Today I am excited to share a few mini reviews for some recent reads. One of which will be making an appearance on my “top books of 2019” list! Read on to find out which book it is…
*Books included in this batch of mini book reviews: In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana French, Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed, Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden, & The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black
» In the Woods (Dublin Murder Squad #1) by Tana French
Genre: Crime Fiction
In the Woods is a crime fiction book about two detectives investigating the murder of a 12-year-old girl. The twist? One of the detectives, Detective Rob Ryan, was involved in mysterious case where two kids went missing in the same small community decades before.
Crime fiction is NOT my go-to genre. In fact, I almost never read it. Why? My major in college was criminal justice, so I am often annoyed how implausible the plot line is, or how the police procedure is handled. I find myself rolling my eyes through many books because how the author portrays police procedures… Let me clue you in (see what I did there?) the criminal justice system does not work like it does in shows like CSI, Law & Order, Dexter, etc. Sure, there are some realistic elements, but overall it is not how things play out in real life. I am happy to report that the criminal procedural elements were very well done in In the Woods. They felt realistic & believable, which is something I appreciate so much. The entire investigation was handled very well and the timing was spot on. Kudos to French!
Despite the fact that the police procedural elements were well done, there was one big far fetched aspect about the plot. The biggest one for me was *highlight between arrows to read spoiler* ⇒ the fact that Detective Ryan’s boss was unaware about his connection to the cold case. Police officers go through extensive background checks… the likelihood that his involvement would go unknown throughout his career? No way. ⇐ Other than this aspect, I thought the plot was very believable. I could totally see this case happening in real life. On the flip side, because this case was so believable, I wasn’t shocked about the reveal of who was behind the murder. I totally guessed who was behind the murder.
In the Woods could have been 100 pages shorter. For a thriller/crime fiction book, it was a fairly slow book. When I read within this genre, I want a quick paced page turner, which this book wasn’t. I feel because this is a series, French wrote a lot of backstory for future books which bogged the story down a bit.
» Amal Unbound by Aisha Saeed
Genre: Middle Grade Realistic Fiction
Set in Pakistan, Amal Unbound is the story about a 12-year-old girl with a passion for learning. Amal is a lovely main character. She’s bright, responsible, hard working, kind, brave etc. I loved her love of reading & books, and her ambition to one day become a teacher. I also respected her bravery & desire to stand up for what is right. She’s an excellent role model for young girls.
My heart aches for Amal throughout the story. From Amal’s school not having the same accommodations as the boy’s school, to Amal having to stay home from school to help take care of her sisters, to her having to pay off the family’s debts as an indentured servant. One thing this novel does is make you appreciate our access to education here in the United States. We really do take it for granted. Education is not easily accessible to all children throughout the world, and even less accessible to girls especially.
Amal Unbound is such a wonderful MG novel that addresses some wonderful themes: friendship, family, education, freedom, etc. This book also tackles some heavier topics like sexism, post partum depression, murder, and indentured servitude. Saeed did a wonderful job presenting these heavier topics in an appropriate way in a middle grade reading level.
Why did I take a star off? The ending felt a bit rushed. The climax of the story was underdeveloped & I wanted more of a emotional conclusion.
» Winter of the Witch (Winternight Trilogy #3) by Katherine Arden
*No spoilers for The Winter of the Witch, but possible mild spoilers for the other books in the series*
The Winter of the Witch was the best book of the Winternight trilogy! This book will be making an appearance in my “best books of 2019” list for sure!
Much like The Girl in the Tower, this book was non-stop action from page one. Arden managed to rip my heart out on page 22… things escalated very quickly in this book. If I had to describe it in one word, it would be intense.
There are a lot of different plot lines & themes coming to a head in The Winter of the Witch: the “old ways” of Paganism vs. Catholicism, the Bear vs. the Winter King, the relationship between Vasya & the Winter King, Konstaintin’s evilness, Vasya’s struggle between her loyalty to her family & her own beliefs, a looming war between the Grand Prince Dmitrii & the Tatars… There’s a lot going on here.
The feminist undertones throughout this series are absolutely fabulous! Vasya is definitely one of the best leading female characters of recent literature. She’s independent, spirited, brave, strong, fierce, clever, and compassionate. I really just loved everything about her.
The Winter of the Witch was the perfect conclusion to the Winternight Trilogy. The Winternight Trilogy really has it all: political intrigue, Russian folklore, magic, action, adventure, a bad ass leading lady… I cannot recommend this series enough.
» The Wicked King (The Folk of the Air #2) by Holly Black
Genre: YA Fantasy
*No spoilers for The Wicked King, but possible mild spoilers for the other books in the series*
I am sad to say that I found The Wicked King to be disappointing. While The Cruel Prince wasn’t perfect, I preferred it to this one because the pacing was better. The first 200 pages of this book were boring… not a whole lot actually happens. The last 130ish pages were where the action was and lived up to my expectations.
Here is one of my big issues with this series: the hate to love trope. It is really hard to pull this trope off in an APPROPRIATE way, especially in YA. Honestly, I find it a bit problematic the way it is portrayed here. I just can’t help but feel we are telling young girls that toxic relationships are okay. *Highlight between arrows to see mild spoiler ⇒It is not okay for characters to tell each other they hate one another while hooking up. Am I the only one that is not okay with this? ⇐ I will say that these problematic issues were not as bad in The Wicked King as they were in The Cruel Prince, but it still bothers me that the toxic romance is what most people enjoy about this series… There are healthier ways to write sexual tension.
Oh Jude. Why do you make terrible decisions?! I felt frustrated with Jude throughout the book for the bad situations she puts herself in. The side characters got ZERO development in this book. Madoc, Taryn, Vivi, Oak… Black could have given us some development in these characters in the first 200 pages where nothing else was happening.
I did like how things were left in the ending of The Wicked King. It definitely made me want to read the next book in the series to see how everything pans out. Do I think this is a must-read series? Not really.
Have you read any of these books? If so, what did you think?
Comment below & let me know 🙂