Book review (March 2016)

A new month has started, which means that I need to give you an overview of my reading challenge and some reviews of the books I read last month. At of the end of March I am still on track to reach my goal of 50 read books by the end of 2016. Currently, I am a little behind because I decided to tackle a large book last week, so I wasn’t able to tick off 6 books this month. However, I think 5 books is a good number and I know I will be able to get back on track with some easier reads after this one. But for now, let’s have a look at what I read last month.

Natsuo Kirino – Grotesque
Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse
Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth
Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian
Cassandra Clare – Lady Midnight

I didn’t read as much of a mix last month. I was enjoying my YA kick too much to stop it just yet. I only read one book, the first one, that was not YA and that coincidentally was also my least favorite read in the bunch. And yes, your eyes do not deceive you: I bought and read Cassandra Clare’s latest Shadow Hunter installment Lady Midnight and thoroughly enjoyed it. Towards the end of the month I finished reading the Percy Jackson series and as much as I wanted to delve right into the spin off series, I decided to pick up something different for my first read to be finished in April. I am currently reading Lev Grossman’s The Magicians. On to the reviews!

Natsuo Kirino – Grotesque

Two prostitutes are murdered in Japan. Both were educated at a highly prestigious highschool, Q university. How did they come to choose a fate that would lead them to be killed? What are their differences and their similarities? And what does Yuriko’s imminent beauty have to do with it? And why did Kazue want to follow in her footsteps so desperately? The story is Told from the perspective of the unreliable narrator who happens to be Yuriko’s unnamed sister. She twists facts to suit her version of the story at every turn. She notices the littlest of things about people and thinks herself far superior than her sister, clueless hanger-on Kazue and overachiever Mitzue, but in the end she concludes that everyone is simply flawed because that’s human nature.

This book was grim, dark and bleak. I mostly finish all my books and read the whole thing through. This one I failed miserably at: after 2/3 I skipped about 1/5 of the book just to get on to the ending and finish it. Don’t get me wrong, it is an interesting book, but it just wasn’t my cup of tea. After the book admitting to itself that about 50 pages or so had been ‘boring’ about 2/3 of the way in, I decided to skim the rest and read the ending instead. If you want to read a book that will have you lose all faith in mankind for a minute of two, then this will be a great read. If you are not into long character descriptions, depictions and minute dissections of their reasons, motives and morals, then I suggest you stay away from this.

Cassandra Clare – Lady Midnight

Emma Carstairs is convinced her parents were not murdered by Sebastian Morgenstern in the Dark War. Their bodies just didn’t fit the pattern, but then who did? In the mean time it is all Julian Blackthorn can do to try and hold his family together. And when a bunch of fairies show up to make a deal that involves his brother Mark coming back from the Wild Hunt, in exchange for solving the murders happening all over LA (and which happen to be very similar to Emma’s murdered parents), he faces a tough decision. Collaborating with the fairies means breaking the Cold Peace and in a world where it’s difficult to trust anyone, Emma and Julian find themselves drawn to each other in ways that aren’t right…. Because they are parabatai.

After that dark and heavy read, I was in for something light and breezy. And I knew that Lady Midnight would be published in early March. So I went and grabbed copy. If you liked the Mortal Instruments and Infernal Devices series by Cassandra Clare set in the same realm where Shadowhunters try to ward the world from demons while collaborating with Downworlders, then this is for you. Like the other books by Cassandra Clare I take issue with some of the writing style as it isn’t the most stellar writing ever. This book has moments where all I could do was let out a big sigh of annoyance with the characters. However, this novel is a great start to a series, is filled with action and gives even more insight into the Shadowhunter world. Of all the books in the saga so far, I felt this had the best fleshed out characters by far. If like me, you are into young adult fantasy that cleverly fuses angels, demons, warlocks, fairies, vampires and werewolves into one story about love, friendship,  loyalty and family with a good deal of action thrown into the mix, you’ll love this.

Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Titan’s Curse

Percy Jackson is back! In the third adventure of the series Percy is sent on a quest to rescue twins Nico & Bianca. Unfortunately their Dean of Studies happens to be a monster who ends up kidnapping Annabeth right from under their noses. Even with the goddess Artemis and her hunters pitching in, the beast flees with Annabeth hanging off his back. And so a quest for saving Annabeth is to be undertaken. However, Percy can’t go on this quest because he’s a boy, so he decided to sneak in, gets one of his mates killed in the process, befriends a mortal with The Sight who saves him for an army of zombies and fights off a Titan. All in a day’s work really…

I liked this book as it gave you some more back story to some of the other characters besides Percy. We finally get to meet Annabeth’s crazy and slightly off kilter dad as well as the fearless Thalia, daughter of Zeus. It introduces more Greek gods into the realm such as Apollo, Aphrodite and Artemis, who have been mentioned, but haven’t truly played a role up to this point. We are also introduced to some new minor characters that make the story more lively and who end up playing a bigger role later on in the books. All in all a good third book in a 5 part series as it builds the bridges it has to build, but therefore it can be a tad slow on the action at times.

Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth

The fourth book in the Percy Jackson series revolves around Daedalus’ Labyrinth. Slowly but surely Percy and his fellow campers figure out that Luke knows about an entry into the Labyrinth from the camp, meaning that the enemy army could just set foot onto the camp grounds whenever they like. In order to stop them from doing so Percy must enter the Labyrinth himself and find the ancient inventor to try and stop the worst from happening, while Grover gets a final deadline for finding Pan. Will they be in time to not only have Grover meet his deadline, but also to prevent the worst from happening and keep the enemy at bay?

This would have to be my favorite book in the series. The Labyrinth setting adds a good deal of mystery and many Greek myths have been weaved into the story line again (I thought the third book was a bit thin on that). From Icarus who falls from the sky, to Hercules’ 5th labor of cleaning the Augean Staples: a few well known stories are made part of the plotline once again, giving a twist to the story that makes you understand some of the characters’ motivation better and just adds a little something extra to the story. Plus I fell a tiny bit in love with Mrs. O’Leary: the world’s only domesticated hell hound.

Rick Riordan – Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian

For the final installment Percy starts off having had a fairly normal year for a half blood. However, his 16th birthday is coming up and this means his prophecy is about to be fulfilled. But what does it mean exactly? And was it a good idea for Percy to bathe in the River Styx? More importantly: can Luke aka Kronos aka Evil-Titan-Rising-from-the-Dead be defeated now that his army is invading Manhattan while the Gods are trying to demolish their nemesis? In order to solve these puzzles Percy has to come to understand not only himself but also the motivation of others.

To me, this book was the quickest read in the series. It also helped that I had a long weekend with very few plans ahead of me and thus I spend a full evening on the couch finishing this up. The final battle is epic, the run on towards it not too dreadful (I hate it when books draw it out too much and cram all the action into the final 2 pages, yes I am talking to you Hunger Games) and of course there is an exhilarating conclusion to it all with a few plot twists that make sense and round things off nicely. In short, a good conclusion to a great YA series that keeps the middle ground between action packed fighting scenes, a dry sense of humor, a hint of romance and Greek mythology.

Those were my reads last month, what were yours?

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