Hello everyone, and welcome back!
I felt like I had a slow reading month as I was travelling a bit in the middle and busy with work at other times, but it actually hasn’t been that bad? I just haven’t been reviewing everything separately for Reasons. In any case: let’s get into it!
Flame in the Mist by Reneé Ahdieh
This is billed as a Mulan retelling, though it’s set in Japan/uses Japanese culture.
The tl;dr of this one is that I liked it better than The Wrath & The Dawn, but I still had issues with it in terms of the writing style and some of the character beats. I’ll probably pick up the sequel? Trying to enjoy this author as much as so many other people do.
Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab
This was the sequel (and final part of a duology) for a previous dystopian supernatural fantasy, This Savage Song.
This didn’t quite live up to the first for me because of gaps in worldbuilding and such; other than the two main characters, the most compelling thing about these books is the strange setting and the mechanics of the monsters that inhabit it, and I walked away from this book feeling like those things made less sense. Still, it’s always fun reading characters like Kate.
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
This is a whacky fantasy novel set on a kingdom of three islands. The law of succession here is that the queen gives birth to three daughters (always triplets, I think? any extra are killed?), and when they come of age, they compete for one crown by killing each other. They are raised separately on three islands with different specialties (elemental powers, naturalism, poisoning) and meant to develop separate gifts.
This one surprised me; with mixed reviews, I was sure I’d be one of the ones who criticized it, but despite its flaws (aka some corny romance), I had a lot of fun with it.
Tash Hearts Tolstoy by Kathryn Ormsbee
An ace girl negotiates running her web series that’s suddenly gone viral plus romance, family, and friend drama.
The representation in this one was exciting and it was an easy read in general, but I was “meh” on the delivery of the premise re: behind-the-scenes web series drama, and I felt like there was too much going on in this one to give justice to all its separate threads. Still, it’s enough fun to warrant a read if you’re looking forward to an asexual protagonist!
And I Darken by Kiersten White
Historical fiction/retelling where Vlad the Impaler = Lada, a girl.
I liked this pretty well, particularly Lada and the descriptions of place, but it wasn’t all it was hyped up to be for me. This is probably a “it’s not you, it’s me” situation, though; for lovers of this era of history, the book is probably way more fun. (I tend to skip right from classics to modern/contemporary.) Anyway, the characters were compelling, so I’m looking forward to reading the sequel; it’s now just out, but I’m not in a rush.
Grace and the Fever by Zan Romanoff
A fangirl happens to meet and get to spend time with members of her favourite band, particularly one very hot guy; she is also growing up.
tl;dr: I liked the coming-of-age moments in this book, but the fangirl part was…well, I’m not sure how a book about fangirling can feel so unenthused, to be honest. Lovely ending, some nice growing up, but if you come into this for the fanfic-like fantasy-realization self-insert character kind of premise (which obviously I did!), you’ll probably feel pretty disappointed.
Noteworthy by Riley Redgate
Fed up with her inability to get a role because of her unconventional voice, a girl decides to crossdress to audition for the prestigious all-male a cappella group at her arts boarding school.
This book was so confusing to me that I haven’t reviewed it yet. On one hand, it has some real racial/ethnic diversity and some diversity of sexualities and I like how it handles that (and the a cappella world is fun). I had fun reading it.
On the other hand, it’s a book about crossdressing where we get all kinds of diversity except actual non-binary, trans, or actual drag-wearing characters. I don’t feel like it was trying to disrespect those groups (the character addresses feeling guilty for using their resources to do what she’s doing), but I think including those folks would’ve made a big difference; I’m not the right person to speak to this, but without those voices it seemed…uncomfortable, at least.
The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
Natasha is struggling against her family’s deportation in the next 24 hours. Daniel has a Yale interview and a dream far different than what his parents want for him. They meet, affecting everyone around them.
You need to be a romantic to like this, but thankfully, I am. You also need to appreciate unconventional writing choices (like the digressions into the heads of other minor characters that happen throughout this book), but thankfully, I do. It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but I was much more into this than Everything, Everything, and I am now prepared for more Nicola Yoon.
Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
(Yes, I have the books with this cover; I’m a Canadian and I have my original copies, which are…worn, to say the least.)
I started a Harry Potter reread the day after the 20th anniversary. I’m not sure there’s much more I can say about that, other than: wow, the first two books are really short, aren’t they? Only they don’t feel like short books, because every scene contributes to the plot and the ending feels like a real wrap-up rather than entirely abrupt. Maybe when I’m ragging on short books, it’s because these are my subconscious example.
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling
…mind you, there is one thing the first two Harry Potter books lack: character arcs. From the start, Harry is kind and adventurous, Ron is loyal and a bit down on himself, and Hermione is smart and talkative. All they need is to do is be those things consistently for the first couple of books to work.
But the series makes up for this later by giving them more character moments and allowing them to change; when you have seven books, you can play the long game.
(Yes, I still really enjoy Harry Potter.)
What were your reads of the month? Any hits or disappointments? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!