Although I did technically have a lot of free time in March, I didn’t invest much of it into reading – at least, not until the end of the month, when I suddenly devoured a whole bunch of books at once. Instead, I played a ton of violin, piano, and guitar (currently, I’m trying to teach myself how to strum a different rhythm than the one I’m singing, which is freaking hard), and watched bad movies on Netflix. But that’s totally okay – I won’t force myself to read if I’m not in the mood for it, and besides, the last week of March made up for my lack of earlier reading anyway. Which means I still have a bunch of books to review for you 😉
Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas (2/5 Stars)
I don’t know why I kept hoping this series would get better again – though my expectations weren’t exactly high, I was still disappointed. Despite their flaws, I really liked Throne of Glass and Crown of Midnight, but from Heir of Fire onwards, I think the story really took a turn for the worse (with the exception of Tower of Dawn, which was a lot better and might have given me false hope). In my opinion, there are just too many POV characters in this series now, something that was especially noticeable in this last book. In fact, within the vast sea of characters, each individual seems to have completely lost any unique personality they might have once had – all the men are sex-crazy, male-smiley, overly beautiful warriors and all of the women sex-crazy, brave, (mostly) overly-beautiful heroines. Seriously – if you blacked out all the names and read the scenes without them, I doubt you’d be able to tell who’s who just from characters’ personalities. Also, it annoys me to no end how this book and the previous ones do “plot twists”. Basically, we never get any insight into what characters, especially Aelin, are thinking or planning, so obviously their actions and the reveals are surprising. The problem is, since we never get to see characters’ thoughts, I also don’t really care about their goals anymore, so the plot twists don’t impact me much. Plus, I though this book was unnecessarily long. Probably at least a third of its 900+ pages were boring filler content that could easily have been cut. And all that leading up to an ending that, was, in my opinion, too perfect. Overall, I am glad this series is over and I can’t be tempted to hope it will eventually improve anymore. I think it would have been much better if Sarah J. Maas had just kept the whole fae-plotline confined to her A Court of Thorns and Roses series and stayed on the original YA trajectory with this one. (Sorry to anyone I may have offended – it’s just my opinion, remember?)
The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves #1) by Roshani Chokshi (3/5 Stars)
I’m not gonna lie – I read this solely because I heard so many people compare it to Six of Crows. And there are definitely similarities: We follow a rag-tag group of friends trying to achieve a heist in a vivid European setting, and there’s magic involved. The main character Séverin Montagnet-Alarie is more than just a hotelier in 19th century France – he’s last in line to House Vanth, one of four French magical houses that is believed to have fallen. Séverin has vowed that he will one day reclaim his inheritance – and it seems his chance to do so has come when the Order of Babel “approaches” him with a mission to hunt down a powerful magical artifact. Overall, I thought this had a lot of potential, but somehow, I never really fully connected to the story. I don’t know why – maybe I just wasn’t completely out of my reading slump yet, maybe, at the back of my mind, I was always comparing it unfavorably to Six of Crows, which just did it better. Whatever the case, I can’t really point out anything that was wrong with it (the characters, for example, were all interesting and unique), but for me personally, this just felt like a very average read.
The Idiot by Elif Batuman (3/5 Stars)
This book may have hit a little too close to home for me… Apparently, it’s a very loose retelling of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel of the same name, but not having read that, I can’t really tell you how much inspiration it takes from there. Anyway, this book follows Selin Karadağ, daughter of Turkish immigrants, who is just about to start her freshman year at Harvard. And she has big dreams: She wants to make friends, fall in love, and become a successful writer. However, despite being smart and getting good grades, Selin has no idea how to get to where she wants to be. She signs up for courses, hoping they will help her find her true self, but the only one she kind of likes is Russian (though she knows it won’t ever put her on the road to success). She wants to be a published writer, but never finds the time to write. She falls for a boy who obviously doesn’t like her back. She goes on a trip to Hungary, hoping that will eventually impress said boy, but only ends up feeling more lost. Basically, this book shows how messy growing up can be, and I can’t even tell you how much I related to the main character. In spite of that, though, I didn’t really love the book. If I had read it under different circumstances, I might have – but at a time when was struggling with many of the same issues as Selin, I just thought that the story was extremely depressing. Not that this is a sad book, really. But as a reader, you can see that Selin is making decisions that will ultimately never make her happy, though she herself doesn’t know that. Reading this made me reflect my own life and dreams, and, to be honest, just intensified my anxiety about things I was already preoccupied with.
On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (4/5 Stars)
Despite not being a big hip-hop fan, I really enjoyed this book. Sixteen-year-old Bri, the protagonist, has always wanted to be a great rapper like her dad, who was an underground hip-hop legend before he died. And Bri has got a lot to talk about. She’s constantly being labelled the angry kid, and now her mom has lost her job and her family is facing eviction. Bri uses her music as an outlet to vent her feelings, and it seems other people can relate, too: Her first song, “On the Come Up”, goes absolutely viral. However, with all that exposure comes a huge backlash. People are taking the things Bri said seriously, and suddenly she’s “an angry Black criminal” and ” a drug dealer”. Things aren’t going the way Bri intended at all, and she desperately needs to fix them, both for her own sake and that of her family. Personally, I thought Bri was a very refreshing YA protagonist – she has a very strong, unique personality and though she could be a bit hot-headed at times, I couldn’t help but love her. Also, Angie Thomas just knows how to write good family relationships. Bri’s family is very different from Starr’s in The Hate U Give, but felt just as real and loveable. This book didn’t disappoint, and I can’t wait to see what Angie Thomas writes next.
Daisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (5/5 Stars)
When I heard what this book was about, I didn’t think I’d enjoy it much. A story about a band and how they split up? With lots of sex and drugs? It didn’t really sound like my thing. I’ve never been that interested in bands – if they have good songs, I’ll listen to them, but I don’t really care that much about how the band came together and how those songs were made. And the sex and drugs part just didn’t make it sound like these would be the sort of characters I’d enjoy reading about. Plus, this book was written in interview style. I was very skeptical how it would live up to the praise it was getting. But I’d loved The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by the same author, and people said this was good – so I gave it a chance. And thank God I did – because this may well become my favorite book of the year. Other books are going to have a really hard time competing. I got so invested in this band and the relationships between the different band members, I can’t even tell you. They all felt so real and human. I found myself reading the songs (they’re all included in the back of the book) and going back to see how the music was described over and over again. Taylor Jenkins Reid really captured the feeling of how the different parts of an ensemble come together to make something more; the book somehow managed to put into words what music means to me. And the interview style fit the story so well. As the reader, you constantly have to question everything and piece things together, like a mosaic, because the band members don’t always tell the whole truth or remember everything that happened. Thus, the writing style made the story feel even more engaging, real, and human. I loved this! I don’t think it’s the right book for everyone, but it was most definitely the right book for me.
Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (4/5 Stars)
I had only heard positive things about this book, so I must admit that I had pretty high expectations going into it. And, although I wouldn’t count this as a new favorite, I did really enjoy it. Set in present-day England, it follows Frances Janvier, who is known for being the good kid at school: she’s head girl, has great grades, always does her homework, and is all set to get into Cambridge University. But none of the kids at school know who Frances really is. She’s the kid who likes to wear colorful clothes and who draws fan art for a YouTube podcast she’s absolutely obsessed with: Universe City, which is “about a suit-wearing student detective looking for a way to escape a sci-fi, monster-infested university” (p. 10). Then, however, Frances meets Aled Last, twin brother of Frances’ one-time friend Carys who ran away from home several years ago. And for the first time, she has found someone who she can be herself with. This is a great story of identity and of learning to stand up for being the person you want to be. It’s about learning to accept diversity. But most of all, it’s about friendship.