Title: Kent State
Author: Deborah Wiles
Performers: Christopher Gebauer, Lauren Ezzo, Christina DeLaine, Johnny Heller, Roger Wayne, Korey Jackson, & David de Vries
Length: 1 hr, 59 min, 56 sec
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2020 by Scholastic Audio
Review: Poetry is not really my thing, so it was hard to rate this book. I listened to it in eAudiobook format, so it really felt like I was listening to a play with all the back and forth dialogues and monologues. I personally did not really enjoy it, but I didn’t give it a low rating because I appreciate the amount of research that went into it and I liked that the author showed several different conflicting perspectives. This gave a more complete picture of what happened (and why) on the fateful and tragic day of May 4, 1970.
Title: The Court of Miracles
Author: Kester Grant
Page Count: 464
Series: A Court of Miracles, Book 1
Publishing Date/Publisher: June 2, 2020
Review: I have never been a huge fan of Les Misérables. True to it’s name, it is both lengthy and wildly depressing. I am also not a big fan of musicals so that form of adaptation never interested me. Nevertheless, the synopsis for this book piqued my interest. Eponine? As a cat burglar? Ok! If I had to pick one character I would like to see a retelling for, it would be Eponine, so I requested this ARC with very few expectations. Perhaps this is sometimes the best way to approach books, because when they actually blow you away, it is a very pleasant surprise.
This book was FANTASTIC. I cannot stress enough how much I enjoyed it. The plot, the character development, everything about it felt fresh, despite the fact it is an adaptation/retelling of a classic and well-known novel. Eponine was a character you could not help but root for, and I cannot wait for the next book in the series. The one bummer about reading ARCs that you love is that you have to wait a very long time for the next one. Even so, I like the way the author ended this book. Some story lines were wrapped up, while others were simultaneously opened. This left me finishing the book feeling both satisfied and chomping at the bit for more. A pleasant combination.
Title: Not So Pure and Simple
Author: Lamar Giles
Page Count: 400
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 21, 2020
Review: I was thoroughly impressed by this book. The great thing about participating in the Mock Printz Committee at my work is that sometimes I am given books that I enjoy immensely, but would probably not have read otherwise. This is one such book. It surprised me with it’s humor, depth, and important message. Oftentimes books that cover topics such as toxic masculinity and sexual agency come off as being too heavy-handed with character tropes and long inner monologues where the characters have “epiphanies”. The resulting effect is that it feels like it is trying too hard to make a statement. Giles masterfully avoided these pitfalls by giving us characters that are both lovable and realistic. He shows that even well-intentioned young men are susceptible to toxic ways of thinking and sometimes their words and actions have unintended negative effects on those around them. As a woman, I found I related to many of the female characters and their struggle to be “nice” even when they were not interested in the male pursuing them. As I have grown older, I find that sometimes it is necessary to be blunt, even if it comes off as rude, but as a younger woman, this felt like a tricky minefield to navigate. Reading this book made me realize how many behaviors are impressed upon us at an early age and really made me re-evaluate how I have simply accepted certain actions as “normal” when they really shouldn’t be.
I would consider this an important read for all teens and think it would be a great book for discussion.
Title: Cut Off
Author: Adrianne Finlay
Page Count: 384
Publishing Date/Publisher: August 11, 2020 by HMH Books for Young Readers
Review: I was obsessed with the Lost series back when it was airing, so when this book was described as “Warcross meets Lost…” I knew I simply must read it. Unfortunately for me, it was just…meh. There were a couple scenes that creeped me out in the beginning, but overall it was not particularly exciting. The one thing it did have in common with Lost was that the final reveal was truly disappointing. I knew there was going to be a science fiction element to the story, but it was a bit more sci-fi-y than I was expecting. I also wanted to see more character complexity and development. The characters felt very formulaic to me: the brainiac, the deceiver, the loner, and the closed off beauty. Nobody really surprised me or made me question what I knew about them. I wasn’t really feeling the romantic angle either. In a story like this, I feel the romance should add more depth to the plot or characters, but it didn’t really serve to do so as much as I wanted. It was not a terrible read, but also not one I enjoyed enough to give a higher rating.
Title: Queen of Air and Darkness
Author: Cassandra Clare
Performer: James Marsters
Length: 30 hr, 40 min, 56 sec
Series: The Dark Artifices, Book 3
Publishing Date/Publisher: 2018 by Simon & Schuster Audio
Review: SO. MUCH. ANGST. I generally enjoy Clare’s books for the most part. They have intricate storylines and complex characters. There are usually clearly defined conflicts and the endings are almost always satisfying. This book checked all those boxes, but it was just so darn long and drawn out. Every. single. relationship. was FILLED with angst. Relationship building can do a lot to drive a story, however, there is a point where it starts to become tedious. Clare loves writing forbidden love stories, as well as love triangles, and this series has that in spades. I listened to this in audiobook format, and sometimes I would find myself tuning out during the more lengthy interactions between will-they-or-won’t-they couples/thruples. There are a lot of characters to follow in this trilogy (including returning characters from past series), and I quickly realized that I needed to read detailed recaps of the previous two installments to get back up to speed on what was going on before the start of this book. I did enjoy the story, but I think the book could have been significantly shorter without losing anything critical to the plot.
This is the first book of Clare’s that I consumed in audiobook format. James Marsters has a voice that is well-suited to storytelling, though his volume fluctuates quite a bit and I had to constantly adjust the sound in my vehicle. This was only a minor annoyance, however, and I found his performance to be appropriately dramatic for the content of the book.
Title: The Night Country
Author: Melissa Albert
Page Count: 331
Series: The Hazel Wood, Book 2
Publishing Date/Publisher: January 7, 2020 by Flatiron Books
Review: This book had a great start and then…stalled out. I ripped through the first few chapters, and then found myself losing steam as nothing really seemed to happen. The first book in this series, The Hazel Wood, was positively magical. I found myself wrapped up in the numerous fairytales and in the overarching storyline. I was hoping for much of the same in the follow up, and although there were some similarities, it wasn’t nearly as engaging as it’s predecessor. It was still dark and twisted, but there were less stories and it focused on a mystery that dragged on before ending abruptly. In the interim of time that has passed between Alice and Finch’s last meeting, Finch has been traveling between worlds. Sadly the reader sees almost none of that. Similarly, years have passed for Alice, but we still have no idea what she is doing aside from moping around. As with many sequels for books I loved, I just expected more than what I got. I am unclear if this is a duology or a series because the ending seemed to be rather definitive. I can’t imagine where the story would go from here, but maybe Albert will surprise me.
Title: Empire of Storms
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Page Count: 704
Series: Throne of Glass, Book 5
Publishing Date/Publisher: September 6, 2016 by Bloomsbury Children’s Books
Review: My opinion of this book is very similar to my opinion of the last few books in this series. The action throughout is thrilling and the ending is particularly strong. Although this book is still categorized as Young Adult fiction like it’s predecessors, I would argue that it would more accurately be categorized as New Adult fiction. Aelin is now 20 years old, and the romances depicted in this series have gotten increasingly steamy with each installment. There is a whole lot of sex in book 5, so young readers be prepared if you are not expecting it!
My biggest gripe with this series in general is that Aelin’s elaborate scheming always seems to pan out just the way she envisions. Of course there is a real wrench thrown in at the end to keep the series going, but overall, things just seem to always work out, no matter how great the odds are stacked against them. A lot of it is rather far-fetched…for example, Aelin calls in a favor with one particular ally without actually communicating what it is she needs. The ally just happens to glean exactly what Aelin wants by receiving cryptic reports from a spy. Ohhhkkayyy. Seems unlikely. But I am going to move past it because I made it this far and I am still enjoying the series enough to finish two more lengthy books.