“At moments like this, I appreciate how the weather in Scotland is never the same, and how swiftly it changes. How the rain itself seems to breathe, soft and slow.”
The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May
Release Date: June 13, 2017
Publisher: Chronicle Books
Genres: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy
Full disclosure: I adore Scotland so that setting alone will attract me to a book. I had downloaded the first of Elizabeth May’s Falconer series to my Kindle some time ago, but then didn’t read it until I was IN Scotland last summer. I thought the first book was fun and moved onto the second one, which was even better. I grew to love the main character, Aileana, a fierce fae-slayer. As it always is with final books in a series, I (electronically) opened the final installment of the trilogy, “The Fallen Kingdom,” with: a little bit of sadness that I’d have to say goodbye to all the characters by the end; a tiny amount of worry I might hate it; and, of course, tons of excitement. The final verdict? My heart is a little shattered in the best kind of way.
What interested me in this series to start with, aside from the whole Scotland thing, is how it pulls from dark mythology of the fae/fairies. The “girl falls for immortal creature that can kill her, but he’s more complex that” story has been told many times before, usually in a vampire fashion, but May layers her story with a fascinating history that makes it unique. So while tropes I’m bored of were present in the beginning of the series, it didn’t keep me from reading on. The stakes get higher and higher and the line between “good” and “evil” is tremendously blurry. It’s made the journey of the trilogy exciting instead of cliched.
Release Date: September 8, 2015
This book is set in the Kingdom of Xia and based on Chinese mythology. It follows Skybright, a teenage handmaid, who discovers she can shapeshift into a snake demon.
What I liked:
- The Mythology: I loved the Chinese folklore details in this. It’s not something I read about often and Pon works in multiple myths along with the rich history.
- Female Friendship: Skybright’s mistress is also her dearest friend. I love how much they care for each other and also the exploration of growing pains in friendship.
- The Details: Pon draws you into this historical setting with beautiful descriptions of the clothes, food, and everything else. I was hungry a few times reading this and wishing I had some of their beautiful outfits.
- Romance: What’s nice about the romance is it doesn’t overpower the story. The story is ultimately about Skybright’s challenges with what she has discovered about herself. But there are two different romances in this that are sweet and important in their own individual ways.
Serpentine is relatively short but Pon manages to provide enough character development and a satisfying plot. I enjoyed reading a fantasy different than many I have read recently.
Release Date: September 1, 2015
This book is about 18-year-old Maddy who has lived her entire life (except for some brief time as a baby) inside because she is allergic to everything. She thinks she has come to peace with this until a boy moves next door and THINGS HAPPEN.This book was a such a pleasure to read and beautiful in so many ways. A run down of what I liked:
- Madeline: I cared for Maddy almost instantly. She is so lovable. The best books are ones where you just really want to get to know the main character, aside from the plot. Nothing could have happened in this book and I still would have been happy to have gotten to know about Maddy. I empathized with the girl trying to figure out what she wanted from her life, who didn’t feel like she was missing out until she suddenly did.
- The format: This book has illustrations (that Nicola Yoon’s husband drew! So cute!), online chats, and a few other deviations from standard text. It makes reading the book a lot of fun. The way this is all used is part of what helps Maddy have such depth.
- The romance: The relationship between Maddy and Olly is truly sweet and I didn’t even roll my eyes once! Yoon stayed away from dangerous tropes. It’s so easy to root for them, to ache for them.
- EMOTIONS: This book is going to make you FEEL. An emotional rollercoaster I was glad to experience.
- Representation of Illness: I can’t go into too much detail without being spoilery, but this is a good book where the sick character isn’t a big Life Lesson for the healthy counterpart.
There is also a THING that happens that is a spoiler which some people were unhappy with. I think the unhappiness stemmed from expectations of what some people wanted the book to be vs. what it actually is. Guess you’ll have to read and see though!
If you couldn’t tell, I loved this book. It’s one I am going to make friends read so I can talk about it.
Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates
This is simply required reading. Coates’s latest, about growing up black in America, is written as a letter to his son. His writing, as always, is completely absorbing and powerful. There are enough articles floating around the internet about why you should read this. (And some terrible articles from raging racists, of course, and their existence alone is a reason you should read the book.) No matter who you are, read this book. And then have your family and friends read this book.
In the Unlikely Event by Judy Blume
I had hoped to love this book and alas, did not. It’s well done and captures the lives and trauma of a town plagued by tragedy after tragedy. There was plenty I did enjoy about it. However, I didn’t really connect with any of the characters. I also think 1950s suburban America is just not my cup of tea.
Paper Towns by John Green
This was a re-read for me before I saw the movie. I first read it right after it came out when I was 18. I think the story overall was more interesting at 18, but the message is something that impacted me then and stayed with me. “What a treacherous thing to believe that a person is more than a person” was stuck in the back of mind and served as a reminder throughout college and into adulthood. Seven years later and this book still got to me.
Alias by Brian Michael Bendis and Michael Gaydos
I’ve been making an effort to read more comics and graphic novels. I graduated university with a degree in graphic design and clearly I love words so the combination of graphics and writing is something I do appreciate. Yet somehow they can be harder for me to get into. Probably just takes time to really enjoy. Anyway, in anticipation of Netflix’s A.K.A. Jessica Jones I decided to to pick up the original comics. I liked this second volume better than the first. And I love Jessica Jones as an ex-superhero character. I’m not sure the male writers of this completely did her justice but still found myself into the story. Hoping the Netflix series is even better.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera
If you would like something gritty and heart-wrenching, well here you go. This book is worth the hype I saw all over my Twitter feed. The book follows Aaron Soto after his father’s suicide while he tries to come to grips with both what his father has done and thoughts about his own sexuality. Then there’s the Leteo Institute which has a memory-alteration procedure which looms over the whole story. The cast of characters in this is fantastic and it somehow covers so many different topics in little ways.
Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay
I put this off for too long. Because it’s the 21st century, I’ve followed Roxane Gay on Twitter for a while and she’s pretty kickass. This collection of essays is also pretty wonderful. The book isn’t strictly about Feminism. It’s more about Gay and her experiences as well as pop culture. While some of the pop culture references were lost on me, I still liked these essays. Gay has important things to say whether or not they are “new” things (as some reviewers find this not revolutionary enough). You have to repeat some things before people get them. When it comes down to it, I just like Roxane Gay. She is personable and funny and can also talk about big topics in way that is easily understood. With any collection of essays, I enjoyed some essays more than others. But overall felt they were well-written and worth the read.
I read this earlier this year and have been wanting to talk about it and it’s TIME. I’m into sports, but not so into boxing. However, if zero gravity boxing existed that might change things for me. How the book describes the sport is completely amazing. I became more engrossed in these fictional matches than I have been in many real life sporting events.
Aside from the awesomeness of futuristic sport, this book has a lot going for it. Here’s what I liked:
- World Building: Lee does a fantastically well at building a complex world without over-explaining or making it confusing. I am not exactly well-read when it comes to Sci-Fi, but the world she creates is different than a lot of what I have read. I think the uniqueness of zero gravity boxing helps. There have been comparisons to Ender’s Game (which I love), but while there are some similarities I don’t find them truly comparable. Completely different tone, different message, and so on.
- The Action: There is a lot of detailed action in this and it’s amazing. Sometimes I get bored with play-by-play fight scenes, but Lee makes them so tense and engrossing. God, do I wish this sport was real so I could watch it.
- Characters: The story centers around zeroboxer Carr and his rise to fame. The book made me root for Carr, but not always entirely love him which is what I want from my MCs. I am drawn to characters who aren’t entirely lovable. Carr is adored by his fans and the general public, but not always lovable for his reader and it makes the story much more interesting.
- The Sports World: What I liked most about this book is its subtle satire about the sports world and advertising. Carr is assigned a brandhelm (basically a publicist) Risha (who is beautiful and… you can see where this is going…). Carr is seen as marketable and gets a bunch of sponsorships. As someone who worked only briefly in sports, but got to see a glimpse of how this all works, I loved how Lee handled this. Branding – whether it’s a company or a person, in sports or elsewhere – is obviously a Big Deal in corporate America. So how Carr is treated is relevant. When I recently read about how Serena Williams doesn’t get as much sponsorship money as some of her counterparts, I instantly thought of this book. People become brands and it’s strange how that works in our world.
- The Messages: Besides the publicity commentary, there are a few other things happening in this book that I won’t talk about to avoid spoiling anything. However, what’s nice about this book is the story isn’t over-burdened by these many ideas. The plot is first and foremost about Carr and his conflicts. The questions are there and they don’t necessarily have answers. The book delivers the action-packed fun but also gives you a few things to chew on if you wish.
I think the one negative of Zeroboxer for me is the characters didn’t feel fully developed. Carr of course comes far by the end, but I wanted more in the beginning with him and Risha and a few other characters. The character relationships didn’t feel as strong as they could have been.
If you enjoy Sci-Fi and/or sports you should definitely read this book. Even if you don’t enjoy some of its commentary, it’s still so much fun. And if you don’t like Sci-Fi or sports, this might temporarily win you over.