Category Archives: Reading Recaps

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?

March Reading Wrap-Up

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

Total books read: 9

Audiobooks: 3

ebooks: 1

2019 releases: 5

ARCs: 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

February Reading Wrap-Up

Despite the fact that I had a productive reading month in January, and it’s often hard for me to have two productive reading months in a row, I actually did a pretty decent job in February. I read one impactful and devastating 5-star read and several excellent/enjoyable 4-star books over the course of the month, and struck a good balance between reading physical and audiobooks. I also picked up books from a wide range of genres but managed three 2019 releases, in keeping with one of my main reading goals for the year. So even if February was a pretty cold and miserable month in terms of weather, it was still a great month for books.

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks: 2

2019 releases: 3

Short story collections: 1

Five Feet ApartGood and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's AngerUnexpected Stories by Octavia E. ButlerThe Underground Railroad by Colson WhiteheadThe Last Romantics by Tara ConklinChildren of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)The Wicked King by Holly Black99 Percent Mine by Sally ThorneAn Absolutely Remarkable Thing

The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead (5 stars) – With The Underground Railroad, Colson Whitehead wrote a book that everyone in America, and the world as a whole, should read. It’s impactful, devastating, and vitally important. The writing is intensely immersive and so skillful as to seem effortless, which underscores the emotional difficulty of reading a book like this. I can’t recommend it strongly enough.

Good and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women’s Anger by Rebecca Traister (4.25 stars) – I listened to the audio of this informative, infuriating book that discusses women’s anger in both a historical and contemporary context, and I thought it was fantastic. There are three books that I know of dealing with similar topics that were released around the same time (Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper, which I read last month; this book; and Rage Becomes Her by Soraya Chemaly), and I’m slowly making my way through all of them, as getting in touch with one’s anger is especially relevant given the current political situation. I thought that Traister did an excellent job of arguing the case for the importance and power of women’s anger and its crucial status in today’s world.

The Last Romantics by Tara Conklin (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this 2019 release that follows four siblings over a century. You can check out my full review here.

Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler (4 stars) – Unexpected Stories was the sixth work I have read by Octavia Butler; she’s an author that I eventually want to read everything from. This particular ebook is comprised of a previously unpublished short story and novella that Butler wrote early on in her career, and although it wasn’t the strongest work that I’ve read from her, I still appreciated her skill and the emergence of the themes that haunt all of her works. The novella in particular was powerful and haunting, although it went in a direction I didn’t expect, one that was more optimistic than I had anticipated. It’s a very short book, just a quick snapshot of some of Butler’s early ideas, but it made me feel like I need to dive back into Butler’s longer work sooner rather than later. Her writing remains the one that tends to evoke the most emotional responses in me, and her use of science fiction to tell her stories somehow leaves them feeling more true than realistic fiction.

I was really intrigued by the world of the novella, “An Unnecessary Being,” which is set in a science fictional world where castes are determined by the amount of blue in one’s skin. The leaders of this world, the Hao, are revered for their strength as well as their completely blue status. That, and their rarity, also makes them a commodity and in many ways prisoners of the people who they lead. The story didn’t go the way I expected, but I thought the worldbuilding and sense of unease permeating the story were fantastic. The tone of most of the story reminded me a bit of “The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas” by LeGuin. (The plots are very different, though.) I was less intrigued by the short story “Childfinder,” which I wish had been developed more, but I’m really glad I read this bind-up. Octavia Butler is an amazing writer and I know I’ll keep returning to her work throughout my life.

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi (4 stars)  – This book was a fast, action-packed read with an important message. I got so absorbed in the story and literally could not stop reading it; I don’t remember the last time I read such a long book so quickly. I loved main characters Zelie, an indomitable and impulsive member of a persecuted group of people who have lost their magical abilities and have since faced discrimination and repression, and Amari, a runaway princess facing a cruel awakening to the real world, and felt very invested in their journey. I thought that the book tackled systemic racism and the pervasiveness of bigotry really well, and managed to strike a great balance between heavy topics and fast-paced action. I really wasn’t a fan of the romance, or the male main character, Inan, who changed sides and perspectives too many times, but those were my only real issues with the book. As soon as I finished it, I faced a sudden and intense need to read the sequel, which unfortunately won’t be out until June 4th.

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne (3.75 stars) – Along with seemingly everyone else on the bookish internet, I didn’t love this one as much as Thorne’s debut novel The Hating Game, but I did still really like it. In particular, I loved protagonist Darcy, a prickly, sassy photographer/bartender who refuses to let her heart condition dictate her life, and her determination to prove she’s capable of follow-through by sticking around to finish the flipping of her beloved deceased grandmother’s house. I didn’t find her love interest/twin brother’s best friend Tom to be quite as engaging, but it was definitely a cute, enjoyable contemporary romance, which is a difficult thing for me to find.

An Absolutely Remarkable Thing by Hank Green (3.5 stars) – I listened to this scifi debut on audiobook, and I thought it was a fun, engaging, fast-paced book to listen to; the narrator was great, and it’s a quick read. The protagonist, April May, becomes an unwitting social media celebrity after she discovers the presence of the “Carls,” giant statues that appear simultaneously in cities around the globe and have properties that mark them as something not of this world. As she gains more and more attention and followers, she becomes unmoored from her everyday life and her girlfriend, Maya, and discovers that being famous–and the Carls themselves–maybe aren’t what she predicted they would be. Although I did enjoy this book overall, I wouldn’t say that I thought this book had a ton of depth, and I wish the ending had more of a resolution and wasn’t such a clear setup for a sequel.

The Wicked King by Holly Black (3.25 stars) – I liked this book about the same that I liked The Cruel Prince, which is to say that I overall enjoyed the read, but had quite a few issues with the book overall. Slytherin/Machiavellian protagonist Jude frustrated me perhaps more in this book than she did in the last one, as despite the fact that some of her scheming was very skillful, she continued to make choices that were clearly the wrong ones. I do like the fact that she’s a YA protagonist who is very morally grey, but I think that her supposed skill levels have a lot of inconsistency and she can be a frustrating person to read about. The plot of this book meandered quite a bit, and I found some characters and circumstances a lot more interesting than others. I would have loved more time and emphasis, for example, on Jude’s fae sister Vivi and her human girlfriend, since I think that Vivi’s unconventional choice to live away from the fairy world deserves more exploration. I do plan to pick up the third book in what I assume is a trilogy, and I hope that things go in an interesting direction.

Five Feet Apart by Rachael Lippincott, Mikki Daughtry, and Tobias Iaconis (3 stars) – Some aspects of this contemporary YA romance about teens with CF worked better for me than others. I loved the female protagonist, a type-A teen with a popular YouTube channel, and I found her sections really informative and relatable, as an organization nerd myself. I also really appreciated how informative this book was in regard to CF, a disease I really didn’t have much familiarity with prior to reading this book. However, I wasn’t a fan of the male protagonist, who I felt was too much of a stereotypical YA love interest, and a few of the plot decisions toward the end were frustrating. I do think I’ll check out the movie at some point.

 

How did your reading go in February? Have you picked up any of these yet? Let me know!

January Reading Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap on the first month of 2019, and I’m really happy with how I’ve kicked off my reading year. I set a lot of goals for 2019, and this time, in a shocking twist, I actually attempted to work towards accomplishing some of them. I know, right? Crazy. Specifically, I picked up 2 short story collections and 3 nonfiction reads this month as well as 2 books from my top 10 2019 TBR stack. I also read 1 2019 release, which I loved, and started a fun new YA fantasy series.

January stats:

Total books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks:2

The Mother of All QuestionsEloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her SuperpowerIn an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)Bad Blood by John CarreyrouRabbit Cake by Annie HartnettGirl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring BlakeHow Long 'til Black Future Month?A Portable Shelter by Kirsty LoganA Shadow Bright and Burning (Kingdom on Fire, #1)A Poison Dark and Drowning (Kingdom on Fire, #2)

How Long Til Black Future Month? by N.K. Jemisin (5 stars) – Short version: this book is fantastic and you should read it. Long version: This is the 9th book I’ve read from N.K. Jemisin, and somehow she manages to blow me away every time. Each story in this collection is unique and fully realized, and Jemisin’s talent for world-building is on full display. I’m really in awe of her talent and range, and every time I finish one of her books I can’t wait for the next to be released. Some of my favorites from this collection were “Red Dirt Witch,” “Sinners, Saints, Dragons, and Haints, in the City Beneath the Still Waters,” “Valedictorian,” and “The Narcomancer,” but there really aren’t any weak links in this book. If you’ve never read Jemisin, this is a great introduction to her work, and if you have, you’ll love that some of the stories connect to her novels.

The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit (5 stars) – This is my second time reading Rebecca Solnit; after I read her other essay collection on feminism, Men Explain Things to Me, I knew that I wanted to read everything she had written. This collection explores different aspects of feminism and the issues that women face and care about in methodically researched, beautifully phrased sentences that elucidate new aspects of very old issues. I would highly, highly recommend it.

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (4.25 stars) – I really loved the fourth installment of McGuire’s Wayward Children series. Check out my full review here.

Bad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup by John Carreyrou (4 stars) – I’d seen this nonfiction book recommended over and over, and it absolutely lives up to the hype. Even though it’s nonfiction, it’s incredibly suspenseful; it’s also very detailed and told in such a compelling way. It follows the saga of Theranos, a Silicon Valley startup company founded by Elizabeth Holmes, whose purported mission was to develop the ability to run hundreds of tests on a single drop of blood and make blood testing freely available in the home. Instead, the company was built on a foundation of lies that only got worse with time. Definitely recommend; I listened to the audiobook, which was very well done.

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper (4 stars) – In this book, one of three anger-focused feminist nonfiction books I’ve been meaning to read for the past few months, Brittney Cooper succinctly and eloquently describes various aspects of black feminism and the power of women’s anger in a way that’s both intellectual and accessible. I’d highly recommend the audiobook, which is read by the author.

A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan (4 stars) – this is a short story collection framed by the story of two women promising to only tell their unborn child the truth rather than stories, but who then both secretly begin telling the child stories when the other can’t hear them. The stories in this book are mainly magical realism, and Logan’s writing is just as lovely as it was in The Gracekeepers. I really enjoyed it, but wasn’t completely blown away.

Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake (4 stars) – This book is a great example about how powerful and topical YA literature can be. It follows a girl whose twin brother has been accused of rape by his girlfriend, who is also her good friend, while she also deals with a devastating breakup with the girlfriend she still loves. When she discovers that her brother is actually guilty, which at first seemed unthinkable, she’s forced to confront the pervasive impact of rape culture in her community while simultaneously working through her own trauma. I thought this book dealt with very difficult topics extremely well, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re looking for an impactful contemporary YA read.

A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess (3.5 stars) – this is the first book of a Victorian-era YA fantasy featuring a chosen one main character who isn’t actually the chosen one, a drama-filled love square, and a ton of action. I really enjoyed it, so much so that I immediately had to start book 2.

A Poison Dark and Drowning by Jessica Cluess (3.25 stars) – The sequel to Shadow, I still enjoyed this book a lot, but I did feel that certain characters started to develop a lot of inconsistencies. I do plan to continue on to book 3, but I think I’m going to wait a bit.

Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett (3 stars) – I didn’t think this was a bad book, but I feel like I’ve read other adult literary fiction books with precocious child narrators that were done better. It’s a quick read, and I did enjoy Elvis and Lizzie as characters, but I wasn’t blown away.

 

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

2018 Reading Wrap-Up and Stats

At the end of the year (or at the beginning of the new year, since this has taken a bit of time), it’s always interesting to look back and remind yourself what you accomplished. In terms of my non-reading year, I had a really fantastic 2018–I worked a lot, but was lucky enough to be able to do a good amount of traveling, and I made a lot of progress on my NaNoWriMo project. With regard to reading and bookish things, I attended BookCon for the second time (I’m working on a very delayed recap post about BookCon, which was amazing); was able to see a number of authors I greatly admire at various events in my city (more on this below); worked on growing my Bookstagram account; and found some new favorite books and authors. Let’s break it down!

Total books read: 98

Total pages read: 33,243

Shortest book read: I’m Afraid of Men by Vivek Shraya (96 pages)

Longest book read: House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (709 pages)

Most popular: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han (301,579 other GR readers)

Least popular: Between the Sea and Stars by Chantal Gadoury (137 other GR readers)

Average rating: 3.7 stars

Highest rated book on GR: Magic Triumphs by Ilona Andrews (4.54 stars)

To see all of the books I read in 2018, check out my Goodreads Year in Review here.

Author events attended (these were through various organizations in my city and normally consisted of an extended talk by an author, sometimes in addition to a reading of their work): Margaret Atwood, Colson Whitehead, Samantha Hunt, Angie Thomas, Alyssa Palumbo, Mohsin Hamid

BookCon Panels attended: Tor Presents: #FearlessWomen in Tor Science Fiction and Fantasy with Charlie Jane Anders, V.E. Schwab, S.L. Huang, and Seth Dickinson; Women of Mystery and Thriller with Sandra Brown, Megan Abbott, Sara Blaedel, Kate Kessler, and Karen Ellis; NaNoWriMo: The Power of Writing with Abandon with Susan Dennard, Marissa Meyer, Kami Garcia, Danielle Page, and Grant Faulkner; and Toxic Male Syndrome with Jasmine Guillory, Zoey Castile, Alisha Rai, Sarah Morgan, Megan Frampton, and Claire Legrand

BookCon signings attended: Charlaine Harris, Rebecca Roanhorse, Naomi Novik

Now, let’s get into the statistics!

Adult vs. YA:

This statistic has remained fairly stable over the past few years. I do really enjoy YA, but I still read primarily adult books. This year, it was about 75% to 25%, which seems about right.

Author Breakdown by Gender:

Again, fairly stable, although the percentage of male authors I read has been steadily diminishing over time.

Format:

Also, weirdly stable to last year. I vastly prefer reading physical books; when I listen to an audiobook it’s generally because I prefer nonfiction on audio, and if I read an ebook, it’s either because I’m not sure if I’ll like the book or if the physical book is new and expensive.

Genre:

As you can see, I read a wide range of genres, with fantasy comprising the largest piece of the pie (especially when combined with fantasy affiliates like UF/PNR and fantasy romance). The newest addition to this genre breakdown is contemporary romance, which I don’t think I ever actually read before 2018. I’m also a little surprised that the nonfiction section isn’t larger, since I feel like I read/listen to a lot of nonfiction. But the pie charts don’t lie!

Breakdown by Release Year

This graph turned out weirdly tiny and I can’t seem to make it any bigger, but basically, it’s embarrassing. I do like to read a good amount of new releases so that I know what’s happening in the bookish community, but I also like to read backlist titles, and clearly I did not do a great job of that this year. Also embarrassing is the fact that the oldest book I read this year came out in 1959.

When did I obtain the physical books I read?

Basically, this year I tried to keep track of when I obtained the physical books I read, so that I could see how many or few older titles I was reading versus newly purchased books. The reason that only the past 3 years are represented on this graph is that prior to 2016, I didn’t really purchase that many books, because I was in grad school, moving frequently, and on a very limited budget; the books I did buy during that time I generally read right away. So, what does this tell us? It makes sense that the majority of my reading was from newly purchased books, and I think it’s a good thing, since it means that fewer of those books will be languishing on my TBR shelf for an extended period of time. It also shows that I do continue to read books I’ve purchased awhile ago, although it makes sense that those numbers are smaller since I’ve had more time to read more of the 2016 and 2017 book purchases. So I’m not sure if this chart was actually helpful, but it’s still interesting.

How did I rate the books I read?

I’m actually really happy with this. Significantly more than half of the books I read this year got very good (4 and 5 star) ratings. I also didn’t have any 1-star books, although this is mainly because if I really hate a book I’ll DNF it. But the 2-star section is very tiny as well, which is good news.

 

Next up, hopefully in a timely manner, will be my top 10 reads of 2018 (and other superlatives!)

 

How was your reading year in 2018?

December Reading Wrap-Up

December ended up being a busier and less reading-heavy month than I anticipated, but that’s okay, since I did finish the two books that my goal was to read and review. I celebrate Chrismakkuh, which means that there are generally a lot of holiday-related things going on throughout the month of December–even more so this year, as Hanukkah and Christmas were so far apart. But overall, it was a good reading end to 2018, especially as I managed to sneak in one last book from my top 10 TBR for the year as my last book for 2018.

Stats:

Total books finished: 5

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Audiobooks: 0

ebooks: 0

A Very Large Expanse of SeaThe Nine (Thieves of Fate, #1)AutonomousThe Similars by Rebecca HanoverThe Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O'Neill

Reviews:

The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill (4.25 stars) – The Lonely Hearts Hotel follows simultaneously lucky and unlucky orphans Rose and Pierrot, who are artistically gifted but coming of age in Montreal during the Great Depression. It follows them through their childhood at a harsh orphanage, their separation and descent into different aspects of Montreal’s underworld, and path toward their dreams of a show together. I had mixed feelings throughout a lot of this book, but I ended up really loving Rose’s character and her arc, particularly towards the end. I thought that the writing was fairytale-esque and often beautiful, but sometimes became almost too silly, so that took away from the rating a bit. But there’s a lot of really wonderful aspects to this book, and I’d recommend it overall. It’s definitely difficult to read at times, especially due to the instances of child abuse, but it exposes a lot of essential truths that are often difficult to articulate.

The Nine by Tracy Townsend (4.25 stars) – I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this unique fantasy novel, which features tons of action and plot twists along with unique and morally grey characters. I did a full review of The Nine here.

Autonomous by Annalee Newitz (3 stars) – Autonomous imagines a future where crime seems to revolve around pharmaceutical piracy, as prescription drug costs have skyrocketed and only the rich can afford to live long and healthy lives with the aid of medication. We follow Jack, a pirate whose distribution of a reverse-engineered drug reveals the fact that the original drug is deeply flawed and causes deadly addition to its consumers. As Jack flees the authorities tracking her down, she’s also trying to find a cure for the dangerous drug she unwittingly distributed. I thought that the premise of Autonomous was really interesting, and the scientific aspects were well-thought-out and detailed, but the actual plot left something to be desired for me as it was mainly an extended chase that focused alternately on Jack and her pursuers.

A Very Large Expanse of Sea by Tahereh Mafi (3 stars) – I’m a huge fan of Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me series so I was really interested to check out her contemporary YA debut. A Very Large Expanse of Sea follows Shirin, a Muslim teenager who has just moved to a new town and a new high school a few years after 9/11. While pursuing her passion of breakdancing, Shirin is forced to deal with rampant prejudice from the people around her. I absolutely loved Shirin as a main character. I loved that she was complex and passionate, with a bunch of diverse interests and hobbies (breakdancing, sewing her own clothes, art, journaling) yet she finds it really difficult to connect with other people due to the racism she experiences on a near-constant basis. I would have been happy reading a book entirely focused on Shirin, her family, her breakdancing crew, and her opening up enough to make friends, but unfortunately the book focused much more on her romantic connection with Ocean, the star of her school’s basketball team, who I found to be a much less interesting character.

The Similars by Rebecca Hanover (3 stars) – I received an ARC of The Similars at BookCon, and will be posting a full review within the next week. Essentially, I really liked the book’s main character, but I had a lot of issues with the plausibility of the plot.

 

How was your reading in December? Are you already looking ahead to your reading in 2019, like I am?

November Reading & NaNoWriMo Wrap-Up

November was a rough month on the reading front, as I was devoting a lot of my time to NaNoWriMo. If you’re not familiar, that stands for National Novel Writing Month, which is an event that encourages you to writing a 50,000-word short novel in the month of November. There’s online interaction and in-person write-ins that give you encouragement, in addition to famous writers posting inspirational essays throughout the month. This was my second time participating, and I was able to write about 30,000 words (which definitely isn’t 50k, but is still a ton for me!).

I was working on the first draft of the fantasy novel that I started writing last year, and I’m finally, finally nearing the end! In addition to getting done a bunch in terms of actual word counts, I was able to really map out the plot for the remainder of the book. I’m really hoping to finish the draft by the end of the year so that I can start editing in 2019, but I’m anticipating December being a super busy month, so I’m not sure if that’s realistic. We’ll see!

In terms of reading, I was only able to finish 4 books this month, which is the lowest so far this year. But! I definitely wasn’t anticipating a big reading month due to NaNoWriMo, so my expectations were low, and I ended up loving 3 out of the 4 books that I did get to read this month. And I’m not mad about a low book count if I’m getting quality over quantity. So here’s how my reading went:

Stats:

Total books read: 4

#readmyowndamnbooks: 3

Audiobooks: 0

ebooks: 1

Get in Trouble: StoriesDiamond Fire (Hidden Legacy, #3.5)Empire of Sand (The Books of Ambha, #1)Space Opera

Get in Trouble by Kelly Link (5 stars) – Get in Trouble by Kelly Link is an amazingly creative short story collection that blends genres and concepts into unsettling, profound, thought-provoking tales. In the hands of another writer, one aspect of one of Link’s stories could fill an entire novel, but in Link’s hands disparate ideas and worlds are explored in 40 pages to a perfect level of depth while still leaving the reader room for interpretation.

A few of my favorites were:
– “The Summer People,” which at first seems like it’s about a sick girl abandoned by her alcoholic father, except then you learn about the neighboring house where the fairies live
– “Two Houses,” about a group of astronauts telling each other ghost stories while in the backs of their minds they can’t forget their own ship’s twin, which mysteriously disappeared decades ago
– “Secret Identity,” about a girl lying about her identity to a man online in a world where superheroes and supervilains are a common sight

No two stories are anything alike, and I was perpetually stunned by Link’s bottomless reserves of unique ideas. If you like weird, genre-blending fiction, I highly, highly recommend picking this one up.

Space Opera by Catherynne M. Valente (4.5 stars) – I really wasn’t expecting this book to be as wonderful and impactful for me as it was. It’s about an intergalactic singing competition designed as a way for newly discovered species to prove their sentience, and Earth is up next. It’s quirky and hilarious, with every sentence packed full of metaphor after metaphor, and although humor in books is tricky because not everything works for everyone, this style was perfect for me. The book goes from hilarity to a profound degree of emotional depth near the end, and I was crying as I finished the book. I think it’s great for fans of Becky Chambers’s Wayfarers series, because both are more positive science fiction works that deal a lot with interpersonal relationships, and also for fans of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which I actually didn’t like very much but I can see how you could easily jump from that book to this one. This is the third book I’ve picked up from Valente and I want to read her entire catalog of work.

Diamond Fire by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – Ilona Andrews is one of my favorite authors in general, and my favorite UF/PNR author in particular, so every time she starts a new series I am very excited. This was a novella bridging the gap between the Hidden Legacy trilogy, narrated by private investigator Nevada Baylor, and a new trilogy narrated by her younger sister Catalina, who has also grown up working in the family’s P.I. firm and has a very unique kind of magic. It was a lot of fun and really got me on board with Catalina as a main character; I’m really looking forward to the first full book in her trilogy, Sapphire Flames, which comes out in 2019.

Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri (3 stars) – I received an ARC of Emprie of Sand from the publisher at BookCon. While a great premise, this book ended up being a bit of a disappointment for me. You can check out my full review here.

 

How did your reading/writing go in November? Let me know in the comments!