A thought just occurred to me: if I continue numbering these Stack of Books posts indefinitely, we could rack up some serious numbers . . .
Anyhoo! Books are the primary reason I’m here. Reading them. Writing them. Giving them the appropriate attention they deserve. All the things. Which brings us to what I’ve been reading lately (because I’ve been doing far more reading of books than writing of books of late. I should probably do something about that . . .)
About half of the books on this list I finished in 2020, while the other half make up what I’ve been reading since January (I know, kinda obvious). So far I’ve got a whopping 6 books down in my yearly Goodreads Reading Challenge – 2 books ahead of schedule for my 50book goal. Am I trying to give myself a bit of a buffer for the anticipated business of the summer when I might not be reading a lot? Maybe. Am I ashamed of it?
No. No, not really.
So many stories. So little time.
Speaking of, why don’t we dive in?
A Warden’s Purpose — This was an interesting twist on a Harry Potter-ish fantasy-ish spy thriller. I instantly loved how it opens with a mysterious kidnapping and interrogation. Evidently, that made the majority of the book backstory, with little snippets here and there to remind us that the characters-at-present are giving their life story in cold, dark cells. By the end we catch up to the present and start moving forward, which was a relief. I thought it was an interesting layout and fairly effective, if not a bit drawn out. The plot itself also has merit, I mean, ‘fantasy spy thriller’, am I right? And the fact that the primary main character is handicapped (which is something we don’t see very often), which gave the story and his particular perspective an unique edge. The action scenes are detailed, and the red herrings well done – I had my suspicions, and was pleasantly thrown for a loop at the Big Reveal. However, the overall writing felt a little . . . under baked. Certain phrases were obnoxiously redundant, and Quinn’s emotions felt flat, like I had no idea what she was feeling until she suddenly called someone out aggressively or abruptly burst into sobs. I’m intrigued by the whole ‘age of inventions’ blended with magic concept, but I’m excited enough to pursue the series further.
Dawn of Vengeance — Wow. Just, wow. What a stellar continuation of the story laid out in Brand of Light. Everything just got way more intense. Danger. Stakes. Emotional drama. Really, y’all. There’s just so much going on in this book, it’s like a plot squid, and all those tentacles are waving around, slowly coming to a head, and then BAM— everything comes together, tearing you up with its vicious little beak. Weird analogy? Probably. But truly, the story is so well woven together, building and building until you get to the end and you’re like, “Are you slagging scuzzing me?” Replete with savage wildmen, political mazes, (clean (mostly)) romance, swords, spaceships, aliens— Oh, my! So good. And that ending, y’all. That ending.
Songkeeper— A fantastic sequel to Orphan’s Song. I really do enjoy the characters, and this one has even more to love! Well, maybe not that one in particular . . . But the writing is great, the plot exciting, the dangers dark, the sacrifices bitter, betrayals even more so, the ending superb—! Just a whole lot of YES. I mean, who wouldn’t want to cross the desert on the back of a LION?
The Princess Bride — I saw the movie first. In my experience, either you love it, or hate you hate it. I loved it, and have been wanting to read the book ever since. Fast forward to Christmas 2020, I received an absolutely gorgeous hardback copy. Like most, I’ve been puzzled over whether or not S. Morgenstern actually existed, and that Goldman really did only abridge the original. The novel is written as such, replete with notes concerning the abridgement. The fact that it’s all, in truth, a fabrication is dazzling and attests to what an absolutely genius work this book is. I already loved the story and characters, but reading this has only bolstered my conviction that Westley, Buttercup, Inigo, and Fezzik are among the best folks in fiction. Absolutely timeless. In a word: delightful.
Song of Leira — A sweeping conclusion to the Songkeeper trilogy, to be sure. This book had such depth of despair and hope, desolation and renewal, and I could appreciate how much Birdie and Ky struggled with compassion, grace, and rage in the face of so much evil, portraying well the tumultuous and conflicting emotions of war and slavery. The story itself was awash with monsters, mayhem, and magic, all carried on the threads of a song slowly building to a wild and triumphant crescendo.
Seventh City — This book was deliciously different, set in a fantasy-ish Alaskan-esque frontier with adventure and elements of survival, which are genres I love and am really getting into, respectively. Also, it’s about a brother and sister, which is a dynamic I don’t get enough of. Hayse does a brilliant job with the worldbuiling, and Maki’s voice is so interesting and relatable to read. This is a book I will enjoy reading again.
The Ravenmaster’s Secret — When it comes to middle grade books, I find myself leaning toward historical fiction. Not on purpose, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. This one is set in the Tower of London, 1735, and follows the adventures of one of the prison guard’s sons and his friends. It’s a tale of growing up, courage, sacrifice, and making the hard decisions between doing what is right and what is safe. I loved the characters, and the world itself was vivid in the culture of the times. It has wild imaginations, espionage, vengeful ravens, and sheep trotters. And one of the very best kinds of endings.
An Act of Faith — I was super excited about this book, had it rotating on the top of my TBR pile for a couple months before finally getting into it. Well. Long story short: it wasn’t great. The cover is drop-dead gorgeous. The concept of seafaring elves was fascinating. And that’s about where the allure ended. The story has so much potential, but it sort of got lost in too much worldbuilding (or at least poorly executed worldbuilding), unpolished writing, and a very confusing formatting. Because yes, presentation matters. I couldn’t really get into it; that immersive experience eluded me as though I were reading an early draft (and with all the appendices on Elvin nations, clans, bloodlines, and lore, I think a pronunciation guide would have been most beneficial, too). With more work it could be a true epic, but as-is it feels rough. Unfinished.
School for Sidekicks — This was a romp of a story. Both an ode to and a parody of superhero stories everywhere, complete with corny handles, cheesy one-liners, wild powers, futuristic tech, and imminent alien invasions. It was fun and witty with great characters (loved Foxman and his sugar-high chinwagging), and above all, it made me laugh. A good deal. Which means it automatically gets brownie points. Of course, it’s not all light and fluffy. The MC’s biggest hero turns out to be an egotistical jerkface, Foxman is a recovering alcoholic, and—of course— the agency controlling the supers (or metas, in this case) is morally questionable. But the grit gives the story credence, and it’s a good balance to have hardships with your humor. And I mean, who isn’t curious about a class called Combat with Dinnerware?
And that’s about where I’m at! Have you read any of these? What did you think of them? Do any of them interest you? Which ones? What have you been reading lately? I’m curious!