Reading Wrap Up: March 2018

Officially, this month’s reading put me past the halfway point of my annual 52 Book Challenge. I’ve now read 27 books since the start of the year. Since 2014, I’ve always exceeded this goal by a good margin, but I like setting the goal at 52 because it leaves me with the intention of reading at least one book a week throughout the year without too much pressure.

That said, I would like to see if I can pass 100 books and I’m on pace to do that now. I just need to continue reading between 8-9 books every month. Between audio books when I travel and setting aside some time after work to read (in addition to the weekend reading I was already doing), I think this is very possibly achievable.
Anyway, here are my reviews for the month of March. Enjoy!

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas
I’m really glad I backed up a step and reread A Court of Mist and Fury last month. I still would have loved this installment, but I don’t think I would have appreciated it in the same way as having it all fresh in my mind. I was concerned about the loose threads left unattended in the last 100 pages, but then they all sort of came together in a rush and now that I know there’s going to be another book I kind of wish they hadn’t solved so many of the unanswered questions. Feyre and Rhys’ story, which I expected to run into another book, has kind of arched into a clean ending. So while I have a sneaking suspicion that the rest of the members from the Court of Dreams will pick up the storyline for themselves, I genuinely have no idea where book four is going and now I have to be impatient about it. On the upside, I probably won’t have to backtrack again when it comes out in the fall.

Breaking a Legend by Sarah Robinson
This was not good. I’m not even sure what made it more “not good” than the usual contemporary romance book I’ve been reading lately (because really they are all similar), but it just felt, I don’t know, too simple? Which was weird because, unlike some of the others it did actually try to develop a plot and a backstory for the characters. So it was more like the writing was too simple than anything else, but really it’s hard to put my finger on the exact problem. Just skip this one, if you care for my opinion.

Curse the Dawn by Karen Chance
This is the fourth book in the Cassandra Palmer series. I read the first installment back in the heyday of urban dark fantasy and vampire books, but never got back around to reading the other three on my shelf until recently. (To give you an idea of how long I’ve had this book, it still had a Border’s sticker on the back. That bookstore chain declared bankruptcy in 2011.) The series is about a clairvoyant named Cassie who gets caught up in a magical war involving vampires, gods, mages, and fey. It has an element of time travel and a healthy bit of romance, too, but in the end this series is more contemporary than my usual taste. I really prefer magic related books to happen in an alternative universe where the author has a lot more license for creativity. Ultimately I’m glad I caught up on this series, but I don’t think I’ll seek out any more of the books. I may even go ahead and donate the ones I have because I can’t see myself wanting to re-read them either.

The Hot Shot by Kristen Callihan
I’ve had to create a new shelf on my Goodreads account for all of the trashy books I’ve been reading lately. That said, I liked where this one was going until about the last chapter or two. It was paced well, held back on all the good stuff, and developed a decent back story. I just thought the last part was more dramatic than necessary. I wasn’t expecting it. Solid, but not my favorite.

Written In My Own Heart’s Blood by Diana Gabaldon
These Outlander books seem to take about six weeks or so for me to finish, even when I’m making a good dent in them. True, I’m always reading something else at the same time, but if every sitting I’m reading about 100 pages, one would think I could make better progress. I think this is the last of the published books thus far (and they apparently take her four years to write), so I’ll have some time to take a break before the next one. That all said, I really liked this book. The war centric stories honestly haven’t been my favorite, and I’m still getting used to juggling so many POV characters (used to be just two, now it’s at least eight), but the world is expanding and I think that can only lead to good things. Also, about the reunion at the end – How?! But YES, finally!

My Name Is Memory by Ann Brashares
I liked this book a lot. It has a weird premise which it introduces by basically dumping you straight in, but if you can suspend your disbelief enough it’s enjoyable. You’re asked to have blind faith in the narrator’s reality, with no guarantee that he isn’t crazy, but as he spins the tale of his life (lives, really) you can’t help but trust him. That said, I’m really not sure this story needed an antagonist. The internal conflict of the two narrators – Daniel and Lucy – could have sustained the story and it would have solved the problem of the unfinished ending.

Out Of The Easy by Ruta Sepetys
The back of this book marketed it as a murder mystery, but I don’t think that description does it justice at all. It’s really more a historical drama wrapped in a coming of age story. Which fits with what I knew about Sepetys’ writing from her other book, Between Shades of Gray, that I read a few years ago. I found Josie, the narrator, to be a well fleshed out character and one with whom it was easy to sympathize. Her life was hard in many ways, but she had also carved out something for herself in the chaos. She cultivated loving relationships when nothing and no one in her life gave her the tools to do so. Plus I really loved the 1950s New Orleans setting. It gave everything a bawdy and dramatic air which fit with the plot. I don’t know how many other books this author has, but I’ll definitely be seeking out more. I loved this and it was worth the $0.25 I spent at a Library book sale.

Shrill: Notes From a Loud Woman by Lindy West
I’ll preface this review by saying that I had no idea who Lindy West was before reading this book. (Apparently she’s a well known feminist writer and content creator. I intend to hunt down her work immediately and devour it.) That said, I found this book in a library search for feminist writing, checked it out, and then proceeded to ignore it for a few weeks before accidentally stumbling onto the audiobook when I was looking for something to spice up a day of inventory at work. Which, while I would have loved the book on it’s own, turned out to be ten times better because West has an incredible voice, both in speech and in prose and I appreciate it when writers (especially people with a background in comedy) get to present their own stuff. I wasn’t even a full chapter in before I recommended it to four other people. She writes about body image, harassment, loneliness, and feminism all with a gritty sharp humor that really hits home. I found myself nodding along to much of what she said as well as laughing about the way she called people out or put their comments in perspective. I respect her so much for the things that she’s gone through and her bravery and willingness to face a world that isn’t always accepting of what she has to say. Would absolutely recommend this book (or audiobook).

Ramona Blue by Julie Murphy
Last year I made it a point to read more books by diverse authors and non-Americans. That’s still a priority for me, but I’m also adding in LGBTQ centric books in 2018. I think representation in popular media and print is so important, and this book was an excellent example. Ramona, the main character, has always known who she was and about her sexuality. Coming out was more a casual statement of fact than a dramatic event, until her childhood friend Freddie walked back into her life and everything upended itself. Her feelings for him make Ramona question who she is, or always thought she was, giving the classic coming of age story a sharp turn and a heavy dose of confused teenage feelings. I really liked this book. It wasn’t the usual take in that it didn’t paint sexuality as black and white, but rather showcased the confusing and fluid landscape that it can be for some people. Would recommend.

The Mothers by Brit Bennett
I’ve had this book on my to read list since at least the end of 2016, but every time I checked the library to see if it was in, someone else had beat me to it. I went in blind, not knowing what the story would be about. I trusted that whatever the plot, the themes and messages would resonate and I wasn’t disappointed. I liked the way the author used the three main characters – Nadia, Luke, and Aubrey – to illustrate different types of bonds (not all of them positive ones) and how they follow us through time as well as how they can seep into a close, small community. The three characters were bound together by one event, but there was also genuine friendship and love for each other created in the spaces between the secrets they all kept. So many emotional things happened in this story, but at the same time the author used her writing style to give it some much needed dispassionate distance. It was beautifully tragic in a way and I really loved it.

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