I can’t believe it’s already time for the first roundup of 2018. January really went by a little too quickly, but luckily I managed to squeeze in a few good books near the end of the month after starting off the year with a dud. I’ve decided to start adding star ratings to my books, so you’ll notice those from now on. For now, I’m rounding to the nearest star (like GoodReads forces me to!)
One of the books I was really interested in reading in 2017, but didn’t manage to finish before the year was up because I didn’t enjoy it very much, managed to be my first completed read of 2018 instead. There’s Someone Inside Your House by Stephanie Perkins is a young adult horror novel about Makani, who moves from Hawaii to a small town in Nebraska. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem like Makani can escape her past, and soon she also has a violent serial killer to worry about, as her peers are picked off one by one. Makani could be next…
When I first started reading There’s Someone Inside Your House I thought it had all the charm of a Perkins novel (See my review of Isla and the Happily Ever After ), but with a very familiar Scream storyline. However, it turns out that the killer is revealed halfway through the book, which means, unlike Scream, the book loses all of its tension. The killer is somebody I really didn’t care about, plus I also didn’t care about any of his victims since Makani and her friends barely seemed threatened (and I didn’t really care much about her or her friends either, so I am not sure how much the towels have helped). I also didn’t care about Makani’s secret, and found the reveal overly drawn out. Similarly, the killer’s reason for killing was really boring and despite the novel actually being about a murder spree, it had a hard time keeping my attention. I actually forgot to finish it before the library book expired, waited almost 2 months to pick it up again, and barely noticed. Despite finding There’s Someone Inside Your House to be a complete disappointment, I would still read another book by Perkins in the future, since I usually find her writing really charming, but I really hope her next novel is a return to contemporary romance.
If there’s one book I desperately wanted to finish in 2017 because it would have made my top 10 books (although, who would I have had to cut? The struggle!) that book is The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. Raved about basically everywhere you look, this is the powerful and emotional story of Starr, whose childhood friend Khalil is killed by the police when the two of them are in the car together. Afterwards, his killing becomes national news and as everyone makes their own assumptions about what went down that night, only Starr really knows what happened.
Not only is the topic of The Hate You Give very timely, but Thomas’ writing is absolutely perfect. All of the characters in the story are complex and rich, even the parents, which can be rare for young adult novels. This does not feel like a debut novel from Thomas; the moments of humour are just as well-written as the really emotional moments. There is SO much heart in this book, it is an absolute must-read for 2018, if you haven’t managed to pick it up yet.
Last year I read my first two Kyo Maclear picture books (The Fog and Yak and Dove, reviewed here) and they were both whimsical and adorable reads, so when I saw the latest Kyo Maclear book, Flo, illustrated by Jay Fleck, available from the library, I was thrilled. Flo is the story of a little panda who does not fit in, while all the other pandas have a detailed schedule of their day, Flo gets distacted by the world around her; she likes to “get floppy”. But then one day, the other pandas find themselves in trouble, will Flo be able to save them?
I actually think that Flo would still work perfectly without the text because the illustrations by Fleck are so beautiful and descriptive, but the matching text is adorable as well. The message behind this book–to enjoy life, not to rush things and over-schedule–is perfect for both the child and the adult reading the book. Flo is a wonderful picture book and I hope this author-illustrator duo considers a companion story in the future.
After adoring Furthermore in 2017, I was pretty excited to pick up the companion novel, Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi. Whichwood is the story of Laylee, a girl with the job of washing the bodies of the dead, whose mother has died (but still hangs around as a ghost) and whose father has gone a bit mad. She’s got a big job and she is falling behind, even as her hands, hair and eyes start to turn silver. Then, a pair of strangers appears (you may remember them from Furthermore! YAY) but is it too late to save Laylee? And if Laylee dies, what happens to the rest of Whichwood with nobody to wash their dead?
Like Furthermore, Whichwood makes a fantastic audiobook and I highly recommend that you read it this way, it’s really like being read a bedtime story. There is so much magic and creativity, and the writing is so rich, it really reminds me of a classic fairytale with a twist, although I did find this story to be more on the YA side of middle grade than the first book. Even though it’s described as a companion novel, I would really consider Whichwood a sequel, and you are definitely better off reading Furthermore first. I don’t love this one quite as much as its predecessor, which was one of my favourite books of 2017, mostly because I didn’t feel the same emotional connection with the characters as I did the first time around, when I really, really wanted Alice to save her father. Still, Whichwood is an excellent story with a spooky atmosphere and beautiful writing, which would be perfect for Halloween. I’ll definitely have to pick up more novels by Mafi in the future.
I didn’t really know what to expect of Like Water by Rebecca Podos, but it’s a beautifully written story about Savannah, a teenager in a small New Mexico town where people tend to get trapped. That was never her plan, but then her father was diagnosed with Huntington’s disease and everything changed. It also means that Savannah has a 50/50 chance of having the deadly disease herself. So for now, she’s spending her time post-graduation working in the family restaurant, living at home, and distracting herself with meaningless boy after boy. Then she meets Leigh, somebody who becomes the friend Savannah desperately needs, but could she become even more? And how can Savannah live her life, knowing that Huntington’s may await her?
I really enjoyed the first half especially of Like Water, Savannah’s character has a lot of emotional struggle and the story was really well-written. I also really enjoyed the Mexican elements of the story, especially the use of Spanish throughout the book and the family dynamics. However, about halfway into the book it seemed like basically nothing was happening and it became really slow-moving. I realize this is really a literary fiction type of story, but since I was listening to the audiobook, it just ended up dragging and getting a bit boring, even though I loved Savannah. I was also a bit disappointed by the ending, I just wanted something a bit more from it. Overall, I enjoyed Like Water but wasn’t completely blown away, however if you are looking for a character-driven story you may want to check this one out.
A brief but impactful little book, We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie is adapted from a TEDx talk and discusses what feminism means, and what Adichie’s experiences as a woman have been like. I especially enjoyed the discussion of life in her native Nigeria, since it is so different from what I have experienced in my own life. That’s actually what I wanted more of in Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions, so it was great to hear more about her own personal experiences in this book. The writing is clear, precise, and powerful, but it really does seem conversational, like you are listening to a friend speak. Although I didn’t feel like the book surprised me with any new revelations, it did reenforce some really important ones, and I really think We Should All Be Feminists is a perfect beginner’s guide to feminism.
I really love novels in verse, but it’s been awhile since I’ve read one, so I was very interested in picking up Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds when I saw it recommended. This is the story of fifteen-year-old Will, who takes a gun into an elevator after his older brother is murdered. There are three rules in his life: no crying, no snitching, and you always get revenge. As the elevator goes down, at each floor a new visitor gets on, somehow connected to Will’s story, until it reaches the ground floor and he finally has to decide what kind of person he is and what he is going to do.
I actually listened to Long Way Down on audiobook, which was read by the author and really excellent, it felt more like spoken word poetry. There’s an interview with the author afterwards and he mentioned he really didn’t feel like he could trust anyone to read it the way it was in his head, and after listening to the book, that completely makes sense. The story itself is really heart-breaking, and it’s hard to imagine one kid has gone through so much horror in his life, but at the same time you know that Will’s story is sadly not unique. The writing itself is really clever and eloquent, while being easy to understand and follow, with an ending that really leaves you thinking. I will certainly be picking up more books by Reynolds in the future.
I don’t read a ton of fantasy novels but the concept of Everless by Sarah Holland, about a world where time is the currency and you bleed people to get it from their blood, just really intrigued me. At the centre of the story is Jules, who was forced to flee the palace, Everless, with her father after an accident, but later returns to earn time for her dying father. But there’s a reason Jules and her father left, and she’s about to uncover secrets she never could have imagined.
Overall, I thought the writing of Everless was pretty good, and a few world inconsistencies aside–I assume if blood is so valuable, even pricking your finger would be upsetting–the world building was good, if a bit confusing at the beginning. It was also a bit annoying that a lot of Jules’ struggle stemmed from her father just not telling her what was going on. That said, while the story has a really slow start with a lot of information dumped on the reader, I still really enjoyed Jules character. About two third into the novel, the pace picked up, and with most of the world building taken care of, I really loved the last third of the book. It’s impossible to know who to trust in Everless, and there were definitely some twists I did not expect in the story. Holland’s writing blends the heartbreaking nature of the world with the intensity of a quiet mystery being unravelled, and the end result is really compelling. Especially after a cliff-hanger like that, I’m very intrigued by book 2, Evermore, which releases in 2019.
I’ve wanted to read One by Sarah Crossan since it was first released two years ago, so I was excited to see an e-copy of this novel-in-verse about conjoined twins available from the library. Told from the perspective of Grace, 16-years-old and sharing a body (but not a life) with her sister Tibby, this is an incredibly moving and beautifully written story.
I absolutely adored Grace’s voice, and the thoughtfulness of Crossan’s writing. I love novels in verse, but sometimes it means the story is pretty shallow, but Crossan imbues her writing with a depth and emotion despite the few words. My only complaint is that I did find the ending a little rushed. Still, I really loved how even though Grace and Tibby had some health concerns, it was really obvious they were normal teenage girls who just happened to be conjoined, and don’t mind it at all. Even though Crossan is not a conjoined twin herself, there was still a sensitivity to the writing that I really appreciated. Ultimately, One is a really powerful story of sisterhood that I would highly recommend.
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Well, that’s it for January. How’s your reading so far this year? Let me know your favourite book so far in 2018!