Hello everyone, and welcome to this year’s first edition of Monthly Reads!
It’s stuff like this that reminds me how far this blog has come. I used to just round up the books I read weekly instead of doing individual reviews. Now we have individual reviews, the monthly round-ups, the seasonal best & worst, second chance reads, and top ten(ish) lists. We’re almost a real blog, team. ;_;
Uh, in any case. I’m more than on track for amount of books, but not so much length, so I’ll have to work on that this month. (I promised fewer short books this year, but…not there yet.) In any case: let’s get to it!
The Weight of Feathers by Anna-Marie McLemore
Yet another magical realism book, and another by the author of When the Moon Was Ours, which kicked off this genre/trend in my reading. This one is a bit of a Romeo and Juliet thing about two characters who come from families of travelling performers.
There were some gorgeous descriptive passages in this one (particularly about the costumes and performances), but I’m not sure I got to know the characters enough to invest in them emotionally as much as I could have? The romance in general also felt less compelling than in When the Moon Was Ours. I’ll probably pick up and move on to Wild Beauty (and then the author’s next book coming out this year; she’s putting out a lot of books!).
Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman
This is a sequel to Scythe, a utopian-future novel I read and quite enjoyed last year, featuring two protagonists who are learning to be Scythes, the reapers of humankind in a world where people can essentially live forever, having solved disease, aging, and hunger (but not overpopulation) through the stewardship of an almost-omniscient AI cloud called the Thunderhead.
This book felt a little bit like a bridge book between a first and third book with a lot of set-up and not a lot of development for the protagonists, but it did have a strong, climactic last act and a lot of development for the Thunderhead…character, if you can call it. It did feel a little bit like I was reading from the author’s formula (now that I’ve read another of his books, Unwind), but I am engaged and interested enough in the world to want to know what happens next.
The Way I Used to Be by Amber Smith
This book was another on my quest to read a lot of books that deal with the issues of rape and sexual assault, since I wanted to have a sense of what might be good to recommend on the topic. The Way I Used to Be offers a different take; while a lot of protagonists of books on this subject distance themselves physically from others thereafter, its protagonist seeks out casual sex and pushes herself to own the “bad girl” status others project on her.
I think…this book could be valuable for portraying a different way of dealing with sexual assault, but ultimately it doesn’t have much character development or do much to develop its relationships to hit its emotional beats. As in: The character’s relationship with her brother is meant to be weighty and important to her, but occupies, like, a handful of pages. Ouch.
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
This is a contemporary that deals with racial discrimination against black male teens, from the perspective of a prep-school kid who’s just been arrested for trying to drive home his drunk ex-girlfriend and who starts writing letters in a journal to Martin Luther King Jr. to try to negotiate his feelings about how he’s perceived and what he’s up against. (There’s also more police-on-black-teen violence in the book, but that comes later.)
This book brought up some good points, but it was also quite short in general and short in terms of having a big cast of characters and not really filling us in much on who they are. As a way to start to think through currently relevant issues, this is definitely a real book, but as a novel in general, it was…not really meeting the hype. (I’ll keep an eye out for the author’s next to see how I feel about that.)
The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love by Sarvenaz Tash
As you might expect, this is a fandom-flavoured contemporary romance. Much along the lines of Queens of Geek, it is largely set at a con.
This book worked out better than I thought, since it at first came off as one of those “do big grand romantic gestures and then ‘get’ the girl you ‘deserve'” kinda things, and it turned that around, which was nice. But it was also really too short, and a little awkward in negotiating how it overturned that, because the female love interest didn’t really get to be much of her own person? I wouldn’t mind seeing what’s next up from this author, in any case, but this wasn’t for me, really.
The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco
This is a fantasy about a bone witch, as you might guess. She accidentally raises her brother from the dead and finds herself immersed in magic training, politics, and up against dangerous beasts and a lot of prejudice.
I actually liked this book, which puts me against the grain of a lot of reviewers, but I have to throw in the caveat that it’s basically all worldbuilding and set-up and very little action and character-relationship-building and other substance. So. If you’re really good with slower-paced fantasy novels and love worlds that feel very thought through with deeper magic systems, then you might be in for this. (And how good it is might admittedly hinge on its sequel in context.) If not, swerve.
What were your reads this month? Any favourites to recommend? Let me know in the comments, and I’ll speak to you again soon!