The month of March was a WHIRLWIND. I spent two weeks in France, which you can read about here, and then had to integrate myself back into reality. Never as easy as you expect it to be.
Now I think I am caught up, and even though it was a crazy month – it was also a GREAT one. A fabulous trip, a new house, my birthday and… Some exciting news I will be announcing soon.
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s talk about what I accomplished this month.
What I Read
GRAND TOTAL: 8
Circe by Madeline Miller ★★★★☆
Let me preface by saying that I have a minor obsession with Greek mythology. So when I discovered this author (who previously wrote a retelling of the Trojan War), I immediately jumped on the chance to read.
If you’ve read the Odyssey, you may recognize the goddess Circe. Yes, she is the one who turned Odysseus’ men to pigs. But she has a fascinating life before Odysseus ever enters the pictures. Daughter of Helios, sister-in-law to King Minos, lover of Daedalus.
She and her siblings are blessed with a power that no other god or titan possesses – to harness plants from the earth and transform them into magical potions, salves and spells. Circe is thus banished to the island of Aeaea because the gods are jealous and petty (a pretty common theme in Greek mythology).
Circe is one of the most resilient characters I have ever read, and she has a fascinating way of looking at the world around her. Miller obviously put a lot of research and work into recreating this world, and her language is absolutely gorgeous. The pacing gets quite slow toward the middle, and I struggled for several chapters. BUT it picks up quickly once more characters are introduced after the midpoint.
This book is chock-full of the best stories and characters from Greek mythology. But you don’t have to be familiar to enjoy the story. It’s worth a read anyway, so if you love love epic storytelling, new cultures or Greek mythology, pick up this book when it’s released on April 10. Thanks Netgalley for the advanced copy!
Furyborn by Claire Legrand ★★★☆☆
A missing princess. A fierce female assassin. A world stripped of its magic with an evil emperor and possessed soldiers. Sound a little familiar?
But even with all its similarities, that doesn’t mean it wasn’t an enjoyable read. The story switches POV from Rielle, who discovers that her unique powers means she’s one of two prophesied queens: the Sun Queen or the Blood Queen. Flash forward to years and years later, and we meet Eliana – famed assassin – who finds herself on a mission that challenges her entire way of thinking.
I don’t think I’ve ever said this before, but the prologue was actually my favorite part of the book. It sets up the rest of the story SO well and creates a high level of tension and mystery that kept me reading. Without it, I don’t think I would have been so invested in the story.
All in all, I enjoyed Rielle’s chapters much more (mainly because Eliana’s just felt so familiar). Rielle also felt much more balanced as a character although both are strong, badass women. Eliana just felt a little like she was trying too hard – waffling back and forth between cruel and compassionate like a rubber band.
The world building also needed a little more work. In itself, the premise is intriguing. Sorcerer’s who can control different elements is nothing really new, but they’re also at war with the angels (a force that’s usually portrayed as good). Why are they at war? Not really sure. It’s one of the many things that needed a bit more explanation (maybe instead of one of the multiple fight scenes).
One last thing… This book is being hyped up as a fantasy with bi-representation. I honestly don’t understand why. There were maybe two passing comments, and if I hadn’t been looking, I would have missed them.
Overall, it was an enjoyable but average read. If it wasn’t for the prologue, I would have ranked it lower, and it’s the one thing that has me holding out for book 2.
Sunburn by Laura Lippman ★☆☆☆☆
Call me crazy – and based on the other stellar reviews, I might be – but I suffered through this book. The premise was intriguing: two strangers meet in a small town. They’re both just passing through but stay – drawn to each other’s mysterious past.
From the description and the first few chapters, Polly is supposed to be some sort of black widow: a dangerous woman irresistible to all men. But boy, I just didn’t get it. There is no evidence behind why everyone loves her, and she literally has no emotion whatsoever. For a character who narrates a good chunk of the novel, I couldn’t connect. The other characters fell a little flat as well, feeling more like cardboard cutouts than real people.
The story itself is slowwwww. There’s hardly any action, large chunks of backstory dumping, and I often found myself checking to see how much was left. By the time we finally get to some action, the writing stops in the middle of the scene and flashes forward to decades later. Seriously?! In the end, there were a lot of questions left unanswered which made the bulk of the plot unbelievable. I am fine with being left in the dark at first – that’s what often makes a good thriller – but you gotta give me something to go on.
Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi ★★★☆☆
I think there has even been a debut as hyped as this one. Twitter, Good Morning America, USA Today. It has been everywhere. And Tomi is absolutely well-deserving of the attention – she’s a great lady. But with any overly hyped novel, I try to tamper my expectations.
Let me start by saying that the shining star of this novel is the setting. The fictional African nation of Orisha is fantastically developed with unique cities, lush descriptions and strong cultural backstory. Although I don’t quite understand why the animal names were changed. Is a lionaire really that different from a regular old lion?
It’s also an #ownvoices dream – the publishing industry needs more authors AND characters of color, and this one definitely delivers. The oppression of the maji mirrors real world racism and was extremely well done without being overwhelmingly political
But ultimately I think the hype got a little ahead of itself. While the secondary characters shone, the main characters fell a little flat. They were familiar, and their motives and emotions either muted or melodramatic. The romance between Zélie and Inan felt unnecessary and much too far into insta-love territory. One night he tries to kill her and literally the NEXT DAY they are in love? Also, I don’t know what it is but so many YA fantasies these days are dealing with a land whose magic has either been stolen or disappeared (see above). I’ve read so many lately that they are almost starting to blend together.
The pacing of the novel was spot on and kept me intrigued. The lulls and the action were balanced, and writing style was easy to read if a little simple. The ending stuck out to me as one of the better scenes, full of tension where the rest of the book just sort of floated along predictably. Overall, it definitely read like a debut novel, but here’s hoping the sequel will have more of the good parts and less of the weak.
Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo ★★★★★
I love a good heist… Ocean’s Eleven, The Italian Job. But while movies often succeed, I haven’t read a truly well done heist novel. So when a group of six misfit thieves walked into my life, planning to break into the impenetrable Ice Court to rescue the scientist responsible for developing a drug to enhance magical abilities… Well I was hesitant.
I had no reason to be. Rarely can a heist novel be imaginative, realistic AND surprising, especially for someone like me who can almost always guess the ending. I have never read a book by Bardugo before, but she absolutely nails this one!
What starts as a slow first few chapters explodes into a fast-paced, dark and thrilling plot. The world building is natural, never any true moments of explanation but I instantly understood it anyway. Six of Crows alternates between five perspectives, and each is well balanced and equally developed. I honestly had a hard time deciding which I loved most.
Which brings me to the characters. OH MY GOD, the characters. Sometimes I struggle with so many POVs because they all start to sound alike. Not the case here. Each character’s voice was entirely unique. and they literally felt like real people with real stories. And damn, the women in this novel?! Talk about strong female characters. There are two pretty incredible romances that both have me swooning even while acknowledging that they are meaningful and swoon worthy for different reasons. Nothing cookie cutter about this book.
Bardugo also did something that I thought was really unique, and that’s how she incorporated said backstories. Several chapters have sections that aren’t technically flashbacks but feel like it. It’s info-dumping. But it’s done SO well, that I don’t even care. Seriously writers, go study how to do this. It’s brilliant.
And on top of everything else, the writing itself is easy to read but beautiful with killer lines like:
“I will have you without armor, Kaz Brekker. Or I will not have you at all.”
One final note: This is yet another YA branded with characters that have act much older – and have more experience – than their technical age of 16-18. If only New Adult was a more marketable genre…
The Selection Series by Kiera Cass ★★★★☆
This was a reread – well technically a re-listen as I used the audiobook to keep me occupied on my drives back and forth to Dallas – and it was just as wonderful as the first read. I won’t do a full review here, but here’s the gist: These novels are not the most well-written or the deepest content. But Cass nails character development, and this fantasy version of The Bachelor is a home run on concept alone. If you love juicy drama, reality television and love triangles, give this series a chance.
What I Wrote
So I am going to be totally honest with you… I got absolutely nothing done from a writing perspective this month. I beta read a novel for a friend and (as you can see above) read a lot. The new New Orleans novel was in the back of my mind through the month, and I did come up with some great scenes and plot points. But the pen never quite made it to paper.
That will hopefully change in April, as my goal is to get at least the first few chapters written. Mainly to get to know my characters even more and discover the voice for this particular project. You can outline all you want (and I encourage you to do so!) but sometimes just come with writing.
April is going to be another nutty – but exciting – month for me. I will be moving into my first house in a couple weeks and participating in Camp NaNoWriMo. But don’t worry, I’ll still make time for the blog with some new topics coming up about the next stage of my writing journey. Check out my reading list below and join me if you want!
- All We Ever Wanted by Emily Giffin (Netgalley)
- The Casquette Girls by Alys Arden
- Let’s Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson
- The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coehlo
- Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo
What are you goals for April? Share in the comments below!