**Welcome to Weekly Reads! Each Monday I’ll share reviews for my most recent reads. For more reviews, please visit my page, The Reads: From A to Z.**
Can you believe it, we’ve almost reached our half-way mark for the year! July 2nd is officially our half-way mark, so just one more week to go! I’ve changed my reading goals for the year several times over, and have finally settled on 200 books for the year. As of right now, I’m at 96 out of 200, so I’m right on track! I really can’t believe how spot on I am with it! I’ll be exactly half-way through my challenge by the half-way mark of the year. 🙂
Unfortunately, I’ve slowed on completing Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge. I still have a lot of categories to complete. I really just need to spend some time on GoodReads to make a reading list for the rest of the challenge. Any suggestions for a collection of essays?
How is your challenge going?
The Fireman by Joe Hill
A terrifying new plague is sweeping across the nation, spreading like wildfire not just across the U.S., but the world. Terror stricken and surrounded by fire, a new world order has emerged as crews begin hunting the infected, marked by golden scales the disease is known by. Harper, a young school nurse, witnesses her first burning early on in the epidemic – a normal school day caring for a few sick kids, until she notices a drunken man loitering on the playground, but realizes too late that the man is one of the infected as he bursts to flames. This is the devastating the effect of the Dragonscale, and what Harper will spend the rest of her life evading in order to protect the baby growing within her. Along the way, Harper is rescued by the Fireman, a mysterious man who’s learned to control the fire from within, using the gift to protect the innocent and lead them to safety, an old summer camp where a group of the infected live in hiding. Only when the group bands together in harmony and complete bliss are they able to unlock its secrets, taking on the healing and protective instincts of the disease, an organism like any other that’s only mission is to thrive. The Fireman takes shape as tensions rise between the healthy and infected, as well as between the group of infected that Harper joins at the camp, ultimately showing the variety of outcomes when an unknown illness is introduced to the world – short answer, it’s down-right scary.
“There’s something horribly unfair about dying in the middle of a good story, before you have a chance to see how it all comes out.”
“You know, we might’ve fucked up the planet, sucking out all the oil, melting the ice caps, allowing ska music to flourish, but we made Coca-Cola, so goddamn it, people weren’t all bad.”
The Fireman was easily one of my most anticipated May releases, so much so I’ve been talking pretty much non-stop about it and recommending it to everyone. The story is fantastic and everything I was expecting it would be, but the author’s writing style is not my favorite. There’s too much focus on pop-culture references and too many unnecessary side stories that could have been cut to make the novel a tad shorter (it’s 752 pages!). That aside, I can see how he’d want to include pop-culture to a degree, using it as a connector between the real world and the full on pandemic experienced by his characters. His constant references to Marry Poppins and Harry Potter make it more believable that his world isn’t so different from ours, that this could happen and at any time! While the effects of the Dragonscale are extreme, the resulting chaos is entirely likely if a new pandemic were to enter our world.
Harper is an amazing character, stopping at nothing to conquer the disease and save her baby. She is admirable and caring, as every nurse should be, but more than that, she’s a decent human being who’s been kicked around one too many times and ain’t takin’ it no more! The first portion of the novel focuses on Harper’s relationship with her husband as the disease emerges and she discovers she’s both pregnant and infected. Her husband, Jake, is definitely one of the strongest antagonists of the novel, as their relationship sours he begins to blame her for pretty much everything that’s ever happened to him, but he makes the mistake of underestimating Harper. As she crosses the line between placated house wife to questioning mother, she discovers he’s been manipulating her their entire relationship – an unnecessary side story, but one I really enjoyed. Instead of just having Jake go crazy because of the Dragonscale, Hill takes it one step further by making him completely psychotic to start with. Strangely, the only character I didn’t like was the Fireman, himself. He’s haughty and inexplicable – does he really want to help, or is he just there to play the hero and reap the rewards? I don’t believe he’s the good guy we’re meant to see him as – he plays too many games and pushes the limits with every new escapade just because he can.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
Amani has lived in Dustwalk her entire life, but now, after the death of her parents, she’ll do anything to escape as her future has been settled: marriage or death. Disguised as a boy, she enters a sharpshooting contest where she meets Jin, a mysterious foreigner that’s wanted for treason. Together, they’ll escape the desert town – fleeing the Sultan’s army on a mythical horse. In all her time dreaming of another life, of leaving Dustwalk for good, she never imagined fate would entwine her with the mystical Rebel Prince and a chance to save her desert nation for good. Evoking the mysticism of the Middle East as the Sultan sets to battle ancient magic, Rebel of the Sands is sure to be a sensational new series.
“Being born doesn’t make a single soul important. But you were important when I met you, that girl who dressed as a boy, who taught herself to shoot true, who dreamed and saved and wanted so badly. That girl was someone who had made herself matter.”
I have been waiting to read this book for MONTHS now, and sadly, it was kind of a big let-down. While the world Hamilton was amazing, and the magic system unique to anything I’ve read, I wish there was more to the story – more background on the history of the world, more details on the djinn, more on the area’s politics and treatment of women… more of everything! I know long back stories can bore a lot of readers, but that is always my favorite aspect of fantasy! It’s hard for me to be totally immersed in a story when I have too many questions about their world bouncing around in my head. As for the characters though, I thought they were spot on. Especially Amani – she’s smart and strong willed, but rushes to judgments and rash decisions that often lead to trouble, something I think we can all relate to. As for the story overall, I thought it was flawed and too predictable. The first half, especially, read as a cheesy spaghetti western in print – girl disguises herself as a man, girl joins a shooting contest, girl gets into a bar fight, someone makes a diversion so they can get away, girl falls for her rescuer as they evade a posse, they join a wagon trail, hijack a train… see my point? Now don’t get me wrong, I LOVE spaghetti westerns, they are some of my favorite movies, but the mix between the westernized plot and the Middle Eastern setting just didn’t work for me. I wan’t really intrigued by the novel until well after the mid-way point when Amani and Jin are rescued by his family and the entire political climate is (somewhat) explained. Still not sure if I’ll go for the second novel or not, but it would be interesting to see more of the genies at play.
Dear Fang, With Love by Rufi Thorpe
Lucas and Katya were only teenagers when Vera was born, running away from boarding school to live on a commune until the reality of a child hit Lucas so hard, he fled back to the comfort of home, leaving Katya alone to raise their daughter. Seventeen years later, Lucas has just re-entered Vera’s life, a weekend dad to the core, finding friendship easier than fatherhood, until Vera suffers a terrifying psychotic breakdown at a high school party. After a few weeks in a mental institution, Lucas whisks her away to Lithuania to rediscover their family origin, hoping the time away would solve all their problems, that maybe, maybe, Vera isn’t crazy, she just needs a break. Instead they find the importance of family, and the drastic consequences the past carries with it.
“What aided the mind made the body suffer. They could choose mental health or physical health, but they could not have both.”
Listening to the audio version, this was a slow starter if there ever was one, but trust me, it’s worth the wait! What follows is a truly remarkable story of family, of father and daughter, of our struggle with humanity, mental illness, and the devastating effects of war, not just immediate consequences, but lasting generations to come. For me, their story hit to the core just like The Salt to the Sea – reminding me of the family lost and the ones that survived, and the legacy that followed. The story is just as much about Lucas as it is about Vera, switching off narrations between the two as Lucas struggles with his Grandmother’s escape from the war while coming to terms with Vera’s illness. Vera shares her side of the story through letters to Fang (her totally artsy, typical poetry loving hipster), though many of her letters have been censored, revealing only at the end the depth to her unraveling. Lucas wants to believer her, he has to believe her when she says it was drugs – she’s not REALLY crazy. She’s not bipolar, she’s just a normal teenager experimenting, and he buys it. Honestly I can’t blame him, if I were in his shoes, I’d want to believe it too, but Lucas isn’t wholly at fault. Their journey to Lithuania is far more trying than they ever could have imagined, discovering long lost family secrets as the reality of his grandmother’s escape hits home, creating a link between a family fractured by war and the devastating consequences to come. An experience like that leaves a mark, whether told as family legend or as a warning, it’s a shattering legacy that will pass on for generations to come.
What have you been reading lately?
**This post contains affiliate links. All reviews are of my own opinion. Thank you for supporting my love of reading!**