It’s March! And while I’m a little late in sharing these, here are the 10 books I read in February. Definitely a mix this month, but the good thing was that after my first read the month got better, including a couple five star reads!
I really loved Cinder when I read it last year, and although I haven’t continued the series yet, I was pretty excited when my audiobook hold at the library came in for Renegades by Marissa Meyer, her latest book. Renegades takes place in a society where a band of superheroes or prodigies protect the people after destroying the villains they overthrew. Except the Renegades didn’t protect Nova’s family, and she’s set on destroying them.
Renegades was an incredibly slow-moving book that honestly felt almost entirely like an introduction to the story, despite the audiobook being 17 hours long (the book itself is 556 pages). If the audiobook narrators weren’t great and I wasn’t listening to it at double speed while doing other things, I certainly would have given up on the story, and even so, it meandered so much I was tempted. The entire world, from the superhero powers to the conflict itself, just don’t seem nearly as creative and unique as they did in Cinder, and I kept waiting for the action to start. There were some intense moments near the end, but almost all of it was very predictable. There were also plenty of those “Clark Kent” moments where you don’t understand how nobody has guessed who a superhero really is, which was frustrating.
Probably my favourite aspects of Renegades were the characters, even if their superpowers weren’t that exciting–although I did love Adrian’s ability to draw things to life–they had a great dynamic. Nova’s revenge for her dead family might be a predictable superhero storyline but I still thought her voice was great. I’m also intrigued by some of the secondary characters like Max and Phobia. I just wish everyone had a better plot or the book was 400 pages shorter. Still, I did love the very last twist and I’m curious to find out what happens next. If Renegades was my first Marissa Meyer book I don’t think I’d read another one, but given the ending as well as my love of Cinder (which made my top 10 of 2017 list), I will likely finish this duology when the sequel is released later this year.
I’ve been interested in reading Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty since it first became popular, and especially after the release of the HBO television show, which I desperately wanted to watch (but needed to read the book first). Luckily, my friend Suzi passed on a copy to me and I finally had the chance to read this story about a group of women whose children all attend the same school, told in flashbacks before somebody dies.
I was really expecting Big Little Lies to be a mystery thriller, which was a bit of a mistake, because it meant I was initially disappointed by the slow pace. That said, the characters were really interesting and well-written, and it’s certainly a story more about the women than the mystery element. This book deals with a lot of serious issues very thoughtfully. Still, there’s plenty of tension and during the last third I was really turning the pages to find out what happened. There were definitely some twists I did not expect! Even though I thought Big Little Lies was a little too slow, I can definitely see why Moriarty has such dedicated fans, and I will certainly be picking up another one (or more) of her books in the future.
A Tap on the Window by Linwood Barclay is the story of Private Investigator Cal Weaver, who features heavily in the Promise Falls series which I really enjoyed. This novel begins with Cal giving a ride to a teenage girl (who taps on his car window, hence the title) although the real story starts before that, with the drug-related death of his only child. While searching for answers, Cal gets tangled in an even bigger mystery, and the result will change his life forever.
I always enjoy Barclay’s writing. His stories are well-told and the plots are carefully thought out. Although the beginning of A Tap on the Window is a bit predictable––of course something bad is going to happen if you’re a middle aged man seen giving a ride to a teenage girl––there were plenty of twists jammed into the story as well. Since I had a vague idea of what happened to Cal’s family from the Promise Falls book the ending was not a complete surprise, but I did enjoy the journey to get there and it was really interesting to have more backstory for this character and how he got to be the way he was in the Promise Falls series. Overall, A Tap on the Window is another enjoyable read from Barclay, whose books I will certainly continue to pick up in the future and highly recommend if you are looking for domestic and detective thrillers.
I recently had an urge to read some more poetry and so I decided to check out which ebooks were available from my library, which is how I came to read Mouthful of Forevers by Clementine von Radics, a book that had apparently been on my GoodReads TBR since 2015. I immediately fell in love. This modern poetry collection is full of sharp edges and raw honesty, vivid moments and powerful emotions. It is filled with beautiful and quotable lines like “Apologies do not make good bandages”. I absolutely adored von Radics’ collection and immediately after finishing purchase a copy for another poetry-loving friend of mine. I haven’t loved a collection of poetry this much in awhile and I highly recommend Mouthful of Forevers.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire is absolutely a book I would never have picked up if it wasn’t for “BookTube”. I have heard so many positive things about this book, although they were always quite vague (it is about people going through doorway to other worlds), and with all the love it got and the fact that it was quite short, I finally decided to pick it up. I 100% fell in love.
At under 200 pages, Every Heart a Doorway is a short book that manages to still be filled with rich emotion and depth and complexity and beautiful characters and world-building. It’s amazing. There are so many worlds and characters and yet each one is intricate and memorable. There is just so much creativity packed into one book. There’s a slower build at the beginning and then things get action-packed about a third in, which made me wish the book was a little/a lot longer, probably also because I loved McGuire’s storytelling so much I wanted it to last. Fortunately, this is a continuing series because I already have books 2 (Down Among the Sticks and Bones) and 3 (Beneath the Sugar Sky) checked out from the library and cannot wait to read more.
I definitely would not have picked up The Chalk Man by C. J. Tudor if an adorable little package, complete with a pack of chalk, had not shown up in my mailbox unrequested, but once I had a copy, I was intrigued. The story is told in alternating time periods: 1986 when twelve-year-old Eddie and his friends leave secret messages to each other using chalk, until one message leads them all to a body, and 2016 when Ed believes the past is behind him, until an envelope shows up with another drawing of a chalk man.
As a mystery, Tudor’s novel is quiet and slow-moving, building up the creepiness until a whole bunch of twists at the end (one which was expected and one that was unexpected but very outlandish). Although in general I enjoyed the writing, the main issue I had was that I really did not care about any of the characters, especially Ed. Therefore, I didn’t care much who died or who was responsible, because nobody really mattered to me. Still, there were some great creepy moments and I think the premise is very interesting. I would love to see The Chalk Man adapted for TV as a British drama, I think it could be great with the right actors (similar to Broadchurch), but as a book, it just didn’t have quite the intensity or emotion I wanted.
I’ve gotten a lot of enjoyment out of listening to audiobooks this year, and I certainly have a weakness for short audiobooks, which I generally listen to on 2x speed and feel super productive when I finish a book in a few hours while also doing something else. That’s probably a bad reason to pick up a book, but combined with the good things I’d heard about Astrophysics for People in a Hurry by Neil deGrasse Tyson, I put it on hold at the library.
I think listening to the audiobook was a very poor choice for this book, despite the fact that the reading by deGrasse Tyson is done quite well. As a non-fiction book about the universe, Astrophysics for People in a Hurry is just too hard to follow along with if you are multitasking (and certainly if you are listening to it at 2x speed, I did have to slow this one down). That said, it is a well-done introduction to the universe, exactly as it promises to be. I admit that despite being a scientist, astrophysics is not a topic of intense interest for me, but I think that deGrasse Tyson does a fantastic job of balancing the scientific with storytelling to make it accessible to the reader. Overall, if you are looking for an introduction to the topic I do recommend Astrophysics for People in a Hurry, but I would suggest you skip the audiobook on this one to get the most out of it.
Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake is such a hard book to review because it deals with such a difficult topic. It’s the story of Mara, whose twin, Owen, is accused of rape by one of her best friends, Hannah. Torn between her friend and her brother, and dealing with her own demons from the past, Mara doesn’t know what the future holds. She’s also recently broken up with her girlfriend, Charlie, which adds more tension to the situation.
Girl Made of Stars is a very emotional read and Blake deals very thoughtfully with tough and important issues like sexual assault and consent. Mara’s voice was so raw and authentic, I wanted to reach through the pages and give her a hug and tell her everything was going to be okay; even though I knew that wasn’t true. While I did find the pace a little slow at times, Blake’s writing is beautiful and lyrical and my heart just broke while reading this book. Ultimately, Girl Made of Stars is such a difficult but important book and I hope that it is widely read.
Take Me With You by Andrea Gibson is an adorable illustrated pocket-sized collection of poetry. It actually feels more like a book of quotes to me, and it is incredibly quotable with lines like:
“Our insanity isn’t that we see
people who aren’t really there.
It’s that we ignore ones
There are plenty of important messages and lovely lines in Take Me With You, which is a mix of the personal and the political, especially because, as Gibson points out, if you use certain pronouns in a love poem, the personal becomes political. The drawings, while lovely, didn’t add anything new when it came to depth or complexity of the poems, they mostly just illustrated something that was being described. I enjoyed most of the snippets that made up Take Me With You, but everything was so brief I just didn’t end up with the emotional connection I really want in a collection of poetry. Ultimately, this felt more like a collection of best quotes rather than the actual collection of poetry.
I adore novels in verse and although I wasn’t familiar with Elizabeth Acevedo before The Poet X, the fact that she’s a slam poet made me even more excited to pick up her book. The story takes places in Harlem, where Xiomara, a teenage girl (and twin), struggles with the religion, forms a connection with a boy, and discovers slam poetry.
I actually wish I’d had an audiobook copy of The Poet X because I think, similar to Long Way Down, it would have been really excellent to hear it read by the author. That said, I think Acevedo deals with some everyday but important issues that teens deal with that I don’t often see addressed in YA, especially when it comes to religion. Not everyone will agree with Xiomara’s perspective, but it feels honest and important to share. The fact that Acevedo herself is a slam poet pays off in the rhythm of the writing, which has a great flow to it, and although I did want a little more from the setting and secondary characters. Overall, The Poet X was an emotional and well-written debut novel fro Acevedo, and I really hope to see more books from her in the future.
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Well that’s another pretty good reading month wrapped up. Ten books in January, ten books in February, can I manage another 10 in March? I’ll try!