Writing Bloc’s Best Reads April 2019 Edition. Welcome to our ongoing best of series, in which a few of our Writing Bloc contributors share their favorite read of the month. For the month of April, we hear from Michael, Jacqui, Becca, and Robert.
Michael’s Pick for April: The Hunger Games Series by Suzanne Collins
Yes, I know, it sounds strange to recommend a popular series that sold over 23 million copies and was turned into four high-grossing movies, but hear me out. I first read The Hunger Games when the first wave of buzz crested, and when I read it, I lumped it in with the Twilight series (which I don’t personally care for). I think I did this because their popularity and their target audiences seemed to overlap, so I was curious as to what all the buzz was about. The buzz was probably part of what put me off. I think I was expecting a perfect novel the first time—my head wasn’t in the right place. I was ready to criticize the book at every page, and most of my criticism was undeserved, although, I still stand by my opinion that a lot of the names in these books are ridiculous. (I mean, “Peeta?” I keep hearing Lois Griffin’s voice from Family Guy saying this when she’s saying “Peter” in her accent.)
This time around, I picked up the novel because one of the stories I’m writing has a young female protagonist, and I was looking for recommendations for comparison novels. Enough people recommended The Hunger Games for me to give it another chance. And I’m glad I did.
Is it perfect writing? What is perfect writing, really? It’s told in first person present tense from the perspective of a teenage girl in the midst of a cruel dystopia on the brink of an uprising, so it’s written in an appropriate tone. I appreciated the writing this time around, enough to get over the horrible names. (Plutarch Heavensbee…for real?)
All in all, I fell into the story. It’s well-paced, gripping, and, once I finished the second book I realized that it’s also carefully planned out. The Hunger Games series has impressed me like no other story in that I’ll admit that I got it wrong the first time. I wasn’t in the right headspace to appreciate these books, and now I am, which is a much better and happier place to be. I’d much rather be a person enjoying stories instead of criticizing them. Suzanne Collins helped convert me from a critic to a fan. I’m happy to say I was wrong.
Jacqui’s Pick for April: Devil’s Call by J. Danielle Dorn
“Why is it every time a madman’s prayers are answered, a witch burns?”
I’ll start with full disclosure: J. Danielle Dorn is a fellow Inkshares author, so I may be a bit biased. That said, Devil’s Call is sinister, satisfying, genre-bending read unlike anything I have ever picked up and I highly recommend it.
Billed as “The Revenant with witches,” Devil’s Call is part horror, part western, part feminist revenge soul candy that, if you are anything like me, will have you fully enthralled.
Written as a raw, first person confessional to her infant daughter, Devil’s Call follows protagonist Li Lian, as she avenges the death of the child’s father. I devoured Li Lian’s journey in just a few days, and can’t recommend enough this tale by a truly original voice.
Becca’s Pick for April: How to Not Always Be Working by Marlee Grace
This tiny book is a quick, inspirational read, which started as a zine and sticks to its roots. I purchased this book after hearing Grace speak on the WMFA Podcast on finding balance in one’s life as a creative person. If you read this thinking it will be an end-all, be-all guide, you will be disappointed. If you read this like it’s a conversation with a kind, reflective friend, you will be thrilled.
The book includes some short exercises to help readers reflect on what in their life is work and what is relaxation, as well as the gray areas where those overlap. I found it helpful just to think about, which is Grace’s point– she’s all about the noticing. In line with its origins as a zine, the book includes some things that might seem random to those not familiar with the genre– a section on herbal infusions, an appendix with relevant poetry. I enjoyed all of it, though, as well as the feelings of nostalgia tat the format inspired.
This is a nice read for folks whose work and pleasure are overlapping, as many authors’ are. Come to it prepared to walk away without any conrete “answers” but wth a renewed commitment to self-care and self-compassionate productivity.
Robert’s Pick for April: This Savage Song by V.E. Schwab
Kate Harker and August Flynn’s families rule opposite ends of Verity, a grisly metropolis where violent acts summon real monsters: bloodsucking Malchai; clawing Corsai; and soul-stealing Sunai. The truce that keeps the families at peace is crumbling, and August is sent to spy on Kate. But when Harker’s men try to kill her and pin it on the Flynns, August and Kate find themselves running from both sides, in a city where monsters are real…
This Savage Song is another powerhouse from Schwab and I loved every second of it. Prior to this book, I’d read her Shades of Magic series, which is a stunning urban fantasy trilogy, and I was excited to dive into a different Schwab world. This Savage Song did not disappoint.
Set in a grim world of the future, where the US has separated into independent territories, the story takes place mostly within V-City; a territory divided in two by a shaky truce. It is a city where violent acts give birth to literal monsters. Where some monsters dream of being human. And some humans are… well, monstrous. In the middle of this we meet two youngsters on opposite sides of the divide, who despite everything, forge a connection and must learn to trust each other. The characterizations are deep and wonderful, the world gloriously dark and unique, and the plot sucks you inexorably toward the epic ending.
This Savage Song is the first of two books.