Tag Archives: books

October Reading Wrap-Up

I did have several reads that I really enjoyed in October, but I also had a few that were really disappointing. In terms of quantity, it was a really excellent reading month; I tend to get excited about diving into fall-ish books this time of year and it definitely helps with my reading productivity. I also participated in Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon again, which was great, and in non-reading updates, I spent a lot of this month doing textbanking for the Biden campaign.

Total books read: 10

ARCs: 1

Audiobooks: 3

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Spoiler Alert by Olivia DadeMexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-GarciaRage by Bob WoodwardThe Regrets by Amy BonnaffonsGrown by Tiffany D. JacksonYou Had Me at Hola by Alexis DariaLittle Eyes by Samanta SchweblinFangs by Sarah AndersenLandscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. AndersonThe Night Swim by Megan Goldin

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (4 stars) – In the awfulness that was the first week of October, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade managed to provide an extremely fun and relatable escape with this contemporary romance that’s well-written, authentic, and delightful. You can see my full review here; I received a free copy of Spoiler Alert from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Rage by Bob Woodward (4 stars) – this is the second of Woodward’s Trump biographies I’ve read (his previous book Fear chronicled Trump’s first year in the White House) and I continue to be impressed by his meticulous reporting and ability to combine accounts from various sources within the administration into a horrifying and fascinating account of a White House in constant turmoil. Rage is a ridiculously relevant book to be reading at this exact moment in time; its account extends to the summer of 2020, which feels impossibly current. It’s a must-read if you’re interested in politics and current events and are looking for a deeper understanding of the incompetence and danger of the Trump administration.

Landscape with Invisible Hand by M.T. Anderson (4 stars) – A great example of one of my favorite kinds of books: books that are very short and very weird. Aliens have arrived on Earth, and instead of attacking outright, they offer what at first seems like salvation: advanced technology, in particular the ability to heal any disease. But their technology soon decimates the global economy and its consequences destroy the environment in an apt metaphor for the effects of colonization. Our protagonist is a teenage boy trying to help his family survive in this new world and also finding escapism in his art, but he finds that the only way he can make money is by feeding into the 1950s fantasy view the aliens have of humans. It’s a quick read, but it does a lot in a short time, with some excellent sarcastic humor and an eerie look at a different kind of alien invasion than we’re used to seeing.

You Had Me at Hola by Alexis Daria (4 stars) -This was the second great contemporary romance I read in October! Like Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade, You Had Me At Hola by Alexis Daria features thirty-something protagonists focused on career goals, which is always something I’m on board for. Jasmine and Ashton fall for each other while playing romantic leads in a new show for a Netflix-esque streaming service, and the book features great writing, interesting friendship/family dynamics, and a really cute relationship. Would definitely recommend to anyone looking to pick up a new contemporary romance.

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (3.5 stars) – This was an excellent October read. Set in 1950s Mexico, we’re following college student and socialite Noemi, whose family sends her to a remote estate in the mountains to check on her cousin Catalina, whose most recent letter hints at disturbing happenings with her English husband, his reclusive family, and their mysterious house. It’s atmospheric and moody, with a protagonist not afraid to take the initiative, and although I didn’t necessarily love the main plot twist, I did overall really enjoy the reading experience.

The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons (3.25 stars) – The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons has, in my opinion, one of the most intriguing premises, and one of the most interesting covers, of 2020, but unfortunately its execution didn’t quite work for me. I mischaracterized it somewhat when I referred to it as a book where a woman falls in love with a ghost–it sort of is, but it’s more accurate to say that it’s the story of a young man caught between this life and this afterlife on a technicality of the rules of death, who meets and falls in love with a woman while he’s living a shadow of what his former life was.

I struggled to find cohesion in this book, not just because of its shifting perspectives, but because it sets itself up to be one thing (an exploration of this specific concept of what happens when you die, and then what happens when that doesn’t go according to plan) and then becomes something else (a somewhat meta and at times clicheed doomed love story with coming-of-age elements) without fully exploring the former. I love fabulism and I’m always attracted to weird premises, but I think that either the weirdness or the love story (or both!) could have been dialed up a few notches in this one. Although interesting in concept and very readable, I wished that it had either been distilled down more or expanded into a broader scope to add more interest.

Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin (3 stars) – Unfortunately, Little Eyes ended up being one of the biggest disappointments of the year for me. I absolutely loved Schweblin’s first novel Fever Dream, which I thought was incredibly strange, haunting, concise, and impactful, and so I thought I would love her second novel as well. I didn’t rate it lower because I do think the writing was strong, but I just really did not enjoy the experience of reading it, as the book seemed to lean much more on sadness than it did strangeness or uniqueness. I think my expectations were just not aligned with what this book actually was; I went in expecting horror and weird fiction and instead got unrelenting depictions of loneliness and isolation in a tech-focused world.

The Night Swim by Megan Goldin (3 stars) – a mystery/thriller that captivated me at first due to its true crime podcast premise, but lost me in the second half with a plot that wasn’t as interesting as it had seemed it would be and excessive graphic descriptions of sexual assault.

Grown by Tiffany D. Jackson (3 stars) – A timely, topical YA contemporary that deals with important subjects. Unfortunately, I just didn’t love the writing style and plot structure of this one, but it has a strong message.

Fangs by Sarah Andersen (3 stars) – this graphic novel about a vampire and a werewolf falling in love was definitely cute, but it was also extremely short and didn’t feel like a complete story.

November TBR/NaNoWriMo Game Plan/Thoughts on Reading on the Eve of the Election

I really have no idea what November is going to look like, book friends. It’s the eve of the U.S. presidential election, and it’s hard to plan ahead when there’s so much uncertainty. I’ve been spending the last few weeks volunteering for the Biden campaign, and I really hope that the hard work of so many Americans is about to pay off, but it’s a very scary time here. I actually didn’t read at all over the last week for this reason, but I’m trying to get back on track with both reading and writing for November (or at least as much as I can considering everything going on).

In an ideal universe, I was planning on doing another round of NaNoWriMo this month to hopefully finish the first draft of a fantasy novel I’ve been working on for quite awhile. I set a more modest goal (25,000 words instead of 50,000) and am planning on actually starting NaNo after the election. I’d consider any writing productivity a win at this point, to be honest.

Normally, I find TBR planning helpful during NaNoWriMo, as it helps me avoid spending time and energy choosing my next read when I’m devoting a lot more time than usual to writing. I tend to gravitate towards books by previously loved authors during this month, since I also don’t want to waste my time with disappointing reads. This month, I’m leaving things a little more open-ended, and I’m currently reading several books already that may take me a decent part of the month to complete.

Currently reading:

The House in the Cerulean SeaPiranesiWatch Over Me

Going into November, my current reads are The House in the Cerulean Sea (fantasy), Piranesi by Susanna Clarke (fantasy, by the author of Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norell), and Watch Over Me by Nina LaCour (YA contemporary, audiobook).

Other November possibilities:

In the Dream House: A MemoirThe Austen Playbook (London Celebrities, #4)

I’d really like to get to another book from my Top 10 2020 TBR list, in this case Carmen Maria Machado’s haunting memoir In the Dream House. And I sort of barely started The Austen Playbook by Lucy Parker (contemporary romance) last month via ebook, then ordered the physical book after I had to return the ebook to my library.

Book Review: Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade

Release date: 10/6/20

Genre: contemporary romance

Rating: 4 stars

In the awfulness that was the first week of October, Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade managed to provide an extremely fun and relatable escape. It’s a contemporary romance that’s well-written, authentic, and delightful. We’re following geologist April, a superfan of the book and TV series Gods of the Gates (a Game of Thrones-esque series) who spends her free time immersed in fanfiction, cosplay, and fandom culture as a whole. A Twitter encounter with Marcus, the lead actor on the TV series and a closet superfan/fanfiction author himself, leads them to a real-life date–but it turns out that they’re already close friends online, which Marcus soon realizes but April doesn’t.

First of all, I loved that both protagonists are in their 30s; as a 31-year-old, it’s sometimes hard to relate to contemporary romances featuring 22-year-olds, and I liked that both main characters are career-focused and looking to take themselves to the next level. I also related so much to April’s struggles with reconciling her professional life and her personal life when it comes to fandom. There’s discussion about how some hobbies are more socially acceptable than others, and how it’s become normalized to talk about football with your coworkers but not things like fan conventions; even though Gods of the Gates is an extremely popular show, April worries her coworkers won’t see her as serious or professional if they find out the depth of her interest. (Kind of like how, even though books are an integral part of pop culture, I didn’t talk to my coworkers about going to BookCon; it’s as though there is a perceived threshold of how much interest is socially acceptable to have about a particular topic). There’s a lot to think about there with regard to feeling comfortable in your own skin.

Spoiler Alert is a great mix of relatable life and relationship issues with larger-than-life celebrity and fandom drama, and I think there are so many people who will be able to relate to one or both protagonists. I know that some readers don’t love the romance trope of “one character knows something about the other but won’t say that they know it,” so it may bother some people that Marcus realizes that he and April have been internet friends for years but doesn’t tell her, because he’s worried about his fandom involvement affecting his acting career (especially because his commentary on the show he stars in has not been entirely positive).

Definitely recommend to readers with ties to fandom, and to career-focused thirtysomethings looking to see themselves in a fictional character and enjoy a good romance at the same time.

I received a free copy of Spoiler Alert from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

September Reading Wrap-Up

In September, I managed to finish 6 books, most of which I really enjoyed. They’re also somewhat color-coordinated, which I’m also into, but was weirdly not intentional. Unfortunately, my 5-star drought has not yet ended, despite picking up several books this month that I thought had 5-star potential.

Reviews:

Emerald Blaze by Ilona AndrewsChosen Ones by Veronica RothSay Yes to the Marquess by Tessa DareWhen No One is Watching by Alyssa ColeThe Wicker King by K. AncrumNormal People by Sally Rooney

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (4.25 stars) – I’ve been looking forward to Emerald Blaze since pretty much the minute I finished Sapphire Flames, the first book in Catalina’s trilogy in Andrews’s Hidden Legacy series, and it was great to finally be able to return to this world of dueling magical families in Houston. Catalina and love interest Alessandro have both grown and matured a lot since the previous book, and are able to deal with a new threat together despite lingering resentment. I continue to love Ilona Andrews’s fantastic world building, lovable side characters, and great relationship development, but I enjoyed this one just slightly less than its predecessor.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (4 stars) – I’ve been struggling with how to review this book, because on the one hand I fell completely in love with its premise, main character, and first section, but on the other I felt that it stumbled somewhat with aspects of one plot twist and its ending. You can check out my full review here.

The Wicker King by K. Ancrum (4 stars) – I love books with unconventional formats; if I’m ever on the fence about picking something up, hearing that it utilizes drawings or documents or notes in its narrative will always tip me over the edge. That and several positive reviews were what influenced me to pick up The Wicker King by K. Ancrum, which is about best friends dealing with the fact that one of them is seeing things that can’t be real–another world overlaid over their own, to be specific. In addition to text interspersed with illustrations of the other world, mix CDs highlighting characters’ personalities, and police reports, the book also colors its pages differently as its two main characters become more and more immersed in the alternate reality. I loved how thoughtfully this book was constructed, and also loved its main characters and their intense relationship; I’ll definitely be picking up more from this author in the future.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (3.75 stars) – I’ve read a bunch of Alyssa Cole’s contemporary and historical romances, so of course I jumped at a chance to read a thriller from her, particularly in the fall, which for me is mystery/thriller season. When No One is Watching is set in a close-knit Brooklyn neighborhood threatened by gentrification and follows our protagonist Sydney, who’s reeling from her divorce and subsequent move back to Brooklyn from Seattle, as well as her mother’s illness. Frustrated by the whitewashing of her neighborhood’s history on a walking tour of the area, Sydney gets the idea to develop her own tour that focuses on the area’s Black community, and dives into research with the help of Theo, a new neighbor Sydney isn’t exactly thrilled to have an as assistant. But strange and sinister things are happening in the neighborhood, and Sydney and Theo have to team up to figure out exactly what’s going on and how to protect their community from encroaching threats.

Alyssa Cole creates an extremely strong sense of place and community that grounds When No One is Watching and immediately makes you empathize with its characters and their plight. The side characters in Sydney’s neighborhood were possibly my favorite part of the book; I wanted to see more of all of them, and I also enjoyed the addition of neighborhood online forum posts as a way to track the growing tension between its longtime residents and interlopers. It’s a fantastic depiction of different forms of racism, both overt and insidious, that can affect peoples’ day-to-day lives, and I was extremely invested in the story and, at a certain point, unable to stop reading so that I could finally find out what exactly was going on. It’s a bit of a slow build, but the action-packed ending definitely compensates for the overall slower pace, and I thought that the book’s message was clear and extremely relevant. What I liked least was probably the story’s dual perspective; I liked protagonist Sydney’s chapters, but I could have done without Theo as a POV character, as I didn’t find him as compelling. I definitely recommend this one, especially if you’re looking for a mystery/thriller that’s relevant for 2020.

I received an ARC of When No One is Watching from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Say Yes to the Marquess by Tessa Dare (3.25 stars) – I’ve been reading a lot of Tessa Dare in 2020 (at the moment, she’s tied with Alyssa Cole for my most-read author of the year); her books are fun to read but also so well-crafted, with clever jokes and great chemistry. Even though I liked this one less than I have the others I’ve read of hers, it was still an extremely fun read, particularly the premise: tired of the eight years she’s spent waiting for her fiance to return from the Continent, Clio attempts to get his black sheep brother Rafe to sign a contract releasing her from the betrothal. Unbeknownst to Clio, Rafe has been long harboring feelings for her, but he’s also determined that she’ll still marry his brother, and this begins a battle of wills as Rafe tries to get her excited about the wedding while Clio tries to convince him that she’ll be better off alone and free to run her own castle and business.

Normal People by Sally Rooney (2 stars) – I picked up this book expecting to love it, and unfortunately I really, really didn’t. Normal People was one of the books on my Top 10 TBR for 2020 (I’m trying to finish all of them before the end of the year and am a bit behind schedule), and I’ve been hearing great things about it for so long, as well as about its Hulu adaptation. But this book, for me, did not at all live up to the hype. I was really frustrated with the aspiring pretentiousness of the tone, which never felt natural or authentic, and by its odd structure that repeatedly used the same technique of jumping forward in time several months but then flashing back to what had happened in those prior months, thus completely negating the need for a time jump in the first place. I felt that Marianne’s story and agency were jettisoned in favor of Connell’s in a way that felt regressive and frankly sexist, particularly when it came to the book’s ending, and I thought that making Connell’s character a writer felt very overdone, particularly the passages where he’s trying to make these profound statements about writing and literary readings but just never says anything new or fresh. I don’t actually write negative reviews very often, both because I’m fairly good at predicting what books I’ll like and picking from those, and also because if I’m not enjoying a book I’m very likely to DNF it unless it’s a review copy, but I just had to with this one. The last thing I want to do is take away from anyone’s enjoyment of Normal People; I know that a lot of people really love it, and I wish that I had too. But I really don’t recommend this one if you haven’t tried it yet–there are just so many books out there that do similar things in a better way.

Book Review: Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth

Genre: Fantasy

Rating: 4 stars

I’ve been struggling with how to review this book, because on the one hand I fell completely in love with its premise, main character, and first section, but on the other I felt that it stumbled somewhat with aspects of one plot twist and its ending. It definitely hasn’t gotten the attention that it deserves, but I also can’t say that it was unreservedly perfect due to its aforementioned issues (I’d try to go into them more, but we’d be entering spoiler territory). I sometimes get frustrated by books that I feel could have been amazing if handled differently, maybe even more so than books I feel indifferent about, just because I want to love them so much but find myself not being able to. (I’d say that for comparison I also felt this way about Middlegame by Seanan McGuire and Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas: both 4-star reads that I was really hoping to be 5-star reads, and that therefore felt unsatisfying even though I loved so much of them.) It’s possible, also, that I am just picky and weird.

Anyways, this book is about five twenty-somethings who, ten years ago, were the Chosen Ones who saved our world from the mysterious Dark One, and who are now dealing with PTSD and trying to adapt to somewhat normal lives in Chicago, although they’re also treated as celebrities and frequently harangued in public and sought after for various events. Sloane, our Jessica Jones-esque protagonist (that is how I pictured her for the duration of the novel), is having a particularly hard time and, in an effort to help herself cope with her trauma, requests the release of documents surrounding the project that recruited and trained the teens, based on a prophecy, to find magical objects and use them to defeat the Dark One, whose workings caused mass deaths in places he caused a sort of people-melting magic tornado called Drains. In addition to the underlying tensions between the Chosen Ones and their individual struggles, we also start to suspect that evil may not be as gone from the world as we’d thought.

I’ll say it again–I LOVED this premise. I love books that delve into tropes and genre conventions only to subvert them, and I felt like this book was doing for superhero narratives what The Magicians did for portal fantasy. Sloane is a prickly, haunted, self-sufficient main character, and I loved her dynamics with golden boy Matt, her long-term boyfriend, and Albie, the Chosen One she’s bonded with the most based on a shared trauma the others weren’t present for. The inclusion of government documents and articles were a great way to slowly reveal information, and for the first part of the book I was completely on board with everything the book was doing.

And then, there’s a big twist, which I will say nothing about, and which I was at first cautiously optimistic about and then gradually liked less and less, as I felt it took away from the fascinating narrative we’d been building up until that point. I wish the book had taken a different trajectory, and although overall I did have a great experience reading it, I think it could have been stronger if it had.

October TBR/Reading Seasonally

It’s officially fall now, which tends to be my favorite season (yes, I get really basic during the fall, I won’t lie to you guys). To a certain degree, I like to read seasonally, which to me means that once fall hits I’m in the mood for paranormal, mystery, dark fantasy, weird fiction, and horror. Several of these genres are ones I rarely read from during the rest of the year, so I usually go into the fall with several books in mind that I’ve been saving for crisp nights with a mug of hot spiced cider.

This month, I’m thinking of prioritizing these 4 books:

Mexican GothicThe RegretsMelmothLittle Eyes

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia, a historical mystery set in 1950s Mexico; The Regrets by Amy Bonnaffons, which features a ghost stuck between this world and the next and the woman who falls in love with him; Melmoth by Sarah Perry, historical fiction focusing on a dark European legend (also on my top 10 TBR for 2020/5 star predictions list I made at the beginning of the year); and Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin, a weird fiction/horror novel about mysterious stuffed animals.

Depending on time constraints and my reading mood, I may also decide to delve into these ones also (particularly, I’m thinking, for the next round of Dewey’s 24-hour readathon on October 24th):

The Only Good IndiansThe Damned (The Beautiful, #2)Fangs

The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones, a horror novel that I’m waiting to arrive in the mail; The Damned by Renee Ahdieh, the sequel to YA historical fantasy The Beautiful; and Fangs by Sarah Andersen, a graphic novel about a vampire and a werewolf who fall in love.

 

What’s on your TBR for October? Any of these that catch your eye? Let me know in the comments!

August Reading Wrap-Up: ARC August and Bout of Books

In August, I had a productive reading month participating in ARC August, a reading challenge that focuses on catching up on Advanced Reader Copies, as well as the week-long Bout of Books readathon. I was able to finish 4 of the 6 ARCs on my list while still leaving some space for mood-reading, and although I didn’t encounter any elusive 5-star reads, I read several books that I really enjoyed.

Stats:

Total books read: 8

ARCs: 4

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Tools of Engagement by Tessa BaileyWe Are All the Same in the DarkA Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank GreenSlay by Brittney MorrisWhere Dreams Descend by Janella AngelesLuster by Raven LeilaniDon't Hex and Drive by Juliette Cross13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Luster by Raven Leilani (4 stars) – A somewhat unsettling literary fiction coming-of-age novel focusing on a twenty-something losing her grip on the stability of her job and apartment and whose only apparent option becomes moving in with her married boyfriend, his wife, and their daughter. It explores the uncomfortable dynamics of an open marriage whose participants are clearly not equally happy with the situation, as well as the subtle racism facing the couple’s Black daughter, which our protagonist is clearly able to see but is invisible to her parents. Leilani’s prose is skillful and deft, and her sentences were fascinating to read. Luster came onto my radar after I saw it nominated for a debut fiction prize, and I’m so glad that I picked it up, because I’ll be extremely interested to pick up any future books from this author.

13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad (4 stars) – After reading Mona Awad’s Bunny, my NEW FAVORITE BOOK OF ALL TIME, earlier this year, I immediately bought Awad’s only other published novel in hopes that it would work similarly well for me. And there were definitely parts of 13 Ways that did. I think that Awad taps into the heart of our societal obsession with thinness and how diet culture is pervasive in so many aspects of life; there are so many scenes where the emotions and undercurrents are dead on. But there were other parts that dragged or felt superfluous, and I felt that it might have worked better as a shorter piece, even though it’s only about 200 pages long. So it’s not my new favorite book, but there were definitely aspects that reminded me why I love Mona Awad’s writing so much, and I think it’s a book that so many women can identify with in different ways. I absolutely don’t think it deserves its abysmal Goodreads rating, but I can see how it would be polarizing in the way that Bunny also was.

We Are All the Same in the Dark by Julia Heaberlin (4 stars) – My full review for this twisty, atmospheric, feminist mystery/thriller can be found here.

A Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green (4 stars) – The sequel to the extremely fun and social media-focused An Absolutely Remarkable Thing was a little bit darker, more complex, and a very interesting ending to the saga of the mysterious Carls, alien technology that appeared simultaneously all over the world in the first book. I liked that it was told from multiple perspectives, which gave us a broader view on the situation, and I listened to the audiobook which was very engaging and well-narrated. I’d recommend this book to readers who mainly read contemporary fiction but are looking to dip a toe into near-future science fiction, and to social media-savvy readers.

Slay by Brittney Morris (3.5 stars) – An engrossing and addictive contemporary YA novel about a Kiera, a high school student and young game developer who creates Slay, a game that celebrates the Black experience, and whose world shifts when a player is murdered in the real world and she finds herself and her game the targets of blame and racist vitriol. Slay is a book that celebrates creativity and drive in a protagonist who’s balancing school, college applications, a boyfriend, and family with a secret passion no one in her day-to-day life knows about; I think readers of Fangirl and Eliza and Her Monsters will really like it for that reason. It also deals with the different types of racism Kiera experiences and the different ways that she and other characters take to combat this. It’s a book that I felt like I had to keep reading; at one part I got so emotionally invested that I had to peek ahead and spoil the ending for myself. Definitely recommend!

Don’t Hex and Drive by Juliette Cross (3.5 stars) – This is the second book in Cross’s Stay a Spell series, which is set in New Orleans and focuses on a family of witch sisters in charge of the city’s supernatural community. Isadora is a sweet, garden-loving witch who’s uncomfortable around most people outside of her family, and who enjoys gathering herbs and enchanting them for sale at her family’s witchy boutique. Devraj Kumar, a powerful vampire tasked with hunting down vampires who break their community’s laws, accidentally hits her with his car and becomes enchanted with her, although Isadora at first wants nothing to do with him. They’re thrown together further when young women begin disappearing from the New Orleans bar scene and it becomes obvious that vampires are involved, and Isadora and Devraj have to work as a team to take down the culprits.

I really love the supernatural worldbuilding that Juliette Cross develops in this series, from the witches and vampires to the mysterious Grims and artistic werewolves. I also love how she sprinkles in hints of relationships that will be the focus of future books (I cannot WAIT for the book focusing on Jules, the powerful head witch, and Ruben, the boss of the New Orleans vampires, who have great chemistry in every scene they’re in). Cross is also great at writing romantic scenes, and I loved Devraj as a character–he’s very complex, as one would expect from a centuries-old vampire who’s been able to travel the world and live life to the fullest. I connected less with Isadora, who didn’t have as strong of a personality as many of her other sisters, and who seemed much less dimensional than Devraj. Although I do really enjoy this series, as a whole I didn’t enjoy this installment quite as much as I did the first book, Wolf Gone Wild, but I’m definitely looking forward to reading the other books in the future.

I received an eARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles (3.5 stars) – I really enjoyed this feminist YA fantasy with Phantom of the Opera and Moulin Rouge vibes. Female magician Kallia performs nightly at a club owned by the enigmatic magician Jack, but dreams of making a name for herself outside of its boundaries. She finds her chance when a mysterious nearby city hosts a competition for magicians, but when its participants begin to go missing and she is forced to confront the misogyny of the world of magicians, she realizes it may be more of a challenge than she bargained for. Kallia’s strength of character and her formidable magical talents are tested throughout the book, and twists abound. It’s definitely an intriguing book, featuring a love triangle and mirrors that hold dark secrets, and I’d definitely recommend it to YA fantasy fans. I received an ARC of Where Dreams Descend from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey (3 stars) – In the third installment of Bailey’s Hot and Hammered series, which is centered around a house flipping company on Long Island, we’re re-introduced to the chemistry between perfectionist house stager Bethany and new-in-town Wes, who’s several years younger than Bethany but was forced to shoulder a lot of responsibility at a young age. Wes, who’s also a former rodeo competitor from the South, is instantly attracted to put-together Bethany, but she remains very skeptical of his motives for most of the book. When they’re thrown together in a house-flipping competition that’s being filmed for reality TV, their chemistry heats up as they begin to develop a mutual respect–Wes coming to see Bethany as a more complex person than the cool, calm, collected exterior she always portrays, and Bethany respecting Wes’s devotion to taking care of his niece after his sister left town.

Although I did think that Bethany and Wes had great chemistry with a lot of banter, I felt that the book overall tended to emphasize rigid traditional gender roles in a way that didn’t feel like it was set in 2020, which made it hard to fully enjoy the book. Although the development of the “Just Us League,” a group of women supporting women developed in the first book, seems on the surface to be a progressive, feminist act, there’s a lot of repetitive binary talk of “girls do this” and “guys do that” that’s never really challenged or explored in a modern sense. It’s something I noticed more and more as the series progressed, and that I wish had been addressed.

I received an eARC of Tools of Engagement from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

September TBR

I’m slightly late posting this one, but I’m really liking adding TBR blog posts to help map out my reading for the month, so we’re going to roll with it. In September, I play to do three things: start my fall-themed reading, get to a few fall ARCs, and finish the three books I’m carrying over from August.

ARCs:

We Were Restless ThingsWhen No One Is WatchingSpoiler Alert

We Were Restless Things by Cole Nagamatsu (release date 10/6) – YA mystery/contemporary fantasy about the mystery surrounding a boy who drowned in a lake that only his best friend can find.

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole (release date 9/1) – a mystery/thriller about gentrification in Brooklyn and the mysterious disappearances of the main character’s neighbors

Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade (release date 10/6) – contemporary romance centered around the fandom of a Game of Thrones-esque show

Currently reading/Unfinished August reads:

Emerald Blaze (Hidden Legacy, #5)Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)The Dreamers

Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews – second in a trilogy (and also fifth in a series) following magical families in Houston, and focused on the romance between Catalina, the head of her family’s house and the possessor of siren magic, and Alessandro, an assassin with mysterious motives.

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth – Following the five “Chosen Ones” who defeated the evil Dark One as teenagers, but ten years later when several of them are suffering from PTSD and struggling to figure out how to live their lives in the aftermath.

The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker – following a variety of characters after a mysterious sleeping sickness originates in a small college town.

 

What are you reading in September?

Bout of Books: Days 4-7 Stats and Wrap-Up!

I’m so glad that I decided to participate in this round of Bout of Books! It ended up being a really great way to frame my week, and pushed me to focus more on my reading productivity than I normally would. In addition to reading, I also had a much less stressful week at work; celebrated my niece’s first birthday at a (socially distanced and outdoor) gathering; went to see the original Jurassic Park at the drive-in; and went to the Genessee Country Museum for a friend’s birthday (it’s somewhere she and her sister loved going as kids, where you learn about life in our area in the 1800s, and it was interesting and also a gorgeous day out). I finished two books and started several others, and I’m hoping I’ll be inspired to carry my reading productivity into next week as well.

Here are my stats for the last 4 days of the readathon:

Day 4

Books started: The Dreamers by Karen Thompson Walker

Pages read: 50 pages of The Dreamers

Day 5

Pages read: 30% of Don’t Hex and Drive by Juliette Cross (eARC)

Day 6

Pages read: 35% of Don’t Hex and Drive (eARC)

Books finished: Don’t Hex and Drive

Day 7

Books started: 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl by Mona Awad

Pages read: 92 pages of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, 9 pages of The Dreamers

 

And here are my overall stats for the readathon!

Books finished: 2

Luster by Raven LeilaniDon't Hex and Drive by Juliette Cross

Pages read: 418 pages + 70% of an eARC (40 pages of Chosen Ones, 227 pages of Luster, 59 pages of The Dreamers, 92 pages of 13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl, 70% of Don’t Hex and Drive [eARC])

Books started/read from, but not finished: 3

Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)The Dreamers13 Ways of Looking at a Fat Girl

Bout of Books: TBR and Days 1-3 Updates!

Grab button for Bout of BooksThe Bout of Books readathon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It’s a weeklong readathon that begins 12:01am Monday, August 17th and runs through Sunday, August 23rd in YOUR time zone. Bout of Books is low-pressure. All reading-in-place times, Twitter chats, and exclusive Instagram challenges are completely optional. For Bout of Books 29 information and updates, visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

At the last second, I decided to participate in another round of Bout of Books, one of my favorite readathons because it’s low pressure, fun, and gives you a whole week to read as much as you want. I had originally meant to participate in a different readathon, Tome Topple, but decided that I just wasn’t in the right head space to start and finish a 500-page book that I wasn’t in the mood for, and so I switched gears quickly. I’m really enjoying mood-reading my way through this week; I’ve had a stressful few weeks at work, and a low-pressure readathon was a great way to get myself into a better frame of mind.

My tentative TBR for this week is these three books:

Chosen Ones (The Chosen Ones, #1)Don't Hex and Drive (Stay a Spell, #2)Luster

Chosen Ones by Veronica Roth (I was about 40 pages in when the readathon started), Don’t Hex and Drive by Juliette Cross (I was about 30% into this eARC when the readathon started), and Luster by Raven Leilani, which I planned to start during this readathon.

And here are my reading stats for the first 3 days of Bout of Books:

Day 1

Pages read: 40 pages of Chosen Ones

Day 2:

Books started: Luster

Pages read: 80 pages of Luster, 5% of Don’t Hex and Drive

Day 3:

Pages read: 147 pages of Luster

Books finished: Luster

 

I’m actually really happy with the reading progress I’ve made so far this week! I’ve been struggling to get reading done after work recently, but the readathon is giving me extra motivation.