RIDERS by Veronica Rossi
His dad’s death threw him for a loop, but Gideon Blake’s finally got his life on the right track: he’s in RASP to become a ranger in the US Army. Things are looking good until he finds out he’s War, one of the Four Horsemen.
Gideon’s voice is flawless. He’s angry, but he’s organized– Gideon may have a lot of unresolved issues, but he approaches them always in a way that makes them palatable and draws us into his rage. It’s hard to find an angry character who is logical, strategic, and kind in addition to harboring some heavy-duty emotional stuff behind closed doors, and Gideon is eminently believable. It’s easy to see that great care has been taken with the research aspect on US Army Rangers, and it was really fun to learn more about them and RASP. Daryn I found occasionally frustrating–while the narrative was clear on why she needed to keep secrets, it felt too much like she was withholding information without enough emotional payoff. The only-girl-in-a-group-of-guys thing is here in full force, and without knowing enough about Daryn’s role as Seeker, it often feels more like she’s turning him down over and over to up the tension of the story, instead of for a discernable reason. I think there are enough twists in this that I would be okay with her tipping her hand a little more, and then doing her big reveal at the end to knock us off our feet.
All that being said, this book was hilarious and fantastic. Gideon is the kind of person you want to be best friends with by the end of the first few chapters, and I’m eagerly awaiting the next in the series.
THE GIRL FROM EVERYWHERE by Heidi Heilig
Nix lives aboard the Temptation, a pirate ship that can sail to any place–real or fictional– as long as they have a map. It’s a good life– except her father’s achieving his dearly held dream may erase her from existence.
Nix’s desire at first is simple: self-preservation. If Captain Slate, her father, is able to get the map that will take their ship back to 1868 Hawaii then he’ll be able save her mother from dying in childbirth. He can live with his wife and young daughter, and the Nix who exists with him on his ship will…vanish. The novel has twinkling details of faraway places, an illuminated peek into the traditions of monarchy-ruled Hawaii, and supporting characters that make the ship feel like home. The trouble starts with Slate. As a parent, Slate ranges from chummy to downright reprehensible: he refuses to teach Nix the art of Navigation, but at the same time corrals her into securing vast amounts of gold or money for him to purchase the latest map of 1868 Hawaii on the auction block. As much as she is the titular girl who can go anywhere, Nix is trapped, both on the ship and in a relationship that is stifling and occasionally abusive. She loves Slate and he loves her, but she hates how he dictates every aspect of her life, forgets her birthday, and says he’ll never hurt her even though they both know he’ll always choose her mother first. Granted, Slate’s opium addiction may color his relationship with his daughter, but their scenes were unsettling enough as the central relationship in the book that it was difficult not to skip them. The stakes are also somewhat low: we know Slate won’t erase Nix after about a third in but Nix continues to fixate.
The crew and Kashmir are well worth all the scenes in between their antics, and the settings and details so well done that you know Heilig has done good research. I’d very heartily recommend this if the parent-child relationship did not put me so ill at ease.
A COURT OF THORNS AND ROSES by Sarah J. Maas
An exercise in pacing and character-driven romance with a knife-sharp edge of sensuality.
Beauty and the Beast meets fairies– it’s hard to think it’ll work, especially in a saturated market, but it does. Maas’ fae are dangerous and beautiful, and often the most beautiful people are the most dangerous. Everyone suffers from something in this book, right from the start: Feyre’s family presents a complicated conflict that Feyre must work through, but she does, and never loses her edge and her ruthless drive even as she finds her own (brief) happiness before going off to rescue her beloved. Maas, always, presents a wide variety of guys for her protagonist to choose from and her descriptions bring you just enough into the world to make it real without bogging the reader down in detail, perhaps a holdover from her fanfiction days. Still pretty staunchly heteronormative, and I would have liked to see more women doing things.
This book draws you in and does not let you go until the very end; everyone is scheming amidst luminous details, and while you may figure out how things’ll go before Feyre does , you’ll still enjoy the whole ride to the finish.
ALL THE BRIGHT PLACES by Jennifer Niven
This was one of those books that I was warned about before I read it. I went into it knowing how it was going to end, and that’s probably why this is a 2 stew and not a 1 stew.
Niven attempts to handle both manic-depression and suicide in this book, and both fall flat. I was hoping for a thoughtful struggle to stay alive and the necessary humor to buoy yourself out of the terrible times, but Finch’s darkness is balanced with Manic Pixie Dream Boy antics, mostly laughable. It is hard and uncomfortable to dig into this, but for a POV character I expected better than flamboyant declarations of suicide and none of the wonder, hope, or terror that you feel just as keenly as self-destruction. Finch and Violet’s relationship felt contrived–you could see the hand of the author too clearly moving them together– and Finch himself felt like he served more as a vehicle for Violet’s own enlightenment at the end than a character in his own right. It seemed like this was written more to work out the author’s own personal issues as a survivor of a significant other’s suicide than to dig deep into the mind set of self-destructive behaviors and present an accurate mirror.
There were some good scenes and nice feats of language, but without the necessary depth to make death an understandable though tragic consequence of suicide, this is not a book on suicide I’d recommend.