This January I read six books, one less than my goal of seven for the month. I am however quite pleased with the enjoyment I got out of of those couple stories, four of which receiving four star ratings. In this wrap-up I’ll give a summary of my thoughts on each book as in where I felt the author succeeded vs. where they failed. This is one of my favorite reflection posts to write each month, and I hope you enjoy reading it!
Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy- 3 stars
I did a post way back in September on the top five new releases i wanted to get to in the fall months of 2015. As many of my lists pan out though, nothing ever came of it (at least not in a timely matter). Finally, as my first read of 2016, I managed to take one off the list by finishing the much acclaimed Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy. Unfortunately I did not fall in love the way the majority of young adult contemporary readers did, and was left with lackluster feelings upon turning the last page. My main issue was that I just did not like protagonist Willowdean in the least, a point that is imperative whilst reading her first person narration to enjoy the story. I found her to be snotty and hypocritical (that is besides being as interesting as a brick), ironic in a book whom’s main point was how “body positive” it was. Much like a lot of books I read in 2015 I feel it was merely piggybacking off the message the media was demading at the time, that is the “We Need Diverse Books” campaign that really caught wind last year, and never truly established itself outside of being marketed to fill that void. Perhaps a better fit for a less critical reader.
Soundless by Richelle Mead- 2 stars
Because I lack a keen interest in vampire culture and not wishing to commit to reading such lengthy series as Vampire Academy and Bloodlines are, I never ended up reading Richelle Mead. I heard such amazing things though about the fast paced and fun nature her stories take on that as soon as I heard she was releasing an unrelated standalone centered on Chinese folklore I knew I had to read it. Unfortunately I did not enjoy Soundless as much as I anticipated, finding it to be dull and contrite in spots- hinging on the author’s name and a cool premise that never came to fruition. That does not mean I’ve sworn off Ms. Mead’s work forever, in fact I’m very much looking forward to her new Wild West supernatural The Glittering Court being released this spring. I just think the main problem with Soundless is that it was sent to the press too soon as a bridge between old and new readers that could establish Mead as something more than a steamy Vampire writer. Worth skipping over for even the biggest Mead fan out there.
Finding Audrey by Sophie Kinsella-4 stars
Breaking away from her acclaimed Shopaholic series, Sophie Kinsella returns to the book world with a quirky standalone for young adult readers. Though it has a much more serious topic beating at its heart than the former ever did-OCD and anxiety-it retains the same sentiment laced with shenanigans that propelled Becky Bloomberg to the top of bestseller charts years ago. For that matter know I believe Kinsella really hit her stride with Finding Audrey by creating characters that while humorously neurotic still ring true in their heartfelt delivery of universal messages like family, friendship, love, and self-acceptance. Also, as a reader whose tackled a few romantic contemporaries in her day I found it especially refreshing that protagonist Audrey overcame her social anxiousness for herself-not for love interest Linus (however adorable he may be). That being said, the burgeoning acquaintance/friendship/romance between the two is pitch perfect and really adds an extra layer to the story. For contemporary lovers everywhere, Finding Audrey is the sweetest rendering of mental illness I’ve ever read.
The Girl with the Wrong Name by Barnabas Miller- 4 stars
My favorite book-by far-that I read all month was one I almost considered returning to the library unread. Fortunately, I’m not such a cover snob that I couldn’t get over the horrendous graphic art and counterproductive synopsis blurb to appreciate the rare breed of cryptic mystery contained in the pages of The Girl with the Wrong Name. There are so many people I could imagine loving this tantalizing thriller; from reluctant readers, to adults looking for a mature young adult pick, but more than anything I would say this book is perfect for that one indie reviewer out there looking to brand the next Gone Girl before it was cool. And trust me, I think with the proper amount of Goodreads love this one can easily manage to earn that distinction. It’s psychological thriller at the finest, with three interwoven mysteries running concurrently as readers try to separate fact from fiction as protagonist Theo Lane’s narrative becomes increasingly muddled and unreliable. A well crafted story for even the nontraditional mystery readers out there.
Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick- 4 stars
I have a love hate relationship with Becca Fitzpatrick’s books. On the one hand I adore their premises- the Hush, Hush series seemed like a fun, lighthearted take on the fallen angel storyline, and her standalone Black Ice was based on the idea of a girl being held hostage in the Tetons by dangerous fugitives. Cool, right? Right. Except in both cases Fitzpatrick totally stunted any potential the narrative had to grow by writing the most inherently unlikable and bratty heroines known in the bookish universe. Seriously, it’s hard to enjoy anything when every other page you’re rolling your eyes at the stupidity of Nora and Britt. And what was the point of characterzing them in that manner? WHO KNOWS! It’s not like she ever gave them a 180 degree turn by developing them at all. I can safely say though that after reading Dangerous Lies I now know Fitzpatrick is more than capable of taking an off putting character such as Estella and through clever plotting make her into someone I genuinely cared about by the books end. It was everything I hoped for previously and a story I would recommend to even the most frustrated Fitzpatrick reader.
The Nest by Kenneth Oppel-4 stars
To fulfill my 2016 goal of reading one middle grade a month, I picked up The Nest as a quick and easy book. Though I liked it enough to finish it in one day, my rating is probably more of a 3.5 stars. My opinions on it really were mixed however; with the positives being it’s accessibility to the target age group and a unique storyline, but the cons falling under its acute similarities to the much better (in my opinion) A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness. The two share more than just amazing illustrations and a dark children’s plot, with both striving to impart metaphors and symbolism on to their young readers. This made it very hard for me to separate this read from the former as I could constantly see how much potential the story had to be beautiful, only for it to continually fall short. This obviously isn’t fair to a very strong work of fiction that I can see making its way onto a few state reading lists in the coming years, but alas that was how the cookie crumbled. Had Ness’s stellar book never been written I can see myself recommending this quite frequently, but now the void for the brand Oppel’s work sells too has already been filled by a better contender.
Let me know in the comments what books YOU read this January and if any books on this list sparked your interest.
-Keep Calm and Read On