What I’m Reading: December edition

Thanks to some down-time over the holidays, I cruised through a good amount of books in December. The theme seems to be black, purple, and pink (in the cover department), although I promise it was unintentional.

Here’s what I read in December:

Laini Taylor’s sequel to DAUGHTER OF SMOKE AND BONE, DAYS OF BLOOD AND STARLIGHT. Just as in the first installment, Taylor’s writing is fluid and stunning and while I enjoyed but did not love SMOKE & BONE, this sequel blew me away. It started out a bit slow for me, and then about 200p in I was hooked and could not stop reading. I have never been more invested in Karou and Akiva’s story. Stakes are much higher in this novel, as we understand the magnitude of Akiva’s acts at the end of book one, as well as what it means for all of Eretz: seraphim and chimera. My heart ached for these characters. Secondary ones were especially well-drawn. I adored Ziri. Thiago, the White Wolf, is as creepy and horrifying as ever. Zuzanna and Mik added a touch of humor and joy to an otherwise dark tale of war and bloodshed. I don’t think I can do this novel justice. It simply needs to be read.

 

I read (and loved) Catherynne Valente’s THE GIRL WHO CIRCUMNAVIGATED FAIRYLAND IN A SHIP OF HER OWN MAKING last year. When I discovered there was a sequel coming out–THE GIRL WHO FELL BENEATH FARIYLAND AND LED THE REVELS THERE–I may or may not have done a little happy dance.

The FAIRYLAND books are truly a work of art: imaginative, rich, and magical; a modern Alice in Wonderland meets The Wizard of Oz. This sequel brings familiar characters back into the spotlight, but September faces some bigger battles in this tale. It’s a bit darker, with even more focus on growing up and that loss of innocence as a child toes the line between youth and adolescence. I thoroughly enjoyed this entire novel, but it was the final line that got me crying. Peter Pan, anyone?

 

I bought Jodi Meadow’s INCARNATE the day it came out last January and then it proceeded to sit on my shelf for reasons I’m not quite sure of. This is quite an imaginative fantasy–and concept–and I’m glad I finally picked it up.

Ana lives in a world where every soul is reincarnated–everyone but her. She is a new soul, born into a body meant for another, who failed to be reincarnated. As such, she is scorned (and feared) by many, including her own mother. Her journey to find out why she was born takes her through a wonderfully rich world populated by dragons and sylphs, thinking cities, dynamic characters, and quite a few twists. One perk of being slow to read? Not suffering the wait for the sequel, which comes out at the end of this month! Hooray for me.

 

LOVELY, DARK AND DEEP by Amy McNamara was recommended to me by Katy Upperman. When it comes to YA contemps, anything Katy enjoys I’m bound to enjoy as well, and so it was not terribly surprising when I fell in love with this book. Boasting poetic, emotional prose, McNamara tells the story of Wren, a girl taking a gap year off between high school and college after a bought of tragedy strikes in her life. She’s moved to Maine to live with her  father, and while surrounded by a snowy New England winter, begins to stitch her life back together.

Wren is rather damaged in this novel and is often not entirely likeable, but she managed to grow on me. Most other characters in this novel, however, I loved on first read. Her artistic father, Mary (a RISD student on fellowship and working with him), and of course, Cal (a boy taking some time off from college for his own reasons). Cal walks into Wren’s life when she wants nothing more than to be alone but doesn’t realize quite how much she needs someone. He’s struggling with his own demons and their story of healing each other is both heart-wrenching and honest. This is a story of loss and grief and recovery, and the sometimes stilted, blunt voice, balanced with gorgeous moments of insight and prose are the icing on the cake. If you like Nina LaCour’s work, specifically HOLD STILL, I think you’ll enjoy this one!

 

THE DARKEST MINDS by Alexandra Bracken. Oh, this novel. Where do I start?

A terrible disease has crippled the U.S., killing off most of its youth except for a small portion that, instead of dying, begin to develop unique powers: Telekinesis, mind control, etc. With kids being carted off to rehabilitation camps to be “cured,” the government begins to spiral out of control, along with the economy. The story follows Ruby, who escapes from Thurmond, one of said camps, in the opening chapters of the novel and teams up with a few other fugitive Freaks as they hunt down East River, a supposed haven for children like themselves.

I can’t do this novel justice. I know I can’t. But I’ll try, starting with the characters. These are people that grow on you, who seem so very real and all of a sudden–half way through the book–you realize they ARE. Or could be. You start to realize you know how they will react to certain situations, what they might say, etc. You feel like you know them. And then the world. I think Bracken’s world is so terrifying because it feels very real. The way the nation crumples and the economy crashes. The scenes of out-of-business, run-over Walmarts, and vacated trailer parks, and abandoned cars along highways all feels possible and a bit too-clearly drawn. I’ve seen a few other reviews remark on how dark this novel is. It is dark, but please don’t let that turn you away from picking it up. (I thought THE DROWNED CITIES was by far much darker, so if you’ve read that you have a point to gauge it against.) This novel gives us strong, determined characters (Chubs! Liam! ZU!!), an action-packed plot, and extremely high stakes. And friendship. Ooh, the friendships that are formed in this novel over the course of a dangerous road trip and classic rock. <3

I have a few outstanding questions (regarding what lies ahead for a few characters, as well as how the government plans to move forward with its future–the kids–locked away), but thankfully, this is the start of a new series. And after that ending–my pour heart!!!– I seriously can not wait to get my hands on book two!

 

Megan Shepherd is another fellow Thirteener, and I’m so grateful I got to read THE MADMAN’S DAUGHTER early. This is a retelling of The Island of Dr. Moreau, and it follows Juliet, daughter of an infamous doctor whose unethical experiments on animals caused quite a scandal when she was a child and left her and her mother with close to nothing when he ran. After crossing paths with Montgomery, an old servant to her family, Juliet learns that her father is alive and living on an island in the South Pacific. She leaves London with Montgomery to find him.

Two things stood out to me in this novel: the mood and the world. Between the storms and the atmosphere and the rich descriptions, the island Juliet travels to feels alive. And then the mood–dark deliciously creepy, brought to life by Shepherd’s smooth writing. Juliet’s father is up to no good, and as she peels back layer upon layer of mystery and lies, I found myself both glued to the pages and cringing at each new discovery. Juliet’s relationship with Montgomery and the islanders is equally tense and after that twist-packed ending, I am so very anxious for the sequel.

Phew, so that’s it for my December. What did you read over the holidays?

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