Tag Archives: book reviews

May Reading Wrap-Up

May is over and it ended quite awhile ago! I’m very late with this wrap-up, but I have good reasons (sort of…).

So May was a pretty crazy month in general for me; one of my good friends got married in Arizona, so another friend and I flew there and then took a road trip to the Grand Canyon and then Sedona before going to her wedding. It was a lot of fun, and between packing, traveling, and a crazy month at work, May really flew by. And then I spent the first few days of June at BookCon (I’ll have a post up about my experience soon! Spoiler alert: it was fantastic 🙂 ) and then another crazy week at work leading up to a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week at the beach with friends. But now I’m finally trying to get caught up with bookish things, so here’s what I read in May:

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks: 1

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. MaasIn Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanJane, Unlimited by Kristin CashoreImpostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project, #3)The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor, #1)The Color MasterWicked (A Wicked Trilogy, #1)The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday HorrorFuryborn by Claire Legrand

Reviews:

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (5 stars) – This month, I read one of my new favorite books of the year, and also of ever. In Other Lands fits right into that niche genre of books that satirize and also pay homage to traditional portal fantasy stories, like Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, or Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, or Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. If you liked any of those, you’ll also probably love this book. We follow Elliott, a young bisexual British boy, who’s given the opportunity to enter the fantasy realm of his dreams–except nothing there is as he expects it to be, and he finds himself constantly challenging society’s expectations and norms. Elliott is extremely intelligent but very difficult in social situations, and he’s constantly butting heads with everyone around him except for his crush, Serene-Heart-In-the-Chaos-of-Battle, a beautiful elf maiden who is also, like all female elves, a deadly warrior. The two of them form an at-first tension-filled friend group with Luke Sunborn, a seemingly perfect stereotypical male fantasy hero, with the three of them gradually becoming closer and learning more about accepting each other’s faults as they progress in their training to join the Border Guard, which acts as a military force policing both the fantasy realm and its border with the human ones.

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

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

Furyborn by Claire Legrand (4.25 stars) – Furyborn is a well-written, well-plotted, absorbing, feminist YA fantasy. There’s a great amount of action and worldbuilding, and also some romance, which I’m always a fan of in my YA. Since it’s the first book in a planned trilogy, I’m extremely excited to see where things are headed, and I’ll absolutely be planning on picking up the next book. I won an ARC of Furyborn in a giveaway on Litsy, and you can see my full review of Furyborn here.

The Color Master by Aimee Bender (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this short story collection and will definitely be picking up more books from Aimee Bender. These short stories run from more realistic to magical realism to fairytale-esque, and I liked the variety. My three favorites were “Tiger Mending,” which is about the relationship between two sisters but also about the literal stitching together of fraying tigers; “The Color Master,” which is a partial fairytale retelling of “Donkeyskin;” and “The Devourings,” which is about a woman who marries an ogre and what happens after he mistakenly eats their children.

Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker (3.5 stars) – This was the third and final book of Baker’s Arcadia Project series, so I can’t tell you much about the plot, but this series revolves around Millie, a double amputee with Borderline Personality Disorder who survived a suicide attempt and now works for an organization that attempts to regulate the secret interactions between the human and fae worlds. It’s a great UF series that has a lot of discussion about mental illness, and I’m sad that it’s ending, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each book and hope that Mishell Baker writes more things in the future.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas (3.5 stars) – this short novel is intended to bridge the gap between A Court of Wings and Ruin and the upcoming trilogy that focuses on side characters from the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. It was enjoyable to read, but there wasn’t a whole lot happening in terms of plot. I still love this series and am very excited for the new books.

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg (2.75 stars) – Unfortunately, this was a disappointment for me. I love Ortberg’s old site The Toast, and I thought that Texts From Jane Eyre was delightful and hilarious, but these stories mostly fell flat for me. They weren’t as funny or as creepy as I wanted them to be. I love fairy tale retellings, especially dark ones, and I wanted to love this, but it ended up being only OK. I do feel like I have a decent amount of fairy tale knowledge, but Ortberg’s knowledge of fairy tales and classic literature is super impressive, so I’m sure that there are some references that I missed; it’s possible that may have taken away some of my enjoyment.

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (2.75 stars) – This book is literally a futuristic version of Gossip Girl, and I checked out the audiobook from my library after hearing a review on the Young Adulting podcast (which sadly was forced to change its name to Bad on Paper). It was a fun audiobook listen overall, but it did drag in parts, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of most of the characters. There is a sequel out, and apparently it’s going to become a trilogy, but I don’t think I’m into it enough to continue.

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (2.5 stars) – This was an example of a YA book with a really great premise that (for me) failed in its execution. Jane, Unlimited is about a teenager who accepts an invitation to visit a sort-of friend’s family’s island mansion on the advice of her recently deceased aunt, who had made her promise that if she were ever asked there, she would say yes. While there, she finds a number of strange rich people and suspicious circumstances, and eventually the story branches off into five different choose-your-own-adventure-ish endings, all in different genres (except you really have to read all five or you’ve only read a bit of the book, so it’s not really Choose Your Own Adventure, unfortunately).

And also unfortunately, none of the five possible plot lines were very good. Neither were any of the characters, who all acted sort of nonsensically and were seemingly without actual personalities. No one was guilty of this more than Jane, the main character, whose entire personality could be summed up by the word UMBRELLAS. You see, Jane is a teenager who makes artsy umbrellas, and they are SO AMAZING that wealthy art dealers want to buy them for thousands of dollars, and everyone sees them as evidence of Jane being basically the coolest chick alive. I wish I was kidding. I guess if you are a huge fan of umbrellas, you would enjoy this book more than I did.

As I said before, Jane’s story branches off into different genres, which sounded like something I could really get into, since I basically love all genres. But all of the stories seemed like they were half-explored; the fantasy one in particular just seemed very lazy and not well thought-out. The horror one was fairly creepy, which I did like, but most of the others just felt far too silly for what they were supposed to be doing. I know that a lot of people loved this book, and I did finish it (I DNF a lot of YA if I’m not feeling it) but it definitely wasn’t for me.

 

Has anyone read any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

November Reading Wrap-Up!

I participated in NaNoWriMo (for the first time!) this November, so I went into the month not expecting to get much reading done. I thought that setting aside time to write every day would cut into a lot of the time I normally spend reading, but I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to read while getting a large chunk of writing done. Most excitingly, I read TWO five-star reads this month! I’m so picky that this is almost unheard-of for me, especially for a relatively lower-reading month. Don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed with how much I read this month, but it wasn’t quite as many books as I hit in a typical month. But TWO FIVE-STAR READS! Dang. I feel like a big part of the reason for that was that I didn’t set a big solid TBR for the month; I feel like maybe I read better books when I mood-read and don’t plan in advance. I’m going to be doing more of that going forward, although I did make a list of ten books I really want to get to this winter.

Number of books read: 6

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

When did I acquire the books I read? March 2017 (Crosstalk), June 2017 (Norse Mythology), August 2017 (The Stone Sky), November 2017 (The Refrigerator Monologues)

CrosstalkThe Awakened Kingdom (Inheritance, #3.5)Norse MythologyThe Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3)Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act DifferentlyThe Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente (5 stars) – This book could not be more incisive or more timely. I don’t understand why it’s not more popular. Essentially, this book takes on sexism in the world of superheroes, by highlighting women whose lives (and deaths) have been used solely as plot devices to motivate the male main characters. If, like me, you really enjoy superhero movies and are also a feminist, this book will resonate with you. You don’t have to have extensive comics knowledge to enjoy this book or to get most of the references (I certainly don’t); I’m not familiar with every character they referenced, but enough of it is mainstream, like riffs on Batman and Harley Quinn, that you’ll get it regardless. The book’s premise is that in the afterlife, here called Deadtown and expressed as this gorgeously banal yet macabre city, women who have been involved with superheroes gather as what they call the Hell Hath Club and tell their stories one by one. These stories are interspersed with life in Deadtown, which on its own would make a great book. I really wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. I both laughed and cried while reading this, and it’s very short. Highly, highly recommend. I need to read more from Valente, stat.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (5 stars) – I definitely don’t want to give away anything about the plot of this book, since it would spoil the first two in the trilogy, but this was a very well-done and fitting end to the series. The world-building was incredible, and I was tearing up at the end.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (4 stars) – this is a cute, funny, fast-paced, highly entertaining SF rom-com. It was a lot of fun to read; the dialogue is great, and you really end up loving the main characters. This was my third Connie Willis book, and my second of her “lighter” books; I have two others on my physical TBR shelf and a bunch more on my hypothetical one.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (4 stars) – I’ve always loved reading about mythology, although Greek mythology has always been my favorite, and this book was no exception. It was well-done and Gaiman also gave a great introduction talking about his connection to Norse myths. The parts about Ragnarok were particularly well-done.

The Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin (3 stars) – this novella takes place after the Inheritance trilogy, and the entire plot is a huge spoiler. It was cute and fun to read, but it wasn’t as awesome as most of Jemisin’s work tends to be.

 

And here are the books I acquired in November:

March Reading Wrap-Up & Book Reviews

March was a really enjoyable reading month for me. I may not have had any 5-star reads, but my 4-star reads were all wonderful and I had a bunch of them this month. In terms of my reading goals, I actually did a good job of reading the books on my physical TBR shelf (almost all of my reads this month came from there) and I did manage to read another short story collection, which means that I’m 2 for 2 with my new goal of reading one of those each month in 2017.

Number of books read: 8

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 1

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Tasks Completed: 2

✓ 8. Read a travel memoir.
Wild From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail by Cheryl Strayed

✓ 5. Read a book by an immigrant or with a central immigration narrative.
Exit West by Mohsin Hamid Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

When did I buy the books I read? October (The Regional Office is Under Attack!), February (The Possessions, There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself, Wild), March (The Princess Saves Herself in this One, Exit West)

So here’s what I read in March:

Giant Days, Vol. 3 by John AllisonThe Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda LovelaceLab Girl by Hope JahrenThe Possessions by Sara Flannery MurphyThere Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and... by Ludmilla PetrushevskayaWild by Cheryl StrayedThe Regional Office Is Under Attack! by Manuel GonzalesExit West by Mohsin Hamid

Giant Days, Vol 3 by John Allison, Max Sarin, Whitney Cogar, Jim Campbell, and Lissa Treiman (2 stars) – unfortunately, I think I’m done with this series. This latest issue and the previous one were both disappointments, and I’m just not interested enough in the story anymore to keep on going.

The Princess Saves Herself in this One by Amanda Lovelace (2.5 stars) – another disappointment, unfortunately. I had heard this was similar to Rupi Kaur’s Milk and Honey, which I loved, but the writing was much less impactful in this book and I felt that the poems were overly simplistic with not enough craft.

Lab Girl by Hope Jahren (4 stars) – fantastic nonfiction audiobook. I loved hearing about the dedication and obsession of this female scientist who was coming into her own in a time when female scientists were very rare; her story is inspiring and fascinating.

The Possessions by Sara Flannery Murphy (4 stars) – So this was my Book of the Month Club pick for February, and I really enjoyed it–but at the same time, I can totally see that a lot of people probably won’t like it. It’s sort of a mishmash of genres (mystery, ghost story, fantasy, thriller) that never fully inhabits any genre. The main character is really vaguely drawn and we never feel like we really know her all that well; the plot does tend to stagnate and it’s heavier on ambiance than twists. But I was really into all of that, fortunately, and it really worked for me. The book’s premise is that there are pills that allow people to channel the spirits of the deceased, and the main character works at an agency that helps people contact their departed loved ones in an attempt to gain some closure. The intrigue starts when the lines begin to be blurred between the rigid structure of contacting the dead at this company versus what happens when our main character starts to fall for a client and discovers more about the darker side of this phenomenon.

There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself by Ludmila Petrushevskaya (4 stars) – my short story collection for the month of March. These stories are all set in Russia and all involve families and elements of daily life; there’s an overwhelming sense of oppression and depression but still a strong cord of hope running through them. Petrushevskaya’s writing style was wonderful, and her blend of dark humor and stark realism really worked for me. I definitely will be picking up more of her short fiction in the future.

Wild by Cheryl Strayed (4 stars) – For some reason, I had always had this impression of Wild being a sort of sappy, inspirational self help-y kind of book, and so I avoided reading it for years. After I listened  to Cheryl Strayed’s other nonfiction book (Tiny Beautiful Things) on audio last year, though, I revised my opinion and realized that I probably had the wrong idea about Wild. I ended up listening to this one on audio as well and it’s probably one of my favorite audiobooks so far. This was NOT sappy or self-help-y at all; it’s honest and real and very absorbing.

The Regional Office is Under Attack! by Manuel Gonzales (3 stars) – this was a fun read that I mainly listened to on audio about superpowered female secret agents and what happens when one contingent attacks another (the Regional Office) and the events leading up to and following said attack. While it was fun, there were a LOT of issues in terms of plot holes and it constantly teetered between science fiction/fantasy elements and more realistic ones in a way that just did not at all come together. It almost seemed like the author just didn’t feel like explaining a lot of the fantastical elements and also occasionally forgot about them.

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid (4 stars) – This was my Book of the Month Club pick for March, making this the first time I’ve actually read my BOTM pick during the month it was sent to me. It’s a magical realism story that takes place in an unnamed Middle Eastern country on the brink of civil war; at the same time that this is happening, doors start to open up all over the world that allow people to be transported from one disparate place to another. When I started reading this, I really thought that because of the lyrical, gorgeous prose that it would be a 5-star read, but unfortunately I ended up liking the first half much better than the second and it was more of a 4-star read for me in the end.

And here are the books I purchased in March:

It’s Monday! What are you reading?

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It’s Monday! What Are You Reading? is a place to meet up and share what you have been, are and about to be reading over the week. This meme started with J Kaye’s Blog  and then was taken up by Sheila from Book Journey. Sheila then passed it on to Kathryn at the Book Date

 

To summarize: my reading week rocked!

My reading this week made me so happy–I read two absolutely fantastic books this week! I am now going to start recommending them all over the place.

Books I finished this week:

 

Wide Sargasso Sea

Every Heart a Doorway

 

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys: the language of this book is lyrical, and not a single word is wasted. I kept rereading sentences because of how beautiful the writing was, and it took me much longer to read this than I thought it would because I wanted to savor it. It’s a feminist reinterpretation of the “madwoman in the attic” aspect of Jane Eyre, and it discusses racism and sexism, both insidious and overt, through the story of Antoinette Cosway, daughter of Jamaican slave owners, who is later sold into marriage with a calculating Englishman. The story is incredibly sad and disturbing, but it feels like a very necessary discussion of the rarely explored aspects of classic literature.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire: I become very easily hooked by any type of exploration of the fantasy/fairy tale genre, and this book was exactly what I wanted to read. The children in this book have all been involved in portal fantasy scenarios (where they have left the real world through magical doorways and emerged into their own fantasylands) but then, for various reasons, have returned (typically, they’ve been forced to return) to reality. I absolutely loved the hints at the different worlds the children went to, and I found the two main characters, Nancy and Kade, to be both intriguing and relatable. I really wish we’d gotten flashbacks to their times in their respective fantastical worlds, though. The hints were not enough! To be honest, I’d have read a much longer book on all of this and loved it, but the novella length did work well as it is.

But I still wish it was longer.

 

Reading now:

Reflections (Indexing, #2)Mr. SplitfootYes, Chef

I bought the ebook of the second installment in Seanan McGuire’s Indexing series, which is about secret government agents dealing with out-of-control and deadly fairy tales snaring unsuspecting civilians. I was so pleasantly surprised by the first book (which is just called Indexing, and I highly recommend it) and I like this one so far as well, although it isn’t quite as surprising since a lot of the fun of the worldbuilding was already accomplished previously.

Sadly, I DNF’d Jackaby, the audiobook I was listening to for the past few weeks (yet another abandoned audiobook for me, oh well). Then today I started listening to Yes, Chef, which is a memoir by celebrity chef Marcus Samuelsson. So far I love it.

And still at the beginning of Mr. Splitfoot!

 

Looking forward to:

Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon on Saturday! This week I’ll be posting about my TBR stack and Readathon plans. I can’t wait to hear about everyone else’s Readathoning as well.

 

What are you all reading this week?