#7 – Angelfall, by Susan Ee
- Read: 1/10/19 – 1/12/19
- Challenge: Mount TBR (5/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
- Task: A debut novel
- Rating: 4/5 stars
This book left me with as many questions still hanging as the ones it answered, so I’m glad I already have the rest of the series.
It’s impressively paced, filled with tension and action both. The romance subplot I expect to find in most YA novels was subverted, morphed into an attraction that was as gripping and visceral as it was impossible to contemplate leading anywhere. The personal tension between Penryn and Raffe is not ignored, but it’s definitely not romanticized, either. Which I liked.
I also liked that the entire story is loaded with murkiness about who is friend and who is foe. Raffe should be the enemy, especially after Penryn discovers his true identity (though I thought it was obvious just from his name…) and the Resistance starts out being an enemy (sort of) and ends up being an ally (sort of.) The other angels are pretty clearly the enemy, but some of them are still willing to help (sort of.) I prefer moving through gray areas like that to reading about simple black-and-white divisions between opposing forces.
What I liked less is a pretty minor point: it got difficult, especially at the end, to track who was where at any given moment, especially in the action scenes. Penryn’s schizophrenic mother being constantly missing then reappearing was understandable, and I liked that Penryn felt both guilty and grimly fatalistic about her inability to keep her family together, because riding herd on her mother sounds exhausting. But sometimes in the action scenes, things just sort of paused while two characters were talking or fighting, and I kept thinking, “What is everyone else in the room doing right now? Are they still there?”
Overall, I enjoyed it, and it’s certainly an impressive debut novel. I have high hopes for the rest of the series answering the questions that this left me with.
#8 – The Sleeper and the Spindle, by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chris Riddell
- Read: 1/12/19 – 1/13/19
- Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (3/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
- Task: A book that makes you nostalgic
- Rating: 5/5 stars
As a longtime fan of Gaiman’s ability to balance darkness with humor, this was perfect for me. A bold and interesting interweaving of two classic fairy tales into something new and strange and lovely. Riddell’s illustrations were beautiful, sumptuously detailed, and vaguely disturbing, matching the tone of the text and enriching it. (I may have spent almost as much time studying the illustrations as I did reading the narrative. If not, it was close.)
#9 – Misery, by Stephen King
- Read: 1/14/19 – 1/15/19
- Challenge: Mount TBR (6/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
- Task: Read a book during the season it’s set in
- Rating: 5/5 stars
I remember, a long time ago, telling a friend who was also a Stephen King fan that I loved the movie Misery but hadn’t read the book. They immediately warned me the book was “much more hardcore.”
Uh, yeah, it was. So much so that I whizzed through this in two days because it was so hard to put down!
I’ve never tried to write a novel with a psychotic fan hovering over me, but it does come across as a great motivator. In the end, though, I like that Paul was writing for himself, and I loved that I could see, so clearly, how he was using the (ongoing) trauma of his experience to fuel the story he was writing, even if he said he was using the act of writing as an escape. I was properly horrified by Annie, but I was also strangely gleeful reading her, because she’s such a marvelous villain, with her odd mannerisms and hidden slyness.
It’s gruesome, terrifying, and pretty darn brilliant from start to finish.
#10 – Betrayal, by Aleatha Romig
- Read: 1/15/19 – 1/16/19
- Challenge: Mount TBR (7/100); PopSugar Reading Challenge
- Task: A book with an item of clothing or accessory on the cover
- Rating: 2/5 stars
As romances with cliffhangers go, that last chapter had me wanting to read the next book. A lot of work clearly went into filling the ending with unresolved tension that begged me to buy the second installment.
Too bad the rest of the book wasn’t nearly that good, so I was easily able to resist.
The plot was reasonably predictable. Alexandria/Alex/Charli’s identity crisis was layered on way too thick, especially because her “Charli” persona, who was supposed to be wild, was still pretty tame. Nox was as bland as a dominant alpha-male character can get. So I wasn’t that attached to the characters, either.
The sex scenes were meh at best.
What really bothered me, though, was the structure. Okay, so the present timeline and the flashback timeline are both moving forward as the book goes on, no problem, pretty standard. But when I read the flashback scene that covered the last morning of Alex’s vacation (and thus the last morning of her week with Nox) I expected the flashback timeline to end there, because that was the whole point of that arc of the story. Except it didn’t. There was another flashback chapter after that, talking about the day before their last day together. So, flashback within a flashback? Or just sloppy construction? In addition, after most of the book is exclusively from Alex’s first-person POV, near the very end, suddenly Nox is a POV character, for just long enough to explain how he and “Charli” are barreling toward their unplanned reunion. Since it’s such a short blip in an otherwise Alex-centered book, I feel like it would have been more useful to have him explain it to Alex in person (in her POV) rather than drag the reader through it firsthand. And if that wouldn’t work with the timeline established here, it could fit in the second book easily, because without his section, I think there would have actually been more suspense at the end.
#11 – Fire, by Kristen Cashore
- Read: 1/16/19 – 1/17/19
- Challenge: Virtual Mount TBR (4/48); PopSugar Reading Challenge
- Task: A book with a zodiac sign or astrology term in the title
- Rating: 5/5 stars
The rough edges of style and narrative that I had issues with in Graceling have been entirely sanded off here, which I appreciate, because DAMN I LOVE THIS BOOK.
- Sex isn’t reserved for anyone’s One True Love, and both the positive and negative aspects of this are depicted across the story’s major and minor romantic/sexual relationships. Which is not standard for YA at all.
- Bisexual MC? It’s not stated outright, but it’s heavily implied, and I’m not going to be as harsh about the missing b-word with a book published ten years ago as I would be with something published today. Bisexual representation has been creeping forward slowly for a while now, but it’s only exploded (in my media sphere, at least) in the past few years.
- The character who is literally so beautiful and appealing that she can influence minds directly ISN’T THE EVIL ONE. Fire struggles throughout the story with what her power means and the legacy her father left her, but not once is she (or her father, for that matter) simply depicted as evil.
- Serious, in-universe discussions about menstruation (OMG Fire and Brigan were adorable there,) abortion (Mila admitting she would have done it if she had known it was an option and Fire not shaming her for it,) voluntary sterilization (Fire,) and general acknowledgment of the complexities of pregnancy and motherhood, including men’s responsibility for getting women that way and how women shouldn’t be the only ones concerned with birth control (Archer.)
- Positive depictions of both single mother- and fatherhood. Seriously, I never see single fathers in stories unless they’re benignly neglectful of their giant brood of cared-for-by-servants children (I’m looking at you, Daughter of the Forest) or fetishized as perfect men in single-father-themed romance novels.
- Realistically paced romantic attraction. Do I love Brigan more than Po from Graceling? I might. He’s really great, and all of those brief, out-wandering-at-night conversations are just awkward and sweet and lovely.