Book Reviews: September 2015

you review, the raven boys review, sorcerer to the crown review, a window opens review

A-Window-Opens I think this was my favorite book of the month. It struck just the right balance of charm and good storytelling. The main character, Alice, lives in NJ with her husband and kids, and works as the books editor of a women’s magazine. When her husband decides to open his own law firm and her family’s financial situation changes, she pursues a new job at a cool literary start-up called Scroll. In addition to trying to succeed at a new job, Alice is dealing with her father’s failing health.

This book is about work/life balance and the struggle to “have it all.” Between her husband, her kids, her job, and her family, Alice is pulled in many different directions and is just trying to do her best. Alice is a book lover, so she automatically gets brownie points from me, and the way she was written felt very real and normal. I sympathized with the challenges she faced and I thought we could be friends in real life. Alice begins to realize she can only stretch herself so far and decides to focus on the things that matter the most to her. The author makes a great point that your version of “having it all” might not be the same as somebody else’s, so it’s better to let go of that notion and focus on your own personal, attainable goals. This book was light, but not empty, and definitely fun to read. I’d recommend it!

The-Raven-Boys Last month I picked up this book based on a recommendation from a booktube friend. The Raven Boys are rich, privileged young men who attend a private boy’s school and Blue wants nothing to do with them. Blue’s family is rather special. They’re all clairvoyant…well, all of them except Blue. She has no powers of her own, but she does enhance other people’s abilities if she’s nearby. Thanks to a series of events, Blue crosses paths with four particular Raven Boys- Gansey, Adam, Noah and Ronan. A quest for a long-lost king draws this unlikely group of friends together and leads them to make some interesting discoveries.

I really liked this book. It has adventure, a bit of romance, class struggles, magic- all very interesting elements. The best part of this book was definitely the characters and I enjoyed learning more about each one. I also love the idea that on paper, these five wouldn’t be friends, but when they are brought together they find they have a lot more in common than they think. It’s also set in a rural town in Virgina, which I think works very well as a setting. What is it about small towns in Virginia being full of strange magical occurrences (I’m thinking of Mystic Falls from The Vampire Diaries)?

The-Dream-Thieves I enjoyed The Raven Boys, so I was looking forward to reading the second book in the series. There’s not too much I can say about the plot without spoilers, but I will say that the main plot of the first novel takes a backseat here and it’s much more focused on one character- Ronan.

I did not know that when I started the book; I assumed it would pick up right where the first one left off. This left me a bit disappointed and I really missed the interactions of the group as a whole. We are introduced to a few new characters, but really I would have liked more focus on the original characters. Don’t get me wrong- this was still a good read. I just had certain expectations and the focus of this book wasn’t really what drew me in to the story in the first place.

Sorcerer-to-the-Crown Here’s another book that was good, but also slightly disappointing. I first heard about it on Book Riot a few weeks before it was published and I immediately placed a hold at my local library. In this book, Zacharias is the Sorcerer Royal, the highest level of sorcerer in all of England. Although he has great magical abilities, he is frequently disrespected because of the color of his skin (he’s black). There’s a lack of magic throughout England, which of course is a problem. Zacharias travels to the border of Fairyland, the source of magic, to investigate the magical deficiency, and along the way he stops at a school for girls to give a speech. In this society, practicing magic is for males only; females are considered too weak to handle magic (grrrrrrrrrrrrr). When Zacharias visits the school and observes how the girls are taught to suppress their magical abilities, which can cause them great harm, he is horrified. He decides to campaign to completely reform restrictions on females and practicing magic.

Ok, there are a lot of great themes going on in this book. First of all, there’s a main character who’s a person of color and a powerful magician. Awesome! There’s another main character, Prunella, who’s a female person of color and also a powerful magicienne. Super awesome! There’s a lot of discussion of race and class in this novel, which is very interesting. Even though Zacharias has achieved the highest level of sorcery through skill alone, there are people who constantly doubt him and seek his downfall. Prunella also has to deal with assumptions about her character, simply because she’s of mixed heritage. Another theme that’s explored is feminism- in this case it’s the idea that females should have the same magical rights as males. It’s thought that females are not strong enough to practice magic, or if they are, that they’ll only use it for frivolous domestic tasks. The magical society in England refuses to recognize that there are females with great abilities too.

I thought the world the author created was well done and that she tackled some very interesting themes. There was still something holding me back from loving this book though. Perhaps it was the writing style, which was old-fashioned and put some distance between myself and the characters. Perhaps it was a bit too long, and some less interesting sections could have been cut. Overall, I liked it and I would read the next book in the series.

You I’d heard a lot of interesting things about this book and it was on my TBR for a while. One booktube friend in particular told me that I had to listen to the audiobook version. You guys know that I don’t generally listen to a lot of audiobooks, but I trusted her opinion and decided to borrow it from the library.

Right away I was uncomfortable and a little embarrassed. I thought, “I hope no one can overhear this right now!” You is your classic boy-meets-girl story, except the boy is a crazy-obsessed stalker. Beck walks into the bookstore where Joe works and it’s love obsession at first sight. He googles her, finds her Twitter, figures out where she goes to school, figures out where she lives, and basically begins to full-on stalk her.

The novel is written from Joe’s point of view and it’s unsettling to be in the mind of someone so twisted. He sees nothing wrong with his actions and he takes the smallest interaction with Beck and blows it far out of proportion. This book contains a lot of graphic and explicit language, so I’d give this a pass if that’s not your jam. I do have to say that the audiobook of this was very well done. The narrator did an amazing job of capturing Joe’s different moods. One minute he’s ecstatic because Beck has agreed to go on a date with him, the next he’s enraged because she’s still talking to her ex-boyfriend. It’s shockingly easy for Joe to find personal information about Beck on the internet and it makes you think twice about what you put out there.

Joe does all kinds of terrible things, and honestly, Beck isn’t a really great person either. She’s self-absorbed and makes a habit of using people. This book gets points for being a page-turner, although towards the end, I was ready for it to be over. If you like thrillers with completely twisted narrators and don’t mind the explicit content, you might like this.