When this semester started, I was fully prepared to not be reading much. A month into last semester, I was completing one or two books in the span of a month. So far this semester, I have read seven books.
Granted, most of these were graphic novels. And it helps to have two free days in the middle of the week. Since I get up early enough, I get an adequate amount of homework done where I can read in the afternoons. This also usually leaves my weekends open.
This wrap up is a combination of books I own as well as library books, plus one book that was a recommended read for one of my classes. But more about that in the wrap up.
Between the last week of January until now, I read:
Evermore by Sara Holland (library book)
Evermore is the sequel to Everless and is the concluding novel to the duology. In case you are unaware, Everless is set in a fantasy world where time is based in currency taken from the blood. The main character, Jules Ember, returns to the manor home she fled years before to earn money for her ailing father. In the meantime, she learns something about herself, as well as the kingdom at large.
While I enjoyed Evermore, I think I liked it a little less than Everless. The writing was atmospheric, yet a little too flowery at times. The magic system was fascinating and so was the mythology, however I think there were still holes in the story. Though I liked Jules and adored the romance in this novel, even if some might say it came out of nowhere, the plot was slow, then rushed to reach a resolution.
I checked both Everless and Evermore out of the library. Despite that I was interested in the synopsis, I didn’t want to risk the money on them. The concept seemed so out there for me to wrap my head around it.
Overall, I say I enjoyed the Everless duology. I might buy my own copies someday, and will likely read anything else Sara Holland writes.
Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples
It took me a while to come up with something to say about the ninth volume of the Saga graphic novels. At least, something coherent or not a spoiler.
Even as they brought up strong criticism about media and intentionally spreading fear, there was a point I suspected it would be another “filler” volume, until the ending happened. The last thing I have to say is that what I have been anticipating since the first volume finally happened. Yet, it was not quite how I expected it to happen. This particular event was also coupled with something I had not seen coming. It added on more to the emotional preparation I had built up from the previous eight volumes.
Needless to say, it’s going to be a hard year before the next installment of Saga.
Poe: Stories and Poems: a graphic novel adaption by Gareth Hinds
Gareth Hinds is a graphic artist that recreates classic stories in graphic novel adaptions. Poe: stories and poems is the first of his that I read. Inside are illustrated adaptions of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, The Cask of Amontillado, Annabel Lee, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Bells, and The Raven. While the language has been condensed a little to fit the graphic novel format, the artwork in this collection is simply gorgeous. He uses different color schemes to match each work, like beachy pastels for Annabel Lee and a monochromic one for The Raven.
If I was rating the Poe graphic novel on artwork alone, it would be five stars. However, the majority of the stories featured in this were not my favorite of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Gareth Hinds’ illustrations added something to them, though. The visuals in The Cask of Amontillado gave me a new appreciation for it. I already loved The Tell-Tale Heart, so the artwork added more to it. Yet the artwork for The Masque of the Red Death didn’t quite appeal to my imagination. So, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m rating this Edgar Allan Poe graphic novel mostly on my reading experience.
To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace
The Princess Saves Herself in This One had an emotional impact on me, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One unfortunately did not have the same effect. Because of that, I kept my expectations for To Make Monsters Out of Girls neutral.
To Make Monsters Out of Girls was originally published on Wattpad under a different title. After her success with her previous works, it was republished with a new title as well as illustrations that added something to already hard-hitting, lyrical free verse poetry.
I’m not entirely sure how to review a poetry collection, beyond rating it by how it made me feel. I love Amanda’s style of poetry; how direct and honest she is. I also appreciated how she owned up to her mistakes, like how she was involved with a man already in a relationship. I enjoyed the topics covered in this collection and how it made me think and feel. I had the same kind of reading experience with To Make Monsters Out of Girls as I did with The Princess Saves Herself in This One.
And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Rovina Cai
And The Ocean Was Our Sky is a retelling of Moby Dick through the eyes of the whale. Bathsheba is a member of a whale pirate crew that hunt humans, claiming to be protecting the ocean from the world above. When they capture a human, it leads Bathsheba and the rest of her crew on a mission they deem to be their destiny. But as the whales carry out their mission and she talks more with their human captive, she has doubts about not only their mission, but the relations between humans and whales.
I flew through And The Ocean Was Our Sky like I thought I would. It is a combination of prose and beautiful dark blue/black/white/red artwork, as illustrated by Rovina Cai. Patrick Ness does a good job blurring the lines between who is right and wrong between the whales and humans, making neither look entirely innocent. Bathsheba is the narrator and we see directly through her eyes as the world she thought she knew unravels around her. I wanted to give it five stars but the plot twist kind of threw me for a loop. I had no idea where the author was going with it.
True Notebooks by Mark Salzman (library book)
Nonfiction is a genre I don’t reach for often, if at all. True Notebooks is a book recommended by the professor of my Friday class, Literacy Services to Underrepresented Populations, in preparation for our visit to a correctional facility in a few weeks.
True Notebooks is about the author, Mark Salzman’s, experiences as a creative writing teacher in a juvenile detention center. When his friend first approached him with the opportunity, he tries to think of ways to politely decline until he is persuaded by Sister Janet, a nun in charge of the program trying to rehabilitate these incarcerated minors. The book chronicles the various challenges Mark encounters—rowdy students, illiteracy, prejudice from outsiders and insiders, among other things—and how he not only helps his students, but they help him.
The book is narrated primarily from Mark’s first-person perspective, with samples of his student’s writing. For the first half of the book, the boys annoyed me. By the middle, as they began to understand these writing classes were a privilege that had to be earned, they had my sympathy. I felt the justice system was being too hard on most of them for a single mistake they made at fifteen.
However, towards the end of the book, you realize some of those boys had good reason to be in prison. They severely injured or even killed someone. And, while most of the boys grumbled society failed them (which in some cases, it was true), there were those that understood they were their own people who made their own choices that got them to where they were. That is what I appreciated the most about True Notebooks: there was more gray area than black or white.
The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (library book)
The Darkest Part of the Forest is a young adult fantasy novel based around traditional, non-Sarah J. Maas fairy folklore that I have had my eye on for years. Holly Black is also an author that has peaked my interest, especially since she published The Cruel Prince. Before I bought The Cruel Prince, though, I had owned one of her first works, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I read it last year, wanting to read her previous works before the new. While I liked the nostalgia I got for my Twihard years, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was ultimately boring. Since I heard mention that a character from The Darkest Part of the Forest might make an appearance in The Cruel Prince, I checked it out of the library to read, instead of buying it.
Thankfully, I enjoyed The Darkest Part of the Forest. The writing was lyrical and the town of Fairfold a beautiful, atmospheric kind of creepy. I liked the traditional dark faerie folklore woven in and how the humans coexist with the fairies as they have always been there. The Sleeping Prince, a horned boy sleeping inside a glass coffin in the woods, was treated like a weird tourist attraction. I liked the protagonist, Hazel, her brother Ben, and Jack, Ben’s changeling best friend. The plot twist I kind of saw coming, but I liked it nonetheless, mostly because I don’t see it used often.
My favorite part about The Darkest Part of the Forest was the primary focus the relationship between Ben and Hazel. Though they resent each other deep down for different things and a lot of bad stuff happened to drive an emotional wedge between them, the siblings put each other ahead of everything. They both have love interests, but the romance is more of a side plot than a driving force.
Which leads me into the things I didn’t like about the novel. While I liked Hazel’s love interest, Ben’s romantic relationship feels too much like insta-love for me to get on board with. The writing was overly descriptive and sometimes certain scenes took too long to get to the point. Lastly, the ending seemed to drag on for longer than it should have, although it might feel that way to me because I checked the library book out for too long and I had to return it, so I had to read fast.
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?