Here’s a 5-star quartet of novel reviews for your reading pleasure. You can catch up on my first set of Popsugar challenge reviews here.
A book published in 2016: The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkowski
- Why I picked it: I started the Winner’s Trilogy last year after a friend recommended the first book, The Winner’s Curse. I actually listened to the audiobooks before I went back and re-read the physical books, and I highly recommend them; the narrator, Justine Eyre, is fantastic, and her voicing of the characters does a lot to add to the world-building of Herran and Valoria. I wish I could put my finger on what blend of accents she does for the Valorians because it’s awesome—but I digress. I instaloved the series and was desperate to get my hands on the final installment after listening to the audio versions again (seriously, they are so good) in preparation for its release. The Herrani god of luck must love me because Barnes and Noble accidentally stocked The Winner’s Kiss four days early, which I promptly bought and devoured on a Saturday afternoon.
- Blurb in brief: “War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him. At least, that’s what he thinks.”
- What I thought: Y’ALL. Trilogies are tough. It’s rare for me to find a trilogy which has a truly satisfying ending; rarer still to find one in which I feel each part is equally as strong as the others. Each book is different, genre-wise, in this series: Curse feels a lot like a historical romance (of the star-crossed variety), Crime is a mystery complicated by a tangle of infuriating misunderstandings (and not nearly enough face-smushing), Kiss is almost a war novel with some intense battle scenes and lots of strategizing. I loved seeing the trajectory of Arin and Kestral’s relationship reach its (satisfying) conclusion. Roshar has my heart forever. I’m pretty sure I would be terrible at Bite and Sting if my attempts to play this are any indication. But most importantly, this book and this series is amazing, and I’m kind of mad you’re still reading this instead of listening to it on Audible right now.
- My rating: 5/5; Goodreads rating: 4.51/5
A book with a protagonist who has your occupation: The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner
- Why I picked it: This book came to me in my March 2016 “Writer’s Block” OwlCrate (which was my favorite box so far). I’d been reading lots of fantasy/dystopian YA and so liked the sound of a contemporary novel set in the South. I knew the book had been getting a lot of good press, and I started this one right away.
- Blurb in brief: “Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life—at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace. He and his fellow outcast friends [Lydia and Travis] must try to make it through their senior year of high school without letting the small-town culture destroy their creative spirits and sense of self.”
- What I thought: About halfway through the story, I thought to myself, “You know, I like this book, but I don’t love it.” Then SPOILERS happened, and I ugly-cried throughout a lot of the last third. This book isn’t perfect—some of the characters felt a little too pat or a little too heavily drawn to me, mostly the secondary characters like Dill’s classmates and Travis’ dad. Maybe I’m naive, but I also thought Lydia’s internet fame might gain her at least a little cachet with her peers. What I liked most about the book was the relationships depicted between the characters: the love between the trio of friends was beautiful.
- My rating: 5/5; Goodreads rating: 4.44/5
A book that takes place during the summer: After You by Jojo Moyes (audiobook version)
- Why I picked it: We read Me Before You for book club last year (and I looooooooved it). I was so excited to see that Moyes decided to continue Louisa’s story after Will. I listened to Me Before You via Audible, so I decided to download the sequel too (I drive a lot). Unexpected consequence of listening to back-to-back British books read by British narrators was developing a slight British accent…I was okay with it.
- Blurb in brief: “How do you move on after losing the person you loved? How do you build a life worth living? Louisa Clark is no longer just an ordinary girl living an ordinary life. After the transformative six months spent with Will Traynor, she is struggling without him. When an extraordinary accident forces Lou to return home to her family, she can’t help but feel she’s right back where she started.”
- What I thought: I’m so glad that Moyes wrote this book. I think there is a tendency to want to wrap up sad stories with a neat bow, which simply isn’t realistic. Louisa wasn’t going to just go to Paris and live this amazing life after Me Before You ended. I haven’t experienced grief like Louisa’s, but I think that Moyes does a good job giving us, the reader, an honest look at the grieving process for all those who were touched by Will’s death. The book had a great mix of old, familiar characters and some fresh faces, and it’s possible I cried at least twice.
- My rating: 5/5; Goodreads rating: 3.73/5
A murder mystery: Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith
- Why I picked it: I’ve been a fan of Galbraith’s Comoran Strike books since The Cuckoo’s Calling was released back in 2013. I’ve always liked mysteries and the Strike books have a grittiness to them I enjoy. It was also one of the first books I bought on my Kindle, even though I swore for years I’d never go over to the e-reader dark side. Meep.
- Blurb in brief: “When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.”
- What I thought: This was my favorite Strike novel to date. My barometer of a good mystery or thriller is whether or not I can figure out whodunnit before the big reveal; this one had me honestly unsure for 90% of the book. Rowling—ahem, Galbraith—made sure I didn’t start pulling together plot strings until the precise moment he wanted me to. All in all, I felt that the pacing and character development was excellent. I can’t wait for book four!
- My rating: 5/5; Goodreads rating: 4.21/5
Which book should you download from Audible or onto your Kindle ASAP?
Sidebar: I swear I’m not schilling for Amazon, though if they wanted to send some account credit my way, I’d be okay with that too.
Ugh, this is a tough one as I clearly really liked all of the books in this bunch. As I believe it’s a book that would appeal to a wide audience, I’m going to go with Career of Evil. Though it’s part of a series, I think you could read it without having read the other two first, and if you did like it, you have two more books to add to your TBR pile, which may or may not be a good thing for you.
Have you read any of these? Did anyone else decide they need a pocket-sized Roshar to provide a running commentary on their life choices or was that just me? Let me know in the comments!