I have a few friends who do mini-reviews on the books they read each month, so I thought it might be fun to do that too! It’s an easier way to show people what I’m reading and interested in without writing these page-long essay reviews for every single book. I don’t have time for that mess. I have a thesis in my life.
I also recognize that it is almost March. Apologies for the delay, but this was a recent decision.
1. Like No Other by Una LaMarche
I wrote an article for Girls in Capes about YA romances with a diverse twist, and this was one of the new ones I picked up. Like No Other is the story of Devorah, a Hasidic Jewish girl, and Jaxon, a black public school boy, who get trapped alone in an elevator and end up inexplicably drawn to each other. The star-crossed teens fall in love, but must hide their relationship from Devorah’s family, because she is not allowed to talk to or be alone with any man, let alone see, date, or kiss a boy outside of her faith. Beyond a love story, LaMarche’s novel ends up more about Devorah’s search for understanding in her religious faith as she finds her voice and independence. To be honest, the romance aspect fell flat for me, but I still appreciated Devorah’s journey and a new perspective I hadn’t read about before.
3 out of 5 stars
2. Killer WASPs by Amy Korman
It definitely did its job making me laugh — most things making fun of the crazy rich ladies of the Main Line do that. Korman did a good job of including various character subplots along with the actual mystery of who, of the many with motive, tried to kill the sleazy real estate agent. If you’re looking for a serious, thought-provoking, heart-racing murder mystery, you’re checking out the wrong book. If you’d rather read an Evanovich-esque mystery with quirky Main Liners that makes you chuckle or roll your eyes, KILLER WASPS is more your speed.
I had some serious issues with a few things that could’ve been easily fixed in editorial — several proofreading mistakes, use of the word “shlep” about 8 times in 50 pages, and way too much clothing description, down to the pricetag — but despite these flaws, it was enjoyable enough that I will probably pick up the next one, since the ending was a clear set-up for a series complete with love triangles, world travel, and a fat basset hound.
I work at a bookstore in Bryn Mawr, so I couldn’t pass up a light beach read easily hand-sold to customers who enjoy local interest.
3.5 out of 5 stars
3. Say What You Will by Cammie McGovern
Another for my diverse YA romances! Amy has CP and cannot walk very easily or talk at all. Her senior year of high school, she decides she wants to make friends and have her companions be fellow students instead of hired adults. While she gets along with all her helpers, Amy feels especially drawn to Matthew, a shy boy with severe obsessive-compulsive tendencies. Her whole life, she’s had a physical disorder, and now she wants to help this boy with a mental disorder who won’t help himself. They get each other through their hardest times, and slowly but surely fall in love.
There’s a crazy twist I definitely didn’t see coming, and it all humanizes Amy in a way I haven’t read before. I literally could barely put the book down, no matter because I had to know what happened between these two characters discovering and accepting their flaws, as well as their love for each other. When I read Out of My Mind by Sharon Draper last year, it was my first real experience reading about cerebral palsy, so I couldn’t help imagining that Amy was actually Melody all grown up and ready to fall in love and take on the world.
4 out of 5 stars
4. Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The Girls in Capes Speculative Crossover Book Club read this novel for the month of January. Let me just say that it created a lot of controversy and disagreement among us.
If you haven’t heard, Red Rising is being called a cross of Hunger Games and Ender’s Game, but I would throw in a little Lord of the Flies as well. I enjoyed the strong character growth in Darrow over the course of the novel, especially in understanding the society as a whole. Without giving too much away, he learns to be a good leader instead of relying on his personal vendetta to make it through. I also loved a lot of the supporting characters, most specifically Sevro and Mustang. I did NOT like the fridging of Darrow’s wife; it was too easy of an overused (and offensive) plot device. I also did not like the fact that in the school, they mention (non-graphic) rape, so trigger warning there. However, in a realistic war-like setting, I was not surprised and almost expected it come up, and Darrow does try to correct the situation.
Nearly every review I’ve read says that Golden Son is exceptional, so I’ll definitely read that one too. I’m curious to learn more about the society and see how Darrow survives outside the school setting.
4 out of 5 stars
5. The Secret Sky by Atia Abawi
This novel is truly comparable to Romeo & Juliet, though with a slightly more hopeful ending. A former NBC Afghanistan news correspondent writes about two teenagers, Fatima and Sami, whose greatest transgression is being alone together, but even that is punishable by death. When they are caught alone by Sami’s cousin Rashid, it sparks cruelty from family members. Their families refuse to allow marriage because they are from two different Afghan races, with much tension between them. The decision to run away to the city and get married causes them to be hunted by Taliban soldiers, who leave bloodshed in their wake.
The Secret Sky sheds light on a culture that most Americans know little to nothing about, and its portrayal is both powerful and frightening. This one is not for the faint of heart, due to graphic violence. My biggest issue was how two people who have never even kissed before and have barely seen each other for a decade will suddenly be married and spend their lives together, but that could just be my cynicism. The fundamentalist leaders’ flaws were particularly heavy-handed, but I don’t know enough about the truth to question it. Overall, the culture was unique compared to things I’ve read before, but the writing didn’t blow me away, and it’s a story we’ve all heard before, just in a different setting.
3.5 out of 5 stars
6. Guy in Real Life by Steve Brezenoff
This was one of my favorites from the YA Romance list, mostly because I identify with nerd culture. Lesh and Svetlana meet entirely by accident, despite going to the same school. He’s a metalhead who plays MMOs; she’s an artistic RPG dungeon master. This chance meeting causes them to be constantly put in the other’s path and thoughts. This is not only an adorable love story of two very different loners finding each other, but also brings up a lot of problematic aspects of the gaming community. It discusses prejudices of women in gaming as well as prejudices within separate nerd-dom factions, but without being snobby or pushy about it. The alternating points of view are essentially from Lesh and Svetlana, but also include their perspectives as MMO character and RPG storyteller. A fun read even if you don’t play MMOs or RPGs (though having prior knowledge of the two makes it a lot more interesting).
4 out of 5 stars
No books changed my life in January, but I didn’t hate any of them either, so overall a successful reading month!
I don’t know how many I’ll have for the coming months, since thesis will be taking up all my conscious thoughts, but I’ll definitely have a few for February (which perhaps I can post in a more timely fashion).