What I’m reading: May edition

I spent two weeks of May in Europe, but that didn’t seem to slow my pace! Here’s what I read last month:

Elizabeth Fama’s MONSTROUS BEAUTY is only the second mermaid story I’ve ever read, but I’m not sure another will manage to top it. This book was beautiful and haunting and dark. And a complete surprise. I went in knowing very little and discovered a gorgeously crafted mystery that was so tightly woven it left me slightly breathless.

Jumping between present and past story lines, Fama tells the tale of Syrenka, a mermaid who trades her tail for legs after falling for a human. Hester, in the present timeline, is a teen determined to never fall in love. (No women in her family live more than a week beyond the birth of their first child, and so Hester is certain that avoiding love will ultimately spare her the same cursed fate). After meeting a mysterious stranger on the beach and bearing witness to unsettling hauntings at the local church, Hester begins dig for answers regarding her family tree. Syrenka’s tale (in the past timeline) is slowly revealed, culminating in a tragic and heart-wrenching climax that overlaps Hester’s life in the present. This is a deliciously creepy novel. I highly recommend you pick up a copy when it comes out this August.

 

I fell in love with Amy Garvey’s COLD KISS about a year ago, so I was so excited to get my hands on an ARC of the sequel, GLASS HEART. In this follow-up, Wren is still struggling to understand her powers, and when Gabriel encourages her to stop using them, she fells a sting of rejection; almost as if he is unwilling to accept her for who she is. After meeting a couple in town (Bay and Fiona) that seem to share her abilities, Wren begins to practice using her powers with those that don’t want her to hide them. But something is off about Bay. He is not outwardly threatening, but even as a reader, you can sense a certain wrongness from the start. He made my skin crawl for most of the book, and I think Garvey’s treatment of his character is brilliant.

My love for COLD KISS outweighs GLASS HEART, but I still thought this was a lovely sequel. Wren and Gabriel have their ups and downs, and like always, Garvey is able to write young love in such a sweet, convincing, authentic manner. Family drama continues to play a role as Wren’s absent father re-enters their lives. And above all: the prose! It is as gorgeous as always. Amy Garvey has a way with words and I will gladly read anything she writes.

 

Arthur Miller’s DEATH OF A SALESMAN is a classic that I never read in high school, so after the Engineer recently reread it, I snatched it up. I both loved and despised this play. In many ways it is masterful. Even decades later, the themes of Miller’s work are still alive and kicking: the working man, the pursuit of the American Dream, the way corporations tend to treat people not as living, breathing beings, but as numbers. I’ve watched friends and family lose jobs and be abused by their employers, much the way Willy was in this story. My heart ached for Willy.

And at the same time, I wanted to slap him, because Willy’s demise was what I disliked about this book and it seemed avoidable. His intentions were in the right place but he babies his boys when they are young, leading them to sport questionable morals in their youth. He inflates his own ego in the process of trying to feel important and valued. He is downright horrible to his wife. He refuses to accept his sons for the individuals they become and still tries to mold them into what he sees best, even after they are grown, independent, and more or less happy. In the end, he destroys the only thing he has going for him: family.

I found the entire thing depressing, and yet I’m still oddly moved by the whole affair. In the end, I’m glad I read it. There is something powerful about this story, even in its darkness.

 

I like reading books about the craft of writing. I like feeling like I’m not alone, listening to someone else that gets it. And my goodness does Anne Lamott get it. Reading BIRD BY BIRD was like tapping into my chaotic brain and hearing all the neurotic thoughts that run around in there read back to me in some semblance of order.

This is a candid account at the ups and downs of writing, and the craziness that is leading a life filled with words. Lamott discusses validation, jealousy, shitty first drafts, the muse of creativity, publication, voice, and so much more. I laughed out loud numerous times while reading this, and when I wasn’t laughing, I was often nodding in agreement. There are a few places that come across a bit pessimistic, but I appreciated them. Because they so honestly talked about the woes and fears and worries we have as writers. This book made me feel like I’m not (entirely) crazy. I’d consider this a must read for anyone who can’t not write.

 

For months it seemed like the only thing people were talking about was Veronica Roth’s forthcoming INSURGENT. Well it’s finally here, and I’ve read, and the verdict is that I liked it, but not as much as DIVERGENT. I did a full review of the book yesterday, and you can check that out right here. The short version is that I thought INSURGENT was a little bit too long, with perhaps too much running from action-packed scene to action-packed scene, but at the same time, I greatly admired Tris’ struggles as a character and the grief and guilt she feels in the wake of all that unfolds during book one. And the twist at the close was fantastic. I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Tris and Four come the final installment. I think they’ve got a long road ahead of them.

 

I devoured another Throne of Glass novella by Sarah J. Maas this month, this time THE ASSASSIN AND THE UNDERWORLD. Once again, I loved it. Celaena’s motives in this novel stem from the very fist novella–the cruel injustice of slavery. When Adarlan tasks her with eliminating a pro-slavery figure, her mission takes her into the sewers below Rithold. This dank, filthy location contrasts against the stunning aspects of the above ground city that Maas effortless brings to life.

Celaena is quickly becoming one of my favorite heroines. In this novella we see her make some terrible mistakes (blindly following orders, snapping at the boy who loves her, etc), and I can’t help but marvel at how these flaws in her character hint at her growth throughout the series. (Having already read THRONE OF GLASS, I appreciate this look at her past, her fire and impulsiveness. She still has some of it in ToG, but she’s changed, grown). And Sam! I fall a bit further in love with him every time he graces the pages.

I’m so very excited for the final novella, but I’m also truly terrified. Because I love both Celaena and Sam and I know what has to happen to get them to where they need to be for the start of THRONE OF GLASS. I have a horrible feeling that tissues will be in order.

 

But my favorite book this month? Cynthia Hand’s UNEARTHLY. I don’t read a lot of paranormal romance, but I heard so many good things about this novel that I finally picked it up. And I loved it.

So even though this novel centers around angels (both good and fallen), this novel was somehow very rooted in reality. I think that’s what I loved most about it. Clara is just a normal girl. She goes to school. She crushes on a guy. She has a healthy relationship with her mother and brother. So much of this novel felt like a contemporary YA. Except for the pieces that didn’t…

Clara is a quarter angel and has just received her purpose–visuals that hint to a certain task she is destined to complete (saving a boy from a forest fire). This leads her and her family to a new school, where she seeks out said boy. Along the way she makes friends, one of which includes Tucker, an outdoorsy, down-to-earth guy that begins distracting her from her purpose and the boy she should be focused on.

Love triangles are hard to do right, for many reason, but this novel excels. The boys that Clara is caught between is handled so expertly that I feel everyone writing a love triangle should read this book as research. (I also appreciated the natural and sweet relationship that slowly bloomed between Clara and Tucker. I’m rooting for him.)

I read this on my iPad while traveling, but promptly ordered a finished copy for my bookshelf when I got home. (Along with the sequel, HALLOWED, because gosh darnnit, I’m anxious to know what happens next!)

So that was my month of reading. What did you read in May? Anything fantastic?

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