In an effort to keep better track of my reading history and share thoughts on everything I read even if I don’t do an individual review post, I’m going to start doing monthly recaps of what I’ve read throughout the month.
Disappointing Fantasy Debut
The first book I read in the new year was Snow and Ashes by Sara Raasch, and I was really, supremely disappointed in it. It promised action, romance, and the cover copy compares it to Graceling, so it was one of my most anticipated debuts of 2014. Unfortunately, it didn’t hold together. I found the world-building shallow at best and nonsensical at worst, the characters derivative, and abandoned it at 70%.
It read like scenes strung together with no logical progression. Some of the scenes in and of themselves weren’t bad, it just didn’t form a complete story.
I’ve been craving a new YA fantasy series that will compare to the Lumatere Chronicles, The Girl of Fire and Thorns series, and Graceling Realm series. Sadly, Snow Like Ashes was not it.
Indulgent Fantasy Re-read
I don’t often re-read books, just because there is so much out there on my never ending to-be-read pile. But, because I was sick over the new year holiday and really wanted a fantasy read, I decided to indulge. I re-read Fire by Kristin Cashore, which I realized I never reviewed on the blog, even though it’s my favorite of the Graceling Realm series.
I love the complicated relationship between Fire and her childhood friend turned lover, Asher, and how fiercely she loves him, even as she recognizes his faults. I love how Cashore doesn’t shy away from depicting the horrors of war, or the complicated political realities that produce it. I love how slowly Fire and Brigan’s relationship develops, and how it is based on truly getting to know one another, rather than just physical attraction.
This is so full of heartache, and though set in a fantasy world, so relatable. The story is layered and written with such grace. (God, I love puns).
I’ve never been a big reader of science fiction, at least the deep space kind, but I’m wanting to expand my horizons, so I picked up These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner, and I was surprised how much I enjoyed it.
While I didn’t understand why a future society that expanded across the galaxy and could travel faster than the speed of light would revert to turn of the 20th century style dress and social customs, I was able to look past that and enjoy the story. The science was light enough as to not overshadow the story, which is ultimately about survival and had a very LOST when-when-it-was-good vibe, with a creepy mystery. And I appreciated how both Lilac and Tarver were always saving each other. The alternating POVs totally worked, and the plotting was really tight.
Diversity is important to me, and has been for a long time. I want to broaden my own reading horizons and be able to promote books that reflect a variety of different cultures, experiences, and feature characters from all different backgrounds. So I’m committed to reading at least one book that checks off a “diverse” box each month.
This month I read I Love, I Hate, I Miss My Sister by Amélie Sarn, a French novel originally published in 2005 and translated to English last year. It’s a short novel, with short chapters, but is a contemplative sort of book that really gives readers lots to consider.
It’s narrated by an older sister, who despite growing up in a modern household, choses a more traditional expression of her Muslim faith by wearing a headscarf to school, which is forbidden by French law. Her younger sister chooses a different path, and foregoes attending mosque all together, dresses in more form-fitting and revealing clothes, wears makeup, and dates boys. Sohane, the older sister is expelled from school, and the younger, Djelila, is a victim of a hate crime.
The timeline shifts to before Djelila is killed by being lit on fire, to after, and is not so much about the headscarf or makeup, but is about the complicated relationship between sisters, the experience of being a daughter of immigrants, and the many ways that women express feminisms. This would be an excellent choice for a book discussion group.
Urban Fantasy Audio
I tried to read Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, but the crappy mass market paperback with terrible margins I checked out from the library just wasn’t working for me. It’s funny how much the physical product of a book impacts the reading experience.
Then I realize that James Marsters narrated the audiobook, and I was sold. (Remember, my cat, Spike, is named after the vampire Marsters played in BtVS).
And the narration made all the different. I’d listen to James Marsters read the phone book, British accent or not. This was fun and had just enough humor and good enough world-building. When I have my next road trip, I’ll be checking out the next in the Dresden Files series.
I read several books in December and January that I do plan on reviewing during February (some are even scheduled!):
- The Darkest Path of the Forest by Holly Black
- A Wicked Thing by Rhiannon Thompson
- Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Mass
- To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han
- Vivian Apple at the End of the World by Katie Coyle
And I finished a couple of early books that I’ll post reviews of closer to the release date:
- Bone Gap by Laura Ruby
- The Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
I have a backlog of a few books I read in 2014 that I have reviews that i want to post, but I hope this new process will force me to write reviews of books that have made me think or about which I have something important to say, but also to give me a space to comment on books without writing a full, stand alone review and prevent me from feeling “behind” in writing reviews.
What did you read this month? Let me know your favorites or most disappointing reads in the comments!