With the increased flexibility at my new job, I've had a lot more free time in the afternoons, which means I've been reading a lot more. In fact, over the past week, I've finished six whole books, which is quite a lot for me (and I'm well on my way to finishing the seventh, which would average a book a day). Aside from dedicating my newfound afternoon time to reading, I've also deliberately been eclectic in what I pick up. Two of those books have been romances, two of them graphic novels (one a memoir and one fiction), and two of them YA (a cult story and a thriller).
The Divine by Asaf Hanuka, Tomer Hanuka, and Boaz Lavie
The art in this - done by twins Asaf and Tomer Hanuka - is gorgeous, with really rich colors. The story it helps tell, though, isn't well-crafted. It aims to be a sort of mish-mash of modern war story and ancient magic, but it comes off as kind of half-baked. It's ostensibly about child soldiers in Thailand (the story takes place in a fictional Asian country called Quanlom), but I only knew that because of the creators' afterword, which is a good deal more resonant than their story. The protagonist is kind of dull, his best friend is a caricature, and the central conflict about two twin Quanlom kids committing acts of violence for their country (helped along by some magical powers) never gels into anything meaningful. I wish I liked this one better; it's a fine purchase for adult collections (for the art especially), but a bit of a letdown overall.
The Earl's Mistress by Liz Carlyle
I read a lot of historical romance, and I enjoy pretty equally books that are on the tame side as well as those that are rather spicy. This one is definitely on the spicy side. It may be the spiciest historical romance I've yet read, which is saying something. Isabella Aldridge goes to interview for the position of governess with the Earl of Hepplewood, and he turns her down, but offers her a different role instead, which you can guess by the title of the book. He's kind of skeezy in the beginning, and the book gives off a bit of a Fifty Shades vibe, though the earl isn't really tortured like Christian is supposed to be. He gets better later in the story, and this isn't the only historical romance guilty of making its hero a little too unlikeable at the beginning. The developing affection between the two leads is done well, though. The narration by Carolyn Morris is good and the book was enjoyable enough despite its flaws - I checked out a few others by Carlyle on its merits.
The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes
Kelly reviewed this one not too long ago, which made me want to read it myself. So now you have two people (at least) telling you that it's absolutely worth a read. I normally shy away from stories set primarily in prison, but this one wasn't all about fights and how awful prison life is (which just makes me feel sad). It was a very personal story about Minnow and how she comes to terms with what happened with the cult and what she did to land herself in the detention center (refreshingly, she actually did do what she was convicted of doing, which we learn straight off). Minnow emerges at the end of the story a much stronger person with a stronger voice and a better understanding of what she wants from her life. What really made this story stand out for me, though, was the writing. I read a lot of YA books with fairly straightforward writing styles, good for much of the fast-paced action-oriented stories I enjoy. It was nice to read a book by an author who clearly enjoys playing with language - and is good at it - for a change.
Books received from the publisher, except for the Carlyle, which I borrowed from the library.