Books I Read in February

This February I read five books.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

Jude was seven years old when her parents were murdered and she and her two sisters were stolen away to live in the treacherous High Court of Faerie. Ten years later, Jude wants nothing more than to belong there, despite her mortality. But many of the fey despise humans. Especially Prince Cardan, the youngest and wickedest son of the High King.

To win a place at the Court, she must defy him–and face the consequences.

In doing so, she becomes embroiled in palace intrigues and deceptions, discovering her own capacity for bloodshed. But as civil war threatens to drown the Courts of Faerie in violence, Jude will need to risk her life in a dangerous alliance to save her sisters, and Faerie itself.

My first book of the month was Holly Black's The Cruel Prince, which I wouldn't normally pick up, since faeries aren't usually my thing. But everyone and their dog was raving about this, and I did enjoy the one other Holly Black book I'd read, so I took a chance. While I enjoyed the story, it did feel like a lot of set up for the next book in the series. And they weren't kidding about the cruelness. These are some mean fae.

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I found some of the big twists predictable, but still fun to read. If you're a fantasy or faerie fan, take a gander.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan

Lois Clary, a software engineer at a San Francisco robotics company, codes all day and collapses at night. When her favourite sandwich shop closes up, the owners leave her with the starter for their mouthwatering sourdough bread.
Lois becomes the unlikely hero tasked to care for it, bake with it and keep this needy colony of microorganisms alive.  Soon she is baking loaves daily and taking them to the farmer's market, where an exclusive close-knit club runs the show. 
When Lois discovers another, more secret market, aiming to fuse food and technology, a whole other world opens up. But who are these people, exactly?

I spotted Sourdough on sale at Barnes & Noble and I picked it up, having thoroughly enjoyed the author's first book, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. This book was quirky and fun, though at times a little too pleased with its own quirkiness.

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My main complaint was that the main character was a woman, but read like a man. Since it was told in 1st person POV it took me longer than it should've to realize the character was a woman. But the plot was adorable and funny and got me making my own sourdough bread, so I'd say it was a successful read.

The Queen's Rising by Rebecca Ross

When her seventeenth summer solstice arrives, Brienna desires only two things: to master her passion and to be chosen by a patron.

Growing up in the southern Kingdom of Valenia at the renowned Magnalia House should have prepared her for such a life. While some are born with an innate talent for one of the five passions—art, music, dramatics, wit, and knowledge—Brienna struggled to find hers until she belatedly chose to study knowledge. However, despite all her preparations, Brienna’s greatest fear comes true—the solstice does not go according to plan and she is left without a patron.

Months later, her life takes an unexpected turn when a disgraced lord offers her patronage. Suspicious of his intent, and with no other choices, she accepts. But there is much more to his story, and Brienna soon discovers that he has sought her out for his own vengeful gain. For there is a dangerous plot being planned to overthrow the king of Maevana—the archrival kingdom of Valenia—and restore the rightful queen, and her magic, to the northern throne. And others are involved—some closer to Brienna than she realizes.

With war brewing between the two lands, Brienna must choose whose side she will remain loyal to—passion or blood. Because a queen is destined to rise and lead the battle to reclaim the crown. The ultimate decision Brienna must determine is: Who will be that queen?

I'd been waiting for this book to come out because I love school stories and magic and going out into the world for adventuring and spying, and when you throw in a mysterious past, I'm sold. I loved the set up of the story and how the mystery threads all unraveled, and I even liked the plot twists I saw coming. But everything was a touch too simple for the character to do and solutions to problems relied a bit too much on convenience.

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Like it ticked all the boxes and beats, but without enough obstacles for Brienna to overcome. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series to see what happens next.

Oh - and avoid looking the family tree at the beginning of the book. It's got serious spoilers and I don't know why they included it, or didn't at least put it with the end pages or something.

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

Ellingham Academy is a famous private school in Vermont for the brightest thinkers, inventors, and artists. It was founded by Albert Ellingham, an early twentieth century tycoon, who wanted to make a wonderful place full of riddles, twisting pathways, and gardens. "A place" he said, "where learning is a game."

Shortly after the school opened, his wife and daughter were kidnapped. The only real clue was a mocking riddle listing methods of murder, signed with the frightening pseudonym, Truly Devious. It became one of the great unsolved crimes of American history. 

True-crime aficionado Stevie Bell is set to begin her first year at Ellingham Academy, and she has an ambitious plan: She will solve this cold case. That is, she will solve the case when she gets a grip on her demanding new school life and her housemates: the inventor, the novelist, the actor, the artist, and the jokester. But something strange is happening. Truly Devious makes a surprise return, and death revisits Ellingham Academy. The past has crawled out of its grave. Someone has gotten away with murder.

Okay. So. My biggest problem with this book, and what really detracted from my overall opinion, was that there's no indication this is the first book in a series. Anywhere. And, being a mystery, you expect the mystery to be solved by the end of the book, right? You're reading along, having a grand old time being stunned and amazed and surprised, and the closer you get to the end the more you wonder, how are they going to wrap all this up in sixty pages? Then fifty pages. Then forty. And so on. Until there's ten pages left and you realize they're not going to be solving the mystery. Or that other mystery. 

There are two mysteries. In two different time periods. And neither gets really resolved. Now the book is a great read, and I love the setting and the characters, and I do actually love the mystery. Both mysteries, in fact. They're both great what-the-hell-happened-I-need-to-know-right-now mysteries. But. They don't really give you a resolution to either, particularly. I feel like if you promise a mystery and don't say anywhere this book is the first in the series and indicate maybe you won't be getting a satisfying ending until the next installment, you've made an oops.

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Soooo, it's a great read. But not a complete story? I'll read the next one. In a year. Cause that's how we solve mysteries now. In a year.

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus

Pay close attention and you might solve this.

On Monday afternoon, five students at Bayview High walk into detention.
Bronwyn, the brain, is Yale-bound and never breaks a rule. 
Addy, the beauty, is the picture-perfect homecoming princess. 
Nate, the criminal, is already on probation for dealing.
Cooper, the athlete, is the all-star baseball pitcher.
And Simon, the outcast, is the creator of Bayview High's notorious gossip app.

Only, Simon never makes it out of that classroom. Before the end of detention, Simon's dead. And according to investigators, his death wasn't an accident. On Monday, he died. But on Tuesday, he'd planned to post juicy reveals about all four of his high-profile classmates, which makes all four of them suspects in his murder. Or are they the perfect patsies for a killer who's still on the loose? 
Everyone has secrets, right? What really matters is how far you would go to protect them."

Yes, this book is full of stereotypes. Yes, I think I read too many thrillers/mysteries, so I kind of guessed the truth. Yes, there were a couple too-convenient moments. But overall this is a fun read filled with all the things you want from a high school murder book. I love the gossip app, and all the gossip, and all the different POVs.

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The ending was also a little cheesy, but hey. Sometimes you need a piece of cheese.