Monday, April 9, 2018

March Reads // Ravens & The Dust Bowl

Happy Monday Friends! We are on our trip and having an awesome time! :) I hope that you  had a great weekend! Today is the best day, because it's time to talk about books!

Honor Bound by Brenda Novak

? Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical romance with quite a bit of action/adventure... however a caution that the ending may leave you disgruntled...

This story follows Jeanette, a young Frenchwoman living in England. She must marry to secure her family's fate during the war, and she must marry a much older man to do so. On her wedding night, she finds out that her husband has horrible things planned for her, and she flees. Taking refuge on a naval ship, she disguises herself as a boy in hopes of making it to her English relative in London. Lieutenant Treynor was a cabin boy once himself, and takes pity on the boy, but once he discovers that the cabin boy is in fact a woman he must decide whether to follow his instinct, or the rules of his job.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. It was action packed, it was steamy from time to time... I enjoyed that it took place mostly on a ship, I kind of have a thing for the pirates movies (disheveled Commodore Norrington, anyone?), and even though this is not about pirates.. I liked that setting quite a bit. There was a lot of good detail about life on a ship, duties for the ship's crew, historical details related to the war, etc. which I really appreciated. I liked the characters, though we never found out very much about Treynor's past. I liked Jeanette too, though it has moments where you roll your eyes, and go "Jeannette... why?! That's a dumb thing to do on a ship where you have no idea what's going on...!" - but she was also pretty brave, and tried to stick up for herself. I found the romance to be a wee bit questionable from time to time, mostly I think because the time period is very, "I own you because you're my wife"... but ... it wasn't too terrible. Then it just ended (SPOILER) like a Jane Austen novel, or an "inspirational romance".. they get married, and then the author skips the wedding night...! which I found super confusing... and mildly enraging after you know, 11 hours of reading... waiting for the characters to *finally* be together. To clarify, I love Austen, and I enjoy "inspirational romance"... but when you go to the trouble of describing A LOT of other romantic bits, and then don't give the readers the full thing...? Rude. Oy. I cannot even. So the story was good, but the ending fell flat for me. Blargh. I'm too frustrated to give this a rating.

The Raven Boys by Maggie Steifvater (The Raven Cycle 1)

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy mystery and fantasy. This is definitely a series where they are finding clues step by step.

Blue is the only non-psychic in her family, but she does make their visions stronger. They've told her that if she kisses her true love, he will die. She's avoided boys, especially Raven Boys from a prestigious private school, on principle. However, the Raven Boys are solving a mystical secret, and she might be able to help.

There are so many characters in this book, getting "into it" (granted while trying to do other things) was kind of difficult with so many characters. I struggled to get which boy was which, and figure out all of their stories within the first few chapters. AND the chapters switch perspective between the boys, Blue, and a professor at their school. Confusing! BUT once I did, I was pretty invested in it. I really LOVED Blue and her unusual living situation. I found it fascinating that she lived with her mother, aunts, and their friends, -- all psychics. How whimsical! However, I wish the plot would have spent more time on them! The plot given to the reader before starting the book is a little misleading. It's not very romantic, but maybe that comes in during another book in the series. I wanted more lady power... I mean I know it's called The Raven Boys... but... I was so into the crazy house of lady psychics and I want to know more about them! Hopefully in the coming books! So, I'd say if you like books where the characters are solving a mystical mystery, clue-by-clue, pick this series up! It's four books, all have been published.

Milk & Honey by Rupi Kaur

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy poetry, and are looking for something that will make you feel. This will make you feel ALL THE FEELINGS.

A collection of poetry and sketches divided by topic: love, breaking, healing, etc.

This was really hard for me to read. I think I was reading it while I was reading something else that was bumming me out. I put it down for several months and finally came back to it. These poems will definitely make you a little squirmy. Kaur doesn't hold back, and it's a bit of a shock sometimes. I found some of the poems to be lovely and relateable. I found some of them to be incredibly sad. Others were very brutal, and eye-opening. The whole collection will definitely make you think. Despite some extremely unsettling poems, and likely experiences, I appreciate that Kaur seemed to end the collection with a reminder to be kind, that we are stronger together as a community, etc. It was lovely, and needed more than ever. I also think she is incredibly brave for sharing these poems, it's a very raw way to share your life and feelings with the world. I've seen criticism that her poetry is quite a lot like Tumblr posts, I see where people are coming from, it is definitely a similar style of writing.. and some of the poems are just two lines long, but I don't feel that it's my job to define poetry. As an ex-art history major I can say that art can be anything, so why can't poetry?

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Steifvater (The Raven Cycle 2)

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy YA fantasy and have read the first book.

This book picks up where the first one left off. The search for Glendower continues.

I never like to give spoilers about series, so I won't say too much... but I enjoyed this sequel. There were some things that I liked more than the first book, and other things that I liked less. I liked that you figure out more about the mysteries within Cabeswater and related to Glendower. I liked that the characters are more developed. I liked that there is more plot related to Blue and her family/roomies. However, I did not enjoy all of the ridiculous wealthy boy nonsense. Racing cars, blowing up cars, excessive drug usage, etc. etc. I sometimes loved Ronan when he was vulnerable or really brave... and other times he was SO ANNOYING. I don't know.. In the end I'm struggling to decide if I liked it more or less, so I'll rate it the same. This one didn't leave off on a cliff hanger, so I wasn't dying to read the next one, but I went ahead and started it anyway so I won't forget what's going on.

Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Steifvater (The Raven Cycle 3)

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy YA fantasy and have read the other books.

This book picks up where the first one left off. The search for Glendower continues.

I like this book better than the others, there is a lot more focus on the relationships between the characters. I also feel like the action of the story is finally getting closer to the end goal... whereas the first two seemed a little bit "fight against people who are getting in your way.." I enjoyed learning more about the ladies in the story as well. This one left off on slightly more of a cliffhanger. Still not feeling the strong pull to keep going other than my own person preference to binge entire series.

Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy historical fiction, and depictions of great struggle and growth.

This book is written in verse and tells the story of Billie Jo and her family's struggle through the dust bowl in rural Oklahoma during the great depression.

This was required reading for many I went to school with, I somehow was not assigned to read it. I had my mind made up that it would be very boring, but I really enjoyed reading this book. I thought that I would dislike that it is written in verse, but I liked that too. I love reading stories where the characters are struggling through an unimagineable time, but show so much strength. I felt very immersed in the story, especially for how short of a book it is. I definitely learned about the dust bowl quite a bit as well. I highly recommend if you enjoy moving historical fiction.

Technically finished in April:

Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy novels with multiple plot lines that weave together.

This book follows Adri in the year 2065 as she gets accepted to prestigious program to colonize Mars. She must move to Kansas to live with her long-lost (and last) relative 107 year old Lily, while she trains for her expedition. Adri begrudgingly gets to know Lily, and her past as she discovers a diary from the 1930s during the dust bowl, and letters from 1919. She must piece together the stories of brave women from each time period to know her own, and Lily's history.

At first I thought that this book was fun and intriguing, but boy it packed a punch too. For one thing, I was totally immersed in each time period as I read their stories. Once you get far enough into the book, the stories of the different women start to intertwine, and it all makes sense in the end. I loved the variation in characters and how they each chose their own paths. I also loved Galapagos, the tortoise, who made an appearance throughout the entire book. (what a perfect idea!) The ending had me in a puddle of both tears and emotions. It was so satisfying. but tugged at my heart strings as well.

Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy contemporary fiction with a bit of romance and adventure.

Helen is 32, newly divorced, lonely, and owns the meanest dog in existence. She signs up for a wilderness course in order to find herself and start a new chapter in her life. When she finds out that her brother's annoying best friend, Jake, is also going on the trip she's less than excited. As the two set off on their journey she'll realize he's not so annoying anymore. Along the way she'll make friends, find success and failure, and re-kindle family relationships.

I wasn't sure how much of a romance this would be, and it turns out only somewhat. I think this book was nice and fluffy and positive, BUT it also had quite a few more emotional issues going on as well. It was a really nice balance. I loved the wilderness element of this book, it was fun, funny, and exciting to read as I went along. I quite liked Jake and Helen. I liked that there was quite a bit of (what seems to me) actual backpacking and wilderness information in the book. The descriptions, situations, etc. seemed well-researched and interesting. I liked that this book also focused on Helen's journey of self discovery, her relationships with her family, and with fellow backpackers too. I thought that the ending was a little bit choppy, and I wanted a bit more of the romance, but I overall really liked this this book.

Pestilence by Laura Thalassa (The Four Horseman 1)

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy paranormal romance. Major emphasis on *ROMANCE*.

The world is ending, the four horseman have come to earth. The first horseman, Pestilence, is making his way across North America spreading a vicious plague. Sara is a firefighter who's picked to stay behind and kill Pestilence while the rest of her city escapes. After thoroughly killing him, she finds that he is not dead... and quite angry with her. He takes her prisoner as he spreads plague through the rest of the country. The two form an unlikely bond. Shenanigans and steamy situations ensue.

Holy Toledo, I feel the sudden need to start a rating for how steamy a book is. This book would be 5/5 flames. Let's start by saying, this story is 85% romance, so I would not pick it up unless you're wanting something like that. This book obviously follows the "hate to love" trope, and I feel like Thalassa does it really well. I have only read a few romance novels, but I feel like this story works. Do I love fantasy? Yes. Do I love incredible world building? Yes. Did this book have a lot of those things? Not really. Am I mad about it? No. I think it's totally fine that this book focuses on the romance, but again, don't pick it up if the lack of these things will bother you. I loved Sara and Pestilence. I thought there was a lot of character development. I enjoyed the contrast of the heart breaking bits about the plague victims. I thought the ending was a little bit choppy, but I haven't been satisfied with many endings lately... so do what you will with that. The epilogue is cliff-hanger-y, I'm intrigued to see where the series will go... especially with a little bit of a time gap between books.

There you have it, tons and tons of books! If you want to see my spring & summer reading bucket list, check that out too! :)

Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books tomorrow. :) 

What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



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