In which I love contemporaries again, what even is this?
A short month, but not a bad reading month. I’m still struggling to meet all the goals I set myself – the series a month is the one that’s falling by the wayside; I have so many books to read that committing to read three or more in a row just seems like too much a lot of time. I have at least started my first new series now, with the first book of the Half Bad trilogy, but I’ve got some catching up to do.
On the plus side, my writing is finally, slowly and painfully getting back into its swing. Partly thanks to the help of a brand new story idea, but I’ll be posting a separate writing wrap up for the first time since November – and that was only because it was NaNoWriMo month.
What I read
Autoboyograpy was the most adorable, soul-destroying delight of a book. I was so invested in the main relationship that I was heartbroken when they hit problems. The full cast was well developed and nuanced, and I love it when contemporary romance-focused books don’t simply skim over the existence of other people in the MC’s life but really flesh out their relationships with friends and family. The conflict between the characters’ sexuality and the Mormon religion that dominates their Utah town was very well played out, with no easy resolutions, and I felt it was handled very fairly and respectfully, adding a lot of depth to the story. There was an awkward shift between first and third person towards the end of the book, which threw me out of the story a little, so I docked half a star and went with 4.5, but I still think this is going to be one of my favourite contemporaries of the year. I also recommend the audiobook!
The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making is an MG book which I may or may not have borrowed from my daughter. It’s magical and fantastical and surprisingly gruesome in places, with a whimsical writing style that you’re either going to love or hate – luckily I loved it, or at least I thought it suited this particular story down to the ground. The characters were beautifully developed, even the antagonist, who I actually ended up feeling quite sorry for. I rated it 4 stars, and my daughter loved it too. I also read the prequel short story, The Girl Who Ruled Fairyland – For a Little While which if anything was creepier than the main book!
Reading Dracula was a bit of a strange experience. It’s a story I (and probably everyone!) know so well, though I’ve never read the original before. But in this case, knowing what was going to happen didn’t lessen the tension or the creepiness. If anything, it added to it – watching all the little hints come together and wondering when the characters were going to figure out what they were dealing with. It’s an epistolary novel, mainly through diaries, but that didn’t undermine the tension or even the action scenes as I was worried it might. There were times when the pacing was off, and Van Helsing’s character was a little irritating, but overall, I really enjoyed reading this horror staple, and while rating seems a bit redundant for a classic like this, I’d give it 4 stars.
Saga Vol. 4 was the best volume of this graphic novel series so far. We’ve got the usual beautiful art and vivid characters, together with, oh, just a few of my favourite tropes. Dubious morals all over the place, characters switching sides, enemies joining forces, storylines meeting and tangling. The conflict between characters got a lot more personal and entrenched, there were quite a few shocking twists in a relatively short space. Just wow – 5 stars.
Love, Hate & Other Filters was a quick, easy read with a vividly realistic MC. It takes an unflinching look at the impact of Islamophobia and the conflict of cultures for the teenage daughter of immigrant parents growing up in the US, but it never gets preachy; everything flows as part of the story. The MC’s relationships with friends and family were complex and engaging, although I could wish the romantic conflicts hadn’t fallen back so much on lack of communication at times. I really appreciated the author’s honesty in showing how there’s often no easy solution, no way for people to get what they want without compromise and consequence – some of which were surprisingly heartbreaking. 4 stars.
I can never honestly say Cassandra Clare books are my favourites, but I devour them anyway, and Lord of Shadows is one of the best. It chops and changes between viewpoints so you never have a chance to feel settled, the storylines are more and more tangled, there aren’t any choices without serious consequences, and there are several characters I really don’t want to see hurt any more. It’s even pulled off the trick of having a protagonist I’m rooting for without being sure if I like him; Julian and his ruthlessness scare me a little. The romantic relationships are just as tangled; the Mark/Cristina/Kieran dynamic is getting messier and I’m not sure what to make of it. Ty and Kit, though, are a fantastic pairing, whether they turn romantic or not; Kit has to be one of the most rounded and nuanced of all the Shadowhunters characters. The hate and bigotry of the Cohort is disturbingly familiar from real-world events, and I genuinely fear for where this story is going to end. But I’m not invested in the ongoing Julian/Emma saga and the parabatai ‘curse’. 4 stars.
With so many books lingering on my TBR, perhaps a reread of the Captive Prince series wasn’t my cleverest decision. But with a buddy read going on Instagram and since I was missing this world, I gave in. The first book has me as conflicted as ever; on the reread I pick up lots of little hints pointing to later reveals. Things we now know Laurent’s motivations and personality with hindsight add a lot of depth to the story. And the characters are as compelling as ever, even more so with a series’ worth of affection behind them. But there’s still no denying Laurent’s (and others) unpleasant, seemingly unforgivable actions in this first book, some of them seriously problematic. Maybe it’s a little less uncomfortable now I’m able to view this as the first instalment of a larger story, but I’m still not able to rate it above 3 stars.
Half Bad had only been sitting unread my shelf for, oh, eighteen months or so. But then I guess that’s the point of challenges like Beat the Backlist, to finally knock some of those books off your TBR. I was unsure of how much I’d enjoy this, at the beginning – the writing style is very sparse, disjointed even. Parts of the book are in 2nd person, which is seriously hard to do well. But I was quickly pulled right into Nathan’s head. I don’t know if you’d exactly call him an unreliable narrator, but there’s a natural withholding of information until the point he needs to think about it which worked really well. The worldbuilding is decent, the sense of threat building up the whole time and Nathan is so determined and tries so hard to be good despite everything that it’s impossible not to be rooting for him. The hints of instalove let the book down, but overall, gritty and gripping and I need to know what happens next, so 3.5 stars.
February book haul
Well, that escalated quickly. I don’t even have an excuse. Well, a couple were pre-orders – Shadowsong, When the Moon Was Ours, and Of Fire and Stars – but most were complete impulse buys. I even impulse-bought a subscription box to get The Belles. Rainbow Book Box is pretty new, they focus on diverse titles and authors, and while I loved everything in the box, I’d have been a bit disappointed if it turned out I’d guessed the book wrong! I don’t have a great record for that; I had a FairyLoot subscription for most of last year and I got the book wrong several times. To the point where I had to go and impulse buy the book I thought I was getting, afterwards. Ooops.
There’s a comment button right below, whether you agree or disagree with my reviews. I’d love to know what you think. What’s your take on contemporaries that tackle bigger issues? What other graphic novels would you recommend after Saga?