Recent Reads: December 2015

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Recent Reads is a monthly reading wrap-up, with mini-reviews of all the books I finished in the past month. I’ll also share what I’m currently reading and any other books that are in the pipeline. Want to share your bookish happenings, too? Feel free to do so in the Comments section at the end!

Well, I can’t post my 2015 favorite books lists without sharing what I read in December, can I? 😉 I managed to squeeze in four books in December and have decided to review three of them. And beware – there’s all kinds of magical, mechanical, and speculative fiction goodness to follow, starting with my Read of the Month!

Read of the Month: Towers Fall (Towers Trilogy, Book #3) by Karina Sumner-Smith

Towers-Fall-CoverTowers Fall (Towers Trilogy, Book #3) / Karina Sumner-Smith
Science Fiction-Fantasy / 396 pages
Rating: 
4.25 out of 5 (Goodreads / Amazon)

After being fascinated by Radiant and feeling lukewarm about DefiantI didn’t know what to expect from Towers Fall, the conclusion to Karina Sumner-Smith‘s genre-blending Towers Trilogy. So, what did this book do to me? It stunned me. It swept me away. It gave me reason upon reason to call it my favorite book of the series.

Towers Fall kicks off not long after Defiant wraps up. The Central Spire, the City’s most powerful entity, warns the citizens of the impoverish Lower City to evacuate in three days – or face annihilation. Determined to save their home, Xhea and her ghost friend Shai hatch a plot that pits one type of magic against another. But when the girls are separated again, they must search for answers on their own. Revelations about their world, their magic, and their pasts change everything. And in the end, Xhea’s and Shai’s powers may not be enough to protect them from the might of the Towers…

I’m still not sure why I enjoyed Towers Fall more than the previous two books. The writing style still relies on exposition, and the pacing’s a bit slow at times. However, maybe I love it because of how the loose ends are tied up, and any remaining mysteries about the City are finally answered. Maybe it’s how Sumner-Smith’s evocative prose allowed the magic to leap to life and the overall sense of urgency to crackle. Or, maybe it’s how Xhea stole the show with her witty sarcasm and aching vulnerability, or how the explosive climax feels like it’s straight out of a blockbuster film. You know what? I think it’s for all of those reasons. 🙂 This was a thrilling, heartrending close to one of the most inventive speculative fiction series I’ve ever read.

Other Books I Read in December

Weight of Feathers coverThe Weight of Feathers / Anna-Marie McLemore
YA Magical Realism-Romance / 320 pages
Rating:
4 out of 5 (Amazon / Goodreads)

Romeo and Juliet meets Like Water for Chocolate in this YA tale of feuding families, tree-scaling tightrope walkers, and professional mermaids. The Weight of Feathers unites Lace Paloma, in her first year of performing with her family’s troupe; and Cluck Corbeau, relegated to designing his relatives’ winged costumes because of a hand injury. Both teens have been raised to hate the other’s family for possessing black magic. However, when an accident at a local factory spells disaster for the town where the Palomas and Corbeaus are performing, Cluck rescues Lace without knowing her true identity. The two soon fall in love; and they find themselves unraveling the mystery behind the Paloma-Corbeau rivalry and entangled in secrets that could tear apart both families – and each other.

The Weight of Feathers has drawn comparisons to Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus, and I can see why. It’s literary in approach, with an emphasis on narrative and description. I often detached from this kind of writing; it tends to keep characters at a distance, so I don’t connect with them as well as I do with characters in more “commercial” novels. That happened with The Weight of Feathers – but at the same time, I enjoyed it more than I thought I would. The setting was enigmatic yet grounded in reality, and Lace and Cluck’s web of dilemmas was tense and believable. McLemore’s ethereal writing style and the incorporation of Spanish and French phrases heighten the overall aura of awe and romance, and compel you to keep reading. If you like love stories with a dash of magic, dive into The Weight of Feathers and let it sweep you away.

Ink and Bone coverInk and Bone (The Great Library, Book #1) / Rachel Caine
YA Steampunk-Alternate History / 352 pages
Rating:
 4 out of 5 (Amazon / Goodreads)

Imagine if one of the world’s largest libraries had not only survived the test of time, but had also become powerful enough to govern distribution of all printed material and and forbid personal ownership of books. Rachel Caine explores this frightening idea in Ink and Bone, a globe-trotting adventure where the pursuit of knowledge is both empowering and dangerous.

Jess Brightwell, a bibliophile whose family in involved in illegal book-trading, is sent to spy on the Great Library’s headquarters in Alexandria, Egypt. His guise? A Postulant, or a Library trainee with access to every book ever published. But Jess’s training turns out to be more perilous than he could have imagined, testing his loyalties with his family, his fellow Postulants, and the scholars he thought he could trust. Then again, when the Great Library believes that knowledge is more valuable than the lives of those who help maintain that knowledge, who can be trusted?

It’s impossible to not be drawn into Ink and Bone. The original concept, healthy dashes of character diversity, and steampunk elements such as sphynx automatons and an international railway system make it exciting and realistic. At the same time, I struggled with certain aspects of the story. Though Jess is a wonderfully complex character, I didn’t connect with some of his fellow Postulants. Nor did I feel or understand the “romantic chemistry” between Jess and Morgan. However, the last three chapters floored me! They redeemed the less satisfying parts, and the outcome gives Jess the perfect spark of motivation for Paper and Fire. So, if you’re wondering whether Ink and Bone is deserving of the hype it’s received, my answer is a resounding YES.

What I’m Reading Next

I’m binge-finishing Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone Trilogy!! 🙂 I adored the first book when I read it last year. And after getting Books #2 and #3 (Days of Blood and Starlight and Dreams of Gods and Monsters, respectively) for Christmas, I was NOT going to wait long to find out what happens next.

What books did you recently read? Have you read any of the titles mentioned above?

29 thoughts on “Recent Reads: December 2015

  1. Oh, Sara! I’ve been wanting to read THE WEIGHT OF FEATHERS for ages. I’m so glad to hear such positive things about it from you! I think I might definitely like it since yo mentioned its more literary approach; I’m a sucker for that style of narrative, and I’ve been so happy seeing it more and more in YA novels because of its slightly different method of telling a story.

    Awesome list!

    Liked by 1 person

    • If a literary writing style is what you prefer, Rae, then you’ll like The Weight of Feathers. 🙂 Have you read Laini Taylor’s Daughter of Smoke and Bone books? They take the same approach in terms of writing style.

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      • That’s wonderful to hear; I’ll bump it up on my reading list ^_^

        And I haven’t (I’m behind everyone in the reading world XD) but I’ve heard nothing but good things about that series. I’ve had it on my shelf for months!

        Liked by 1 person

      • If it makes you feel any better, I’m behind on a number of fantasy series (either adult or YA) as well. So, you’re not alone!

        When you do get to Daughter of Smoke and Bone, let me know what you think of it! 😉

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  2. Well, what a really good month’s reading, Sara – you must have been in heaven… The Towers trilogy looks intriguing – especially after your recommendation and I LOVE the title – ‘The Weight of Feathers’ as well as the quirkily delicious cover… As for the Rachel Caine – hm – THAT’S the one I MUST get. I like Caine’s writing anyway and this premise is making my mouth water. *Sigh* the problem is the teetering book tower by my bed – which contains NONE of these books!

    Liked by 1 person

    • The tower of books next to my bedroom chair is getting pretty precarious, too… I’m thinking of nicknaming it the Leaning Tower of… well, Books, I guess. XD Anyways, I know the feeling!

      I think you’d enjoy the Towers Trilogy immensely, Sarah. I’ve never “visited” a secondary world quite like the City. Definitely start with the first book Radiant, though. And be warned, you might only be able to find it online, as it’s put out by a fairly small-name publisher.

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  3. The first book is new to me and the last two have been on my TBR pile, I’ve read so many great things about them! Awesome to know that the hype was deserved 🙂 Interesting about the Night Circus comparison with Weight of Feathers, I loved Night Circus but I’m worried I will have the same problem and feel a sort of detachment to the characters. Guess we shall see!

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    • You might like the Towers Trilogy, Alise. I think it’s considered adult fantasy, but the lead characters are 15-ish and 16, so there’s a definite appeal to a YA crowd, too. The first book is called Radiant, btw.

      The best thing to do with The Weight of Feathers is to read it for yourself. 😉 Most everyone I know who’s read it so far has enjoyed it.

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  4. I’m so glad you enjoyed Ink and Bone! I also just reviewed The Weight of Feathers and I can’t agree more – magical realism is often tricky because the increased focus on the magical aspects often take away from my connection with the characters (that’s actually what happened with me and The Night Circus). But I really enjoyed The Weight of Feathers! I felt really into the romance, which is rare for me and when a YA novel can make me feel that, I know it’s special.

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  5. I still really need to try Weight of Feathers, I was determined to read my copy and then realized it wasn’t going to happen anytime soon so I gave it away and now I need to go to the library. So many books! I hope you love DoSaB sequels! They are quite different than the first book just to warn you 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, you should definitely give The Weight of Feathers a chance! It was quite good. 🙂

      I had a feeling that (at the very least) Days of Blood and Starlight would be a much different book than DoSaB, especially given how DoSaB ended. I finished Blood & Starlight a couple days ago, and LOVED it – maybe a hair less than Smoke & Bone, but still. Dreams of Gods and Monsters… eh, I’m only 115-ish pages through so far, but I’m finding it really slow compared to the first two books.

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