I always knew filling the X slot in my alphabet reading challenge might be difficult, so when I spotted a book titled Xoe early in the year I grabbed it. Due to my lack of choice I wasn’t especially hopeful.
Fie on me for a cynical doubter! Actually, Xoe was mostly a fun read. The relationships between the female characters was great fun and well-depicted. The paranormal elements were good and intriguing (we had the introduction of demons to bring a different slant to the customary paranormal vampires and werewolves fare). What I enjoyed less was the romantic element which felt slightly forced and clichéd, as though the author had been told to make the romance more obvious. And there were an awful lot of fashion reports. Maybe this stuck with me because I rarely describe my characters, and never in detail (I’m often told off by editors for this). But what do you need to fix a character in your mind? I don’t think very much – maybe hair and eye colour, and then if something’s remarkable about them mention that: they might be very tall, or always wear a hat. But in Xoe we seemed to constantly get a run down of what each character was wearing when we met them, which I found unnecessary.
But maybe I’m the one out of step, reader – do you like a full and detailed description of characters, or just a broad stroke of description that you can fill in for yourself?
And it’s hard to believe I’m nearly at the end of my alphabet reading challenge! Check back next week to see what I’ve found starting with Y.
Okay, so it’s been a mixed week, to say the least. I haven’t found or read a “U” book yet. I tried several and discarded them. There’s another I could pick, but it’s by an author I’ve already read in this challenge and I’m trying to widen my reading experience.
So … I moved on and found a “V” book. Vampire Girl was picked based entirely on the “V” and on the cover. I’m intrigued as to why so many YA books have a girl in a floaty ballgown on the cover when they are vastly impractical for what said girl gets up to between the covers. Vampire Girl fit this mould, although there was a fun bit where she gets dressed up all fancy (against her own best instincts) only to find that she would have been better off in jeans and sneakers.
And then (my cup runneth over) I got the ARC of War and Wind flagged to me. War and Wind is next in the Tides series by Alex Lidell and her books have very swiftly become “drop everything” reads for me. I love them. So everything else was set aside while I swooped through that in the space of 36 hours.
In short: War and Winds is AMAZING, grab a copy now (well, grab a pre-order), and Vampire Girl was very good, although it lost a bit of impetus at the end with some strange and clumsy consistency errors which were a great shame given how sparkly the writing had been up until then.
However, while I’ve clearly been productive, I still haven’t covered off my “U” requirement. I think a trip to Waterstones and a talk with an actual, real, live bookseller might be needed…
So, leading on from my last alphabet post where I noted that you can rate my enthusiasm for a book from how long I take to read it, I’ll start by telling you I finished my Q book, started more than a week ago, at 10pm last night.
I don’t quite know what happened because I thought I’d love Shadow Queen. Maybe I’ve been thinking about reading it for so long I’d ended up with expectations that were never going to be fulfilled.
Irritatingly, there’s nothing specific I can point at to say, “That was wrong; that’s what I didn’t like.” It just didn’t set me on fire the way I always want a book to do. It was written in 3rd person, which was a change, but a refreshing one since 98.27% of YA books appear to be written in the first person. There were three points of view, which again is a lot for YA, but I don’t see how she could have told the story without all three, and they were very different voices and didn’t jar.
It read a little bit generically, slightly as though it had been composed by numbers of what’s ‘in’ right now. It’s clearly a retelling of snow white, with what felt a little like grisha magic thrown in along with dragon shifters (is it just me, or are dragons EVERYWHERE right now?). There were new and creative elements (the apples were revoltingly fantastic!), but overall I didn’t feel as though it was completely heartfelt. Sorry.
Check back in for my R book next week – I’ve only just started, but I’m already gripped by Risuko by David Kudler, long may it last!
This was recommended to me the significant 12-year-old in my life, and I – a YA-loving adult – utterly fell in love with it.
Diverse writing and writing about mental illness is “on trend” right now (a good thing, imo), and The Goldfish Boy deserves all the success it gets. It’s a very convincing account of a boy with OCD. I especially loved (and ached for) the moments when he could see how ridiculous his behaviour was – but that insight wasn’t enough to enable him to stop it. Also fabulous was the way the cast of characters reflected what a very wide range there is within the “normal” label. Difference is all around and nothing to be feared here.
The highest accolade I can ever give a book is when it engages my involuntary emotions – when I laugh or cry or gasp. The Goldfish Boy did so. Matty is heartbreaking, without becoming an object of pity.
This has set the bar high for my next read – check in next week to see what I’ve found for my ‘H’ read.
Okay, that’s rather unkind, but there is a danger this post may turn into a slight rant.
My “B” book selection was BR Paulson’s Barely Alive. Now, one thing I’m loving about this challenge is that I’m finding all kinds of new and wonderful things. Barely Alive was pitched as a zombie romance – now, maybe that’s your go-to genre, but I was tickled to begin with by the idea that zombie romance is even a thing. How wonderfully diverse literature is growing, in topic if nothing else.
And actually, I thoroughly enjoyed Barely Alive. The zombie-ness was easy to suspend disbelief over (I know almost no science so I didn’t even try to pick holes in the virus that created the zombies) and the romance was low-key (appropriate when flesh-eating monsters are on the loose, I think) and convincing.
My beef came with the ending. There is a series, which is fine, but whether it’s a stand-alone book or a series in the vein of Bella Forrest with 37 books to work your way through, it is my absolute conviction that each book should tell its own story: beginning, middle and end.
I don’t even mind open endings where you have to exercise a bit of imagination about next steps for the characters as they head out of the pages and into the sunset, but Barely Alive cut off in the middle of the story with all plot arcs still underway and unresolved, which just left me grumpy, I’m sorry to say.
So am I Mrs Grumblepants, or am I right to be annoyed? Do you mind an unresolved story, or should the endings be tied up? Let me know in the comments.
Check back next week to see how I got on with my C book – Crystal Magic by Madeline Freeman.