January Wrap up

While February was an odd month, January ended up being a pretty productive reading month. I read 9 books. Hooray!

Now, I don’t know what the rules are, (or even if there are rules), but #bookishconfessions: Two of the books I had started in December. One of the them was mostly read in January (Queen of Shadows) but Tony & Susan was mostly December. Since I tend towards the rebel side, I’m counting them as a January read. RULES BE DAMNED!

Here are the books I read:

  • Tony & Susan
  • Queen of Shadows
  • Empire of Storms
  • The Young Elites
  • The Rose Society
  • The Midnight Star
  • How to Build a Girl
  • Girl on a Train
  • Conversion

I wrote a blog post about Tony & Susan and How to Build a Girl. I enjoyed those immensely. So, I won’t go into anything more about them.

Queen of Shadows and Empire of Storms were the last two books in the Throne of Glass Series by Sarah J. Maas. If I’m completely honest, I was hesitant to start reading these. I don’t know why, I just didn’t ever get around to them. And then there was drama.

I don’t remember exactly when the controversy started, but sometime late last year (I think), I started hearing about all this drama around this series. As I started hearing more, obviously my interest and curiosity was peaked. Don’t worry, I won’t keep you in suspense.

There were two pieces to the drama.

The first is that apparently some retailers released the newest in the series, Empire of Storms, early. *GASP* the horror!

Ok, so I get it. If you’ve been waiting an entire year to find out what happens to characters you have become legit emotionally attached to, the knowledge that someone else in the world got to find out before you is a crime of monstrous proportion. I get it. BUT. It isn’t the authors fault. So, there were death threats sent to the author and things on Twitter derailed fairly quickly. (Which, I feel is the general Twitter experience.)

Cue drama storm two.

Now, whether this was because a large amount of adolescent angst was swirling over the early release or if this was brewing before, I don’t know. But, the conversation got fairly heated over her books lacking diversity and that non-white characters were killed off more. This is actually why I ordered the books and settled in for a five book marathon reading. I’m always curious as to what detracts from a book, and to see if I agree.

I didn’t see it. In fact, I was surprised that these claims were even gaining traction. First, these are high fantasy books. There are multiple races of creatures in a variety of worlds along with several cultural variations within these worlds. Most of the characters aren’t human, and within those non-human, there are a lot of races. The main character is fae, not human.

Further, there are several same sex relationships. While they aren’t the main characters, they are prominent enough to be woven into a decent amount of the story thread. I suppose the argument could be given that it isn’t prominent enough, I don’t know. Personally, given the amount of trash talking, I was expecting a much different cast of characters.

Outside of that, I’m glad I read the books. The first book was a slow start. If I hadn’t already ordered the other four books, I probably wouldn’t have plowed forward. Oh. My. God. Am I glad I did. These books are a slow infiltration into your inner psyche. It’s a set of books that I found myself thinking about at random points throughout my day. And the end of Empire of Storms?! Holy shitballs man.

There are less than a dozen books that have left me so emotionally bereft as Empire of Storms. Game of Thrones series. Red Rising trilogy. The Dark Tower series. Very few. I felt like I was sucker punched and then had my heart ripped out. Needless to say, I will be patiently (#whydoIhavetowait) waiting for the next book. If you can make it through the first book, this series is worth the time.

After being left with a book hangover of epic proportions, I turned to an author I’ve previously enjoyed. Marie Lu.

Her first trilogy, Legend, was one I enjoyed tremendously. She did not disappoint in this series. I was excited to read this trilogy because the main character is one that can easily be described as a villain. I dabble in the Dark Side myself, from time to time, so I strapped in for a fun ride.

I don’t know what it is about being a villain that is just so fun. Even when you know it’s wrong, it’s still fun. Maybe it’s the power. Maybe it’s the strength. Maybe it’s just that we all have a bit of Dark Side in us, and it’s circumstance and chance that separates us in the end. I think for me, I enjoy exploring the tragedy that goes into making a villain. Generally speaking, most villains are not evil people. At least, not at first. Just watch Star Wars. I mean, Anakin clearly had a lot of good in him. Until he didn’t. It’s a fascinating process.

There are also some incredible quotes in this series:

“No one wants you to be yourself. They want you to be the version of yourself that they like.”

“It is pointless to believe what you see, if you only see what you believe.”

“The irony of life is that those who wear masks often tell us more truths than those with open faces.”

“Desperation brings out the darkness in everyone.”

“Tragedy follows those who cannot accept their true destiny.”

I’ve always been a firm believer that reading helps us develop empathy. And there can be no greater empathy than to those who turn to anger and hate in response to being shown anger and hate.

My next read was a change of pace, but the movie is coming out soon so I needed to read the book first. #booknerdproblems

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins already had rave reviews, and was made into a movie, so I was expecting a good story. The use of the unreliable narrator was amazing. I mean, amazing. Any book that keeps me unsure of what’s happening until the author is ready to reveal her hand, is worthy of Book God status.

The mystery and intrigue alone makes this novel compelling. But Hawkins doesn’t stop there. She makes multiple observations on how women can view themselves in today’s society. Both women live drastically different lives, yet they both feel their worth and value is dependent on the men in their lives. But these observations, these inner thoughts are so subtle, it’s easy to miss. It’s also not the point, which makes the thoughts that much more poignant. At least, in my opinion. I’m hoping the movie is done as masterfully as the novel.

Finally, I read Conversion by Katherine Howe.

This book was a bit of a miss for me. I enjoyed it until the end. Beware, because there will be some spoilers here.

The book goes back and forth between two narrators in different centuries. It’s set in Danvers, Massachusetts which was originally Salem. A series of unexplained events begin happening to the girls at a prep school, which are eerily similar to the unexplained events that triggered the Salem Witch Trials.

Now, the narration was good, and the mystery behind the plot had a nice pace and build up. We know that the girls in Salem had made the entire thing up. The narrator in the past, Ann, is actually the girl who confessed, albeit years later. She recounts how it began and how they all got wrapped up in the whirlwind of attention. It’s a fantastic reminder of how hysteria can start and blossom into a life of it’s own.

The present narrator, Colleen, is a girl who doesn’t experience any of the symptoms (at first) and is skeptical of the entire thing. But, even with her skepticism and distrust of the situation, she feels the urge to join in. The thing that sort of threw me with this book, is you are led to believe that as opposed to the confession in the past about it all being made up and exaggerated, we are led to believe that her friend Emma is actually capable of the supernatural and is behind the entire thing.

Except, you’re sort of left with more questions than answers. Which is fine, but some of these were so vague I felt they could have been wrapped up a bit better. Emma, seems to have this ability to direct her feelings and cause these strange things to happen to others. Even at the end, her mother alludes to it. Telling Colleen, that Emma is like she is and it’s better that she stays near home for school because she’s delicate. It seems like the entire thing was supernatural.

What I didn’t like, is the confession from Ann doesn’t mention any actual supernatural activities, or anything remotely similar to what happened to Colleen and her classmates. Or leave a hint that perhaps those events too were supernatural. And this is where I thought the story could be better. How could one be made up, and then the other witchcraft?

Usually, when you alternate POV, it’s because those characters intersect in some way. Other than mimicking the same symptoms, its difficult to see how they intersect. Is Emma a descendent of one of the girls? Were the claims of witchcraft true? There just isn’t anything to clear this up. Which was disappointing, because I would have loved the book if it had been just a little clearer.

I will say, ending up on antidepressants is a much better ending than getting hanged. But, I think the end could have been a touch clearer. Whether it was supposed to hint at witchcraft, or hysteria, either ending would have been better than both. Or neither.

In all, I had a good reading month. I set my reading goal at 75 books for 2017. 9 feels like a good start. Happy reading!

**Originally I listed Heir of Fire as the 4th book. I grabbed the wrong book for the picture. Oops. The writing is fixed but the picture stays**

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