All posts by jaleenajo

June Reading Wrap-Up

And it’s another belated wrap-up in 2019! June got a lot busier than I expected (BEA/BookCon and a road trip to Philly another weekend both ate into my reading time), but we’re finally here with some reviews and some recapping.

I really, really struggled with reading in June; I felt like I was having a hard time finishing books, and although I didn’t read anything that I necessarily disliked, I also felt like the books I was picking up overall weren’t as enjoyable for me as I’d hoped they would be. I felt like I was putting unnecessary pressure on myself to read a certain number of books before the end of the month, and also that since the end of June marked the halfway point of 2019, that I wanted to have read more 5-star or standout reads than I felt that I had. I found myself feeling more pessimistic about my reading than I normally do, and the books I gravitated towards tended to be shorter reads because of this. Not that that’s necessarily a bad thing; I love a tightly written short book, but in this case it was more about the fact that I simply wasn’t able to finish anything longer.

I’m already doing much better with my reading in July, and hopefully my reading slump seems to have abated some. That being said, here are my June stats and reviews:

Total books read: 7

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks: 1

HoneybeeKingdom of Exiles (The Beast Charmer, #1)The Royal We by Heather CocksThe Rose (The Red, #2)The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidBarbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren HolmesWhose Story Is This? by Rebecca Solnit

Barbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes (4 stars) – an unexpectedly great short story collection that I picked up on a whim at an outlet bookstore last year. There were some stories in this collection that I absolutely loved and felt were 5-star stories on their own; there were others that I connected with less, but overall it was a very strong collection that delved into complicated relationship dynamics extremely well. Favorites of mine were “How Am I Supposed to Talk to You?,” “I Will Crawl to Raleigh if I Have To,” and “Desert Hearts.”

Whose Story is This? by Rebecca Solnit (4 stars) – This is my fourth Rebecca Solnit book, and I continue to be impressed by her concise, clarifying essays. I’ll be posting a full review of this one closer to its release date (September 3rd); thank you so much to Haymarket Books for the opportunity to receive an ARC at BookExpo.

Honeybee by Trista Mateer (4 stars) -After giving a lot of thought to which BEA/BookCon book I would pick up first, I found that the decision was made for me on the first day of BookCon, when I found myself in a long line to get a signed book for a friend and needed something to read. I was drawn to a gorgeous little book of poetry I had purchased earlier that day: Honeybee by Trista Mateer. From the very first poem, I was hooked; I found myself wishing that the line was even longer so that I could read more (and after days of lines, that’s saying something.) Honeybee is a poetry collection but it’s also a memoir of the author’s experience ending a relationship with her girlfriend that had gone from beautiful and loving to unsustainable, in part due to her girlfriend’s internalized homophobia. It’s about the impossible feeling of being in love yet having a relationship that you come to realize is bad for you, and it’s told in eloquent snapshots of the breakup, its aftermath, the healing and questioning and fixating that are all part of how we deal with love in all its messy iterations. Several of the poems in this collection made me tear up or gave me goosebumps; all of them made me feel things. Highly recommend, even if you’re not typically a poetry reader.

The Rose by Tiffany Reisz (4 stars) – An extremely intelligent romance novel full of Greek mythology, great banter, and two very likable main characters.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid (3.75 stars) – After seeing this on so many reviewers’ favorites of the year lists, I expected to be wowed by this one. And although I really enjoyed the plot, especially delving into Hollywood in the 1950s-1980s, and the characters, particularly Evelyn Hugo herself, I wasn’t blown away by the writing.

Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau (3.75 stars) – Pokemon-like creatures and undead assassins, with a healthy dose of romance. If that sounds appealing to you, check out my full review here. Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casa for the opportunity to read an eARC of Kingdom of Exiles in exchange for an honest review.

The Royal We by Heather Cocks and Jessica Morgan (3.5 stars) – Cute, fun rom-com that I listened to on audiobook. It’s really the perfect light, fluffy summer read featuring a Kate Middleton/Prince William type of love story, with plenty of drama and humor along the way. We follow Bex, an American exchange student at Oxford, and her unexpected romance with Nick, the future king of England, and the ensuing problems with tabloids and family drama that we know are coming but are fun to read about anyways. If you enjoyed movies like The Prince and Me or The Princess Diaries, or if you need a fix after Red, White, and Royal Blue, then you’ll like this one. Apparently there’s a sequel, The Heir Affair, coming out in 2020, which I’ll definitely be picking up.

 

And that’s it! How do you deal with reading when you’re in a reading slump? Do you take a reading break or try to power through? Let me know in the comments…

Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag!

We’re halfway through 2019, which doesn’t feel real at all, but here we are, and it’s time for one of my favorite bookish tags: The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out tag! If you haven’t done it yet but want to, consider yourself tagged. The Mid-Year Book Freak-Out tag was created by Chami and Ely, and it’s a fun way to look back at the halfway point in your reading year and re-evaluate your goals for the latter half of 2019. I think the point of the tag is to just pick one book for each question, but I’m never able to narrow it down, so here we go:

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2019:

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca SolnitHow Long 'til Black Future Month? by N.K. JemisinThe Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

I’ve only read three 5-star books so far this year (which I’m honestly really not happy about, even though of course star ratings don’t tell you everything about your experience with a book), so I’d say that so far the three of those are tied for my favorite of the year: The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit (essay collection), How Long Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (short story collection), and The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (historical fiction with magical realism element).

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019:

In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuireA Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

It’s a tie between two next-in-series books I really loved: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (portal fantasy) and A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole (contemporary romance).

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to:

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)MiddlegameMagic for LiarsA Cathedral of Myth and Bone

Surprisingly, since I’ve been reading tons of new releases, I still have a whole bunch of 2019 books that have come out already that I haven’t had a chance to pick up. At the top of the list in terms of excitement are Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (post-apocalyptic fantasy), Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (fantasy, which gives me fall vibes so I’m waiting for September/October to start reading it), Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (fantasy), and A Cathedral of Myth and Bone by Kat Howard (fantasy short story collection, which I actually bought way back in January).

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)Ninth HouseThe Grace YearThe Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)

I’m working on a post now about my most anticipated releases for the second half of 2019, which should hopefully be up soon, and there are a LOT of them. At the top of my list are three books by authors I already love and one very hyped YA: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (dystopian, sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale), Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (contemporary fantasy), The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (dystopian, supposed to be a YA Handmaid’s Tale type of story), and The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (contemporary romance). Honestly, there are a ton of books that I could answer for this question; I cheated by including 4 for this question and another 4 for #13.

5. Biggest disappointment.

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins ReidThe Bride Test by Helen Hoang

This question isn’t about your least favorite book so far, but rather a book that you thought you’d love that didn’t live up to your expectations. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid has been seemingly continuously raved about since its release;  more reviewers than I can count gave it 5 stars and included it among their favorites. I didn’t hate it or think that it wasn’t a good book, but I also was definitely not blown away by it. I enjoyed the story and the characters, but for me the writing was not impressive, and I was disappointed after all of the hype. And The Bride Test by Helen Hoang, although still a fun read, didn’t quite live up to Hoang’s first book, The Kiss Quotient, in my opinion.

6. Biggest surprise.

Aurora Rising (The Aurora Cycle, #1)Bad Blood by John CarreyrouChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi AdeyemiBarbara the Slut and Other People by Lauren Holmes

This is another question about expectations, which deals with books that you weren’t sure about but ended up enjoying much more than you expected to. I was very surprised by Aurora Rising by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman, which I picked up on a whim for a quick read but which turned out to be full of memorable characters and the start of a series I’ll definitely continue with; Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, which I was initially wary of since I’m not a big reader of any books about business or tech but ended up suspenseful and fascinating; Children of Blood and Bone, which I was afraid would get lost among so many other YA epic fantasy books but completely sucked me into its world; and Barbara the Slut and Other People, a very underrated short story collection I haven’t been hearing nearly enough about.

7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I’m 100% going to be reading more from Casey McQuiston after reading and loving Red, White, & Royal Blue.

8. Newest fictional crush.

A Prince on Paper by Alyssa Cole

I really enjoyed the first two books in Alyssa Cole’s Reluctant Royals series, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the love interests until the third book, A Prince on Paper.

9. Newest favorite character.

Aurora Rising by Jay KristoffNever-Contented Things by Sarah  Porter

I really enjoyed the band of misfits introduced in Aurora Rising, who are described on Goodreads as as “a cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm; a sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates; a smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder; an alien warrior with anger management issues; and a tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering.” I also loved all three complicated, dimensional main characters in Sarah Porter’s Never-Contented Things, which was more about their relationship dynamics, both healthy and unhealthy, than it was about its fantasy story.

10. Book that made you cry.

Honeybee by Trista Mateer

Honeybee by Trista Mateer is the type of book that makes me want to pick up more poetry. I read it in two sittings, and cried on a plane from the emotion of some of its poems.

11. Book that made you happy.

Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

I can’t think of a more delightful book so far this year than Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston, a wonderful political rom-com featuring an adorable enemies-to-friends-to-lovers story. If you haven’t picked it up yet, it’s a fantastic read for summer.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta SchweblinGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring BlakeIn an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

I apparently am very into detailed, multicolored covers right now, like Mouthful of Birds, Girl Made of Stars, and In an Absent Dream.

13. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

After the FloodThe Ten Thousand Doors of JanuaryLost in the Spanish QuarterThe Deep

My answers for this question also apply to #12 (most beautiful books) and #4 (most anticipated releases for the next half of the year). After the Flood by Kassandra Montag (post-apocalyptic fiction), The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (historical portal fantasy), Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich (fiction), and The Deep by Rivers Solomon (fantasy).

 

Do you agree or disagree with any of my picks? Anything on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

 

 

Top Ten Tuesday: Summer TBR!

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish in June of 2010 and was moved to That Artsy Reader Girl in January of 2018. 

It’s been a hot minute since I’ve done a Top Ten Tuesday post, and since it’s finally summer and I’m starting to plan out my reading over the next few months, this is really perfect timing. Because I’m me, I’m going to divide my summer TBR into categories:

  • Backlist books, which today for my purposes is going to mean anything that didn’t come out this year:

The PiscesThe SeasMargaret the First

The Pisces by Melissa Broder – I keep adding this books to TBRs and then not picking it up, but the cover screams summer to me, so now’s the time. I believe this book is about a woman falling in love with a merman, and it’s got wildly mixed reviews, but I have a good feeling about it. It’s also on my top ten TBR for 2019 list, so even more reason to prioritize it.

The Seas by Samantha Hunt – because when I think summer I think mermaids, apparently. This is Hunt’s debut novel; I read Mr. Splitfoot a few years ago and it was one of my favorite books of 2016.

Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton – this book isn’t summery-sounding at all, but I’ve been very much in the mood to read it, so it’s going on the list. It’s short, which means very portable for summer travels, and it’s feminist historical fiction, which makes me happy.

  • ARCs, because I am trying to stay organized and on top of the gorgeous review copies I picked up at BookExpo this year:

The Right Swipe (Modern Love, #1)The Grace YearThe Future of Another TimelineLost in the Spanish Quarter

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai – my first and only Goodreads giveaway win. I loved Alisha Rai’s Forbidden Hearts series when I read them last year and have been saving the first book in her new Modern Love series for some serious beach reading.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett – If you compare a book to The Handmaid’s Tale, I’m going to read it; it really is that simple. The Grace Year is supposed to be a YA version featuring a year when young women are banished to the woods in order to rid themselves of their magic; it’s getting a ton of hype and it sounds amazing.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz – I’m not trying to only pick pink ARCs, I promise. OK, maybe a little bit. But this one sounds genuinely awesome – it features dual narratives of 1992, where a group of girls have committed a murder in the name of protecting another woman, and 2022, where time travel comes into play.

Lost in the Spanish Quarter by Heddi Goodrich – this book hooked me because of a comparison to Elena Ferrante, whose Neapolitan novels I devoured a few summers ago.

  • New releases, because 2019 is the year of the new releases (according to me) and I don’t want to miss any amazing ones if I can help it:

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)Normal PeopleSweep of the Blade (Innkeeper Chronicles, #4)

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse: sequel to one of my favorite new releases of last year, Trail of Lightning, featuring a post-climate change apocalypse world, Navajo mythology, and a badass female protagonist.

Normal People by Sally Rooney: a short book about first love that I’ve been hearing fantastic things about. I’m prioritizing this one in July because I participated in a challenge over on Litsy called #MakeMeReadIt, where you post a stack of books on your TBR and other Littens vote on what you read in the upcoming month. I was actually not expecting this one to win it, but I’m also not mad at it.

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews – because I’m never not going to immediately read every new release from Ilona Andrews. This is the fourth installment in what’s actually my least favorite series of theirs, but it focuses on the badass sister of previous main character Dina and presumably her romance with my favorite of Dina’s love interests, who didn’t end up being the one she chose in the end. (Trying to avoid spoilers.) I’ve pre-ordered this one, which releases on July 16th.

 

What’s on your summer TBR??

Book Review: Kingdom of Exiles by Maxym M. Martineau

Pokemon-like creatures and undead assassins, with a healthy dose of romance. If any of that sounds appealing to you, I’d recommend Kingdom of Exiles as a very fun fantasy read.

Kingdom of Exiles follows Leena, the titular exile, who’s been thrown out of her home city for a crime she didn’t commit and forced to do things she finds abominable in order to survive. Leena is a Charmer, who, not unlike a Pokemon trainer, has the ability to find and catch magical beasts, whose powers aid her and whose companionship she loves. She wants to clear her name and return to her mystical home of Hireath, where Charmers and their creatures exist in a seeming utopia, but first she has to capture a creature capable of proving her worth. Enter Nox, whose guild of assassins has been hired to take Leena out, but who finds her intriguing and useful enough to strike a bargain: his assassins won’t kill her if she’ll find useful magical creatures for them. This kicks off a journey through gorgeously imagined settings, featuring a number of wonderful-sounding magical creatures, a healthy dose of banter, strong friendships, and plenty of action.

Fantasy worldbuilding, and placing your reader directly inside scenes that may be taking place in, say, an evil and magical forest, or a city inhabited by magical beasts and their Charmers, can be really difficult, but I think that’s something Kingdom of Exiles really excels at. As a character-focused reader, sometimes I’ll find myself having to force myself to re-read descriptions of scenery in books to try to imagine where exactly these characters are spending their time, and sometimes it can be a struggle. I never felt that way during this book, even though its setting is wholly unique. The variety of magical creatures in this book is another huge strength; every time we were introduced to a new one, I was fascinated by their uniquely imagined abilities, and the powers and world of the Charmers was a great concept.

What I liked less about this book was, unfortunately, the romance. I liked both Leena and Noc quite a bit, and I very much like the idea of them together, but I did feel that the chemistry was a bit lacking for me. I also found myself struggling with certain plot points towards the end of the story, which felt rushed and/or jarred slightly with the pacing that had been established earlier in the book.

Overall, I found this to be a very enjoyable fantasy read, and I’m quite interested to hear more about what happens to Noc, Leena, and friends in the second book. I’m also very much hoping for even more magical creatures. 3.75 stars.

Thank you so much to NetGalley and Sourcebooks Casa for the opportunity to read an eARC of Kingdom of Exiles in exchange for an honest review.

May Reading Wrap-Up

Extremely belated with my May monthly wrap-up, since June has been quite a busy month so far. I was at BEA/BookCon at the beginning of the month (recap/discussion blog is forthcoming), on a road trip with friends for a long weekend the second week, and have been busy with work ever since. Consequently, both my reading and blogging have suffered a bit, but now I’m finally getting myself back on track.

May was a weird reading month–I’d hoped to be a lot more productive than I was, but I still enjoyed quite a few of these books and managed to finish several Book of the Month selections. No five-star reads, but I was pleasantly surprised by a book with very negative reviews and also found a new great YA series to follow. Reviews below!

Total books read: 6

Audiobooks: 0

#Readmyowndamnbooks: 4

ebooks: 2

Can't Escape Love by Alyssa ColeLucky You by Erika CarterThe Bride Test by Helen HoangAurora Rising by Jay KristoffSeverance by Ling MaMouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin

Mouthful of Birds by Samanta Schweblin (4 stars) -Although I fell in love with Samanta Schweblin’s deeply weird novel Fever Dream, unfortunately this short story collection, Mouthful of Birds, didn’t quite measure up, although it was a solid magical realism collection overall. Favorites included “Butterflies,” an extremely haunting yet brief story; the title story, “Mouthful of Birds;” and “Underground.” While some of the stories were disturbing and creative, some themes and topics became repetitive and I wasn’t overall blown away the way I like to be by short stories.

Lucky You by Erika Carter (4 stars) – This was one of my first Book of the Month picks, and it’s taken me over two years to actually pick up due to me being a chronic procrastinator. I’ve held onto it despite the fact that it has truly terrible ratings on both Goodreads and Litsy, since I sometimes have unpopular bookish opinions and I wanted to give it a fair try. I’m very glad I did, since I ended up really enjoying this book. Lucky You follows three very unlikable narrators, who are friends and/or frenemies and after becoming unmoored in their lives for various reasons all move into a remote house owned by one of their boyfriend’s parents and enter into an experiment to live off the grid. We follow the three women forming and breaking their self-destructive patterns, navigating early twenty-something lives selfishly and with abandon, in tight, well-written prose and a concise account that shifts between their perspectives. If, like me, you really enjoy flawed main characters who are flawed in interesting ways, you’ll also like this book. Recommend.

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff (4 stars) – Unexpectedly fun and well-written YA science fiction book featuring a band of misfits, that reminded me slightly of Six of Crows but in space. I picked up this one randomly after reading a recommendation on Litsy and was not at all sorry. The trope of a bunch of extremely different people teaming up has always been one of my favorites (Six of Crows, The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet, Lord of the Rings, etc, etc) and it worked really well in the context of this new first-in-series book by the co-authors of the Illuminae Files trilogy, which I also very much enjoyed. Lots of humor, lots of action, and many lovable characters. Excited for the next book to come out and glad to have found a new YA series I can get on board with.

Can’t Escape Love by Alyssa Cole (3.5 stars) – A very cute novella revolving around Reggie, the twin sister of Portia, who’s the heroine of the series’ second book A Duke by Default.  My main complaint is that I wish this had been much longer; it seemed like the characters really deserved a full-length book rather than a (very short!) novella. The end seemed abrupt, especially because my ebook copy ended at 76% (the last section was actually the first few chapters of the third book in the Reluctant Royals series, A Prince on Paper, which I’ve already red & loved). Reggie is a FANTASTIC main character and honestly a great role model; she’s extremely smart, organized, and driven, but you never get the sense that she hasn’t earned every bit of her success with hard work. She runs a wonderful-sounding website called Girls With Glasses that focuses on basically everything a somewhat nerdy woman could possibly be interested in, which I wish existed in real life, and which she’s turned into a social media phenomenon. She’s also in a wheelchair due to a childhood illness, and the book deals with her disability in a very realistic way, highlighting how one of her issues has been how past romantic partners have treated her disability. I didn’t feel like we got quite as much insight into the backstory of Gus, Reggie’s love interest, but I did like how the plot of the book revolved around them working together to create an escape room. You can absolutely pick this one up without having read the rest of the series, and I think it’s honestly a great place to start if you’ve been hearing about Alyssa Cole’s books and want to give them a try.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang (3.5 stars) – I love Helen Hoang’s writing style, and will continue to immediately read her books as they are released. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as her first book The Kiss Quotient, which remains one of my favorite contemporary romance reads, but it was still a very enjoyable, fun read.

Severance by Ling Ma (3 stars) – This book was quite a disappointment for me, and in that fact as well as the apocalyptic/plague setting it reminded me of the way I felt reading Find Me by Laura Van den Berg. The difference with Severance was that I was really expecting to love this book; I put it on my top 10 TBR for the year and had a really good feeling about it since it was pitched as a milennial post-apocalyptic novel and, well, I’m a milennial who enjoys post-apocalyptic books. Severance really unfortunately follows a protagonist living through an outbreak of a disease that forces its victims to repeat their routine actions over and over again before they eventually succumb, and who throughout the entire book never develops even a semblance of a personality. Seriously, at the end of the book I still felt like I didn’t know her at all and couldn’t name a single trait associated with her, because her actions, relationships, and career all seemed completely random and only designed to bring together a bunch of disparate elements that did not blend well to create a book. There were a lot of really interesting ideas in Severance, but they didn’t make any sense together, and they weren’t anchored to a strong enough character to feel impactful. My main feeling while reading this book was frustration, because I kept hoping for a more interesting story which never emerged. I do think that the writing was overall good, and that the premise was interesting, but I really would not recommend this one.

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?