All posts by jaleenajo

Bout of Books TBR!

Grab button for Bout of BooksThe Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 13th and runs through Sunday, May 19th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, Twitter chats, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 25 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

 

I’m reading slumping again, so you know what that means–it’s time for a readathon!

There’s been a lot going on in my non-bookish life, and sometimes stress will very much start to negatively impact my reading life. Conversely, I know that reading is one of the things that helps decrease my stress levels, so sometimes when I’m stressed the best thing to do is actually to just double down and force myself to read more than I normally would. (This happens with writing, too. More on that later.)

I even set a TBR for May hoping that this would help me focus, but it’s not, partially because two of the three books on that TBR I’m kinda hating and considering DNF-ing. So I think that for now I really need to switch gears for a bit and use Bout of Books, a readathon I’m a huge fan of and have participated in many times in the past, as a way to motivate me to actually make some good things happen reading-wise. I’ll be putting the books I’m not liking on hold and instead picking up some highly anticipated 2019 releases, ARCs, and short stories. Let’s do this!

So, here’s what I’m going to focus on reading for Bout of Books:

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)Mouthful of BirdsKingdom of Exiles (The Beast Charmer, #1)

Ebooks: Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (which I’m currently reading and really loving, since it’s a little Six of Crows-in-space-esque), Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Maritneau (eARC, thank you so much to Avon Books Casa, which comes out in June).

Physical books: Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (short story collection by an author whose previous book I loved, also a 2019 new release), and possibly either a physical ARC (The Fall by Tracy Townsend or The Binding by Bridget Collins) or The Pisces by Melissa Broder.

Audiobooks: TBD, since I can’t seem to focus on audiobooks lately, but I’m going to ask for some recs in an instagram story.

 

Are any of you participating in Bout of Books? What are your thoughts on getting through a reading slump? Let me know!

April Reading Wrap-Up

Sorry that this is so belated! I honestly don’t know where the first few weeks in May have gone, because it somehow still doesn’t feel like spring.

Anyways, I read some really fun and wonderful books in April, but I’m still feeling a bit disappointed in my reading progress. I was in a reading slump for part of the month, and even though I made it through to the other side and finished a good number of books overall, I’d have liked to pick up more from my physical TBR shelf and read from my TBR for the month, which I totally abandoned. I shouldn’t feel so down on my reading progress, particularly since I finished 2 wonderful 2019 eARCs, but that’s where I’m at for the moment. On to the stats!

Total books read: 8

eARCs: 2

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & MagicRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonA Princess in Theory by Alyssa ColeA Prince on Paper by Alyssa ColeLagoon by Nnedi OkoraforWicked Saints by Emily A. DuncanConvenience Store Woman by Sayaka MurataIt Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton

Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (4 stars) – I loved this political rom-com, and I think it could potentially be the “it” book of the summer. Check out my full review here. 

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole (4 stars) -This was, hands down, my favorite book in the Reluctant Royals series so far. The first two books in the series (A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default) were definitely cute, smart, well-written books with awesome female protagonists, but I really didn’t love the actual central romances in either one, which isn’t really what you want in a romance novel. A Prince on Paper had all of the awesomeness from the first two books in the series–extremely supportive female friendships, political drama and intrigue, imaginary countries, etc–with the addition of a central romance that had, in my opinion, much more chemistry than the previous two books combined.

Our heroine, Nya, is dealing with the aftermath of emotional abuse by her father, but she’s also on a journey to figure out her own brand of self-confidence and path to happiness. She’s always been intrigued by Johan, the bad-boy tabloid prince of what is basically Luxembourg but isn’t, and the two of them begin to grow closer at their best friends’ wedding, which leads to a fake engagement to help with various political things. It’s cute, it’s sexy, it’s a super fun read about two people struggling with their own issues and coming together to support each other. Highly recommend!

I received an eARC of A Prince on Paper via NetGalley.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor (4 stars) -I really enjoy first-contact science fiction, because it’s a premise with so much room for the exploration of new ideas of what other life in the universe could look like. In Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor, aliens land in the waters off the coast of Lagos, Nigeria with the goal of introducing change. They begin with the oceans, where they help sea life become more beautiful and monstrous, and then with humans, by bringing three seemingly random people (a marine biologist, a soldier, and a rapper) together to help introduce one of their own to the city. As Lagos contends with the very real knowledge that aliens have arrived, violence erupts, friendships are forged, and legends awaken. Would definitely recommend if you’re interested in a unique SF book that at times reads like an intricate thriller.

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic by F.T. Lukens (4 stars) -Really enjoyed this one. It’s a cute and funny contemporary fantasy about Bridger, a high school senior navigating school and college applications and whether or not he’s ready to come out as bisexual when two earth-shattering things happen: a cute boy moves in across the street, and he gets a part-time job assisting an intermediary between our world and the world of myth. Many supernatural and adorable shenanigans ensue. Great for fans of urban fantasy and/or rom-coms. I found it last year at BookCon at the Interlude Press booth, and since I’ve been trying to read all or most of my BookCon acquisitions from previous years before attending this year’s Con, I’m glad to have finally picked it up.

It Happened One Doomsday by Laurence MacNaughton (4 stars) – I’ll be posting a full review of this one later, since I received a free copy to review from Pyr Books (thank you!!), but the short version is that this was a really fun and fast-paced urban fantasy read with a likable crew of characters and a great kickoff to the series.

Wicked Saints by Emily Duncan (3.5 stars) – I had mixed feelings about this one. There were some definite issues with structure/pacing/consistency, but I loved the concept and the three main characters. I did overall enjoy the read and will definitely pick up the sequel, but it wasn’t without its issues. Basically, we’ve got a longstanding war between two countries with Eastern European vibes, and three main characters with the potential to shake things up: the Crown Prince of one country, who’s been acting as a general and has sort of forgotten how to be a prince in the process; a cleric, or mage whose powers are drawn from the gods of the other country, who may be her side’s last hope; and a rogue blood mage with mysterious allegiances. We have a story that’s part road trip and part court intrigue, with one section that gave me Hunger Games/The Selection vibes but could have been better developed, and a lot of great ideas that I felt were explored either too much or too little. Would I recommend this one? Yes, but with a few caveats.

A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole (3 stars) – I really enjoy Alyssa Cole’s writing and I LOVE her badass female protagonists, but I had the same problem with this book that I did with book 2 in her Reluctant Royals series, A Duke by Default, which I accidentally read first: I wasn’t a huge fan of the love interest. In A Duke by Default, it was because the titular Duke was just way too grumpy for my taste; in A Princess in Theory, what bothered me was that he was lying to the main character for a good portion of the book.

Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata (3 stars) – I was really hoping to like this one more than I did. I picked it up after seeing recommendations on Bookstagram and hearing that it’s an extremely short and easy listen on audio (it’s only 4 hours long), but there were several aspects of the book that didn’t work for me. Our protagonist, Keiko, is neurodiverse and has difficulty interacting “correctly” in social situations until she finds a job at a convenience store where she is given clear instruction and examples of how to relate to others. I found this aspect of the story, and Keiko’s characterization, extremely interesting, and I was sucked into the story quickly because I enjoyed seeing the world from her perspective. I also like reading books set in Japan, and reading sort of an everyday, slice-of-life type of story set there was very interesting to me. But then we’re introduced to a disruptive male co-worker who proceeds to upend Keiko’s life and her way of relating to the world, and I just absolutely hated where the book went from there. The male character is sort of an MRA-type asshole who can’t stop continuing to spout his toxic philosophies every time he’s on the page, and the repetitiveness of this was really just a terribly unpleasant experience to read. Not only did you have to deal with hearing what he had to say about men and women and how we’re still living in the Stone Age once (which was more than enough), but you had to keep hearing it over and over again through the second two-thirds of what became a short book that was still too long for what it was. I felt like Convenience Store Woman was interesting enough to have Keiko’s character arc on its own without the male character being necessary, and wished that he could have been portrayed in a more interesting fashion. I overall did like Sayaka Murata’s writing style, though, and because of this and Keiko’s character I still ended up giving this book 3 stars, even though a lot of it was frustrating to read.

 

Have you picked up any of these? What were your thoughts?

Book Review: Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue

Red, White, & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston – 4 stars

I’m calling it right now–Red, White, & Royal Blue is going to be the “it” contemporary romance of the summer. It’s going to be 2019’s The Kiss Quotient, or The Hating Game: a romance that pulls in non-romance readers and ends up a crossover hit.

Why? Because it’s one of the most delightful books I’ve ever read. In addition to a wonderfully sweet enemies-to-lovers romance, it’s got a ton of humor, great friendships, and a political component that’s perfect for readers like me who are a fan of The West Wing and/or Veep.

Red, White, & Royal Blue follows Alex, the snarky and ambitious First Son of the United States; his aspiring journalist sister June; his best friend Nora, who’s his ex-girlfriend and also a genius, in an alternate 2019 where Alex’s mother, a Texas Democrat, has succeeded President Obama and is currently working on her 2020 reelection campaign. (I know. Part of the fun of this book is living, just for a little while, in that world.) When Alex accidentally embarrasses himself at the Royal Wedding by getting into an altercation with Henry, the Prince of England that Alex has always held a grudge against, the two are forced to pretend a friendship in front of the media to salvage international relations. And thus begins an adorable hate-to-friendship-to-love romance as both boys learn about themselves and each other through finding that their worlds aren’t so different after all.

Red, White, & Royal Blue is a book that, to put it simply, will make you happy. There are complications along the road, of course, but it’s sweet and genuine even amidst the snarky humor. There were a few places where the plot felt meandering to me, but I was completely gripped by the story and relationship throughout, and Alex and Henry are a couple you can’t help but root for. I think in a lot of ways this is a book that we need right now, and even if you’re not traditionally a romance reader, you’re still going to love it.

Thank you so much to the publisher and NetGalley for providing me with an eARC of Red, White, and Royal Blue.

Book Review: A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

A Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals, #3)

Book Review: A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole – 4 stars

This was, hands down, my favorite book in the Reluctant Royals series so far. The first two books in the series (A Princess in Theory and A Duke by Default) were definitely cute, smart, well-written books with awesome female protagonists, but I really didn’t love the actual central romances in either one, which isn’t really what you want in a romance novel. A Prince on Paper had all of the awesomeness from the first two books in the series–extremely supportive female friendships, political drama and intrigue, imaginary countries, etc–with the addition of a central romance that had, in my opinion, much more chemistry than the previous two books combined.

Our heroine, Nya, is dealing with the aftermath of emotional abuse by her father, but she’s also on a journey to figure out her own brand of self-confidence and path to happiness. She’s always been intrigued by Johan, the bad-boy tabloid prince of what is basically Luxembourg but isn’t, and the two of them begin to grow closer at their best friends’ wedding, which leads to a fake engagement to help with various political things. It’s cute, it’s sexy, it’s a super fun read about two people struggling with their own issues and coming together to support each other. Highly recommend!

I received an eARC of A Prince on Paper via NetGalley.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon Recap

That’s a wrap on another round of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon! I had what was possibly my least productive readthon ever this month (including not posting my usual TBR and mid-readathon check-in blog posts), but was totally fine with that since I’d spent the entire prior week with the flu and hadn’t read anything at all during the month of April before the readathon started. I was glad that Dewey’s provided a good excuse to get my reading back into gear, and as always I loved the feeling of joining a community of readers engaged in bookishness for a full day. If you’re not familiar, Dewey’s is a day-long readathon where people around the world join in for a full day (or as much free time as they can spare) dedicated to reading and talking books. It’s a lot of fun, and if you’ve never participated, I highly recommend giving it a try.

Here’s my closing survey for the readathon:

  1. What hour was most daunting?

I’m not sure I’d call any hour daunting, but I did sleep in and go to bed earlier than I normally would during a readathon since I wasn’t feeling amazing after having the flu. I did enter into a bit of a what-to-read-next crisis after finishing my first book of the readathon, but I dealt with that by switching to an audiobook.

2. Tell us ALLLLL the books you read!

The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths & Magic by F.T. LukensRed, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuistonA Princess in Theory (Reluctant Royals, #1)Lagoon

I started and finished one book (The Rules and Regulations for Mediating Myths and Magic by F.T. Lukens), finished the last 10% of an eARC (Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston), and read the first 1/3 of two books (A Princess in Theory by Alyssa Cole on audiobook and Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor).

3. What was your favorite snack?

I was drinking a Trader Joe’s matcha latte while reading in the afternoon, and it was the perfect bookish beverage.

4. What was your favorite facet of the day?

Finally finishing a book this month felt great, as did chillaxing and mood-reading after a stressful and flu-filled week.

 

Did any of you participate in the readathon?

March Reading Wrap-Up

I’m a little late with my March wrap-up since I’ve been dealing with the flu all week, but we’re finally here! March was sort of an OK reading month for me; I read a bunch of 4-star reads but no 5-star reads and no new favorites. Here are my stats:

Total books read: 9

Audiobooks: 3

ebooks: 1

2019 releases: 5

ARCs: 1

Find Me by Laura van den BergMy Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan BraithwaiteJane Doe by Victoria Helen StoneThe Gilded Wolves by Roshani ChokshiDaisy Jones & The Six by Taylor Jenkins ReidOn the Come Up by Angie ThomasNever-Contented Things by Sarah PorterNightchaser by Amanda BouchetCall Them by Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit

Call Them by Their True Names by Rebecca Solnit (4 stars) – This was my third Solnit book, and although it was good, it was my least favorite of the three (the other two being Men Explain Things to Me and The Mother of All Questions, both of which I gave 5 stars to). This collection focuses on how language can be utilized to either elucidate or hide the true meaning of actions and events, and it covers a wide range of contemporary political issues, from the removal of Confederate monuments to police brutality to the general truth-obscuring tendencies of the Trump administration. Unfortunately, I did find the collection to be somewhat uneven; while some of the essays were fascinating, detailed, and focused, others were far too broad and discussed issues in terms too general for me to find helpful. I’d still recommend this book and absolutely Solnit as a writer, but this collection overall fell short of my expectations, which may have been unfairly high.

Never-Contented Things by Sarah Porter (4 stars) – I was lucky enough to be able to read an eARC of this book courtesy of NetGalley, and I ended up finding it disturbingly entrancing. You can read my full review here.

Daisy Jones & the Six by Taylor Jenkins Reid (4 stars) – I’m often wary of the hype surrounding new releases (I’ve been burned before!) but when I heard that the audiobook of Daisy Jones & the Six was done with a full cast and that the story was told in an unconventional interview format, I was in. I’ve always struggled to listen to audiobooks; I have a hard time processing books this way in a lot of cases, so I’m always trying to find books that are more like people telling me stories, because that’s the way I’ve found it best to listen. And it worked. Seriously, take it from an audiobook struggler–this is a fantastic production. I felt like I really got to know the characters better because their voices fit with them so well (particularly Daisy), and it was a great way to absorb a book that’s all about the fact that there are many sides to every story. Audiobook aside, this is also just a really great book. I don’t have a ton of music knowledge, and I’m not particularly familiar with the ’70s (two reasons I initially thought I wouldn’t be interested in this book), but neither of those things affected my enjoyment of the story at all. It’s a book about how flawed people can come together to create amazing art, and I think that’s something we can all find fascinating.

My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite (4 stars) – Genre-wise, this book sits somewhere between literary fiction and mystery/thriller, and it’s one that I pretty much devoured. My Sister, the Serial Killer is a very quick novel that easily sucks you in and forces you to care about two sisters, each with quite a few issues, and the fact that one can’t seem to stop killing her boyfriends. I recommend the audiobook, which is how I consumed this novel, although I think it would be addicting in any format.

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi (4 stars) – If, like me, you enjoy books featuring a band of misfits teaming up for a secret adventure, you’ll probably enjoy The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi. This YA fantasy set in a magic-infused 1889 Paris follows six teens: Severin, who’s out to reclaim his birthright as the head of one of Paris’s ruling magical families; Laila, whose pastry chef skills are matched only by her dancing abilities; Tristan, Severin’s younger brother with a penchant for plant magic and a pet tarantula; Enrique, a brilliant historian; Zofia, a neurodiverse engineer; and Hypnos, the patriarch of a magical House none of them are sure they can trust. Together, they band together to plot a heist, take back what’s theirs, and maybe save the world in the process. While I did find the plot disjointed at times and the mythology was a bit confusing, I overall very much enjoyed the read and will definitely be looking to pick up the sequel. Great for fans of Six of Crows, although much less violent.

On the Come Up by Angie Thomas (4 stars) – I was really lucky to be able to attend an event last year where Angie Thomas spoke at our local museum; she’s one of the best public speakers I’ve ever seen, and her accomplishments are especially impressive considering how young she is. Along with pretty much every other YA reader, I loved The Hate U Give, and was interested to see what her next book would bring. I may have actually liked On the Come Up even more than The Hate U Give; protagonist Bri is captivating and relatable, and we get to see her try to realize her dreams while also dealing with the reality of her family’s financial struggles. I both read the physical book and listened to the audio version, which is fantastically done by my favorite audio narrator, Bahni Turpin, and would definitely recommend it to adult and YA readers alike.

Nightchaser by Amanda Bouchet (3.5 stars) – I think this was my first time reading a science fiction romance, and I found that I quite enjoyed it as someone who enjoys both of those genres. I tried Amanda Bouchet’s fantasy romance series last year and really appreciated her worldbuilding and female main character, but stopped after the second book as I really wasn’t a fan of the male lead, but she’s been an author I’ve been wanting to try again and I’m glad that I did. Nightchaser follows spaceship pilot Tess, a fugitive with a mysterious past who’s on the wrong side of the law for trying to help the rebels against the notorious Dark Watch, mainly by providing food and medical supplies to orphans. After a particularly daring endeavor she runs into Shade, a self-described space rogue who she quickly develops a connection with. The two of them, together with Tess’s ragtag crew, find themselves on an adventure and  a mission that could have ramifications larger than they’d dreamed of. It was a fun, fast-paced read with plenty of action alongside the flirtation, and although the plot was quite clumsy in places, I do plan to continue with the rest of the series to see what happens next.

Find Me by Laura Van den Berg (3 stars) – I went into this book fully aware that it has a very low Goodreads rating (one of the lowest of any books on my Goodreads shelves), but since I’ve tended to disagree with books’ average Goodreads ratings in the past and tend to fairly often have unpopular bookish opinions, I didn’t want to let this dissuade me from picking it up. Unfortunately, I ended up finding this book ultimately very disappointing. I did settle on three stars, since I felt that certain aspects of this book did have a lot of merit, but I also found a lot of things frustrating.

Find Me follows Joy, a 19-year-old living outside of Boston, working the night shift at a Stop-and-Shop, and drinking cough syrup to help herself cope with a traumatic past. When an illness causing memory loss and eventual death sweeps the U.S., Joy demonstrates immunity and is offered a place at a research hospital in Kansas attempting to find a cure. The first half of the novel follows Joy falling into the rhythms of the hospital and distancing herself from her former life and her past, while the second half follows Joy’s search for her mother, who abandoned her at birth, in a meandering road trip across a country still suffering from the shock and devastation of the epidemic.

Here’s my main issue with the book: it just didn’t ever seem to fit together. The book contained a lot of really interesting ideas that I thought could have been explored very well as short stories or even as spinoffs into independent novels, such as the epidemic itself and Joy’s time in the Hospital (which I didn’t feel made sense as being only half of her story), Joy’s experiences in the foster care system, which include her childhood best friend, who is scarred from a childhood accident and always wears a Halloween mask, and a really strange episode during the road trip portion of the story that takes place in a house occupied by a girl with angel wings and a man attempting to perform experiments to find his own cure for the epidemic. Any of these ideas could have been a great independent story if explored enough, but instead it was a struggle for them to connect into a larger narrative in which everything eventually felt anticlimactic. I wanted to care about the epidemic, about the state of the country, about Joy and her childhood best friend, but about halfway through the novel, there was a shift in how the story was being told that made me unsure whether the author was attempting magical realism (which I normally love, but didn’t really seem to fit in this context) or a more weird fiction element. There were too many strange coincidences and too-convenient plot elements for it to be realistic speculative fiction, which is fine, but I’m just not sure what the author was going for. I just wanted the story to commit to something, whether it was a plot point or a storytelling mode, but it never did, and so I left the book feeling underwhelmed.

Jane Doe by Victoria Helen Stone (2.5 stars) – I’m not the biggest mystery/thriller reader, but once in awhile I get in a thriller mood and pick one up. There have definitely been thrillers I’ve really enjoyed over the years; unfortunately, Jane Doe was only okay. I appreciated the discussion surrounding the main character being a sociopath, and I found that aspect of the book very interesting, but the actual plot really didn’t grab me in any way. The reviews for this book are great, so I’m clearly in the minority here, but it just wasn’t for me.

Have you read any of these, or are they on your radar? Let me know in the comments!

April/Camp NaNoWriMo Goals & TBR

It’s April! When did that happen?

April means it’s actually (hopefully) spring, that we’re only 2 months away from BookExpo and BookCon (which I seriously cannot wait for), that I consequently have 2 months left in the book buying ban I’ve placed myself on until that time, and that it’s Camp NaNoWriMo, which is essentially a less structured version of National Novel Writing Month, which takes place in November. I’ve set my writing goal for the month at 25,000 words, or half of what the traditional NaNoWriMo goal is, but my actual game plan is to finish the first draft of the fantasy novel I’ve been working on for awhile so that I can start to edit it into something that makes even a little bit of coherent sense. If you guys are interested in NaNoWriMo or what I’m working on, let me know in the comments, and I can try to post about it more.

Since I’m having a writing-centric month, I don’t want to be stressed about choosing books to read or whether or not I’ll enjoy them, so I’ve tried to make a realistically small TBR with a few books I feel fairly confident I’m going to like.

The PiscesMouthful of BirdsPalimpsest

Samanta Scheweblin and Catherynne M. Valente have both given me 5-star reads in the past, Valente in particular during 2 previous NaNoWriMos, and I have a good feeling about The Pisces. There’s also going to be another round of the Tome Topple readathon taking place this month, where the goal is to read books with 500+ pages, and it’s also Dewey’s 24-hour readathon this week, but as I’m not yet sure what I’ll be reading for those I’m not including any readathon books on my TBR.

And these are the NetGalley eARCs that I would like to get to in April, especially because several of them are coming out this month. I don’t know how many ebooks I can realistically devour in a month where I’m trying to write as much as possible, so we’ll see. I’m currently in the middle of the first one, Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, which is really funny and adorable so far.

Red, White & Royal BlueThe Devouring GrayA Prince on Paper (Reluctant Royals, #3)King of Fools (The Shadow Game, #2)

 

Happy reading!