Welcome, or welcome back! This is the first time I’ve strayed away from book reviews, but I’m going to try out monthly wrap ups (that is, as well as continuing book reviews). Or, at least, inconsistent monthly wrap ups. Bear with me!
Even though it is already about mid-August, we’re going to talk about all the books–surprisingly, most of them are a part of series/duologies I didn’t pursue–I ended up reading in July of 2019. Let’s get started (starting with books I read at the beginning of the month)! *Italicized summaries are from Goodreads, and the others are ones I wrote*
SPEAK by: Laurie Halse Anderson – A novel *3.5/5 stars*
Summary: The first ten lies they tell you in high school.
“Speak up for yourself—we want to know what you have to say.”
From the first moment of her freshman year at Merryweather High, Melinda knows this is a big fat lie, part of the nonsense of high school. She is friendless, outcast, because she busted an end-of-summer party by calling the cops, so now nobody will talk to her, let alone listen to her. As time passes, she becomes increasingly isolated and practically stops talking altogether. Only her art class offers any solace, and it is through her work on an art project that she is finally able to face what really happened at that terrible party: she was raped by an upperclassman, a guy who still attends Merryweather and is still a threat to her. Her healing process has just begun when she has another violent encounter with him. But this time Melinda fights back, refuses to be silent, and thereby achieves a measure of vindication.
Review: The topic that Speak covers is exceedingly important to spread awareness about, and should become more common in YA literature as a way to educate people. Brilliantly carried out throughout the book, Melinda is gradually able to depend on art as a healer. Also seen mostly all through the story, Anderson cleverly refrains from calling Melinda’s assailant by their name; instead, they are referred to as IT. Without explicitly saying so, this shows that what Melinda’s attacker did–and what he has become–is entirely inhuman, therefore in no way does he deserve to be addressed by his name. That said, I recall the actual story to be relatively dull. Speak as a story was, in my opinion, fairly boring.
DAISY JONES & THE SIX by: Taylor Jenkins Reid – A novel *5/5 stars*
Summary: At the height of their fame, the ’70s rock ‘n’ roll band, Daisy Jones & The Six, inexplicably broke up, causing an extreme uproar from virtually the entire world. Daisy Jones & The Six weaves a tale that clearly displays the reasoning behind the band’s renowned split that transpired after the last show of their tour.
However, before they were Daisy Jones & The Six, there was merely Daisy Jones and there was The Six, both gaining a following, albeit gradually. Excessively self-indulgent and strikingly beautiful, Daisy Jones found herself yearning to record anything. Luckily, soon enough, her voice starts to turn heads and earn recognition.
As Daisy begins releasing music, The Six — a rock ‘n’ roll band led by Billy Dunne — is also slowly gaining a relatively large fanbase. But neither Daisy Jones nor The Six have the hit that will guarantee long-lasting stardom. Nonetheless, when brought together, Billy Dunne and Daisy Jones create a sound so full of longing and emotion. With each other, Daisy Jones & The Six is formed, and enduring fame is secured.
Review: Originally, I had provided a 4.75/5 rating for Daisy Jones & The Six, but my thoughts have changed and this book deserves 5 stars. This was my second read-through of Daisy Jones and I was not disappointed. Written as an interview, this novel explores heartache as we follow Daisy Jones and Billy Dunne on their journey through a distressing period of intense substance abuse, all the while navigating the world of rock ‘n’ roll. First read-through review here.
VICIOUS by: V.E. Schwab – #1 in the Vicious duology *2.5 stars*
Summary: Victor and Eli started out as college roommates—brilliant, arrogant, lonely boys who recognized the same sharpness and ambition in each other. In their senior year, a shared research interest in adrenaline, near-death experiences, and seemingly supernatural events reveals an intriguing possibility: that under the right conditions, someone could develop extraordinary abilities. But when their thesis moves from the academic to the experimental, things go horribly wrong.
Ten years later, Victor breaks out of prison, determined to catch up to his old friend (now foe), aided by a young girl whose reserved nature obscures a stunning ability. Meanwhile, Eli is on a mission to eradicate every other super-powered person that he can find—aside from his sidekick, an enigmatic woman with an unbreakable will. Armed with terrible power on both sides, driven by the memory of betrayal and loss, the archnemeses have set a course for revenge—but who will be left alive at the end?
Review: Unfortunately, I really struggled with this book. I loved V.E. Schwab’s A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy (I gave the second one, A Gathering of Shadows, a 5-star rating), and was extremely sad to be let down by Vicious. The main characters in Vicious appear as both the protagonist and antagonist, depending on how you look at them throughout different points in the story. As alluring as having two twisted main characters seems, neither grew on me and I just found them irksome. Character faults aside, there was simply no plot! I got halfway through the book and put it down for a week, because I was bored and fed-up!
Also: I decided against writing a review for any one of the books in the A Darker Shade of Magic trilogy. Nonetheless, I found the two main characters, Lila Bard and Kell Maresh, to both be one of the most well written and cleverly crafted pair of characters I have ever read about. This trilogy was pegged as an adult series, but there is no reason for it to be anything but YA, besides the fact that it is better written than most YA books.
HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN by: J.K. Rowling – #3 in the Harry Potter series *5/5 stars*
Summary: Harry Potter’s third year at Hogwarts is full of new dangers. A convicted murderer, Sirius Black, has broken out of Azkaban prison, and it seems he’s after Harry. Now Hogwarts is being patrolled by the dementors, the Azkaban guards who are hunting Sirius. But Harry can’t imagine that Sirius or, for that matter, the evil Lord Voldemort could be more frightening than the dementors themselves, who have the terrible power to fill anyone they come across with aching loneliness and despair. Meanwhile, life continues as usual at Hogwarts. A top-of-the-line broom takes Harry’s success at Quidditch, the sport of the Wizarding world, to new heights. A cute fourth-year student catches his eye. And he becomes close with the new Defense of the Dark Arts teacher, who was a childhood friend of his father. Yet despite the relative safety of life at Hogwarts and the best efforts of the dementors, the threat of Sirius Black grows ever closer. But if Harry has learned anything from his education in wizardry, it is that things are often not what they seem. Tragic revelations, heartwarming surprises, and high-stakes magical adventures await the boy wizard in this funny and poignant third installment of the beloved series.
Review: I just want it to be known (though it is probably already apparent) that I will never give a Harry Potter book anything less than a 5-star rating. That said, 5/5 stars is what this series deserves, and will always deserve.
I have talked plenty about my love of Harry Potter, but it has never been proved that I have read any of the books. For the record, I have been reading these books since I was seven, and I have read the series around 14 times, still counting. But back to HP 3. The Prisoner of Azkaban has always been a bit of a controversial read, as the movie made less money than all the others, and people have said that they don’t understand why others’ do not like it as much as the rest of the books. This HP is, personally, not my favourite (the fourth and sixth BOOKS are my favourite), but re-reading it was such a wonderful experience–as always, when re-reading a Harry Potter–and I am thrilled to say that not an ounce of my love for this book has disappeared. No matter what, I will always adore the Harry Potter books more than any other book or series.
SIMON VS. THE HOMO SAPIENS AGENDA by: Becky Albertalli – A novel *3/5 stars*
Summary: Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.
With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.
Review: This is the same scenario as it was for Speak: The concept is something that is gaining recognition through the book, which is fabulous, but the story, itself, is something I rather dislike. In both cases (although, the writing in this book is worse than in Speak), I wasn’t that entertained, but more so bored with the, don’t mind me saying, terrible writing. And let me tell you, I believe it is an extremely cheap move when authors reference Harry Potter (an astounding creation) in their books as a way to please readers. Like, no! Don’t do it!
THE GENTLEMAN’S GUIDE TO VICE AND VIRTUE by: Mackenzi Lee – #1 in The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue duology *4.5/5 stars*
Summary: Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men.
But as Monty embarks on his Grand Tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Review: This book has some quality romance between two male best friends, but the plot is plainly lacking. It is clear that the plot is merely a way to provide some action to the book; however, I found this story to be eloquently written and wonderfully diverse. Percy–a gay, biracial young man who suffers from epilepsy–and Monty–a self-deprecating young man born into a wealthy family–are both very much well-rounded characters. Felicity, Monty’s sister, is practically a Hermione (which I am entirely here for!); she is keen on studying medicine, even though she is a teenage girl living in the 18th century, and she is wonderfully book smart. However, as I got further into the book and was nearing the end, the story dragged on for me. Although the characters were excellent, I just wish the plot could have been, as well.
SCYTHE by: Neal Shusterman – #1 in the Arc of a Scythe series *4/5 stars*
Summary: Thou shalt kill.
A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.
Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own.
Review: I honestly was fascinated by the utopia–or, for some, dystopia–Sycthe takes place in. I loved the entire concept of this book, but the characters fell exceedingly flat for me. I found the problem lay with the two main characters, Citra and Rowan. For an author to craft two exceptionally intriguing main characters is, understandably, a challenge. Sadly enough, I found Neal Shusterman was unable to do that (at least, for me). Citra and Rowan felt extremely two-dimensional, both incapable of evoking any sort of emotion or interest. (And don’t even get me started on that utterly forced and unnatural romance that was going on between them.) All in all, the story lacked depth and quality in the characters–not the world, though; I found that very appealing–making me wonder if I should proceed to the next book in the series. Thunderhead (the second in the series) got incredibly high ratings on Goodreads, so I might check it out, as I’m curious as to why people love these books as much as they do.
CROOKED KINGDOM by: Leigh Bardugo – #2 in the Six of Crows duology *4.5/5 stars*
Summary: Welcome to the world of the Grisha.
Kaz Brekker and his crew of deadly outcasts have just pulled off a heist so daring even they didn’t think they’d survive. But instead of divvying up a fat reward, they’re right back to fighting for their lives.
Double-crossed and badly weakened, the crew is low on resources, allies, and hope. As powerful forces from around the world descend on Ketterdam to root out the secrets of the dangerous drug known as jurda parem, old rivals and new enemies emerge to challenge Kaz’s cunning and test the team’s fragile loyalties.
A war will be waged on the city’s dark and twisting streets – a battle for revenge and redemption that will decide the fate of the Grisha world.
Review: Truthfully, I was very confused throughout this book. I read and reviewed Six of Crows (I was just getting started with my blog, so my writing was badddd), and then I started to read Crooked Kingdom. For some reason, about seventy pages in, I lost interest and put it down. And then, around a year later, I picked it up again. Honestly, Leigh Bardugo is such a gem in the sea of nameless authors in the YA community; her prose is memorable and her characters are brilliant. But most importantly, using her platform, she brings awareness to real life crises in her fantasy books.
As I mentioned, I found the plot to be confusing (possibly because I picked this up a year later and was hurtled back into this daunting world…), but the characters saved me. Their voices are distinct, and their histories are compelling. This duology (comprising Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom) is one to revisit.
And last, but never least, we have…
HARRY POTTER AND THE PHILOSOPHER’S STONE by: J.K. Rowling – #1 in the Harry Potter series *5/5 stars*
Summary: When a letter arrives for unhappy but ordinary Harry Potter, a decade-old secret is revealed to him that apparently he’s the last to know. His parents were wizards, killed by a Dark Lord’s curse when Harry was just a baby, and which he somehow survived. Leaving his unsympathetic aunt and uncle for Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, Harry stumbles upon a sinister mystery when he finds a three-headed dog guarding a room on the third floor. Then he hears of a missing stone with astonishing powers, which could be valuable, dangerous – or both. An incredible adventure is about to begin!
Review: Revisiting the vast world of Harry Potter will for ever be magical.
*J.K. Rowling spells ‘forever’ like so: ‘for ever’.* For ever honouring Joanne’s existence and extraordinary creation.