My reading challenge on Goodreads is starting to look like an actual challenge. I only read 4 books in March. A bad reading month two months in a row, to me, equals an official reading slump. I had made a little pact with myself to only read books that I had actual excitement for- not books that others had recommended or books I felt like I had to read because “everyone else” is talking about them. For some reason, I can’t hold myself to that seemingly easy goal. In March, I forced myself to continue with a series that I gave up on years ago and read a novel that has been frequently recommended to me even though it wasn’t even appealing to me. I never really had the feeling this month of being excited to get back to my book during daily life, which is really quite sad. Reading is my hobby, not a chore or a job, and hobbies should be fun- right?
Some good news- as I type this it is the 14th of April and I am more than halfway finished with my 4th book of the month. I broke myself out of the reading slump by actually sticking to reading books that I am excited to read.
All of this being said, there was one book I read in the month of March that was beyond amazing- in fact, it is the best YA Contemporary novel I have ever read. Let’s start with that one (as always, my reviews are as spoiler-free as I can possibly make them):
GIRL IN PIECES
This is a novel I desperately wish had been released when I was a teenager. It’s probably quite easy to ascertain from the cover that this book deals with self-injury- heavily. Kathleen Glasgow never glamorizes or minimizes this often misunderstood symptom of mental illness. As well, she describes the deep pain and hopelessness so vividly and perfectly that I didn’t have to read the afterward to know she herself is a former “cutter”. Somehow, in our culture, cutting or any other form of self-injury is viewed as a way to get attention instead of as the powerfully controlling addiction and outward display of a human being who is genuinely suffering that it is. I self-injured from the ages of 11-27. My left arm, even though every scar I have is very faded, looks as if it might have been caught in a meat grinder at some point in my life. Charlotte, our main character, struggles through a large portion of this book with always covering herself heavily so as no one can see her scars. Sweating profusely in a hot kitchen because she will not wear anything other than long sleeves. After living a large portion of my life having friends and family tell me I should, “take the sweater off if you’re so warm”, and my refusing to do so, it’s a scene I can relate to. It took a long time for me to be able to even wear three-quarter sleeves in public without being terrified that everyone was staring.
This book again confused me with its being labeled as YA. I don’t feel that it is. It’s powerful contemporary fiction about a subject that effects more people than many probably realize. This book is very graphic- heavy drug and alcohol use, sex, and of course detailed descriptions of self-injury. That being said, I would recommend it to anyone, no matter the age, who has dealt with or is dealing with self-injury or loves someone who does. This is a novel I will absolutely read again, even though it was a difficult reading experience due to the emotions it stirred up for me. It is a powerful and beautiful debut novel and I hope to see more from Glasgow soon.
SABRIEL (ABHORSEN #1)
Around 50 pages into this high-fantasy YA novel I came to a startling and extremely upsetting discovery- I do not think I enjoy high-fantasy anymore. As a pre-teen and teenager it was quite possibly my favorite genre. Now, I really just can’t get into it. This book is well written, it’s fun and imaginative, but I couldn’t get into the magic system or the world in general, which is strange as it is quite dark and mainly deals with necromancy- something adolescent me would have obsessed over. It wasn’t until the character of Touchstone appeared that I actually started to enjoy this book. If you love high-fantasy this is probably a perfect book, but sadly, I think I have to file that genre away into something that just doesn’t interest me anymore. This novel made absolutely no impact on me and the plot was nearly forgotten as soon as I read the last page.
SILENCE FALLEN (MERCY THOMPSON #10)
Out of all of the Urban Fantasy series that I have followed over the years, the Mercy Thompson books and their spin-off series “Alpha and Omega” have been the most consistently great. Patricia Briggs manages to combine just enough violence and romance for the books to be solid urban fantasy without spiraling into constant graphic sex, something most adult fantasy unfortunately seems to do. For the last 4 years I have pre-ordered every release and highly anticipated the Amazon box appearing on my doorstep. Last year, “Fire Touched”, the 9th release in the series, took me nearly a month to read and I can barely remember what happened in the novel. It took me considerably less time to read “Silence Fallen”, but it was almost as disappointing. The plot was well thought out, and the change of scenery was refreshing. The bulk of the 10th book takes place in Prague as opposed to the almost constant setting of the Tri-Cities in Washington . Unfortunately, just as with the 9th book, it was overall disappointing. Mercy gets in trouble and for the most part saves herself by the time Adam shows up. It felt very formulaic, which does have a tendency to happen when a book series has gone on for a long time. I do feel as if maybe the last two books have been introducing characters that will be integral in a larger fight that’s brewing. I’m hoping the books go in the direction of an all out war between humans and supernatural creatures, with Mercy and her crew fighting on the side to save humanity. Do not get me wrong, this book was very enjoyable. I have unrealistic expectations of the series after “Night Broken” (the 8th in the series), the best urban fantasy novel I’ve ever read. I, of course, will continue with the series. The next book will be in the Alpha and Omega storyline and comes out in March 2018.
BULLET (ANITA BLAKE, VAMPIRE HUNTER #19)
The Anita Blake series used to be my everything. I loved the books so much I would constantly re-read them. That is, until “Obsidian Butterfly”, which if i’m not mistaken, is when the “ardour” appeared. The ardour is a very terrible plot point introduced, it seems, solely to make it so our hero, Anita Blake, can have sex with about 16 dudes a day and we can write it off because she has to get. . . okay, I’m still not sure. Energy? Power of some sort, right? Basically, it’s moronic and has turned the series into about 300 pages of sex and 100 pages of plot, usually. I gave up on the series a long time ago, probably about 5 years. I own this book and the next in the series and figured I needed to read them and either get rid of all the bad books in the series (almost all I own in hardcover, taking up precious limited shelf space) or continue with it.
Here’s my problem. I’m done. It was atrociously bad. And yet. . . some part of me is a strange obsessive freak (some part? All parts, I lie.) who has to finish everything I start. Especially a book series that I have spent that much of my life reading. Plus side, “Bullet” has less sex than previous novels. Down side, most of that time was spent discussing who Anita and her motley crew are going to pick next to fuck for the sake of vampire or shapeshifter politics. It’s convoluted, at best. About half way through the book an extremely interesting event happens where Anita receives a call from her job (her job! how I long for the days when Anita’s day job of cop and night gig as zombie raiser were the main elements of the novels) to have her look into a massive slaying of vamps. I became so excited! Was the rest of the book going to be trying to figure this out? Of course not. More sex, more bizarre politics that make little to no sense. The last chapter of this book discusses all of the major events and detective work that happened while Anita was. . . you know, fucking 16 dudes at a time. Why Hamilton didn’t use her fading talent to make these wrapped-up-in-one-paragraph events the actual meat of the book is beyond me. She is capable of it. Laurell has to be aware that her fans, or former fans, talk endlessly online about how horrible the books became once the sex-vampire/ardour stuff was introduced. I understand that these are her books and she can take them in whatever direction she wants, but occasionally artist should listen to their critics/fans when they are nearly all saying the same thing.
Again, I am a very obsessive person and will read the next book and the next book in the series hoping that at some they will be great again. In the meantime I’m just going to hug my copy of “Burnt Offerings” and long for the old days.
I know for a fact April’s wrap-up is going to be more fun to read, as I’ve already read 3 amazing books this month that I can’t wait to talk about. As always, please leave me a comment if you’ve read these books or if you have any books to recommend to me!