September 2017 Wrap-Up

Ahhhhh, it’s FINALLY October! Fall has arrived, and it is unquestionably the best time of the year. Even in Texas, where it’s still seventh circle of hell level hot, I cannot help but be excited about the coming months. But this post is about September, otherwise known around these parts as, “August”, because the weather is still unbearable, the leaves do not change, and we don’t start wearing sweaters until at least November.

September was a pretty average month for reading, totaling out at 9 books completed. There was a whole lot going on at work and at home last month always, so over half of my reading was accomplished through audio books, plus two graphic novels, and two print.

I absolutely loved The Wolf Road and Saga, which I’ve linked my reviews to here. Some of my other favorites from the month were…

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.35 PM.pngCinder (Book 1 of the Lunar Chronicles) is quite possibly the coolest retelling of Cinderella that I’ve ever read. I was quite smitten with Geekerella, which I read earlier this year, but Cinder spoke to the even geekier, scifi loving parts of my brain. In Meyer’s version, Cinderella is a cyborg who lives in a futuristic city known as New Beijing. There are robots, handsome emperors, a terrifying plague with no known cure, and deep rooted tensions with the race of beings that now live on the moon. SO. MUCH. FUN. I listed to the audio version, and Rebecca Soler did an amazing job as always.

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.59 PMThe Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue was another audio read. I absolutely fell in love with this story from page one. Percy and Monty have a sweet, tender, playful, slow burn of a love story. There are highway robberies, pirates, hidden passages in sinking islands, and so much more. While being light and fun, the book also touched on more serious topics like family expectation and dysfunction, abuse, and finding your own path in life. Mackenzi Lee is one of my new favorite authors, and I cannot wait to see what she comes out with next.

 

 

Screen Shot 2017-10-05 at 9.25.46 PMI initially downloaded Young Jane Young because I was waiting for my hold of Cress (Book 3 of the Lunar Chronicles) to come through. I had read The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry and really enjoyed it, so I figured I’d give this one a shot and I was not disappointed. While it’s not the best or most exciting book I’ve ever read, it was fun and compelling, and entertaining. Young Jane Young tells the story of Aviva Grossman, a young intern who has an illicit affair with the congressman whose campaign she is working for. The affair comes to light, makes national news, and her reputation, and eventually her life, are utterly destroyed. Rather that admit defeat, Aviva regains control of the situation and makes a new life for herself. The book is told in several parts, each from a different point of view. My favorite is the part told from her daughter’s perspective, as it’s written entirely in the form of (hilarious) emails to her overseas pen pal. This is the book that surprised me the most this month, based on how much I enjoyed it.

The whole line up….

 

Stardust –  4 crowns

Saga Volume 6 – 5 crowns

Saga Volume 7 – 4 crowns

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue – 5 crowns

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo – 4 crowns

Cinder – 5 crowns

The Wolf Road – 5 crowns

Scarlet – 4 crowns

Young Jane Young – 4 crowns

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The Wolf Road – Beth Lewis

61GODxCcISL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Publisher: Crown

Publication Date: July 5th, 2016

Page Count: 368 (Hardcover)

From the Jacket:

Elka barely remembers a time before she knew Trapper.

She was just seven years old, wandering lost and hungry in the wilderness, when the solitary hunter took her in. In the years since then, he’s taught her how to survive in this desolate land where civilization has been destroyed and men are at the mercy of the elements and each other.

But the man Elka thought she knew has been harboring a terrible secret. He’s a killer. A monster. And now that Elka knows the truth, she may be his next victim.

Armed with nothing but her knife and the hard lessons Trapper’s drilled into her, Elka flees into the frozen north in search of her real parents. But judging by the trail of blood dogging her footsteps, she hasn’t left Trapper behind—and he won’t be letting his little girl go without a fight. If she’s going to survive, Elka will have to turn and confront not just him, but the truth about the dark road she’s been set on.

The Wolf Road is an intimate cat-and-mouse tale of revenge and redemption, played out against a vast, unforgiving landscape—told by an indomitable young heroine fighting to escape her past and rejoin humanity.

The Wolf Road drew me in from the first page and had me on the edge of my seat, white knuckled and breathless until I reached the end. Beth Lewis has fully captured my attention with this stunning debut that is unlike anything I’ve ever read. Using stark, simple prose, the story is brilliantly narrated by Elka, a young girl, orphaned and raised in the wild. Set in a series of small gold rush towns where vigilante justice is law, the Wolf Road tells the story of a post apocalyptic world set back to zero after a cold war mistake.

I’ve had this book on my shelves for MONTHS and at this point I cannot remember why I put it off for so long. I finished it last night and just sat there, mouth agape, saying wow over and over until my wife started to look at me funny. This is the third book I’ve read this year, that has been narrated by a young girl and I’m starting to think it’s my new favorite thing. I initially thought i was going to be put off by the style of language she used, but that only lasted for a couple of pages. Elka is one of the most interesting, flawed, and heart breaking characters I’ve ever read.

The story opens with a scene near the end of the book and then makes its way back to it from the beginning. This is a style I particularly enjoy, and it took what was already a quickly moving plot to break neck speeds as I raced to the end both needing to know and desperately not wanting to find out the fates of the characters. It feels odd to say that I enjoyed this book because so much of it is incredibly dark, but I did. So much. And this is one of those books that you could use as a test of character. Recommend it and if the person loves it as much as you, you’ll know you’ve found your people.

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Final Thoughts: If you enjoy post-apoctalyptic fiction but are starting to feel like they’re all sort of the same READ THIS BOOK. It’s full of lush descriptions of nature set against graphic descriptions of the damage caused by the war. The characters are complicated and unforgettable and Lewis has a way of causing visceral reactions that make you wonder how you would handle the same situation. I’ll be waiting with baited breath to read whatever she comes up with next, and you can read more about her here.

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Elka, Penelope, Wolf

Memorable Quotes:

I tried picturing all those places on that map of BeeCee. That’s what we call our country now, just letters of its real name what most people have forgot or don’t care to remember. The map said that old name behind all the scribblings, all the new borders and territories my nana drawn on, but I could only read letters then, not whole words. All I know is that one day all the maps became useless and we had to make our own. The old’uns called that day the Fall or the Reformation. Nana said some down in the far south called it Rapture. Nana was a babe when it happened, said her momma called it the Big Damn Stupid. Set everything back to zero. I never asked why, never much cared. Life is life and you got to live it in the here- now not the back- then. And the here- now for little me was the Thick Woods, with night coming fast.

One a’ them rules is don’t go trusting another man’s path…People do it, they do what their mommies and daddies did, they make them same mistakes, they have them same joys and hurts, they just repeating. Trees don’t grow exactly where their momma is; ain’t no room…I weren’t following no one up through life.

Smell a’ bacon. Ain’t nothing in this world like it. Salt-cured, sliced thick, line a’ juicy fat crisping up in the pan. Anyone what tells you they don’t like bacon is either stupid or lying. Either way that ain’t no one you can trust.

Way I reckon it, men killed more wolves than wolves ever killed men. I know who I’m more afraid of.

I received this book from Blogging for Books for this review.

 

Saga Vol 1-7 – Brian K. Vaughan & Fiona Staples

 

Publisher: Image Comics

Publication Date: October 10th, 2012 to April 4th 2017

Synopsis:

When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe. From New York Times bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan (Y: The Last Man, Ex Machina) and critically acclaimed artist Fiona Staples (Mystery Society, North 40), Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

Before a couple of weeks ago, my entire experience regarding comics consisted of religiously picking up Archie comics from the grocery store as a kid and rereading the Calvin and Hobbes books like it was my job. Both of these obsessions happened over two decades ago, so I was a bit uncertain on whether or not I would review Saga when I initially picked it up. Fast forward to today, just a few hours after finishing volume 7, and that uncertainty just seems silly. I have SO MUCH to say about this series, and I don’t think I could shut up about it even if I wanted to.

Full of Fiona Staples’ breathtakingly beautiful art, Saga is part space opera, part fantasy, with a whole lot of romance and family drama. The cast of characters is wonderfully diverse, including, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, non binary, and POC characters.  There is a lot of nudity and sex, which I am SO HERE FOR, as well as graphic depictions of violence. I realize this may not be everyone’s bag so it’s worth calling out.

Saga tells the story of Marko and Alana, soldiers from opposite sides of a long fought intergalactic war. There is an extensive history of hate and prejudice between the two races (the wings and the moonies), when Marko is captured as a POW by the army that Alana is fighting for. After a series of events (that I won’t spoil for you here), the two fall in love and escape together, intent on living their lives in as much peace as they can find.  The entire series is narrated by their daughter, Hazel, and the first volume literally opens with her birth. Hazel’s birth is the catalyst for the rest of the story, as we follow two parents wiling to do anything to keep her safe, and carve out a life they can live together despite the constant violence happening around them.

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You guys. After this truly incredible, addictive, and immersive reading experience, I fully intend on making graphic novels a habit again. And while I may read hundreds more, I have no doubt that Saga will stay on my top favorites list for all time. Everything about this story is designed to draw the reader in and keep them as a willing captive until the very end. The world building is jaw dropping and full of lush details that I stopped to admire even while wanting to zip ahead though the rest of the story. Brian K Vaughan writes whip smart, tender, and downright hilarious dialogue and characters that I was invested in from the first panel.

I love the way there are multiple story lines going on at once that swap every couple of pages. Even though I couldn’t wait to find out what was happening to one set of characters, I immediately put them to the back of my mind to focus on the immediacy of what was happening to the rest. I cared about them all that much. There wasn’t a single arc that felt boring or less important than the rest. The sheer number of alien species and worlds that Staples creates is astounding. I was delighted by the creativity and especially loved the robot race and the way the different classes and royal family were portrayed. It doesn’t seem fair that one person can hold so much in a singular imagination.

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Final Thoughts: I cannot recommend these enough. If you’re considering jumping into the world of comics, I think Saga is a great place to start, but prepare yourself for a serious hangover and a lengthy wait for the next installment. I’m fully invested now, and cannot wait to check out other work by both Vaughan and Staples as well as other graphic novel series. If you have any good ones to recommend, please please let me know!!

Rating: Screen Shot 2016-03-12 at 10.58.06 PM

Favorite Characters: Alana, Hazel, Klara, Lying Cat, Sophie, The Brand, Isabel, Barr

Memorable Quotes:

My name is Hazel. I started out as an idea, but I ended up something more. Not much more, to be honest. It’s not like I grow up to become some great war hero or any sort of all important savior… but thanks to these two, at least I get to grow old. Not everybody does. (Vol 1)

Cool. So glad I got to do all this in a towel. (Vol 2)

All good children’s stories are the same: young creature breaks rules, has incredible adventure, then returns home with the knowledge that aforementioned rules are there for a reason. Of course, the actual message to the careful reader is: break rules as often as you can, because who the hell doesn’t want to have an adventure? (Vol 3)

A lot of people who came into my family’s life looking like heroes ended up acting more like villains. (Vol 4)

Every relationship is an education. Each new person we welcome into our hearts is a chance to evolve into something radically different than we used to be. (Vol 5)

We’re all aliens to someone. Even among our own people, most of us still feel like complete foreigners from time to time. (Vol 6)

If a chain is only as strong as its weakest link, then a family is more like a rope. We’re lots of fragile little strands, and we survive by becoming hopelessly intertwined with each other. (Vol 7)