Category Archives: Reading Recaps

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?

September Reading Wrap-Up

I had set a vaguely defined goal for myself for September (something like “read lots of books”) and I’m happy to report that I accomplished that. Not only did I finish more books than I have in the past few months, but I read several books that I rated over 4 stars, and I honestly enjoyed every single thing I read in September.

Let’s go to the stats and reviews:

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 2

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Sapphire Flames by Ilona AndrewsKill the Queen by Jennifer EstepThe Future of Another Timeline by Annalee NewitzShame Is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary LambertParkland by Dave CullenWe Died in Water by Meg FloresBloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovernRadio Silence by Alice OsemanThe Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (4.5 stars) – Sapphire Flames is technically the fourth book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, although it’s also technically the start of a new trilogy featuring the younger sister of books 1-3’s protagonist. I’ve actually just finished this one and LOVED it; I’m an Ilona Andrews superfan, but this was actually one of my favorites of hers. It’s set in a version of our world that features warring dynasties of magical families, and our main character Catalina has a very unique power; we follow her trying to solve a friend’s mother’s murder, protect her own family, and maybe connect with her crush, Alessandro, who has more than a few secrets up his sleeves. Honestly, this book is SO GOOD, and I think it’s also a great starting point for readers new to Ilona Andrews.

Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary Lambert (4.5 stars) – An impactful, striking, shiver-inducing autobiographical collection of poems that discuss sexual assault and its aftermath, falling in love, heartbreak, mental illness, and survival. There were several poems in this collection that made me pause, re-read, and take a moment to consider how Lambert used so few words to say so much. Her writing style is sometimes fluid and sometimes jarring; the poems are relatable and very readable but contain a lot of depth. I’d definitely recommend this one.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (4.25 stars) – I absolutely loved this YA contemporary retelling of Twelfth Night that dealt skillfully with mental illness and sibling relationships; my full review will be up soon. I received an ARC at BookExpo from the publisher.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (4 stars) – really well done YA contemporary, revolving around two misfits and a science fiction podcast. I absolutely loved the main characters, and the writing and perspective felt extremely authentic. I did feel that the plot stumbled a bit towards the end, but overall I really loved this one.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (4 stars) – Creative, feminist time-travel science fiction, set mainly in the 1990s and 1890s. Check out my full review here.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – A very necessary and topical read. I listened to Dave Cullen’s Columbine on audiobook last month and was impressed by his research and thoroughness, and I wanted to pick up Parkland especially because it focuses almost exclusively on the March for Our Lives kids and movement rather than the school shooting itself; although the books are related, they emphasize very different things. The Parkland kids are so impressive and inspirational, and I think Cullen did a great job capturing what they are trying to accomplish.

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (4 stars) – the first graphic novel I’ve picked up in literally years, because it’s by the author of a webcomic I adore (My Life as a Background Slytherin). It’s a parody of historical/Regency romances, with an added fantastical element, and I quite enjoyed it. We follow Lucy, our heroine, who feels like a misfit under the constraints of proper society; Lord Byron (“from books!”), a poet with a very short attention span and a penchant for stabbing any vampire he sees; and Sham, a mysterious vampire hunter, on their adventures around England while trying to infiltrate a secret vampire society but keep getting sidetracked. I found it very cute, quirky, and funny, although for me it maybe wasn’t quite as consistently hilarious as McGovern’s webcomic tends to be, likely because there’s a lot more plot in a graphic novel than a 1-page webcomic. The art style and colors are likewise adorable and fun, and I’m definitely glad I picked it up.

We Died in Water by Meg Flores (4 stars) – We Died in Water is a memoir told in short prose poems that focuses on themes of love and leaving, using the ocean to help tell the author’s story in a variety of metaphors. The memoir itself mirrors the waves in structure, by repetition of the stories of loving and heartbreak that both the author and her mother experienced, stories that echo each other and force both the author and the reader to wonder if we are doomed to repeat our families’ pasts. As someone who’s always loved the ocean (as you can probably garner from my account name), I loved the integration of waves and ocean imagery into the author’s retelling of her story, and I found the writing overall to be lovely and fluid, while still retaining clarity, which can be difficult in a book with a nontraditional structure. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful little book, and I’d recommend it if you enjoy unconventional structures, poetry, and the ocean.

I received an early copy of We Died in Water from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep (3.75 stars) – Mistakenly thought this was UF when I picked it up (the leather pants threw me off!) but it’s actually a really fun, fast-paced royal revenge plot in a full fantasy world with a writing style that reminds me of UF. I really enjoyed it–our main character Everleigh, a minor royal, survives an assassination attempt on the royal family, and joins a gladiator troupe, where survival turns into a desire for vengeance. She has to use the magic she’s kept hidden her entire life as well as every ounce of the cold rage that fuels her in order to do what she’s never even imagined–try to kill the queen. It’s got action, humor, and the hint of a romance, plus literally every character is wearing black leggings at all times, which is a fantasy world I can really get behind. There’s also a really interesting magic system featuring everything from enhanced senses, shapeshifting, and elemental magic. I’m about to start the second book, Protect the Prince, and I’m really interested to see where the story goes from here.

 

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

August Reading Wrap-Up

It feels strange to already be putting together my August wrap-up, mainly because my July wrap-up was so belated that August had already almost ended by the time I posted it. I’m also thinking that I’m going to stop starting each wrap-up blog by remarking on how late it is; my wrap-up blogs are belated, guys, that’s just how it is lately. Maybe I’ll post one early at some point in my life and then I can comment on that?

Anyways, August had the distinction of being the month I read my favorite book of the year so far! I also finished 3 of my BookExpo ARCs; listened to 2 nonfiction books on audio; and picked up an unfortunately disappointing dystopian read. Let’s get to the stats and reviews…

Total books read: 6

ARCs: 3

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

Columbine by Dave CullenGideon the Ninth (The Ninth House, #1)My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache WilliamsVoxRage (Stormheart, #2)The Ten Thousand Doors of January

 

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (5 stars) – Gideon was, without question, my absolute favorite book of the year so far. And I did not at all expect it to be. You can find my full review here, but to summarize: read this book, because it made me so happy and I just want to talk about it with everyone. (I received an ARC of Gideon the Ninth from Tor at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review).

Columbine by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – This was a very difficult read emotionally, especially considering how school shootings continue to tear lives apart today, and for that reason I think it’s a very important book for people to keep reading. It’s also extremely well-researched, and focuses a lot on media coverage of Columbine and how that contributed to various misconceptions about the events that persist to this day. I listened to the audiobook, and would recommend it, but only if you’re prepared for an emotionally heavy nonfiction read.

Rage by Cora Carmack (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this follow-up to romantic YA fantasy Roar; you can find my full review here. (I received an ARC of Rage from Tor Teen at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review.)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (3 stars) –The Ten Thousand Doors of January had an intriguing premise and was solidly written, but unfortunately missed the mark for me. I do, however, think it’s a book that a lot of readers will love, particularly readers of historical fiction looking to dip a toe into the fantasy genre, or YA readers looking for an approachable crossover adult fantasy. You can find my full review here.  (I received an ARC of The Ten Thousand Doors of January from the publisher at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review.)

My Friend Anna by Rachel Deloache Williams (3 stars) – An entertaining listen on audiobook, although at times also frustrating and naive. My Friend Anna is nonfiction and follows young New Yorker and former Vanity Fair assistant photo editor Williams as she befriends Anna Delvey (actually Anna Sorokin), allegedly a wealthy German heiress, who turns out to instead be a Russian con artist. It’s a fascinating true-crime story and one that I was really interested to read more about; the “millennial scammer” grabbed headlines earlier this year due to hiring a stylist for her courtroom appearances and her unrepentant attitude towards her crimes, and Williams has a very personal take on the story. Essentially, Williams befriends Sorokin, and the “heiress” shares dinners, personal training sessions, spa visits, etc with Williams, which turns into a short but fairly close friendship. Eventually, Anna proposes a lavish trip to Morocco that she assures Williams she’s paying for, but once they arrive, none of Sorokin’s payment methods work and Williams is forced to “temporarily” put the ($60,000) trip on her own cards, despite the fact that she doesn’t have the money. Anna swears she’ll pay Williams back, but this turns into a drawn-out saga of Anna inventing every excuse in the book to avoid paying Williams, and Williams gradually coming to the realization that Anna isn’t who she says she is. I did overall find myself very engaged by the narrative, but I was also frustrated by Williams’s reluctance to believe the truth about Sorokin even when it became extremely obvious, and her insistence, even in the face of Anna’s crimes, that theirs was a true friendship. I’d still recommend it overall, and will be interested to see Shonda Rhimes’s Netflix series on the topic.

Vox by Christina Dalcher (3 stars) – This book was, unfortunately, quite disappointing. I wavered a bit about rating it lower, but honestly, I rarely give books 1 or 2 stars because if I dislike a book enough to rate it that low, chances are I’ll have DNF’d it long before finishing. And I did consider DNF-ing Vox, but I was still interested enough, and the writing was still strong enough, to make it to the end, so 3 stars it is. So, why did I dislike it so much? First of all, I’m generally a fan of dystopian books, and although I find them difficult reads in particular when they focus on the erosion of women’s rights (like The Handmaid’s Tale), I still think that they are important works to consume as warnings and political catalysts. And I understand that this genre has exploded in recent years, and that it’s hard for a feminist dystopia book to stand out unless it has a particularly intriguing premise. But Vox, to me, fell into the same kind of trap as When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, which I read a few years ago and also strongly disliked–the premise just doesn’t make any sense, even if the political inspirations do, and the subsequent plot makes even less sense than the premise, leading to a book that’s nonsensical and the opposite of cohesive. (The ridiculous premise of When She Woke involves peoples’ skin being dyed certain colors based on crimes they have committed, and their first few days after the skin dyeing process being broadcast on a weird version of reality TV.) In Vox, an extreme branch of the religious right has gained power, and somehow, over the course of a year, every woman in America has been forced to wear a word counter on her wrist that administers a painful electric shock if she speaks more than 100 words a day. Somehow also in this single transition year, the entire school system has become gender-segregated; LGBTQ people have been imprisoned in camps; all women have been forced to leave the workforce; and cameras have been installed in both public and private areas to make sure that the population follows these rules. Note that democracy is still in place; it’s the president who has started these changes, not some kind of creepy overthrow situation like in The Handmaid’s Tale, but yet still, in ONE YEAR, with our current laws and bureaucratic system, all of this has happened. It’s just not plausible. I’m someone who can set aside a strange premise; I like when books are weird, and if they’re really good, I may not care whether or not they make sense, but this was just too much for me. Also, the main character’s husband is part of this administration (?!) and we’re supposed to believe he had no idea that any of this was going to happen before it did. Once we found that out, I had a really hard time feeling like the main character’s husband, and the main character herself, weren’t complicit in the formulation of the dystopia they found themselves in. And I get that this is sort of the point of Vox–that passive objection isn’t the same as active resistance, and that you have to fight to protect your rights–but the message is greatly undermined by having the central family so close to the president and his cronies in the first place. Even setting aside the premise, I found that the rest of the story was unfortunately equally nonsensical, and that there were a lot of other paths the author could have taken plot-wise that might have been more interesting. Personally, I would recommend giving this one a pass, and picking up The Power by Naomi Alderman instead.

 

Have you guys read any of these? Any on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

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!

 

 

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.

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?