This January I read five books.
Artemis by Andy Weir
Jazz Bashara is a criminal.
Well, sort of. Life on Artemis, the first and only city on the moon, is tough if you're not a rich tourist or an eccentric billionaire. So smuggling in the occasional harmless bit of contraband barely counts, right? Not when you've got debts to pay and your job as a porter barely covers the rent.
Everything changes when Jazz sees the chance to commit the perfect crime, with a reward too lucrative to turn down. But pulling off the impossible is just the start of her problems, as she learns that she's stepped square into a conspiracy for control of Artemis itself—and that now, her only chance at survival lies in a gambit even riskier than the first.
First I read Andy Weir's Artemis, which was a fun space romp, on par with The Martian. Though, like with The Martian, whenever the author got into anything relatively adjacent to technical -- like when describing smelting -- my eyes glazed over and skipped to the next non-smelts portion of text. I enjoyed the sassy main character, the world-building on the space station, and the format of the book bouncing between e-mails in the past and present day. A pretty good hoot.
The River at Night by Erica Ferencik
Winifred Allen needs a vacation.
Stifled by a soul-crushing job, devastated by the death of her beloved brother, and lonely after the end of a fifteen-year marriage, Wini is feeling vulnerable. So when her three best friends insist on a high-octane getaway for their annual girls’ trip, she signs on, despite her misgivings.
What starts out as an invigorating hiking and rafting excursion in the remote Allagash Wilderness soon becomes an all-too-real nightmare; a freak accident leaves the women stranded, separating them from their raft and everything they need to survive. When night descends, a fire on the mountainside lures them to a ramshackle camp that appears to be their lifeline. But as Wini and her friends grasp the true intent of their supposed saviors, long buried secrets emerge and lifelong allegiances are put to the test. To survive, Wini must reach beyond the world she knows to harness an inner strength she never knew she possessed.
I also read The River at Night, because I love a good thriller. I even love not-so-good thrillers, which was what this was. Granted, I listened to it as an audiobook, so I'm thinking the irritating accent of a certain character threw me off, but still. There was a bit too much focus on the atmosphere and a couple too-convenient plot device moments that I found unbelievable. I don't want to spoil anything, so I won't mention my least favorite moments. Still, I'm a sucker for people surviving in the wilderness, and it was a fast read, so I'd recommend it for a plane flight. Not a camping trip. Definitely not a rafting trip.
The Secret History by Donna Tartt
Under the influence of their charismatic classics professor, a group of clever, eccentric misfits at an elite New England college discover a way of thinking and living that is a world away from the humdrum existence of their contemporaries. But when they go beyond the boundaries of normal morality their lives are changed profoundly and forever, and they discover how hard it can be to truly live and how easy it is to kill.
Then was The Secret History, which I've had for years and haven't read. This was good, if a little up its own caboose, even if it was also satirizing its own caboose to an extent. I wish there'd been more to the history, plot-wise and less daydreamy, pretty writing about the characters. I also had a hard time differentiating between a few of the characters until most of the way through the book because they all had bland names, descriptions, and were all fairly similar. There wasn't also much in way of diversity. But it did keep me enthralled, even if I was a touch disappointed there wasn't more to the tale.
Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire
Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children
Children have always disappeared under the right conditions; slipping through the shadows under a bed or at the back of a wardrobe, tumbling down rabbit holes and into old wells, and emerging somewhere... else.
But magical lands have little need for used-up miracle children.
Nancy tumbled once, but now she’s back. The things she’s experienced... they change a person. The children under Miss West’s care understand all too well. And each of them is seeking a way back to their own fantasy world.
But Nancy’s arrival marks a change at the Home. There’s a darkness just around each corner, and when tragedy strikes, it’s up to Nancy and her new-found schoolmates to get to the heart of the matter.
No matter the cost.
Every Heart A Doorway, not the other hand, was chockfull of representation and pretty writing. Unfortunately, the book was quite short and I think it could've benefited from being fleshed out a bit. Flushed out? The idea was so interesting, I wanted to know more about it, and more about all the characters. This, too, seemed a bit wrapped up in its butt, though. And it could've done with a touch more plot. I will definitely be reading the next couple books in this series, though!
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”
Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong.
Finally, The Hazel Wood. This had the right amount of prettiness and plot and length, I thought. I loved the fairytales sprinkled throughout the story, which was a bit of a fairytale gone wrong in itself. And I loved the main character. I thought the end was kind of muddled, and I'm still not one hundred percent sure on what went down at certain points, but I loved the spookiness, secrets, and atmosphere of the whole book.