Lots of books this month! Lots of books with…dark covers. THE DISENCHANTMENTS sticks out like a sore thumb ;) Anyway, let’s get to it!
Here’s what I read in March:
Sarah J Maas’ second novella in the THRONE OF GLASS series, THE ASSASSIN AND THE DESERT, came out just two days ago and I’ve already devoured it. What a novella! The amount of emotion and character growth packed into this story is amazing. Celaena and Sam’s actions at the end of the first novella do not go unpunished and Celaena is sent to spend a month with the Silent Assassins and learn a thing or two about discipline in the unforgiving desert. While she is there to train, she finds herself unexpectedly caught up in a conflict between the Assassins and a Lord from the neighboring city of Xandria.
Like the first novella, this one is a gripping, action-packed, fast-moving story, but I think what impresses me most is how these novellas build upon and flesh out Celaena’s world. I feel like I’m peeking behind the curtain, witnessing all these small moments that lead up to the hardened Celaena we see at the start of THRONE OF GLASS. And with each novella, the world gets richer and richer — with places and people and conflicts and politics and folklore. I truly can not wait for novella #3. (Or #4). And then I’m going to get my hands on a finished copy of THRONE OF GLASS and read it all over again. <3
Matthew Quick’s BOY 21. I adored this novel. I knew very little about it going in, but the cover grabbed my attention at B&N and after reading the opening pages, I was hooked. The story follows Finley, who lives and breaths basketball. So does his girlfriend, Erin. They both live in a bad neighborhood, ruled by the Irish mob, drugs, crime, and severe racial tension, but the two find an outlet in ball. They train together. They even break up each basketball season to better focus on their game.
Then Russ moves to town after the tragic murder of his parents. A prodigy and highly-recruited ball player, Russ has been shattered by the loss of his parents. He will no longer touch a basketball and answers only to Boy 21, the number of the jersey he used to wear. Finley’s coach asks Finley to reach out to Russ. While the two boys’ lives are initially forced together, they both find a surprising friend in the other.
There is so much to love about this novel, especially the friendship aspect. I want to read more novels about friendship. And what sparks between Russ and Finley is no easy relationship, because as Russ heals from his loses, he begins to touch the basketball again, threatening to take Finley’s starting position. Finley’s relationship with Erin sees similar levels of growth. By the end of this novel I was crying like a baby. This is a moving story about trust, hope, and the power of friendship. And if you’re like me and have a love of lay-ups, jump-balls, and triple doubles, the basketball aspects of this novel will be icing on the cake.
Every once in awhile, I pick up a non YA book. Shocking, I know. This month I read non fiction (even more shocking!): Austin Kleon’s STEAL LIKE AN ARTIST, which is essentially his personal manifesto for living a creative life. The book is written in an approachable, honest tone, and is filled with simple bits of wisdom. Ten, to be exact. I gushed about this book just the other day. You can read my full review, see a few of the quotes and doodles that fill the pages, and even enter to win a copy. (Which you should do. I really think this is the kind of book that every creative person should read. It is honest and real and brilliant.)
I’ve been dying to read Leigh Bardugo’s SHADOW & BONE for a very long time. Then I saw the cover and map and wanted to read it even more. I am so fortunate to have gotten my hands on this novel early, because oh my, is it stunning. The nation of Ravka is surrounded by enemies and split in half by the Shadow Fold, a swarming darkness filled with monsters that makes it nearly impassable. Alina, after revealing a dormant power that could be the key to freeing Ravka of this darkness, is taken into custody and trained as a Grisha (Ravka’s magical elite).
The story is well-paced, the characters believable, and the writing lovely. But what I really fell for was the world. The clothes and culture and architeture and landscapes and food and language and Oh My Gosh. This novel felt like a cross between Plain Kate and The Golden Compass. I want to wander through Ravka’s domed palaces and wear a kefta and march on the Shadow Fold (even if that is an extremely dangerous feat). It doesn’t hurt that I want to spend some more time with Mal, either (Alina’s best friend who grew up with her in her childhood orphanage).
This novel feels so very different than everything out there right now. And that’s a good thing. I can’t wait for book two because I desperately want to slip back into this beautiful, rugged, captivating world.
I reread Suzanne Collins’ THE HUNGER GAMES in preparation of the movie. I believe this was the third or fourth time I’ve revisited the story, and there’s something to say for a novel that can keep you glued to the pages even after you’ve read it multiple times. I’ve come to appreciate everything leading up to the games more, I think, in my later reads. The first time I was just so anxious to see if Katniss would survive that I flew through those first pages. But now, I find the scenes in the Capitol particularly creepy. Creepy, but brilliant — the commentary on reality television and greed and corruption. Genius stuff.
Aside from that, I’m going to copy and paste what I wrote on goodreads for this book after I read it the first time: I’m not even going to attempt to put into words how much I love this novel. It would be rambling, fan-girlish, and incoherent, at best.
Yeah, that pretty much says it all. Although, I do think I summarized the book pretty well for my friend when he asked me why The Hunger Games isn’t another Twilight.
I rarely read paranormal romance. It’s just not my thing. But writer friends Sarah Maas and Susan Dennard kept gushing to me about Erica O’Rourke’s TORN and I finally picked it up. I say finally because I wanted to read it all along, but again, because I’m not huge on paranormal, I kept putting it off.
I loved how this novel starts with the Chosen One already dead. I’m not spoiling anything — you find this out in the opening pages. Mo’s best friend, Verity, has been murdered and Mo is left to fill her shoes. This would be like Harry dying and Ron having to go after Lord Voldemort. I lovethis “what if” scenario. And I absolutely loved how real Mo is. Her relationship with her mother and uncle felt believable, her inability to handle her grief in the wake of her best friend’s death was painful, but honest. As she gets pulled further into Verity’s world, things get complicated. The dark and mysterious Luc is trying to help her complete Verity’s work while Colin, a bodyguard employed by Mo’s uncle to keep an eye on her in case Verity’s killers come knocking, is interfering with her plans. I’m interested to see how things develop between Mo and these two boys, and how she handles the increasing pressure to finish Verity’s work.
I absolutely adored Nina LaCour’s THE DISENCHANTMENTS. Colby is tagging along with best friend Bev and her band-mates for the summer. The Disenchantments are playing a few final gigs and then Bev and Colby are putting off college for a year to travel the world. But not far into the tour Bev says she’s calling off their trip, shattering all of Colby’s plans for the foreseeable future.
For Colby, the tour becomes torture. He is trapped with Bev, who he longs for even when he hates her for her betrayed, moving from town to town where he sees more and more people that appear “trapped” in a life they never intended to live. He worries he may now be one of those people, no college plans on the horizons and completely clueless of what he wants for his future. With a backdrop of country roads, sunglasses, amps, and tattoo parlors, Colby faces the great unknown, paralyzed and terrified of what comes next.
I feel like I’m not doing this book justice. It’s one of those coming of age stories that simply can’t be summarized. It has to be read, because it has to be felt. This book is filled with amazing characters. The voice is incredibly authentic. The writing is lyrical. It is simply put a refreshing and real YA contemporary. In tone and atmosphere it reminds me of Almost Famous, while the themes of friendship and future unknowns brings An Abundance of Katherines to mind. Either way, this novel is raw and gorgeous. Definitely recommend.
And finally, my favorite read of March was Kristin Cashore’s BITTERBLUE. What a wonderful conclusion to the epic story of the Seven Kingdoms. In this novel we see Bitterblue, now Queen of Monsea, still struggling to revive her kingdom after the damage done by her father years earlier. The post-Leck world that Cashore has crafted is terrifying, but fantastic. As Bitterblue uncovers more truths, the extent and reach of Leck’s devastation is truly numbing.
Katsa and Po return and while they are a bit more animated than I remember, I loved spending time with them. Especially Po. (Oh, Po. How I missed him!) It is rewarding to see not only how Katsa and Po’s relationship has grown and changed over the years, but also how their relationship with Bitterblue has developed.
But like always, it is the world of Cashore’s novels that makes me swoon. The politics and the landscapes and the castles. The details poured into every room and stairwell and library and bridge and pub and book and I could go on forever. The Seven Kingdoms feels real, and by the end of the novel, Cashore has tied the threads of both Graceling and Fire together with such mastery that I felt breathless. I’m sad to say goodbye to this world and its layered cast of characters. But then I remember you never have to say goodbye to any series; you just have to start reading it again. I have a feeling these three novels will be ones I come back to over and over throughout the years.
Man, I’m exhausted. So many books! I need to become more concise with my reviews. Anyway, please tell me: What was the best book you read in March?