Wednesday, September 2, 2015

What I Read in August + September TBR

In three weeks I managed to read 11 books. I thought that my August TBR goals of 8-10 books in three weeks (after booktubeathon) were stretching it and then I beat my own goals!

Well, I’ve also been experiencing a lack of motivation with a lot of things, including blogging, and that has to do with August marking the one year anniversary of a close friend’s suicide. So, in periods of little motivation, sometimes I end up reading a lot without people knowing.

And today I’m here to discuss the 11 books I read and the several books that I want to read in September. Don’t forget to tell me what’s on your September TBR and what you’ve read in August.


** The Fifth Wave – Rick Yancey || Goodreads

Hey, hey! You might be interested in reading this one soon too. The trailer was recently released for the movie adaptation (or at least a sneak peek trailer).

Anyway, everyone was raving about this book years ago, and I pre-ordered the book but then never got around to reading it (#StoryOfABookHoarder). I recently saw that the audiobook was available on Overdrive, so I decided to try it out, knock a book off the TBR (even if it wasn't the TBR I'd made for August). Y'all, if you're going to read this book, I HIGHLY recommend the audiobook. The narrator does a fantastic job of capturing Cassie's emotions and the atmosphere as she recounts the different waves of the Other's invasion. There's also a narrator for the male characters (the guy who narrated Linger by Maggie Stiefvater), and he's good, but for me Cassie's narrator totally stole the show and made the audiobook worthwhile.

I really liked where Yancey took the story. I have to admit: alien invasion stories are not my thing. Too often I feel icky; aliens vs. humans, and this Othering, makes me think about xenophobia, and anyway, Yancey avoided that. There are obviously some parts that I enjoyed less than others, but it was entertaining enough that it stayed with me, made me curious enough to check out the sequel. Also, I'll probably check out the movie on January 29?, 2016.

** The Infinite Sea – Rick Yancey || Goodreads

This one is a lot more action-packed than The Fifth Wave and the main point of view isn't actually Cassie's. it's another side character from book one, and I've got to say - I liked that character a lot, so I enjoyed the perspective shift. I liked this less than The Fifth Wave, but I am still curious about what Yancey has planned for The Last Star. There were definitely plot twists in The Infinite Sea with huuuuge repercussions for TLS.

** Alanna: The First Adventure – Tamora Pierce || Goodreads

My reaction is pretty similar to what it was in my August TBR post. Which is to say, I'm super impressed thinking about how this was Tamora Pierce's debut novel and how she hadn't had the legions of YA novels before her, and yet she set such a trend! A trend and a legacy that's easily traced in other YA fantasies. I really wish that I'd read this in high school. I enjoyed it now, but I know that I would've enjoyed it even more then (aka when I was less jaded and picky about books).

** Bone Gap – Laura Ruby || Goodreads

This book takes a while to get started, but I almost didn't care because of its fantastic characters. Laura Ruby really does a wonderful job developing the setting and making the people of Bone Gap feel unique to Bone Gap (but also familiar to us). (Side note: magical realism may become one of my favorite genres, especially as it is here, with a character-oriented plot and emphasis on characterization first.)

Most often the complaint about magical realism novels is that they're slow-paced. My reasoning is that readers might be entering with bad expectations if they think a MR novel is supposed to go fast. A friend once said that the good horror novel first establishes the daily reality of the characters for you before adding in the horror elements. That's what makes the horror and creepiness feel real - the sense of it seeping into your daily reality. I'd say the same of magical realism. A MR novel that's fast-paced might not have the time to set up the proper atmosphere and setting. You gotta get the contemporary element in, and then inject the magic slowly but surely....

Anyway. I really did love Bone Gap, and Finn is one of my favorite male protagonists. Loved the way it played with perception, beauty, being lost and getting found.

** The Accident Season – Moira Fowley-Doyle || Goodreads

Wow. What a remarkable debut novel.

We Were Liars is probably a fair comparison, but it also doesn't quite capture the beautiful atmospheric tension of this novel. WWL's prose was more focused on emphasizing Cady's brokenness, I think, whereas the prose in The Accident Season seems more akin to Nova Ren Suma's. Here's a better explanation: WWL is described as a modern day suspense novel, but The Accident Season is described as a sexy magically realistic YA. If you're a fan of Nova Ren Suma's or Maggie Stiefvater's writing, this could be right up your alley.

I'm definitely coming back for more from this author.

The Accident Season is much more plot-oriented than Bone Gap. My favorite element of Bone Gap was the characterization. My favorite part of The Accident Season was the writing style. Ohhhhhhh, wow, the climax was stretched on and Fowley-Doyle captured the atmosphere and setting and this dreamy, what-is-going-on feeling for all of it. I could picture the entire book as a movie. Same with Bone Gap. Which is why I thought that magical realism might become one of my favorite genres.

** Court of Fives – Kate Elliott || Goodreads

No wonder Kate Elliott was a World Fantasy Award Finalist. The world-building is SO extensive, and the plotting does well to highlight different aspects beyond the core "Fives" game concept.
"Court of Fives is inspired by Little Women, by epic fantasy which I’ve written for years, by my wanting to write a story that’s also a love letter to female athletes, by the history of Hawaii, and by my husband’s work at an archaeological site in Egypt dating from the Greco-Roman period, a period when first Macedonians/Greeks and after them the Romans ruled over the Egyptian population." 
-Kate Elliott in her Book Smugglers post, which is well worth reading if you have the time.
That's also a good summary of this book. A love letter to Little Women, female athletes, and epic fantasy set in a Greco-Roman inspired world rife with colonial class warfare. If you wanted more focus on the world-building in The Winner's Curse, Court of Fives is your novel (though in general, definitely expect an overlap of fanbases here).

(P.S. Bonus points for Jessamy. She's going on my favorite heroines list.)

** George – Alex Gino || Goodreads

I'm really glad this is being published. It's wonderful to think that discussions will start across the country because of George. I was trying to think of when someone had ever really discussed gender identity with me when I was growing up, and I couldn't think of a single time. In fact, the first time I had ever even heard of the concept of personal gender pronouns was my first day at college. I should've done better, and we can all do better, and this is a really important book.

Something I also really appreciated about this book were the cringe-worthy comments from different characters that might seem innocent except that we're in Melissa's PoV (i.e. things like "you'll turn into a fine young man"). A nice reminder of how important our word choice is. And how the casting of the play went! I remember the parents and the people in charge of my elementary school plays specifically making up *girl* characters (e.g. Janet, Jim's twin sister in Huckleberry Finn) or changing boy characters to have "girl" names (i.e. probably ending in a vowel; e.g. "Quincey" instead of "Quince" in A Midsummer Night's Dream) - what is the deal with girls playing boys or boys playing girls?

Anyway, it's a good starter point for discussing gender identity with your kids. Some moments reminded me of this NYT article. Read that against this novel, or read the novel on its own -- whatever you decide, you should have some discussion at hand. Plus, the way the novel is written makes it really easy to sympathize with Melissa (see above).

** Sunshine – Robin McKinley || Goodreads

I was at the Strand the other day and found this one in the YA section. Remembered how much I'd enjoyed The Hero and the Crown and decided to give this book a shot.

Haha, this book was originally published as adult UF and republished as YA. That made me think that YA is really just at the publisher's discretion. Because there were definitely explicit terms you don't normally see in a YA novel: labia, the feeling of a hard-on going soft in your body, etc. But explicit terms aside, there aren't many explicit scenes, so it also makes sense that the book got published as a YA novel.

Anyway, it's a vampire faery tale, and I have some unanswered questions, and I may or may not go hunting on the author's website. I'd definitely read more from her in the future. Definitely one of the master story-tellers...

And the romance novels that I read when I fall into that lack of motivation mode...

** Slave to Sensation – Nalini Singh || Goodreads

Sarah J. Maas mentioned this book when she came to my college to give a SFF world-building workshop (before the publication of Crown of Midnight - aka when such things were still possible without costing too much money). She highly recommended it despite the old cover.

And ever since then, I've seen it on so so so many different UF and romance readers' radars. It seems to be a really popular series, the Psy-Changeling series, so I decided to try it out for myself. I enjoyed it well enough. Maybe will try her other books in the future?

**Luck Be a Lady – Meredith Duran || Goodreads

Meredith Duran is my go-to historical romance author. Especially when I'm in a funk.

** When Beauty Tamed the Beast – Eloisa James || Goodreads

I think a popular Goodreads reviewer might have tipped me off to this, but I was in the mood for a Beauty and the Beast retelling... I liked this. Probably just as much as Slave to Sensation, both good, and maybe I'll try more from those authors in the future.

Currently Reading:

** Slasher Girls and Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke || Goodreads

I've only read the first story by Nova Ren Suma, but I enjoyed that so much! Her writing style seems particularly suited to short stories, and the magical realism elements fit well with an anthology comprised of horror and thriller stories.

September TBR:

All the books from my August TBR that I didn’t read including:

  • Shadowshaper – Daniel Jose Older || Goodreads
  • More Happy Than Not – Adam Silvera || Goodreads
  • The Golden Specific – S.E. Grove || Goodreads
  • The Wild Ones – C. Alexander London || Goodreads
  • A Curious Tale of the In-Between – Lauren DeStefano || Goodreads

All of these books have actually been released by now, so if you're interested in them, you can grab a copy too. And hopefully I'll be able to read them soon, and catch up so I don't continue to fall behind on my TBR and push books back... back... back... Hah.

Also, books releasing in September and/or purchased:

** The Killing Moon – N.K. Jemisin || Goodreads
  • I don't read enough adult fantasy, and I've heard such good things about Jemisin's work, so I'm really looking forward to diving into this book. (Though I think her other series won the Hugo and Nebula awards? Not this one? But still.). I also read a small excerpt about Jemisin's characterization skills on io9 and I loved them.
** Zeroes – Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, Deborah Biancotti || Goodreads
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
  • Superheroes! Scott Westerfeld! I haven't read anything by the others, but this seems highly anticipated. What have you heard on your end about it?

** Vengeance Road – Erin Bowman || Goodreads
Release Date: September 1st, 2015
  • YA Western! I've heard about the dialogue and I don't do super well with dialogue, but maybe that'll just enhance the atmosphere. I've also wanted to try out an Erin Bowman book for a while.

** Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin || Goodreads
Release Date: October 20th, 2015
  • This one releases in October, but my book club chose it for our September book. Laini Taylor blurbed and/or recommended this one, and it sounds really different from most other YA, so I'm also looking forward to this.

** The Curiosity House – Lauren Oliver and H.C. Chester || Goodreads
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
  • MG adventure in the 1930s and related to a relics collector? And Lauren Oliver as the writer? Yes!

** The Thing about Jellyfish – Ali Benjamin || Goodreads
Release Date: September 22nd, 2015
  • I read an excerpt of this in the BEA buzz books and loved the writing style. Then the Little Brown publicist said that she thought this one had the potential to be like The Bridge to Terabithia, which I LOVED growing up.

** The Doldrums – Nicholas Gannon || Goodreads
Release Date: September 29th, 2015
  • The illustrations, 3 kids getting up to an adventure, stirring up mischief.... I have a thing for MG adventure, especially if you can add some sort of extra magic (not even a fantastical element - but gosh, his illustrations!).

Those were the books I read in August and what I plan to read in September. What's on your September TBR? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

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