October was a busy month for me, so I didn’t get as much read as I hoped I would. It turned out that the quantity didn’t matter as much as the QUALITY this month, because wowza. The stories in these books impressed the crap out of me. I feel like I’m decently creative, but some of the things here were WOWWOWWOW.
Clearly my words are failing me today. I better just get started.
Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger
This BLEW. MY. MIND. I had no idea that this story existed in someone’s head, but now that it’s out in the world I want more stories in that world. All right, I’ll back up a bit.
Bailey Chen is a college graduate who doesn’t have a plan. She moved home after getting an Ivy League education only to be welcomed back by parents who don’t like that she doesn’t have a job set up. So, in the interim, she starts as a bar back at the bar her high school friend Zane works at/basically runs. While there, she accidentally mixes the perfect drink and then gets exposed to a whole other world within the Chicago she’s always known—a world where demons are running through the streets at night, trying to feed on humans. After realizing her natural talent for bartending, Zane spares her memory of the event as long as she intends to become a bartender full-time—which is not what her parents want from her. There are several subplots, but basically, the demons are starting to multiply in number, starting to act weird. And Bailey (along with Zane and some others) have to fight them off. Also, Zane and Bailey kind of hooked up in high school, and those feelings aren’t resolved, so that’s fun.
Like I said—MIND BLOWN. I want everyone to read this book. Paul Krueger writes in a smart and funny way, Bailey was completely relatable, Zane was that guy that everyone girl has had at least one experience with, and the others were complex and fascinating side-characters who I was invested in and loved. This was such a fun read. Also, a bonus is that Bailey is a woman of color who isn’t a stereotype! Wow, that shouldn’t be a bonus, that should be a given. (But if any of you follow YA Twitter, you know that this is a very current problem.) Anyway! This book rocks. I can’t wait for Krueger’s follow-up (yeah, this is a debut!).
Rating: 5 enthusiastic stars
The Girls by Emma Cline
I’m a true crime girl, especially in podcast form (I’ve been debating compiling some of my favorite podcasts in a blog post—I’ll add it to my calendar!). So when I read about this book, about how it’s a reimagining of a young girl who sort-of joins a Manson-esque family, I was beyond intrigued. Plot:
Evie Boyd is fourteen and in the strange summer between middle school and high school. After a falling out with her best friend Connie, Evie starts looking for other people to spend her time with, and is captivated by a girl that she sees first in a park, then in a grocery store. Suzanne. Evie and Suzanne do start to become friends, and Suzanne brings Evie to the ranch, where the followers (the family) of Russell live and work and hang out. But Russell is starting to sense that the tide is changing—he starts planning a way to get revenge on the people who have “wronged” him. And Evie is just about as wrapped up in it as a young person can be without having taken part.
All right, so… I didn’t hate this book, but I certainly didn’t love it. I feel like it would have been more… something (fun? Interesting? I can’t find the word) to read about the actual Manson family instead of this thinly-veiled fake cult family that also ended up murdering some rich-and-famous types in Hollywood, all because a music producer wouldn’t sign Russell to the label. That’s not a spoiler, because that’s what the Manson family did—they were going to murder Dennis Wilson, but someone else was living in the house, so they killed those people instead. Not only that, but the writing was overwrought, boring, and pretentious. Like I said, I didn’t hate the book, and the ending was exciting enough to make it worth the read. But I definitely didn’t love the book either.
Rating: 3 stars
Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard
Now we’re back to the genre I’ve found myself entranced with these last several weeks—YA fantasy with a post-apocalyptic/sometimes dystopian lean. That’s my jam (even though I have yet to try writing any of it, I love reading it). And this book is one that I’ve been trying to get my hands on for months—so worth the wait (although I took issue with some parts, but more on that after the plot summary):
Mare Barrow lives in a world divided by blood. Her blood is red, the blood of the poor, working-class family. The wealthy elite have silver blood, and with silver blood comes magical powers unique to each silver family. Except, it turns out, Mare has magic within her, too—which was mistakenly discovered in a near-death experience while working in the palace. To protect their own blood-rights, the silver King and Queen take her in and pretend she is from a silver family long thought to have died out, then betroth her to their younger son, Maven. However, it’s the older son, Cal, who captures Mare’s attention, and who is completely captivated by Mare. Then, what do you know? Revolution is brewing. The reds are sick of being pushed down and forgotten, or worse, killed. So they start planning to rise up. And Mare wants to be a part of it, even if it means betraying Cal in the process.
I go into detail about my issues with the book in my review on Fangirlish, so I won’t say a lot other than WHY DOES THERE ALWAYS HAVE TO BE A LOVE TRIANGLE??? (Or square, in this case.) And why is it so easy for me to pick a side when I don’t even want there to be sides to pick?? (I’m Team Cal, ugh.) So obviously, there’s more to this story than the short summary I laid out here. The world itself is fascinating, for one—it took me a couple chapters to get into this book, actually, because I had a hard time picturing the world and the powers within it. But once I was in, I WAS IN. For the long haul, baby. I have Glass Sword (the sequel!) sitting on my shelf, to be dived into in the near future. This is one of those books where I was able to just escape—I would pull it open on planes, in airports, while eating my lunch, and I could just get lost for a couple of minutes. I really appreciate books like this one, for that very reason.
Rating: 4 stars
Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake
This book is complicated as hell, almost solely because of the way it’s written. It’s got three POVs, but sort of more, because it’s a distant third person that allows other people to kind of jump in and tell the story along with the queens. It takes place on this crazy hidden island. And there is so much weird-ass magic that I spent a lot of the time thinking of Harry Potter, His Dark Materials, and ancient mythology, all of which I’m guessing had some sort of inspiration on the author (among other things). I’ll try to explain this one, but wowza, you should probably just read it.
On the island of Fennbirn, a set of triplets is born to the sitting queen once in each generation. Each of the triplets is predisposed to a certain type of magic or power, and once they reach the age of sixteen, they have to fight each other to the death until only one sister remains standing—she is the rightful queen, and will rule until it is her turn to birth a set of triplets, and the cycle begins again. Mirabella is a powerful elemental, meaning she can control the weather, among other things (including fire). Arsinoe is a naturalist, which means she can make plants bloom and has an animal familiar as a companion (although the bond is deeper than that of a pet and an owner). And Katharine is a poisoner, meaning she can ingest the deadliest of poisons and live to continue eating and thriving, without getting sick to her stomach. The only trouble is, as the triplets’ sixteenth birthday comes and goes, Mirabella is the only one of the three with a developed gift. Arsinoe has yet to receive her familiar bond, and Katharine is so sickened by poisons that she remains weak, small, and malnourished. Not only that, but Mirabella has actually memories of her sisters, which makes it difficult to consider killing them in order to claim the throne.
The concept of this book is stunning—I don’t know how someone’s brain works like that in order to think something like this up in the first place. Here’s my problem with the book—because there are three perspectives and we have to learn about three different gifts and personalities and sets of secondary characters, the entire first three quarters of this book is basically a prologue. It’s world-building. I loved it at first, because it was very character driven, and I love character studies like this. But towards the middle, I got bored. Like… really bored. Almost didn’t want to finish the book bored. The last quarter was quick and amazing and I seriously can’t wait for the sequel, but there could have been some tightening in the first part of the book. I was invested, but I was bored. You don’t want your reader to be bored! Other than the boredom thing (you know), I loved it. The ending was worth it. So good!
Rating: 4 stars
Unfortunately, November is off to a slow start, reading-wise—it’s NaNoWriMo month! More on that later this week, though. I’m probably only going to get through about this many books next month, as well, but we’ll see how things go. What has everyone else been reading lately?