Title: A Violet Fire
Author: Kelsey Quick
Page Count: Unknown
Series: Vampire in Avignon
Publishing Date/Publisher: December 9, 2019 by Kelsey Quick
Review: I typically do not have high expectations for self-published books, but this one surprised me. I found it to be an easy read, and I enjoyed the concept of living vampires. I also enjoyed that humans could not be simply be turned into vampires. They could in theory make offspring with vampires, but they were genetically different enough that a human could not become one.
In some ways this book follows the typical tropes of paranormal romances, but it was different enough that the story kept me engaged. I felt that the weakest aspect of the story was the development of the central romance. It’s not insta-love, but not a lot of dialogue is shown between the two characters to help the reader understand the relationship. The reader is aware that time is passing, but aside from a first interaction and a final interaction, there isn’t much substance in between to make the relationship feel real. In fact, when the final twist is revealed, I was not at all affected because I was not made to be invested in the relationship in the first place.
I will say, however, that I liked the direction the story was moving in, and I would most certainly continue reading the series if it were to become available to me.
Title: Thirteen Doorways, Wolves Behind Them All
Author: Laura Ruby
Performer: Lisa Flanagan
Length: 9 hr
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2019 by Balzar + Bray
Review: I had great expectations for this book, because I really loved Bone Gap. Ruby does a great job with magical realism, and this book is no exception; however, I found this book to be a bit too meandering for my liking. It follows two characters, one alive and one deceased, and oftentimes there really doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to the plot. It jumps from one story to another, with the reader occasionally getting a glimpse of the past. The deceased character, Pearl, is fascinated by Frankie’s life although it isn’t really clear to me why. Pearl isn’t sure why she hasn’t ascended, and there isn’t any real resolution to this (in my opinion). Secrets are revealed, but they didn’t blow my mind because there was no anticipation built up around them. I wasn’t bored listening to this audiobook, but I also wasn’t chomping at the bit to get back to it. It was a nice snapshot of the time period, but overall a very average read for me.
On an entirely different note, I loved the title of this book, loved the cover, and I thought the reader did a great job.
Author: Madeline Miller
Page Count: 393
Publishing Date/Publisher: April 10, 2018 by Little, Brown and Company
Review: Lyrical and enchanting, this book had me enthralled from the very first page. Very little attention is given to the witch Circe in most mythological tales, but Miller creates a backstory that is humanizing and utterly unforgettable. In this rendering, Circe is not a predatory monster, but rather a woman driven by her passions and yearnings. She refuses to be a victim and takes ownership of her own trauma and pain, weaving it into a tapestry of strength and love. She and she alone controls her destiny.
When I finally turned the last page and closed this book, I was filled with such a feeling of completeness. Although the year is not quite at an end, I can say with confidence that this is by far my favorite read of 2019.
Author: Akwaeke Emezi
Page Count: 208
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 10, 2019 by Make Me a World
Review: After reading this book I am surprised that it is cataloged as YA Fiction. It really read like J Fiction to me. I had to keep reminding myself that the main character is seventeen, because her character seems much younger.
The setting is a sort of Utopia where the “monsters” have been eliminated and everyone treats each other nicely (or so they think). From the very first chapter I could have outlined the entire plot of the story. I can’t say much more than what is in the synopsis without completely giving everything away, but I can tell you that the story follows a very predictable path.
I admire what the author is trying to do with this book – she is revealing the dangers of complacency and denial – but it is all overly simplified. The backstory as to how this “Utopia” setting was achieved is completely preposterous. Basically anyone and everyone who has ever committed an atrocity has supposedly been identified and imprisoned. Society has realized the error of their ways and all people are accepted regardless of their race, gender, sexual orientation, ableness, etc, etc., etc. This book was very short, but I honestly think it could have been shorter. This would have been a great short story for an anthology if all the repetitive filler was removed.
I generally enjoy books that employ elements of magical realism, but this one just wasn’t for me.
Title: Tiger Lily
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Page Count: 292
Publishing Date/Publisher: July 3, 2012 by HarperCollins Children’s Books
Review: I had a very difficult time rating this book because it had a lot of elements that I loved, and yet the ending did not make the impact on me that I was expecting it to.
I really enjoy reading retellings of classic tales, and this one really takes the cake for originality. I thought that the author very cleverly wove in concepts such as modernization, colonialism, and the proselytization of indigenous peoples into the narrative. She also touches upon some very difficult topics such as abuse, rape, murder, suicide, trauma recovery, and transphobia (for lack of a better word). A lot of these subjects can be gleaned through subtext, so they may not be apparent to every reader. I want to stress that this book is not at all graphic or gratuitous. It simply shows that even in a place as magical as Neverland, darkness lurks beneath the surface.
The author does a really good job of balancing the heavier content with the yearnings of first love. Tiger Lily and Peter’s love is intense and raw, but their naivety adds an element of innocence to it. It is heartbreaking as a reader to witness their struggles as they try to define themselves and what they mean to each other. This book very eloquently shows that although we may not always end up with our first love, they can still hold a special place in our hearts long after we have moved on.
The ending of this book was satisfying in it’s own way, while at the same time feeling a bit rushed. That, coupled with the slow pacing, prevented me from giving it a full four star rating.
Title: Impossible Things
Author: Kate Johnson
Performer: Penelope Rawlins
Length: 13 hr, 34 min
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2015 by W.F. Howes, Ltd.
Review: I decided to veer away from the realm of Young Adult fiction because most of the audiobooks I want to listen to are on hold. I browsed around for awhile and landed on this audiobook, which was immediately available through my library. I checked it out with low expectations, but was pleasantly surprised from the very first chapter. The performer was very engaging, and I was immediately sucked into the story of Ishtaer and Kael.
Ishtaer was an interesting character. She had a lot of depth and her character arc was very profound. She spends most of the book working through her traumas, coming into her powers, and finding the version of herself that was lost through years of abuse and captivity. Kael was a rather cliché character – brooding, fierce, and secretly sensitive – but, I still enjoyed him. I appreciated that this was not an insta-love story, but rather a slow build romance (my favorite kind). Although it was clear that there was going to be a romantic angle, it wasn’t very critical to the plot until the very end. This allowed for a lot more character development from Ishtaer and overall made the story feel more like high fantasy rather than a paranormal romance.
This book lost a star for me because although the author is a very talented writer, her action sequences were short on description and entirely implausible. I was glad to see representation for people with disabilities in a fantasy novel (Ishtaer was blind and her best friend was an amputee), but it almost seemed like Ishtaer’s blindness was used as a literary crutch to explain away things that should have been better described, and this was especially apparent during scenes where Ishtaer was pulling off something heroic. Even so, the book was so engaging and well-written that I was able to look past these shortcomings and love the story for what it was. I will absolutely be reading more books by this author!
Title: Crown of Midnight
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 418
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 27, 2013 by Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Review: Sarah J. Maas is a truly an exceptional storyteller. These days it seems most fantasy series are trilogies, but she manages to drag her stories into long sagas without becoming boring. Her characters are engaging, her twists surprising, and her plot layering is superb. The only reason this is not a 5 star book for me is because it reads very much like a second book in a trilogy (i.e. setting the stage for a final installment), at least at the beginning. I have noticed this is a common trend in Maas’ writing. She starts out slow and then hits you with a lot in the last 25% of the book. Her ability to write strong endings is what keeps her readers chomping at the bit for more. I am really looking forward to reading the next book in the series, Heir of Fire.