The Wicker King (Review)

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum

33158541The format of this book hits you first. The chapters are really (really) short. There are photos, documents, and other “visuals” that help tell the story. The narrator is unreliable and his friend is unreliable. Because of all of these things, it’s sometimes hard to figure out what is going on or what a character is actually thinking or feeling, rather than what they appear to be thinking or feeling. The prologue starts in media res, and the narrator occasionally has memories or flashbacks of memories throughout the book, so the story isn’t very linear, either. But August (the narrator) clearly notes when that is happening, rewarding your close attention. Your mileage may vary just based on the structure and format, but I loved it.

The narrator’s best friend, we learn, is suffering from hallucinations, so part of the plot is the narrator trying to figure out what to do about the hallucinations in terms of a mental illness, and part of the plot is the narrator trying to figure out what to do about the hallucinations in terms of actual real things that are happening in another world.

So yes, this is a tricky book to read, but well-worth it. It explores mental illness, toxic friendships, healthy friendships, child neglect (degrees of), child abuse (degrees of), and what real emotional and mental support is. I loved the two main characters, as well as their “staff” of supporting characters: the twins Peter and Roger, who care too much and are Angry About It; Rina, the lonely graduate trying to make it; and the rest. I liked that even though August and Jack were trapped in some ways, and felt 100% alone and trapped, the book was subtly showing all of the helpers that they had around them, who ultimately keep them from a Real Bad Ending.

I do have some problems with the book, mostly in how the third act plays out. It seems too neat, considering the GIANT MESS OF PROBLEMS that the characters have to deal with. Mental health is important and difficult, and I didn’t feel like either of the MCs had properly dealt with the co-dependency, everything else aside. I worry about Jack and August in the future, whether they’ll learn to lean on their support system, whether they’ll learn to not lean on each other so much; whether they will let go of the hallucinations or if those will still play out in their lives somehow (that last page implied that they’ve still got some serious kinks to work out, pun intended).

 

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September Reading Wrap-up

My personal favorites from each section are: The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry, Release by Patrick Ness, All Systems Red by Martha Wells, March: Book 2 by John Lewis, and Inuit Mythology by Evelyn Wolfson.

So-called Kids Fiction:

Princess Adventure Stories by the Walt Disney Company (4/5 stars)

Star Wars: Forces of Destiny: Volume 1 by Emma Carlson Berne (3/5 stars)

Smuggler’s Run by Greg Rucka (4/5 stars)

The Weapon of a Jedi by Jason Fry (5/5 stars)

Moving Target by Cecil Castellucci (2/5 stars)

The Jungle Books by Rudyard Kipling (4/5 stars)

So-called Young Adult Fiction:

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan (5/5 stars)

Release by Patrick Ness (5/5 stars)

So-called Adult Fiction:

Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis (5/5 stars)

 

All Systems Red by Martha Wells (5/5 stars)

Taste of Marrow by Sarah Gailey (4/5 stars)

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell (4/5 stars)

The American by Henry James (4/5 stars)

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire (no rating)

So-called Comic Books:

The Wicked and The Divine: Imperial Phase I by Kieron Gillen (4/5 stars)

Mockingbird: My Feminist Agenda by Chelsea Cain (4/5 stars)

Like I’m the Only Squirrel in the World by Ryan North (4/5 stars)

Black Butler volume 19 by Yana Toboso (4/5 stars)

Black Butler volume 20 by Yana Toboso (4/5 stars)

Batgirl: Beyond Burnside by Hope Larson (3/5 stars)

March: Book 2 by John Lewis (5/5 stars)

Buso Renkin volume 1 by Nobuhiro Watsuki (3/5 stars)

Buso Renkin volume 2 by Nobuhiro Watsuki (2/5 stars)

Hawkeye: Kate Bishop: Volume 1: Anchor Points by Kelly Thompson (4/5 stars)

So-called Nonfiction:

Inuit Mythology by Evelyn Wolfson (4/5 stars)

 

The History of Alexander by Quintus Curtius Rufus (3/5 stars)

 

 

Myth Monday: The Star-Touched Queen (Review)

I’m really late to this party but I recently read The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi, an excellent YA fantasy which also happens to be chock-full of mythological influences. The protagonist is a girl called Maya, one of many daughters of a Raja who is trying to get a bunch of rebellions under control in his kingdom. The Raja decides his last unmarried daughter is the only way to get the rebels under control, in spite of the terrible horoscope surrounding her birth. Maya finds herself married to the mysterious Amar, the Raja of a land called Akaran that she’s never heard of before, and the mysteries only grow from there!

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“Ruling Akaran is a strange task. In many ways, it is like balancing an illusion. You must separate the illusion of what you see and the reality of its consequences,” he said. “Tell me, my queen, are you ready to play with fate?”

-Amar is a weird dude.

Some chunks of the plot and characters reminded me a lot of the myth of Cupid and Psyche, particularly the bit where the girl is married off, somewhat against her will, to a mysterious dude who won’t tell her anything about himself but is really nice and has a palace but also nothing really adds up and the girl becomes more and more uneasy about her life and her choices. All of that, but set in an Indian setting, and with a bunch more magical stories and mythic creatures, either gliding along on the fringes or bursting into the middle of the story.

Since I’m super white and am much more familiar with Greco-Roman myths than anything else, I had to look up the other myths invoked here, for the sake of my own curiosity. Fortunately, the author listed some on a Goodreads Q&A. She apparently used many Hindu myths in the story, but especially these: Savitri and Satyavan, Shiva and Parvati, The Ramayana, Shakuntula, and Narasimha. So I have my myth-reading list for the week!  Themes from these stories include lots of trickery and cleverness, the value of memory, the importance of Death as a stabilizing figure rather than a chaotic one, and the power of love. All of these are featured heavily in The Star-Crossed Queen. This book reminded me of another myth-inspired YA book, Deathless by Catherynne Valente. Deathless draws on Russian folklore, similar to the way The Star-Touched Queen draws on Hindu myths, and is another book I strongly recommend.

I definitely enjoyed the story without being familiar with the Hindu myths, as they enriched the story regardless, but I’d like to reread the book once I have a better grasp on them. This book definitely seems like one that would reward rereads; there’s a lot packed in here.

The book as a whole was beautifully written, well-paced, and included a fascinating and awful cast of characters. My personal favorite was Kamala the murder-horse, who says things like:

“It is nice to be nice. And it is also nice to eat people.”

Top 10 Tuesday: 2016 Releases I Totally Meant To Read

I always have way more books on my To-Read list than I can possibly get to. That being said, below are 10 books (in no particular order) that came out in 2016 that I would love to read as soon as I have a chance

  1. You Know Me Well by David Levithan/Nina LaCour: I’ve really enjoyed David Levithan’s contemporary YA collaborations with Rachel Cohn (see #10), and I’ve heard good things about Nina LaCour, so I am definitely excited about a friendship story written by the two of them. This is on my shelf. I’m a terrible person.  Filed under: Friendship
  2. And I Darken by Kiersten White: This is the gender-swapped Vlad the Impaler story I always knew I needed. Or so I’ve heard. Plus I will read anything by Kiersten White. Filed under: Lady Dictators of My Heart
  3. Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews: This is the ninth book in an adventurous romantic paranormal series that I’ve been reading for a bit. They’re like the potato chips of my reading life, tbh. Filed under: I Love Everyone In This Bar
  4. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: This is the sequel to Six of Crows, the fantasy heist YA that I always knew I needed. This….is on my shelf too. Whoops. Filed under: I Love Everyone In This Bar, Found Families
  5. Summer Days and Summer Nights ed. by Stephanie Perkins: This is a YA anthology. Stephanie Perkins also edited a Christmas-themed collection that was very strong. Filed under: Awwww, Wait No
  6. A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro: This is the gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes story that I always knew I needed. Or so I’ve heard. Filed under: Yes Good
  7. Exit, Pursued By a Bear by E.K. Johnston: I finally got on the Right Train this year and read a couple of other books by E.K. Johnston, and she is the real deal. This is a contemporary YA and I don’t know much else about it, but the author sells it for me. Filed under: Shakespeare References, Ee-Kay
  8. Furthermore by Tahereh Mafi: Funny story, I don’t know what this book is about, but it’s cover is beautiful, it’s Middle Grade, and I’ve been keeping up with Mafi since her first book, Shatter Me, so I’m on board. Filed under: Bloofer Covers
  9. Three Dark Crowns by Kendare Blake: I’m very behind on my Kendare Blake reading but she is always a delight. This book is about three evil queens who have to queen it out and see who wins. Filed under: Why Are You So Scary, That’s a Lot of Blood
  10. The Twelve Days of Dash and Lily by David Levithan and Rachel Cohn: Like I said above, I love the books these two have been writing. This one is a sequel to Dash and Lily’s Book of Dares, which I recommend and features a holiday-themed scavenger hunt romance in NYC. Filed under: Dream Team

 

Top 10 Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.

Top 10 Tuesday: Looking Forward

Here are my top 10 books I am excited to read that are being released in the first half of 2017 (whew that’s a mouthful).

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The Dragon With A Chocolate Heart by Stephanie Burgis: sometime in 2017. Filed under: Dragons, Burgis, Be Still My Heart

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Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig: January 17. Filed under: I Want A Star War, Found Families

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Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer: January 31. Filed under: Robot Girls, Sassiest Girl Not-Alive

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At The Edge of the Universe by Shaun David Hutchinson: February 7. Filed under: SDH My Son, Terrifying Realities

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab: February 21. Filed under: Cool Magic Systems, I Hope Kell Dies In This One, Holland For The Iron Throne

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The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan: May 2. Filed under: Final Form, Grabby Hands

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Beren and Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien: May 4. Filed under: Luthien is the Real MVP, Your Love Is My Drug

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The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich: May 16. Filed under: Say What Now, Sign Me Up 

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Thick as Thieves by Megan Whalen Turner: May 16. Filed under: Incomprehensible Screaming, Myth Retellings, Moral Thieves

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Thrawn by Timothy Zahn: April 11. Filed under: Ruthless Alien Geniuses, Outmaneuver Me Any Day
What’s on your TBR for 2017?

Top 10 Tuesday: Fall TBR

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and The Bookish.  This week’s topic is Fall TBR. Some of these books are at the top of my TBR in general and some have recently come out or are coming out real soon.

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this is my first time participating and I’m trying to be cool

1. The Bronze Key by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare: The Magisterium Book #3! It’s a magic school series with amazing friendships and includes a Chaos-ridden wolf pet, so, get on that (I’m just about to start it now that I’ve finished Six of Crows).

2. Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews: Book #8 in the Kate Daniels paranormal fantasy series. These are very formulaic but they have a ton of awesome magic battles and mysteries and I love them.

3. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo: I just finished Six of Crows last night but I am very  ready for more adventures in crime and magic! Inej is the Wraith of my heart.

4. The Hammer of Thor by Rick Riordan: The sequel to the first Magnus Chase book comes out really soon on October 4th. I eat up any Rick Riordan and the first one was very intriguing – this one is reimagining Norse mythology and features a really well-done Loki.

5. Last Seen Leaving by Caleb Roehrig: This YA thriller comes out on October 4th and my Twitter feed won’t shut up about it.

6. Ahsoka by EK Johnston: I’m a huge E.K. Johnston fan and a HUGE Star Wars fan so I am all over this one. Ahsoka is a really amazing Force-using character from The Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels and is about her journey after Order 66 (comes out October 11th).

7. The Hidden Oracle by Rick Riordan: Did I mention I have a huge Rick Riordan problem? This one is already out and is the first in a new series about Apollo. I’ve been saving it for a rainy day, I guess, because it sounds amazing.

8. You Know Me Well by Nina LaCour and David Levithan: I love David Levithan’s collaborations with Rachel Cohn and John Green so I’m excited to see how this one is. It’s a contemporary friendship YA about Kate and Mark and tbh I don’t care about the plot just these authors working together.

9. Jerkbait by Mia Siegert: A YA about two twin brothers that have to learn to live in close quarters after one of the twins tries to commit suicide. I’ve read the first chapter and it’s promising, although I’m not familiar with the author.

10. The Perilous Gard by Elizabeth Marie Pope: I reread this book every year at Halloween because it’s precious and I love it. It’s a quasi-Tam Lin retelling set in pre-Elizabethan England.

2014 Debuts: Mini Reviews #1

I utterly failed at the 2014 YA Debut Author Challenge. I didn’t read any during 2014 and I didn’t review any. But then that made me incredibly sad, so I decided to remedy the matter in some small way. I’m attempting to read 12 2014 debuts (along with 12 2015 debuts) this year. They will all get at least a mini-review.

So without further ado, this is the first batch, reviewing: Alienated by Melissa Landers, Landry Park by Bethany Hagen, Half Bad by Sally Green, and Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy.

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Alienated by Melissa Landers
As far as a YA Alien Romance goes, this was a lot of what I wanted. The alien species was well-thought out, with lots of alien tech and alien world-building and alien hierarchy and alien science and alien politics and alien interpersonal relationships. I enjoyed the humor and culture clash, but the romance became progressively sappier and more annoying. The MC and her family were delightfully real, funny and flawed, but I was offended by how her friends were treated by the narrative. They abandon her and then never really make it up. Why weren’t there any awesome friends in this book? It was her and her alien boyfriend against the world and I didn’t love that. The first half of the book was much better when they were trying to understand each other and there was a lot of more hilarity. I would read a sequel.

Landry Park by Bethany Hagen
Mediocre characters and a staggeringly weak collection of sub-plots were held together by an insta-love romance. I was very interested in the social justice crusade except that there wasn’t a crusade; the MC was very upset about the slave-class dying horrible deaths but then never did anything except worry about what the love interest actually thought about her. She expended more effort finding out who graffitied her house than on helping anyone. The rationale for why the world runs on nuclear power only made absolutely no sense. I would not read a sequel.

Half Bad by Sally Green
Book blurbs often claim that the book will “keep you on the edge of your seat” or that it’s a “fast-paced thriller” but rarely have I needed to read the next page as fast as in Half Bad. Wow-wow. I was trying to analyze what about it made me care so much so fast but I kept getting distracted by social prejudice, mortal peril, chases, torture…etc. The MC is one of my absolute favorite survivor characters, and all of the characters are tricky about their motivations, which I also love. The magic system is really complex and I want to know more. I need a sequel like air.

Side Effects May Vary by Julie Murphy
This is sicklit, which is not a genre I usually read, but the premise of NO CONSEQUENCES, WENCH DON’T CARE led me on. Nothing about this book was fun. Both of the leads are constantly miserable, either because of the MC’s illness or their dysfunctional relationship or both. All of the different relationships were really complex and interesting, whether familial, friendship, or romantic, with some good characterization. The plot was mediocre. It was a fully-contained story so it doesn’t need a sequel and neither do I.