March was a great reading month! I thoroughly enjoyed almost every book I read.
The Dark Days Pact, by Alison Goodman: Even better than the first book in the trilogy! Goodman has infused these novels with so much historical accuracy (England in the early 19th century), and yet it never feels heavy-handed. Lady Helen is coming into her Reclaimer powers, learning to dress and act as a man, fighting her feelings for Lord Carlston, and still dealing with the Duke of Selburn’s attentions. Great detail, great characters, great action, and an ending that packed an incredible emotional punch. I need the next book! VGR
Difficult Women, by Roxane Gay: A short story collection by a truly gifted writer. The stories are full of passion, emotion, difficult lives, and difficult situations. I loved the writing even when I was reeling from some of the more difficult stories. Gay definitely is a writer to keep an eye on. VGR
Nutshell, by Ian McEwan: A short novel of murder and deceit with a very unusual narrator. Trudy has cheated on her husband, John, with John’s brother Claude. As they plot John’s murder, the only witness is Trudy and John’s unborn son still residing within Trudy. Definitely interesting, and a little weird.
The Dry, by Jane Harper: A compelling murder mystery set in rural Australia during a drought. Aaron Falk left his small hometown under a cloud of suspicion when his friend Ellie drowned herself but had his name on a note in her pocket. His best friend Luke had given him an alibi at the time of Ellie’s death, and twenty years later Luke is dead, supposedly killing his wife and son before turning his gun on himself. VGR
A Darkness Absolute, by Kelley Armstrong: Excellent follow-up to the first Casey Duncan novel, City of the Lost. Casey is settling into her job as detective for the hidden town of Rockton in the Yukon wilderness. The story starts with Casey and her deputy Will caught in a blizzard while chasing a resident who has cabin fever. While holed up in a cave overnight, they discover a former female resident, thought dead, who has been kept captive for over a year. Definitely read City of the Lost first, but this is a promising continuation of the series. VGR
The Animators, by Kayla Rae Whitaker: Two talented artists (Mel and Sharon), both with troubled backgrounds, meet in college and become best friends and collaborators. Ten years later, their gritty, emotional animated film about Mel’s childhood is winning them awards and attention. Sharon serves as narrator, and this book will take you all over the place emotionally, with some pretty big surprises. It deals with friendship, loyalty, addiction, dysfunctional families, and love. I don’t know if everyone will love this book, but it really blew me away. VGR
A List of Cages, by Robin Roe: This is a heartbreaking YA novel about two boys and their friendship and the terrible, secret abuse one of them is suffering at home. I loved the characters and the story was beautiful and powerful. VGR
Wires and Nerves, Volume 1, by Marissa Meyer and Douglas Holgate: As happy as I was to read the continuation of the Lunar Chronicles story, this graphic novel confirmed for me that I don’t really like graphic novels and probably never will. I will read the rest of this series to get more of the story, but I don’t think this format will ever really do it for me, even when I can see that it’s been done well.
Celine, by Peter Heller: Heller gets better and better with each new book. Celine is a fascinating, rich novel about an aristocratic and unconventional elderly private investigator (Celine), and her search for a client’s missing father, presumed dead decades earlier in a grizzly attack. We get glimpses into Celine’s past, nuanced portraits of her husband, Pete, and her son Hank’s point of view as well. The whole time I was reading, I longed for an entire series about Celine, from her childhood up through her late 60s, when this novel takes place. VGR
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, by Becky Chambers: A fantastic, fun, feel-good space opera. If you liked Firefly, you will like this book. Chambers creates a universe filled with interesting and diverse alien species, and this story focuses on the interspecies crew of the Wayfarer, which builds wormholes in space. I’ve already got the next book on hold. VGR
Bellweather Rhapsody, by Kate Racculia: This was an overly dramatic novel about an old murder in an old hotel, a witness who comes back to confront her past, and a high school music festival. There are multiple viewpoints – a teen struggling with his sexuality, his brash twin sister, their music teacher with a tortured past, an evil head of the music association, a slightly crazy conductor… Overall, this was probably more enjoyable for me as a musician, but it was aggressively quirky and I never really liked any of the characters.
Children of the New World, by Alexander Weinstein: A collection of short stories set in the near future, most dealing with the effects of too much technology, leading to frequently chilling conclusions. Most were interesting but none blew me away.
The Queen of Blood, by Sarah Beth Durst: A gripping fantasy with rich and detailed world-building. In the land of Renthia, everything has a spirit. The spirits are held in check by a queen chosen from many magically-gifted and trained heirs. Daleina is an idealistic young student struggling to master magic and Ven is a disgraced champion who takes her as his trainee. Although the plot sounds very generic, the writing, characters, and story are very well-crafted. VGR
Silence Fallen, by Patricia Briggs: This is the 10th Mercy Thompson novel, and although I still really enjoy the stories, it’s hard not to roll my eyes at the situations Mercy constantly finds herself in. In this latest installment, she is kidnapped (quite violently) by a master Italian vampire. She escapes and ends up in Prague, where [no spoilers] more bad things happen. Somehow, Mercy always comes out on top, but the situations Briggs subjects her to are pretty cringe-worthy. Still, it’s pretty impressive that I’m continuing to read the series – it’s very rare for me to stick with a supernatural series all the way through. The only other series I can remember doing that with is Kelley Armstrong’s Otherworld series, and in that, each book has a new protagonist (for the most part).
The Book of Polly, by Kathy Hepinstall: A quirky Southern novel about a girl, Willow, whose mother Polly had her when she was in her late fifties. Willow is obsessed with her mother and terrified of the thought of Polly dying. Polly has a lot of secrets in her past, and Willow is determined to root them out.
Being Sloane Jacobs, by Lauren Morrill: Total fluff YA. Sloane Jacobs, figure skater and senator’s daughter, and Sloane Jacobs, hockey player with a mother in rehab, are both going to summer camps in Montreal for their respective sports, and both have a lot of reasons not to want to go. Parent Trap style, they meet in their Montreal hotel and decide to switch places. Not a lot of substance, but a fun quick read since I was in the mood for something light.
Norse Mythology, by Neil Gaiman: Gaiman presents an enjoyable retelling of traditional Norse myths. I never realized how much of Norse mythology has been lost in comparison to the Greek and Roman tales.
The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss (Audiobook): It took me way too long to get around to this series, but considering Rothfuss has yet to come out with the third book, I won’t beat myself up too much for the delay. This is a really enjoyable epic fantasy novel which covers the childhood and coming-of-age of Kvothe, a great wizard. I can’t wait to dive into the second book! VGR
History Is All You Left Me, by Adam Silvera: This book is beautifully written, but I found the main character really annoying. Teenager Griffin is grieving the death of his best friend and ex-boyfriend Theo. Griff and Theo’s boyfriend Jackson turn to each other for comfort and the sharing of their own histories with Theo, with a lot of heartbreak and poor choices along the way.