Review: The Dream Thieves

Sequels make me wary. When the first book is good enough to convince readers to pick up a second volume, expectations run high and hopes are easily dashed. Not so with Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, the second book in her popular Raven Cycle. If you missed my review of book one, The Raven Boys, you can find that here.

thedreamthievesAbout the book: The ley line is awake, but there’s a new problem with Cabeswater. Namely, it’s not where Blue and her Aglionby friends left it. Ronan still sees it in his dreams, however, and must use his ability of pulling tangible objects from his dreams to help put Cabeswater back to rights. There’s a new man in town, however, who’s also interested in Ronan’s dream capabilities and looks even more dangerous than Whelk. Adam, after sacrificing his senses for Cabeswater’s use, is also battling to restore the magical forest of Cabeswater because the only way to hold onto his sanity with Cabeswater in his head is to balance the surges and outages that the awakened ley line has caused all over Henrietta. Noah comes and goes, helping where he can. Gansey, of course, is busy trying to hold everyone else together, even when they’re hurting him. It seems that the only one who can help him keep everything together is Blue, and maybe she’s starting to feel the same about him…

“In that moment, Blue was a little in love with all of them. Their magic. Their quest. Their awfulness and strangeness. Her raven boys.”

The first book in the Raven Cycle focused heavily on Blue. In this sequel, however, Blue is given very little space in the narration. She’s often present, but her role is lesser in this novel and so the 3rd person narration highlights the characters that are most important to restoring Cabeswater–Ronan and Adam. The reader also sees Gansey with relative frequency, as he tries to lead the group even while its edges fray and his friends lash out at him, but primarily this book is an expansion rather than a continuation. As the story carries onward, we’re also seeing farther back into the characters’ pasts. Blue and Gansey step away from the center of the stage, but when they do appear, the tension between them evolves into  something unprecedented in The Raven Boys. The Raven Cycle is not a romance series, but it does contain some romance, and the complications of love start to appear in this volume.

“Kissing’s a lot like laughing. If the joke’s funny, it doesn’t matter how long it’s been since you last heard one.”

Worst aspect: without access to Blue’s thoughts, her minor fights over the wording of the raven boys’ statements come off more antagonistically. She makes good points, but the fact that she never seems to agree with anything the others say makes it seem like she’s always picking a fight. She handles awkward situations with each of them well, but being able to see the boys’ perspectives more prominently makes Blue seem more disagreeable and confrontational. I’m glad she’s there–this boy-filled quest for Glendower needed a female perspective–but I didn’t like her attitude as much in this volume. Also, the fact that she’s the only girl makes me wonder where the smart, rich girls of Henrietta are. If Aglionby is an all-boys private school for the rich and intelligent, where are the girls? Is there another special school, a counterpart to Aglionby? Do private school girls have to find another school in another town? I don’t need more than a one-sentence explanation, but I want to know.

Best aspect: Mr. Gray, the potential antagonist of the novel, is a highly interesting character. I mean, all of Stiefvater’s characters are interesting, but Mr. Gray is the sort of character that readers can spend a whole book wondering which side he’s on. He’s got a creepy past, an uncertain future, and even in the present he’s mysterious. The part that makes him best for this sequel, though, is the fact that he’s nothing like Barrington Whelk. Often sequels recycle bad guys, or create new ones from the same evil mold. Mr. Gray is entirely new and different, deadly with a charming exterior, and nearly every inclusion of him in The Dream Thieves’ narration meant another surprise.

“What a strange thing this was that they all knew that Mr. Gray was certainly not Mr. Gray, and yet they all went along with it. This playacting should have rankled Blue’s sensible side, but instead, it struck her as a reasonable solution. He didn’t want to say who he was, and they needed to call him something.”

The most notable difference between books one and two of the Raven Cycle, however, is the dramatic foray into supernatural territory. There were some otherworldly elements in The Raven Boys, but The Dream Thieves takes the supernatural side of the quest for the centuries-old slumbering king Glendower to a whole other level. Taking things from dreams is only the beginning of the strangeness in this book. If you’re not willing to believe the unbelievable, this may not be the book for you. If you like books that challenge your idea of reality, this is exactly the book for you.

” ‘There isn’t anything else, man.’ ‘There’s reality,’ [Ronan said.] Kavinsky laughed the word. ‘Reality! Reality’s what other people dream for you.’ “

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. A rare rating for a sequel, but this one deserved it. I love that each book in this series so far left me desperately wondering what will happen next. A great strategy, Stiefvater, to keep me invested in reading your books. I will definitely be checking out the next volume in the Raven Cycle, probably next month, and it’s one of the books I’m most looking forward to on next month’s list. Usually I’m a little skeptical of supernatural stories, but I’m in this one for the long haul.

Further recommendations:

  1. Red Rising by Pierce Brown also has an incredible sequel to accompany its phenomenal first book. Although this series is not supernatural, it does take place on futuristic Mars, which is otherworldly in its own way. If you’re looking for a new series that rivals the Raven Cycle with its unique characters and superb writing, check out Red Rising. You can find my complete review of this book here.

What’s next: I’m currently reading Graham Moore’s new historical fiction novel, The Last Days of Night. It’s set in New York City at the end of the 1800’s, and focuses on a young lawyer who’s defending an inventor rival of Thomas Edison’s.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

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Review: Cress

This is the Lunar Chronicles book I was waiting for. I’ve heard a lot of love for this series, but Cress, the third book in the set, is the first one that really hooked me in the way I’d been hoping Marissa Meyers’ books would. This will be a spoiler-free review of Cress, but I’ll be assuming you’ve already read the previous two books. If you need a refresher, you can check out my complete reviews of Cinder and Scarlet with these links.

About the book: Cinder and crew are devising a plan aboard the Rampion to thwart Queen Levana. They are able to contact Cress with the D-COMM chip again, and communicate with her about evidence against Levana that Cress has gathered from aboard the satellite where she is imprisoned. Things never go as planned, of course, and in this case the consequences leave Cress more vulnerable than ever. In fact, as Cinder scrambles for a plan that will aid everyone’s specific ailments and counter a myriad of unforeseen predicaments, it seems that everyone aboard has some reason to suffer and must find the strength to persevere for the ones they love and the causes they believe in. With the royal wedding drawing near, Cinder is also growing more desperate to free Emperor Kai from his impending marriage, and Kai is growing more desperate to find Princess Selene, whom he hopes will be able to save them all. Theirs isn’t the only unconventional romance, however. Cress meets Earthens for the first time in her life, and can hardly help falling in love…cress

” ‘Do you think it was destiny that brought us together?’ [Cress asked.] He squinted and, after a thoughtful moment, shook his head. ‘No. I’m pretty sure it was Cinder. Why?’ […] ‘I… I had a crush on you, before we even met, just from seeing you on the netscreens. I used to believe that you and I were destined to be together, someday, and that we would have this great, epic romance.’ One eyebrow ticked upward. ‘Wow. No pressure or anything.’ She squirmed, her body was vibrating with nerves. ‘I know. I’m sorry. I think you might be right, though. Maybe there isn’t such a thing as fate. Maybe it’s just the opportunities we’re given, and what we do with them. I’m beginning to think that maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.’ “

Like the previous books, in Cress the reader is given multiple 3rd person views into the lives of the characters, divided by chapters. Unlike other books though, this one seemed to switch perspectives with nearly every chapter, and there seemed to be many more primary characters in this volume. In the past, we’ve had a few primary characters and more secondary characters who may appear in close narration but seem less vital to the story. In Cress, every character is a crucial piece to the puzzle, and the narration weaves between them in a way that leaves the reader wanting to know what happens next–except the next chapter picks up a different thread of the story. In a way, this back-and-forth narration is what I had been looking for in this series and I was so glad to see it here. There were cliff-hanging endings between chapters narrated by different characters, which is a fun concept within a book and was actually the element that most drew my attention in Cinder.

However, it did become a little exhausting and frustrating to be left wanting more at the end of every chapter. I never felt like I was catching up with the story; there was always so much more dangling ahead, and honestly I still felt that a bit at the end of the book. The transitions were a little jarring, and it was harder to capture resolution with this format, but it did keep me pushing forward through the story, and kept me engaged with all of the main characters. I hope we see more of this style in the final books (although technically there are four main novels in this series, I’m going to read Fairest next, which is a sort of companion book that was published between Cress and the official fourth Lunar Chronicles book, Winter).

Best aspect: unlike my initial impressions of Scarlet, Cress features characters that feel unique and separate from one another. Each character here has their own plot line, and suddenly they’re all equally interesting. Cress has one of the most interesting backstories we’ve seen yet, and her romance is solid while the others work through expected (Cinder and Kai) and unexpected (Scarlet and Wolf) logistical difficulties. The characters have grown in this novel. Their personalities remain consistent, but they’re stronger, they branch out on their own endeavors more easily, but they also work more smoothly as a team than we’ve seen so far.

Worst aspect: I can’t say that it’s grammatically incorrect, but something about the writing style in this series grates my nerves on a minute level rather than a structural one, especially in the sections that have more exposition than action. I think part of the problem is that the reader is often given explanations twice–first when a character discovers something, and then again when the character is finally ready to talk about it. This seems like a typical order of operations, but in a book this long it seems unnecessary to be reading the same discovery both when one character makes it and when they decide to share it. A faster pace and a little more hinting rather than overkill explanation would really help the writing style fade into the background where it belongs. It’s not exactly written poorly, but there are sentences that sound awkward, and I never think, “Oh yeah, great word choice there,” which is usually something I notice frequently in books. I like that this world has its own vocabulary for its futuristic devices and ways of life, but something about the narration makes these books feel unpolished to me. I realize this is probably no more than a personal disconnect with the author’s writing style, but it’s the thing that keeps almost turning me off of these books, so I thought it was worth a mention. Even in Cress, where the structure and plot have finally reached their full potential, I couldn’t completely look past my dislike of sentence wordings.

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I clearly still have some hesitancy about the writing style, but this volume is a definite improvement on all counts compared to the first two books. The plot threads introduced in the first two books are finally all coming together in an exciting way that makes each of the characters and their connections so much more interesting. I’m much more excited about carrying on with this series than I have been, and I’m looking forward to delving into both Fairest and Winter in the upcoming month. I’m hoping it’ll keep going uphill from here and this series will morph from good to great. Keep an eye out in December for my final thoughts on the Lunar Chronicles.

Further Recommendations:

  1. Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy is a great dystopian interplanetary choice for readers of the Lunar Chronicles who like the plot and world of Cinder and her friends but, like me, wish a different sort of writing style could portray them. In Red Rising, society is divided unfairly into a hierarchy of colors, and Darrow, a lowColor, is ready to rebel against the evil Sovereign of Luna. You can find my complete review of this book here.
  2. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas is another YA fantasy novel with great characters and a unique world that fans of the Lunar Chronicles will likely enjoy. If you haven’t yet read about the faeries’ war against yet another evil self-elected “queen,” you should check it out. You can find my complete review of this book here.

Coming up next: I’m currently reading another mid-series YA book, one I’m even more excited about than the remainder of the Lunar Chronicles: Maggie Stiefvater’s The Dream Thieves, the second book in the Raven Cycle. The top-notch writing drew me in immediately, but as usual with a sequel, there are some notable changes in the storyline. Expect another scintillating Stiefvater review soon!

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Update: you can now find my review of the next book in this series, Winter, here!

How I Read

I think it’s interesting to hear about other people’s reading habits, so here’s a post about mine!

What I like to read: A little of almost everything. I was an English major in college, which helped broaden my perspectives, but I’ve always loved a wide range of books. I find that reading slumps happen for me if I read too many of the same type of book in a row, so I switch genres between almost every book, and I find myself most excited about stories that are nothing like anything I’ve read before. If I really had to pick, I think the genres I come back to most often are thriller, historical fiction, and dystopia.

Buying vs. borrowing: This is a bit of a toss-up for me. I love bookstores and libraries equally. I would appreciate being able to own every book I read, but I just don’t have that sort of income at the moment, and sometimes there are books I read that I know I’ll never want to even skim through again so I don’t mind dropping them back off in the library drop box. I tend to buy books that I can see myself reading more than once, or that I know will be harder to find available to borrow, or are simply too cheap to pass up, and also long books–especially classics–that I don’t want to feel rushed through by adding a due date and a stack of other borrowed books. I have a list of potential books to buy, and if I come across one at a good time for a good price, I pick it up. If I’m ready to read it and haven’t bought it yet, I borrow; then I can buy it later if I decide I want to reread.

How I choose what to read next: There are several lists in several places filled with books I want to read. I keep separate lists for books on my shelf that I haven’t read yet, and for books I know I can borrow from my limited (but accommodating) library or my friends. Lately I’ve been checking through my lists at the beginning of the month and creating a TBR that feels like a plausible goal–a practical mix of borrowed and owned books that fits my mood. I like to read new releases, but I also feel like I’ve fallen behind and there are a lot of older books I still want to read, so usually I prioritize books I’ve borrowed, then decide further by genre. Even before I began planning my month’s TBR, I would keep track of at least two books ahead of whatever I was actually reading, and unless it’s a series I just can’t stop reading between books, I usually try to pick something that’s pretty different from my current read. Variety helps keep slumps at bay. But, ultimately, no matter how well I plan and how specifically I schedule my reading time, how I choose what to read next most often comes down to my excitement level for a book at any given time. It’s important to me that I let myself read what I really want to, and that I don’t force myself into something that’ll turn me off of reading for a while. Reading shouldn’t be a chore.

Where I read: I can read literally anywhere, anytime. If I have a book with me, at least 30 seconds of down time, and enough light to see the words, I’ll probably be reading. It bothers me a little to be able to hear conversation well enough to make out the words, because it’s hard for me to tune that out, but I can if I must and any other sounds become white noise that fades easily into the background. Preferably, I love to have hours alone in a quiet environment with blankets and pillows to read comfortably, but I bring a book with me everywhere I go and I will read 10 pages here and there if that’s my best opportunity to read for the day.

How I read: one book at a time. I will sometimes start a second book if it’s easier to bring a different book along with me than the one I’m already in the middle of, or if I have to read a certain book for school or something but also want to read something of my own choice on the side. Never more than two, though, and I always finish everything I start. Actually there are two books I’ve started in the last couple of years that I’ve put on the back burner, but they still have my bookmarks inside them and I will still get around to them. I don’t quit books indefinitely. I try to read every day, almost always at the end of the day. Some days I’m too tired by then, and other days I read also or only in the middle of the day, whenever it fits in my schedule. I prefer physical books, all the time. I do read snippets online, if there are free previews available and I can’t wait to have the physical copy, but I don’t like reading whole books electronically on any sort of device. I’ve never given audio books a real try, but I’m not in a hurry for that, either, because I already know I don’t like listening to other people read. I don’t like the words I’m encountering for the first time to be influenced by someone else’s impression of them–I want to read them at my own pace with my own inflections in my own voice (or mind-voice), because it’s my own experience. I think ebooks and audio books are great literary advancements, and I’m glad they’re out there in the world, but I prefer holding actual paper and seeing the words for myself while I read. I drink a lot of water while I’m reading, but mostly because I drink a lot of water all the time. If I’m eating a meal alone, I like to read while I eat, but otherwise I don’t have much of a connection between reading and eating. I also mark quotes I want to save for myself as I read. I like annotating sometimes, but I don’t like reading previous thoughts on a second read-through and I don’t like loaning out books I’ve written in, so I don’t do that often. I use post-its to keep track of sections I want to save quotes from, and jot down on the post-it whether I want to use it in a review, share it with someone specific, or just keep it for myself, and then I deal with those tasks at the end of the book and remove the post-its.

How fast I read: (and how long it takes me to finish a book) depends on a lot of things. Primarily, my schedule dictates how much reading time I have, and then my reading pace determines how long it will take me within that time. Some books, like typical YA books, thrillers, or plot-heavy books I read about a page a minute. Character-driven books, historical fiction, fantasy, classics, etc. take me twice as long or even longer. I wouldn’t say I’m a particularly fast reader, but I’m persistent. I don’t shy away from long books, but I usually prefer not to read several of them in a row. I won’t pick short books just to help myself finish a certain number of books in a week or a month or a year. Quality over quantity. I will soldier through the good ones instead of worrying about the numbers.

Finishing a book: is always rewarding. Sometimes I can immediately pick up another book and be reading something new within seconds of finishing, but other times I need to get up and move around and let it settle. And on rare occasions, I have to lie back and look up at the ceiling and give it some thought before I can move on to anything else at all. I often–more often if I loved the book–skim through the “extra” stuff once I’ve finished reading a book: the author bio, bonus content, previews of sequels, even the acknowledgements or author’s notes. There are some really interesting and pertinent things in there sometimes. Once I’ve read all the words I’m going to read and jotted down any quotes I wanted to save, I immediately mark the book as finished. I add it to my GoodReads challenge if it applies, and to the list I keep personally of all the books I’ve ever read. I rate the book, and open up a new post to jot down immediate impressions and ideas for a review if I’m going to write one. I make note of whether I want to read more books by the same author, or whether I want to look into reading more on that book’s subject. Then I slide the book back into its slot on my shelf, or stack it on the bottom of my borrowed books pile so that the unread volumes are ready to be picked up from the top. As soon as I’ve put a finished book aside, I pick up my next book and a bookmark for it, so it’s ready whenever I am.

Why I read: Because I love it. It’s fun. It relieves stress. It makes for interesting conversation. But mostly because I believe that reading gives us information about the world. We learn new ideas, and new perspectives. Character actions and motivations can help us understand real life motivations and personalities. They let us feel emotions we might not experience every day. I see books as a sort of coded how-to manual for life. You may have to sort through lies and manipulations and metaphors, but there are answers in there, and I want to find them all. Also, words are beautiful. Books are my favorite art form. I want to create art like that, and what better research can be done to prepare me than reading what others have already created, seeing what sorts of techniques people are drawn to, and applying my own impressions of others’ works to mine? I read because it makes me feel happy, connected, and inspired. I read because I want to be able to write in a way that will inspire others. I read because that’s what my brain feels like it was built to do.

What’s your reading process?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Review: Morning Star

You may already know that I’ve been in love with Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy from the very first page. I’ve been trying to savor each of the three books, but I’ve finally come to the end of the last one, and what a bittersweet journey it has been. This is a spoiler-free review of the third book, but if you haven’t read the previous two books, you should probably do that first. If you need a refresher on the series, you can read my complete reviews for Red Rising and Golden Son with these links. And now, on with Morning Star.

“If you’re watching, Eo, it’s time to close your eyes. The Reaper has come. And he’s brought Hell with him.”

morningstarAbout the book: Darrow has been severely betrayed. He loses everything at the hands of the Jackal, including, to an extent, himself. The Reaper has been reduced to a shell of his former glory, and his will to go on has all but evaporated. The Sons of Ares, however, are bigger than one man, and the Rising rages on. Although with newfound trust and confidence issues, Darrow is an important member of the Sons and he learns in Morning Star what lengths his allies will go to in order to aid him–and also that allies are not necessarily friends. Darrow must play more carefully, but the Sol System is in all-out war and he has no choice but to take his place in it. He must call on other Colors for aid, as well as beat the Golds from within. He must overthrow the Sovereign, but the Jackal is an obstacle that won’t be ignored, and conflict in the Rim will also prove problematic. With all of these threads of war battling one another, Darrow knows he needs to eliminate some enemies, align with others to increase his numbers, and still the odds will be against him as the battles grow and casualties mount. He needs friends, but he’s afraid including them in his efforts will only endanger them further. Still, no one knows danger like Darrow. From the moment he joined the Sons, he knew he would die for the cause. When that’s no longer the end he wants, it seems the only way to prevent becoming a martyr is to win–everything, and at all costs.

“How many mothers have prayed to see their sons, their daughters return from war only to realize the war has kept them, the world has poisoned them, and they’ll never be the same?”

Best aspect: the characters. I love a book with strong characters, and this is that. Sevro has always been interesting, but he takes center stage in Morning Star. He acts when Darrow can’t. He’s funny and severe and, underneath it all, achingly human. Mustang is the epitome of the independent, leading female. Victra is a wild card, but she’s the card this book needs. The Jackal, Roque, the Sovereign… perfect villains who fight not in the name of evil, but in misplaced honor and defense of what they believe to be the best achievements of humanity. And Darrow, he’s the bloodydamn Reaper of Mars. He’s the hero who makes mistakes, the one who suffers the consequences even if he manages to win, the man who must act as a symbol and shoulder the responsibility for an entire people. He evolves. He sees his own flaws, Eo’s flaws, his friends’ flaws, and somehow he loves and finds strength not despite them, but through them. He can lead, but he can also follow orders. These characters are a force to be reckoned with.

“There’s not a Red on Mars that doesn’t know your name, Reap. Not a single person in the digital world who doesn’t know that a Red rose to become a prince of the Golds, to conquer Mars. I made you a myth. And now that you’re back from the dead, you’re not just a martyr. You’re the bloodydamn messiah the Reds have been waiting for their entire lives.”

Plot twists are also a supreme strength of Brown’s in this series. When you think Darrow has a trick up his sleeve, everything comes crashing down instead. When you think he’s certainly met his end, he’s got the best trick up his sleeve of all. But he’s not the only one who can think and surprise readers–every character has his or her moment. In fact, I think the superb plot twists of Morning Star can also be attributed to great characterization. The betrayals, the surprise alliances, the failures and successes the reader can never see coming, can all be attributed to characters that have too much depth to ever be black and white. Everyone has a reason for everything, and so there is always a reason to love a character, or to forgive him/her–or even to hate him/her when the tables turn–but once you’re lulled into thinking one thing, Brown reminds readers that nothing is certain, that people change and lie  and cheat, but then as soon as a new order is in place, he shuffles the cards again and someone else is on top. There’s no way to predict what’s next, and even skimming ahead is practically impossible because every 20 pages or so there’s a completely new life-or-death situation with new characters and someone important has probably died and other miscellaneous catastrophic destruction has occurred. The only way forward, the only way to understand it all, is to keep soldiering on, one sentence at a time.

“Which would you fear more […] a god? Or a mortal with the power of a god? […] A god cannot die. So a god has no fear. But mortal men… how frightened they are that the darkness will come. How horribly they will fight to stay in the light.”

And, of course, that brings us to my other favorite aspect, the writing. Brown uses sentence fragments, which is normally something that bothers me, but it works here. Every paragraph is perfection. Every chapter title has you thinking “Oh, goryhell, this one’s going to be epic,” and then it is. Down to the level of individual word choice, this book is fantastic. Brown weaves in little-used words to great effect. He included the phrase “Bye, Felicia,” with comedic but intense results, both in the popular and literal uses of the phrase. There’s a new take on a T. S. Eliot quote in there. There’s Latin. It’s heavy, it’s light, it’s funny, it’s depressing–one mood flows right into another seamlessly, and no word is presented timidly. I loved every sentence. There are great implications about equality. There are one-liners. The dialogue, the exposition… no complaints.

“And I wonder, in my last moments, if the planet does not mind that we wound her surface or pillage her bounty, because we silly warm things are not even a breath in her cosmic life. We have grown and spread, and will rage and die. And when all that remains of us is our steel monuments and plastic idols, her winds will whisper, her sands will shift, and she will spin on and on, forgetting about the bold, hairless apes who thought they deserved immortality.”

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. The first two books of this series, I could hardly put down. But this one… Morning Star was a weighty one. I could hardly read more than twenty pages at a time without needing an emotional break from the chaos within, and with over 500 pages that meant a lot of breaks. There’s so much constant action that it’s difficult at times to take it all in. Although I don’t mind a book I need to take breaks from, if I had to find a flaw in this one, the constant push of high tension would be on that list. I was okay with the going being slow, though, because i wanted this trilogy to never end. Now I will be (not so) patiently awaiting the release of the first book in the spin-off series, which looks like it should be published sometime in 2017. In the meantime…

Further recommendations:

  1. Orson Scott Card’s science fiction novel, Ender’s Game, is a great choice for fans of Pierce Brown’s trilogy. Featuring a young protagonist enmeshed in a series of space battles that are presented to him as games but which carry life-or-death consequences, Ender’s Game also steals readers’ attention with strong characters, incredible plot twists, and space politics gone awry. Ender is a paradigm-altering fighter, like Darrow. You can find my complete review of this book here.
  2. Fans of Brown should also check out Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One, a novel about an immersive online video game with real-life danger for main character Parzival. The game revolves around 80’s pop culture trivia, including movies, games, and music, but the virtual reality online world in which the game takes place is a universe in itself, with its own politics, planets, and high-stakes players. Find my complete review here.

What’s next: I’m currently reading Marissa Meyer’s Cress, the third book in the YA science fiction Lunar Chronicles. I’ve heard this is the best book of the series, and so far I’d have to say I agree. Stay tuned to find out why.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Review: It Ends With Us

It’s been a while since I’ve read a straight-up romance novel. Generally I like reading books from other genres that have a little romance mixed in, but I needed something a little different this month.I picked up Colleen Hoover’s latest novel, It Ends With Us.

itendswithusAbout the book: Lily Bloom is finally ready to venture out on her own and start the edgy floral business she’s always dreamed of owning. It’s too bad her father had to die for her to finally have the courage to reach out into the world and forge her own life, but his abuse toward his wife made it hard for Lily to leave home as long as her own presence could offer some protection for her mother. Now, Lily’s an adult determined to escape the cycle of abuse; she absolutely will not love a man who would ever hurt her. When she meets ambitious neurosurgeon Ryle Kincaid, she thinks she’s found the perfect man–just in time for her to run into her teenage love, Atlas. Lily helped Atlas survive when he was just a homeless boy fighting to graduate from high school and join the Marines. He told her he would come back for her, but Lily hasn’t seen him since her sixteenth birthday–until she’s on her first real date with Ryle and locks eyes with Atlas at the Boston restaurant they’re dining at. It seems like it’s finally time to move on from her experience with Atlas. But are Lily and Ryle ready for a real relationship, despite the tragedies in their pasts? And what can Lily do when she discovers that it will be harder than she thought to leave the life of abuse her mother accepted behind them?

“Maybe love isn’t something that comes full circle. It just ebbs and flows, in and out, just like the people in our lives.”

Time is an interesting beast in this novel. First, we see some of Lily’s journal entries from previous years, which breaks up the chronology a bit. Lily’s tendency to write journal entries as letters to Ellen DeGeneres is a fresh and fun option for showing the reader pieces of the past. But old letters aren’t the only manipulations of timing in this novel–we also have occasional jumps of several weeks or months between sections of narration. In the end, Lily and Ryle’s relationship seems to have progressed extremely quickly, but seeing chunks of time pass between notable events in the novel helps balance out the pacing. Keeping track of the timeline is never difficult, but the reader sees a good variety of Lily’s life by skipping forward from time to time. Hoover does a great job of including the scenes that are important to the story without bogging down the narration with a lot of in-between detail that’s not strictly necessary.

Best aspect: this is no common love triangle. In fact, there seem to be very few points at which both main men of the story are in Lily’s life at the same time at all. Atlas is her past, and Ryle is her future–at least, Lily thinks so, and thus the reader is led to believe this is the case. This arrangement allows for each main character to develop his/her own quirks. We see Lily trying hard to work on her relationships individually, rather than being wishy-washy and stuck between two good choices. The characters feel realistic, and the plot forms around them, rather than many three-part romances in which the characters feel built for the situation. Strong characters are truly the way to go in all novels, and this book paints them well.

Another plus: I love how modern this book is. I know it was just published earlier this year, but still I was caught by surprise with all the references to 2016 lifestyle trends like screenshots and Ubers. The world of this book felt so realistic. Also, the language in the book felt more informal and original due to its occasional incomplete sentences and reflexive profanity. You know those moments when something happens that you can’t even articulate your feelings for beyond a four-letter swear word? Lily does. I felt like I was right there in her thoughts, even when they weren’t perfect ones, and that made her feel more human, as well.

“I want to succeed, but at this point I’m not even sure if that matters. I had a dream and I busted my ass to make it come true. Whatever happens after today is just icing on the cake.”

Worst aspect: it feels a bit preachy. In her author’s note, Hoover mentions that in this novel, unlike some of her other romances, she’s trying to tackle real-life controversial problems. Some of her details and comments about homelessness and abusive relationships did feel enlightening and help give this novel extra depth, but there were other times I wanted to cringe because Lily made such a show of stating how wrong she’d been to blame her mother for staying in an abusive relationship, and how often she noticed her classmates judging Atlas’ homelessness while she, of course, would never judge him for that. Although those reactions to abuse and homelessness may be the same things we’d see in real life, I felt like I was being hit over the head with the reminders that “it’s not the victim’s fault.” Some of those big messages would have been more powerful if the reader had been allowed to see them for him-/herself through the events and emotions of the book rather than having them pointed out so plainly. Those details made this story more emotional than the fluffy romance I was expecting, but it’s a big turn-off for me to read something obviously moralizing. I like stories with morals. But I don’t like feeling my reading intelligence insulted by having them pointed out for me, like someone telling a joke but then proceeding to explain at the end why it’s funny.

“Sometimes the things that matter to you most are the things that hurt you the most.”

My reaction: 3 out of 5 stars. I did enjoy the romance, and I did enjoy most aspects of Hoover’s writing style. I think I’ll try another one of her books to see if I’ll like another one better, because based on this book she feels like a promising author, although It Ends With Us may not have been my novel of choice. I did find the events of the novel rather predictable at times, but again I thought it may have been an issue I had only with this book rather than some insurmountable dislike for Hoover’s writing. I’m thinking I’ll try Ugly Love as my next Colleen Hoover choice, and get a better idea for where I stand with Hoover’s romances between a pair of novels rather than basing my judgments on one.

Further recommendations:

  1. Nicholas Sparks’ Safe Haven is another romance that addresses the problems of domestic abuse and the difficulty in escaping that sort of life once you’ve been planted in it. Full of fear and hope and a little more action that It Ends With Us, Hoover fans will like this one.
  2. Picture Perfect by Jodi Picoult is another lesser-known book about abusive relationships, this time in a marriage with a celebrity. This one is similar to Hoover’s novel in that there is no clear-cut good and bad; the victim is forced to reconcile the best memories of her husband’s love with the selfish, arrogant man who gets lost inside his roles. As an long-standing popular actor, he has difficulty separating his true identity from that of his characters, and blames his violence on the characters he must learn to portray.
  3. If you’re looking for another romance with a similar style but different subject, try Jennifer Weiner’s Who Do You Love. This is another one that feels very close to real life, and handles multiple relationships without being stuck in typical love triangle cliches. There are some steamy moments, some sad moments, and all the feels in between. If you like Colleen Hoover’s books, don’t miss Who Do You Love.

What’s next: I’m currently reading the final book in Pierce Brown’s Red Rising trilogy, entitled Morning Star. This series has been one of my favorite reads this year, but it’s so intense, and I’m so sad to be finished with it, that it’s been going rather slowly. Even so, I have to discover Darrow’s fate, and I’ll let you know soon whether this trilogy’s conclusion lives up to expectations after the first two phenomenal books.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Review: The Revenant

I’ve been so busy that reading this book–this short book that I enjoyed–felt like a battle. Which is fitting for Michael Punke’s The Revenant, a historical fiction book about one man’s battle for survival against man and nature in the historical American westward expansion.

About the book: Hugh Glass has had an adventurous life, consorting–not always therevenantby choice–with noblemen, sailors, pirates, and Indians; but nothing could have prepared him for his fateful trip along the Grand River in 1823 with the Rocky Mountain Fur Company. When Glass is brutally mauled by a protective mother grizzly bear, his fur trapping companions assume he’ll die of his wounds. For a few days, the company carries his ailing body along their route, but it’s imperative that they reach shelter before winter settles in, and Glass is slowing them down. The captain decides to leave two men with Glass until his death, to provide him humane treatment in his final days and a decent burial. The two men, however, have other ideas about what to do with Glass. Impatient to rejoin their crew and greedy for Glass’s extraordinary rifle, they take Glass’s belongings and leave him to die alone in the wilderness. A slowly healing Glass fights for survival and revenge with few tools beyond his sheer determination, intent on retrieving his prized rifle and ending the lives of the men who left him ill and defenseless. With a little luck and a lot of skill, the injured Glass sets out to traverse hundreds of miles of wilderness in the name of revenge.

“Still, he thought, there was no luck at all in standing still. The next morning he would crawl forward again. If luck wouldn’t find him, he would do his best to make his own.”

I used to believe that wilderness survival stories were very similar–if you’ve read one, you’ve read them all. Food is a problem. Fire is a problem. Shelter is a problem. And the main character is always alone. As a consequence, it’s been a long time since I’ve read this sort of book, and I was surprised by how immediately and thoroughly I became immersed in Glass’s tale.

One of the biggest draws of The Revenant for me is the addition of extra characters. Glass is often alone and even when he’s not he keeps his story and his opinions largely to himself, but there are enough additional characters and groups of people in this book that politics come into play, and the reader becomes invested in the fate of more than one person. Death and disaster become real, worrisome enemies in a way that single-character survival stories struggle to convey because here, while one character manages to keep them at bay, his friends and enemies do not. Furthermore, the inclusion of other prominent characters allows this book to remain in man-vs-man territory, rather than succumbing entirely to the man-vs-nature battles that often fill wilderness stories. Glass is prepared for the wilderness. Survival is a struggle, but it’s not his main goal. The Revenant is truly, primarily, a novel of revenge.

“Having crawled toward this moment for a hundred days, the prospect of vengeance was now immediate, the power to consummate requiring no more than the gentle squeeze of a trigger. Yet a mere bullet seemed too intangible to express his rage, an abstraction at a moment craving the satisfaction of flesh against flesh.”

The blended feel of fiction and nonfiction in this novel is what fascinates me the most. I hadn’t realized before I began reading that The Revenant is based on true events, and many of the other elements–the setting, the fur companies, the big events–have a basis in reality that gives the book a very life-like feel. The combination of fiction and nonfiction is a phenomenon that always piques my interest–I like to believe that neither can truly exist without the other, but also that the line between them is often blurred. I felt like  I was learning something about America’s history while I read this book, but it didn’t seem even remotely like a textbook. Punke navigated the line between truth and fantastic speculation with a masterful eye for selective detail and entertainment value. The craziest aspects of the story are lent credibility by the link to truth, which is an element that gives a survival story more punch every time.

“Through the long morning, Glass’s body fought against the infection of his wounds. He slipped between consciousness, unconsciousness, and a confusing state in between, aware of his surroundings like random pages of a book, scattered glimpses of a story with no continuity to bind them. When conscious, he wished desperately to sleep again, if only to gain respite from the pain. Yet each interlude of sleep came with a haunting precursor–the terrifying thought that he might never wake up again. Is this what it’s like to die?

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I grew up in the Midwest and took a drive through the Badlands and Black Hills of South Dakota this fall, so the historical setting of the Westward expansion through a part of America that is reasonably familiar to me was especially intriguing. Also, I couldn’t help picturing Leonardo DiCaprio as Hugh Glass, even though I specifically set out to read the book before watching the movie to avoid having the visuals cloud my impressions of the novel–but Glass did seem a perfect role for DiCaprio, and I think with as many times as I had to pick up this book and set it back down it was actually helpful to have a few ideas about it already in place. As far as wilderness survival stories go, this one has probably been my favorite, but now that I’ve read one it’ll probably be years again before I feel the need to pick up another.

Further recommendations:

  1. Erik Larson’s The Devil in the White City is a nonfiction book about a serial killer and the World’s Fair in Chicago in the late 1800’s. This one, although not a fictional novel, reads like fiction, immersing readers in a grand but precarious world on the cusp of greatness, but also pinned under the watchful eye of a monster. If you like Punke’s writing style, try Larson’s.
  2. If you like historical fiction set in the 1800’s, pick up my personal favorite, the classic Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchel. Although the battles in this book have more to do with war and the trappings of society than abandonment in the wilderness, it is a novel about survival and the nature of man (and woman).

What’s next: I’ve just finished reading Colleen Hoover’s newest release, It Ends With Us, which is a romance novel that also features perspectives on homelessness and domestic abuse. I’ll have a review posted for this one soon, as well.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Oct. Book Haul + Wrap-Up + Nov. TBR

October was a strange reading month for me. I’ve been extremely busy, so my reading has been more on-and-off this month than usual, and since I haven’t been able to make the trip to the library as often as I’ve grown accustomed to, on my last trip I picked up more than I was expecting to which further affected my plan for the month because it altered what I’d planned to read and also encouraged me to buy more books than strictly necessary. Below are my lists of newly acquired books, books I’ve completed in October, and my to-be-read list for November. Here’s how it turned out:

New Books!:

  1. The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton. I actually heard of Burton’s newer book, The Muse, first, but since both books sounded interesting, I decided to read them in publication order, and therefore picked up this one when it became available. I know it has a historic setting, and features a tiny replica of a house that a Miniaturist is furnishing in ways that reveal hidden truths about reality in the home. I’m excited to see what else it has in store for me.
  2. Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten. I saw this one randomly on a store shelf a month or so ago and thought it sounded like the typical sort of psychological thriller I enjoy, except in YA form, which I’ve also been trying to read more of lately. I ended up picking up a different book that day instead, but I came back to this one. I considered reading it right away in October, but I just didn’t get around to it.
  3. Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is an author I’m interested in checking out, though I know very few specifics about her books. I want to just dive in. I’ve heard good things, and that’s enough for me in some cases. If Ransom Riggs approves, she’s worth looking into.
  4. Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi. This is the sequel to Shatter Me. I’ve been buying so many first-in-a-series books that when I came across this cheap sequel, I decided to just go ahead and add it to my collection. I’ll still have to find the third one, and it always feels like a gamble to buy more than one book in a series I haven’t tried yet, especially when I don’t have a clear idea of what the series is about, but I have this other dilemma: I don’t like reading a series when only the first book is available because I want to be able to continue immediately if I feel so inclined. Ideally, the best way for my book-buying system to work would be to buy the next book while I’m in the middle of the first, but that rarely works out. You have to get what’s available when it’s available.
  5. The Mistborn Trilogy boxed set by Brandon Sanderson (includes Mistborn, The Well of Ascension, and The Hero of Ages). Again, I know little about this series but it was cheaper to buy them as a set, and I have an odd inclination toward boxed sets. I’m fond of the sets I already own, and it’s nice to have all matching editions for once, which doesn’t always happen for me as I buy pieces of series rather erratically. Owning non-matching books in a series doesn’t particularly bother me, but why make it complicated if it doesn’t need to be? So I came across this set, and I know it’s a fantasy series with some great reviews, and I want to read more fantasy books, so it seemed like a good choice.
  6. Sleeping Giants by Sylvain Neuvel. I had first seen this book a few months ago and was mildly attracted to the blue cover, the title, and the synopsis. Then this month I saw it was blurbed by Pierce Brown and Blake Crouch, one of whose books I love and the other of whom I haven’t read yet but predict I will enjoy immensely when I get around to reading him. I saw those blurbs, and I read the sci-fi/fantasy synopsis again, I learned that this was going to be a series, and I couldn’t resist. At $8 or so on Book Outlet I think this was my most expensive buy of the month, but I had to.
  7. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johanson. Again, I’ve been meaning to read more YA, and more fantasy, and I thought this one sounded promising. I think the sequel to this book was recently released, which tells me this is a good time to start reading. I have so little patience with waiting for books that haven’t been published yet. I don’t like missing out on current book trends, but I feel a lot better having the entirety of a series available to me when I begin the first book. This is one I don’t want to miss out on, though.
  8. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. This is another series (The Grisha series) that I’m interested in because of the author. I’ve heard such good things about both this series and the Six of Crows duology that I decided I had to pick up something written by Leigh Bardugo immediately. This is another fantasy YA novel, and I suspect I’ll be buying the next two books in this trilogy soon after I dive into this volume.
  9. Kiss of Deception by Mary E. Pearson. Another YA fantasy first-in-a-series book. (Definitely a trend here.) This one has an intriguing synopsis about a young runaway bride, her stilted betrothed, and her would-be assassin, I believe. That sounds promising, and I’ve heard great things about the narration, as well.
  10. The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey. I bought this one to balance out all of my first-in-a-series purchases. I haven’t actually read the first book in this series, The 5th Wave yet, but I’m planning to get to it before the end of the year.
  11. Jackaby by William Ritter.  I found this one on Book Outlet during the site’s Booktoberfest Sale. I was initially drawn to the blue silhouette cover, but the historical setting of the book, along with the murder mystery synopsis, really piqued my interest. This one was definitely an impulse buy, but sometimes those are the best, and I was confident enough about it to also buy
  12. Beastly Bones by William Ritter. This is Jackaby‘s sequel, as beautiful and intriguing as the first book looked to me. I’m excited to check out a new series by an author I hadn’t heard of, and I managed to find these two cheap hardcover editions of the first books in the trilogy. I’m curious to try them and seek out a matching third book to complete the series.
  13. The Girl from Everywhere by Heidi Heilig. I love books that bend time and/or reality, and this YA novel seems to have a bit of both. The main character of this one is a passenger on a boat that can travel anywhere–to different times and worlds. I’m very drawn to that sort of possibility, and I hope the plot and narration will live up to my excitement for the layout of settings.
  14. The Beginning of Everything by Robin Schnieder. This is as close to YA contemporary as I want to be right now. I mostly exhausted my interest in that sort of book by the time I was fourteen, and other than a few favorite authors I may still consider revisiting, I don’t have much desire to carry on with them. But the main character of this one seems to have interesting views on tragedy, which I’m morbidly fascinated with, and after reading the synopsis I decided I wanted to see how that turned out for him.
  15. The Wicked Will Rise by Danielle Paige. This is a sequel in a series I haven’t started yet (the Dorothy Must Die series), but I can just tell I’ll be interested enough to keep reading once I start. I’ve been tempted several times to pick up copies of later books in this series just so I’m ready to read them when I get there, so I saw this copy even cheaper on Book Outlet than I’d seen it anywhere else and decided it was the perfect excuse to give in and pick it up. If I can’t resist, I might as well save a few dollars on the inevitable purchase, right? I’m hoping to get started with this series in the next couple of weeks, so I think I picked a good time to buy.
  16. The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski. I hate book covers with people on them. Abstract views are sometimes fine, but generally I don’t like having any sort of idea of what the characters should look like forced upon me. And yet, I’ve heard such good things about this series, which is complete now, that I couldn’t restrain myself from checking it out. I’ll just try to refrain from looking at its cover. This is another YA fantasy, which I think I have almost enough of now to pick a new fascination and move on…
  17. The Wrath and the Dawn by Renee Ahdieh. Another YA fantasy. But this one had been on my list longer than most, and I didn’t think I’d ever find it cheaper than it was on the Booktoberfest Sale, so I caved. This is another one that deals with potential forced marriage, and it’s also a retelling of a classic story. Not one I’m very familiar with in this case, but I’ve been interested in retellings lately, and they open doors to other literary avenues.
  18. Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson. This is another first-in-a-series book with a little fantasy, a little romance, a little historical fiction, and apparently a little of everything. The cover is gorgeous (which I see as a bonus rather than a selling point, but a notable bonus at that), and the plot sounds intriguing. The sequel has been released recently, so I’m excited to start this one and see where it’ll lead.

octoberbooks

As you can see, I bought a lot of books. In my defense, they were all cheap and you can never have too many books. Part of the reason I let myself go crazy on Book Outlet this month was because my October TBR wasn’t going as planned, I had less library access, and once my reading plan started slipping away it just kept going, taking my buying resistance with it. This is the first month since I started planning TBRs that my reading schedule really didn’t work out well for me. I ended up neglecting some books I’d hoped to read, adding others, struggling through a small reading slump, and just reading what I felt like when I felt like it to deal with everything. Here’s what I did manage to read in October:

  1. Golden Son by Pierce Brown. 5 out of 5 stars. This trilogy will rip your heart out, stomp on it, and make you love every second of it. No one is safe, nothing is sacred, and Brown is not afraid of taking his plot to extremes. I absolutely love this series, and I go back and forth between wanting to finish it immediately because I love it, and wanting to drag it out because I never want it to end. You can find my complete review here.
  2. The Couple Next Door by Shari Lapena. 3 out of 5 stars. This was my 52nd read of the year–the final book I needed to reach my Goodreads Reading Challenge goal for the year. I didn’t give any extra thought to which book was going to be my final challenge book, this just happened to be the next choice on my list. And I’m certainly not stopping here–I’m eager to see how far I can surpass my goal in the next two months, and  I think I’ll post at the end of the year about how well the challenge ended up working for me in 2016. Anyway, I had mixed feelings about this book, and you can read all about them in my complete review, here.
  3. I’m Thinking of Ending Things by Iain Reid. 4 out of 4 stars. This book was absolutely perfect for October. It was so completely strange and unexpected, easy to read but completely engaging. This is a great book to read in the dark. You can find my complete review here.
  4. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. 4 out of 4 stars. I picked this one up because I’d heard such great things about the second book in this series. I didn’t love this first one, but it was good enough that I’m excited to continue on and see what the second volume has in store for me. A few of the characters were particularly compelling, and the end of the first book certainly leaves room for expansion as the series continues. Exciting stuff in YA these days, guys. You can find my complete review here.
  5. The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. 5 out of 5 stars. This is one I picked up somewhat unexpectedly and ended up loving to read at this time of year. There’s a mythical, magical quest, some supernatural details, great characters, and truly superb writing that makes this YA book a great read for all ages. I can’t wait to carry on with this series next month. You can find my complete review here.
  6. Scarlet by Marissa Meyer. 3 out of 5 stars. I was intrigued if not absolutely thrilled with Cinder, the first book in the Lunar Chronicles series, and so was excited to see where these books would take me next. I felt much the same about this sequel as I had in the first book, but I’m growing more and more excited for the culmination of all the threads weaving through these novels. I didn’t love this one, but I liked it enough that I’m still interested in continuing the series, which isn’t a bad reaction for books this long. You can find my complete review here.
  7. The Black Prism by Brent Weeks. 3 out of 5 stars. This is one I hadn’t planned on reading in October at all, and it was long enough that it really was the culprit in throwing off my TBR this month. I’ve been interested in reading more fantasy books, both YA and adult, and since I obviously had no trouble finding YA fantasies to choose from, the few adult fantasy series that caught my eye seemed that much more interesting for being harder to discover. I’m pickier about adult high fantasy. Or at least, I’m more cautious about delving into it, because it’s a bigger time commitment and it takes more thought. I think I wasn’t quite ready for it when I started this one, and that made it harder for me to really get into the story than it might have been at some other time. But once I’d started I was determined to push through, and I did. I had a lot of thoughts about this book and my experience with it, and my full review will be posted soon.

Although November will be another busy month for me, I want to get back on track with my reading. Life is good when the books are good, and I have so many good books to read that I won’t let one confused month ruin the next one. November is also a month to be thankful, and I’m so thankful to have new books on my shelves that I want to show them some appreciation by actually reading them, so for once I have more books that I own on my list than books that I plan to borrow from the library. This is what my November TBR looks like:

  1. The Revenant by Michael Punke. I’ve actually already started this one, because I thought I could still finish it in October and I wish I would’ve gotten to it sooner. It’s a historical fiction book about survival and revenge, and I really want to read the book so I can finally watch the movie, and I think this is a good time of year for it.
  2. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. This one’s the last of my October library books, but I didn’t have it yet at the time I planned my October TBR so it fell through the cracks and ended up here at the beginning of November instead. This one’s Hoover’s newest adult romance novel, which I think will be a nice change of pace from all the YA and fantasy I spent October reading. If this one goes well, I also want to check out another Hoover book, Ugly Love, soon.
  3. Morning Star by Pierce Brown. With as much as I love the Red Rising series, I can’t believe I’ve managed to drag it out this long. It’s a big book and I’ve been too busy to just sit down and consume it like I want to, but I can’t put it off any longer. I have to find out what happens to Darrow in this final installment of the trilogy, and I’m beyond excited to see what’s between the covers of this volume. It’s going to be emotional torture, I can already tell. I can’t wait.
  4. The Girl Before by Rena Olsen. This is a psychological thriller I bought a couple of months ago and I wish I’d been able to read it in October, but I’m ready for it now instead. Psychological thrillers are usually quick and immersive for me, which will be a nice palate cleanser to keep me going after Morning Star rips me apart, and also by this time it’ll have been about a month since my last psychological thriller, so it’ll be nice to get back into the mindset of suspense and suspicion.
  5. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. This is the first book in a YA series that re-imagines the Wizard of Oz story. I’m a fan of Oz, and I’ve been interested in retellings for a while now, so this is my YA pick of the month. Also, I now own the second book in this series, so it seems like a good time to start.
  6. The Library at Mount Char by Scott Hawkins. I bought this one in June and it’s been nagging me that I haven’t read it yet. It’s an adult fantasy novel about a powerful library and its godlike possessors. That was enough to hook me, especially after I found it in a place of honor at my favorite bookstore. I suspect this one has truly great things in store for me.
  7. Cress by Marissa Meyer. I’ve been enjoying The Lunar Chronicles, and I want to keep going while they’re fresh in my mind. I think I can finish the series this year, although I believe there are two more books I’ll have to read in December to keep on track with that. Still, it sounds like a productive and manageable reading goal, and I do want to find out how it’ll all end.
  8. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. I really did love the first book in this series, and it left me hanging. I’m looking forward to finding out what’ll happen next, and this is another series that I think I may be able to finish relatively soon, which sounds nice considering I have so many new ones I want to be starting. I have such a terrible memory for plot (which makes rereading more fun) that I really can’t put a series on the back burner for too long without forgetting key details. But I also like mixing other books in between volumes in a series (which I’ve been doing more of lately than usual) because that helps combat reading slumps for me. So one or two books of a series per month seems to be a good balance for me these days, and this is one I’m particularly excited about getting back into in the coming month.

What are you reading? Let me know! Any recommendations?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant