I’ve been flying through books recently, thanks to some Christmas gifts and car trips (the perfect time for hours of reading). Here’s what I’ve read in January:

Divergent, Insurgent, and Allegiant: I had previously read the first two books in this trilogy, but since I received them all for Christmas, I decided to re-read them. These books are the story of Tris, a 16-year old girl living in dystopian Chicago. In Tris’ society, there are factions, the Dauntless, the Erudite, the Abnegation, the Candor, and the Amnity. At 16, Tris has to choose which faction she will pledge to join for the rest of her life. There’s a great mix of mystery, love, friendship, and general coming of age in each of these books. My favorite part about Allegiant was that Veronica Roth develops her all of her characters, even secondary ones, fully and makes them stay true to the character we have seen, even when many readers weren’t so happy with the outcome. Re-reading the first two books was like visiting old friends. I highly recommend this series!

Call the Midwife, Shadows of the Workhouse, Farewell to the East End: I read Call the Midwife originally years ago (pre-children!) and enjoyed it. Then, the PBS program of the same name came out, and I was hooked. I’d been wanting to re-read the book and the two that accompany it, but my library system only had one. Hooray for Christmas presents! Jennifer Worth’s writing style is personal and engaging and I highly enjoyed these books because of it. I found it was wonderful to read these after watching the show, because I could hear the different characters’ voices, and made reading these stories much more real. I do find the show quite stressful, and the books, thankfully, aren’t nearly as stressful. However, many of the stories in the book that are also in the show are sadder, especially in the second two books. Still, I think these are a wonderful read, particularly if you are interested in midwifery, women’s health, history, or just realizing what a blessing modern medicine is to our society.

Mr. Churchill’s Secretary: A Maggie Hope Mystery: This novel, by Susan Ella McNeil, is set in early 1940’s London. There is war between England and Germany, but the bombings of the Blitz have just begun. Maggie Hope, a highly gifted mathematician, raised in American but British by birth, finds herself working as one of Prime Minister Winston Churchill’s secretaries after the mysterious murder of her predecessor. Also tied up in the mystery of the book is a secret from her own past. While you have to suspend some sense of realism for the mystery, I found myself really enjoying the characters, particularly Maggie, but the various mysteries she uncovers. And seriously, this book has everything. Spies! Codes! Codebrakers! Rapists! Murders! The IRA! Ballet! Rationing! Bombings! It’s impossible not to get caught up in the action. And, I found the mysteries to be pleasantly not-obvious but still believable; there was one particular revelation that made me gasp audibly. The novel is peppered with complex characters and relationships, which make it all the more engaging. If you like historical, face-paced novels, you are sure to enjoy this one!

Cinder: This novel, the first of four from Marissa Meyer, is a little hard to explain. Its sort of like a futuristic re-telling of Cinderella, but sort of not. Here’s what the publisher says: “Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, a ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . . Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.” Yet another book I really enjoyed, though parts are strange. Moon people? Ooookay. But there’s a nice feeling of history meets future meets strange new world that is strangely appealing. This is due to the phenomenal world-building Meyer does. These worlds are built mostly through showing, not telling, and there are hints of a rich history in both earth and Luna that give them a sense of realism. While the love-interest take a leading role in this story, I like that its a-typical in that Cinder quickly realizes that she does have feelings for Kai she works very hard to pretend she doesn’t. I feel like most YA novels of this type are either instant love between both parties, or unrequited love, so this was a nice change of pace. There’s also an element of mystery here, but once the facts are presented, it is very easy for the reader to figure out.  All-in-all, I really enjoyed this book, though I think the characters are a little more one-dimensional than some of the other books I’ve read lately. I am excited to read the next book though and see how/if the characters develop more and what happens with the story-line. I recommend this if you like YA dystopian and/or fantasy, but if you don’t, it might not be for you.

What about you? Read anything wonderful lately?

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