Books, Lately [Winter]

pages of the book as a bird flying away

Welcome to Quick Lit! This is where I partake in Modern Mrs. Darcy’s link-up and share short (sometimes) and sweet (cavities not included) reviews of what I’ve been reading lately.

Happy March! It’s been a weird year so far, between semi-unemployment and temping and not having a concrete idea of “what’s next!” for my life, but there’s been some good things as well. Temping brought new friends, semi-unemployment has definitely helped (read: forced me to be better) with budgeting, and freelancing from home has given me the space to do things like start eating healthier, actually get my regular workout on, and volunteer and networking more.

The combo of temping and a loose schedule mean, for me at least, a lot of books but not a lot of blogging: so I’m super, super delayed for a Quick Lit. That said, lucky you (and lucky me), I’m not blogging on every book I’ve read since October.

Because that would be insane.

But here’s a good chunk of what I’ve read and loved over the past few months.


UPROOTED
Naomi Novik

Another world, magic, magic lessons, well-characterized protagonist–Uprooted had all the right ingredients, and it definitely had me loving the result.

This was the first book I cracked open (well, tapped on my Kindle) this year. I was hooked from the beginning. Actually, I was hooked well before that–from the except on Goodreads.

Our Dragon doesn’t eat the girls he takes, no matter what stories they tell outside our valley. . . . They talk as though we were doing human sacrifice, and he were a real dragon. Of course that’s not true: he may be a wizard and immortal, but he’s still a man, and our fathers would band together and kill him if he wanted to eat one of us every ten years. He protects us against the Wood, and we’re grateful, but not that grateful.

The Wood is an excellent example of a non-human antagonist done well, though the turn everything takes at the end was a bit odd for my taste (and I normally don’t mind odd one bit.) Agniezska, well, she’s brilliant. And I don’t mean intellectually, though there’s that. But everything about her, every single flaw (and she has plenty), every strength, every quirk of personality—she may have made it to my favorite characters list (if I actually had one of those). Like this line: “I was a glaring blot on the perfection. But I didn’t care: I didn’t feel I owed him beauty.” She makes some idioctic moves, at times frustratingly so, but I’ve found that if a character is done well, I don’t have to understand or agree with their choices to enjoy them as a character.

So, oops, that wasn’t actually much of anything about the book, but hey: if it sounds good, or you like high fantasy, just read it.

“I often fantasize about being able to read an amazing book again for the first time . . . — I think Uprooted is the closest I’ve ever come to what that would feel like.”
Nikki @ There Were Books Involved


YES, PLEASE
Amy Poehler

So here’s the thing with audiobooks: I was terrible at listening to them. I probably still am, but for a recent fluke. I temped at a startup doing data entry to six weeks at the beginning of the year, and it was the perfect set-up for listening to books (which, I should assure you, was 100% allowed).

It took me several runs (back when I actually ran) to get even a third of the way through this last, and then it sat on my phone for six months. But once I started listening at work, I finished in a couple of days. Amy Poehler is, obviously, extremely funny, but her insights on life and work and womenhood were brilliant. I like celebrity/comedian memoirs because their lives are far enough removed from mine that I rarely try to compare myself (and avoiding FOMO is always a little bit healthier), but they’ve still got plenty of excellent things to say about the regular-human aspects of their lives. (Although for what it’s worth, I’ve mostly stuck to some of the badass feminist lady icons so far, and that may play a part in my massive amounts of LIKE for these books.)

Final word: If you’re going to read Amy Poehler (or Felicia Day or Tina Fey, for that matter), don’t. Get the audiobook and let them read it to you. They’re better at it anyways.


ENCLAVE
OUTPOST

HORDE
Ann Aguirre

This is a YA post-apocalyptic triology, so it could easily have felt like retread ground. I even went into it thinking it was going to be merely so-so (if not bad) based on what sounded like a completely bizarre premise and most likely reading some bad review ages ago that subconsciously colored it for me. When I actually picked it up from the library, it was mostly because this kind of reading (provided it’s not bad bad), is nice and easy comfort reading.

So, I was wrong. The bizarre premise, while indeed bizarre, is not the entire series. And while you initally raise an eyebrow at the idea that the society that Deuce lives in the all that’s left of the world, the worldbuilding gets more and more interesting as you go. And yes, there’s still plenty to raise an eyebrow at, but personally I have no problem with some suspension of disblief when venturing into speculative fiction’s territory.

This is not amazing fiction. But it’s a good story, and Deuce, our hardcore, 15-year-old, essentially-a-child-soldier protagonist, has some of the most interesting YA character development I’ve read in awhile. After all, she goes from being an underground-dwelling, ignorant of the world, starving warrior into… well, she’s still a warrior, but the rest might be spoilers. Let’s just say, the rate at which she’s forced to reevaluate everything she knows about the world? It’s dizzying.


THE MARTIAN 
Andy Weir

Oh, HELLO, beautiful nerdy book. When I finished Yes, Please and needed another audiobook, this was an easy decision–and one of the better decisions I’ve made in 2016.

I don’t feel like I need to say much: this book (and its movie) has gotten so much great review already. I saw the movie first, with Isaac, and we both loved it. Not worth the extra for the 3D tickets, but every bit worth it besides that.


THE RAVEN BOYS
THE DREAM THIEVES
BLUE LILY, LILY BLUE

Maggie Steifvater

Let me start by telling you that the fourth book in this series drops on the 26th, so if you like fantasy, clever YA, and beautiful writing, you can start now. I’m a big believer of holding out, whenever possible, till a series is fully released. And if I wasn’t so quickly hooked on these, I might have managed to stretch them for the fourth! But no. They were way too good, and I couldn’t help myself.

I’m not even going to bother trying to describe these. There’s too much in three books, and I don’t even know where to start. If you ask me in person, I’m sure I can ramble long enough to give you an idea, but you’ll save time by just checking out Goodreads or just starting the first one–I recommend the latter.


SIMON VS. THE HOMOSAPIENS AGENDA
Becky Albertalli

A lot of YA gives me this weird, retroactive FOMO, like maybe I missed out by not having nearly as much freedom as many YA characters have, or not being as popular, witty, funny, or well-read. And while I know most of that is BS, and many of these books present a very cookie cutter type of high-school experience that simply doesn’t look like mine did, it can still take me out of the story sometimes.

But this book? Man. This book actually made me remember high school fondly, and want to think about it, write about it. The funny moments, the silly moments, having weird but awesome friends, doing theater and being in musicals, and even not being particularly popular—but, for most part, not really caring too much about it because we were having fun.

Granted, I couldn’t exactly relate to Simon’s experiences of being a gay teenager who hasn’t come out to his friends yet, or being blackmailed by the jerk who wants to be set up with his friend, or having a secret email pen pal who he’s swiftly falling for—but whose identity, other than being a fellow student at his school, is still a total mystery to him.

But even with all the ways I can’t relate, Simon as a narrator quickly pulls me into his story and makes me care, and laugh, and feel, and thoroughly enjoy the 6 hours and 45 minutes of my favorite audiobook to date.


THE SEA OF TRANQUILITY
Katja Millay

I picked this for book club, because a brooding YA sounded quite right for February. And I’m proud to say this was the first month in several in which all four of us actually finished the book! Or maybe I should be less proud of that, because I’m one of the ones who frequently doesn’t finish…

Anyways.

I read this while on vacation (though more of a working vacation) visiting my family in Florida, and I plowed through probably the last 100 pages one of the last nights I was there while everyone else was out. It’s a bit slow at times, and there’s a ton about Nastya and Josh’s pasts and motivations that are mysteries for much of the book, but Millay’s choice to eek out information slowly works well with the story.

Sea is sad and melancholy and romantic and sometimes raw. But it can also be sweet and redeeming and lovely, and, best of all, a paperback that kept me glued to it for as long as it lasted.


STEELHEART
Brandon Sanderson

And last, but oh oh oh definitely not least, a new-to-me triology from Brandon Sanderson. Since this is the kind of post that I write over quite a few days (even longer, for this one), I’ve actually just finished the second book in the series and it was SO GOOD. I am so eager to get the third book, Calamity, from the library soon.

Steelheart is a supervillain story. And it is not a superhero story as well. We’re ten or so years after Calamity rose, a new star that brought with it a catastrophe: people gaining superpowers and, without fail, using them for as much destructiontion, desecration, and despotism as possible. The world can’t keep up, and everything’s changed. No one is fighting back anymore.

No one, except the Recknoners: teams of regular humans who travel around and kill Epics as quietly as possible. David is determined to join the Reckoners and convince them to kill Steelheart, the ruler of Newcago, who killed his father ten years ago when he was a kid.

And fantasticness ensues. If you like fantasy or superpowers or villains or rebellions or spies, just read this thing.

And I’ll try to handle myself till I get the my hands on the third book.


WHAT’S UP NEXT

Calamity, obviously. Besides that? I’m reading Boy, Snow, Bird and The Scorpio Races right now, and I maaaay try Americanah after that.  Also, Mary Karr’s Lit has been on my nightstand waiting for me to actually give it a real try for awhile, and I have Shadow and Bone checked out right now. That last one, unfortunately (or fortunately?), will likely pull me into another series rabbit hole. Oh, and Isaac has been raving about Ready Player One ever since he put it down, so I’m basically obligated to read it ASAP.

Until next month!

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