The month of April was another good reading month for me. I think it may be my best one yet. At one point this month, I was 2 books ahead of schedule for my 50 book reading challenge. This month’s reading list wasn’t very diverse. I read two stories that involved a haunted house, one more traditional and one more modern and well, let’s just say different. I read two young adult fantasy novels and finally a book about a school for magicians. These are the reviews!
Last month’s reads… What were yours?
Lev Grossman – The Magicians
Quentin is just your average nerdy student with high grades. He’s had talent all his life, but never quite felt fulfilled. He’s had the same friends since childhood as they were the only kids in the neighborhood with the same IQ. Until Quentin and his friend James go to his Princeton interview. They find the interviewee dead and next thing you know Quentin is transported through a portal to a mysterious school for an entry exam. He finds out he is at Brakebills: THE school for magic in North America. Quentin quickly makes up his mind and decides to stay. Having been obsessed with the magic land of Fillory from the books he read as a kid, he thinks magic will be the end to his miserable little life. But is it?
At first you might think this book is another take on Harry Potter. The recipe of magic + boarding school makes it easy to draw that conclusion. However, you wouldn’t do this book justice if you did. The magic system in this book isn’t one for heroics: anyone who is decidedly apt at it in this book either hides it, went insane, or tries to suppress it. Rather than about the magic itself, it is about one boy’s journey into adulthood that goes with any aspect of adolescent life comes with. From taking responsibility for your actions and decisions to standing up for those you love: Quentin has trouble making the right choices which makes him relatable, yet irritable at the same time. And that went for the rest of this book as well. It sometimes dwindles down as Quentin hits rock bottom in one way or another, and at times it picks up when he feels any form of excitement. The moments of excitement are scattered throughout the book, making this a good read, but nothing too outstanding. It is a clever book, but its need to try and round everything up at the end while skipping over other elements that seemed more interesting to me, made me feel a little so-so in the end.
Helen Oyeyemi – White is for Witching
Miranda Silver is a little bit more than your average troubled teenager. Suffering from pica (a disorder that makes one eat merely non-food items), she sees visions of her dead mother and other female ancestors while slowly wasting away to her disease. At the same time her twin brother Eliot tries to get away from it all, while her dad is just obsessed with making everything normal again. When she befriends Ore, invites her over to her house and that’s when the craziness really hits the fan. Because the house that Miranda lives in, is a monster, but you have to be a female Silver to see the evilness that lurks inside.
This book was mind-boggling for two reasons. For one it is dark and disturbing as it deals with serious mental illness. Miranda wears only black which seems to be a metaphor for a black hole: everything that comes near her is pretty much destroyed. Secondly, this book’s narration leaves you backtracking to see who is talking. The story is written beautifully. There is a certain rhythm and tone to the writing that makes this novel almost poetic. However, there are hardly any clear chapters, there are three narrators, each one of them unreliable (and one of them is a house that is up to no good) and the book is written in such a way that the prose simply flows together. This book is like one tight coil that only grips you tighter and tighter, but by the time it lets you go in the end, you come up for air only to think: ‘what the hell was that?’
Sarah J. Maas – Crown of Midnight
Celeana is back! After being crowned The King’s Champion she reluctantly sets out to do the King’s bidding. But does she? As she continues to receive assignments to kill noblemen opposing the King’s cause, Celeana choses to rebel in her own way. Whether that is the smartest of choices, Celeana finds out the hard way. With her friends either dying or betraying her, she desperately tries to hide the dark secret within. Finally we get to see Celeana in her element. Where Throne of Glass merely hinted at her assassin abilities, Crown of Midnight much more reveals of who Celeana is. It explains why she makes the choices she makes, as she learns who her real enemies are.
I thought this was yet again a very enjoyable read. The narrative is fast paced and because of the action sequences actually being played out it’s a much more exhilarating tale. It is a tad slow at times though as Celeana weeds through a hazy maze of puzzles, but the action packed killing scenes make up for that. This book is clearly a set up for what is to come in Heir of Fire as it has a very open ending with a promise of Celeana’s next adventure. For a book that merely serves the purpose of character development, this is a fast-paced, thrilling read that sometimes lugs about.
John Boyne – This House is Haunted
It is 1867 and Eliza Caine finds herself moving to the Norwich countryside after her father passes away. In Gaudlin Hall, she expects to find a loving family awaiting her help as a governess to two children. But when she arrives, the master of the house is not there. And when she discovers that the person who placed the advert in the newspaper was the previous governess, who couldn’t get away fast enough, things grow more and more mysterious. When Eliza demands answers from the villagers, she is met with secrecy and distance. Slowly but surely Eliza starts putting the puzzle together, but what will it cost her to find out the truth?
This novel promises to be a classic haunted house ghost story. And honestly, I quite like those. This isn’t one of those metaphoric stories, where the house and its hauntings are the critique of a deeper layer. Which is a good thing. The not so good thing about this book is its main character and narrator Eliza. She appears fretful, naive and downright silly at times. As her plight becomes clearer, her character becomes a bit more solid, but still leaves space for petty thoughts and an ingrained innocence the reader is lead to believe was common to the Victorian period. However, the setting is not consistent in its Victorian aspects nor its eeriness. Some facts are simply untrue of the Victorian period as they are far too modern or old fashioned for the time period the novel is set in. For instance, where there is a thick fog which clouds the house in the distance from Eliza’s view, she is capable to open up her curtains and look over the grounds upon her arrival (a timespan of 15 minutes or so). A book that gets better if you can ignore these types of slip ups.
Victoria Aveyard – Red Queen
Mare Barros is a lowly Red. Destined for a life of poverty and despair. Her sister Gisa was lucky: she’s an apprentice which pretty much assures her of a job. Mare wasn’t so lucky and therefore knows that, just a few weeks shy of her 18th birthday, she will be conscripted to join the armed forces to fight the never ending war of the Silvers: rulers of all and near gods. Silvers have what the Reds don’t have: power and abilities. From the power to control different elements to the ability to disappear or mold metal at the whisk of a wrist. But then a chance of luck has Mare pickpocket the wrong guy and from that moment onwards her life is trust into tailspin.
I wasn’t sure what to expect going into this book. Some of the reviews I saw said this was tropy and just another standard YA fantasy story. Perhaps it’s because I haven’t read a lot of fantasy that the tropes aren’t that bothersome to me, but I absolutely adored this. I read this from cover to cover within a day. The narrative is fast-paced, there is tons of action, there are plot twists (albeit on the predictable side) and overall I really just enjoyed this. The characters are fairly well fleshed out. They are believable enough to make the story work and Mare works well as the Red who becomes a reluctant Silver princess. This story is for you if you are interested in a read that fuses the wit of Celeana from Throne of Glass with the bravery of Trish in Divergent, with a sprinkle of the dystopian heroine status of Katniss from the Hunger Games.
What should I read this month? Any suggestions?