March, April, & May Book Recommendations

EEP! I am so behind on these. From now on I’m going to try to do at least a monthly book recommendation post!

There are lots of books I read and enjoy that don’t stay with me, that aren’t Jess-books, for whatever reasons (sometimes mysterious even to me). As a reader, I tend to prioritize character and then setting and then plot, and I’m fond of historical fiction and rebellious girls and sisters and swoony romance. These are the books I read from March-May that I recommend. Sometimes I have hung out with the author, or we’re part of the Apocalypsies together, but I promise I mean it.

♥  THE WICKED AND THE JUST by J. Anderson Coats: This is one of my new favorites! It’s set in 1290s Wales and told from the dual povs of Cecily, a spoiled English girl whose father’s just moved them to this heathen outpost, and Gwenhwyfar, the Welsh girl who serves as the brat’s maidservant. The tension of the simmering Welsh revolt eventually boils over and we get to see how both girls behave when the power dynamic’s flipped. Frankly, neither of them are very nice — but they’re both remarkably sympathetic and fascinating, which is better! The historical detail is amazingly detailed and nuanced but without ever sacrificing pace. I actually read this on a cruise, which seems like a weird pairing, but I couldn’t put it down and kept calling it my “medieval bitches” book. Highly recommend! (read via Netgalley, bought)

WELCOME, CALLER, THIS IS CHLOE by Shelley Coriell: Chloe is so likable — chatty and funny and quirky — but not in a way that ever seems contrived; I felt like I could’ve plucked her out of the group of theatre kids in my own high school. She starts off a rather self-absorbed drama queen, but she grows a lot over the course of the book as she learns how to shut up sometimes and just listen. I loved the relationship between Chloe and her grandmother, who’s facing Alzheimers and a growing loss of independence. From the synopsis, I was expecting a  fluffier contemporary romance, and I was pleasantly surprised by the complexities of Duncan’s family secret and how maturely Chloe handles it. Recommend! (read via Netgalley)

♥  THE WAY WE FALL by Megan Crewe: This book follows Kaelyn as her island falls prey to a horrible plague; she watches as her neighbors, friends, and family fall victim to it and the island is quarantined and left to fend totally for itself. I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the epistolary nature of the book (written in letters to her friend Leo, who’s off in NYC) but it totally worked for me, especially in the sections where Kaelyn pauses or just loses it; I couldn’t put it down. Kaelyn is a fantastically likable character; she originally chafes against the restrictions her father sets, as I think anyone would, but she manages to be both determined to help and pretty sensible about how she goes about it. There’s a sweet romance here, but her friendships and family relationships are just as, if not more, important, which is also a refreshing change. And I was super-scared because the premise seems so plausible and chilling, and Crewe does not hesitate to kill off major characters *sobs*. I can’t wait for the sequel! Highly, highly recommend! (bought copy)

CROSS MY HEART by Sasha Gould: This is historical fiction, set in sixteenth-century Venice. After her sister’s death, Laura della Scalla is ordered home from the convent to marry her sister’s repulsive old fiance, and when a mysterious group of Venetian women called the Segreta save her from that fate, she must decide whether she can really trust them. I loved the notion of this shadowy group of powerful women exerting control in a man’s world by collecting secrets. I also enjoyed the payoff of the mysteries behind Laura’s sister’s death and the love interest, though I identified both pretty easily. Recommend! (read via Netgalley) Note: if you liked this, I think you’ll love Fiona Paul’s VENOM, which comes out in October, is also set in Venice, and has an even twistier mystery and hotter romance!

SISTERS OF GLASS by Stephanie Hemphill: This is a little gem of a verse novel set on Murano, the island of Venetian glassblowers, during the fifteenth century. It’s an evocative read with some lovely details about the art of glassblowing ,and it totally made me want to visit Venice again. Maria is a sympathetic character — elevated above her older sister by her father’s dying wish for her to marry a nobleman, she only wants to continue to work in the family business. I particularly enjoyed that it’s not just a boy she’s pining over; it’s also the art she loves. Plus I’m always fascinated by stories about sisters, and the rivalry between rebellious Maria and lovely Giovanna is really well-done. It left me wondering if all sisters have moments of jealousy, of “Why does she get everything?!” Recommend! (read via Netgalley)

♥  THE SPRINGSWEET by Saundra Mitchell: Saundra Mitchell has an incredible knack for rendering vivid settings. It’s my favorite thing about all three of her books. I felt like I was right in dusty, wild Oklahoma along with Zora (and wished I were there for the trysts at the stream with Emerson). I love how Zora grows; she starts out the book heartbroken, mourning her fiance, and grows into a strong, stubborn woman ready to move on, find her own destiny, and fall in love despite past heartbreak. There’s a bit of a love triangle, but it’s solved very happily; Zora always knows her own mind, and at the heart of it is an incredibly swoony romance. As much as I enjoyed the Baltimore setting of THE VESPERTINE, I think I enjoyed THE SPRINGSWEET even more; the hero was more my cup of tea, and the paranormal gifts of both hero and heroine were fascinating and felt more tightly entwined with both character and their setting. Highly recommend! (own)

♥  DIVERGENT by Veronica Roth: I know, most of the world has already read this and you don’t really need my recommendation, but I’m going to rave about it anyway. DIVERGENT is a crazy page-turner but it doesn’t sacrifice character for plot and that’s why I loved it. I really enjoyed how imperfect Roth lets Tris and Four be. The world-building of the Dauntless compound and their initiation practices — how carefully it all walks the line between brave and cruel — was amazing. As someone who loves personality quizzes, I was fascinated by the factions and how different Dauntless, Erudite, and Abnegation were. I can’t wait to find out more about all five, but especially Amity (I totally think I’d be Amity). Highly recommend! (own at long last)

THE LIST by Siobhan Vivian: This is a searing look at ideas of beauty and popularity, viewed through the lens of 8 girls who have been named the prettiest or ugliest in their grade according to an annual list. I feel like this could have easily gotten preachy, but it never did. All 8 girls felt extremely real, and I felt as much sympathy for the “pretty” girls as the “ugly” ones, because Vivian show each of them struggling too. I was particularly captivated by the prettiest freshman, Abby, who struggles academically and has to deal with her gifted big sister; the ugliest freshman, Danielle, who’s nicknamed “Dan the Man” for her swimmer’s athletic body and has to deal with the fallout with her boyfriend; the prettiest sophomore, Lauren, who’s been homeschooled until this year by her controlling mother; and the prettiest junior, Bridget, who’s got an eating disorder. The mystery of who wrote the list is compelling and surprising, but the girls’ varied reactions to being named and the pressure around the Homecoming dance was really more interesting to me. I feel like this should be required reading for high school girls, honestly. Recommend! (own)

It’s been a slow reading month here. Looking back at my May reading list — well, I did read THE LIST, DIVERGENT, HEMLOCK, and MEANT TO BE — as well as WENTWORTH HALL and THUMPED. I’m hoping to read more in June — I have 3 trips coming up this month and plane/train time is great for reading!

What about you guys? What have you been reading?

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