Pay no attention to how long it’s been since I’ve written any reviews or how many books I’ve said I was going to review and still haven’t. 🙃 Let’s just talk about four books that I’ve read and enjoyed recently!
Winterkeep by Kristin Cashore (Graceling #4)
“They’re stronger than me. But I’m stronger then the way they’re trying to make me feel.”
In the latest Graceling book, we’re introduced to the land of Winterkeep, a democratic republic across the sea with telepathic foxes, airships, and lots of structural corruption. After Bitterblue’s envoy to Winterkeep dies mysteriously, she sets to discover what happened, only to be kidnapped and presumed dead by her friends.
First of all, let it be known that I would die for Adventure Fox.
Secondly, while this wasn’t up to the same level other three Graceling books in my opinion, it was still a fascinating expansion of the world that I enjoyed immensely. Exploring Winterkeep and the new continent was fascinating; they’re much more technologically advanced than the realms that we’re already familiar with, creating a stark contrast to the more “traditional” fantasy world from the other books. I really, really hope that we get more books in this series so we can continue to see more of this world!
Having five POVs was an adjustment after the single-POV books before, and while I don’t think I got to know any single character as deeply, I still enjoyed all of the POVs we got. I did not expect to love Giddon this much, but he’s grown up and learned non-toxic masculinity and we love to see it! Please Ms. Cashore continue writing your wonderful soft male leads. I also completely fell in love with Lovisa, one of the main POVs from Winterkeep. She has a unique voice, she’s a total Slytherin, and I just want to protect her from the world. And Bitterblue, of course, is one of my Favorite Characters Ever, so getting to read more from her was a joy (even though I had a slight existential crisis because we’re the exact same age???).
But anyway, I have a lot of emotions about how Kristin Cashore handles trauma and abuse and legacy and recovery, in Winterkeep and in all the Graceling books. These books are built around women lifting each other up and changing the world for the better by loving and protecting one another, and I can’t think of anything more beautiful. There is so much more about this book that I love, too—Giddon and Hava bros 4 life, the Creature, the commentary on environmentalism and politics, found family all over the place, Bitterblue being a heartbreaker, so much banter, SILBERCOWS, etc, etc. Now I’ll just sit here impatiently until (hopefully) a new Graceling book is announced.
Content warnings: abuse, kidnapping, animal abuse, slut shaming, drug use
Legendborn by Tracy Deonn
“Don’t make your life about the loss. Make it about the love.”
After her mother dies, Bree joins a residential program for high schoolers at a nearby college, needing a change of scenery. When she witnesses a magical attack and resists the memory wipe spell placed on her, she gets caught up in a world of Arthurian magic and secret societies, hoping to find out the truth behind her mother’s death.
I’ll be honest, it took me a while to feel like I understood the worldbuilding and the structure of the society that Bree was stepping into. There were a lot of characters and concepts introduced without much explanation, which meant I kept having to flip back just to make sense of what was happening.
However, once I did have a grasp on what was happening, I got quite into it! I loved the interrogation of Arthurian mythology, particularly how it’s been used as a tool for white supremacy and colonialism. The explorations of different types of magic and the cultures and stories and histories that go along with them was fascinating as well, and I wish we’d been able to go even deeper into these. That’s what sequels are for, though, I guess!
Also, I’m mad at how predictable my reaction was to Selwyn’s character. As soon as he was introduced, I thought, “Oh, great, another asshole character who’s probably going to have a tragic backstory and I’ll have no choice but to adopt him as my son” and. That’s exactly what happened. I wasn’t a fan of the love triangle vibes (honestly the romance was probably the least interesting part of this book for me), but Sel was absolutely a highlight.
Content warnings: death of parent, racism, slavery, abuse
Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert (Brown Sisters #3)
RELEASE DATE: March 9, 2021
“But it doesn’t sound to me like you’ve failed at all, Eve. It sounds like your dream broke, and you’ve been picking up shattered pieces and blaming yourself when your hands bleed.”
Eve’s life is a mess and her parents want her to grow up, but she has no idea how. After a disastrous interview at a B&B that ends in her hitting the owner with her car and breaking his arm, she decides to stick around and help out, despite the fact that said B&B owner, Jacob, decidedly does not like her.
It should not have surprised me at all how much I loved this book, considering what a delight the first two Brown Sisters books were. But even so, I found myself whispering “how does Talia Hibbert do it??” on practically every other page. As always, the writing is witty, captivating, and just plain fun, with characters that manage to feel both larger than life and realistic.
You know that tweet that personally attacked all of us by saying that we like enemies to lovers because we’re drawn to the idea that someone could see all the worst parts of you first and still love you? This book is that to a tee. What I love about Eve and Jacob is that they’re both such nightmares, but on opposite poles, so they somehow manage to understand and balance each other out in a way that no one else can. They go from horribly clashing at every interaction to supporting each other unconditionally and it’s the most beautiful thing to watch.
I’m endlessly impressed by Talia Hibbert’s pacing, because she can write long, drawn-out scenes full of little else but dialogue, which few authors would be able to make interesting all the way through. But she nails it. I just wanted to keep reading and reading and reading. Also! I found out recently that she’s going to be writing an Austen-inspired romance series set in the village that this book takes place in?? ALL MY DREAMS ARE COMING TRUE.
Content warnings: anti-autistic ableism, neglect
*ARC PROVIDED BY EDELWEISS IN EXCHANGE FOR AN HONEST REVIEW. QUOTES ARE SUBJECT TO CHANGE.*
The Wicker King by K. Ancrum
“My mom once told me that being alone makes you feel weaker every day, even if you’re not. But it’s not as bad if you’re with other people who are alone, too.”
Childhood friends August and Jack have always looked out for each other, so when Jack starts having visions of a fantasy world no one else can see, August believes that the best way to help him is to go along with the quest that Jack feels he has to complete.
This book is so bananas that I don’t even know where to begin reviewing it. Since I went in knowing almost nothing about it, and I think that was the best way to go, I don’t really want to talk much about what happens in this book. The way it made me feel, though, was unlike any other reading experience I’ve had. While I was reading, I felt like I was being dragged along by the throat, because I never knew what to feel or how much was real or how to process what was happening. It felt overwhelming and surreal in the best possible way.
K. Ancrum’s writing style takes some getting used to (I experienced this when I read The Weight of the Stars too), but I think it was incredibly effective for the story she was telling. Even though it sent me on a wild rollercoaster of emotions that, even now, I don’t completely know what to think of, I’m going to be thinking about Jack and August and their strange, obsessive, complex relationship for a very long time. This is a book about despair and loyalty and neglect and responsibility, and it has no simple answers, and I loved it.
Also, it has one of the most stunning designs I’ve ever seen! If you get the chance, I recommend just flipping through the pages, which are covered in doodles, handwritten notes, and various mixed media. Such a cool reading experience!
Content warnings: mental illness, parental neglect, panic attacks, institutionalization
Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them? What have you read recently?