My Year in Books

Hello All,

Every year I participate in the Goodreads reading challenge. I thought it would be fun to share “My Year in Books”. Here are some statistics:

Total Books Read: 27

Total Pages Read: 10,134

Average Length: 375 pages

Shortest Book: 211 pages: A Wrinkle in Time (my first time reading this classic!)

Longest Book: 626 pages: A Court of Mist and Fury (who else is seriously excited for ACOWAR? I can’t contain myself.)

Most Popular Book Read: Eleanor & Park

Average Rating: 4 stars. What can I say? I read a lot of great books this year.

Overall, it was a great year. I read my first Gaiman (The Graveyard Book), I got into VE Schwab, who I adore, Sarah J Maas and Jennifer Niven. I would say my favorite books were All the Bright Places which was incredibly written, heart-wrenching and honest, as well as A Court of Mist and Fury and The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. If you’re someone like me and strong characters are the most important part of a book to you, I recommend all of the above.

What were some of your favorites, or least favorite books you read in 2016? Did you hit your goal? I missed mine by 3 books! What books are you looking forward to in 2017?

Happy reading!

Review of “A Court of Mist and Fury” by Sarah J. Maas

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Rating: 5/5 Stars

Pub:  May 2016 Bloomsbury

“Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

With more than a million copies sold of her beloved Throne of Glass series, Sarah J. Maas’s masterful storytelling brings this second book in her seductive and action-packed series to new heights.” -Summary Goodreads.com

Ugh. I’m not sure where to start on this review so I will start at the beginning of my expansive notes which start at the beginning of the book. Also, I apologize for the length of this review, I have a lot of things to say.

From the setup, and the way she paints Tamlin, which I’m guessing is from her spending too much time within the book that she lost a little perspective, you can tell that she does not like Tamlin. Perhaps I need to re-read the first one, and I plan to, but I do not remember Tamlin being this big of an ass. I thought he was more accepting of her fighting and tough side in the last book. Feyre so abhorrently did not want to marry Tamlin, that it took me, as a reader, by surprise.

With all that said, this is a book, that at its heart, is a story of a girl finding her freedom and finding herself. It was absolutely gorgeous and powerful. This is a book for people who have suffered from unhealthy relationships, PTSD (I’ll come back to this), and the guilt of not wanting what you once thought you needed. Maas also covers male rape respectfully, something not talked about enough. A quote that absolutely struck me right in the feels: “I realized how badly I’ve been treated before, if my standards had become so low. If the freedom I’d been granted felt like a privilege and not an inherent right.” Holy. Shit. Maas hits the nail on the head here. I know this feeling and I know that many young girls do. She no longer needed a protector or a safe life full of food, wealth and safety. She became someone else when her human body died. Yes, this was hammered into us a lot of times throughout the book, but we needed to hear it. We needed to listen.

Maas handles PTSD with stunning grace. She did her research. Feyre couldn’t handle certain colors, the feeling of being trapped, and Tamlin’s disrespect and misunderstanding of that cemented their differences. He ignored it all together.

Coming back to what I said in the first paragraph, I do think that Maas went a little far with the heavy comparison between Spring and Night court. Everything was better: the clothes, the company. While yes, accurate, the setup was a little obvious.  With that said, everyone in the Night Court was pretty fucking awesome. Also, the conversations were well-written and nothing felt like boring court politics. That is not easy.

From then on my notes devolve into “WOWOWOWOW THIS BOOK IS FUCKING AMAZING”. I mostly ran out of intelligent things to say when my emotions took over. This book, this book right here, is so much, miles better than the first. I think this made my list of favorite books of all time. You can tell she must have been planning or already done with this book when she wrote the first because pieces of the second were important in the first and vice versa. I definitely want to read some more things from her. (Based on this, she would write a good vampire! There were many similarities).

Tamlin was such a flat character, but Rhys? Rhys is incredible. Sometimes I forgot about the war building because I got so into the story of him and Feyre. Maas showed us that you can be possessive in a way that is healthy and what an honest, real relationship should look like. (The sex scenes were quite a bit for YA, seems more like new adult, not that I’m complaining!)

The ending let me down a little bit. I was frustrated because the plot buildup of this war throughout the whole book, which was secondary to her and Rhys, but still, didn’t really happen at all? I didn’t completely understand what the King of Hybern wanted. And now the whole next book will be about that again? The last few chapters felt a little rushed and confusing. It was most certainly a buildup for the next book. Which I get, but I do enjoy everything getting resolved and I’m also a little bummed at what the immediate future holds for them. Without spoiling, let’s just say things are gonna be a bit awkward? Not sure how she is going to handle certain things there. But we shall see.

Regardless of the ending, this is a truly incredible book. A female character who is strong, but wasn’t afraid to break along the way and let herself be true to what she wanted and needed. I loved it. Perhaps this holds a special place based on my experiences, but even so, the writing was excellent. What can I say? Maas is kind of a master.

Author of the Month: V.E. Schwab

Hey guys,

So I’ve read three V.E Schwab (Victoria Schwab) books this year and I did not do any reviews for them. I felt that I should give her a special shoutout.

 

 

These are the books I’ve read from her. I want to start by saying that she is a phenomenal writer with great powers of world-building and character development/characterization. Tor is her publisher which also says a great deal about her.

Of the three, Vicious was my favorite. “Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” Ugh. Amazing. This book is totally and completely morally ambiguous and I love that. For most of the book these characters are pretty gray. Who is a villain? How does one define a villain? I am gravitated to exploring these questions and the characters were well developed.

The other two books are the first two in her Shades of Magic trilogy. I didn’t find the characters as alluring as they were in Vicious. But, if you are a big fan of fantasy, there is a magic system and it takes place in a fantastical world, whereas Vicious was set in our good ol’ normal planet. Shades of Magic is set in 4 different parallel Londons: Red, Gray, Black and White London and only Kell can travel between the 4 worlds (or is he the only one?).

Overall, I would definitely recommend checking out her work, even if you aren’t a big fantasy fan. If not, I would say to start with Vicious to get a taste of her writing style. You won’t be disappointed!

 

Review of “Uprooted” by Naomi Novik

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Rating: 3/5 Stars

Pub: May 19th 2015 by Del Rey

“Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. We hear them sometimes, from travelers passing through. They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.”

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.” -Summary from Goodreads.com

This book has a few instances of violence against women. Dragon grabs her arms and quite literally drags her, to the point of bruising, and early on a prince tries to rape her. Dragon calls her useless among many other things. These things didn’t sit well with me. The Dragon was almost too mean in the beginning. That being said I am a romantic, and I still liked the buildup of them getting to know each other. I won’t spoil it but I loved loved learning his real name and the magic she felt with it.

I am aware that this book draws quite a bit from Eastern European folklore of which I’m not too familiar with (except vampires) so I don’t feel a great authority to speak on that. I’d also be interested to learn more about the language used for the magic spells!

Dragon and Agnieszka spend a good chunk of the story apart, rendering it not really/completely about them, as the sorely lacking synopsis alludes to. (Seriously that synopsis is bad). There was also a lot of uninteresting court politics in this book. It was very long and had a few different pieces to it, I think this whole world and story could have been told in more than one book (and I am not usually the person to say this).

I did like the ending, even if it did feel a little abrupt. The best part of it for me was what Agnieszka was doing, that felt real to her character. It wasn’t all about the love story and she didn’t just blindly follow Dragon, she did what she knew was true to her. I liked that.

With all that said I don’t think this is exactly my type of fairy tale retelling, there was a good amount of pieces I didn’t really enjoy. But the story is there and quite detailed, so still 3 stars for me.

Happy International Women’s Day!

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Happy International Women’s Day!

I realized that the majority of my shelves are filled with female authors 🙂 Who are some of your favorite female authors?

(Not pictured: Amy Poehler’s book, which I read her narration of, and Frankenstein which I forgot! Boo.)

Review “The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry” by Gabrielle Zevin

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry 

Gabrielle Zevin

Pub: April 2014, Algonquin Books

 

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Rating: 5/5 Stars

“In the spirit of The Guernsey Literary and Potato Pee Pie Society and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry, Gabrielle Zevin’s enchanting novel is a love letter to the world of books–and booksellers–that changes our lives by giving us the stories that open our hearts and enlighten our minds.  
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto “No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World.” A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island–from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn’t take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.’s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn’t see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.” –Goodreads.com

Ugh. This book. This book. It’s beautiful and gorgeous, well written. It made me laugh and cry and smile. I purposefully attached a picture of my own copy so you can see all the little sticky tabs of moments that made me react in some way. This is a book about books, written with care by someone who loves books. Somewhere in this synopsis ^ it says that this novel is a love letter to the world of books and I couldn’t agree more. There are so many publishing intricacies and little things you notice when you work in a bookstore. Not to mention comments on crafts and the classics.

The characterization and voice is incredible. Zevin gets each one spot on. Here’s one of my favorite bits from Maya as a little girl: “The first way Maya approaches a book is to smell it. She strips the book of its jacket, then holds it up to her face and wraps the boards around her ears. Books typically smell like Daddy’s soap, grass, the sea, the kitchen table, and cheese.” How gorgeous and perfect is this?

The time line of this book spans a long time and jumps a lot in years. It moves fast, but I can’t fault the book for that as it’s called The Storied LIFE of A.J. Fikry. But I honestly can’t pick apart and look for bad parts in the book when I loved it this much. At that point I’m just looking for things to say.

I had the sort of reaction to this book that every author hopes for and is the whole reason they write. And I honestly, cannot think of a higher compliment. I already can’t wait to re-read this.

At one point A.J. remarks that “sometimes books don’t find us until the right time.” and with this one, I can’t agree more. This book certainly found me at the right time, especially as it’s been on my list for a few years.

We read to know we’re not alone. We read because we are alone. We read and we are not alone. We are not alone.