Reading Round-Up: February 2020

It’s the end of another month, so let’s talk books! This is mainly a way for me to write down some thoughts on the things I’ve read and what I really liked. There are potential spoilers, so proceed with caution (I haven’t written anything yet, so I can’t be 100% sure). I also completely forgot about this post for a little bit, so onward!

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater

As I mentioned in my January post, I have several friends who love The Raven Cycle. I wasn’t there after book one and was on my way after book two, but I devoured Blue Lily, Lily Blue over one hot Sydney weekend. The only things I remember about that weekend are the heat and reading this book. I love how the story ramps up, with new villains (Piper is amazing) and Jesse Dittley is one of my favourite characters.

Partly because of all the other library books I had on hold, but also because I didn’t want to get through them too quickly, I’m taking a break before I read The Raven King. I’m not ready for this series to be over yet, and I know there’s another one as well. I might have to do a quick recap before I read it though.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi

I think I might’ve powered through this one a little too quickly, as it was one of the many library ebooks I had on reserve that had people waiting for it. Children of Blood and Bone was one of my favourite reads in 2019, so I was looking forward to this one. The return of magic isn’t simple; the tyrant is dead, but the overarching government structure remains. How do you fix structural inequality? I was surprised at how this book ended, but I liked it.

The Diamond of Darkhold by Jeanne DuPrau

The Books of Ember are a lovely series that I’d never heard of until I watched the failed adaptation of The City of Ember. This is a series where the apocalypse happened, at least two centuries ago. No one quite remembers what happened, but society is rebuilding. Progress is being made, even though it’s not easy. A lot of post-apocalyptic fiction is grimdark, and there are moments of darkness in this series, but it’s ultimately about hope. I wasn’t expecting to find it so special when I saw the okay adaptation of the first book, but I’m glad I did.

You Don’t Own Me, by Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke

This is the latest in Mary Higgins Clark and Alafair Burke’s Under Suspicion series, and possibly the last as Mary passed away earlier this year. This is one where I feel like listening to an audiobook made it less enjoyable. This series is a light read, and I’d read the physical copies of all the other books. I enjoy them, but I get through them quickly. I guess I could’ve sped up the audio, but I don’t like doing that. These books are well-plotted and I like the television aspect of them (of course), but the bad (and sometimes predictable prose) really stuck out in audio format.

The Scorpio Races, by Maggie Stiefvater

I’ve caught the audiobook bug. Right now I’m not listening to any audiobooks and finding that I have a lot of time to listen to podcasts. I borrowed The Scorpio Races because I didn’t have an audiobook to listen to at the time. So far it’s the best book I’ve read this year. My friend Tasia described it as “quietly beautiful,” and she’s right. Based on the myth of the Celtic water horse, The Scorpio Races is set on Thisby, a fictional island where water horses race on the first of November every year. But there’s so much more to it than a simple race. People risk their lives for the races, which are also Thisby’s biggest source of income. Women have never ridden in the races before. There’s so much going on and I loved every minute of it.

Little Fires Everywhere, by Celeste Ng

I read this book in two days, partly because it’s very readable and partly because I had to return it to the library the following week. I read this as part of a book club ahead of the Hulu show’s this month (no Australian release date yet), and I loved it. I’m pretty sure the discussion will be this week, so it’ll be good to see. A small, suburban drama set in the real town of Shaker Heights, Ohio, I didn’t expect to be so taken away by this story. It asks questions that don’t have easy answers, and I look forward to watching the show.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

I liked a lot about this book. Taylor Jenkins Reid knows a lot about Hollywood, which shows in her story about a golden age movie star who had seven husbands. From listening to You Must Remember This, I recognised the way Hollywood works, and I could imagine Evelyn Hugo clearly. I thought the emotion of the book worked really well, but there was a twist towards the end that didn’t really work for me. I was so close to giving it five stars, but it just fell short.

Aquicorn Cove, by Katie O’Neill

I picked this book up in 2018, not long after I moved to Sydney. In mid-November, I flew down to Melbourne for a weekend because I missed my family. I dropped into my favourite comic book shop and caught up with some of the staff, ultimately buying this book. Katie is from New Zealand and I met her in 2017 when the comic book shop held a special meeting of its (sadly now ended) Women’s Comic Book Club to launch The Tea Dragon Society. Katie’s books are beautifully drawn and written. Aquicorn Cove is about a young girl who goes back to her mother’s town to help rebuild after a storm. She ends up saving an aquicorn from a rock pool and discovers a new world underwater. In a style that’s appropriate for all ages, Katie created a story about caring for the ocean and the environment. As with most of her stories, there’s a queer element, but it’s not commented on. It just exists, which is nice. Reading it reminded me of how much I loved The Tea Dragon Society and I need to get that second book.

All the Crooked Saints, by Maggie Stiefvater

I was maybe 75% of the way through this audiobook when I was walking to the bus stop to go to work and saw ads for American Dirt plastered across a train. I love everything in this book, but it only occurred to me towards the end of reading it that it’s another story about Mexican people told by a white person. The writing is beautiful, and there’s not a lot of plot, but I’m okay with that. Thom Rivera is also a fantastic narrator, and his Latino background made the audiobook work. I’m thinking about #ownvoices more this year, and making sure I’m more conscious of which books I choose to read and who wrote them.

Gotham Academy, Vol. 1 & 2, by Becky Cloonan, Brenden Fletcher and Karl Kerschl

When I logged the first volume of this comic series on Goodreads (I had to reread it because the only thing I could remember was Damian Wayne showing up at the end), I realised it had been two years since I read it originally. I bought volume 2 in either 2018 or 2019, so I needed to catch up. This series is so much fun. Boarding school, gothic vibes and people making unlikely friends when they team up to solve mysteries! I liked the progression of the story in volume 2, and I’m going to make sure I don’t leave another two years before I read the next one.