Hello! It's time for Part Two of my book reviews 2015 posts. The first one I did in March, here. As aforementioned in that post, my reading goal for this year is 36 books. Still depressingly behind on that goal, but I'm reading more than I would have otherwise, considering the lures of the Internet.
Because of school and laziness, I've read less these months. Two books in April, three in May, and so far one in June. :( The April books are books I read for a school project, technically, but I picked them out myself, and the project was about Indian YA books, and... I'm counting them because I don't have enough.
Get ready for some book reviews:
8. Sita's Ramayana by Samhita Arni and Moyna Chitrakar
This graphic novel retells the classic Indian epic of the Ramayana from the point of view of Rama's wife, Sita. I read this book in about two hours, so it was fairly short, but it was very good. Both feminist and intercultural cooperation themes made this version of the Ramayana stand out from others. The art was utterly striking. And the writing voice really gave life to Sita, one of my favorite characters from the original epic. All in all, I'd recommend this book for any middle-grade reader. (It was classed as YA when I was doing my research to find YA books for the project, but I think YA has a different meaning in India; MG books tend to be classed with YA more often).
9. Faces in the Water by Ranjit Lal
Another book for my project, I really loved this one. I put it off to the last minute, naturally, but once I got into it I couldn't stop reading it. This book tackles the issue of female infanticide, which you'd think would make the book weighed down with heavy dark undertones. On the contrary, it's a delightful read. I laughed out loud more than once while reading it and I loved the characters so much that I drew fan art of them instead of paying attention in class (OK, that's not much of a recommendation because I do that all the time. But you know). Despite the lighthearted feeling of the book, it didn't shy away from the depth of the issue it was discussing. The main character, Gurmi, discovers that his parents killed the sisters he never knew he had when they were newborns, for the sake of keeping up the "boys only" tradition. He meets the ghosts of his sisters and through his interactions with them and with his relatives, he develops a more complex view of women's role in society. This is another book I'd recommend to older middle-grade readers: it has dark themes, but it's written in such a way that you enjoy it and it makes you think about important subjects without giving long lectures.
10. The Boy Who Lost Fairyland by Catherynne M. Valente
Yes, another Fairyland book. My last book review post included two books from this series, and when the fourth book came out, naturally I had to read it. This one veers from my beloved protagonist September and her companions, and instead focuses on a troll named Hawthorn who becomes a changeling. He gets traded with a human boy in Chicago named Tom and thus loses all his memories of Fairyland, except for the fact that his personality is still that of a troll. So his childhood is crazy, since he's expecting to do magic stuff all the time, and his human parents think he's literally insane. His journey to self-discovery and the path back to Fairyland to switch back takes up most of the book. As always, Valente's writing is superb and the plot is wonderful. I did really miss the Fairyland-centric stories and I really missed September and her friends, who weren't in it much. But now I'm soooo excited for the last book which is coming out an eternity from now.
11. Cinder by Marissa Meyer
Oh, this book was so good! Let's get one thing straight: this is totally a guilty-pleasure read. A romance that develops too fast, an Evil Villain, a futuristic world that doesn't make a lot of sense, a Cinderella story. I'm not saying it's great literature. But it's suuuuuch a good book. The worldbuilding, although not perfect, was creative: cyborgs and psychic moon people and traditional Chinese palaces filled with androids. The way the Cinderella story unfolds is a fun experience, although spoiler, there isn't really much in the way of a fairy godmother, which was a disappointment. I was hoping for some, like, robot fairy, I don't know. And the other, more intense stories about the plague and the Lunars and stuff, are all exciting to read. Soon enough I'll read the next books in the series. I definitely recommend it; it's a great read.
12. Harmless by Dana Reinhardt
Boring. I made that the first sentence of the review so that you imagine that someone's saying the title and I instantly blurt out "Boring" but not with an exclamation point, just an instant sigh of "Boring." God, it's so boring. It's about three teenage girls whose lives are already boring: one who's always been unpopular but now she wants to be cool, one who's sick of her boring friend, one who's kinda popular because she's "edgy." The high school version of edgy, which means she hangs out with seniors and has sipped beer in her life before. Anyway, they make up a lie to get away with going to a party with seniors, and the lie gets out of hand and their lives get kinda messed up. The message of the book seems to be "don't lie," but it's not done well, because if they had just been BETTER at lying they would have gotten away with it. There's some discussion of sexual assault which is done better than in most YA books on the subject, but that's about all I can say to recommend the book. It's really dull, it's written like a guidance counselor who thinks she knows what teenage girls' brains are like is writing it, and the plot is predictable and not interesting at all. Don't read it. The only reason to read it would be if you're an eighth grader who needs a book for a book report and you don't want something too crazy.
13. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
This is a beautiful book. It's set in a fantasy version of Russia, which some online reviewers have pointed out is a bit cultural-appropriation-y because it's not very accurate, but for someone who's clueless about Russia, it's a nice change from your average Lord of the Rings fantasy world. It's about an orphan who discovers as a young adult that she's a Grisha, or a magic person. Grisha in this world have the ability to do one magic thing, usually bending some sort of element, although some can do stuff like changing people's faces or amplifying others' powers. The protagonist, Alina, gets sucked into the Grisha world because her power is extra special: she's a Sun Summoner, which means she could potentially summon enough light to destroy the Shadow Fold, this dark monster-infested swath of land that's been ruining their country. She gets extra attention from the mysterious and strangely attractive leader, the Darkling. I know what you're thinking: "kill me now, he's 'strangely attractive,' is he? Let me guess, she just can't stay away from him and they make out for no reason." I'm not going to spoil it but let me just say you may be pleasantly surprised. Trust me. Keep reading it. There's a patch in the middle that's a little slow and irritating, which is a downside, but if you keep reading, it gets much better. All in all, the world is beautiful, the characters are cool, and the plot is gripping. The writing is a little eh, but it's made up for by the plot in my opinion.
OK, so 13 books. I should be at 18. 5 behind, ugh. A few years ago adding 5 books to July would have been a treat. Now the Internet has ruined me. I can barely focus. I need to get into this other book I got, Code Name Verity. The beginning was great but I'm having trouble really getting into that book phase where you can't put it down. Even with Harmless I had that book phase because I wanted to finish it. And yet, here I am, still Tumblr-ing the night away instead of reading this obviously good book. What has become of me?
Hopefully my next book review post, which should be in September, will have more books. See you on Saturday for my new experience post! I should actually have one this week!