Reading List as of August 30th

August was a fanfuckingtastic month for books. SO. MANY. GOOD. BOOKS. Besides Maya’s Notebook and Beyond Pain (available now at your favorite e-tailer!), there was Michelle Sagara’s newest entry in the Chronicles of Elantra, Cast in Sorrow (you can read my VBC review here) and Must Love Fangs by Jessica Sims (review up soon on Vampire Book Club). Plus these books, which, for the most part, had me squealing with glee:

I feel I ought to build an altar to Steve Brezenoff. The Young Adult author’s debut novel, The Absolute Value of -1 lacks some of the polish and cadence of Brooklyn, Burning, but it was still head and shoulders above a lot of the YA I’ve read. Friends Lily, Simon, and Noah spend their time getting stoned and skipping the occasional class. Each has their academic strengths, and each goes to great lengths to hide it, along with other, deeper secrets. Lily’s, though, is pretty much an open secret: she’s in love with Simon. What we get is a reminder of just how casually cruel kids can be and the urge to question just how well we know the people in our lives. Keeping things buried makes the surface smooth, but it can’t stay that way for long – Brezenoff shows us what happens when it finally erupts. Of the three characters, Simon’s the one we spend the most time with, yet by the end, I felt like I still didn’t know him all that well.

I’ve had a love/meh relationship with Charlotte Stein’s work. I’ve read a few of her books, and while I’ve enjoyed parts of them, I felt like they were missing something. Not so with Run to You. She finally nails that emotional depth that was lacking in the other books. Alissa, convinced her best friend has abandoned her, sneaks into an assignation written in her appointment book and stumbles on the hottest guy she’s ever seen. Only she’s convinced she’s too plain and boring to hold anyone’s attraction, so she hides in the wardrobe. Janos finds her anyway, and he sets out to teach her all sorts of naughty things. Stein has a stream-of-consciousness style of writing I’ve seen many times in literary fiction, and she employs it well here, letting us in to Alissa’s confusion and discomfort and uncertainty. From the back cover blurb, you’d think Janos is the only one who grows in this story, but they both do, toward and away from each other, which made the resolution that much more believable.

Others I enjoyed this month: Sylvia Day’s latest installment in the Crossfire series, Entwined With You – Eva’s reasserting her strength and independence, which is what I loved about her in Bared To You; the next two books in Jessica Clare’s Games series, Playing Games and Ice Gamesfun, fast, smexy reads with spunky, snarky heroines; and book one in Jen Fredrick’s NA Woodlands series, Undeclared – Grace’s reluctance to forgive Noah for his complete lack of communication for the past two years felt very real. I’ll be posting a longer review in a few weeks.

That’s not to say this month was all smooth reading. The Affairs of Others by Amy Grace Loyd fell on the disappointing end of the scale this month. After the death of her husband, Celia, a 30-something Brooklynite, buys a small apartment building and takes over as landlady. For five years, it’s been a calm, insulated existence, her tenants going about their business and leaving her out of it. Everything changes when she allows a subletter in, and her previously neatly ordered life (and building) starts coming apart at the seams. This book makes you work for the story, and it often makes you work too hard for it. Just as you’re starting to get into the rhythm of the story, it changes. By the time I reached the end, I felt like I’d read three different books, none of them complete. Loyd’s given to tangents, which is what made the story difficult to follow. There are probably some people out there that will find this story amazing and worthy of all the praise it’s getting; I just don’t happen to be one of them. I will be on the look out for her next book, because when you’ve pulled apart the sentences, there’s an engaging story to be told here. She just needs to figure out how to tell it.

Likewise with The Goddess Chronicle by Natsuo Kirino. I adored her English debut, Out, and all its crime pulpy goodness. It’s been far too long since one of her books was translated and released in the US, so I was hungry to the point of starving when I came across Chronicle. Two sisters are raised to be the high priestesses of the Realms of Light and Dark, respectively. Narrated by Namima, the priestess of the Realm of the Dark, she suffers a betrayal at the young age of 16 and dies. She travels to the Realm of the Dark to take her place by the side of Izanami, the goddess of the dead, and seeks her revenge along the way. As eager as I was for this book, I wasn’t quite satisfied with it. I’m not sure if it’s because the story itself was outside what Kirino normally writes (and if anyone finds a copy of What Remains, please tell me!) or if it was because of the translation, which was pretty bad. Or at least, I think it was. Since I don’t speak Japanese, I can’t be sure, but it felt stiff and awkward much of the time, and there were a lot of filters, which struck me as unusual. Still, if you’re a Kirino fan or enjoy Japanese mythology, it’s worth getting out of the library.

I think I broke my literary drought this month. We’ll find out next month.

The Affairs of Others and The Goddess Chronicle were provided by the publisher(s) in exchange for an honest review.

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