Despite spending the past two months two books behind schedule, I managed to have a pretty damn good reading month. Granted, most of the content was middle-of-the-road, but beggars can’t be choosers. This month I finished eight books and three graphic novels, adding up to a grand total of eleven things read this month. I also made a sizable dent in three other books, but they won’t make it on this month’s list. And now, let’s get this show on the road!
The first book I read was The Last Magician by Lisa Maxwell.
This story follows Esta, a mage with the ability to stop time. Using a special artifact, she travels through time, stealing other priceless artifacts for her boss and the man who raised her. After an incident that almost ends in disaster, Esta is sent back to the 1920s in order to join a heist and steal a book of magic. She must seamlessly integrate herself into Dolph Saunders’ gang and find The Magician. But complications arise when Harte Darrigan, rogue and social climber, gets involved. It’s a great introduction to a series I’m excited to continue. I love Harte and his chemistry with Esta. Their dynamic reminded me so much of Han and Leia’s. While I wish there was more heisting in the book, it still took a lot of turns I didn’t expect. The characters were endearing and the plot exciting. I gave this one four out of five stars.
The second book I read was Because You Love You Hate Me: 13 Tales of Villainy edited by Ameriie.
This is a collection of short stories written by many of YA’s biggest authors about villains. I had high hopes for this book, but I hate to say it let me down. Most of the stories were all right and a few were total stinkers. The only ones I really loved were Victoria Schwab’s (because of course I did) and Andrew Smith’s. I just didn’t find many of these villains to be… villainous. In fact, most of these stories were prequels. As a lover of villains, this book just didn’t do it for me. I gave it three out of five stars.
The next book I read was The Merciless by Danielle Vega.
This book follows Sofia Flores, an army brat who just moved to a town called Friend. When the popular girls take her in, she feels welcome. But then she discovers they believe their classmate Brooklyn to be possessed. What follows is a night of horror that Sofia would do anything to escape. But can she? This book was a quick, yet intense read. I’d say it’s probably good for teens who are just getting into horror. While not the most well-written, the plot keeps you on the edge of your seat. I devoured this book in about two sittings. Heads up, though: these books can get pretty graphic. Do not read them if you have any triggers involving body horror. I gave it three out of five stars.
I continued on with the series, reading The Merciless II: The Exorcism of Sofia Flores.
This book takes place six months after the events of the previous one. Sofia is haunted by what happened with her friends, but she hasn’t yet known horror. When her mother dies unexpectedly, she is sent to a Catholic boarding school. There she meets Jude who she can’t help but be attracted to. Things seem to be looking up until she spills her past to him and he becomes convinced she is possessed. This time it’s Sofia in the hot seat and she’d do anything to get out— even kill. I can’t decide if I like this one better than the first or not. I will say that I think the focus on Sofia’s sins is in the wrong place. The whole time her big sin is that she’s attracted to her friend’s crush, as if she didn’t just take part in the actual torture of a teenage girl six months prior. All-in-all, it was still a fun read and Sofia’s story came to the only ending it could. I also gave this one three out of five stars.
Next I read The Merciless III: Origins of Evil, finishing up the series.
This book is (I assume) the final book in the series and is a prequel. It follows Brooklyn and tells the story of how she came to be possessed. When Brooklyn receives a call from a terrified girl on her teen help line, she finds herself swept into the dark doings of the local Christian youth group. Meanwhile, she becomes impossibly attracted to the preacher’s son, Gavin. But everything is not as it seems and Brooklyn soon realizes she is in far more danger than she ever thought. While I liked this book the best in the series, it still was just okay. And, let me just say, Danielle Vega’s threshold for what constitutes the “potential for evil” is alarming. Brooklyn is always helping people and the only bad thing she’d done up to the point when the demon started targeting her was shoplift lipstick a couple times. Since when is that the road to evil? Anyway, I also gave this one three out of five stars.
The sixth book I read was The Princess Diarist by Carrie Fisher.
This book is Carrie’s most recent (and sadly, final) memoir. It discusses her life during the filming of A New Hope. She talks about a lot of things, from the audition process to Carrison to the resulting fame. I really liked this little window into Carrie’s life, but I thought it would be funnier. Carrie had such a great sense of humor, I’d hoped that would be reflected on the page. She also spent an inordinate amount of time on her affair with Harrison Ford. I get that it was something that changed her and she’d never really talked about it before, but it got tiresome after a while. The parts I really enjoyed were the excerpts from the diary she kept at the time. It was all very lyrical and metaphorical, even when she wasn’t writing poetry. This was easily my favorite aspect of the book. In the end, I decided to give it a four out of five.
After finishing that, I was still in a memoir mood, so I read Scrappy Little Nobody by Anna Kendrick.
This book documents Anna’s life in the acting world so far. It also gives us a peek behind the curtain, catching glimpses of her personal and love life. Anna’s humor was perfectly captured in her personal essays. I could easily hear her voice in my head while I was reading. I also learned not only a lot about her, but a lot about the industry. It was a fascinating and strangely relatable read. I would definitely read her work again, if she ever decided to put something else out. I gave it four out of five stars.
Next I finally finished The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon.
Believe it or not, I originally started this book in 2016. I read the bulk of it this year though, so it’s pretty fresh in my mind. This novel follows Paige Mahoney, a clairvoyant who can walk in dreams. When she gets captured by the government, she is sent to a work camp run by mysterious creatures called Rephaim. Paige would do anything to escape, even with the surprisingly gentle Warden as her teacher. The beginning of this book is very heavy with world-building and unfamiliar terms. It’s very difficult and confusing to read at first. The story doesn’t start getting interesting until Paige starts living with Warden, about a third of the way into the book. The plot itself is just okay, but Paige and Warden make it worth reading. I will definitely be continuing this series. I gave this one three out of five stars.
I then went on a graphic novel binge, starting with Ms. Marvel, Vol. 1: No Normal by G. Willow Wilson.
This story follows Kamala, a young Pakistani girl obsessed with superheroes. One night she sneaks out to a party to seem “normal,” but winds up laughed out of it. When a strange gas descends on the neighborhood, Kamala is visited by the Avengers and Captain Marvel. She makes a wish to be like Captain Marvel and wakes up to discover she now has shape-shifting abilities! Taking this in stride, she decides to become the new Ms. Marvel. While I understand it was the introductory volume, it felt like it was only introductory. Not much “story” actually happened. One thing I really liked, however, was learning a little bit about Pakistani culture. I also appreciate that young Pakistani girls (and boys and non-binary folks) have Kamala to look up to. While I didn’t personally connect with her, she is still a great character. I gave this one three out of five stars.
I continued that binge with Scarlet Witch, Vol. 1: Witches’ Road by James Robinson.
I pretty much just picked this one because I liked the color scheme. Red, white, and black is my favorite color scheme. The story follows Wanda Maximoff as she tries to discover why magic seems to be broken. I was a little lost at the beginning because this story clearly picks off where another one left off (presumably an Avengers comic). Additionally, the art style would change randomly each issue. It was distracting. I really liked Wanda as a character, though I wish there had been more about her culture and the history of the Scarlet Witch in this novel. It is likely in one of the next volumes, but I don’t know yet that I want to continue. I gave this one three out of five stars.
And finally, I wrapped up the month with Clueless: Senior Year by Amber Benson (yes, that Amber Benson) and Sarah Kuhn.
I bought this on a whim after seeing it in Barnes & Noble and wound up liking it a lot more than I thought I would. The whole novel takes place over the course of Cher, Dionne, and Tai’s senior year. Each girl gets a POV chapter (technically Cher gets two, but still). Cher’s story is about her trying to figure out who she’s going to be, Dionne’s is about running for class president, and Tai’s is about choosing between art school or taking over her beloved grandmother’s farm. Cher actually wound up being my least favorite of the trio in this book, despite being my favorite in the movie. Her story didn’t interest me very much and, in some ways, seemed like a repeat of her story in the movie. Dionne and Tai’s characters were really expanded upon and became characters outside of being Cher’s friends or projects. I really liked getting to know them better and reading from their point-of-view. The story felt authentic to the movie and was really cute. I gave this one a full five out of five stars.
I also spent some time reading Her Dark Curiosity by Meghan Shepherd, Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard, and Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. I haven’t yet finished any of them, so they’ll have to be on a future wrap-up.
So what books have you read this month? Let me know in the comments!