Category Archives: Reading Recaps

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?

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!