#52Books: March Roundup

Yes, I am aware that we are double digits into May and I am just now posting my March roundup. No, I do not have a good excuse, unless you consider “every time I look at my computer and consider writing words of any sort, I become overwhelmed with the sudden desire to nap” a good excuse.

I haven’t been napping every day, for the record. But with my brain chanting “NAP! NAP! NAP!” at me like a frat boy at a keg* every time I sit down in front of my laptop, there are only so many words I can get it to squeeze out. And considering that I am also supposed to be writing a book right now (to my agent, if you are reading this, I SWEAR I’M WRITING IT. RIGHT NOW. Just, you know, not right NOW), I have been spending the 500-1000 words my brain will deign to produce each day on said book.

Writers, never brag to people that you are a “fast drafter,” because if you say this enough times your muse will come out of the bathroom mirror like Candyman**, except instead of killing you it will shrivel up like an old raisin, and you will stare at it in horror, and from then on you will be creatively constipated and it will be entirely your own fault.

So anyway, I have not been able to write much, and what little I’ve written has not been in the form of blog posts. I’m sorry. But not that sorry, as I really do want to finish drafting this book.

Anyway! Here is a very belated March post. I didn’t read as many books this month as last month, mostly because I decided to tackle some pretty lengthy books, some of which I still haven’t finished, but I at least hit my book-a-week minimum goal (yes, this does mean I am reading multiple books at once, and yes, I realize this isn’t the most conducive method to actually finishing books, and no, I have no intention of changing my approach).

Plus April was pretty respectable, which, realistically, I will probably blog about sometime in July.

Guys, I am just trying to be honest.

*in movies, that is, as I have never actually witnessed this behavior in real life. But I’m assuming this is a thing that happens, because it is in pretty much every college movie ever, and why would it be there if it wasn’t true? Surely college movies are true to the Typical College Experience, unless of course you had my college experience, which was great for me but which most people would probably consider Astoundingly Boring.

** I have also never actually seen Candymandoes he come out of the mirror? I imagine something very much like The Ring, but maybe it’s not like that at all. I suppose I could look up the scene on YouTube, but if it is even marginally like The Ring that would be a terrible idea, because The Ring made me have to cover my television set with a blanket and sleep with all the lights on for three weeks.


14. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

The precarious equilibrium among four Londons has reached its breaking point. Once brimming with the red vivacity of magic, darkness casts a shadow over the Maresh Empire, leaving a space for another London to rise.

Kell – once assumed to be the last surviving Antari – begins to waver under the pressure of competing loyalties. And in the wake of tragedy, can Arnes survive?

Lila Bard, once a commonplace – but never common – thief, has survived and flourished through a series of magical trials. But now she must learn to control the magic, before it bleeds her dry. Meanwhile, the disgraced Captain Alucard Emery of the Night Spire collects his crew, attempting a race against time to acquire the impossible.

And an ancient enemy returns to claim a crown while a fallen hero tries to save a world in decay.

This is the conclusion to the Shades of Magic trilogy, and in my humble opinion, it’s the best book of the series. All the threads that have been painstakingly crafted throughout the first two books finally are able to come together in exciting and unexpected ways, and I laughed, cried, and gasped as these brilliant characters fought their way to the end of the story. It’s really difficult to deliver a satisfying ending to a series, especially one with as many moving parts as are in Shades of Magic (I believe A Conjuring of Light has something like 14 point-of-view characters), but this one sticks the landing so hard it might actually have fused to the ground.

15. Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers

Seventeen-year-old Ismae escapes from the brutality of an arranged marriage into the sanctuary of the convent of St. Mortain, where the sisters still serve the gods of old. Here she learns that the god of Death Himself has blessed her with dangerous gifts—and a violent destiny. If she chooses to stay at the convent, she will be trained as an assassin and serve as a handmaiden to Death. To claim her new life, she must destroy the lives of others.

Ismae’s most important assignment takes her straight into the high court of Brittany—where she finds herself woefully under prepared—not only for the deadly games of intrigue and treason, but for the impossible choices she must make. For how can she deliver Death’s vengeance upon a target who, against her will, has stolen her heart?

I’ve heard great things about the His Fair Assassin trilogy for a long time, so I was excited to finally read the first book in Robin LaFevers’ historical series about assassin nuns. It did not disappoint, with intricate worldbuilding, fully developed characters, and beautiful writing. I did have some trouble connecting fully with the characters and investing in the conflict, so I’m not sure if I’ll keep going or not, but this book was well written and meticulously crafted, so if historical fantasy with a hefty helping of intrigue is your thing, I’d definitely recommend it.

16. Waters of Salt & Sin by Alisha Klapheke

A dangerous romance, a stolen sister, and the mythical treasure that could change everything. The first in the Uncommon World series of standalone novels, Waters of Salt and Sin combines the epic setting of Game of Thrones with the humor and romance of Pirates of the Caribbean—perfect for Sabaa Tahir and Sarah J. Maas fans! To save her sister from starvation and hold on to her relationship with Calev—the high-caste friend she secretly loves—Kinneret sets out for a lost island of silver. But when a madman enslaves her sister, Kinneret must make a deal with the local ruler: Help the leader find the island and secure the ruler’s place in history. In return, the leader’s fighting sailors will rescue her sister. Using Salt Magic to navigate cursed waters, Kinneret and Calev struggle to hide their taboo, caste-breaking feelings for one another, knowing if the ruler witnesses the attraction, she’ll cancel the agreement. But when Calev makes a terrible mistake, Kinneret must choose between the life of her only remaining family member and saving the boy she loves from a traitor’s death.

Alisha is one of my amazing critique partners and this is her debut fantasy, which I cannot speak totally objectively on (due to our aforementioned critique partner relationship) but I highly recommend if you’re searching for a new immersive fantasy with plenty of adventure, romance, intrigue, and pirates. Alisha weaves her prose with a deft hand and serves up a heaping helping of action, suspense, and swashbuckling fun. This is just the first book in her Uncommon World series, but the next one is coming soon, so get on it, fantasy readers!

17. Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older

Sierra Santiago planned an easy summer of making art and hanging out with her friends. But then a corpse crashes their first party. Her stroke-ridden grandfather starts apologizing over and over. And when the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep tears… Well, something more sinister than the usual Brooklyn ruckus is going on.

With the help of a fellow artist named Robbie, Sierra discovers shadowshaping, a magic that infuses ancestral spirits into paintings, music, and stories. But someone is killing the shadowshapers one by one. Now Sierra must unravel her family’s past, take down the killer in the present, and save the future of shadowshaping for generations to come.

I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy, but this one was a lot of fun, full of magic and twists and chalk drawings that come to life and run around the streets and walls of Brooklyn. This was an exciting, quick read, with a vibrant and diverse cast of characters and a world rooted deeply in the culture of the protagonist. It managed to balance its fantastic conflict perfectly with its real-world elements and kept the pace galloping along until the end. This book recently got optioned for a movie, and I really hope it gets made, because this story would be absolutely gorgeous on film.

18. March: Book One by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

 Congressman John Lewis (GA-5) is an American icon, one of the key figures of the civil rights movement. His commitment to justice and nonviolence has taken him from an Alabama sharecropper’s farm to the halls of Congress, from a segregated schoolroom to the 1963 March on Washington, and from receiving beatings from state troopers to receiving the Medal of Freedom from the first African-American president.

I’ve never read a nonfiction graphic novel before, but this was an excellent one to get my feet wet. This book begins the story of John Lewis’s experiences during the civil rights movement, focusing largely on his first meetings with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and taking the reader through the department store lunch counter sit-ins in the 1960s. This book was intense and moving, while also being hopeful and inspiring. There are three books so far in the March series, which I am eager to read, and will definitely be giving to my kids to read when they’re just a little older.

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