A dystopian novel: Glass Sword by Victoria Aveyard
- Why I picked it: Yes, this is yet another YA dystopian trilogy. Yes, our brooding heroine, beaten down by Society, yearns for a better life as so many brooding heroines have done before her. Yes, there is a sweet younger sister, and yes, there is a hunky childhood friend—we get the trope at this point. However, despite the proliferation of young adult novels playing some (slight) variation on this theme, I liked Red Queen, the first book in this series, well enough to buy the second when I saw it at Target.
- Blurb in brief: “Mare Barrow’s blood is red—the color of common folk—but her Silver ability, the power to control lightning, has turned her into a weapon that the royal court tries to control. The crown calls her an impossibility, a fake, but as she makes her escape from…the prince—the friend—who betrayed her, Mare uncovers something startling: she is not the only one of her kind.”
- What I thought: I got about 5 pages into the book before I realized I didn’t remember enough of the first book to proceed without a re-read. Once I was reacquainted with the story line, I did like this novel even more than the first because it does feel more original. Red Queen was Red Rising with a dash of X-Men and The Selection (and by extension, The Hunger Games) mixed in; this book felt a little too reminiscent of Breaking Dawn with the hunt for newbloods and their subsequent training sessions in various deserted wooded locales, but in general, it was less formulaic. There were some scenes that Aveyard skipped over or didn’t fully develop which made me feel cheated (thinking in particular of the fallout…or lack thereof…after a major character death), but overall, I enjoyed it.
- My rating: 4/5; Goodreads rating: 4.10/5
A book with a blue cover: The Siren by Kiera Cass
- Why I picked it: I’ve held a longtime fascination with anything to do with Greek mythology. There were a lot of retellings of the Hades/Persephone myth in recent years, but I don’t actually know of a lot of stories that deal with sirens in popular culture (anyone else remember that episode of So Weird with Jewel Staite?), so between Cass’s name, the pretty cover, and the premise, I was intrigued.
- Blurb in brief: “Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again. Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli.”
- What I thought: Oh, YA authors and their insistence on “unique” character names. I can take Eadlyn and Kile in the futuristic/alternate reality setting of the Selection series. But seriously? No turn of the last century society lady is naming her child Kahlen. Don’t get me started on Akinli. I’ll be brief—I didn’t like this book. I choked down the murky money making mechanics that kept Kahlen and her sisters afloat financially and the odd conceit of referring to the Ocean as “Her” and “She” and the Instalove™ that developed between the two main characters after an afternoon because epic eye-rolling aside, it was at least an easy read, and I think a part of me hoped it would eventually get better. It didn’t.
- My rating: 2/5; Goodreads rating: 3.86/5
A book about a road trip: One Plus One by Jojo Moyes (audiobook version)
- Why I picked it: Because twenty-six hours of British accents wasn’t enough to satisfy my craving. And I needed a book about a road trip.
- Blurb in brief: “Suppose your life sucks. A lot. Your husband has done a vanishing act, your teenage stepson is being bullied and your math whiz daughter has a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that you can’t afford to pay for. That’s Jess’s life in a nutshell—until an unexpected knight-in-shining-armor offers to rescue them. Only Jess’s knight turns out to be Geeky Ed, the obnoxious tech millionaire whose vacation home she happens to clean. But Ed has big problems of his own, and driving the dysfunctional family to the Math Olympiad feels like his first unselfish act in ages… maybe ever.”
- What I thought: I didn’t like this as well as I liked Me Before You and After You—Louisa’s story stuck with me long after I’d finished both books in a way this didn’t. Things I did like: the relationship between math-prodigy Tanzie and her big half-brother, Nick. Tanzie’s devotion to her ancient and flatulent pooch, Norman. The whole Odyssey-esque framework of the story in which the journey truly is more important than the destination in all senses of the phrase. Save this one for your beach bag.
- My rating: 4/5; Goodreads rating: 3.93/5
An audiobook that has won an award: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (audiobook version…obviously)
- Why I picked it: This is a category my book club added and one I actually researched before choosing a title. I was delighted to discover this book as I’ve been eyeing Gaiman’s body of work for while. The book itself has won heaps of awards, including the Newbery and the Carneigie medals (the only book ever to win both!), and this unabridged, full-cast version won the 2015 Audie for Distinguished Achievement in Production, while the original recording won Audiobook of the Year in 2009. Basically, this is a children’s book with a long pedigree.
- Blurb in brief: “After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family…”
- What I thought: I LOVED it. Gaimen took some of his inspiration from Kipling’s The Jungle Book, so some of the characters are familiar in their re-imagined states: Bagheera, Baloo, and of course, Mowgli. Bod’s story unfolds through a series of short, almost-but-not quite stand-alone chapters which take place roughly two years apart from one another, so the reader gets to watch Bod grow-up over the course of the novel. I really liked the audio version (and spent a good deal of time googling to confirm that The Man Jack was, in fact, voiced by THAT Andrew Scott), even if young Bod’s voice was grating at times. This is a wonderful and magical coming-of-age story I know I’ll reread again and again. 100% will purchase and hoard on my bookshelf forever.
- My rating: 5/5; Goodreads rating: 4.10/5
Which book should you buy in bulk at Half Price Books and gift to everyone you know?
The Graveyard Book, in any of its award-winning iterations.
Have you read any of the titles in this bunch? Did anyone else covet the sisters’ sparkly sea salt dresses (and perfect, beachy waves) after reading The Siren or was that just me? Let me know in the comments section!