What I’m Reading: July Edition

It pains me to do a bulk review post, but the number of books that are stacking up in my “read” pile are currently rivaling my “to be read*” pile, and if I ever want to catch up on my reviews, this is the only option. Actually, if I were to be honest with myself, this whole monthly review route might be more sustainable. Katy Upperman, for instance, review-blogs monthly, with a quick run-down of everything she’s read, followed by her favorite pick of the batch. I think it’s a fabulous formula, and one I may adopt.

But before we get into it, I’m going to be greedy and let you all know that I finally installed Google’s Friend Connect on my blog. If you’d be so inclined to follow me (links in the sidebar), I’d really appreciate it. If not, that’s cool too, just know you won’t be on the top of my “People Erin Owes Cupcakes” list.

OK. Moving on. Here’s what I devoured in July:

I wanted to read Michelle Hodkin’s THE UNBECOMING OF MARA DYER since I a) saw the cover and b) read the blurb on the book’s back. This book is full of the creepy. Mara survives a terrible accident and suddenly she’s seeing things that aren’t there. Like her dead friends. In mirrors. *shudders* And then things she wishes would happen actually happen. Sometimes these things involve not so pretty outcomes, but they’re just coincidences. Mara didn’t actually make them happen, right?

I loved this dark, eerie side of the book. But half-way through, the romance sort of overwhelmed all the quiet creepiness that I was crazy about. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, I’m just not a huge paranormal romance kind of gal, and so for me, this became what isn’t really my cup of tea.** Even still, this book is an enjoyable read. The writing is lovely. I kept turning the pages and I had to know what would happen. If you do pick it up, just know there is a sequel. I hadn’t known going in and the ending surprised me so much I turned to Twitter asking if there was another installment. I didn’t see the twist coming, so it blew my mind in the best way possible, but at the same time, it was one heck of a cliffhanger and I didn’t get the kind of closure I was hoping for. (Luckily, there’s a sequel for that!)

 

When I read Tahereh Mafi’s SHATTER ME it had no cover and by the end of the month it did. That alone was an interesting experience, because I had my own idea of how this story “looked” and the final artwork surprised me. This isn’t what I pictured, but one thing is certain, Juliette is as intense and powerful on this cover as she feels in the book.

This story is written with a bit of exploratory prose. There is repetition and strike-outs and sentences that span lines. The prose is also very rich and somewhat poetic, which in most cases I found beautiful. There were a few instances where I was thrown or confused by the flowery prose – I didn’t quite know what was being said, or I was pulled out of the story – but I also read an ARC, so take that for what it’s worth. Either way, Juliette is a light in a dark world. She has a curse, or a gift, depending on how you look at it, and that is exactly what makes this read so riveting. Mafi also peoples her world with incredible characters. The villain is evil, and yet you feel for him. The side-kick best friend is a pompous jerk, but you love him anyway. I enjoyed the supporting characters in this story as much as I did the lead. Grab a copy of this book come November. It’s lovely.

 

CARRIER OF THE MARK, by Leigh Fallon, is the first book HarperTeen has published through their online writing community, inkpop. This alone had me interested. Oh, and the gorgeous cover. And Ireland, too!  Ireland is such a beautiful escape in this novel. Fallon, having lived there, really brings the location to life. I could hear the waves lapping against boats and docks, see the bright and rainbow-painted houses crammed together in town, smell the fresh grass of rolling hills. This book made me want to visit the country I was named after! (It’s on my bucket list. I’m trying.)

I also found the idea of elemental powers very interesting. Who wouldn’t want to harvest a little bit of wind, or water, or fire? Any passage where Fallon touches on the use of these powers – how elements are altered, the way in which they move and change, etc – is handled phenomenally. But much like MARA, this book is heavily focused on the romance, which again, isn’t really my thing.** Still, there is much to love about CARRIER. And if you dig super powers and cute boys, this is bound to be right up your alley!

 

I’ve heard VARIANT, by Robison Wells, described as a “Lord of the Flies” set at boarding school. Um, yeah. That sounds awesome. And it is. From the second Benson sets foot within the grounds of Maxfield Academy – which happens within the first several pages, mind you – things are intense. Examples: there are no teachers, students have split into gangs, cameras watch everything, everywhere, and no one ever leaves the campus. This book is fast paced and near impossible to put down. Benson is not a perfect person, but he has a good heart. He tries to do the right thing in the upside-down world into which he is thrown. He is on a constant lookout for answers and while that narrow vision sometimes had me pulling at my hair, he is a fabulous reluctant hero.

And then of course, there’s the twists. This book is FULL of them. Every time I thought I’d figured something out, Wells threw another curve ball at me. And the ending. Oh boy, the ending. I can’t say much else without spoiling things. Just get your hands on this when it comes out in October. Or pre-order it now. If you do, and let Rob know, you could even win a Kindle.

 

But my absolute favorite read of July was Lauren Oliver’s BEFORE I FALL. I read Delirium awhile back and while I loved Oliver’s writing, I was not quite as enamored with the story itself. But I’d heard excellent things about BIF, and so I picked it up. Sam is a “mean girl” (I’m talking The Plastics mean, with Regina George as her best friend) who is able to relive the last day of her life seven times over after dying in a car accident.

I want to know if Oliver grew up in rural Connecticut. I did, and not only is this book set in a town that sounds uncomfortably like the one I spent the first 18 years of my life in, but reading this book was literally like walking the halls of my high school all over again. The good, the bad, and the ugly. All of it. It is written flawlessly and honestly. Sam’s arc as a character is incredible. I felt no sympathy for her at the end of day one, and at the close of day seven, I was crying. (While on a plane, no less. It wasn’t pretty.) And it’s not just Sam that is powerful in this way; every single character has their own layered, complex story. They are shades of gray – no one is completely good or completely evil – and I found this both refreshing and realistic. Amazing. Amazing. Amazing. If you haven’t read it yet, this is the only book I touched this month that wasn’t an ARC, so no excuses. Get out there and buy, rent, or borrow a copy of this brilliant gem. Right now.

That’s all for me. How about you? What was your favorite read in July?

* Oh who am I kidding, nothing will ever be able to rival my TBR list. That thing is a beast. An ever-growing beast.
** Just because paranormal romance isn’t my thing, doesn’t mean the book isn’t good or it won’t be your thing. Maybe you’ll love it. Maybe I also haven’t read the right story for my tastes yet. If anyone has suggestions, I’m eager to read the book that will turn me into a lover of this genre!

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