Review: Blue Lily, Lily Blue

Blue Lily, Lily Blue is the third book in the compelling supernatural series by Maggie Stiefvater, known collectively as the Raven Cycle. You can find my complete reviews of the two previous books in this series here and here. For more Henrietta shenanigans, read on!

bluelilylilyblueAbout the book: Everyone knows the Raven King is sleeping underground. Maura believes Blue’s father is, as well. With the stakes heightened as Maura chases after her lost love and doesn’t return, Blue and the raven boys delve into caves that hide eerie secrets of their own. Ronan’s dreaming is put to the test, Adam becomes more powerful as he learns to understand and link with Cabeswater, Gansey tries to downplay his growing anxiety about the search and his feelings for Blue, Noah loses control of his supernatural abilities, and Blue will do anything it takes to rescue her mother. On top of the increased pace of the hunt for Glendower, there’s a new villain in town–the Gray Man’s influential and dangerous employer, Greenmantle, with his unpredictable wife. School resumes, but even the familiar routines of homework and classes fail to offset the unusual events surrounding the ley line and its travelers as things begin to spiral out of control.

“Henrietta was no longer someplace ordinary. He was no longer someone ordinary.”

This volume of the Raven Cycle is both a prelude to the end, and an inspection of the person each character has already become. Nothing is as easy and no one is as carefree as they were when readers met them in The Raven Boys. The new depth, however, to each personality, only enriches the narration and increases the reader’s investment in the hunt for Glendower. A darker element has been added to the gang’s magical quest, and each character has his or her own personal motivations that they believe are worth the risks of the dangerous search for the slumbering king.

“Was that what life did to them all? Chiseled them into harder, truer versions of themselves?”

How it compares: I was a little unsatisfied with the way Blue was depicted in the second book of this series, and a little tired of seeing Ronan so much. In this third book, the balance has been restored as the reader is given an appropriate amount of time with each character; I thought that was an improvement. However, one of the main points of tension in the third book is Maura’s disappearance, which felt like the weakest plot thread so far. I had absolutely no doubt that Maura would be found, which left all of the worrying about her seeming a little unnecessary. Obviously a child should be worried about a missing parent, but the reader is never quite as worried as Blue, which makes for an awkward, unbalanced sort of sympathy. Maura’s hunt for Artemus helps pull him into the story’s spotlight, but otherwise the hunt for Maura is really no different than the hunt for Glendower, and I don’t think there would have been a significant difference in the plot of this novel if Maura hadn’t gone missing.

“Maybe it was good that the world forgot every lesson, every good and bad memory, every triumph and failure, all of it dying with each generation. Perhaps this cultural amnesia spared them all. Perhaps if they remembered everything, hope would die instead.”

Also, although things are (predictably) progressing between Gansey and Blue, and I do like both characters, it was hard to see what they liked about each other. One of the benefits of a slow-burn romance is seeing tiny gestures and conversations that are heaped with meaning, rather than seeing every facet of every thought about the situation spelled out. But one of the cons would be that it’s easy to miss the meaning behind the tiny gestures and conversations. I felt a bit like Blue and Gansey were falling in love simply because it was inevitable. The reader knows it’s going to happen from the beginning, but I wish the narration spent a bit longer on the how and why. Still, I’m loving how patient and understated their relationship is, and I’ll be interested to see if my theories about what will happen between them will prove true in the final book.

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. Although there were a couple things I would’ve liked to change about this book, I was still caught up in the newest plot developments and still in love with all of the great Stiefvater writing elements that I was attracted to in the first books. Each detail of each character is described in such a way that every scene is infinitely interesting, and every chapter is exciting. The narration is consistently quirky and compelling. I think it’s impossible to be bored while reading this series, and this volume was no exception.

Further Recommendations:

  1. If you like YA that’s slightly historical and supernatural, try Meg Cabot’s Avalon High. One of my all-time favorite YA books, Avalon High is a modern reincarnation story of the famous history of King Arthur and his friends. The characters must identify their medieval counterparts and break the cycle that tends to lead to Arthur’s untimely death.

Coming Up Next: I’m just starting Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None, a short novel among Christie’s most-known books. As usual for Christie’s works, it features a suspenseful murder mystery. I believe it follows ten characters who are invited to an island and begin to die one by one. I can’t wait to find out why.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Review: A Court of Mist and Fury

Anyone else have a love/hate relationship with unfinished series? Cliffhangers should practically be illegal. I didn’t love the first book in this series by Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses, but after reading the second book, A Court of Mist and Fury, it’s going to be a long and difficult wait until the next book comes out in May. Check out my thoughts on ACOTAR here, or read below to find out why ACOMAF is so much more appealing.

acourtofmistandfuryAbout the book: After Amarantha pushed Feyre and Tamlin to their breaking points, the two returned to the Spring Court only to discover that more thorns are apparent there in the aftermath than roses. Still, Feyre can’t forget that her life and relationship were hard-won and remains loyal to the dreams of the girl she was before; Tamlin is more determined than ever to protect her at any cost–even if the consequences are further damaging to Feyre. Rhysand, however, steps in to call in his bargain and removes Feyre to the Night Court just in time to disrupt an event that Feyre cannot be sure whether to call a colossal problem or much-needed solution. At the Night Court, Feyre meets Rhys’s Inner Circle and begins to realize there are aspects of life she’s been missing: friendship, most importantly. As the threats from Hybern grow more worrisome and Feyre spends more and more time with the prominent men and women of the Night Court, she becomes once again entangled in a plot to save Prythian and, to her surprise, learns to love all over again.

” ‘And then–then I learned your name.  Hearing you say it…it was like an answer to a question I’d been asking for five hundred years.’ “

A comparison: I love a good retelling, and I love Beauty and the Beast, but I think the expectations between that familiar fairy tale and A Court of Thorns and Roses held that first book back. The characters felt like they’d been dropped into roles that didn’t quite fit them, making their actions and emotions clash at times. But in A Court of Mist and Fury, Maas doesn’t bother trying to fit Feyre’s story to any tale that’s been told before, which allows the characters to develop individually and strengthens the plot. The series has changed from a pre-arranged story laid over bland characters to an exciting cast of strong characters who use powerful voices to make their own story heard.

(Update: I was wrong. I’ve realized that A Court of Mist and Fury is based on the mythological story of Hades and Persephone, but even after seeing those overlapping elements I stand by my opinion that ACOMAF eventually veers off the fairy tale path to find its own strong voice.)

In this book, the reader is given all but one chapter in the familiar first person point of view from Feyre’s perspective. That one chapter comes way at the end, and gives the reader a brief glimpse of Rhys’s mind. There were so many points in this book that I thought would have been fabulous to see from another character’s point of view, and then to have that one chapter dangled in the reader’s view toward the end was beyond frustrating. Clearly Maas knew how to make the story work through other perspectives. Clearly she knew it was needed. Why didn’t we have that richness of multiple perspectives earlier in the book? That, and the resolution of some of those sentence fragments would be the only possible way to make this story stronger–and any more strength might truly destroy ACOetc’s readers. All of the emotions are here. They surge to immense proportions in the last third of the book, and then cut the reader off completely as he or she is abruptly forced to wait for the publication of the third book to resolve some of those dangling, heart-throbbing plot threads. Maas’s characters shout their devastation and love into the reader’s very soul with beautiful prose and unshakable power.

“We were a song that had been sung from the very first ember of light in the world.”

My reaction: 5 out of 5 stars. By the time I reached the final hundred pages, I just knew there were too many plot threads to be resolved neatly by the end of the book, and the end would leave me hanging. Sure enough, as soon as I finished the book I had to rush online to find the release date of the next book, silently cursing myself for neglecting to time my adventures into A Court of Mist and Fury closer to the expected publication date of A Court of Wings and Ruin (May 2, 2017 for anyone who’s curious). I’m so much more invested in all of the characters–even the evil ones–now than I was at the end of the first book, and I suspect that there will be several more impatient waiting periods for me before all six books of this series have been finished. This book renewed my faith in Maas’ writing, maybe even enough that I’ll try picking up the Throne of Glass series. That one, at least, is closer to completion, and if I time my reading better, I could manage to reach its publication date at just the right time to finish the series without all this bottled anticipation that I’ll have stewing now until May. I’ll just have to read more books to take my mind off the wait. I’m looking forward to delving into some other fantasy sets soon. I have a couple of things in mind, but…any suggestions?

P.S. A Court of Mist and Fury just won Goodreads’s 2016 award for best young adult fantasy!

Further recommendations:

  1. Red Rising by Pierce Brown is another great new series that walks the line between YA and adult. It’s borderline sci-fi/fantasy, but if you love Maas’ world building, you’ll certainly enjoy Brown’s. The characters, of course, are to die for. Follow Darrow, the lowly Red, as he seeks freedom from the dangerous hierarchy of Golds on Mars, or learn more in my complete review of this book here.
  2. Reading ACOMAF really reminded me of how I wanted to reread and finally finish Cassandra Clare’s books. Clary must learn all about the magical world that’s been hidden from her before it’s too late for her old and new friends to escape the broad cross hairs targeted broadly over Clary’s life. If you like well-spun tales of monsters and romance, start with Cassandra’s City of Bones and check out the rest of her fantastic Shadowhunters books in publication order.

Coming up Next: I’ve already finished Fairest by Marissa Meyer, but it seemed more like a novella and I really didn’t like it, so I think I’ll give it a mention when I review Winter rather than write an entire bad review. Bad reviews feel unfair–someone somewhere probably likes that book, but it isn’t me. So I’m currently reading Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater, the third book in the Raven Cycle. I am on a roll with my reading this month, so I should have a review ready shortly. Check back soon to find out what new excitements this series reveals as I near the end!

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Update: Check out my thoughts on the next book in these series, A Court of Wings and Ruin!

Review: Attachments

Many a reader (especially YA readers) have kept up with Rainbow Rowell’s fiction releases. I was not one of those readers. I have, however, finally picked up a book of Rowell’s, and am excited to share with you my thoughts on her adult romance novel, Attachments.

About the book: Lincoln, the funny, attachmentsoverly-educated awkward guy who never quite figured out what to do after graduation, has landed an easy systems security job at a newspaper. The hours are terrible, he often has little or nothing to occupy his time during his shift, and the work he is tasked with completing is morally suspect and fills him with guilt. He wanted to use his free time at this job trying to find a better one, but instead finds himself swept up in reading Beth’s and Jennifer’s personal e-mail exchanges. He should send them a warning about misuse of company property and time, as his job requires, but he’d rather read their words day after day, laugh at their jokes, sympathize with their problems, and wonder quietly which of the nameless faces in the building belong to the women he’s become fascinated with. He’s never been lucky in love, and always seems to say or do the wrong things around women he finds attractive; he spends his days wondering how to improve this part of his life even more often than wondering what to do about his career, and when he should stop letting his mother insist on taking care of him. Beth and Jennifer have difficulties of their own, but everything starts to change when Lincoln reads that one of them has a crush on the cute, mysterious systems security guy. Wracked with guilt for knowing too much about their personal lives, though, Lincoln views the revelation as a road block and becomes even more uncertain about his life than ever. When will things fall into place? How can he fix something that went wrong before it even started?

“Love. Purpose. Those are the things that you can’t plan for. Those are the things that just happen. And what if they don’t happen? Do you spend your whole life pining for them? Waiting to be happy?”

The layout of this book is structurally intriguing. Although the story uses a third-person narration, it follows Lincoln closely and allows the reader a full inspection of his life, including his present thoughts, past memories, and future plans. However, Lincoln is the only character the narrator watches, and the reader sees Attachments‘ other main characters, Beth and Jennifer, through the filter of Lincoln’s perspective. In fact, the only times we see them at all are in the e-mails that Lincoln peruses and the instances when he speculates whether the women he sees in the office are the two women from the e-mails, physically present in his life. With this in mind, the reader must admit that Rowell does an excellent job of characterizing the people that the reader can only see through Lincoln. The fact that all of the characters are interesting for their own reasons can be attributed only to Rowell’s superb writing; so much of the two women’s personalities comes through the format of their e-mails that fills half of this novel. This romance novel will not only tug at emotions, but at minds that delight in unique writing styles; for readers who enjoy novels that deal with letters or other mixed-media avenues, Attachments is a great choice.

Beyond the structure of the novel, the writing is also to be noted. No part of this book is cheesy or trite; it’s characters feel real, their lives immersive, and the romance melds seamlessly into the chaos of Lincoln’s thoughts and emotions. Love has not taken over Lincoln’s life–rather it is one among a dozen issues that Lincoln is trying to juggle, and there are certainly times when one or more of the items in the air drop through his hands. He’s not perfect, and he doesn’t pretend to be. Love is not the panacea that many romance novels seem to imply, and Lincoln knows it. He’s been crushed by love before.

” ‘These things end,’ she said. ‘They always end. Nobody marries their first love. First love is just that. First. It’s implied that something else will follow.’ “

The characters of this story are also uniquely wonderful. I’ve never read a character like Lincoln–there were so many aspects of his life that would give me pause if I were to discover them in a real person, but somehow seeing into his thoughts and reading about his struggles made it easier to accept that he was a 28 year-old man living with his mother and spending his weekends with his only friends playing Dungeons and Dragons. He was naive and a  little pathetic in his first relationship, and seems to be hiding from making choices in life by going back to school for dozens of degrees instead of stepping out into the world. When Attachments began, Lincoln had very little agency–things happened to him, but he seemed capable of doing very little to make things happen. And yet, his intelligence, his humor, and his determination to keep going when things get rough keep the reader believing that there’s more to Lincoln than first meets the eye, and waiting for him to break through his fear and reach his full potential. He’s the underdog, treading water until that one moment he can burst through everything that’s holding him back.

“Wasn’t hitting bottom the thing you had to do to knock some sense into yourself? Wasn’t hitting bottom the thing that showed you which way was up?”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. I expected to feel more tension and excitement in this book, but it wasn’t until the final 50 pages or so that I became fully invested in the outcome of Lincoln’s story. Still, once I’d flipped to the first page, I could hardly put Attachments down. Even before the plot reeled me in, the characters held my interest and perpetually left me needing one more chapter until suddenly all of the chapters were gone. I did think it was a little odd that not one of those emails Lincoln read seemed to have any attachments, though. The title of the novel still made sense, but I kept imagining that some significant document or photograph would be attached to one of those emails to tie it all together.

Further recommendations:

  1. Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us is a new romance novel that, like Attachments, focuses more on uniquely compelling characters than stereotypical love triangles and other typical romance tropes. This one also deals with difficult topics like abuse and homelessness, and despite its romantic elements, still reminds the reader that love isn’t the only factor in attaining one’s happily ever after. You can find my complete review of this book here.
  2. If you like your romances with a little more of a plot-y backstory, pick up one of Sara Gruen’s novels. At the Water’s Edge is a romance with a little historical fiction about the hunt for the Loch Ness monster mixed in, including a dangerous trip to Scotland, a lost inheritance, and a fabulous party gone horribly wrong. You can find my complete review of this book here.

What’s next: I’m currently reading Sarah J. Maas’s YA fantasy novel, A Court of Mist and Fury. I liked the first book in this series, A Court of Thorns and Roses, but I’ve been led to believe that this second volume is even better. Stay tuned for that verdict.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

Review: The Last Days of Night

Did Thomas Edison actually invent the light bulb? The late 1800s were an incredible time of creation and establishment in America, and Graham Moore’s new historical fiction novel, The Last Days of Night, is a perfect way to explore the big names and excitements of that time.

thelastdaysofnightAbout the book: Many an inventor in the late 1800’s knew the impossible challenges of competing against Thomas Edison and his new system of mass production for ideas and inventions. One such competitor, George Westinghouse, even knew the difficulties of being faced with a one-billion-dollar law suit from Edison, known popularly as “the Wizard of Menlo Park.” The patent war, the electrical current war, the unprecedented shock of such an expensive law suit–all of these factors ruled Westinghouse’s life and business in 1888 as New York–and the rest of the country–slowly lit from top to bottom with new electrical lights. Westinghouse may have generated better ideas, ideas more suited to mass market, and yet Edison held the legal claim on the light bulb. Westinghouse hired Cravath, a young lawyer straight out of Columbia Law, to defend his right to produce his own electric lights. Cravath, though inexperienced, is a crafty lawyer who takes his one case so seriously that he faces public humiliation, bankruptcy, spies, death, expulsion from his law firm, the loss of the woman he loves, and much more, all to win the biggest law suit in American history.

“All stories are love stories.  Paul remembered someone famous saying that. Thomas Edison’s would be no exception. All men get the things they love. The tragedy of some men is not that they are denied, but that they wish they’d loved something else.”

There is something incredible about reading the names of real historical giants in a fictional work and seeing them navigate the world an author has created. Thomas Edison is a name nearly everyone in America has heard, but to me, at least, he has always been a ghostly figure, larger than life and frozen in black and white like the photographs that depict him. In The Last Days of Night, I had the chance to imagine him as a living, breathing person–to understand his motivations, to overhear his conversations, and consider him as a human who, like the rest of us, experiences triumphs but also failures. Edison, Westinghouse, Tesla, and Cravath are all people who’ve made a significant impact on America, and this book allows readers to view them as characters who struggle and strive like the rest of us.

” ‘A man, as a general rule, owes very little to what he is born with. A man is what he makes of himself.’ -Alexander Graham Bell”

In The Last Days of Night, the 3rd person narration follows new lawyer Paul as he becomes more and more immersed in the Edison v. Westinghouse case, and tries to add another client to his list, the charming Agnes Huntington who seems to like the eccentric foreign inventor Nikola Tesla more than Paul. She helps Paul care for the unusual scientist, and to chase him back to Westinghouse’s engineering team to design a light bulb that won’t infringe on Edison’s patent if they lose the case. Edison, however, proves himself resourceful as he sets out to thwart all of Paul’s plans toward progress, and finds no room for morality in his endeavors to win at all costs. Paul begins the novel with very little knowledge of electricity and its workings, allowing the reader to refresh his or her memory of the science behind the light bulb or learn the information for the first time along with Paul. He’s crafty, but he’s fresh out of school and inexperienced, which makes him an ideal guide for the reader who knows little about the birth of electricity and the modern law system, and an amusing one for the reader with a firmer grasp on the history. The wide range of emotions and motivations between the three main scientists in this book give the reader a broad view of this occupation in the 1880’s, and builds an intriguing cast of unique characters each with their own strong ideals.

” ‘Be alone–that is the secret of invention: be alone, that is when ideas are born.’ -Nikola Tesla”

The Last Days of Night contains a little of everything–science, arson, romance, family drama, friendship, legal intrigue, financial intrigue, political intrigue, and, of course, a plethora of history. The short chapters and their piquing titles keep readers turning pages. At the beginning of each chapter the reader also finds a quote from a prominent historical figure that hints at the content within (see the accredited quotes above). Although it’s fictional, this book reads like a a fun history of electrical science for the layperson. It won’t teach you how to build your own circuit or light bulbs, but it informs the reader of controversial origins and incites hours of interest in the simple statement that many people stop at: “Thomas Edison invented the light bulb.” A lot more effort lies behind that single sentence than the words seem to imply.

” ‘This is what science is, Mr. Cravath. This is what discovery is. It’s not a flash of color. It’s not a moment of divine inspiration. It is not the hand of God reaching down to press the pointed finger. It’s work. It’s drudgery. It is trying ten thousand different shapes of bulb. Then trying ten thousand different air fillings. Then, yes, ten thousand different filaments. It is realizing that those are the three components that matter and then trying ten thousand times ten thousand times ten thousand combinations until one of them works.’ [-Thomas Edison]”

The only fault I could find in this book was the pacing that ran a little slowly at times. Historical fiction generally takes me a little longer to read, and I began  The Last Days of Night anticipating that it would take me a little longer than my last book, and that it would probably be dense. Fortunately, it did not seem dense at all, and much of the story was thrilling enough to read quickly and easily. I would not, however, call this book a thriller, and there were a few instances where the action and intrigue lagged a bit. The tension, however, is constantly growing, and keeps the reader pressing onward to discover how the plot threads will come together at the story’s end.

“Stories reach conclusions, and then they go away. Such is their desperately needed magic.”

My reaction: 4 out of 5 stars. For some reason, I find this time period fascinating to read about. America has been its own country for over a hundred years by the last couple decades of the 1800s, but it feels like the time when the modern nation was established; ways of life were still distinctly different from our current habits, but not so dissimilar and strange that it’s impossible to picture what it would have been like to live there. I’m only mildly interested in science, and even less interested in law, but this book kept me engaged with the story from start to finish. I was surprised at how thoroughly I enjoyed learning more about Edison and Tesla, and even men I’d never heard of, like Westinghouse and Cravath. It didn’t impress me quite as much as other books I’ve read from this time period, but some of the reveals toward the end of the story would make an eventual reread interesting, and I’m glad I finally picked it up for this first read. Anyone interested in American history–even just a little–should read this book.

Further recommendations:

  1. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Last Days of Night and are interested in learning more about this time period, pick up The Devil in the White City by Erik Larson. This one’s a nonfiction book that reads like fiction and focuses on the construction of the World’s Fair exhibition on Chicago in 1893. The narration alternates between the architect of “the White City” and a serial killer who takes advantage of  Chicago’s anonymity and its influx of travelers who’ve been reeled in by the World’s Fair.
  2. If you’ve read and enjoyed The Last Days of Night but want something even more fictionalized from this time period, try Church of Marvels by Leslie Parry. This one is also set in New York in the early 1890’s, but its purpose is aimed toward lending a sense of the city’s character and the oddities of the time. The novel features an experienced member of a Coney Island side show, an impoverished street cleaner who finds an abandoned baby, a patient who’s been forced into an insane asylum that no one ever leaves, and a whole lot more. It’s a wild ride through the darker sides of the city. You can find my complete review of this book here.

What’s next: I’m currently reading Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. This one’s also a bit historical, though it’s only set as far back as 1999, but that year is perfect for the e-mail monitoring man who’s a little lost in his own life and a little caught up in reading about his beautiful coworker’s. This is a romance novel, my first Rowell read, and so far it’s been a fun experience. My full review for this book will be posted shortly.

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

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

Another month has come and gone, and it’s time to reflect on all the books I’ve been thankful for in November and for the anticipation of books yet to come. November felt like a slow month, but it’s a good time of year to slow down and take stock. However, it’s also a good time to start planning ahead for 2017, so I acquired some new books that I’m looking forward to reading:

  1. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. I don’t actually know what this one’s about. It’s a very short novel recommended to me by my mom. I’ve read a couple of Wharton’s short stories and enjoyed them, and the cover of this one is winter-y, so I might try to squeeze this one in already in the next month or so.
  2. Metamorphosis and Other Stories by Franz Kafka. This is a beautiful collection of short works by Kafka, and I’ve been in the mood for shorter works. I’ve never read Metamorphosis, but I know the story and find it intriguing. I’ve read one of the other short stories in this book already and enjoyed it, so I’m looking forward to perusing the rest of these pieces.
  3. Moby Dick by Herman Melville. I used to be so sure that this story would never interest me at all, but I’ve developed a growing inkling to read this classic. It’s a back-burner book for now, but I found it extremely cheap and decided I wanted it on my shelf for the moment I decide I’m ready to read it.
  4. Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes. Fantasy has been creeping higher up onto my want-to-read list lately, and I’ve heard this series is a good one. I did read the premise; I don’t remember it, but I was confident it fit my reading inclinations well enough that I also bought:
  5. Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes. This is the second book in this fantasy series by Rhodes. Again, I came across unbeatable prices and decided to pick it up while it was available. I also bought:
  6. Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes. This is the third book in the same fantasy series. I’ve been buying more books than I can keep up with reading lately, on top of borrowing even more books than usual, so after this I’m going on a book-buying ban and I’m calling this fall’s book binging a preparation for my winter hibernation. I’m going to read all winter and knock out my bookshelf TBR list before I buy more. We’ll see if this plan works…
  7. Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. I’m really intrigued by the layout of this book. The fact that it’s not a straight-forward story makes me a little wary, but I love books that push the bounds of typical literature, and the fact that this story is told through snippets of unconventional mediums is highly attractive to me. Also, the dust jackets of this series are opaque in some places and transparent in others, so the cover has a layered appearance that’s intriguing and mysterious. Again, although this one’s been on my list, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up in the midst of this book-buying flurry if I hadn’t come across it cheap on Book Outlet.
  8. Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff. This is the sequel to Illuminae, and as soon as I’d ordered the first book I also came across this one for significantly less than list price and I wanted to be able to turn from one to the next once I got started, so I couldn’t pass this one up.
  9. Rooms by Lauren Oliver. I’ve read a few of Oliver’s books. I’ve generally liked but not loved them, so that I don’t read every book she has published, but I am generally aware of all of her books. Or so I thought. This one was in the bargain books section at Barnes and Noble, a passing employee voiced enthusiasm for it as I picked it up, and it sounded intriguing–but I had never heard of it. So I bought it. It sounds like it would’ve been a great Halloween read, creepy and supernatural. Maybe that’s why it was on sale in November. Anyway, I’m looking forward to checking it out.
  10. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. Initially I was drawn to the beautiful cover of this book, but from the reviews I read, it was the mention of quirky narration, unique characters, and a confusing plot that really hooked me. I can’t wait to puzzle this one out and see for myself if it’s as beautiful between the covers.
  11. The Winner’s Crime by Marie Rutkoski. In the past couple of months I’ve gotten a lot of first-in-a-series books. Now I’m uncertain of what to do about them–I don’t want to buy all the volumes of all these series without at least sampling the beginnings, but I’m hesitant to start reading all of these firsts and being stuck only one book into a dozen series until I can acquire the next volumes. So I’ve begun picking up a couple of sequels just to help me get started, and I’ve sorted out the others to work out a plan of which ones I need to start reading before I keep buying. That should also help me stick to my no-buy plan. I hope.
  12. The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee. This is the only one I bought this month that wasn’t on super sale and I bought only because I’ve just really been wanting it for a while. I picked up a beautiful paperback copy that was cheaper than I expected, which is why I allowed myself to purchase it. From what I understand, this is Phantom of the Opera meets new thriller novel, and I’m so excited to see how this one plays out.
  13. The Diabolic by S. J. Kincaid. Again, I found this one really cheap, knew I wanted to read it eventually, and so I couldn’t help picking it up. It’s a YA book about a deadly female protector who can only protect her elite charge by pretending to be her, so it sounds like the sort of high-stakes book I enjoy.

novemberbooks

Although my book buying in November was fun and fruitful, as soon as November struck, I realized that my TBR for the month was more ambitious than I would be able to manage. I had to cut down on the books I would conceivably be able to finish, and I didn’t even glance at what order I’d initially intended to read them in. That said, although my reading this month felt like trying to sprint through three feet of standing water, I can see now that I didn’t do so badly. I’m glad that I got through the books I did, but also that by sacrificing some reading time I accomplished some other goals as well. Here’s what I read in November:

  1. The Revenant by Michael Punke. 4 out of 5 stars. This one took longer than expected, and the one scene I was fully expecting somehow still managed to be the most shocking. It was frustrating for this short, enjoyable book to be such a slow read for me, and that threw off my reading game early this month. Still, I enjoyed it, I’m glad I finished it, and I can’t wait to finally watch the movie. You can find my complete review of this book here.
  2. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover. 3 out of 5 stars. This one went quicker than I expected, although I didn’t like it as much as I’d hoped. Mostly it encouraged me to try a different Colleen Hoover book, although I didn’t have any reticence about finishing this one. It was an odd experience. You can find my complete review here.
  3. Morning Star by Pierce Brown. 5 out of 5 stars. This one felt like my big accomplishment for the month. Maybe I didn’t read a ton of books in November. Maybe I didn’t like the books I read as much as I’d hoped. But I read this colossal, fantastic book, and with it I finished the incredible Red Rising trilogy. I would’ve been happy with my reading this month even if this had been the only book I finished. It’s that good. You can find my complete review of this book here.
  4. Cress by Marissa Meyer. 4 out of 5 stars. I’m still not loving this series (the Lunar Chronicles), but I did think it realized a lot more of its potential in this volume. I could’ve loved this series if all of its books had been this exciting. I’m really looking forward now to see how it will end, and not just to cross off an entire series from my TBR before the end of the year. The plot is a multi-faceted gem, and I can’t wait to finally see the whole picture. You can find my complete review of this book here.
  5. The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater. 5 out of 5 stars. I did not expect to enjoy this series as much as I am enjoying it. If the Lunar Chronicles have been reminding me why I don’t read YA books as often these days, the Raven Cycle has been reminding me why I can’t stop reading YA books altogether. The writing is fun and immersive, and the plot just keeps growing and getting better. I must keep going. You can find my complete review of this book here.
  6. The Last Days of Night by Graham Moore. 4 out of 5 stars. I saw this one in stores several times, often on shelves of notable new books, but it just didn’t appeal to me until I saw it recently on the library shelf when I already had enough other books to read but for some reason suddenly couldn’t resist it. I think I just needed to be in the right mood for it. It’s a great story set in a time period that interests me, and fills that blurry space between fact and fiction that I find so engrossing. If you want to read a book in which Thomas Edison is the villain, this is the one to try. My complete review for this book will be posted soon.

And with only six books completed in November, suddenly the last month of the year has arrived. Although there are quite a few books I wanted to include in my December TBR so that I could cross some key items off of my list before the end of the year, I know that I will be busy again this month, that I will want to spend some time with my family, and that it really won’t hurt me to carry some of my reading goals over to January. Still, I’m feeling ambitious, and apparently I haven’t learned how to create more conservative goals after my ambitious ones have failed. Here’s what I’m hoping to read in December:

  1. Attachments by Rainbow Rowell. I’ve been meaning to get around to reading a Rowell book for several months now, and Colleen Hoover finally put me in the right mood to go through with one. I didn’t want to start with the most obvious choice, Fangirl, so I scoured Rowell’s oeuvre and picked this one. I’ve also borrowed Eleanor and Park from a friend, so I’ll be reading that soon too, but for now I’m starting with Attachments.
  2. A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas. A little over a month ago I read the first book in this faerie series, primarily because I’d heard the second book was great, so I’m reading the second one now in December. If I like it, I might pick up the Throne of Glass series. If not, I might never pick up another Maas book again. Obviously my hopes are as high as the stakes with this one.
  3. Fairest by Marissa Meyer. I had originally planned to read only the four main books of the Lunar Chronicles, but I’ve discovered that this one’s shorter than the others, and villains are intriguing, so I’m going to give it a try between books 3 and 4, in publication order.
  4. Winter by Marissa Meyer. I am determined to finish the Lunar Chronicles before the end of the year. Cress took longer than expected to read, and I think this one’s even thicker, but I expect this will be the best book of them all and I’m ready to see where it’ll take me.
  5. Agent 6 by Tom Rob Smith. I’m not actually sure yet if I’ll be able to read this one this month. It depends on when it will be available at my library. This is the final volume in a Russian trilogy I started earlier this year, and despite mixed feelings about the first two volumes, I do want to try to finish this set before the end of the year, as well.
  6. Vows by LaVyrle Spencer. This one was lent to me by a family member a couple of months ago, and at the time I was not ready to read it immediately but decided I would get to it before the end of the year. Now it’s the end of the year and it’s time to read it. This is a romance, I believe, so it’ll go well with my recent Hoover and Rowell reads by the time I get to it.
  7. And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie. This one was lent to me by a friend who had no idea this book was already on my cumulative TBR, which I’m taking as a sign that it’s time to read it now. It’s short, it’s creepy, and I haven’t read Agatha Christie in a while so I’m excited about this one.
  8. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. This is another short one, it’s a new buy, and I think it’s a wintery sort of story, so I think it’ll be a great final read in those lazy/crazy days between Christmas and New Year’s when everything and nothing seems to be going on. Those days usually pass pretty quickly, but I have fond memories of books read in those days. I’ve been neglecting my classics lately, but I don’t want to completely lose the habit and I am starting to miss them. This should be an easy one to sneak into my schedule somewhere before the end of the month.

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading  before 2016 comes to a close? Which books should I add to my TBR to kick off the new year?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant