I had a really great start to October when it came to reading, and even though it slowed down near the end, it was enough to convince me to change my reading goal of the year to 150 books. I don’t know if I’ll make it, but if I do, I’ll have written 150 reviews as well, so here are 6 more towards that goal!
Moonrise by Sarah Crossan is a beautifully written novel-in-verse about a teenage boy, Joe, whose older brother, Ed, is on death row. Joe was just a kid when Ed went to prison, but the summer before the execution, Joe travels to the town that the prison is in to spend time with him. This is a really emotional read told in a series of flashbacks and present tense moments. At first I was a little skeptical of how well Crossan captured the voice of a teenage boy, and while I have never been a teenage boy myself and can’t completely vouch for its accuracy, she did have me convinced by the end. My heart really broke for Joe, he was in an impossible situation, and Crossan powerfully shows how broken the justice system is.
I’ve read quite a few books from Crossan before, starting off with her dystopian YA duology, Breathe and Resist, and it has been an unexpected but welcome surprise to her transition so successfully into beautifully written literary YA. I loved One when I read it earlier this year, and Moonrise was another five star read from somebody who has now become an auto-read author for me. I think Moonrise would be a great book to cover in a classroom because of all the discussion it can trigger, but even if you are just reading it on your own, it is a contemplative read with poetic writing in which Crossan captures so much emotion despite the few words on the page.
I’m definitely missing the Cinder universe ever since I finished Stars Above (but especially Winter) so of course I had to make sure I’d read everything released to do with the awesome fairy-tale inspired science fiction series, including the graphic novel Wires and Nerve written by Marissa Meyer and illustrated by Doug Holgate. Going into this book, I didn’t realize how much it is actually connected to the other stories, so it was a welcome surprise to see that although it centres around Iko, who I love, all my other favourites show up as well. The story takes place after Winter but before the final story in Stars Above.
In Wires and Nerve Iko is tasked with tracking down the wolf-hybrid soldiers created by Queen Levana. It’s great to see Iko being so tough and her wit is great, but my favourite bits were her interactions with other characters. I don’t read a lot of graphic novels and the art in this one isn’t my favourite, but the story was full of action and it was just so nice to be back with the crew. Now I just need to wait for my hold on the followup, Gone Rogue, to come in from the library.
It’s hard to imagine a review of Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn is even necessary at this point, the author’s books are so widespread and well-loved, but the recent release of the TV series based on this novel and an audiobook loan from the library meant I finally picked it up this month. I really enjoyed Gone Girl and Sharp Objects is exactly what you would hope for and expect from Flynn–a dark, creepy psychological thriller with a whole bunch of unlikeable characters. It’s a disturbing but well-written, although I definitely feel like Flynn grew as an author between this debut and Gone Girl.
Overall, this is an emotionally complex story that easily kept me listening–the audiobook narration was also really good–and my only disappointment was I felt like I saw the twists coming. I’m intrigued to watch how Sharp Objects translates into television, and I certainly plan to pick up Dark Places by Flynn, which I also haven’t read yet, sooner rather than later.
I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya may be under a hundred pages in length, but it is not an easy book to read. However, it is an important one. The book is basically one long essay by Shraya, a Canadian trans artist, which details her experiences growing up as a boy who was considered too feminine, then a queer man who was not buff enough, and finally, transitioning to a woman who was not feminine enough. Shraya speaks bravely and openly about her experiences, calling out behaviour, both subconscious and conscious, of those around her. Overall, I’m Afraid of Men is brief, direct, and critical reading.
Wildcard by Marie Lu is the sequel to Warcross, which actually made it onto my Top Ten Books of 2017 list, so I had pretty high hopes for the conclusion in this duology. Unfortunately, I was quite disappointed. Wildcard picks up right where Warcross left off, and I don’t want to spoil that book, but basically it’s the story of teenage hacker, Emika, who joins the championship of the virtual reality game, Warcross, and is tasked with spying on the other players only to discover a much more sinister plot. I was honestly surprised by how much I loved Warcross, it’s a thrilling, intense, creative science-fiction novel so I was even more surprised when I found Wildcard to be kinda boring.
The pacing of Wildcard definitely seems off, and while it picks up after a huge reveal in Warcross, it seemed to take forever for the action to actually start. When it does start, the story keeps getting more and more complicated, resulting in what feels like a lot of “telling” instead of “showing”. I remember really liking Emika in the first book, but she basically has no depth in the sequel, she just seems like she’s there so she can find and reveal twists. There’s also a lot of morally ambiguous things going on and she seems to have no real opinion on them, which was frustrating.
I really loved the team dynamic in Warcross but that’s basically absent in the sequel, where the focus is on much less fun and engaging characters and relationships. I listened to the audiobook of Warcross and I would have been a lot more tempted to DNF if it had I had a paper copy instead. Wildcard is not a terrible book, but it was certainly a huge disappointment after how much I loved Warcross. That said, I’d still be willing to give Lu another shot, just to see if she could replicate that Warcross magic.
I’ve been motivated to pick up more short story collections lately, but unfortunately, I am really slow at reading them since you have to continue to re-immerse yourself into so many different worlds. That was exactly the case with A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman–I mean, it even says it in the title–but ultimately I am really glad I continued to reach for this collection of Asian myth and legend retellings.
As with most anthologies, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings was certainly a mix, but fortunately it had more hits than misses. It definitely introduced me to several new authors I’d be interested in reading more from. You can find my full thoughts as I read the collection on GoodReads here. A few of my favourites: Roshani Chokshi’s prose was lush and vivid; Elsie Chapman’s story was poetic and sad with some beautiful imagery; Shveta Thakrar had exceptionally beautiful writing and I loved the way she weaved two tales together; Cindy Pon’s story just felt filled with magic; and lastly, Julie Kagawa’s story was a great way to finish the book since it was fun, magical, sad and with lovely writing all at the same time. Overall, A Thousand Beginnings and Endings wasn’t a flawless collection, but I definitely think Oh and Chapman did a fantastic job assembling it and the stories I loved certainly made it a worthwhile read.
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What have you been reading lately? Let me know if you’ve picked up any of these books.