September 2018 Wrap-Up

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Ba de ya, say do you remember? Ba de ya, reading in September? I sure do. In fact, I had a pretty dang great reading month. This month I read six novels, one novella, and one graphic novel. In total, I read eight books. Overall, the quality was pretty good too. So, let’s jump right into the discussion, shall we?

 

The first book I read was Inkmistress by Audrey Coulthurst.

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The story follows Asra, a demigod who can write the future with her blood. When Asra uses her powers to help the girl she loves, things backfire and Ina sets off on a path toward revenge. Asra, with the help of the charming Hal, pursues her in the hopes of stopping her before it’s too late. But along the way, Asra uncovers some truths about herself that could change the world as she knows it. This book was overall pretty good. Coulthurst has improved greatly as a writer. Her world-building and plotting is also much better in this book than her first. However, if you’re reading this book for a F/F romance… you’ll be disappointed. That’s not what this book is, despite what the official summary says. I’m also a bit concerned about the manifests. From what I understand of spirit animals in various Native American cultures, this sounds like a take-off on that. Some may find that appropriative. Although this book isn’t perfect, it is interesting and so I say it’s still worth reading (as is my mini-review on it!). Ultimately, I gave it three and three quarters out of five stars.

 

After being disappointed by the lack of it in Inkmistress, I was in the mood for a F/F romance. So, I picked up Leak on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli.

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This story follows Leah, closeted bisexual and drummer in an all-girl band. As senior year winds to a close, things start changing for her group of friends. But things become especially tricky when Leah realizes she might have feelings for Abby (who just-so-happens to be dating her friend Nick). I read this book in one day, if that tells you anything. This book made me smile and laugh and even cry a little. I probably would’ve given this book five stars if it weren’t for Leah. I really like her, but she can be incredibly frustrating. Part of the reason is I used to be like that, ruining things, knowing I’m ruining them, and still being unable to stop myself. I still am to some extent. So that mirror was a bit too… personal. But it gets really annoying to read over and over again. As such, I really appreciated the scenes where Leah made an effort to be better. And then there’s the scene where Leah gatekeeps… yeah, that was really ugly and she never apologizes or learns how she was wrong. It just gets dropped. If you’d like to see my more in-depth thoughts, check out my mini-review! But, overall, this was a really cute book. I hope we follow these characters to college. I gave this book four stars.

 

I was still craving F/F romance storties, so I decided to read The Apocalypse of Elena Mendoza by Shaun David Hutchinson next.

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This story follows Elena Mendoza, the scientifically-proven result of a virgin birth. All her life, mysterious voices have spoken to her through pictures and objects. One day, when her long-time crush Freddie is shot, the voices tell her to heal Freddie. And she does. Then the voices tell her that the world is ending and she must keep healing people in order to save them. As Elena struggles with the morality of what she’s been tasked to do, she grows closer to Freddie than she ever thought possible.

This book succeeds where We are the Ants fails. It cleverly melds the supernatural with the mundane, cashing in on the promise the summary makes. The romance is palatable, built on themes of idea vs. reality. In fact, I’d argue that this book dissects the manic pixie dream girl trope in a meaningful way.

Some of Elena’s narration was a bit too circular, always cycling back to how she just doesn’t know what to do. It gets a bit annoying after a while. But, overall, I really liked these characters. I liked the Mendoza family dynamic, especially Elena’s relationship with her mother.

Occasionally, the voices Elena would hear get annoying, almost like Hutchinson was trying to be funny with them. But they just sound cringy and mean. The dialogue, however, feels real.

In the end, I really enjoyed this book. It’s not a new favorite, but it is one I can see myself reading again somewhere down the line. And really, that’s the best thing a book can give you. I also gave this one four stars.

 

Around this time of the month, the first trailer for Captain Marvel dropped. I was intrigued, so I decided to try one of her graphic novels. I settled on Captain Marvel, Volume 1: Higher, Further, Faster, More by Kelly Sue DeConnick with illustrations by David Lopez.

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In this arc, Carol Danvers accepts a mission to return an alien girl to her home planet. This thrusts her directly into the middle of a conflict between the Galactic Alliance and the Spartax! Captain Marvel must help the displaced citizens of the alien girl’s planet before it’s too late. Again, this was my first foray into Captain Marvel and I really enjoyed it! There was maybe some oomph missing, but overall it was a really fun read. I gave it four stars.

 

Since I’d finally read a couple books that had been on my shelves for quite a while, I decided to knock out another one. I selected The Nowhere Girls by Amy Reed.

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The story follows three misfit girls (Grace Salter, new girl and daughter of a liberal preacher; Rosina Suarez, punk lesbian and overworked teenager; and Erin Delillo, Star Trek fan and survivor with Asperger’s) who start a secret society called the Nowhere Girls. The Nowhere Girls turn their high school on its head, as they try to end the sexist culture that pervades it and get justice for the girl who was raped and run out of town. As the Nowhere Girls get bigger, the girls and women of the town begin to feel empowered in a way they never have before. This book is important and powerful, a statement about and against rape culture. It shares the points of view of girls from all walks of life. It’s also incredibly diverse. I kind of don’t believe a school would go to the lengths it did to try and stop the Nowhere Girls, but that doesn’t lower my esteem of this book. Poignant and meaningful, everyone should read this book. I gave this book four and a half stars.

 

With the release of Vengeful right around the corner, I knew I had to get prepared. To do so, I reread Vicious by V.E. Schwab.

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The story follows too-smart-for-their-own-good pre-med students Victor Vale and Eli Cardale. When Eli decides to do his senior thesis on ExtraOrdinaries (humans with strange powers), he and Victor embark on a quest to turn themselves into EOs. Though they succeed, things soon turn dark for the friends. Ten years later, Victor has escaped from prison and is hellbent on taking his vengeance against his former friend. Told in flashback and present day, the story poses the question of what makes a villain. But the real question is: which villain will prevail? This book was as enjoyable the second time as it was the first time. Victor Vale is an absolute bad bitch and I love his little makeshift squad/family. Rereading this got me so pumped for Vengeful. I gave Vicious four stars.

 

A while ago, a friend recommended the web series Carmilla to me. I added the playlist to my YouTube account, but never got around to watching it. This month, I decided to finally take the plunge. And… I… loved it! It’s so. Good. Basically, it’s a modern retelling of the classic novel of the same name, told in vlog format. After I finished season one, I decided to try the source material. So, I fired up my Kindle and downloaded Carmilla by Joseph Sheridan Le Fanu and set to reading it.

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The story follows Laura, a young lady eager for visitors at her lonely manor. When a carriage crashes near her house, Laura begs her father to allow the mysterious young lady to stay with them. Laura and the young lady, Carmilla, become fast friends. As Laura and Carmilla fall in love, Laura begins having very mysterious nightmares. A foundational story for the vampire archetype, this novella truly stands the test of time. This was pretty good and a quick read, especially for a classic. I have to say, while I prefer the YouTube show, this was still a great story. Carmilla’s quotes are to die for. I swooned every time. I just think the changes made to the story (or at least the ending) for the YouTube retelling are more apt in this day and age than this book was. I mean, the lesbianism is essentially excused because it was all due to Carmilla’s vampiric influence the whole time. Also, there are a couple loose threads left and the Big Bad is taken down way too easily. Still, it’s entertaining (and gay) enough that I could see myself someday reading it again. I gave it three and a half stars.

 

I wrapped up the month by reading another book I’d had on my shelves for a while, The Tethered Mage by Melissa Caruso.

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The story follows Amalia Cornaro, sole heir to her mother’s spot on the Council of Nine. But things become complicated when Amalia accidentally binds herself to fire warlock, Zaira. Now she must do a balancing act between her life as a budding politician and a member of the Falcon Army. In the meantime, relations with the nearby town of Ardence have never been worse. And if Amalia can’t prevent war from happening, she’ll be forced to unleash Zaira on the world.

So, I think I may have found a new favorite series. This book has excellent characters, an intricate plot, a unique magic system, vivid world-building, and a glorious slow burn romance.

Amalia Cornaro has become a new favorite character. She’s intelligent and clever, yet kind and naïve. She truly comes of age in this story. Zaira is a bit two-dimensional (and I likely wouldn’t like the story nearly as much if it had been written from her point-of-view), but the way her relationship with Amalia develops is wonderful. Marcello thwarts expectations and subverts all the expected tropes for the soldier love interest. He is kind and warm, always trying to do the right thing. He doesn’t let his past define him.

The political intrigue is downright delicious. While the action is great, it was the machinations going on in the political sphere that really sold this book for me. This novel is great and I can’t wait to continue the series. I gave this first volume four out of five stars.

 

What did you read in September? Let me know in the comments!

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