Spring is quite possibly here and therefore outdoor reading is slowly beginning. April afforded me a few days outdoors and I read some lovely books, too. My absolute favorite of the month was The Rose & the Dagger, but that’s going to need its own post once I wrap my mind around it a little better. Here are four others I enjoyed.
Exit, Pursued by a Bear by E.K. Johnston
Johnston’s writing is breathtaking. Her A Thousand Nights blew me away with how beautiful her descriptions are. I was unsure how a contemporary novel would compare since it requires a different sort of writing, but Exit, Pursued by a Bear ended up being just as luscious. I don’t think I’ve ever read two books by the same author so vastly different yet similarly gorgeous.
In Exit, she borrows names from Shakespeare’s Winter’s Tale and turns it into something completely new. In this modern story, Hermione is a cheerleader who is raped at camp and doesn’t know who did it. What follows is a story about friendship and moving on. It takes a lot of talent and care to write a sexual assault story and this novel does it so well.
Paper Hearts, Volume 1: Some Writing Advice by Beth Revis
Revis is best known for her Across the Universe series that I read a while back. The ebook version of this first volume of writing advice was on sale so I decided to give it a go. I have two novel drafts just sitting around and I’ve started a number of other projects so felt I could use some motivation. There’s a lot of bad writing advice out there (which Revis discusses) and Revis seemed like a writer I could trust. I wasn’t wrong.
I mostly read this in between fiction readings which helped me pace a little and not devour all the wisdom all at once. If you are someone who writes novels or wants to write novels, this offers a lot of helpful tips and inspiration. What’s great is she doesn’t insist on a particular way to write; she offers different routes you can take depending on what works for you. This is how all writing advice should be.
Holding Smoke by Elle Cosimano
I hadn’t heard anything about this book, but the cover caught my eye so I gave it a shot. The basic premise is a teenage boy, John, is in jail for two murders: one he didn’t commit and one that was an accident. He has the power to leave his body and turn into what is basically a ghost to leave the jail and gather information. Things start to change when he comes across someone who can actually see him.
Holding Smoke ended up being more suspenseful than I expected and I’m glad for it. The book is more plot heavy than character centered. I never got a true sense of John or anyone else, but I felt enough for him to be invested in his story. It’s clear he’s innocent and you want to know what really happened. He uses his ability to trade information for protection or other help inside the jail, but also uses it to get closer to the truth of the day he was arrested (with a little help from the girl who can see him in ghost form.) Because while he knows he didn’t do it, he doesn’t know who did. What unravels is a satisfying mystery that speeds up towards the end of the novel. While there wasn’t a “wow” moment for me, the read was quick and enjoyable, with a little food for thought on our justice system and youth incarceration.
(Note: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for a review.)
Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke
The poetic prose of this book is lush and the selling point for me. It has the feeling of fantasy and magic in a contemporary setting. The story is told from three points of view of teenagers heading into summer and manages to capture that feeling of mystery and adventure built up by young minds.
There’s a plot I won’t tell you about because part of this book’s reading experience is not knowing exactly what the plot is. Which sounds messy, but I liked the puzzling nature of it. It’s a short, pleasant read that’s not entirely what it seems.