What I’m Reading: March edition

It’s April! It’s the month my book (finally) comes out! It’s the month Winter will (hopefully) stop being a jerk and let Spring finally have her moment!

I’m super busy these days (surprise, surprise). So much so, that I’m a little amazed I’m still able to string together coherent sentences and even more amazed at the amount of reading I got done last month. Here’s what I read in March:

I enjoyed Marissa Meyer’s SCARLET so much more than CINDER. And that’s not to say I didn’t enjoy CINDER, but I while I liked Cinder and Kai, I loved Scarlet and Wolf, so I think this just comes down to character/reader preferences. And plot. This one feels more like an epic quest/search, and I’ve always had a soft spot for these types of adventures.

SCARLET picks up right where CINDER left off. While Kai deals with the Lunar Queen, Cinder escapes prison, taking with her the pompous (yet still loveable) Captain Thorne (who I’m pretty sure will end up a love interest for one of the future heroines). The bulk of the story focuses on Scarlet though, who is searching for her missing grandmother. Enter Wolf, a mysterious fighter whose help she enlists even though she doesn’t fully trust him. I loved Wolf–his dark, mysterious past; his brooding nature; his inner demons/battles. Above all, I love how Meyer twists traditional fairytales to fit into this futuristic, tech-rich world. The threads of the original stories are easily recognizable, but her stories also stand on their own. Very much looking forward to CREST.

 

I had the pleasure of beta reading NEVER FADE for Alexandra Bracken this past month. This is the sequel to THE DARKEST MINDS and while it blew me away, I’m going to keep this review rather vague because 1) the copy I read is still undergoing revisions and 2) I don’t want to spoil things.

I will say just this: MY FEELS. Ugh. This book tore my heart out. Ruby has grown a lot. Shaped by all she went through in book one she is now tougher and stronger and more determined than ever. Accept, adapt, act. (That’s her new mantra and it couldn’t be a more fitting given what she’s now up against.) Favorite characters from book one return in this sequel (again: my poor feels) and new characters are just as endearing (Jude! Vida!). I also have to take a moment to praise Bracken’s writing style. She knows her readers are smart and trusts them to pull the pieces together. And the world. It has always amazed me (with TDM and now even more with NF) how real this world feels. Even with kids running around with super powers and telekinesis, it feels possible. Bracken has put so much thought and care into the government and the economy and how the US would buckle and fold under such drastic tragedy. This is a fantastic sequel, so add it to your TBR pile right now, folks!

 

Rainbow Rowell’s ELEANOR & PARK was such a heart-wrenching, beautiful gem of a book. Park isn’t one of the popular guys, but he’s not stuck at the bottom either. He coasts, thanks to kids like Eleanor–awkward, picked on, the lowly of the high school food chain. But on Eleanor’s first day, Park takes pity on her when she can’t find a seat on the bus, telling her to sit with him. Each day she reads his comics over his shoulder. One day he lends her a few copies. And so begins the most unlikely of love stories.

I loved everything about this book. Both Eleanor & Park have well-developed characters and home lives. Eleanor’s is downright terrifying (an abusive, dangerous step-father; barely enough food to get by; a tiny room shared with her four siblings). Park on the other hand faces on over-bearing father who he always seems to disappoint. The relationship that blooms between Eleanor and Park feels so darn real. I had butterflies from a hand-holding scene. Yes, hand-holding. I was swooning like they’d just kissed after months of tension and near-misses. And while the love quickly goes into I’d do anything for you, I swear it land, this, too, felt real. It made me remember what it was like to be a teen. To fall in love and to fall hard. To only be able to see that one person. And the ending! One of the best, ambiguous closing lines ever. If you’re looking for a fantastic contemporary, pick this up. (It’s set in 1986, but it’s themes are as timely as ever.)

 

Having finally read THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, it’s no surprise Katherine Applegate snagged a Newbery for this book. Ivan, a carefree gorilla, has spent almost his entire life on display at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Humans watch him through his glass windows. His drawings–Ivan is quite the artist–are purchased in the gift shop. He doesn’t miss the jungle much, because he rarely thinks about it. And while he doesn’t have any gorilla friends, he does have Stella (a wise, elderly elephant), and Bob (a blunt, stray dog who roams the mall). But when baby elephan Ruby joins their show, everything changes.

I can’t do this book justice. It just needs to be read–by children and adults alike. The best I can do is liken it to Charlotte’s Web. Each animal has a distinct personality and voice. They work together to try and carve out a better life for a newcomer. Humans are portrayed as both the enemy and the savor, but in many cases, something in between. I bawled reading this one–both happy and sad tears. Read it, read it, read it.

 

Evan Roskos’s DR. BIRD’S ADVICE FOR SAD POETS was such a wonderful, refreshing surprise. James Whitman is battling depression. His abusive father has just kicked James’s older sister, Jorie, out of the house when she’s expelled from school, and when he refuses to pay for James to see a therapist, James finds his own manners of coping. Mainly, talking to a pigeon outside his window (Dr. Bird), quoting Walt Whitman, and hugging trees. As James tries to make sense of Jorie’s fate, he realizes he may share many of his sister’s self-destructive tendencies.

James’s voice is authentic and humorous. He reminds me a bit of Charlie (The Perks of Being a Wallflower). In his confusion and anxiety, he sometimes comes across sounding young and lost. Other moments he’s incredibly insightful, striking a chord with the reader. This book perfectly captures the messiness that is the teenage years, with a tale of anxiety and depression that is not preachy or melodramatic, and yet still moving and heartfelt and honest. And funny. For all the darkness in this story, I still managed to laugh throughout. This novel is a timeless read that I imagine will help many kids struggling with similar issues no longer feel quiet so alone.

 

KETURAH AND LORD DEATH by Martine Leavitt was recommended to by the lovely Megan Shepherd, and I am so glad I picked it up!

While following an elusive hart into the forest, Keturah grows lost and is greeted by Lord Death three days later. She tells him a tale, and charmed by it, he grants her a reprieve–she has one day to find her true love. If she succeeds, Lord Death will spare her.

This book reads like honey–smooth and sweet, familiar and yet a touch magical. It feels like a classic fairytale, and while it has many of the traditional elements it was just different enough to feel new to me. The writing is gorgeous and captivating, but also very simple and seemingly effortless. (Quite a feat.) While some of the foreshadowing was obvious and the ending easily predictable, it didn’t make me like the book any less. This is the kind of book you read for its classic, timeless feel and its incredible prose. Fans of fantasy and fairytales should not miss it.

 

I finally got my hands on another Thirteeners book in March–Ellen Oh’s PROPHECY. In the Seven Kingdoms, Kira is the only female in the king’s army as well as the prince’s body guard. Able to spot demons possessing humans, she becomes the city of Hansong’s only hope when all signs point to invasion.

My favorite thing about this novel was hands-down the inspiration taken from Korean culture. Oh has created a rich world, set in a fantasy version of ancient Korea. The folklore, fashion, food, and settings kept me turning the pages. (Especially the food. This novel made me hungry.) I also really appreciated the themes of discrimination and prejudice woven into the story. Kira is hated but almost everyone in her kingdom. Her yellow eyes mark her as different, and while she continually saves her people from demons, they constantly gossip that she is responsible for bringing the demons to their land. Oh tackles these themes of bigotry without ever growing heavy-handed, showing how even just one word or sharp glare can weigh upon a person when the attacks are endless and unfeeling.

 

WARM BODIES by Isaac Marion was such a fun read! Narrated by R, a zombie who can’t remember his name, this book gives us a look at the zombie apocalypse from the other side of the table. When eating the brain of a kill, R is overwhelmed by the man’s memories, and then saves Julie, the man’s girlfriend, rather than turning to feed on her. What follows is an unlikely friendship, which leads R to believe he has something worth living for, that he doesn’t want to die.

This was the concept of the novel that really moved me. He’s a zombie, but he still exists. He doesn’t want to disappear or cease to be. The whole concept of what it means to be alive is touched upon so eloquently. There were passages where the zombies seemed the dead ones (mindless feeding, lack of names/conversations), and others when the humans seemed lifeless (going through the motions, fight, repair, resist). Not to mention moments when the two felt interchangeable. Unique flashback devices added so much depth to both R’s story and Perry’s (the man he killed and the boyfriend of Julie). I also appreciated the complicated character relationships. (Julie, and her best friend, Nora, for instance, have interesting backstory. Everyone in this novel is flawed to some extent.) And the writing, especially in the first half of the novel, is stunning. Marion has effortless prose that is light-hearted and comical one moment, then deeply moving and insightful the next. Who knew a zombie narrator could be so passionate?

But the ending…I’m torn. I liked it, I really did, but it also seemed rather clean. I think I was holding out hope for a slightly darker or more complicated resolution. Still, there are some wonderful themes and insights to human nature woven into the book, which all support a thoroughly entertaining story. I suggest you read it and then we can discuss said ending together…

Hooray! So that’s what I read last month. What did you devour and love in March?

And in case you missed it, I announced the #TakenWithTAKEN contest yesterday. Be sure to enter for a chance to win some awesome YA books!

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