Tag Archives: books

January Reading Wrap-Up

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

January stats:

Total books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks:2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

2019 Reading Goals

 

It’s 2019! And the year has already started, but it’s never too late for setting goals. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of resolutions; I prefer goals, because to me goals are things to realistically work towards and help you organize your priorities for the coming year. Resolutions always sound to me like the things you give up on February 2nd; goals are fun and you can check them off on lists, so they’re here to stay. So that being said, here are my reading goals for 2019!

Read all 10 books on my Top 10 TBR for 2019 list. This one’s pretty self-explanatory; every year, I make a stack of ten books that I’m really looking forward to reading over the coming year, and in the past, I’ve always done absolutely terribly at actually reading them. But not this year! This year, I’m going 10 for 10 on these books:

  • Passage by Connie Wilis
  • Severance by Ling Ma
  • Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente
  • How Long Til Black Future Month by N.K. Jemisin
  • The Mother of All Questions by Rebecca Solnit
  • A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
  • The Pisces by Melissa Broder
  • Margaret the First by Danielle Dutton
  • Stay With Me by Ayobami Adebayo
  • Our Hearts Will Burn Us Down by Anne Valente

Read more new releases, and read them closer to their release dates. In past years, I’ve set goals about reading more older books, but I’m calling it now–2019 is the year of the new release. There are SO MANY amazing-sounding books coming out this year (check out my most anticipated new releases guides here and here) and I don’t want to miss out on any of them if I can help it. When the Goodreads Choice Awards roll around in 2019, I’m going to have a bunch of options for every category, mark my words.

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)The Last RomanticsIt Happened One Doomsday (Dru Jasper, #1)The Fall (Thieves of Fate, #2)

Read and review ARCs and finished copies sent from publishers ahead of their release dates. In the past few months, I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few review copies sent to me from publishers or to have won them in giveaways, so a key goal this year is to absolutely to stay on top of reading and reviewing them in a timely manner.

MilkmanA Little LifeA Tale for the Time BeingFates and Furies

Read more literary fiction. I’m generally a reader who tends to lean towards fantasy and/or genre-bending books, but that also means that there are so many great literary/realistic fiction titles that I’ve been missing out on. I’d like to catch up a bit in 2019.

How Long 'til Black Future Month?A Cathedral of Myth and BoneA Guide to Being BornWhat is Not Yours is Not Yours

Read more short story collections. I love short story collections, and at least one always makes it to my favorite reads of the year list. Last year I read 5; I’d like to top that in 2019, especially since I have quite a few on my physical TBR.

You Play the Girl: On Playboy Bunnies, Stepford Wives, Train Wrecks, & Other Mixed MessagesGood and Mad: The Revolutionary Power of Women's AngerWhen They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter MemoirCall Them by Their True Names: American Crises (and Essays)

Read more nonfiction. I was actually really surprised that nonfiction didn’t comprise a larger portion of my genre pie chart for 2018, since I’ve discovered over the past few years that I love listening to nonfiction on audiobook. So 2019 is going to be the year that I learn all the things.

The Handmaid's Tale

Re-read The Handmaid’s Tale. I’m not generally a big re-reader nowadays. When I was a kid, I re-read books constantly; now I’ll occasionally re-read a fun book if I’m stressed, but even then I’ll probably just go back to favorite parts. But it’s been quite awhile since I’ve read Margaret Atwood’s most famous novel (more than 10 years, I think) and with the sequel being released this fall, it’s time for me to revisit it.

A Little LifePassage

Read more big books. This is pretty much an every year goal. I count “big” as 500+ pages, and there are always some of those giant books sitting on my TBR shelf, mocking me.

Storm of Locusts (The Sixth World, #2)The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)Children of Blood and Bone (Legacy of Orïsha, #1)Gingerbread

Read more diversely. Another constant goal. I always try to read more diversely than I have in the past year, and make more of a conscious effort to pick up books from diverse authors.

Read a classic. I didn’t read any classics in 2018; I’d like to set a goal to pick up at least one in 2019.

 

What are your reading goals for 2019?

Book Review: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire

Book review: In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire (4.25 stars)

If you’re not already reading Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series, it’s one I’d highly recommend. It’s a series of novellas that explores the adventures as well as the consequences of portal fantasy, where children are spirited away from our world to other, stranger worlds better suited to their individual natures, and then are often forced to return to reality afterwards and deal with the loss of the world they have been made to abandon. In An Absent Dream is the fourth installment of this series, which has followed different main characters in every iteration, and focuses on a girl named Lundy and her escape into the rule-bound yet treacherous world of the Goblin Market. There, deals and bargains are struck according to the invisible hand of the concept of fair value, and incurring too much debt means losing pieces of your humanity.

It’s hard to say for sure, since I’m a big fan of the Wayward Children series as a whole, but I think that In An Absent Dream is my new favorite of the four books. It’s probably because I identified more with Lundy, our protagonist, more than I have with previous characters. Like many of us bookworms, I grew up reading constantly, like Lundy; like Lundy, I also tended to follow the rules and do well in school, although I also always searched for loopholes and ways to be creative while still staying out of trouble. When I was younger, I also believed strongly in karma, our world’s version of the concept of fair value–that the actions you put out into the world would eventually come back around to you, if not always directly, then in some form or another. And so I loved reading about the intricacies of the rules governing the Goblin Market and about Lundy falling into deeper understanding of them as she grows older.

Books that fall into the category of fairytale retellings or re-imaginings of classic concepts like portal fantasy can sometimes struggle with whether to imagine a retelling that is darker or sweeter than the tales they pay homage to. In the case of In An Absent Dream, I thought that Seanan McGuire perfectly balanced the wonder and beauty of a traditional portal fantasy with the darker edges of growing up in a world where even the concept of fairness itself may not even be truly fair. The result is a story that becomes more and more urgent as Lundy gradually approaches the age of eighteen, where she will be forced to permanently choose between the real world and the Goblin Market, which seems to have become her true home. It’s a story that feels true in the way that great fantasy literature sometimes can, because it makes a strange kind of sense; my only wish is that it could have been longer, and some of Lundy’s adventures in the Market explored further. I’d highly recommend this book and series to fans of portal fantasy and books like In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, Carry On by Rainbow Rowell, and the Magicians series by Lev Grossman, that lovingly critique and explore classic tropes of the genre while making them into something entirely new.

 

Thank you so much to the YA Cafe Podcast and to Tor.com publishing for the opportunity to win an ARC of In An Absent Dream.

2018 Reading Wrap-Up and Stats

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

Total books read: 98

Total pages read: 33,243

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

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

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

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

Average rating: 3.7 stars

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

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

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

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

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

Now, let’s get into the statistics!

Adult vs. YA:

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

Author Breakdown by Gender:

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

Format:

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

Genre:

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

Breakdown by Release Year

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

When did I obtain the physical books I read?

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

How did I rate the books I read?

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

 

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

 

How was your reading year in 2018?

Bout of Books TBR!

Grab button for Bout of Books

The Bout of Books read-a-thon is organized by Amanda Shofner and Kelly Rubidoux Apple. It is a week long read-a-thon that begins 12:01am Monday, January 7th and runs through Sunday, January 13th in whatever time zone you are in. Bout of Books is low-pressure. There are challenges, giveaways, and a grand prize, but all of these are completely optional. For all Bout of Books 24 information and updates, be sure to visit the Bout of Books blog. – From the Bout of Books team

It’s time for one of my favorite readathons, Bout of Books! I love this readathon because it always coincides with the beginning of the new year, and acts as a great way to jump-start my yearly reading. Since it’s a week long, I generally can finish several books, and it’s often a way for me to pick up anticipated new releases or shorter books that have been on my TBR for awhile. Keeping that in mind, here’s my TBR for this round of Bout of Books!

Physical books:

In an Absent Dream (Wayward Children, #4)How Long 'til Black Future Month?Rabbit CakeThe Strange Bird: A Borne StoryPoison: Fairy Tales 1A Portable Shelter

With readathons, I generally like to start with a big, unrealistically tall stack of physical books that I might be in the mood for, so that I won’t have any issues with indecisiveness or reading slumps. This time, I’ve got a good variety of mostly shorter books, short stories, and novellas to pick from.

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire in an Instagram giveaway, and I’m planning on reading it on the first day of Bout of Books, since its release day is January 8th. It’s a novella, so it’s short, and I already know I love this series, so I think it’ll be a good way to kick things off. I also have a short story collection (How Long Til Black Future Month) by one of my favorite authors, N.K. Jemisin, on my list, since short stories can help break things up during the week, and another novella, The Strange Bird by Jeff Vandermeer, who is another favorite. And then I have a few more random shorter reads: Rabbit Cake by Annie Hartnett, which I started on a whim this week; A Portable Shelter by Kirsty Logan, author of The Gracekeepers; and Poison by Sarah Pinborough, a Snow White retelling.

Audiobooks:

Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her SuperpowerBad Blood: Secrets and Lies in a Silicon Valley Startup

I’m currently in the middle of listening to Eloquent Rage: A Black Feminist Discovers Her Superpower by Brittney Cooper, which has been highly recommended by just about everybody and which I chose as my first audiobook of 2019, but it’s not super long (about 7 hours) so I also wanted to choose a backup. I’m currently first in line in my library holds list for Bad Blood by John Carreyrou, which is about the Theranos scandal and which I’ve heard recommended a ton also, particularly on the Book Riot podcasts.

ebooks:

Girl Made of Stars

It’s always good to have an ebook option during a readathon, since when I’m out running errands or something it can be nice to have a book on my phone to check out when I have a few minutes to spare. So I checked out Girl Made of Stars by Ashley Herring Blake from my library after seeing it recommended as my favorite booktuber’s favorite book of 2018.

 

Are you participating in Bout of Books?

2018 Reading Goals Check-In: How did I do?

I love doing end of the year/beginning of the new year blog posts. I always find it really interesting to think about what I predicted I would read over the course of a year versus what I actually did read, and I like seeing what I can learn from that to read more widely/more enjoyably in the future. I’ve already posted my most anticipated books for the first half of 2019 (here and here if you missed them; I ended up doing two posts since I left out a bunch in my initial post), and today we’re going to delve into the reading goals that I set for 2018 and whether or not those turned out to influence my reading over the course of the year.

Before we get started, I will say that I may have forgotten about my reading goals post for a good portion of the year, and definitely did not continue to refer back to it over the course of 2018. So, um, that didn’t exactly help.

Read at least one Catherynne M. Valente book. I did this! I read Space Opera in November and absolutely loved it. I will say that Space Opera was NOT the Valente book I had in mind when I set this goal, though; I specifically mentioned Radiance, Deathless, and Palimpsest. Spoiler alert: they’re on my 2019 TBR. But technically, I did accomplish this goal.

Read at least one Octavia Butler book. Failure. I mean, over the course of my reading life, I’ve read 5 Octavia Butler books, so it’s not like she was an author I’ve never read before, but I didn’t read any new-to-me books by her in 2018. This is one of the goals that I completely forgot I set for myself. That being said, I’ll absolutely continue to read more from Octavia Butler in the future; I just didn’t this year.

Read at least one Margaret Atwood book. See Octavia Butler. I’ve read a ton of her books, but in 2018 I specifically had wanted to pick up Stone Mattress and/or Hag-Seed, and I didn’t. Those are both books that I know I’ll absolutely read, but haven’t been in the right mood for yet.

Get in Trouble: StoriesThe Color MasterChildren of the New WorldThe Dark and Other Love Stories

Read more short story collections. I read 5 short story collections in 2018: Get in Trouble by Kelly Link, The Color Master by Aimee Bender, The Dark and Other Love Stories by Deborah Willis, Children of the New World by Alexander Weinstein, and The Merry Spinster by Mallory (who now prefers to be called Daniel) Ortberg. I think this is around the same amount that I read last year, but I don’t really count it as a fail, since I still read a decent number of short story collections. And I also read 2 nonfiction essay collections, which I place into a similar category.

The Haunting of Hill House

Read more than one classic. Fail. I read one book that I think would be considered a modern classic (The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson, pub 1959), which I really didn’t enjoy. Besides that, the oldest book I read in 2018 was Bellwether by Connie Willis, which was published in 1996.

House of LeavesThe Bone ClocksObsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)

Read big books. This is a continuing goal, mainly because I really enjoy giant novels but struggle to put them on TBRs because I’m worried I’ll somehow miss out on reading other, shorter books. In 2018, the biggest books I read were House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (709 pages; this book has been on my TBR for literally ever, so I was really glad to finally read it) (and then I ended up really disliking it, but oh well), The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell (624 pages), and Obsidio by Jay Kristoff and Amy Kaufman (615 pages). I did read a bunch of books that were between 400 and 500 pages, though, which sort of counts. Ideally, I’d like to have read more big books in 2018, but I did OK.

Read more diversely. This is sort of an ongoing goal that you can’t really pass or fail at, since there is always room for improvement. In 2018, I did consider carefully what books and authors I was picking up, and tried to read more from authors of color while maintaining my mostly-female author ratio.

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanI Crawl Through It by A.S. KingFuryborn by Claire LegrandEliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

Find some new great YA authors/books. Definitely a success! Several of my favorite YA series were ending this year, so I had wanted to find new YA favorites to take their place. And I found a bunch! In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, I Crawl Through It by A.S. King, and Furyborn by Claire Legrand were my favorite YA reads this year, but I also read first-in-series Ace of Shades by Amanda Foody and The Cruel Prince by Holly Black, and I’m planning to read the sequels to both in 2019. I also enjoyed standalones Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia and Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl. Overall, it was a great reading year for me YA-wise.

An Unkindness of GhostsThe Bone ClocksThe Lonely Hearts Hotel

Read the ten books from my “Top 10 2018 TBR” list. This is probably the worst of my goal failures. I had chosen 10 books that I definitely wanted to read in 2018, and I only ended up reading 3 of them (An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, and The Lonely Hearts Hotel by Heather O’Neill). I was also hoping that the books on my top 10 TBR list would be 5-star reads, wheres the three that I read ended up being 4 or 4.25 star reads instead.

#readmyowndamnbooks. A success! The vast majority of my reading this year was from books on my physical TBR shelf (around 68 out of 98 books, according to my rough count, since I haven’t done my stats post yet).

 

Overall, I didn’t do too badly, but there’s definite room for improvement in 2019. How did you do on your reading goals for 2018?

December Reading Wrap-Up

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

Stats:

Total books finished: 5

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

Audiobooks: 0

ebooks: 0

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

Reviews:

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

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

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

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

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

 

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