Category Archives: Reading Recaps

June Reading Wrap-Up

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In June, I finished two books that I’ve been halfway finished with for at least six months (The Cuckoo’s Calling) and in the other case several years (Unaccustomed Earth); I started a great new series (The Raven Cycle); and I had yet another 5-star read (The Girl Wakes). It’s only halfway through 2016, and I’ve already beaten the number of 5-star reads I had during all of last year 🙂 Here are my totals:

# of books read: 8

#readmyowndamn books: 4

20 Books of Summer total: 8/20

Audiobooks: 2

So here’s what I read this month, ranked (as usual) in order of awesomeness:

The Girl Wakes: StoriesUnaccustomed EarthA Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)The Dream Thieves (The Raven Cycle, #2)The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle, #1)Citizen: An American LyricThe Cuckoo's Calling (Cormoran Strike, #1)The Color of Magic (Discworld, #1; Rincewind #1)

The Girl Wakes by Carmen Lau (5 stars): This incredible book of short stories is made up of dark feminist fairytale retellings. If that appeals to you, READ THIS BOOK. The premise alone made me know I would love this book, but it turned out to be even better than I expected. Longer review to come (I’m going to try actually posting some book review posts!) but to summarize, these short stories gave me goosebumps and were absolutely what I wanted to read.

Unaccustomed Earth by Jhumpa Lahiri (4.25 stars): I’m really loving short story collections lately. The characters and stories in this book feel so fully real, and Jhumpa Lahiri is an incredible writer. My favorite of the collection was “Only Goodness,” about the relationship between a brother and sister and the brother’s struggle with alcoholism; the last story in the book, however, the third in a series of connected stories, hit me hard.

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A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas (4.25 stars): Indulgent romantic fantasy that I will most likely reread several times.

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The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars): the second book in the Raven Cycle was great, especially since it focused on my favorite character, Ronan. I love that the plot just keeps getting weirder, but the lovable characters are what really keeps me interested.

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The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater (4 stars): If you haven’t checked out this YA series yet, I would encourage you to do so. I went into it knowing nothing about the plot, and I think that was a good way to go.

Citizen by Claudia Rankine (3 stars): I found some of the passages in this book of prose poems to be incredibly powerful, others less so. Overall I wish I’d read it in physical form rather than listening to it as an audiobook, although I had thought it was a good idea at the time. Too much rewinding and re-listening may have spoiled the effect for me, and I think I’d have rated it higher if I’d physically read it. No more poetry audiobooks for me.

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith (3 stars): I started listening to this audiobook in December and stopped about 2/3 of the way through because nothing was really happening. It took me until this month to get the desire to pick it back up so that I could finally find out who the murderer was. I feel like my expectations were too high because J.K. Rowling wrote this, and while it was a decent detective novel, I’m not interested enough to continue the series. Honestly, I wouldn’t really recommend it. Read something else instead.

The Color of Magic by Terry Pratchett (2.5 stars): this one was a disappointment for me. I’ve read two other Discworld books (Mort and Small Gods) that I enjoyed, but this one unfortunately got really…boring. It started out well, with humor and an interesting setup, but then went rapidly downhill. I know that this is the first book in the series and isn’t widely considered one of the best, but I was still disappointed–particularly with the book’s treatment of female characters. I understand that Pratchett was satirizing a lot of aspects of fantasy literature, but it’s still really unnecessary, and in my opinion a turnoff to a lot of female readers, to have literally every female character be naked in this book.

 

Overall, it was a great reading month! I’m already looking forward to my reading in July (my birthday month!) and I’m hoping to find some more great reads.

 

What did you all read in June? Let me know!

May Reading Wrap-Up!

 

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Total books finished: 7

#readmyowndamnbooks/#SmashYourStack:  4 (!)

Audiobooks: 2 (!)

Library books: 1

Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 1

✓ 6. Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)
Notorious RBG The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon

Severity of Ferrante Fever: high

So, I had decided to participate in the #SmashYourStack challenge for May and challenge myself to take down books from my physical TBR. I actually did OK on this challenge–I read hardly any of the books I thought I would, but I did manage to read 4 books that I actually own. (Although I totally cheated by buying the first 2 Ferrante books and then counting them for the challenge.) Overall, the quality of the books I read this month was fantastic–I added 2 books to my ongoing list of my top ten reads of 2016 (of course, it’s all subject to change, since 2016 isn’t even halfway done yet).

I also listened to 2 (and a half, since I started Citizen: An American Lyric this month too) audiobooks this month, which is crazy for me. Bout of Books gave me a lot of audiobook motivation, and I feel like I’ve really found my audiobook niche with nonfiction.

The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2)My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)Death My Own WayMr. SplitfootRoses and RotNot That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

So here’s what I read in May, ranked in order of awesomeness:

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My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (5 stars) – If you haven’t read this series yet, prepare to become obsessed. It opens with a mystery and the two main characters in their sixties, then flashes back to their fascinating and violent childhood in a poor neighborhood of Naples. The relationship between the two main characters is constantly fraught with emotion in different ways, and the world of 1950s Italy is alien and immersive. I highly, highly recommend this for anyone in a reading slump or looking for a new series to become addicted to–I honestly think anyone would enjoy these books, even if, like me, you typically steer clear of realistic fiction in favor of science fiction/fantasy.

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Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (4.5 stars) – this quickly became one of my favorite reads of 2016 so far. I loved the dual narrative structure and the consistent weirdness of this book. Highly recommended for anyone interested in weird fiction.

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The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (4.25 stars) – Although I liked My Brilliant Friend more, this was still incredibly well done–especially the whirlwind last 200 pages and the OH SHOOT ending. The middle had a long plot section that I wasn’t a fan of, but once it transitioned out of that, it went back to amazingness. It’s the perfect springboard into the third book, which I started this morning.

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Death My Own Way by Michael Graziano (4 stars) – I picked this book up at the Buffalo Small Press book fair as part of my effort to read more books from independent publishers, and found that it was a perfect entrancing book to read in one sitting. It’s a philosophical take on life, death, and art set in a single night in Central Park. Recommended for anyone looking for a short, thought-provoking read.

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Roses and Rot by Kat Howard (3.5 stars) – This book was released last month and got a great review from Neil Gaiman, which is how I heard about it. It came in as a library hold and I only had a week to read it; I was nervous about finishing in time so I ended up reading it in 2 days! That kind of binge reading has been rare for me lately due to work, but it was a great feeling to just dive into a book and barely come up for air. This is a dark fairytale/fantasy about two sisters, a writer and a dancer, at an artist’s retreat after escaping an abusive mother; it’s about the love between siblings and the devotion to art.
I loved the setting, the concept, and overall liked the plot and characters, but I found the writing style to be way too simplistic for my taste. I needed a lot more detail and description, and although the characters were interesting, they could have been much more fully drawn. I also found the love interest very boring.
If you enjoy dark fairytale themes, then you’ll probably enjoy this; for me, it was good, but just not amazing.

Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (3 stars) – I liked this audiobook a lot more than I expected to, although I found the quality to be very inconsistent. I like Lena Dunham’s delivery, and found her very easy to listen to.

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (3 stars) – I loved hearing more about the amazing RBG, but didn’t love the structure and writing style of this audiobook. The narrator was also not awesome.

 

What did everybody read in May???

Bout of Books Day 7 Updates and Wrap-Up

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Bout of Books is over! But apparently the next one is August 22nd to the 28th, which seems very soon, so I’m OK with it. My Bout of Books didn’t go exactly as predicted, but I had a really good time and read some awesome books.

 

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The weirdest thing for me about the reading challenge was how much audiobook time I got in. I’ve posted before about how I really struggle with paying attention to audiobooks, but I think I’ve finally found my niche–nonfiction. For whatever reason, it’s much easier for me to pay attention to nonfiction than it is to follow a storyline of a novel. I finished 2 audiobooks this week and started a third, which is crazy for me, as I usually get through one a month at most. I also was really surprised that I only read a little bit of A Court of Mist and Fury; I had really expected to either binge-read it prior to the start of Bout of Books or have it consume my readathon.

First, here are my Day 7 updates:

Books finished: Not That Kind of Girl, My Brilliant Friend

Books started: Citizen: An American Lyric, The Story of a New Name

Pages read: 107 pages of My Brilliant Friend, 18 pages of The Story of a New Name

Audiobook time: 1 hour of Not That Kind of Girl, 43 minutes of Citizen

Not bad for the last day!

 

And here are my overall Bout of Books stats:

Books completed: 4

  • Death My Own Way by Michael S. A. Graziano – 4 stars
  • Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Kznizhnik – 3 stars
  • Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham – 3 stars
  • My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante – 5 stars

Death My Own Way

Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Not That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"

My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)

Books read, but not finished: 3

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)

Citizen: An American Lyric

The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2)

Favorite book I read: My Brilliant Friend, which became my 4th 5-star read this year. Seriously, I know I keep talking about it, but you all really need to read it. Then we can talk about it. Especially the ending because OH MY GOD.

Total pages read: 471 pages

Total audiobook time: 9 hours and 38 minutes (if my math is right?)

 

I probably could have read more, but work has been super crazy and I’m very happy with the amount and quality of reading that I got done. The most exciting thing for me is that I’ve been reading books that I’m really loving instead of wasting my time on books that are only OK. I can’t wait for the next Bout of Books, but I also can’t wait to get back into all of the fantastic books I’m reading right now, which is a very good feeling 🙂

 

How did everyone’s Bout of Books go??

Bout of Books Day 3 Updates & Mini-Challenge

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I had a really wonderful Day 3 of Bout of Books – Wednesday is my day off from work, so I was able to wake up semi-late and read in bed for awhile. After working out and getting some things done around my apartment, I walked down to the river near where I live and read My Brilliant Friend while enjoying the sunshine. I can’t believe it was 75 degrees out today! Then I did even more reading this evening. I have to say that I am LOVING My Brilliant Friend. I really wish I hadn’t resisted reading it for so long; I was clearly being silly about not reading it and should have looked into it sooner. But at least I’m reading it now and discovering its insanely well-crafted storytelling (and I caved and bought book 2 in the quartet, The Story of a New Name, so that I can jump in once I’ve finished book 1). I am also very gradually savoring A Court of Mist and Fury; I don’t want to finish it too fast and have it be over with, as it’s a perfect guilty pleasure read.

 

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Day 3 Updates:

Books finished: 0

Books started: 0

Pages read:

  • 101 pages of My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante
  • 56 pages of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

Audiobook time: 45 minutes of Notorious RBG

Mini-Challenge: 5 Favorites. I chose to display my five favorite science fiction books (and now I feel like I should be doing more of this! Stay tuned for my top 5 fantasy books, etc).

 

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I hope everyone is having an awesome Bout of Books! For more info, you can check out the site here: http://boutofbooks.blogspot.com/

April Reading Wrap-Up

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April was a very weird reading month for me. Almost all of the books I read were from the library, and the majority were YA and graphic novels. The main reason for this was Dewey’s; I got into the spirit of the Readathon early and sort of jumped on the idea of reading a bunch of shorter books quickly instead of the longer, slower reads I’m typically drawn to.

The fact that I failed hard at reading my own books in April just emphasizes the necessity of the #SmashYourStack challenge for me in May. I’m excited to make up lost ground during that and Bout of Books. So here are my stats for April:

Total books read: 12 (although one was technically a short story, but I had it in my Kindle as a standalone ebook)

Library books: 8

Graphic novels: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 2 (embarassingly low)

Audiobooks: 1

Ebooks: 2

Read Harder challenge tasks completed: 4

✓ 11. Read a book under 100 pages
The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

✓ 17. Read a non-superhero comic that debuted in the past three years
Nimona by Noelle Stevenson Nimona by Noelle Stevenson

✓ 22. Read a food memoir
Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson

✓ 24. Read a book with a main character that has a mental illness
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

And here are all the books! A bunch aren’t in the picture I took because I had to return them to the library, plus there were the audio/eboks.

A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah MoskowitzYes, Chef by Marcus SamuelssonThrough the Woods by Emily CarrollKindred Spirits by Rainbow RowellFables, Vol. 1 by Bill WillinghamEverything, Everything by Nicola YoonReflections by Seanan McGuireEvery Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuireWide Sargasso Sea by Jean RhysNimona by Noelle StevensonMarked in Flesh by Anne BishopThe Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Here’s what I read in April, ranked from best to worst:

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys – 5 stars: Gorgeous, lush prose and a crucial re-interpretation of a classic.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire – 4.25 stars: Unique and intriguing concept that I’d love to read a lot more about.

A History of Glitter and Blood – 4 stars: Unconventional YA that I’m excited to post a longer review about soon.

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson – 4 stars: Adorable, hilarious, and absorbing take on fantasy and superhero tropes.

Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell – 4 stars: Cute and wonderfully nerdy short story centered around Star Wars hype.

Marked in Flesh by Anne Bishop – 3 stars: Latest installment in a series whose concept I love, even if the books themselves tend to leave me a bit underwhelmed since the great debut.

Yes, Chef by Marcus Samuelsson – 3 stars: In-depth memoir of a fascinating chef, although the writing could get a bit repetitive.

Indexing: Reflections by Seanan McGuire – 3 stars: Sequel to an entertaining modern take on fairy tales that delved into the main characters’ backstory more but lost some of the action.

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll – 3 stars: Beautifully illustrated graphic novel that lacked a bit in actual story.

The Yellow Wallpaper by Charlotte Perkins Gilman – 3 stars: Classic and disturbing short story that I wanted to like more than I did.

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon – 2.5 stars: Fun writing style and a fast read, but the characters just didn’t act in believable ways.

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile by Bill Willingham – 2 stars: Despite my love of fairy tale characters, this was just not very interesting.

And here are all the books I bought in April, because I have a sickness:

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Yet another reason the #SmashYourStack challenge couldn’t come at a better time.

 

What did everyone read this month?

 

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon: Halfway Update

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Halfway through the Readathon! Although it doesn’t really feel that way, since I started so late. I feel like Dewey’s came at a great time this year, and I love the feeling of letting everything fall away for a certain number of hours and just focusing on bookishness.

Here are my responses to the mid-readathon survey!

1. What are you reading right now?

I’m currently reading A History of Glitter and Blood by Hannah Moskowitz, which is turning out to be a very dark, fairy-focused YA novel set before/during/after a violent conflict between fairies, gnomes, and another group of beings called “tightropers.” It’s written in an interesting way–the “author” keeps jumping in and commenting on how badly they’re telling the story in between the third person narration, and there are excerpts from other books made to look like they’ve been taped in. I really like the style and dark tone. Don’t let the sparkles fool you on this one.

A History of Glitter and Blood
2. How many books have you read so far?

I’ve finished 3 so far! All were shorter books, which I think I needed due to how sleepy I am. But I’ve also listened to about 1.5 hours of my audiobook and read the first few chapters of A History of Glitter and Blood. Here’s what I’ve read:

Kindred Spirits

Through the Woods

Fables, Vol. 1: Legends in Exile
3. What book are you most looking forward to for the second half of the Read-a-thon?

I’m looking forward to getting deeper into A History of Glitter and Blood, which I’d ideally like to finish during the Readathon. I’m also planning on reading some of Mr. Splitfoot, which I’m about 50 pages into but haven’t read any of during the Readathon so far. I may also pick up Volume 2 of Fables to switch it up. And definitely more audiobooking with Yes, Chef.
4. Have you had many interruptions? How did you deal with those?

I went into the Readathon knowing that I’d be missing out on the first 5-6 hours due to work and that I would probably get interruptions since I’m on call tonight, so I guess I dealt with them by being prepared and planning on just enjoying the time that I do have to participate! It’s still been a huge chunk of uninterrupted reading time for me and it’s been awesome.
5. What surprises you most about the Read-a-thon, so far?

I was planning on devoting most of my time to full-length books, but it’s turned out that I’ve read one short novella and 2 graphic novels. But I also feel like that’s helped me keep my momentum going. Also, I haven’t eaten any of my Readathon snacks! (Instead I ate lots of Thai food. No regrets there).

 

How has everyone’s Readathon been going???

March Reading Wrap-Up

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March, for me, was the month of the #Weirdathon, hosted by Outlandish Lit. I set ridiculously high goals (and a ridiculously high TBR stack) due to my love of weird fiction, and although I didn’t read even half of what I set out to, I absolutely loved the commitment to reading weirdly. I loved it so much that I plan to continue the #Weirdathon in spirit throughout this spring by keeping up with my weirdest TBR books.

 

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March Reading Summary:

Total books read in March: 5

#Weirdathon books I read in March: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 3

Audiobooks: 1

Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 2

✓ 3. Read a collection of essays (Bad Feminist)

✓ 9. Listen to an audiobook that has won an Audie Award (Bossypants)

Goodreads 2016 Challenge: I’m at 18/50 (6 books ahead of schedule)

 

So, what did I read this month?

Bossypants by Tina FeyThe Rook by Daniel O'MalleyBad Feminist by Roxane Gay

Bossypants by Tina Fey (3 stars) – Fey is really likable, but this book was just okay for me. I did find it easy to listen to since it was read by a comedian, but it wasn’t an amazing read. The part I liked best was the discussion of her Sarah Palin impersonation on SNL.

The Rook by Daniel O’Malley (4.25 stars) – see my review here (https://beachesandbooks.wordpress.com/2016/03/13/weirdathon-update-weeks-12/). To summarize, this book is funny, weird, and absorbing, and you should read it right now.

Bad Feminist by Roxane Gay (5 stars) – for some reason, I had anticipated this book being more of a light-hearted satire of feminism, and wasn’t expecting the emotionally wrenching, thought-provoking, completely amazing read that it was.

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett ThomasTrigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

The End of Mr. Y by Scarlett Thomas (4 stars)  – again, for some reason I was expecting this to be much sillier than it turned out to be. Ariel, a Ph.D. student researching thought experiments from the 1800s (seriously, how cool is that PhD topic?) finds a book believed to be cursed in that everyone who has ever read it has died or disappeared–including her thesis advisor. Through the cursed book, she discovers the way to enter an alternate dimension called the Troposphere, which allows her to enter the minds of other people and jump through time. It’s a very odd and philosophical read–it starts out slow, and then becomes gripping. I thought that Ariel’s character was sort of flat, but the plot and scientific concepts were fascinating and I really enjoyed the book.

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman (3.5 stars) – This was more of a 3-star read for me until the last couple of stories. I love Neil Gaiman’s writing, but this was my least favorite of the three short story collections of his that I’ve read. That being said, it was still quite good, and my favorites were the Doctor Who story and the American Gods novella. Also, his introductions are always fantastic–they’re very thoughtful, and he gives insight into each of the stories. It sounds like he’s going to write another American Gods novella set after the one in this collection, and then possibly follow that up with a full-length sequel, if I’m interpreting it right.

 

 

What did everyone enjoy reading this month?