From YA to time travel romance to grit lit, I read a little bit of everything last month — and one of these books will definitely go in my top 10 for the year! Here’s what I read and what I thought about it all…
Everything, Everything, Nicola Yoon
Although I didn’t LOVE Everything, Everything as much as many other readers have, I did like this book. It’s a classic YA love story, with quirkiness, diversity, and a few unexpected twists. I won’t tell you too much about the plotline, because I don’t want to give any surprises away.
I’d give this book 3.5 stars. It’s an enjoyable read, but it could have used a little more work — There are some serious plot holes that made suspension of disbelief all but impossible. Still, if you’re looking for a quick, satisfying story about young love, you can’t go wrong with this one.
A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J. Maas
I read this book because my daughter is currently obsessed with Sarah J. Maas’s novels, and as far as YA Fantasy goes, this one is a total winner. I LOVED Feyre, the impoverished-yet-courageous heroine with major echoes of Katniss Everdeen, who is spirited off to a land of fairies that are every bit as well-drawn as the characters in the Harry Potter novels. I was totally immersed in the story and loved every sumptuous detail. Think Beauty and the Beast for grown-ups and you’ll have a general idea of what to expect with the storyline.
A Court of Thorns and Roses is not Lord of the Rings good, by any means, but for what it is — YA Serial Fantasy — It’s got to right up there at the top of the heap, comparable in my opinion to the Twilight series (I confess, I loved those books) and The Hunger Games. I’m not at all surprised that so many tween and teen girls are crazy about Maas’s novels.
Note to moms whose daughters are reading these books, or want to read them: There are graphic sex scenes in this book, with details that surprised me in their thoroughness. I’ve heard that the second book in this particular series is even more graphic, and am not allowing my 13-year-old to read it until I’ve read it and made a decision as to whether it’s TMI for her age. She has assured me that Maas’s Throne of Glass series’ sex scenes are far less graphic than those in this series, but honestly, I would NEVER have expected this amount of sexual detail in a YA novel, period, so let it be a lesson to all of us to check the actual contents of what our kids are reading and not trust labels.
My Holiday in North Korea: The Funniest/Worst Place on Earth, Wendy E. Simmons
Take this book for what it is — A frequent world traveler visits North Korea alone for 10 days and writes about all the crazy sh*t that happened to her while she was there.
Wendy E. Simmons is pretty straightforward in her telling of the tale and you’ll finish the book with more questions about what was going on over there than answers, but in this case, no great artistic gifts are needed; the story itself is so bizarre and fascinating that the book is a quick, compelling read — It’s also particularly timely with all that’s going on between North Korea and the United States. Now that I’ve read it, I feel like I have a better understanding of the North Korean mentality, which makes reading the news stories a hell of a lot more interesting.
Mariana, Susanna Kearsley
Fans of Outlander and Rebecca will love Mariana, an enjoyable historical romance with a time-travel twist. Kearsley’s descriptive writing about a charming English village and its mysterious inhabitants satisfyingly immerses the reader in the story from the start, and elevates Mariana above your typical romance novel.
Great literature Mariana is not — At times, I found the characters a bit two-dimensional and the setting overly simplistic, and suspension of disbelief was difficult. However, I thoroughly enjoyed the escape this book offered and the ease of getting through it — as well as the unexpected twist at the end– and I’m eager to read more of Kearsley’s novels.
Winter’s Bone, Daniel Woodrell
Wow. I absolutely LOVED this book, and it gave me a new appreciation for the movie.
I’m not sure why I even decided to read Winter’s Bone, since I saw the movie not so long ago and still remember the ending very well. I decided to read a few pages and see what I thought, and before I knew it, I was 50 pages in. Daniel Woodrell is such an amazing writer that I couldn’t put the book down.
From the first page, I was drawn into 16-year-old Ree Dolly’s world — a stark, brutal existence in a desolate Ozark town, where survival (and escape, in all its forms) is first and foremost on everyone’s minds. Woodrell’s writing is poetic, yet it doesn’t detract from the story or slow the pace of this page-turner; instead, it serves to draw the reader in with vividly unique descriptions of sights, sounds and smells.
The book particularly resonated with me because the rabid family-first mountain ethos matched right up with the research I’ve done on my own Appalachian ancestors. However, I think anyone who loves to read would enjoy this book. It’s short, spare, beautifully written, and fast paced — What more could you ask for?
Fans of the movie Winter’s Bone will have a new appreciation for director Debra Granik, who absolutely NAILED the feeling, mood, and characters of this novel and even added to it with an evocative hillbilly soundtrack.
In short, this book is a winner. I can’t stop thinking about it, even now.