February was mostly cold and snowy here (as it was everywhere in the U.S., seems like) and I stayed in and got lots of reading done. Very happy with very nearly everything I picked up this month, both in a variety of fiction genres and in graphic novels:
Home by Toni Morrison
This was the first work of Toni Morrison’s I’ve ever read. I don’t get the impression that this is one of her more famous works, and I wasn’t totally blown out of the water by it, but it was solid. Moving, multi-faceted portrait of a family separated by war both hopeful and heartbreaking all at once.
The Alloy of Law (Mistborn #4) by Brandon Sanderson
This book picks up several centuries after The Hero of Ages, the final book in the Mistborn trilogy. It’s fascinating to read just to see that fantasy world grow and develop technologically, to see how culture and religion have changed in the intervening time. Then, of course, there’s a whole new set of characters to know and love and rip-roaring mystery/action thriller with a lot of western flair (gunslinging, train heist and more). I enjoyed it, but I don’t think this quite lived up to the larger-than life Mistborn trilogy. I could have used some more focus on the characters and their development, but this is definitely not to be missed and I am looking forward to two more more books coming this year.
Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin
This was perfection. Can’t believe I haven’t read James Baldwin before, but I’m so glad I have now. The writing here was masterful and the story was so compelling, with a complicated, not always likeable lead. It was short but it explored so many different ideas: homosexuality, of course, but other kinds of identity as well. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.
Firefight (Reckoners #2) by Brandon Sanderson
The Brandon Sanderson-fest continues. This sequel to Steelheart came out in January and since it had been more than a year since I read the first installment, I had some recall issues, but I caught up quickly. It helped that the supporting cast pretty much completely changed as the main characters traveled to a new city with a new antagonist, so it wasn’t all that hard to get back into. I thought this was done extremely well, with an insane amount of action, but also with a strong character-driven story, more so than in Steelheart. As always in a Brandon Sanderson novel, I was blown away by the revelations and the plot twists and I am so excited to read more next year.
The Ruby Circle (Bloodlines #6) by Richelle Mead
This sixth book in the Bloodlines series concluded the saga remarkably well. It felt a bit rushed, and despite one tear-jerking storyline, was a little too easily resolved, but I was so glad it brought back a lot of plot threads from early installments and tied them all together. Definitely not a disappointing end to a series I adore.
Marked (House of Night #1) by Kristen and P.C. Cast
I did not like this at all. I tried to continue the series and I had to stop partway through book two because it just seems to get worse from here. The idea is good, an alternate reality where vampyres (yes, with the y) exist in tandem with humans and once a human teenager is “marked” to become a vampyre he or she attends a separate school for fledglings while they transition. The problem with this is in execution and character. The writing swings from childish (poo and poopie are chosen over “shit” or even “crap”) to inappropriate and derogatory. We don’t ever see the gay character without being reminded in some glaringly stereotypical way of his gayness, Zoey, the narrator, seemingly can’t go two pages without calling her antagonist a slut or a ho or a hag. Zoey comes off so incredibly selfish and frustrating and so her light-speed rise to power is more sickening than inspiring.
Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
Very smart, extremely intriguing historical fiction. The characters were done so well and the story composition is spectacular. I was so impressed by this, both by how real the story and the characters and their friendship felt, though they are completely fictional, and how much it captured the wider story of the desperate uncertainty of Europe at war in the early 1940’s. A must-read.
The Girl of Fire and Thorns Stories by Rae Carson
These three stories were all prequels to the main trilogy and they were all rather tragic. But I enjoyed them immensely. The world Rae Carson built is spectacular and I really loved getting to visit it again after a couple of years away.
Unearthly by Cynthia Hand
After the massive disappointment that is the conclusion of the Lux series and the utter train wreck that is House of Night, I was just about ready to give up on YA paranormal romance entirely. I decided to pick this up, I’ll admit, because I thought I’d hate it and could get it and it’s sequels out of the way and off my shelf. I’m happy to say, though, that that plan was instantly thwarted. This was extremely well done. Clara is a spectacular lead. She’s strong and decisive, but she isn’t perfect. She screws up, she gets angry at her mom, she’s cruel to her friends. The romance is a bit of a love-triangle, but it’s a believable one and Clara’s decisiveness and respect, both for herself and the guys, doesn’t drag it out. The nephilim lore in the plot is done well, with both the main character and her family members of the biblical race, so that the awkward secret is between Clara and her peers, with her in the know, an interesting and effective reversal from how things are typically done in the genre. It definitely gets a little irritatingly angsty, but overall it was a quick fun, read and extremely well done.
Hallowed (Unearthly #2) by Cynthia Hand
Less good than Unearthly, this was still entertaining. Some more mystery and heaps of uncertainty, it dragged a bit. I started to feel like this could have been condensed into a much shorter book, like this series shouldn’t have been a trilogy at all. A lengthly stand-alone, maybe or a duo. I think we’re set up quite nicely for a strong conclusion in book 3, but I think that’s all this really accomplished.
Radiant (Unearthly 2.5) by Cynthia Hand
There was an ad for this ebook novella in the back of Hallowed and when I looked it up on Goodreads, one of the top reviews said to read it before reading the third book, so I purchased it. It will probably tie to some stuff in that third installment I have not yet started, but taken on its own, it was underwhelming and anti-climactic.
Comics and Graphic Novels
Ms. Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children: The Graphic Novel by Ransom Riggs and Cassandra Jean
I read Ms. Peregrine’s the novel about two and half years ago and have yet to pick up the sequel Hollow City. I decided to read this as a quick refresher in anticipation of finally reading book 2 and I was impressed. Ms. Peregrine’s is not my most favorite paranormal novel ever, by any means, but is inventive and fascinating and a great story. The illustration in this is fantastic as well, and I think the story was summarized quite nicely in this adaptation.
Alex & Ada Issues #10-#12 by Jonathan Luna and Sarah Vaughan
A comic book series I love more and more every time I pick it up. Alex & Ada is exploring the very definition of humanity with its robot-human relationships and it’s totally engrossing. It strikes a good balance between tension and humor and the simple, uncluttered frames and character–rather than action–driven scenes are lovely and somewhat unique to comics as I’ve experienced them so far.
Black Science Vol. 1: How to Fall Forever by Rick Remender
When I saw this at the comic book store a little while ago I was intrigued first by the bright coloring (because inside, I never grew past 5 years old, apparently) and then, when I picked it up, by the idea. A device that transports a group of scientists through dimensions, broken down, keeping them from returning home. And the story is amazing. It’s definitely a ride where you don’t know what to expect. My only complaint was that the characters are not particularly memorable. They all play strongly off of a pulpy action movie stereotype: stoic, tortured scientist, villainous businessman, sarcastic teenager, etc. I do think they’ll develop as the series continues, however, and I am definitely looking forward to picking up volume two.