In April 2015, I read 10 books. Here’s a recap of my favorites.
Not A Drop To Drink – Mindy McGinnis
Lynn knows every threat to her pond: drought, a snowless winter, coyotes, and, most importantly, people looking for a drink. She makes sure anyone who comes near the pond leaves thirsty, or doesn't leave at all.
Confident in her own abilities, Lynn has no use for the world beyond the nearby fields and forest. Having a life means dedicating it to survival and the constant work of gathering wood and water. Having a pond requires the fortitude to protect it, something Mother taught her well during their quiet hours on the rooftop, rifles in hand.
But wisps of smoke on the horizon mean one thing: strangers. The mysterious footprints by the pond, nighttime threats, and gunshots make it all too clear Lynn has exactly what they want, and they won’t stop until they get it . . . .
With evocative, spare language and incredible drama, danger, and romance, debut author Mindy McGinnis depicts one girl’s journey in a barren world not so different than our own.
Review: First, I need to point out the cover of this book. I think it’s stunning. It definitely got my attention right away. Whoever designed it deserves a serious pay raise.
I’ve lost count of how many young adult dystopias I’ve read over the past few years. They’ve all started to blur together in my mind, but once in a while, one stands out. Not A Drop To Drink is a standout. It isn’t about a war, a plague, or a sadistic government that needs overthrowing. It’s just about people doing their best to survive. That’s a refreshing addition to the genre.
Lynn and her mother own a pond in a world where water is scarce. They spend every day defending their water from the people who need it. Lynn has no trouble shooting anyone who gets near her pond . . . until she climbs down from her rooftop sniper perch and starts talking to her thirsty neighbors.
The writing is sparse, gritty, and powerful. I love the subtle differences in the way that the country characters and the city characters speak. This is a beautiful debut novel, and Mindy McGinnis may become one of my new favorite authors.
The characters are the second-best part of the book (after the writing). Lynn is so tough. She reminds me a lot of Katniss from The Hunger Games, but Lynn is a more-willing participant in the deaths of her neighbors. She’s strong minded. She knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. I enjoyed seeing her change as she learns to trust the people around her.
I’m having a hard time coming up with something that I didn’t like about this book. The romance probably could have used more development. Lynn is very inexperienced with physical affection. At the beginning of the book, she doesn’t understand what “Flirt” means, and she doesn’t know anything about sex. She doesn’t even know how to kiss Eli, her love interest. Lynn and Eli’s relationship becomes physical very quickly. It’s not unrealistic, and they don’t have sex, but it still creeps me out because she’s so much less experienced than him.
Not A Drop To Drink is a quick read with a lot of action. I read it in a few hours and loved every second of it. I’m looking forward to the sequel.
Wizard and Glass – Stephen King
Roland and his band of followers have narrowly escaped one world and slipped into the next. There Roland tells them a tale of long-ago love and adventure involving a beautiful and quixotic woman named Susan Delgado. And there they will be drawn into an ancient mystery of spellbinding magic and supreme menace.
Wizard and Glass is book #4 of The Dark Tower series. This review is free of major spoilers, but you might want to check out my thoughts on book #1 (The Gunslinger), book #2 (The Drawing of the Three), and book #3 (The Waste Lands).
Review: Every time I review another book in The Dark Tower series, I say, “This book is my favorite in the series.” This review is no exception. Book #4 is now my new favorite.
In Wizard and Glass, we finally get to see some of Roland’s backstory. I’ve been waiting so long for this, and I was not disappointed. I loved seeing Roland as an overconfident fourteen-year-old. Both his character and the world become more developed in this book. I didn’t think it was possible, but I like Roland even more after learning some of his history. He’s a complicated character. His relationships with Susan and his teenage companions—Cuthbert and Alain—are very believable. I hope the rest of the series includes more stories from Roland’s past.
The world is so well-developed and creepy that I felt a sense of dread the whole time I was reading. Based on the hints given in the previous books, I knew that not everybody in this book would survive. I cared about all of these characters, but I knew that some of them were going to die, so the suspense was incredible.
I also like how this book overlaps with some of King’s other works. I’ve read an embarrassing number of Stephen King books, and I enjoyed seeing the references to stories that I read years ago.
This book does have some of the same issues as the previous books in the series. For me, there is a fine line between scary and silly. This book crosses that line a few times, especially at the beginning and the end. Blaine the Mono and The Wizard of Oz castle made me roll my eyes. They’re just a little too ridiculous for my tastes.
I’m still having fun with this series. I can’t wait to start the next book.
A Darker Shade Of Magic – V.E. Schwab
Kell is one of the last Travelers—rare magicians who choose a parallel universe to visit.
Grey London is dirty, boring, lacks magic, ruled by mad King George. Red London is where life and magic are revered, and the Maresh Dynasty presides over a flourishing empire. White London is ruled by whoever has murdered their way to the throne. People fight to control magic, and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. Once there was Black London—but no one speaks of that now.
Officially, Kell is the Red Traveler, personal ambassador and adopted Prince of Red London, carrying the monthly correspondences between royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell smuggles for those willing to pay for even a glimpse of a world they’ll never see. This dangerous hobby sets him up for accidental treason. Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs afoul of Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a dangerous enemy, then forces him to another world for her 'proper adventure.'
But perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, Kell and Lila will first need to stay alive—trickier than they hoped.
Review: It took me a long time to write this review because I’m slightly conflicted. The logical part of my brain is saying, “I have some issues with this book.” The other part of my brain is completely fangirling over wonderful adventures and Kell’s fabulous coat. Seriously, I want that coat.
A Darker Shade of Magic is about a magician, Kell, who has the ability to travel between parallel Londons. When he comes in to possession of a dangerous magical stone from Black London, he teams up with a thief named Lila to destroy it.
The characters have so much personality, and it’s easy to fall in love with them. The dialogue is sharp, smart, and funny. The humor feels very organic and true to the characters. It’s not just forced into the story in a lame attempt to lighten the mood.
I was happy for the mood-lightening dialogue because a few of the Londons are depressing places. The world-building is impressive. The Londons are so vivid. They each have their own unique culture, language, history, and architecture. It’s fascinating to read about. I think White London is my favorite because it’s so creepy and different from the other Londons.
The plot is slow in the beginning, but the characters and world were more than enough to keep me interested in the story. The action picks up a lot toward the end. I read the majority of this book in one day.
I was too busy enjoying the story to come up with too many criticisms, but I do have a few. First, this book doesn’t feel very original. It’s just the latest blend of thieves, rare magicians, royalty, and evil magic that I’ve seen dozens of times before. Parts of it strongly reminded me of Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, and His Dark Materials.
Next, I wish that the magic system had been explained better and earlier in the story. It took me a long time to figure out how the magic system works, and I’m still not sure if I totally get it.
So, is A Darker Shade of Magic a timeless work of literary genius? No. Is it thoroughly entertaining? YES! I’m eagerly awaiting the next book in the series.
All The Things = 15 books.
I’m currently reading Wolves Of The Calla by Stephen King.