Category Archives: Reading Recaps

2019: My Reading Year in Review and Stats

We’re a quarter of the way into 2020, which means it’s the perfect time for my 2019 reading wrap-up. I always like to organize a recap of my reading year with some statistics, lists, and final thoughts, and I didn’t want to let a little lateness stop me. Looking back on my reading helps me to better plan reading goals and plans for the future, and if nothing else I also just find it interesting to see how my reading breaks down in different categories.

So here are some stats/fun facts:

Total books read: 103

Total pages read: 32,900

Average rating: 3.9 stars

Shortest book read: Emergency Skin by N. K. Jemisin (33 pages)

Longest book read: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (re-read) (699 pages)

Average book length: 319 pages

Most popular book (based on Goodreads data): Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (re-read)

Least popular book (based on Goodreads data): Bloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovern

 

Top 10 books of 2019:

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? by N. K. Jemisin

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews

 

And now for some charts breaking down my reading:

 

Adult vs. YA:

Author breakdown by gender:

Format:

 

Genre:

 

Release year:

 

Longest Reads (new to me)
Children of Blood and Bone 525 pages
Aurora Rising 470 pages
Rage 460 pages
Ninth House 458 pages
Gideon the Ninth 448 pages

March Reading Wrap-Up/Discussion

First of all, I really hope that everyone is safe and healthy, and I’m sending all of you bookish friends a lot of love. I know that this month has been difficult and scary, and I always want this corner of the bookish internet to be a place for us to celebrate our love of reading, in both good times and bad.

It would be a lie to say that everything going on hasn’t affected my reading life the way that it’s affected everything else; of course it has. I’m currently working part time; I work in the healthcare field, so it’s an essential service, but routine visits are being postponed at this time. Despite the fact that I’m working less, I’m not necessarily reading more–I’m doing more work outside of work than I usually do, talking and Facetiming with friends and family more, and I’m also finding it harder to concentrate. I think I DNF’d at least 3 books this month either because they couldn’t hold my attention, were too dark, or I didn’t think I’d rate them highly enough to be worth continuing; I’m finding that my DNF threshold is very low right now, because I only want to read books that are a good distraction and are easy to follow.

What has been working for me genre-wise has been romance, contemporary YA, and fantasy; almost all of my books from this month (and probably for next month too, since I’ve got several going right now) fit into those categories. Familiar authors are also comforting; I was grateful that Alisha Rai and Sarah J. Maas had new releases or ARCs that I was able to dive into. I was able to finish six books this month and I rated all of those 4 stars or above; I’m very grateful to have found some very good and comforting reads in the last few weeks. I hope that you all have too.

Stats:

Books finished: 6

ARCs: 2

Audiobooks: 2

What Shines from It by Sara RauchSolitaire by Alice OsemanHouse of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. MaasGirl Gone Viral by Alisha RaiThey Both Die at the End by Adam SilveraThe Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare

Reviews:

What Shines From It by Sara Rauch (4.5 stars) – A fantastic short story collection focusing on fractured or fracturing relationships and incredibly human characters. The stories are thoughtful and beautifully written, and they stayed with me long after I finished reading them; check out my full review here. I received an ARC of What Shines From It from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Girl Gone Viral by Alisha Rai (4.5 stars) – I absolutely loved this contemporary romance featuring strong friendships and family bonds, discussion of mental health issues, and two sweet main characters. Check out my full review here; I received an eARC of Girl Gone Viral from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Crescent City: House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas (4 stars) – It’s hard to review a book that I was anticipating for so long. I’m a huge fan of Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series, but I could never get into her YA series, Throne of Glass, but from what I know of both series Crescent City does retread some familiar ground, particularly in regard to characterization. It’s also definitely too long, which I wouldn’t have minded if it was also a bit better, but there were also things I did really enjoy about it. I might do a long, spoilery review involving a pro/con list later on, but essentially, I felt it was a fun read with some characters that I really loved, a beautiful female friendship at its heart, and hints of intrigue to come.

Solitaire by Alice Oseman (4 stars) – A well-written, character-focused contemporary YA from the author of Radio Silence, which I loved. This is Oseman’s first novel, but doesn’t read like it–it has both humor and emotional depth, but it’s the characters that really shine.

The Wallflower Wager by Tessa Dare (4 stars) – Historical romance is still a new-to-me genre, but what everyone I talk to seems to agree on is that Tessa Dare is a must-read author. With The Wallflower Wager, I understood why–this book is fun but also packs emotional punches, and it’s light without ever feeling inconsequential. It’s the perfect book to pick up if you need assurances that a happy ending is around the corner.

They Both Died at the End by Adam Silvera (4 stars) – YA contemporary, with a twist: a service called DeathCast calls you just after midnight on the day you’re going to die, and although there’s nothing you can do about it, you’re then able to live out your last day to the fullest. In the case of protagonists Rufus and Mateo, they decide to use the Last Friend app, which matches you with another person fated to die so that the two of you can spend your day together. It’s a well-written book, poignant without being overly sappy, and features a really lovely relationship that’s totally believable despite its day-long time frame.

 

What books worked best for you this month? Are there certain authors or genres you find yourself drawn to lately? And how are you guys doing with everything? Let me know in the comments.

Feb Reading Wrap-Up!

 

Feb was a solid reading month for me, but not a standout one. I found some books I enjoyed and learned from, as well as some really fun reads, and participated in two readathons (Tome Topple and the Contemporaryathon), but I also had a few disappointments. I think I also set myself up for failure a little bit considering I read my NEW FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME, Bunny by Mona Awad, in January, which of course was a tough act to follow.

Stats:

Books finished: 8

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

ebooks: 2

The Last Book Party by Karen DukessThe Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri WilsonSerpent & Dove by Shelby MahurinJuliet Takes a Breath by Gabby RiveraWicked Wonderland by Eva ChaseWrathful Wonderland by Eva ChaseOctavia's Brood by Adrienne Maree BrownMiddlegame by Seanan McGuire

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire (4 stars) – I just finished Middlegame, and I…have some thoughts. Here’s the thing: I was really hoping that this book would blow me away, and it didn’t, and even though I overall enjoyed it, I just kept wanting more weirdness, more alchemy, more fantasy, more explanation and exploration of the genuinely awesome concepts at work in this book, and also less time spent with the main characters as children with little forward motion. Middlegame is fantastically creative, following twins created to become the living embodiments of math and language and, through fantastical alchemy, harness the power to shape the world for their creator. It’s a long book, but I think it spends time in the wrong places, and for that reason it’s a 4 star and not a favorite for me. I’d still recommend it, and I remain a huge Seanan McGuire fan, but I wish this amazing story had been told just a little bit differently.

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin (4 stars) – After seeing this YA fantasy romance on about a million top ten lists at the end of 2019, I was fully convinced I needed to pick it up. And although this wasn’t a favorite for me, I did find it a very fun read–it’s a marriage of convenience/enemies-to-lovers plotline, featuring a kingdom divided between witches and witch-hunters. I think that I might have enjoyed it more if it leaned more thoroughly in the direction of either fantasy or romance, rather than straddling the two, but it’s definitely worth picking up, and I’ll be looking for the sequel, Blood & Honey, which comes out in the fall.

Wicked Wonderland by Eva Chase (4 stars) – I’ve been looking out for a good Alice in Wonderland retelling for awhile now; I’m obsessed with the SyFy adaptation of Alice, and have had this hope of somehow finding the book equivalent. With Wicked Wonderland, the first book in the Looking-Glass Curse trilogy, I finally found one that worked for me! Lyssa’s just been cheated on by her boyfriend, and after her aunt passes away and leaves her a house, she moves into the secluded mansion in the forest and discovers an unusual mirror. This being an Alice retelling, she of course falls through the mirror into Wonderland and into the resistance movement against the tyrannical Queen of Hearts–while falling for three very different men she meets. It’s a slow-burn fantasy romance, with the heroine moving in the direction of a poly relationship rather than a love square (which was a refreshing change in a romance, as there isn’t any jealousy or competition, but rather mature people communicating about what they’re looking for in relationships) but the resistance plotline, along with the heroine’s journey towards believing in herself, takes center stage. Definitely recommend if you’re looking for an adult retelling of Wonderland with plenty of action and romance.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (4 stars) – I really loved this contemporary coming-of-age story that focuses on intersectional feminism. The main character, Juliet, is so relatable, as is her search for knowledge about gender, feminism, race, and intersectionality that leads to constant questioning and learning from everyone around her. It’s a book that I really think everyone would benefit from reading.

Wrathful Wonderland by Eva Chase (4 stars) – In the second installment in Chase’s Looking-Glass Curse trilogy, Lyssa finds herself more deeply enmeshed in the resistance movement against the Queen of Hearts, and even more drawn to the three men she met in book 1–and they, in turn, begin to have more and more faith in her ability to save Wonderland.

The Accidental Beauty Queen by Teri Wilson (3.5 stars) – A very cute, Miss Congeniality-esque book about a nerdy teacher who has to take her twin’s place at a beauty pageant after an allergic reaction renders her twin unable to compete. It was a very fun read that made me want to re-watch Miss Congeniality immediately afterwards.

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess (3 stars) – I was hoping to like this one more than I did. It’s a summer coming-of-age story set in the 1980’s, following an aspiring writer finding herself wandering down the wrong path, in no small part due to her desire to be a part of the literary and artistic elite crowd where her family summers on Cape Cod. Unfortunately, I felt that although it was a quick, entertaining read, it lacked depth, and I had a big problem with one character’s extremely problematic actions being excused at the end.

 

Here’s to finding some 5-star reads in March!

January Reading Wrap-Up! (including my NEW FAVORITE BOOK)

I kicked off my reading year in a stellar way this month by reading my NEW FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME. Yes, I’m serious. I was in this sort of dazed, I-don’t-know-what-to-feel-anymore state for a good 24 hours after I finished it; I know it may not work for everyone, but it was the perfect book for me, and I know I’ll be revisiting it in the future and saving my favorite passages. I also read a bunch more books from a variety of genres, including the first book in a great new paranormal romance series and the 5th book in a portal fantasy series I love.

Stats:

Total books read: 10

ARCs: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 2

My Fake Rake by Eva LeighThe A.I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa ColeLife of the Party by Olivia GatwoodCome Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuireWolf Gone Wild by Juliette CrossFollowers by Megan AngeloUnravel Me by Tahereh MafiCatch and Kill by Ronan FarrowBunnyUnclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting

Reviews:

Bunny by Mona Awad (5 stars) – It’s a quarter to two in the morning, and I think I just read my favorite book. 5 stars. A million stars. All the stars. How, exactly, is this book so good? How did Mona Awad manage to write a book that speaks to me on such an intellectual level, a visceral level? How did she fit so much into just 300 pages? (and HOW is it possible that this book has less than 3.5 stars on Goodreads???)

Bunny is a dark feminist horror novel, a fabulist story about writer’s block, a meditation on loneliness and outsiderness, a story that continuously analyzes itself even as you analyze it, and it’s perfect. It’s exactly the book I want to read.

I don’t know what else to say. Read it.

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire (4.5 stars) – I’ve enjoyed every installment of McGuire’s Wayward Children series, and this one may be one of my favorites. The focus is back on Jack and Jill, twins sent to a horror-movie-monster world populated by vampires, mad scientists, and sea-monster-worshipping cults (one of the strongest and most fascinating worlds McGuire creates in this series) and in a way, it’s about their struggles to become the right kind of monster for that world. Jack enlists the help of several more Wayward Children for a quest (even though they’re banned at their school!) that lets us see the unique perspectives and personalities they each bring to the table. I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

Unravel Me by Tahereh Mafi (4.5 stars) (re-read) – The Shatter Me series is one of my all-time favorite YA series, which I partially attribute to the fact that it acted as a form of escapism and stress relief when I was studying for my board exams during grad school. Its escapist qualities hold up well with re-reads, and this was a fun one for me to revisit.

Wolf Gone Wild by Juliette Cross (4 stars) – I absolutely loved this paranormal romance featuring witches and werewolves; you can check out my full review here. I received an eARC of Wolf Gone Wild via NetGalley.

Catch and Kill by Ronan Farrow (4 stars) – fascinating, horrifying, powerful. I thought Ronan Farrow did an excellent job with this account of his reporting on Harvey Weinstein and other related crimes; he’s detailed without being boring, and informative yet personal. He handles a difficult topic extremely well, by letting the gravity of the situation speak for itself, and also interjects a few bright spots of humor, and a few heartbreakingly poignant moments,  with his interactions with his now-fiance (who’s one of the Pod Save America guys!) and his sister Dylan. I think fans of John Carreyrou’s Bad Blood will also enjoy Catch and Kill, as it seems a similar, journalistic narrative style of nonfiction.

Life of the Party by Olivia Gatwood (4 stars) – a poetry collection centered around violence against women, ranging from true-crime obsessions with serial killers to violence we horrifyingly come to think of as everyday, mundane. Several of the poems in this collection gave me goosebumps or brought me to tears; it’s somehow simultaneously intimate and universal, always powerful. I’m trying to read more poetry this year and am still finding out what exactly my taste is; this collection, with its clarity but not starkness, is very much it.

Unclean Jobs for Women and Girls by Alissa Nutting (3.5 stars) – Alissa Nutting has a very strange, unsettlingly funny writing style that I find works really well for me in some circumstances, and less so in others. I overall really enjoyed her novel Made for Love and several of the stories in this collection; two that stood out for me were “Hellion,” about a woman becoming acquainted with Hell, and dating the devil, after murdering her husband, and “Porn Star,” about a reality show where men compete to have sex with porn stars, but in this circumstance it’s in space.  But not all of the stories straddled the line between uncomfortable and meaningful quite as well, although her creativity throughout was extremely impressive.

My Fake Rake by Eva Leigh (3.5 stars) – a cute, fun story about two very nerdy friends who fall in love, My Fake Rake also happens to be only the second historical romance I’ve ever enjoyed. (Is this becoming a trend? A new genre for me? Maybe?) Grace, a herpetologist and a nobleman’s daughter, is pushed toward marriage by her ill father, but the man she’s long admired from afar isn’t showing any interest in her. Undaunted, she turns to her friend Sebastian, an anthropolgist and the son of a wealthy businessman who nevertheless lacks any personal wealth, and asks him to feign interest in her to catch the attention of her crush. Unbeknownst to Grace, Sebastian has long harbored feelings for her, and their experiment forces her to realize that she may have feelings for him as well. I loved both main characters equally, and thought the writing style, as well as the makeover/fake rake storyline (supposedly this author is focusing on turning 80’s rom-coms into historical romances with this series, called the Union of the Rakes–I definitely got Breakfast Club vibes from an introductory flashback scene to Sebastian and his friend group) was a lot of fun. I’ll definitely be looking to pick up the next books in this series.

Followers by Megan Angelo (3 stars) – Although I thought this book had a really interesting premise (and a very relevant one), I was ultimately let down by the flatness of its characters. A full review will be up soon; I received an ARC of Followers from the publisher at BookExpo.

The A. I. Who Loved Me by Alyssa Cole (3 stars) – I love Alyssa Cole’s contemporary romances (the Reluctant Royals series is so much fun!) but I wasn’t as big a fan of this science fiction romance that’s an Audible exclusive. I’m not the biggest fan of Audible or Amazon in general, and generally don’t subscribe, but I did a free trial just to listen to this one; unfortunately, I didn’t feel it was quite worth it for me. It’s near-future SF featuring a romance between a former programmer and the A.I. who moves in across the hall, and although I liked the main character, overall I needed more worldbuilding and action to move the book along.

December Reading Wrap-Up (Last Wrap-Up of 2019!) (Belated)

 

OK, yes, it’s late January, and here is finally my December reading wrap-up, but last year I promised that I’d stop remarking on the lateness of my wrap-up blog posts, so I’d like to take that energy into 2020. December ended up being the month with the most 5-star reads in all of 2019, and I discovered a few new favorites in addition to re-reading one of my favorite YA books of all time. I also picked up several novellas that surprised me, and read a Star Wars book for the first time in many years in preparation for the release of The Rise of Skywalker. Let’s get into the stats!

December reading stats

Total books read: 10

ARCs: 1

ebooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

The Test by Sylvain NeuvelAll Systems Red by Martha WellsNinth House by Leigh BardugoArtificial Condition by Martha WellsGhost Wall by Sarah MossIn Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanAn Easy Death (Gunnie Rose, #1)A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris

Resistance Reborn by Rebecca RoanhorseDeathless by Catherynne M. Valente

And now for some reviews!

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente (5 stars) – this is now my third 5-star read from Catherynne M. Valente, the previous two being The Refrigerator Monologues and Space Opera, and if she wasn’t already, she’s now been firmly cemented in favorite author status for me. Deathless is dark, disturbing, even disgusting at times, but beautiful in spite of or perhaps because of these elements. Set in Russia, it has so many elements of both history and mythology twisted into its narrative (some I was familiar with, some I was not, but I definitely don’t think you need to be an expert of Russian history to enjoy this book, although you’d probably pick up on some elements I may have missed) but still manages to create something wholly new and unique. It centers around the twisted, myth-based love story of Marya Morevna, who when the story begins is a young girl growing up as Russia turns to communism, and Koschei the Deathless, a villainous god from Russian mythology. They spend years fighting against and falling into the tropes that myth have set for them, meanwhile encountering other memorable figures both historical and mythical. Valente’s writing is so saturated and compelling that you feel completely immersed while at times forced to distance yourself and reflect on what she’s doing with the narrative, which is always something impressively clever. I was absolutely blown away by this book, and I can’t wait to pick up more from her and find out what other worlds she’s created in her books.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (5 stars) (re-read) – Although this is my second reading of In Other Lands, my feelings have not changed since my initial read, so I’m just going to include my original Goodreads review, with a brief addendum at the end:

5 stars is not enough. I loved the crap out of this book. In Other Lands fits right into that niche genre of books that satirize and also pay homage to traditional portal fantasy stories, like Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, or Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, or Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. If you liked any of those, you’ll also probably love this book. We follow Elliott, a young bisexual British boy, who’s given the opportunity to enter the fantasy realm of his dreams–except nothing there is as he expects it to be, and he finds himself constantly challenging society’s expectations and norms. Elliott is extremely intelligent but very difficult in social situations, and he’s constantly butting heads with everyone around him except for his crush, Serene-Heart-In-the-Chaos-of-Battle, a beautiful elf maiden who is also, like all female elves, a deadly warrior. The two of them form an at-first tension-filled friend group with Luke Sunborn, a seemingly perfect stereotypical male fantasy hero, with the three of them gradually becoming closer and learning more about accepting each other’s faults as they progress in their training to join the Border Guard, which acts as a military force policing both the fantasy realm and its border with the human ones.

I will say that if you are a stickler for structured plots, then you may have issues with this book. Personally, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m reading and I love the characters, I could care less about having drawn-out battle scenes or whatever, so it didn’t bother me at all, but I could see some readers taking issue with the fact that the story meanders without following a traditional conflict/resolution fantasy plot struture.

This book is a beautiful story about growing up and learning to challenge traditionally held beliefs, which may not be the right ones, and learning to understand and accept yourself for who you are. It’s about friendship and how people can complement each other while still being from very different backgrounds. It’s about learning your strengths and using them to make the world a better place. It made me laugh out loud continuously and also cry multiple times. It’s one that I can see myself re-reading and enjoying just as much each time. It’s honestly wonderful, and I really hope that more people read it.

Edit: Upon re-read, In Other Lands has become one of my favorite books of all time. You should all stop what you are reading and immediately read this instead, because it’s better.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (5 stars) – I’ve seen some stellar and some disappointed reviews for this highly hyped adult fiction debut from YA powerhouse Leigh Bardugo, and I found myself falling firmly in the “love” camp on this one. Ninth House is dark, yes, and there is a LOT of infodumping, yes, but neither of those things tend to bother me; on the contrary, if I’m really interested in a book, I’d always rather err on the side of more information, and I don’t really mind if it’s presented in the narrative or outside of it. And although the worldbuilding of Ninth House is fascinating–magical secret societies at Yale, a protagonist with the ability to see ghosts, magic driving political and business leaders’ decisions but sourced from college students–it was the characters that really grabbed me. Alex, a misfit with a dark, haunted past, and Darlington, an old-money “gentleman,” both won me over instantly, and their scenes together were some of my favorite in the book. I also think Ninth House sets itself up really well for a sequel, which I can’t wait for.

Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss (5 stars) – I love a short, impactful literary fiction novel with a unique premise. Ghost Wall is about a modern-day family who joins a summer university project to live like it’s the Iron Age, but the historical reenactment brings out the worst in the family’s abusive father, and the daughter is confronted with just how disturbing his actions are. It’s extremely tightly written, a very fully realized story with no extraneous words or actions, and I’ll definitely be looking to pick up more from this author.

All Systems Red by Martha Wells (4 stars) – Even after hearing about a million positive reviews of this scifi novella series, I was put off by the name (Murderbot isn’t a word that’s instantly appealing to me) but I finally gave into the hype, and I’m very glad I did. Following Murderbot (who named itself) a bot intended for guard/protection duty who has hacked its system and now spends most of its time watching TV inside its head, All Systems Red is both very funny and also full of plenty of action, as Murderbot’s most recent mission to protect a team of scientists goes very awry and it’s forced to interact with people far more than it feels comfortable with. Murderbot is a great, memorable character, and as soon as I finished this novella I knew I’d be picking up the rest of the series next.

The Test by Sylvain Neuvel (4 stars) – a twisty, addicting scifi novella about a man taking a UK citizenship test where something goes horribly wrong. You really don’t want to know much going into this one, since it goes in several unexpected directions, but I read it in one sitting and would very much recommend–it would be perfect for a readathon,

Artificial Condition by Martha Wells (4 stars) – the sequel to All Systems Red, this novella follows Murderbot as it attempts to fill in the gaps in its memory about the events that lead to it hacking its system and gaining autonomy. I didn’t enjoy this one quite as much as All Systems Red, but I did enjoy the interactions between Murderbot and an overbearing transport ship it meets.

Star Wars: Resistance Reborn by Rebecca Roanhorse (4 stars) – the last time I picked up a Star Wars book, I think I was about ten and obsessed with Queen Amidala’s outfits and badassness from Episode 1. I was inspired to return to the world of Star Wars books for a few specific reasons: Rebecca Roanhorse, whose Sixth World series I’m obsessed with and recommend to everyone who listens; my love of the new Star Wars sequel trilogy and impatience for The Rise of Skywalker to come out; and my best friend, who’s obsessed with Star Wars and bought me a copy of Resistance Reborn when she was worried she wouldn’t finish her copy in time to lend it to me before the movie’s release. I’m very glad I did end up picking it up, as I found myself thoroughly enjoying this book; it’s a bridge between The Last Jedi and The Rise of Skywalker, jumping between several perspectives but focusing in particular on Poe and his struggles with the events of The Last Jedi and the ramifications of his actions. I really liked how Roanhorse delved into the emotional fallout from The Last Jedi, and also was very much on board with the interesting side characters she introduced. I’m definitely glad I picked this one up; it’s definitely not necessary for understanding the movies, but it works well as a companion.

An Easy Death by Charlaine Harris (4 stars) (re-read) – Again, since this was a re-read, I’m including my original Goodreads review; I felt similarly about it upon re-read.

It’s been awhile since I’ve read a Charlaine Harris book, but for years and years, I devoured every book of hers that I could get my hands on, starting with the Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries series. She’s still #1 on my most-read authors feature on Goodreads (although Ilona Andrews has recently caught up, and they’re currently tied for first place with 28 books each). When I heard that she had a new book coming out, though, and that she would be signing copies at BookCon, I was so excited to be able to dive back into her writing. And An Easy Death definitely did not disappoint; the premise is a lot different than Harris’s other books, but it has her signature cozy mystery-esque writing style alongside plenty of action and lovable characters.

An Easy Death is hard to classify, genre-wise; it’s sort of an alternate history Western with fantasy elements. It’s set in a version of a fractured United States that splintered apart after the assassination of FDR and a series of disasters, and at the time the book is set, pieces of the U.S. are now owned by Canada, Mexico, and England, and the exiled tsar of Russia has settled on the West Coast with his army of grigoris, or wizards. Our main character Lizbeth Rose lives in the southwestern country of Texoma and works as a gunnie, sort of a gunslinger/bodyguard hired out to protect people. She gets drawn into a search for a missing grigori when she’s hired by two wizards as a guide and protector, and although she’s not a fan of magic or the Russian wizards that brought it with them to her country, she’s determined to see her mission through.

There are really no dull moments in An Easy Death; it’s action-packed and does have a high body count. Lizbeth Rose is a badass, street-smart heroine who’s easy to root for, and she faces down a series of bandits, wizards, and rival gunslingers head-on. The worldbuilding is gradual and fascinating; the concept of the Romanovs surviving an assassination attempt and fleeing Russia for California is a particularly interesting one, as well as the idea that Rasputin had actual magical powers that he taught to a host of other magic-wielders. The book sets up a sequel well, as there’s still a lot left to explore at the end of the book, and I really can’t wait to return to this world. I think that this book would work really well for fans of Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (which I also loved) as well as urban fantasy fans looking for something different. Highly recommend!

A Longer Fall by Charlaine Harris (3 stars) – Unfortunately, A Longer Fall missed the mark for me, especially compared with the first book in Charlaine Harris’s fantastical, Western alternate history series, An Easy Death. I love the world-building in these books (FDR was assassinated, which set off a chain of events that fractured the United States into several smaller countries, and California/Oregon was settled by the exiled Russian tsar and an order of magic users founded by Rasputin), and the first book was an action-packed ride featuring “gunnie” or hired bodyguard Lizbeth Rose as she took a job protecting two Russian wizards whose mission had a connection to her past.

A Longer Fall brings back Russian wizard love interest Eli, who I did find likable in the first book and who hires Lizbeth to help him track down a mysterious crate in the nearby country of Dixie, or what was formerly the American South. A Longer Fall is slower in pace, with not much of a payoff at the end, and a romance that quickly turns from interesting to stale. A central issue in this book is Dixie’s pervasive racism and sexism, which could have been interesting for the story to delve into, but unfortunately I didn’t feel that either topic was handled very well.

I love Charlaine Harris, and I hate that I’m not giving this book a higher rating, but ultimately it just wasn’t as enjoyable for me as many of her other books have been.

I received an eARC of A Longer Fall courtesy of the publisher and NetGalley.

November Reading Wrap-Up

November lasted approximately five minutes, which is probably why I didn’t get quite as much reading done as I expected. But I did read three Book of the Month books, and since I’m working with a significant BOTM backlog, that was definitely helpful. I was pleasantly surprised by a book in a genre I don’t normally read, and I also finished another ARC from BookExpo.

Here are my stats:

Number of books finished: 6

Audiobooks: 1

ARCs: 1

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

The Grace Year by Kim LiggettThe Witches Are Coming by Lindy WestMagic for Liars by Sarah GaileyBringing Down the Duke by Evie DunmoreWell Met by Jen DeLucaWhen the Sky Fell on Splendor by Emily Henry

And here are my reviews:

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey (3.75 stars) – It would be hard for me not to read a contemporary fantasy set at a magical school, and Magic for Liars was no exception. In this case, socially isolated private investigator Ivy is called into the magical high school her sister teaches at in order to investigate a murder, and in the process has to revisit her childhood insecurities about growing up normal with a magical sister and losing her mother at a young age. I found this an enjoyable read overall; at times it feels like a modern play on a noir detective story, and the magical elements often felt incidental rather than central. For that reason, it would be an easy dip into fantasy for readers who aren’t typically fans of the genre, but still has enough fantastical elements for genre fans. The characters and the school that Gailey sets up would definitely work well for the possibility of spin-off books set in this same world, possibly even with different main characters, that I would like to see, but also wraps up well for this being, from what I understand, a standalone book.

Bringing Down the Duke by Evie Dunmore (4 stars) – Before picking up this book, I was ready to give up on the historical romance genre–not through any fault of the genre itself, but because I had yet to find a book or author I really clicked with. And then Book of the Month offered Bringing Down the Duke as one of its selections, and it had one of those cute cartoon romance novel covers that I vastly prefer to traditional bodice-ripper covers, as well as a feminist premise, and I decided to give historical romance one last shot. I’m so glad I did, it because this was such a fun read. I found that I loved Dunmore’s writing style and liked both main characters equally (which shouldn’t be rare in romance novels, but for some reason is for me?): suffragist and Oxford student Annabelle and icy aloof duke Sebastian. I also got some Pride and Prejudice vibes from their early interactions and in some ways the writing style, which is something that I’ve been looking to find done well in the genre but previously hadn’t seen. There was one plot point that I was NOT a fan of, but I do understand that it could be attributed to social norms of the time, and it didn’t take away from my overall enjoyment of the read. There’s also a clear set-up for the next book in the series that I am very much on board for, with a romance between lead suffragist Lucie and a notorious rake taking center stage.

Well Met by Jen Deluca (3 stars) – A cute contemporary romance with an interesting setting (Renaissance faire!) and premise (out-of-towner-turned RenFaire tavern wench meets uptight English teacher/RenFaire pirate!) that I ultimately didn’t connect with writing-wise the way that I was hoping to. Relationship issues became repetitive, as did their solutions, and I wasn’t convinced by how quickly the relationship progressed.

The Witches are Coming by Lindy West (3 stars) – I found this essay collection on how pop culture influences our current political environment to be enjoyable, but ultimately disappointing, as I felt West didn’t necessarily choose the best examples to make her points, and was largely speaking to an audience who already agreed with her views. It’s an easy and short listen on audio, and if you like Lindy West, I’d still recommend it, but it’s not the strongest essay collection I’ve read on the topic.

When the Sky Fell On Splendor by Emily Henry (3 stars) – Excellent band of misfits friend group at the center of this story, but ultimately a plot that I just didn’t love. I really enjoyed Henry’s A Million Junes, and this didn’t quite live up, despite the characters that I would have happily followed in a different story. I almost felt like the science fiction elements of this story detracted from its impact; when you have such strong characters that readers can connect with so easily, sometimes a simpler plot allows them to shine more.

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (2 stars) – The Grace Year was one of my most anticipated books of 2019, mainly because it was pitched as sort of a YA version of The Handmaid’s Tale, and while that’s an apt description, the book itself unfortunately didn’t work for me. I had issues with the logic of the premise–in their sixteenth year, the girls of “the county” are sent into the woods for a mysterious “grace year” in order to rid themselves of the magic they supposedly possess before they fully join society to become docile wives for workers–and the fact that neither the county itself nor the surrounding world was ever explained, but that wasn’t my only issue with this one. Our main character, Tierney, felt more like a fictional YA protagonist than she did a fully developed person; the book’s side characters remained one-dimensional, despite us as readers spending a year with them, and overall I felt like there was too much summarizing in the narrative and not enough action or dialogue. I also really disliked the romance storyline; I think I’d have greatly preferred the story without it, and focusing on female friendships instead. I did like the direction the book took towards the end with regards to certain realizations Tierney came to (trying to be as vague as possible to avoid spoilers), and the potential for interesting developments in the future, but this unfortunately just wasn’t the book for me. I received an ARC of The Grace Year from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

October Reading Wrap-Up!

Yes, we’re belated again, but last month I promised that I would stop talking about how belated all of my monthly wrap-ups are, so we’re just going to move on and forget that I already broke that promise.

October was such a fun month–in addition to experiencing October-ish things, like hiking in nearby Letchworth State Park, going on a ghost tour of an allegedly haunted old mansion, and going to a set of five haunted houses, I soaked up all of the fall weather and Trader Joe’s pumpkin-related products that I could find. I was also in Orlando for a week for a work conference, but went early enough that I was also able to go to Harry Potter World at Universal Studios for the first time, which made me ridiculously happy–I nerded out hard with my friend as we got frozen Butterbeer (delicious), went on the Hogwarts ride (the experience of waiting in line inside the castle was honestly more fun than the ride itself, but I mean that in a good way), explored Knockturn Alley, and picked out a wand at Ollivander’s (I ended up choosing Narcissa Malfoy’s wand, as it best matched my overall aesthetic, plus the actress also plays Polly in Peaky Blinders, so it was a double win). I may end up doing a separate post with a more full/thorough review of my experience there as someone who isn’t traditionally a theme park person–what do you guys think?

My October reading didn’t go quite as expected–I had set aside a dark fantasy TBR stack for the month that I didn’t end up picking from as much as intended–but I still had some really great reads, including a great YA historical fantasy, a novella from one of my favorite science fiction authors, and a re-read of a favorite from 2018.

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 4

Audiobooks: 0

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Emergency Skin by N.K. JemisinGet a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia HibbertThe Deep by Rivers SolomonThe Beautiful by Renée AhdiehTrail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseStorm of Locusts by Rebecca RoanhorseLove Her or Lose Her by Tessa BaileyAphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista MateerTo Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse (re-read) (5 stars) – Update: upon re-reading, I changed my rating from 4 to 5 stars, because this book is fantastic. In the world of Trail of Lightning, a series of rapid catastrophic climate-change-related events have fractured what was once the United States and buried much of it underwater on an accelerated timeline. In the aftermath, the Navajo nation of Dinetah has formed in what was once the Southwestern United States, and Navajo legends and magical powers are manifesting among its people. Our main character Maggie possesses gifts that help her to slay the monsters that threaten her people, but also have her questioning whether she herself may be monstrous as well. An especially strange new monster has Maggie set on a new path, where, in between fighting monsters and dealing with beings out of Navajo legends, she grows closer with an attractive young medicine man while being haunted by her history with her former love, the legendary Monsterslayer. Urban fantasy can be very hit-or-miss for me, but I really enjoyed this book. With its post-apocalyptic setting and mythology-laden world-building, I think it would be great for readers of Ilona Andrews’ Kate Daniels series. I loved that Rebecca Roanhorse took the very real threat of climate change as inspiration for the book’s setting and used that as a jumping-off point to introduce Navajo mythology into the world. It was so interesting getting to learn more about Navajo myths and legends. Maggie is a prickly, somewhat isolated main character at the beginning of the book, but we see a lot of growth even during this relatively short novel. I found it very easy to root for her, and I loved the concept of the clan powers, which played a large role in the book. The book’s secondary characters were also great; I especially loved Kai, her mysterious medicine-man love interest, and of course his grandfather Tah as well, but also thought Coyote was a great character. I think the world that Rebecca Roanhorse created has the potential for so many more stories, and I’m very excited to see where she takes Maggie next. Definitely recommend. I received a free signed copy of Trail of Lightning at an autographing session at BookCon.

Storm of Locusts by Rebecca Roanhorse (4 stars) – After re-reading Trail of Lightning, I could not have been more excited for the sequel, and although I did absolutely still enjoy the read, this one didn’t quite work for me as well as the first book did. It’s a month after the events of the first book, and Maggie Hoskie, our badass, monsterslaying protagonist, is living with her elderly friend Tah, whose nephew and Maggie’s love interest, Kai, is still MIA. So Maggie’s been taking on jobs with the local Thirsty Boys mercenary crew to fill the time, and after a job goes sideways, she finds herself the guardian of a young teenage girl named Ben, and from there on the road after Kai, who seems to have been abducted by a cult leader called the White Locust. I still absolutely love Maggie as a main character; she’s tough, but is learning to care about people more and more; newcomer Ben added more to the story by bringing out Maggie’s protective side and casting her into a big sister role. The world Roanhorse created with this series is fascinating, and I would easily read ten books set here; every time we see a new angle of the Sixth World, I’m impressed with her creativity all over again. What was missing for me this time was Kai and Coyote, two of my favorite main characters from the first book, who are both pushed to the back burner for this one and aren’t given enough time to shine. I like both of their dynamics with Maggie, and I felt that the side characters from this book didn’t hold as much interest for me, with the exceptions of Ben and Rissa. Quite a few interesting things are set up towards the end of the book that definitely bode well for future stories in this series, and I can’t wait for the next installment.

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (4 stars) – I’ve seen the phrase “vampires are back!” associated with The Beautiful more than anything else, and although I’m not averse to the idea (although I don’t believe vampires in literature really went anywhere in the first place, nor did I want them to), I think it’s misapplied to this book in particular. It sets up Twilight-esque expectations, or maybe a new version of True Blood, when that’s simply not the case. The Beautiful is a lot of things, but I absolutely would not call it a vampire book. That being said, I absolutely loved it. Check out my full review here.

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (4 stars) – The Deep is a short but profoundly impactful novel that blends history and fantasy together to tell the story of Yetu, a young woman who shoulders the intense burden of being the historian for her people, the wajinru, who are mer-people descended from enslaved pregnant African women who were thrown overboard on the journey to the Americas. While all other wajinru are able to spend most of their lives spared from reliving the horror of the collective memories of their people, Yetu must constantly bear it all, and, understandably, she’s struggling to do so and still survive. When her people gather together for an event where they periodically share the memories, guided by Yetu, she flees, and embarks on a journey where she learns more about herself and her people. It’s a powerful story, one that deserves to be widely read, and one that I would absolutely recommend. I received an ARC of The Deep from the publisher at BookExpo.

Emergency Skin by N.K. Jemisin (3.75 stars) – Technically a short story, but I’ll take anything I can get from N.K. Jemisin, who’s one of my favorite authors. “Emergency Skin” is science fiction, told in second person, and follows a soldier sent back to a destroyed Earth from an extraplanetary colony that abandoned our planet centuries previously, in search of genetic information that would help to ensure the survival of his society. It’s a very quintessentially N.K. Jemisin story that utilizes several hallmarks of her writing (twists, second person narration, commentary on current societal issues), but, having recently read her fantastically amazing short story collection How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?, I’d say that overall it wasn’t one of her strongest stories for me. I’d definitely still recommend the read, though, especially as it’s free if you have Amazon Prime.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert (3.5 stars) – This contemporary romance, set in England, follows web designer Chloe Brown, a guarded woman dealing with her fibromyalgia diagnosis, and Redford Morgan, an artist-turned-property-manager, who’s dealing with insecurity and the aftermath of a traumatizing relationship. Our story kicks off when Chloe undergoes a near-death experience and decides that she needs to, well, get a life–to stop being afraid to make bold life decisions and go out and experience the world. She initiates this by moving out of her family’s house, but stalls trying to accomplish any of the next few tasks (ride a motorcycle, travel the world with minimal luggage, have meaningless sex, etc) until she meets Red, who she seems to think is the sort of “dangerous” guy who could help her with her list, but who in actuality is a complete sweetheart who happens to ride a motorcycle. While working through Chloe’s list, with some necessary modifications, the two confront their mistaken first impressions of each other (Red assumes Chloe is a rich snob, Chloe assumes Red is carefree and full of himself) and end up falling for each other. You can read my full review here; I received an eARC of Get a Life, Chloe Brown from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy this second installment in Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series quite as much as the first book, Fix Her Up, but it was still a fun, quick read that I think a lot of contemporary romance readers will likely enjoy. Love Her or Lose Her follows a married couple (unusual for a romance novel!), Rosie and Dominic, who, despite a deep love for one another that began when they were childhood sweethearts, find themselves at a point in their marriage where they’re only truly able to connect in the bedroom; otherwise, their communication has completely broken down. Rosie in particular has been feeling the strain, and kicks off the novel by leaving Dominic, as she’s feeling unappreciated and unsatisfied both professionally and in their relationship. The plot of the novel revolves around Rosie and Dominic’s attempts to reconnect through a hippie version of last-ditch couples counseling Rosie initially proposes as a challenge to Dominic, thinking there’s no way he’ll let his guard down enough to try therapy, and Rosie’s efforts to start her own restaurant, which she’s been dreaming about her entire life. My full review is linked here; Love Her or Lose Her comes out on January 14th. I received an eARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer (3 stars) – I didn’t enjoy this poetry collection nearly as much as Mateer’s other collection Honeybee, which I read earlier this year, but it’s a gorgeously designed book with a great concept that I think a lot of readers will likely appreciate. Although I love Greek mythology, the poetry in this collection was in parts too pared down and in other parts too over-explained for my personal preference.

 

Have you read any of these? How did your October reading go?