This month I have read a total of 10 novels, 2 plays and 1 graphic novel, my favorite read being The Winner’s Crime and my least favorite being This Is What Happy Looks Like.
1. “Anna Dressed in Blood” by K. Blake
“But hey, at least we’ll have this strange story to tell, love and death and blood and daddy-issues. And holy crap, I’m a psychiatrist’s wet dream.”
Anna Dressed in Blood is the story of Cas, ghost hunter, whose current mission is to kill Anna Korlov, also known as Anna Dressed in Blood, the most powerful ghost he’s ever met. And yet, when the occasion comes for her to kill him, she spares his life.
I had high expectations for this book. Too high. I mean, ghost-hunters? Powerful ghosts? Creepy YA? Supernatural except as a YA book? This just sounds perfect. I expected to love this book to death, and it’s not exactly what happened.
Our main character, Cas, is a sarcastic, pretty and brooding teenage boy who kills ghosts for a living. In the beginning, he made me think a lot of Cassel from The Curse Workers series, but I found his character had… less depth to it. (But I shouldn’t be so quick to judge; I’ve read only one book of Cas and three of Cassel.) Anna is a creepy ghost who was murdered in a terrible way 60 years ago, who kills every living person stepping into her house. I liked Anna enough, but once again, I can reproach the author one major thing : the lack of depth to the characters. I wasn’t a huge fan of the writing style either.
It was a nice book, with a lot of creepy scenes in it; I do recommend it to anyone looking for a good, creepy ghost-story, classical-YA-book-style.
I gave this book 3 out of 5 stars.
2. “This is What Happy Looks Like” by J. E. Smith
“I never said I was good,” he told her, taking the pen. “Just that I liked doing it.”
“That’s the best kind of good.”
When Graham Larkin, teenage movie star, misspells an email address, he ends up corresponding with a stranger who seems to understand him better than anyone, Ellie O’Neill, the ordinary girl living in Maine who hides a secret that could change her peaceful, ordinary life. In the hope of meeting the stranger he may be falling in love with, Graham decides to shoot his movie in Ellie’s hometown, Henley, Maine.
This book made me think of this movie, a Disney movie I used to love when I was about ten, I think. Starstruck. Starstruck tells the cliché story of the movie star, pretty miserable in his supposedly perfect life, who falls in love with the quiet country girl who doesn’t want to have anything to do with celebrities. Well, This is What Happy Looks Like is the same kind of clichéd story, except I think I preferred Starstruck, for being 100% cliché and Disney.
This is What Happy Looks Like was a big disappointment for me. It was boring, the characters were totally uninteresting, the whole thing was way too cheesy for me. It was so… American. There was this high-school drama feel to it that you only find in American books or movies for teens. There were these pre-made ideas that a new family can only be happy when separated from any other past connection that can be a threat to this family’s peace and well-being, which I found deeply disturbing.
I don’t have strong feelings about this book; I was just so bored. I gave it 2 out of 5 stars.
3. “On the Jellicoe Road” by M. Marchetta
“My body becomes a raft and there’s this part of me that wants just literally to go with the flow. To close my eyes and let it take me. But I know sooner or later I will have to get out, that I need to feel the earth beneath my feet, between my toes – the splinters, the bindi-eyes, the burning sensation of hot dirt, the sting of cuts, the twigs, the bites, the heat, the discomfort, the everything. I need desperately to feel it all, so when something wonderful happens, the contrast will be so massive that I will bottle the impact and keep it for the rest of my life.”
On The Jellicoe Road is a YA book. It tells the story of Taylor Markham, and at the same time, a story of 5 kids meeting on the Jellicoe Road in another timeline. The story is way too complicated and laced with mystery for me to tell you more about it.
I had rather high expectations for this book, due to its very good ratings on goodreads. In the first 150 pages or so I didn’t really understand why everyone liked it so much; but then the story got captivating, the characters interesting and I grew to like the writing style, although it seemed odd in the beginning. The main character is really different from your typical YA protagonist; she doesn’t dwell on feelings more than necessary, and her thoughts are not as clear, lucid as what I’m used to reading in YA. It was a nice change, actually.
I gave the book 4.5 out of 5 stars, and it’s not a book I will be forgetting soon.
4. “Ms Marvel : No Normal” by G. W. Wilson
Ms Marvel is a new superhero of Marvel’s, taking after Captain Marvel, who’s apparently not available anymore since she’s been upgraded to space. Now, I’m not 100% sure of what I just told you : I’ll confess I never read any marvel comic book before.
To cut short, this graphic novel was a disappointment. I expected it to be epic and somewhat deep; it was merely the tale of a teenage girl who wants to be something more, and somehow rebel against her parents’ wishes.
What I did like about this comic book was that it tells the tale of a muslim-American teenage girl becoming a superhero, which to me sounds like a great idea. The story itself, though, didn’t keep my interest for long.
I gave the graphic novel 2.5 out of 5 stars.
5. “Le Tartuffe” by Molière
“Beauty without intelligence is like a hook without bait.”
Le Tartuffe is a comedy written by Molière in the XVIIth century. Now, I’m not going to talk much about this, because it’s a classic comedy and I’m a bit more comfortable reviewing contemporary books, but…
Le Tartuffe is a play about a fake devout who takes advantage of a gullible rich man, and the man’s family, outraged by Tartuffe, a.k.a the fake devout. I read it in French, and I liked the dialogues, and even laughed at one or two scenes. It was really not a disagreeable read.
I ended up giving the play 3 out of 5 stars.
6. “The Archived” by V. Schwab
“Curiosity is a gateway drug to sympathy.”
The Archived tells the story of Mackenzie Bishop, Keeper. A Keeper is a person who ensures Histories, which you could consider as souls of the dead, don’t escape far from the library where they are shelved like books.
I really liked the concept of this book, but the story kind of fell flat for me : the plot twists where predictable. The love story didn’t move me at all (much to my dismay), and the characters weren’t really elaborated (I expected that from book 2, as a consequence). On the other hand, I really liked the writing!
I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars.
7. “The Unbound” by V. Schwab
“Da used to say that lies were easy, but trust was hard. Trust is like faith: it can turn people into believers, but every time it’s lost, trust becomes harder and harder to win back.”
This second book was a disappointment compared to the first : I expected so much more from it. I expected the characters to be more developed : nada. I expected the romance to endear me : nada. I expected the story to get me carried away : meh.
Overall I enjoyed the reading. But the story went from déjà-vu to straight cliché, particularly when Wesley became more of a typical YA love interest.
I gave it 3 out of 5 stars.
—Then I read the very short story that takes place after The Unbound, Leave The Window Open which is from Wes’s point of view, here. And, really, it’s too short to rate.
8. “The Song Of Achilles” by M. Miller
“There is no law that gods must be fair, Achilles,” Chiron said. “And perhaps it is the greater grief, after all, to be left on earth when another is gone. Do you think?”
The Song of Achilles is a retelling of a part of The Iliad; it tells the story of the life of Patroclus, and therefore also Achilles’. We follow the story of how they grow to be friends, then more, and of course, the battle of Troyes.
As a child, I was a bit fascinated by Greek mythology, mostly because of my big brother. He used to watch the movie Troyes all the time, and as a result, so did I. So, the story of the battle of Troyes is quite familiar to me, and given that everyone around me loved this book, I was very excited about it.
And it lived up to my expectations! I don’t know where to start. The characters were complicated and interesting. The most interesting ones were, to me, Patroclus, Achilles, Odysseus and Achilles’ mother : we see their evolution throughout the book, from Patroclus’ and Achilles’ childhood, through the Trojan war, to the end of it. The writing didn’t impress me at first, but it grew on me until I fell a bit in love with it.
And don’t get me started on the romance : it was simply perfect. The Song of Achilles is one of the few rare YA books I’ve read with a main gay couple, and it was beautiful. We get to see their love grow, and it was so heartbreaking and incredibly moving.
I gave this book 5 out of 5 stars.
9. “The Winner’s Crime” by M. Rutskoski
“An emotion clamped down on her heart. It squeezed her into a terrible silence. But he said nothing after that, only her name, as if her name were not a name but a question. Or perhaps that it wasn’t how he had said it, and she was wrong, and she’d heard a question simply because the sound of him speaking her name made her wish that she were his answer.”
The Winner’s Crime is the sequel to The Winner’s Curse, and one of my most highly anticipated releases of 2015. And, oh, my. I was not disappointed.
This book was in every way better than the first. It was heartbreaking, smart, well-developed, beautiful, but also, mostly, heartbreaking. It still hurts to think about this book, days later. It physically hurts. It feels like when I finished Crown of Midnight by S. J. Maas, except so much more painful, possibly, partly, because Marie Rutkoski writes one of the most beautiful proses I have ever read. And you can see she knows literature by the way she dodges every faux pas fantasy writers could/sometimes make.
I gave this book, without any hesitation, 5 out of 5 stars. And I’m dying for The Winner’s Kiss, probably more than I have ever been dying for any book before. This is agony.
10. “Confess” by C. Hoover
“She deserves so much better than what I can give her. I don’t, however, think she deserves better than me. I think she would be perfect for me and I would be perfect for her, but all the bad choices I’ve made in my life are what she doesn’t deserve to be a part of.”
Confess is the last book to date by Colleen Hoover, probably the most well-known NA writer. It tells the story of Auburn, a young girls with a screwed-up life and lots of secrets, and Owen, an artists who’s equally secretive.
Well, that was a disappointment. But, first, let’s start with the few things I liked : the confessions, which are apparently from real people, were a creative idea. The art was beautiful. I liked that the subject of abusive relationships and how to get out of it (rather than how to get into it like so many NA books seem to drift toward sometimes) was a part of the story. And I liked the relationship between Owen and his father.
Now for the part I didn’t like. Maybe my expectations were too high : I keep expecting Hoover to write a book as good as Maybe Someday, with a relationship development that I can understand. But here, the characters have this immediate connection I didn’t feel at all, and through the whole book, I felt oddly detached to the two main characters. The global storyline was a bit predictable to me as well, and just the lack of feelings that were caused by this book, for me, made me dislike it.
I gave Confess 2 out of 5 stars. I am not impressed.
11. “Cracked” by E. Crewe
“Death is my art form–when I fight, I’m a ballerina. Graceful. Chi lacks my grace, but makes up for it in energy and enthusiasm. His fighting style is like breakdancing–strong and frenetic with some really sweet moves. Jo’s is … the Macarena. Ugly but gets the job done.”
Cracked is the first book in the soul-eater series. It’s a YA series about Meda, this half-demon witty girl who eats souls.
This book was so refreshing! It was hilarious, frankly. It was unique. The protagonist, Meda, is fun and evil, so different from any other protagonist I’ve ever read about. She is wicked, she is smart, she is hilarious. The narrative voice was to me the biggest asset of this book. In the beginning, I appreciated it, but the plot wasn’t really going anywhere until about a third of the book. Then the story started getting really interesting.
You know how YA books always have a certain scheme, with a romance and a mystery to solve and action in-between? Well, Cracked is quite different. Romance? What about romance? You don’t have time for romance when demons and demon-hunters are out to kill you. The characters aren’t the typical characters you find in YA either. They had more obvious flaws, which made the story way more enjoyable.
To sum up, if you want a fantasy book that’s funny and refreshing, I recommend Cracked.
I gave it 3.5 out of 5 stars.
12. “Crushed” by E. Crewe
“Stupid Crusaders with their stupid rules. For a homicidal group, they’re appallingly restrictive.
No, Meda, you can’t leave campus.
No, Meda, you know we have a curfew.
No, Meda, you can’t eat that guy.”
Crushed was almost as good as Cracked. But not quite. The story was enjoyable, although a bit too much on the stressful side to me. The love story was pretty frustrating, but I still liked the narrating voice quite a lot. I am anticipating the release of book 3!
I gave Crushed 3 out of 5 stars.
13. “Phèdre” by J. Racine
“J’aime en lui sa beauté, sa grâce tant vantée,
Présents dont la nature a voulu l’honorer,
Qu’il méprise lui-même, et qu’il semble ignorer.”
Once again, here is a classic play I read in French. Phèdre was written by Racine in the second half of the XVIIth century, and tells the story of Phaedra, Theseus’ wife, who tragically fell in love with her son-in-law, Hippolyte. Since then, she has done everything to try to make that passion go away, but it seems she is cursed by the Gods.
This is a tragic play, one of the few I have ever read, and it was glorious. The soliloquies are incredibly poetic; it was deep and lyrical. Phèdre is the most beautiful play I have ever read.
I have rated this play 4 out of 5 stars.