When it comes to books, I find a lot of worth in the books I can reread over and over again and still feel as though I’m reading it for the first time. I get swept up in the emotions, the plots, the characters. In some ways, it does feel like revisiting old friends and in other ways, it’s like rewatching a beloved movie.
I thought, since we talked on Tuesday about movies I like rewatching, we should talk about books I love rereading. However, picking 10 was going to be disingenuous, so I’m just going to talk about 4 (2 YA, 2 Romance) that I just cannot get enough of. And I think you’ll be surprised.
My YA Picks
Sorry to burst everyone’s bubble, but it isn’t ACOTAR (although the 2nd book is amazing and I have reread that a couple times). It isn’t even a Sarah Dessen or Morgan Matson novel.
My first YA pick is The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter. It’s a slightly older book (2011), but I have loved it fervently since I first read it. First of all, it an updated take on the myth of Hades and Persephone, which is one of my favorite myths. However, our lead female isn’t Persephone–it’s Kate, a normal teenager trying to help her single mom who is dying of cancer while also trying to finish high school. Except Kate then meets Henry, otherwise known as Hades, who cuts her a deal: try to pass the seven tests to become a goddess and rule the Underworld with him and he’ll keep her mother alive until the tests are done.
The emotions are high in this story on both sides, which is something you’ll start to notice I’m particularly drawn to. Kate is fighting with everything she has to help her mother, knowing that no matter how much she fights, she’s still going to lose her. And Henry is basically depressed and will legitimately cease to exist if she doesn’t pass these tests. Watching them slowly change from strangers to friends to maybe something more just catches my heart every. single. time. And I’ve reread this a LOT.
My next YA pick is actually the third book in a series and uh…very similar to The Goddess Test. It’s called Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers. It’s the 3rd book in the His Fair Assassins series, a series about girls who are trained up as assassins in a convent in Brittany in the 1400s. While not exactly historically accurate (and with a healthy dose of fantasy, since the girls have powers), it does touch on actual history as well as the juxtaposition of Christianity and pagan religions in the area at this time. They coexisted–but not very peacefully.
Anyway, in this book (and I’ll try not to spoil anything from the previous books), Annith has watched her friends get sent off on missions while she remains behind at the convent of St. Mortain. She’s jealous–and lonely. And when she uncovers a terrible scandal that is leaving girls dead, she flees. But it turns out maybe she’s not the great assassin she thinks she is and she falls in with a group of deadly riders lead by a man named Balthazaar, who is mysterious and more than a little irritating.
Ok, I think that’s all I can say without spoiling anything, but I’m already getting swoony just thinking about this book. Again, high emotions on Annith’s part is a large drawing point to why I keep coming back to this book, but I also really like it because of the strange connection between Annith and Balthazaar from the beginning. They’re not exactly enemies, but they’re wary of each other and it’s just…fascinating.
Oh crap, now I’m itching to pick this book up again. Time to start talking about some others.
My Romance Picks
If my YA picks leaned more into the fantasy realm, my Romance picks are not that way. It’s interesting how that works. When it comes to Romance mixed with supernatural, I’m like, “Nah, I don’t think that’s what I want.” But I like it in YA?
Anyway, my first Romance pick is a historical fiction set in Scotland. (Believe it or not, it’s not Outlander.) It’s called Never Seduce a Scot by Maya Banks and is the first in her Montgomerys and Armstrongs series.
The Montgomerys and Armstrongs are two very powerful feuding families. From the very beginning, we learn the Scottish king is sick of this fighting and has arranged for Graeme Montgomery to marry Eveline Armstrong–without input from either family. Both families are furious, but they can’t deny the king. But there’s more reason than just a family feud for the outrage. Eveline is deemed “touched” after a fever a few years prior. She hasn’t spoken since and she doesn’t seem to always be aware of what’s going on around her. Her family is fiercely protective of her for that. The Montgomerys, on the other hand, think their Laird is being saddled with a simpleton and will never be able to pass his title to any children. What no one knows is that Eveline isn’t “touched”–she’s deaf. She can only hear some sounds, especially if they’re very low pitched. And Graeme’s voice is the first thing she’s been able to “hear” in years.
I think this is just so cool for a few reasons. First of all, I think Graeme and Eveline are fantastic characters. Eveline is incredibly smart, despite what everyone thinks of her. She’s taught herself to read lips so she can try to follow what’s going on around her. And Graeme is infinitely patient with her and protective of her as well. They are a strong couple together and I loved it.
I also think it’s fantastic that the story focuses on Eveline’s struggle to be understood in her own way–in a time when people really weren’t as accepting as we try to be now. Eveline has overcome her challenges in the most surprising and inventive ways sometimes. It’s absolutely the best thing I’ve read in a historical romance ever. And I think part of why it works so well is that it’s based off of the author’s husband’s hearing issues. He, like Eveline, is also partially deaf and no one knew for a long time. So Maya Banks had a real life, personal example to model her character off of and the realism comes through.
My next Romance pick is actually contemporary, which is rare for me as I don’t tend to read contemporary romance. It’s called On Dublin Street by Samantha Young. And actually, I frequently reread any of the first three books in this series.
Jocelyn left the US years ago, to leave behind her grief and pain for a fresh start in Scotland. She’s been living a fairly solitary life until she moves into a flat on Dublin Street. Her new roommate’s brother is doing everything he can to shake up her world. Braden is used to getting what he wants, whether it’s business or personal. And he wants Jocelyn. But knowing how skittish she is, he comes up with an arrangement that will benefit both of them, no strings attached. Soon, though, Jocelyn learns that Braden won’t be satisfied with that deal–he’ll want all of her.
The series continually stays focused on this very close knit group of friends who become family. Some of them are actually family, like how Jocelyn’s roommate Ellie and Braden are siblings, but there are new members who get added throughout the stories who become like family. It’s the thread that pulls the whole thing together.
But ok, what I like so much about this book (and the others early in this series) is how intense they are. And I’m not so much talking about the passion as I am about these characters. Jocelyn’s backstory is dark. She’s had a hard life and she’s learned that it’s easier to never let anyone in than risk getting hurt again. And Braden and Ellie are doing their best to show her that’s not how life works. No one is an island. So there’s a lot of arguments and hurt feelings flying back and forth that just made me care for these characters so much because you see their pain and you understand it.
I keep saying stuff about how the early books, but not the later books. I’ve read the whole series and it’s fine. It’s fine. But the first three books just…spark. Not that the following books don’t, but there’s a time jump in between them because the next characters are teenagers during the first three and then become adults for books 4 and 5, which is fine, but they just feel separated to me. (And actually, if we’re being technical, I probably reread the third book, Before Jamaica Lane, more than On Dublin Street, just because it’s not as dark.)
Oh, I just realized both of my romances are set in Scotland (even if it is 500+ years apart). Ha. Well, yeah, that probably explains something about me. My four picks are about death and Scotland.