How is it December already? Seriously? This time of year always seems to fly. I’ve been bad with blogging recently; there was only one post between last month’s bulk review post and this one. To be fair, I was under deadline for TAKEN2 (which is now turned in–hooray!) and I participated in NaNo, so I didn’t have a ton of free time. I will get around to that Harry Potter Always reread post sometime soon(ish). Note the “ish.”
In the meantime, here’s what I read in November:
Another Thirteener book! This time, Kasie West’s PIVOT POINT. Addie Coleman lives in a compound, shut off from the “normal” world, where all citizens posses a certain paranormal skill. Hers? The ability to Search different outcomes when posed with a choice. When her parents get divorced and her father accepts a job working for the government on a murder case outside the compound, Addie must choose between going with him, or staying with her mom. Naturally, she searches six weeks ahead to see which situation will be ideal. The format of the novel henceforth alternates between the two possible futures that await her–with hilarious and witty chapter titles, mind you.
Addie’s voice is wonderfully authentic. She’s smart, believable, and level-headed. Confident, too. I loved watching her adjust to life (and school) in “norm” world nearly as much as I enjoyed developments in her “para” track. Trevor, the adorable boy she meets in the “norm” side of her Search, is the icing on an already sweet story. Above all, I adored the ending of this novel. After her Search, Addie realizes her decision will be far more complicated than she ever could have imagined. Neither future ends in a shiny, perfect bow, and each one requires her to give up something precious in her life. She made the right call in my book, and the final pages of the novel are full of so much hope and potential I wanted to hug her. Don’t miss out on this debut novel! (It comes out in February.)
I really enjoyed Kendare Blake’s ANNA DRESSED IN BLOOD when I read it around this time last year and was not about to miss the sequel, GIRL OF NIGHTMARES. Cas, the ghost-hunting teen who feels like half of Supernatural‘s Winchester brothers, is having nightmares–and sightings–of Anna, the ghost he set free of a curse in the first installment. But these visuals are extremely disturbing. Anna appears tortured, trapped, and anything but at peace. So of course, Cas takes it upon himself to set things right.
This was a fabulous follow-up novel. Cas’s voice is as honest and humorous as ever. His ghost-hunting friends are animated and loyal. There were some seriously creepy scenes–the one with Thomas’s aunt and the entire showdown at the climax of the novel, for instance. And the ending was perfection. Bittersweet, but exactly what it needed to be–for Cas, for Anna. I still think I enjoyed ANNA better, for reasons I can’t quite pin-point, but I was not disappointed with GIRL OF NIGHTMARES.
This is going to be the vaguest review ever because Susan Dennard’s A DARKNESS STRANGE AND LOVELY doesn’t come out for another eight months still, but I can’t not talk about it. The sequel to SOMETHING STRANGE AND DEADLY, this novel picks up right where the first left off. The Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, and Eleanor Fitt is dealing with the aftermath. When the evil necromancer Marcus reappears, Eleanor heads to Paris via steamer to track down Joseph, Daniel, and Jie. Aboard the ship she befriends Oliver, a mysterious young man harboring secrets regarding black magic, and what Eleanor learns from him complicates things greatly as she reunites with the Spirit Hunters.
I had a hunch while reading book one that Dennard excelled at writing setting (historic Philadelphia seeped off the pages), but now I’m positive of it. I truly felt like I was in Paris while reading this novel. Everything about the bustling city felt realized, and just as in book one, the fashions, speech, and technologies that populated the story were authentic to the late nineteenth century. Setting/world aside, I love these characters. It was so fun to be back with them. The Spirit Hunters are more of celebrity figures in Paris than the rag-tag team Philadelphia perceived them as, and this puts an interesting spin on their dynamic. Tensions between Eleanor and Daniel, who has “cleaned up” given all his time in the spotlight, couldn’t be higher. Jie is as spunky as always. And Oliver! I loved this new addition to the cast and how he fits both into the backstory as well as Eleanor’s present. Full of equal parts action and mystery (with a dash of romance), this sequel was a blast. Can’t wait for the final installment.
Where do I even begin with Moira Young’s REBEL HEART? I loved the first book in this series (BLOOD RED ROAD), and while I didn’t think it possible, I might love REBEL HEART even more. Jack is bringing bad news to an old friend while Saba is heading west for Big Water along with her sister, Emmi, and recently rescued brother, Lugh. Jack plans to join them as soon as possible, but the Tonton are still roaming the land and are as ruthless as ever under their new commander. Things get complicated for both parties; and Saba, after hearing ugly rumors about Jack, must decide how willing she is to blindly follow her heart.
So what made me love this more than BRR? It was the same, and yet different. The stakes felt higher, even when the first half of the novel was much slower. Lugh is an ass; he’s clearing suffering from whatever happened to him during the course of his kidnapping, but he refuses to share that burden with anyone. Saba is plagued by odd visions amidst the desert landscape. Emmi has grown and matured, but is still the endearing sister I remember. But the writing! It was stunning and atmospheric. The dust and dirt and grime and heat of this near water-less world has never felt more real. And no one ever felt safe. Even with the clipped, barren dialect, I felt fear as clearly as I imagine the characters did. Above all, I respect Young for letting her characters make mistakes. Saba makes some pretty rotten choices in this novel, and yet I still rooted for, still sympathized for her. I believe it is the faults in her character, her decisions to react first and think later that make her feel so real and so terribly human. In fact, most characters in this novel are a muddled shade of gray and I love that about them. They are a blend of friends, family, couples, strangers. It doesn’t matter. They’re just trying to find their piece of happiness in an extremely dreary world. And Young brings them all to life–even the secondary characters that don’t say more than a half-dozen things throughout the novel. They all feel real and so I can’t help but root for them and cry with them and stress over their safety. I am SO EXCITED for the final book in this series.
That’s it for me! I’ve got a few end-of-the-year posts planned for the coming weeks. And stay tuned for a big TAKEN ARC giveaway come the new year. But until then, please tell me: What did you read and love in November?