Last Reads of Last Year

Happy New Year & to all a wonderful morning! My first few waking hours of 2018 have involved lots of coffee, puppy cuddles, texts to friends around the world, finishing a book that straddles the span of two years, & driving my hubster to work in subzero temperatures.

“It’s warming up,” He said dryly to me this morning as we sat in the car with our hands in our coat pockets. 

Of course, I mistook his sarcasm (like most days) for sincerity, and exclaimed all wide eyed, “Really? Is it like 20°(F/~-6°C)?”

“No it’s 7° (F/~-13°C).”

And while living in Pennsylvania for my whole life has prepared me for having four separate seasons, the unpredictability of our weather in more recent years still makes us marvel when it actually drops below the freezing mark. 

But you probably didn’t stumble upon this post looking for random, personal anecdotes. You probably came here, looking to hear about my last reads of 2017.

I know it must sound kind of backwards. Why on earth would I post this today, at the start of a whole other year, and post my resolutions yesterday, when I was still hovering in the previous year? Well, the short answer is: I failed to finish one of the reads I intended to discuss in this post before the clock struck 12 yesterday.

It wasn’t for lack of effort or trying. I did manage to read 165 pages in a single day, all while nursing a pretty gross hangover from the previous night. All in all, I would say that’s an achievement in itself, given the state of things. Not to mention, I finished a book the previous day. So in spite of not tidily wrapping up all my current reads in 2017, I am rather proud of myself for finishing up 2 books in the span of 3 days.

If you follow me on goodreads, you already know what two books I’m referring to. But I’m here to tell you about them anyway.

Let me preface this by saying that I started both of these on the tail end of vacation in early November. It truly is a miracle that I was able to plow through to their endings after having gone weeks without them even crossing my mind. (See my previous post below for more info about why I was stranded in such a vicious reading slump this whole year.) But yay, I made it through them both, and found them to both have some merit.

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The first “last book of 2017,” I finished was A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. It had been a while since I read anything in the fantasy realm when I picked this one up, and let me just start off by saying that I loved it! Her writing gives off that ‘slow reveal,’ vibe while keeping descriptions minimal yet relevant to the imagery of storytelling. The overall concept of the different London’s and how magic is utilized is also easy to grasp. I did like how she used two POV’s and how the two protagonist’s friendship unfolded throughout the course of this novel. But there were a couple of things that brought this story down a bit for me.

All around character development outside of our two protagonists was lacking. Of course when a story like this is told from only two POV’s (and maybe 1-2 other random POV’s throughout), this definitely limits what we can learn about some of the minor characters as readers. And obviously some characters might not be as important as others, but still I felt that some characters maybe could have been flushed out more initially. And since, this is a series, there is a good chance that we could learn more about them.

And then there was the issue of Kell being beat up every few chapters. I mean, I get the whole concept of his body being able to heal itself, but how he escaped some situations after several broken bones and losing all kinds of blood did lose some plausibility for me. There was also a moment towards the end where it wasn’t entirely clear how he could figure out a bit of dramatic irony that made me lean forward abruptly while scrolling through the pages on my kindle. For those who have read it, the “you said please,” moment. I suppose at that point in time, the storyline was winding down, so maybe this was done in order to avoid ramping up the climax again.

Also, I know it has been mentioned by a couple other reviewers before, but the lack of development of the villains. It’s highly unlikely that they will appear again in this series, so I will echo what others have said in that it was a bit disappointing that we never really understood their motivations. They were just portrayed as mad and power hungry. But maybe their whole point of existing was to just be the first obstacle our protagonists had to encounter in this series.

Those few things aside, I really did enjoy the premise of this. I do hope as the series progresses, we learn more about other characters, and maybe get some snippets of what their motivations are. I will definitely be continuing on in this series when I get to a point where I can reward myself with a book purchase or two. More to come on that in another future post…

But I would recommend this if you’re looking for an interesting fantasy series.

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My second final read of 2017 & first finished read of 2018 is The Lying Game by RuthWare. One of my aunt’s discovered her premiere novel In A Dark, Dark Wood, and I guess read a bit about how she became an author, and she thought I would be interested in her. As a result, for my birthday I received both Ware’s debut novel & The Woman in Cabin 10. After enjoying both, I discovered through Book of the Month that Ware had a third novel, and slightly due to impulse, I knew I just had to have it.

As I discovered with both of her previous novels, Ware is a master at the slow reveal thriller. The Lying Game is no exception. She alternates between past & present, disclosing just what we need to know about each character in order to propel the reader forward. Told from a singular, female point of view, Ware doesn’t use the standard methods for deploying the “unreliable narrator,” this time. Instead of vice or trauma impeding her protagonists perception of what is reality and what is fabricated, Ware uses something more universal to achieve this feeling: memory.

I like how our protagonist mostly has her wits about her, but bits and pieces of things only fall into place as she finds herself surrounded by people from her past. This is totally relatable as I often find my memory jogs in seemingly random ways that also somehow make sense. What I also liked about her third novel was the cast of diverse characters she created. I know in novels past, I have struggled with Ware’s development of characters. In particularly in A Dark, Dark Wood, where I couldn’t seem to stand any of them. I found each of these four main ladies equally complicated, and allusions and anecdotes to their individual stories equally heartbreaking. There’s definitely an ability to feel on some level for each of them.

Another thing about Ruth Ware’s writing, and probably also what has earned her the moniker of “the Agatha Christy of her time,” is that just when you think you know whose committed the crime or what the big mystery is, she turns the story on its head. I was able to figure out some things based on a few hints that were blatantly dropped, but the end game turned out to be something different than what I was anticipating.

She also understands diverse female relationships, and is very good at creating women who show solidarity and band together when in dire need. This is a common theme throughout her other books, whether it be shed in a positive light or one that is slightly warped, so I liked that this element was also present in this novel as well.

One thing I didn’t really like was that there wasn’t really a whole lot of closure for the other characters affected by the crime in this story. We see a bit of a hopeful ending for our main protagonist, Isa. And there are some suggestions of happiness or a happier ending for the other women, but there was no closure to the overall dynamic of their relationship. This other thing happens to them, and we just get a blip of Isa with her child mending her relationship with her partner.

I also felt like sometimes, Ware tries too hard with her word choices. She creates some really great metaphors and descriptors, but then choices words that seem like were dropped in from a suggested page of a thesaurus. Again, this isn’t really a major issue, but just something I noticed.

All in all, I liked this book. I think Ware is really talented in this genre, and I would read anything else from her based on my experience with her works thus far. I think this one probably ranks 2/3 out of all of her books, my favorite being The Woman in Cabin 10. I would definitively recommend this one to any mystery lovers out there.

That’s a wrap on my last & first reads of the 2017-2018 holiday season. Stay tuned for some bookish/BuJo content later in the week. 

Afterthought: Did anyone else roll books over to 2018? Or were you all successful in completing your reads of 2017? 

 

 

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