All posts by jaleenajo

Bout of Books Updates: Days 4-7 and Wrap-Up

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I’m not going to lie, I forgot to post my Bout of Books updates from the second half of the readathon due to all of the crazy things going on in the world. Better late than never, I guess?

Never Have I EverI Kissed Shara WheelerChef's KissThe Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

Day 4

Books started: none

Books finished: Never Have I Ever

Pages read: 81 pages of Never Have I Ever, 112 pages of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Day 5

Books started: none

Books finished: I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Pages read: 32 pages of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Day 6

Books started: Chef’s Kiss

Books finished: none

Pages read: 44 pages of Chef’s Kiss

Day 7

Books started: The Silvered Serpents

Books finished: none

Pages read: 89 pages of Chef’s Kiss, 79 pages of The Silvered Serpents

 

Overall readathon stats

Books finished:

Wicked Beauty by Katee RobertNever Have I Ever by Isabel YapI Kissed Shara Wheeler by Casey McQuiston

Books read from, but not finished:

The Wedding CrasherChef's KissThe Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)

Total pages read: 963 pages

April Reading Wrap-Up!

 

April was my most prolific reading month so far this year, thanks mainly to Dewey’s 24-hour readathon. There were no full 5-star reads this month, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy most of what I read. Let’s get into it!

Stats

Total books read: 13(!)

ARCs/review copies: 2

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 9

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate MascarenhasWild and Wicked Things by Francesca MayHook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa BaileyMilk Fed by Melissa BroderBombshell by Sarah MacLeanBelow Zero by Ali HazelwoodFirekeeper's Daughter by Angeline BoulleySadie on a PlateThe Past Is Red by Catherynne M. ValenteOnly a Monster by Vanessa LenHeartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper, #1)Boyfriend Material by Alexis HallI Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer

The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (4.5 stars) – I continue to be a huge Valente fan; she’s yet to disappoint me. For some reason, I went into this novella with lower expectations than I have with her novels, but I shouldn’t have worried; it’s just as intricate and creative as her full-length works tend to be. It’s a dark story with a lighter tone, which provides an interesting contrast throughout, and it’s full of themes of environmentalism and wealth inequality while also turning the nature of optimism vs. pessimism on its head. It’s a good introduction to Valente and also a great readathon pick.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (re-read) (4.5 stars) – I enjoyed this sweet, wonderful, big-hearted contemporary romance just as much the second time as I did the first time. Its sequel, Husband Material, comes out this summer, and I wanted to refresh myself on the characters before I picked it up.

Milk Fed by Melissa Broder (4 stars) – I really enjoyed my first experience with Melissa Broder’s writing. As a not-religious Jewish woman with a history of a difficult relationship with food, there were a lot of elements of the main character that I identified with, and I thought that her depiction of disordered eating (while it might be very triggering for some to read) was done very well. I also liked the stylistic choices of short chapters and straightforward, declarative sentences, although I could have gone without some of the descriptions she chose to include. I hope to soon pick up The Pisces as well, which has sat on my TBR shelf for an embarrassingly long period of time.

Firekeeper’s Daughter by Angeline Boulley (4 stars) – My relationship with YA books is a rocky one lately, but this one had so many glowing reviews that I had to pick it up. I’d say that it’s definitely geared towards more mature YA readers, as it deals with a lot of really difficult topics, and I found it to be well-written and grounded in the characterization of its protagonist, Daunis, who is one of the most well-rounded YA heroines I think I’ve ever read about. I learned a lot while reading it, and though I don’t think the plot is without its flaws, it was still a strong read for me.

Wild and Wicked Things by Francesca May (4 stars) – Wild and Wicked Things is a darkly atmospheric historical fantasy set on a fictional island off the coast of post-WWI England, in an alternate history where magic has recently been banned after its less than savory aspects were put on display during the war. Our protagonist Annie finds herself on Crow Island for the summer after the death of her estranged father, ostensibly to settle his estate, but finds herself embroiled in the island’s undercurrents of illegal magic. She reunites with a childhood friend who mysteriously left home for Crow Island a year earlier, and also meets her intriguing next-door neighbor, Emmeline, whose reputation of hosting wild, witchcraft-infused parties precedes her.

I’ve recently gotten a lot more interested in historical fantasy, and Wild and Wicked Things was a great example of how to infuse fantastical elements in ways that emphasize the actual tones of an era, like underscoring the horrors of World War I and compounding the excesses of wild 1920s parties. Wild and Wicked Things shines in its foreboding tone and depictions of magic, personified by Emmeline and her siblings Nathan and Isobel; their characters were well-crafted yet made the reader want to see more of them every time they left the page. I found protagonist Annie’s character to be less compelling, although she does serve as a naive window into a new world for the reader. I thought that the book’s mysterious undercurrents and flashbacks were well done, but it did feel overly long and dragged at times that could have been more concise.

I received an eARC of Wild and Wicked Things from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Psychology of Time Travel by Kate Mascarenhas (4 stars) – I’m not much of a mystery reader, but I do like when mystery is ensconced inside of another genre, like science fiction in this case. This is an interesting alternate history SF murder mystery with an almost entirely female cast of characters that takes on the history of unjust treatment towards people, especially women, with mental illnesses as one of its core themes. The worldbuilding and treatment of time travel and in particular the insular culture of time travelers was very interesting, but I thought there were too many perspective shifts, which muddled the story a bit.

Bombshell by Sarah MacLean (4 stars) – Bombshell by Sarah MacLean is a great example of the fact that sometimes you need to give an author you’re not sure about a second chance!

A few years ago, I decided to give historical romance a try by picking up A Scot in the Dark, which I’d heard recommended on a podcast. And…it really didn’t work for me. (I think not vibing with the audio narrator may have been a contributing factor.) But then I started hearing about Bombshell, which centers around a friend group that’s part of a feminist organization secretly protecting and getting revenge for women in Regency London, and I was intrigued enough to try this author again. I’m so glad I did–Sesily is a mature heroine (she’s 30! usually unheard of in historicals) who owns her sexuality and harbors a deep commitment to helping others. Her love interest Caleb is (gasp!) an American she’s had a thing for for awhile, but that didn’t bother me the way it sometimes can in books. I’m really looking forward to more in this series as well, since Sesily’s three best friends are all strong and interesting characters in their own right.

I received a free copy of Bombshell from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer (4 stars) – The concept of this poetry collection–found poems made using hate-filled DMs, political speeches, and in a few cases fan letters–is fantastic, as is the way Baer manages to shift the messages of the original texts using their own words.

Sadie on a Plate by Amanda Elliot (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this delightful contemporary romance, and I feel like it deserves more attention than it’s been getting. If you, like me, are a Top Chef fan (my all-time favorites are Stephanie Izard, whose restaurants I’ve been lucky enough to eat at and were PHENOMENAL, and Melissa King) then you really need to check this one out. The cooking competition central to the story is very closely based on Top Chef, and at times reading it was almost like watching an episode. As a Jewish chick myself, I also really liked that our main character Sadie’s culinary perspective was modern spins on traditional Jewish dishes. At first I wasn’t sure how I’d feel about the love-interest-as-judge premise, but I think the execution really worked, and I liked Sadie’s friendships with her fellow contestants just as much as the romance. Recommend to fans of both Top Chef and contemporary romance, and I thought the audio was very well done!

Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (3.5 stars) – Mixed feelings about this hyped YA fantasy new release. It was a very fast read, which worked well for Dewey’s 24-Hour readathon, but it never quite delved deeply enough into its themes or characters for me. I’d say that I liked it but didn’t love it; I’m not sure whether or not I’ll reach for the sequel when it comes out.

Heartstopper, Vol 1 by Alice Oseman (3.5 stars) – After watching the adorable Netflix adaptation of this graphic novel, I wanted to check out the source material, which was also very cute. Personally, I actually liked the show version a lot better, and would highly recommend it!

Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – Although I enjoyed this book’s plot and romance more than the previous installment in this series, It Happened One Summer, I continue to take issue with Tessa Bailey’s outdated use of gendered language and stereotypes. I’d really like to see this author take into account that being tall/short/big/small does not make a person more masculine or feminine, and that people outside the gender binary exist as well. Outside of that not insignificant issue, this was a fun read for the most part, with a likable protagonist in Hannah, but it was frustrating that she was doing 99% of the work in the relationship and that this was never adequately reciprocated or addressed.

Below Zero by Ali Hazelwood (3 stars) – I continue to be less than thrilled with this novella audiobook series. I thought that the Arctic setting could add an interesting dimension to this last installment, but it was too similar to and suffered from the same issues as the previous two novellas.

Bout of Books Updates: Days 1-3

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Here with my first few days of updates for this round of Bout of Books! I normally start off readathons with novellas or shorter books so that I can finish things more quickly, but this readathon was more about making progress on my current reads. I read from 4 of those reads during these first few days of the readathon, and even managed to finish one (an eARC, which is extra helpful since it comes out next month).

Never Have I EverThe Wedding CrasherWicked Beauty (Dark Olympus, #3)I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Day 1

Books started: none

Books finished: none

Pages read: 58 pages of Never Have I Ever, 40 pages of The Wedding Crasher, 120 pages of Wicked Beauty

Day 2

Books started: none

Books finished: none

Pages read: 47 pages of Never Have I Ever, 102 pages of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

Day 3

Books started: none

Books finished: Wicked Beauty

Pages read: 56 pages of Wicked Beauty, 71 pages of Never Have I Ever, 32 pages of I Kissed Shara Wheeler

 

Bout of Books TBR

Grab button for Bout of BooksThe Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, May 9th and runs through Sunday, May 15th in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are reading sprints, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges, but they’re all completely optional. For all Bout of Books 34 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

It’s time for another round of Bout of Books! My stress levels are very high at the moment, so I’m really not sure how successful this round of the readathon will be, but I’d like to at least try. Here’s what I’m thinking in terms of a TBR, which is really just what books I’m currently reading:

Currently reading – audiobooks

The Wedding CrasherI Kissed Shara Wheeler

I’m currently reading/listening to and really enjoying The Wedding Crasher by Mia Sosa (contemporary romance with fake dating), and have also started listening to the new Casey McQuiston book I Kissed Shara Wheeler (YA contemporary), although I’m not sure how I feel about it yet.

Currently reading – physical books/ebooks

Nettle & BoneNever Have I EverWicked Beauty (Dark Olympus, #3)

I’m at the very beginning of 3 other books that it would be great to finish or at least make progress on during the readathon: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (dark fairytale); Never Have I Ever by Isabel Yap (short stories based on mythology); and Wicked Beauty by Katee Robert (Greek mythology-inspired PNR eARC).

Possible next reads if I finish any of my current ones:

The Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)Something Fabulous (Something Fabulous, #1)Book LoversThe Perfect Crimes of Marian Hayes (The Queer Principles of Kit Webb, #2)

I didn’t set a May TBR, so I’m not exactly sure what books I’d gravitate towards if I do finish any of my current reads (which I’m also not sure about, since I’m really at the beginning of all 5 of them), but these are some possibilities.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap on another spring edition of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon! I had such a great time devoting my day to reading and introverting, and actually got a lot more reading done than I thought I would. I think that my strategy of having a bunch of different book formats (poetry, graphic novels, short stories, novellas, audiobooks) really helped, as did the genre variety. I did read a lot less as it got later in the day, and didn’t have enough energy to stay up very late as I have during past readathons, but since I started reading pretty much as soon as Dewey’s began, that worked out fine.

Total books started & finished during the readathon: 5

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. ValenteOnly a Monster by Vanessa LenHeartstopper by Alice OsemanI Hope This Finds You Well by Kate BaerOf This New World by Allegra Hyde

During the readathon, I finished The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (science fiction novella, 160 pages); Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (YA fantasy, 416 pages); Heartstopper, Vol 1 by Alice Oseman (YA contemporary romance graphic novel, 263 pages); I Hope This Finds You Well by Kate Baer (poetry, 80 pages); and Of This New World by Allegra Hyde (short stories, 124 pages). Of these, my favorite was The Past is Red; I love Valente’s writing style and the story was a lot more twisty and complex than I’d predicted it would be.

Books read from, but not both started & finished: 3

Boyfriend Material by Alexis HallNettle & BoneThe Donut Trap

I was also able to finish my re-read of Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall (contemporary romance, 65 pages) and start 2 new books: Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher (dark fairy tale, 33 pages) and The Donut Trap by Julie Tieu (contemporary romance, 82 pages). I’m planning to add those last two to my May TBR, and am particularly excited about Nettle & Bone–it’s extremely well-written, and I’m very invested in the story already.

Total pages read: 1,223 (!)

Overall, it was a great readathon, and I can’t wait for the next round in October!

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon Updates and Mid-Event Survey!

I’m halfway through the readathon, so here’s the Dewey’s 24-hour readathon mid-event survey!

  • What are you reading right now?

Of This New WorldBoyfriend Material (Boyfriend Material, #1)

I’m 2 stories into Of This New World by Allegra Hyde, a short story collection focused on different kinds of utopias. I’ve also been intermittently dipping into my re-read of Boyfriend Material via audiobook that I started prior to the readathon, which I’m almost finished with.

  • How many books have you read so far?

The Past Is Red by Catherynne M. ValenteOnly a Monster by Vanessa LenHeartstopper by Alice Oseman

So far, I’ve finished 3 books: The Past is Red by Catherynne M. Valente (science fiction novella, 160 pages); Only a Monster by Vanessa Len (YA fantasy, 416 pages); and Heartstopper: Volume 1 by Alice Oseman (YA contemporary graphic novel, 263 pages).

  • What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the readathon?

Nettle & BoneI Hope This Finds You WellOf This New World

I’ve been debating what to pick up next, because all of the books on my TBR are very appealing, but I think I’m most drawn to trying Nettle & Bone by T. Kingfisher. It’s a dark fairy tale, and it’s a shorter novel, so I’m hoping that could mean that I could both start and finish it before I get too tired later tonight. And I’d still like to read the Kate Baer poetry collection, as well as finish the short story collection I started. The thing is, my productivity and energy levels tend to take a serious dip during the second half of the readathon, so it’s hard to predict what I’ll actually be able to accomplish.

  • Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

Luckily, not much! I was really in need of some hardcore bookish hermit time, so I’ve been able to devote my Saturday to readathoning so far.

  • What surprises you most about the readathon, so far?

I’ve read more than I thought I would have at this point in the readathon! I think having shorter books and different genres/formats to choose from was really key.

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon TBR and Plans

It’s time for another round of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon! I had a really stressful day at work today, so a day dedicated to reading is just what I need tomorrow. I have a fairly solid TBR, a loose game plan, and the Do Not Disturb setting ready to go on my phone, so let’s get started!

For my TBR, I’m looking to focus on short books, highly anticipated 2022 releases, and a mixture of book formats so that I have a lot of options if my energy/attention starts to flag.

Novellas

The Past Is RedSummerwater

I’ve had previous 5-star reads from both of these authors (Deathless, Radiance, and Space Opera from Catherynne M. Valente, and Ghost Wall from Sarah Moss) so I have high hopes for these novellas.

Poetry, graphic novels, short stories

I Hope This Finds You WellHeartstopper: Volume One (Heartstopper, #1)Of This New World

I watched the new Netflix show Heartstopper last weekend and decided to order the graphic novel, even though I’ve had mixed feelings about the format in the past; I figured it could help mix things up during the readathon. I also keep meaning to pick up Kate Baer’s poetry collection that my friend sent me a few months ago, and it’s very short so this is the perfect chance. And I always like to include a short story collection on my TBR; I think this is the shortest one on my shelf.

Full-length 2022 releases

The Wedding CrasherOnly a Monster (Monsters, #1)Nettle & Bone

I feel like I probably am only capable of actually finishing one of these since they’re a bit longer, but it’s possible I could start a second one as well. I have one adult contemporary romance, a YA fantasy, and a dark fairy tale.

My current reads, in case I’m in the mood to read those rather than start something new:

The Mask of Mirrors (Rook & Rose, #1)Boyfriend Material (Boyfriend Material, #1)

I’m still working on my main read for Tome Topple (which technically ended yesterday, but I’ll likely finish sometime in May), The Mask of Mirrors, and I’ve also been doing an audio re-read of Boyfriend Material in anticipation of the sequel, Husband Material, which is coming out this summer.

 

March Reading Wrap-Up

Unfortunately, March wasn’t my favorite reading month, although I did still find several books I enjoyed (including a new 5-star read!). Several books I chose were a bit disappointing (or more than a bit, in the case of one in particular). Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

Stats

Total books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Audiobooks: 3

ebooks: 2

Novellas: 3

Stone Heart by Katee RobertAssembly by Natasha BrownAll of Us Villains by Amanda FoodyAll's Well by Mona AwadThe Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison BechdelOur Favorite Songs by Anita KellyThe Verifiers by Jane PekHouse of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. MaasThe Cult of We by Eliot BrownStuck with You by Ali Hazelwood

All’s Well by Mona Awad (5 stars) – This Shakespeare-infused fever dream reminded me of everything I love about Mona Awad and her creative, entrancing writing. (A reminder: she wrote my FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME, Bunny!) I think that anyone who loved this book will also really enjoy Margaret Atwood’s Hag-Seed, and vice versa, as both use Shakespeare’s works in twisted and modernized ways, but All’s Well is also completely unique. On its surface, it’s about Miranda, a theater professor experiencing chronic pain after a tragic fall off of a stage, who miraculously finds a respite after encountering three mysterious men in a bar; it’s infused with aspects of All’s Well That Ends Well, the play that Miranda insists on her students performing despite their objections, as well as Macbeth, the play that the students actually want to perform. It’s tricky and fabulist, and at times reminded me of cautionary fairy tales. It also extensively discusses the invisibility of chronic pain as well as the reluctance of people to believe women’s pain in general, while subverting all expectations about where the story is going. I’ll keep picking up anything this author writes.

Assembly by Natasha Brown (4 stars) – The writing in this novella is incredible, as is its characterization and discussions surrounding racism. It would have been a 5-star read for me had it not been for one aspect of the plot that I, as a health care provider, can’t get behind, even as a symbolic literary choice meant to emphasize the exhaustion the main character is facing from systemic racism.

All of Us Villains by Amanda Foody and Christine Lynn Herman (4 stars) – This YA fantasy was a surprise hit for me! I haven’t seen many reviews, let alone many positive ones, but I’m here to tell you that this book is dark and underrated fun. The town of Ilvernath hosts a secret, deadly competition every twenty years between its powerful magical families, with the prize being control of a rare type of magic that’s disappeared from everywhere else. This year, however, the secret’s out–an anonymous author has released a tell-all depicting the entire blood-soaked history of the town’s tournament, which involves a teenage representative of each magical family battling each other with spellwork until there’s only one champion left standing. So now journalists and paparazzi have flooded Ilvernath, lending even more pressure and weight to this year’s contest and its unique champions. It’s told in four different perspectives, with great audio narration, and it’s a suspenseful ride full of magic, alliances, betrayal, and a potential enemies-to-lovers romance.

Our Favorite Songs by Anita Kelly (4 stars) – I continued to love Anita Kelly’s sweet, big-hearted, romantic writing with this second installment of their Moonlighters novella series, which is centered around a queer karaoke bar. This one is sort of an enemies-to-lovers story; the protagonists knew each other in high school but each had misinterpreted the other’s behavior, and when they meet again as adults they reconnect in a new way. I’m continually impressed with how fully Anita Kelly develops characters in such a short format, and makes their romances feel complete yet concise.

The Verifiers by Jane Pek (3.5 stars) – I’m very hit-or-miss with mysteries, rarely finding ones I vibe with, and although it did drag at times, I overall enjoyed modern-day techno-mystery The Verifiers. It’s set around the world of online dating, but my favorite aspect was its likable heroine, an avid mystery reader who jumps into investigating the death of a client at her company, and the dynamics surrounding her family.

Stuck With You by Ali Hazelwood (3.5 stars) – I felt similarly about this second book in Hazelwood’s Steminist novella trilogy compared to the previous installment, with the caveat that I think I enjoyed it slightly more? I’m beginning to notice repetitiveness in Hazelwood’s writing style and characterizations; I absolutely loved The Love Hypothesis, but I feel like the protagonists of its two follow-up novellas are essentially the same as in that novel. It was still a fun audiobook, but I’m lowering my expectations for the trilogy’s third installment and, unfortunately, her new novel that comes out this summer.

The Cult of We: WeWork, Adam Neumann, and the Great Startup Delusion by Eliot Brown and Maureen Farrell (3 stars) – After listening to the WeCrashed podcast and watching Hulu’s WeWork documentary, I still had questions and interest in the failure of this once-lauded startup company. Parts of this book were interesting, but parts dragged, and I felt like it focused overmuch on numbers rather than telling a story. However, I’m still interested in the story enough to watch the scripted WeCrashed show that’s coming out this month.

The Secret to Superhuman Strength by Alison Bechdel (3 stars) – I haven’t read a graphic novel in several years, and I picked this one up because Alison Bechdel was doing a speaking event in my city. Unfortunately, I missed her event, and also unfortunately, I wasn’t a huge fan of this memoir that used the author’s fitness journey to discuss her developing relationship with different philosophies. It didn’t work for me as well as her other graphic memoir Fun Home, feeling too didactic and self-aware for my personal taste.

Stone Heart by Katee Robert (3 stars) – I loved the first two books in Katee Robert’s Dark Olympus series, Neon Gods and Electric Idol, but unfortunately this prequel novella featuring an instalove romance between Medusa and Calypso lacked enough plot and character development for me to fully get on board. I’m still really looking forward to the next book in the series, Wicked Beauty, which I’ve preordered.

House of Sky and Breath by Sarah J. Maas (2 stars) – Coming from someone who really enjoyed House of Earth and Blood, this book is without a doubt my most disappointing read so far in 2022. Here is my succinct, fairly spoiler-free pro/con breakdown of why.

Pros:
-I like the worldbuilding and the wide variety of magical creatures
-A lot of the side characters are interesting/compelling

Cons:
-Please stop using the word alphahole
-I really really hate that our male lead is an ANGEL who wears a BACKWARDS BASEBALL CAP
-The plot in this one is really, really rough. It doesn’t make sense, it’s repetitive, and I don’t understand the point of the vast majority of it.
-I really don’t like the central romance
-It’s really not interesting when every single character is the most powerful person ever
-I liked Bryce so much less in this book
-The ending is truly terrible
-The most interesting (to me) characters are either dead or not really even in this book
-If so much of the plot hinges on Danika, she really shouldn’t have died so early in book 1, because it makes no sense that she hid everything about herself from someone she had such a deep bond with
-This book could have been better in SO MANY WAYS that reading it was incredibly frustrating.

 

 

2021: Reading Year in Review + Stats

This post is extremely late, but we’re going to ignore that fact because at least it’s done!

Essentially, even though we’re well into 2022, I still wanted to do my annual look back at my reading from the past year by the numbers. These stats offer a comparison point for past and future reading years, and I always find them interesting, even if this post maybe isn’t as fun for me to create as my favorite books of 2021 post.

Let’s do this thing.

Total books read: 120

Total pages read: 38,727

Average rating: 3.9 stars

Shortest book read: Writing into the Wound by Roxane Gay (39 pages)

Longest book read: Plain Bad Heroines by Emily Danforth (640 pages)

Average book length: 322 pages

Most popular book I read this year (according to Goodreads): A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas (1,625,561 other readers)

Least popular book I read this year (according to Goodreads): How the Blessed Live by Susannah M. Smith (633 other readers)

Highest average rating on Goodreads: White Rage by Carol Anderson, 4.56 stars

 

Author breakdown by gender

 

Adult vs. YA

 

Format

 

Release Year

 

Longest books read in 2021:

Winter’s Orbit 448 pages
Black Sun 454 pages
Legendborn 512 pages
Harrow the Ninth 512 pages
Plain Bad Heroines 617 pages

Feb Reading Wrap-Up

My Feb reading involved several novellas, a healthy dose of romance, several scifi selections, and a new favorite for the year. Let’s get into the stats and reviews!

Stats

Total books read: 10

Novellas: 3

ARCs/review copies: 2

Audiobooks: 3

ebooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen CollinsWahala by Nikki MayUnder One Roof by Ali HazelwoodPortrait of a Scotsman by Evie DunmoreLight from Uncommon Stars by Ryka AokiMaking Up by Lucy ParkerSing Anyway by Anita KellyGet It Right (Love at Knockdown, #1)How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia NagamatsuSkye Falling by Mia McKenzie

Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki (5 stars) – I don’t always find book blurbs or comparison titles to be terribly accurate, but whoever decided to market Light From Uncommon Stars by Ryka Aoki as Becky Chambers meets Good Omens knew what they were doing. This book combines the feelings of Chambers’ big-hearted scifi with the irreverent humor and unconventional demonic elements of Good Omens, but it also keeps itself grounded with a strong contemporary fiction storyline. Light From Uncommon Stars has so much that I look for in a book: it’s unique, creative, written in a way that’s engaging and immersive, and it has a lot of heart, anchored in its young trans violinist prodigy protagonist, Katrina. There’s a fantastical element–Katrina’s violin teacher is seeking to collect her soul–and scifi as well–the neighborhood donut shop is run by a family of intergalactic refugees–but the story still feels so grounded with emotion. It’s an endlessly imaginative book that’s also full of feelings, which is exactly what I want in a great read, and I highly, highly recommend it.

Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins (4.5 stars) – One of my reading goals for 2022 is to read more short story collections than I did last year, since they’re one of my favorite types of books to read. I’m already ahead of schedule after reading My Monticello last month (which is my favorite book I’ve read this year so far!) and now just having finished Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? by Kathleen Collins, which I also ended up loving. The stories in this collection were written decades ago but not published as a collection until 2016. They’re thoughtful and poignant, with themes involving racism, colorism, and complex family and relationship dynamics present throughout. It’s a very short but impactful collection, and some of the stories actually gave me goosebumps. I did find some stories much stronger than others, which is why this was a 4.5 star read for me, and I’d highly recommend it.

How High We Go in the Dark by Sequoia Nagamatsu (4 stars) – It’s understandably taken me awhile to feel mentally prepared to read a book with any kind of post-apocalyptic or dystopian setting, let alone one featuring a pandemic. How High We Go in the Dark was my first return to this kind of literature, and it’s a take that I haven’t quite seen before. It’s told in a series of interconnected stories, many of which feature recurring characters and themes, that span a fairly contemporary setting during the awakening of what will come to be called the Arctic Plague to far in the future. For these reasons, I’ve seen it compared to Cloud Atlas and Station Eleven; I’d also throw in Ray Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles for a better idea of its structure. As a fan of short story collections, I liked that the story was told this way, but this also of course necessitates that some stories and characters will be more successful than others. The book opens with a beautifully written section that seamlessly combines climate change, family ties, and archaeology, and if every section had been like that one, this would have been a five-star read for me; unfortunately, I didn’t find every story to work quite as well. I think some readers may still be wary of picking up pandemic-related books, and if so, I’d definitely give this one a pass–although not every story is set during the Arctic Plague, many are, and some can be difficult emotionally. If this doesn’t bother you, I think that many fans of literary science fiction and short story collections will really appreciate How High We Go in the Dark.

I received a free copy of How High We Go in the Dark from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Wahala by Nikki May (4 stars) – Wahala follows a friend group of three biracial women who are half Nigerian and half British, and whose different personalities and lifestyles have never gotten in the way of their love for one another–until a new friend worms her way into their dynamic and things slowly begin to change. I really enjoyed reading this book; it switches perspectives often enough that the narrative with any one friend never felt stale. I’m always drawn to novels about complex female friendship dynamics, and Wahala works very well in this theme. I have to call out the Sex and the City comparisons this book is getting, though–the two stories have nothing in common except that both have four central female characters, and I’m not sure why this comp is being used in reviews and marketing. Overall, I found it an entertaining read with a compelling plot that I’d recommend, although some aspects of the ending felt frustrating to me.

I received a free copy of Wahala from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Sing Anyway by Anita Kelly (4 stars) – A lovely contemporary romance novella that’s a fantastic exhibit of what a novella can and should be, with the exact right amount of character development, plot, and romance. After loving  Anita Kelly’s Love & Other Disasters, my favorite romance of 2022 so far, I immediately went to their backlist and discovered this series of novellas set in and around a queer karaoke bar. I can’t wait to read the other books in the series!

Get it Right by Skye Kilaen (4 stars) – Another great example of how wonderful contemporary romance novellas can be. Skye Kilaen is a new-to-me author, and I’ll definitely want to pick up more from her after this. The romance and characterization developed so seamlessly, and it’s another first-in-series, which bodes well for my future novella TBR.

Portrait of a Scotsman by Evie Dunmore (4 stars) – I really enjoy this historical romance series that focuses on a friend group fighting for women’s suffrage, and although this was probably my least favorite pairing and plot so far, I continue to enjoy Dunmore’s writing style.

Skye Falling by Mia McKenzie (4 stars) – An audiobook I started somewhat randomly while searching for books read by one of my favorite audio narrators, Bahni Turpin, I ended up laughing out loud many times during this one. There’s a thoughtfulness and character growth to this story in addition to the humor, and I’ll be looking out for what the author comes out with next.

Under One Roof by Ali Hazelwood (3.5 stars) – I knew that this was a novella going into it, but sometimes the stories that authors choose to develop into novellas rather than novels would be better suited to a longer format. I enjoyed the enemies-to-lovers romance in Under One Roof; the main characters had great chemistry and I liked how their relationship developed. I wasn’t a fan of the premise, however, which seemed a bit too silly for me, and I wished that we had spent more time with these characters than we did.

Making Up by Lucy Parker (3.5 stars) – This isn’t the last book in Lucy Parker’s London Celebrities series, but since I read the last 2 books first then circled back to books 1-3, it’s my last reading experience in the series (unless she publishes more, which it seems like she might be planning to?). It wasn’t my favorite in the series, but was still a very cute and enjoyable audiobook following Trix, an aerialist, and Leo, her makeup artist nemesis-turned-love interest.