Roff and Lane work together in the future, and I highly recommend this one to anyone who enjoys graphic novels, zombies, or just a quick, spooky read with beautiful art.

I had a bunch of books I was meaning to finish first, but something just tempted me to pick up Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia, and I’m so glad it did. This is a cute, charming but honest, young adult novel about a teenage girl, Eliza Mirk, who moonlights as the anonymous creator of the insanely popular webcomic Monstrous Sea. In real life, Eliza is pretty awkward and all her friends live online, until she meets Wallace, a new student at her school who also turns out to be a Monstrous Sea fanfiction writer. Her relationship with Wallace grows and she can share everything with him–except who she really is.

I really do hate when problems in books or TV could just be solved by one person being honest with another person, and that’s especially true in the case of Eliza and Her Monsters, where Wallace reveals a big secret to Eliza and she just doesn’t tell him the truth about her. Despite that, the romance in the book was slow and sweet, and I enjoyed the occasional “extras” in the book, like excerpts from the comic or online chats. Things got pretty dramatic towards the end, and I have to admit that in combination with the secret-keeping Eliza did get on my nerves a bit. Also, it just seems like everyone is such a huge fan of Monstrous Sea, which I guess because I am not involved in any fandoms I didn’t quite get.

I really loved the first two thirds of Eliza and Her Monsters, and while I was pretty happy with the final pages, there is a chunk in there I did find frustrating. That said, overall it was a really cute book and I think it would be great for fans of Rainbow Rowell or fandoms. I received an advanced e-copy of this book, which releases at the end of May, but Zappia also has another novel, Made You Up that I plan to pick up in the future since I really enjoyed her writing.

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Well that’s it for April so far! It’s been a fantastic reading month and I am hoping to continue devouring books so I’ll be back in 2 weeks with another update! What are you reading this month? Would you pick up any of these books?

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