Hey everyone, and welcome back to the blog! March has been such a good month – there’s been birthday celebrations for me, and for other members of my family. I’ve participated in escape rooms, and played far too much Cards Against Humanity with friends. I’ve been reading a lot though, so without further ado, let’s begin and fair warning, there may be spoilers.
The first book I read this month was the paperback edition of Nevernight by Jay Kristoff, the first book in The Nevernight Chronicle. An adult fantasy, this follows Mia Corvere who has lost everything. Mia seeks training at the Red Church to take revenge on those who have destroyed and wronged her. It will take all her strength and cunning in order to become an assassin, especially in a place as deadly as the Red Church… This was a stunning novel. It’s equal parts dark, destructive, and heartbreaking. The writing is witty, seductive and dangerous. This even includes the footnotes, which add a wealth of additional information, and comedic moments. Mia herself is one of my new favourite kick ass characters – there’s something about her that I love. She’s unconventional, with incredible shadow abilities, and yet, deep down, she has a heart. She’s not a great beauty, but is still pretty. She has strength in other areas, like her knowledge. The other characters are as equally powerful – there are plenty of males and females I felt drawn to, or I wanted to know more about – like Tric and Hush. I’m definitely picking the sequel up. I think this deserves all the hype and more, so it’ll be no surprise that I rated this 5 stars.
On my Kindle, I then read Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, which is a YA urban fantasy. This is the first book in the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy, and I read this as part of the #DOSABreadalong. This follows Karou, a teenager who lives two very different lives – an art student in Prague, and an errand girl to a monstrous creature in the Elsewhere. Feeling lost, not even knowing who she truly is, her life changes when she meets Akiva, an impossibly beautiful boy… Laini Taylor’s writing was mesmerising – I was completely pulled into the world and I have a big desire to visit Prague now! It was pure fantastical world building, with intriguing characters. Karou, I initially loved. This down to Earth, blue haired artist, whose family are off this planet weird monsters. And then when she meets Akiva, she becomes contrived and cliché, which was disappointing. There was so much mystery around her, and it begins to fall flat, as with the language used. The romance aspect with Akiva is a common trope amongst YA reads – kind of hate to love, but not. I saw the big reveal coming a mile off, and those passages, I found the least interesting. I think the first half is a joy, and the second is almost a chore. That being said, I’d like to see what happens in the remainder of the series, and I rated this 3 stars.
After the arrival of my first Fairyloot, I knew I had to read the featured book. And that was the hardback edition of A Curse So Dark and Lonely by Brigid Kemmerer. This is a YA urban fantasy, which is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, Beauty and the Beast. In this novel, Prince Rhen is cursed to repeat the season of his eighteenth birthday, unless a girl falls in love with him. And then Harper arrives in his kingdom. Harper has grown up in Washington DC, and has lived with cerebral palsy her whole life. Struggling to cope with an ailing mother and a wealth of debts from loan sharks, arriving in Emberfall shakes her… I really enjoyed this – I’m a sucker for fairy tale retellings, and this hit the spot. The reader is thrown straight into the action of this magical kingdom, and each characters perspective is distinctive. Prince Rhen fits the mould perfectly, and the twist on the “beast” is a lovely touch – it felt much more realistic for a fantasy. Harper is a joy of a character. She is open about her condition and is not defined by it. She knows her limitations, but doesn’t let them stand in her way, making her so strong in my opinion. The world building is quite solid, but claustrophobic, fuelling the plot. The fantasy elements and twists on the original tale make it worth reading, and solidify it as more than a retelling. I enjoyed the interactions between characters, and while the “fall in love” element is present, it’s not too much at the forefront. I was pulled in completely and I really enjoyed it, but there’s something missing for me. Even worse, I can’t pinpoint what it is. In the end, I rated this 4 stars and I look forward to the sequel.
I then read the paperback edition of Red Dragon by Thomas Harris, the first book in the Hannibal Lecter series. This follows profiler Will Graham, who is called in to help investigate a new killer – the Tooth Fairy. When problems arise though, he must gain answers from the notorious killer, Hannibal Lecter… This was an interesting read. There’s a shift of perspectives from Will and the Tooth Fairy, so at times it’s a little unsettling. There were definitely some visceral moments where I felt physically sick, and it’s been a long time since a thriller has done that. The interactions with Lecter made me uncomfortable, but that’s the point. The characters at work are interesting, but I feel like Will is maybe a bit too dry. Although he’s amazing at his job, he lacks personality. The most interesting thing about him is how being inside the mind of a killer could easily push him over the edge, but I’m not sure there was enough of that. At times, the writing felt stilted, but overall I enjoyed this and rated it 4 stars.
I then followed this up with the sequel, The Silence of the Lambs. In this installment, Clarice Starling an FBI rookie becomes embroiled in the case of serial killer, Buffalo Bill. Searching for answers, she meets with infamous Hannibal Lecter, sharing secrets about her own past for information on the case… I really enjoyed this. The perspectives shift between Clarice, Lecter, Buffalo Bill, and other FBI agents, but were easy to distinguish. This was achieved mainly through dialogue – Clarice being more casual, as opposed to Hannibal’s clipped, professional tones. Whilst it wasn’t as horrifying as the previous novel, I was more engaged – the villain is much more realistic and interesting, in my eyes. Clarice and Hannibal work scarily well together – they definitely have chemistry, which I never thought I’d say! When I was reading this, I could hear the characters from the film adaptation in my head, and I think this greatly enhanced my enjoyment. Sadly, the iconic lines are slightly twisted or they don’t work as well, making them not as fun. Overall, I did enjoy this, feeling that it was much more developed and well written. I think I do prefer it over Red Dragon, but I can’t deny that the film adaptation has my heart – at the moment anyway! I rated this 4.5 stars.
I then read Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus, which is a YA contemporary thriller. Twins Ellery and Ezra move to their mother’s small town, Echo Ridge, a place they know about, even if this is their first visit. Years ago, their aunt went missing. Five years ago, a local girl crowned Homecoming Queen went missing, and now it looks like history is about to repeat itself… This was an engaging novel – I was drawn into the mystery of this small town straight away, and it felt authentic. I felt like I could see the diverse characters (including representation of Latinex and Asian minorities, and members of the LGBT community). There are many dark themes emerging in the book such as murder, substance abuse and rape, and some come as a shock, so consider this a warning. I did however feel like the both Ellery and Malcolm’s perspectives were repetitive, and this bogged it down for me – it felt like every so often we had to be reminded of Ellery’s mother, and her moment in the Hollywood limelight. I didn’t connect to the characters at all, and found the reveal was rather rushed – scale back the repetitive phrases, and give me more of the story and motivations. Overall though, this was a fun mystery, and if you’re starting out on that genre, I think you would enjoy this. I ended up rating this 3 stars.
The next book I read was This Lie Will Kill You by Chelsea Pitcher, which is another YA contemporary thriller. One year ago, a terrible accident claimed the life of a teenage boy. Now, the survivors of that horrific party are invited to a grand mansion to play a murder mystery game, and come away with a massive cash prize. One will not walk away though – not when the truth comes out… This definitely has horror film and Netflix show vibes – Scream and Riverdale, for sure. It makes for an atmospheric read, however, the writing occasionally becomes whimsical or flowery, detracting from the story. There is a whole host of characters, maybe too many, and they became too stereotypical. Whilst this does fit with the theme of the novel, the lengths the characters go to is very dramatic, maybe too farfetched. I did think there would be more twists than there actually was, so that was disappointing. I was kept engaged throughout though, and it would definitely work as a TV adaptation. If you like those kinds of books, or are just getting started with mysteries and thrillers, this is definitely for you. For me, it was just a nice way to spend an afternoon, sick on the sofa. I rated this 3 stars.
The final book I read in March was Into the Water by Paula Hawkins, which is an adult thriller. This follows Jules as she returns to the sleepy town of Beckford, after the death of her estranged sister. Memories begin to surface, as do mysteries around a certain place where numerous women have been found dead… I found this a strange read. There is a whole cast of characters, which have their own style of narration. This can be very jarring, especially as it goes across various time periods. These characters are unlikable and I found I had little to no sympathy for them, which is a shame. The mystery is a nice aspect – the whole drowning witches, and women are evil, is an interesting trope, but falls a little too stereotypical at times. I was almost expecting a supernatural element, or at least, a fake-out. I did find this a page turner once I got into it, but there were definitely patterns of predictability. The final chapter kind of surprises, but on the whole, I did want something more. I think her first novel, The Girl on the Train, was better, and so I’m a little disappointed. I rated this 3 stars.
So that completes my March ’19 wrap up – and what a March it has been! Let me know what book/books you have read this month – whether it’s paper/hardback, audio, eBook, graphic novels or manga, they all count! If you have any recommendations, please feel free to let me know!