Wednesday, January 29, 2014

A Plethora of Great Reads

Oh, Blog. We both know by now that promises of quick updates should be assumed to be broken. If it helps, every Saturday an alarm on my cell reminds me of what I am not doing, and thus, a little more guilt seeps into my soul. So I do feel bad, I just don't have the time to dwell.

NaNo's been over for awhile and while it was definitely a struggle, I feel very happy about the experience. I, for one, finally hit my 50k goal (and currently working on finishing the novel!) and a good number of my students thoroughly enjoyed (and loathed) the project. I can't wait to do it again with next year's class with some big adjustments, but overall I was really impressed and delighted by it.

More relevantly, I got the recent chance to dive into a pile of to-read books that keeps trying to swamp me, so without further dawdling, here's tiny reviews of really awesome reads I've been able to devour.

Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge
This book just released a few days ago and I knew months before that I wanted to get my hands on it. It's advertised as a mix between Graceling and the Beauty and the Beast folklore and it does not disappoint. The writing style, depth of character, and dark mood of the book pulled me and I couldn't put it down. Though I was saddened that few of the sexy moments we would have liked to see were "faded to black," and sometimes the complexity of philosophy had me reading pages a few extra times (though that could have been the sinus infection talking), I highly recommend this to anyone looking for those YA that really push the boundaries of the genre into something much more mature and complex that will leave you feeling very satisfied.

The Demon's Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan
I went a little backwards with Brennan's work and actually read Unspoken before I got into this series, but now that I'm into it I'm clawing for more. If you're a Cassandra Clare fan it's going to be very easy to tell that these two ladies spend a lot of time together. Brennan's characters are consistently their own entities. They always feel so alive and real to me that I sometimes want to break out in a Queen song (is this the real life...). Being in Nick's mind when he discovers the truth about himself was like feeling as if it were happening to me, and the truth behind what he really is was so fresh and raw, that I was impressed that Brennan went ahead and WENT there.  I'm currently reading the second novel and can't wait to devour the third.

Eleanor and Park by Rainbow Rowell
With a name like that, how can you not want to pick up a book like this! I don't often dive out of the majesty that is fantasy/scifi/paranormal etc. because I can only read about rich girls at rich schools for so long. However, it's books like Eleanor & Park that remind me that there can still be that struggle in normal life that can compel us to feel like we're back at that age (or even still feel the affects today). I adored not only the relationship between the two characters, but also that Eleanor is a girl who isn't a size 6, nor even a size 16, and is still our heroine without her story being about her struggle with her weight. Yes, she has self image issues, but it's so nice to read a book where those issues don't define her, and to have a boy be physically attracted to her and that her size not be the defining thing between them or even a huge plot point. And Park isn't just a stereotypical object of acceptance, he has his own issues too. I adored this book and hope to see more like this in the future.

Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea by April Genevieve Tucholke
Let's be honest, who else wasn't dragged in by the title of this book? If you've read Sarah Rees Brennan's Unspokeseries, then this book is going to seem a bit familiar to you. Family secrets, sexy boy with a dark past but he's very non-chalant about the whole thing. I'll also mention that it also reminded me of Nina Malkin's Swoon duet, which is perhaps leading me to believe we may have a new YA "thing" on our hands. (I like it).
Anyway, the complexities in this novel between the characters meant I couldn't put it down, and once you realize the truth behind the main guy's secrets, everything becomes a gorgeous shade of grey that I just couldn't look away from. There's definitely an element of "did that really happen or does the character THINK it happened" that I am always happy to have happen within my brain. Pick this one up. You won't regret it.

Reading List Update

The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
This had a very Unwind-y feel to it, with lots of soul searching. I very much liked the overall world building, but really like the character development. Looking forward to the sequel.

Dragon Rose by Christine Pope
Awesome take on the girl-gets-married-to-a-dragon story. It was more gritty and dark, I would have sung its praises from the highest mountains.

Scorched by Mari Mancusi
Another great dragon book, this one with a bit of time travel and some Anne McCaffrey dragon bonding going on. A great example of how every person's reality can be real.

I'm going to need to do a second post with longer excerpts for a few other books I read. It's been so long since I updated and too many books to not ignore!