Tag Archives: reading

September Reading Wrap-Up

I had set a vaguely defined goal for myself for September (something like “read lots of books”) and I’m happy to report that I accomplished that. Not only did I finish more books than I have in the past few months, but I read several books that I rated over 4 stars, and I honestly enjoyed every single thing I read in September.

Let’s go to the stats and reviews:

Total books read: 9

ARCs: 2

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Sapphire Flames by Ilona AndrewsKill the Queen by Jennifer EstepThe Future of Another Timeline by Annalee NewitzShame Is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary LambertParkland by Dave CullenWe Died in Water by Meg FloresBloodlust & Bonnets by Emily McGovernRadio Silence by Alice OsemanThe Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (4.5 stars) – Sapphire Flames is technically the fourth book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, although it’s also technically the start of a new trilogy featuring the younger sister of books 1-3’s protagonist. I’ve actually just finished this one and LOVED it; I’m an Ilona Andrews superfan, but this was actually one of my favorites of hers. It’s set in a version of our world that features warring dynasties of magical families, and our main character Catalina has a very unique power; we follow her trying to solve a friend’s mother’s murder, protect her own family, and maybe connect with her crush, Alessandro, who has more than a few secrets up his sleeves. Honestly, this book is SO GOOD, and I think it’s also a great starting point for readers new to Ilona Andrews.

Shame is an Ocean I Swim Across by Mary Lambert (4.5 stars) – An impactful, striking, shiver-inducing autobiographical collection of poems that discuss sexual assault and its aftermath, falling in love, heartbreak, mental illness, and survival. There were several poems in this collection that made me pause, re-read, and take a moment to consider how Lambert used so few words to say so much. Her writing style is sometimes fluid and sometimes jarring; the poems are relatable and very readable but contain a lot of depth. I’d definitely recommend this one.

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (4.25 stars) – I absolutely loved this YA contemporary retelling of Twelfth Night that dealt skillfully with mental illness and sibling relationships; my full review will be up soon. I received an ARC at BookExpo from the publisher.

Radio Silence by Alice Oseman (4 stars) – really well done YA contemporary, revolving around two misfits and a science fiction podcast. I absolutely loved the main characters, and the writing and perspective felt extremely authentic. I did feel that the plot stumbled a bit towards the end, but overall I really loved this one.

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (4 stars) – Creative, feminist time-travel science fiction, set mainly in the 1990s and 1890s. Check out my full review here.

Parkland: Birth of a Movement by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – A very necessary and topical read. I listened to Dave Cullen’s Columbine on audiobook last month and was impressed by his research and thoroughness, and I wanted to pick up Parkland especially because it focuses almost exclusively on the March for Our Lives kids and movement rather than the school shooting itself; although the books are related, they emphasize very different things. The Parkland kids are so impressive and inspirational, and I think Cullen did a great job capturing what they are trying to accomplish.

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (4 stars) – the first graphic novel I’ve picked up in literally years, because it’s by the author of a webcomic I adore (My Life as a Background Slytherin). It’s a parody of historical/Regency romances, with an added fantastical element, and I quite enjoyed it. We follow Lucy, our heroine, who feels like a misfit under the constraints of proper society; Lord Byron (“from books!”), a poet with a very short attention span and a penchant for stabbing any vampire he sees; and Sham, a mysterious vampire hunter, on their adventures around England while trying to infiltrate a secret vampire society but keep getting sidetracked. I found it very cute, quirky, and funny, although for me it maybe wasn’t quite as consistently hilarious as McGovern’s webcomic tends to be, likely because there’s a lot more plot in a graphic novel than a 1-page webcomic. The art style and colors are likewise adorable and fun, and I’m definitely glad I picked it up.

We Died in Water by Meg Flores (4 stars) – We Died in Water is a memoir told in short prose poems that focuses on themes of love and leaving, using the ocean to help tell the author’s story in a variety of metaphors. The memoir itself mirrors the waves in structure, by repetition of the stories of loving and heartbreak that both the author and her mother experienced, stories that echo each other and force both the author and the reader to wonder if we are doomed to repeat our families’ pasts. As someone who’s always loved the ocean (as you can probably garner from my account name), I loved the integration of waves and ocean imagery into the author’s retelling of her story, and I found the writing overall to be lovely and fluid, while still retaining clarity, which can be difficult in a book with a nontraditional structure. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful little book, and I’d recommend it if you enjoy unconventional structures, poetry, and the ocean.

I received an early copy of We Died in Water from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Kill the Queen by Jennifer Estep (3.75 stars) – Mistakenly thought this was UF when I picked it up (the leather pants threw me off!) but it’s actually a really fun, fast-paced royal revenge plot in a full fantasy world with a writing style that reminds me of UF. I really enjoyed it–our main character Everleigh, a minor royal, survives an assassination attempt on the royal family, and joins a gladiator troupe, where survival turns into a desire for vengeance. She has to use the magic she’s kept hidden her entire life as well as every ounce of the cold rage that fuels her in order to do what she’s never even imagined–try to kill the queen. It’s got action, humor, and the hint of a romance, plus literally every character is wearing black leggings at all times, which is a fantasy world I can really get behind. There’s also a really interesting magic system featuring everything from enhanced senses, shapeshifting, and elemental magic. I’m about to start the second book, Protect the Prince, and I’m really interested to see where the story goes from here.

 

Have you read any of these, or are any of them on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz

Genre: science fiction

Rating: 4 stars

I have mixed feelings about time travel-focused science fiction; it’s never an element that draws me toward a story, but I’ve found it to be an interesting plot device in the hands of the right author (prior to picking up this book, namely Connie Willis, whose writing style I love). One of the things that can make or break a time travel plot is the method of time travel presented, and this was an element that I really enjoyed in The Future of Another Timeline: time travel is geology-based, and centers around specific rock formations in several locations around the world. We’re never sure whether the rock formations are a natural occurrence or whether they’re a remnant of a past advanced or alien civilization, but we know that one travels through time by tapping out specific patterns into the rock, and that humanity has barely scratched the surface of what the machines are truly capable of, and that explanation/non-explanation worked for me, because it felt unique, somewhat organic, and added a persistent oddness and potential for twists in the story.

The Future of Another Timeline follows time-traveling geologist Tess, who is ostensibly a researcher focusing on the late 1800s but in actuality is part of a secret organization dedicated to fighting for women’s and non-binary persons’ rights and preserving their contributions to society by manipulating the timeline and fighting against a shadow organization attempting to suppress women and non-binary persons in the past so that they can create a male-dominated future. We’re also following Beth, a teenager in the 1990s in California who is enmeshed in riot grrl culture and who’s dealing with a complex and precarious family situation, as well as the fact that she and her friends have just killed a rapist. We bounce back and forth between these two storylines throughout the book, with a few interludes from other perspectives, as Tess and her organization strategize about how to save the future while Beth deals with both emotional fallout and rising danger.

I found the writing style of Timeline to be concise, clear, and quick-moving; Newitz’s background as a science journalist feels clear in the story’s telling. It’s a fascinating premise, and one that could be intimidatingly complex if not told as succinctly as it was. The emotional depth of the story, however, was more inconsistent; I felt much more connected to Beth’s story than Tess’s, and not just because one involved time travel and one didn’t, but because Beth felt like a more fully realized character, whereas I never truly felt like I had a handle on who Tess was, beyond her fight for societal justice.

Beth’s portion of the plot, as well, was more gripping for me, probably because it was much more personal and immediate; it was as though, strangely, even though this is a book about time travel, it may have been a stronger story without the time travel element altogether, and just focusing solely on Beth. Newitz creates a fully realized vision of 1990s California, rife with punk rock, hypocrisy, the allure of freedom, and the crushing weight of restrictions placed on teenagers that prevent them from fully realizing that freedom as it lurks just out of reach with the escape of college. There were parts of Tess’s story that did work for me as well, particularly the parts featuring the other members of her society, the Daughters of Harriet (named for Harriet Tubman, who became a senator in this version of history), but for me the parts set in the 1890s tended to drag and felt oddly paced.

If you enjoy fast-paced, well-written science fiction that focuses on politically relevant issues, I do think you’ll enjoy this one. The Future of Another Timeline comes out tomorrow, September 24th.

 

Thank you so much to the publisher for the opportunity to pick up an ARC of The Future of Another Timeline at BookExpo.

Book Review: Wilder Girls by Rory Power

Wilder Girls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (release date 7/9/19)

Genre: YA weird fiction

Rating: 4 stars

A lot of people have been calling Wilder Girls a female version of Lord of the Flies; I’d say it’s much more of a YA take on Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, since both involve an all-female cast, weird fiction focused on a very specific environment, and an overlying sense of unease and strangeness. Unlike Vandermeer’s creation of humid Florida otherness, Wilder Girls is set on an isolated island off the coast of Maine, home to an all-girls boarding school that has been completely cut off from the mainland for a year and a half after the outbreak of a mysterious disease referred to as the Tox. The Tox, along with causing intermittent episodes of crippling pain and affliction, warps the bodies of the girls to suit its opaque purposes: one character’s hair glows, and the cover illustration shows a metaphorical look at the potential for beauty in these mutations, but the reality for the rest of the girls is much more sinister: our main character Hetty’s eye has been sealed shut, her best friend Byatt has grown a second, alien spine, and our hair-glowing friend Rae can’t use one of her hands.

The disease and quarantine, however, are affecting more than just the girls’ bodies. The majority of their teachers are dead, and no other adults are left alive on the island; the Navy sends food intermittently, but it’s never enough; and the girls are forced to be constantly vigilant against the threat of attack from Tox-warped wild animals from the surrounding forest. Contact with the outside world is almost non-existent, but the girls still left alive have become survivors, adapting to an unthinkable new reality with pragmatism and strict adherence to the new rules of their lives. Until a few crucial things change: Hetty acquires new information that makes her question what’s really happening on the island, and her best friend, seemingly irrepressible, blue-blooded, capricious Byatt, goes missing.

I love weird fiction (think Vandermeer or Samanta Schweblin) and am delighted to find the genre finding a foothold in YA. Powers creates an intensely atmospheric setting in Raxter Island that feels like a character itself, and the mysterious illness plaguing the island’s inhabitants is a constantly creeping antagonist, at times forced to the background and at other times reasserting its presence forcefully, throughout the other horrors that the characters encounter. Hetty is a tough, survival-focused main character, and I loved her loyalty to her friends, her determination, and her slowly developing romance with Rae. I also loved complex, morally grey Byatt, who I could easily read another entire book about.

Wilder Girls is fascinating and immersive, and I didn’t see a lot of the plot twists coming, but the pacing is a bit irregular and unconventional, which may bother some readers, although it wasn’t an issue for me personally. And I’m not going to give away any spoilers, but I do need to address the ending. I really don’t mind an open-ended or thought-provoking ending as long as it’s done well–Kelly Link is one of my favorite authors, for example, and all of her stories both end and begin ambiguously. But I didn’t feel that this was the case in Wilder Girls, and rather than feeling ambiguous, the ending struck me as unfinished, and unfortunately didn’t work for me, which is why I’m giving this 4 stars rather than 5.

Thank you to NetGalley and the publisher for the opportunity to read an eARC of Wilder Girls in exchange for an honest review.

 

Most Anticipated New Releases: Second Half of 2019 (Belated but still happening!)

Earlier this year, when I posted my two blog posts (here and here) about my most anticipated new releases for the first half of 2019, I promised to later compile another post featuring the books I’m most excited about for July through December. And then I forgot about it until June, when I was planning to post it, but then somehow forgot about it again after finishing about half of it, because it’s been a really crazy summer. I thought about not posting this at all, considering it’s now September and this is a few months late (and many of the books on the list have already been released), but decided to go for it anyways. Personally, I love looking at lists of anticipated new releases and adding the intriguing ones to my TBR, and since we’re not all completely on top of our new release reading anyways (me especially!), I figured that this would still be somewhat relevant, and would, if nothing else, still help me to track the books I have an eye on for the fall and early winter.

So, here we go! There are a ton of books on this list; some are from authors I already know and love, but others are debuts or from new-to-me authors, and we’ve got a lot of different genres represented as well. Let’s jump in, from earliest release to latest…

Oval

Oval by Elvia Wilk (release date 6/4) – Near-future literary science fiction that I don’t know a ton about, but am nevertheless intrigued by. Goodreads says that “Oval is a fascinating portrait of the unbalanced relationships that shape our world, as well as a prescient warning of what the future may hold.”

Bunny

Bunny by Mona Awad (release date 6/11) – This literary fiction release is set at an MFA program and deals with complex female friendships, so I’m in. I think there might be a magical realism element as well, but I can’t quite tell from the synopsis, so don’t take my word for it. Per Goodreads, “the spellbinding new novel from one of our most fearless chroniclers of the female experience, Bunny is a down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, friendship and desire, and the fantastic and terrible power of the imagination.”

Wilder Girls

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (release date 7/9) – A lot of people have been calling this a female version of Lord of the Flies; I’d say it’s much more of a YA take on Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation, since both involve an all-female cast, weird fiction focused on a very specific environment, and an overlying sense of unease and strangeness. I was able to read an eARC of this one from NetGalley and gave it 4 stars; my full review will be up shortly.

The Golden Hour

The Golden Hour by Beatriz Williams (release date 7/9) – I’m normally not into World War II historical fiction (like Tudor-era historical fiction, I read tons of it when I was younger and got burnt out awhile back), but this book is about spies, there’s a strong romantic element, and it’s set in the Bahamas, so it feels like a new angle on the time period. I’m currently listening to this one on audiobook and enjoying it.

The Last Book Party

The Last Book Party by Karen Dukess (release date 7/9) – From Goodreads: “In the summer of 1987, 25-year-old Eve Rosen is an aspiring writer languishing in a low-level assistant job, unable to shake the shadow of growing up with her brilliant brother. With her professional ambitions floundering, Eve jumps at the chance to attend an early summer gathering at the Cape Cod home of famed New Yorker writer Henry Grey and his poet wife, Tillie. Dazzled by the guests and her burgeoning crush on the hosts’ artistic son, Eve lands a new job as Henry Grey’s research assistant and an invitation to Henry and Tillie’s exclusive and famed “Book Party”— where attendees dress as literary characters. But by the night of the party, Eve discovers uncomfortable truths about her summer entanglements and understands that the literary world she so desperately wanted to be a part of is not at all what it seems.” Sounds bookish and drama-filled, so I’m on board.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers (release date 8/8) – Somehow, I missed hearing about this new novella from Becky Chambers until just recently, and it’s currently on its way to me from Book Depository. Not a part of her Wayfarers series, Goodreads says that “in her new novella, Sunday Times best-selling author Becky Chambers imagines a future in which, instead of terraforming planets to sustain human life, explorers of the solar system instead transform themselves.”

Rage (Stormheart, #2)

Rage by Cora Carmack (release date 8/27) – You can check out my full review for Rage, sequel to romantic YA fantasy Roar, here; I really enjoyed this new installment in the Stormheart series, which for me is a very underrated YA saga.

Sapphire Flames (Hidden Legacy, #4)

Sapphire Flames by Ilona Andrews (release date 8/27) – Sapphire Flames is technically the fourth book in Andrews’ Hidden Legacy series, although it’s also technically the start of a new trilogy featuring the younger sister of books 1-3’s protagonist. I’ve actually just finished this one and LOVED it; I’m an Ilona Andrews superfan, but this was actually one of my favorites of hers. It’s set in a version of our world that features warring dynasties of magical families, and our main character Catalina has a very unique power; we follow her trying to solve a friend’s mother’s murder, protect her own family, and maybe connect with her crush, Alessandro, who has more than a few secrets up his sleeves. Honestly, this book is SO GOOD, and I think it’s also a great starting point for readers new to Ilona Andrews.

Whose Story Is This?: Old Conflicts, New Chapters

Whose Story is This? by Rebecca Solnit (release date 9/3) – Rebecca Solnit writes politically relevant, concise essays that make you think more deeply about issues you only think you understand; I’ve read three of her previous collections (Men Explain Things to Me, Call Them by Their True Names, and The Mother of All Questions), which were all excellent. This newest collection focuses on marginalized voices and who gets to tell the story of our politically divided present.

Well Met

Well Met by Jen DeLuca (release date 9/3) – rom-com set at a Renaissance Faire. I think that’s all I need to say? I’ve been reading more and more contemporary romance lately, and this one sounds very cute.

After the Flood

After the Flood by Kassandra Montag (release date 9/3) – I’m still a sucker for any type of female-driven post-apocalyptic fiction, and this one focuses on a mother and daughter attempting to survive in a world overrun by flood waters.

Serpent & Dove (Serpent & Dove, #1)

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin (release date 9/3) – Another weakness of mine is romantic YA fantasy, and this one’s getting comparisons to Sarah J. Maas (hopefully in the vein of ACOTAR rather than Throne of Glass, which I’m not a fan of). It involves witches and an arranged marriage between a witch and witch-hunter, which sounds very intriguing.

The Testaments (The Handmaid's Tale, #2)

The Testaments by Margaret Atwood (release date 9/10) – the unexpected sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale is on mine and everyone else’s TBR for the fall. I’m not sure what to expect, and haven’t read anything about the plot, nor do I want to, before diving in.

Gideon the Ninth (The Ninth House, #1)

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (release date 9/10) – I was lucky enough to receive an ARC of Gideon from the publisher at BookExpo, and it turned into my favorite book so far of 2019. It’s an awesome, twisty science fantasy read featuring necromancy, political intrigue, a competition between magical Houses, and humor. Check out my full review here.

Bloodlust & Bonnets

Bloodlust and Bonnets by Emily McGovern (release date 9/17) – I absolutely LOVE McGovern’s webcomic My Life as a Background Slytherin (it’s seriously hilarious; check her out on Instagram @emilyintheweb), and I somehow missed hearing about her new graphic novel until recently. It sounds like tons of fun–a satirical historical fantasy featuring vampires and Lord Byron. I’m eyeing it as a potential read for Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon this fall.

The Future of Another Timeline

The Future of Another Timeline by Annalee Newitz (release date 9/24) – I’m actually reading this one right now, and it’s got an awesome premise: feminist time-travelers from the near-future are trying to prevent the erasure of women’s contributions to society by an insidious MRA-type time-travel group, while we also get flashbacks to the Riot Grrl era of the early ’90s. I’m picky about time travel books, but this one really works for me.

Ninth House

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (release date 10/1) – this one has to be on pretty much everyone’s list of most anticipated books of the year. It’s the adult debut from previously-YA author Bardugo, whose Six of Crows duology I absolutely loved, focusing on secret societies at Yale, with fantastical elements. It sounds dark and twisty and like a perfect book to pick up in October.

Trinity Sight

Trinity Sight by Jennifer Givhan (release date 10/1) – I’m going to let Goodreads take this one (I picked up an ARC at BEA): “Anthropologist Calliope Santiago awakens to find herself in a strange and sinister wasteland, a shadow of the New Mexico she knew. Empty vehicles litter the road. Everyone has disappeared-or almost everyone. Calliope, heavy-bellied with the twins she carries inside her, must make her way across this dangerous landscape with a group of fellow survivors, confronting violent inhabitants, in search of answers. Long-dead volcanoes erupt, the ground rattles and splits, and monsters come to ominous life. The impossible suddenly real, Calliope will be forced to reconcile the geological record with the heritage she once denied if she wants to survive and deliver her unborn babies into this uncertain new world. Rooted in indigenous oral-history traditions and contemporary apocalypse fiction, Trinity Sight asks readers to consider science versus faith and personal identity versus ancestral connection. Lyrically written and utterly original, Trinity Sight brings readers to the precipice of the end-of-times and the hope for redemption.”

Aphrodite Made Me Do It

Aphrodite Made Me Do It by Trista Mateer (release date 10/1) (poetry collection) – I read Mateer’s poetry collection Honeybee and absolutely loved it after picking up a copy at BookCon this year, and it made me want to read a lot more from her. Based on the title, I assume that this collection also focuses on love and lost love.

The Last True Poets of the Sea

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake (release date 10/1) – I heard about this one at the YA Buzz panel at BookExpo, where it was pitched as being extremely unique and hard to describe–and even though that was pretty vague, I was still intrigued enough to pick up an ARC after the panel. Early reviews are very positive, and several mention that it’s either inspired by or a retelling of Twelfth Night.

Frankissstein

Frankissstein by Jeanette Winterson (release date 10/1) – Winterson’s The Passion was one of my favorite reads a few years ago, and I’ve been wanting to pick up more from her ever since. Frankissstein is supposedly half historical fiction about a take on Mary Shelley and her inspiration for Frankenstein and half speculative literary fiction about AI, and I’m very intrigued.

Wayward Son (Simon Snow, #2)

Wayward Son by Rainbow Rowell (release date 10/3) – The sequel to Carry On, which is probably one of my favorite YA books, has been on my radar for months. I read Carry On in one sitting during my first ever round of participating in Dewey’s 24-hour Readathon, and it fits into one of my absolute favorite niche genres: satires/homages to portal fantasy tropes and classics. I have no idea what to expect from Wayward Son, except that it’s set in the U.S., but I’m hoping to love it just as much as the original.

The Grace Year

The Grace Year by Kim Liggett (release date 10/8) – Another ARC I picked up at BookExpo’s YA Buzz panel, this one is being called a YA version of The Handmaid’s Tale.

The Beautiful (The Beautiful, #1)

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh (release date 10/8) – YA historical fantasy featuring New Orleans vampires, inspired by Anne Rice. There’s no way I’m not picking this one up, and I stood in line for a veryyy long time at BookExpo to pick up an ARC! To me, this is the epitome of a great-sounding October read, and I’m very much hoping to love it.

It Would Be Night in Caracas

It Would Be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo (release date 10/15) – I’m very interested in this new release from new imprint Harper Via, which focuses on translated, international fiction. From Goodreads: “Told with gripping intensity, It Would be Night in Caracas chronicles one woman’s desperate battle to survive amid the dangerous, sometimes deadly, turbulence of modern Venezuela and the lengths she must go to secure her future.”

The Deep

The Deep by Rivers Solomon (release date 11/5) – this is a short novel based on a Hugo-nominated song and written by the author of An Unkindness of Ghosts, a science fiction work I read last year. It sounds like it will be an intense and moving read; Goodreads describes the premise thusly: “Yetu holds the memories for her people—water-dwelling descendants of pregnant African slave women thrown overboard by slave owners—who live idyllic lives in the deep. Their past, too traumatic to be remembered regularly, is forgotten by everyone, save one—the historian.”

The Witches Are Coming

The Witches Are Coming by Lindy West (release date 11/5) – I really enjoyed West’s previous essay collection Shrill, which talked a lot about feminism and body positivity; this one is supposed to be more of an examination of how Trump won the 2016 election and how pop culture trends contributed to current societal issues.

In the Dream House

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado (release date 11/5) – Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties is one of my all-time favorite short story collections, so I’ll absolutely be looking to pick up her new book, which is a memoir about her experience in an abusive relationship.

Queen of the Conquered

Queen of the Conquered by Kacen Callender (release date 11/12) – The Goodreads blurb says it all for this one: “An ambitious young woman with the power to control minds seeks vengeance against the royals who murdered her family, in a Caribbean-inspired fantasy world embattled by colonial oppression.”

The Queen of Nothing (The Folk of the Air, #3)

The Queen of Nothing by Holly Black (release date 11/19) – I’m cautiously looking forward to the third and final (I’m assuming?) book in Black’s Folk of the Air trilogy, considering that I did enjoy the first 2 books in the series, but they weren’t quite perfect. They’re definitely twisty books with memorable characters, but I’m hoping that book 3 will bring more depth and resolution to the series.

Children of Virtue and Vengeance (Legacy of Orïsha, #2)

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi (release date 12/3) – the anxiously awaited sequel to YA fantasy hit Children of Blood and Bone finally comes out in December, and I’m very excited to see where the story goes after Book 1’s twist ending. I really loved the characters and lush worldbuilding of the first book, and I have a feeling that Book 2 won’t disappoint.

 

Are you excited for any of these new releases? Do you know of any intriguing ones I’ve missed? Let me know in the comments!

August Reading Wrap-Up

It feels strange to already be putting together my August wrap-up, mainly because my July wrap-up was so belated that August had already almost ended by the time I posted it. I’m also thinking that I’m going to stop starting each wrap-up blog by remarking on how late it is; my wrap-up blogs are belated, guys, that’s just how it is lately. Maybe I’ll post one early at some point in my life and then I can comment on that?

Anyways, August had the distinction of being the month I read my favorite book of the year so far! I also finished 3 of my BookExpo ARCs; listened to 2 nonfiction books on audio; and picked up an unfortunately disappointing dystopian read. Let’s get to the stats and reviews…

Total books read: 6

ARCs: 3

Audiobooks: 2

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

Columbine by Dave CullenGideon the Ninth (The Ninth House, #1)My Friend Anna by Rachel DeLoache WilliamsVoxRage (Stormheart, #2)The Ten Thousand Doors of January

 

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (5 stars) – Gideon was, without question, my absolute favorite book of the year so far. And I did not at all expect it to be. You can find my full review here, but to summarize: read this book, because it made me so happy and I just want to talk about it with everyone. (I received an ARC of Gideon the Ninth from Tor at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review).

Columbine by Dave Cullen (4 stars) – This was a very difficult read emotionally, especially considering how school shootings continue to tear lives apart today, and for that reason I think it’s a very important book for people to keep reading. It’s also extremely well-researched, and focuses a lot on media coverage of Columbine and how that contributed to various misconceptions about the events that persist to this day. I listened to the audiobook, and would recommend it, but only if you’re prepared for an emotionally heavy nonfiction read.

Rage by Cora Carmack (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this follow-up to romantic YA fantasy Roar; you can find my full review here. (I received an ARC of Rage from Tor Teen at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review.)

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (3 stars) –The Ten Thousand Doors of January had an intriguing premise and was solidly written, but unfortunately missed the mark for me. I do, however, think it’s a book that a lot of readers will love, particularly readers of historical fiction looking to dip a toe into the fantasy genre, or YA readers looking for an approachable crossover adult fantasy. You can find my full review here.  (I received an ARC of The Ten Thousand Doors of January from the publisher at BookExpo in exchange for an honest review.)

My Friend Anna by Rachel Deloache Williams (3 stars) – An entertaining listen on audiobook, although at times also frustrating and naive. My Friend Anna is nonfiction and follows young New Yorker and former Vanity Fair assistant photo editor Williams as she befriends Anna Delvey (actually Anna Sorokin), allegedly a wealthy German heiress, who turns out to instead be a Russian con artist. It’s a fascinating true-crime story and one that I was really interested to read more about; the “millennial scammer” grabbed headlines earlier this year due to hiring a stylist for her courtroom appearances and her unrepentant attitude towards her crimes, and Williams has a very personal take on the story. Essentially, Williams befriends Sorokin, and the “heiress” shares dinners, personal training sessions, spa visits, etc with Williams, which turns into a short but fairly close friendship. Eventually, Anna proposes a lavish trip to Morocco that she assures Williams she’s paying for, but once they arrive, none of Sorokin’s payment methods work and Williams is forced to “temporarily” put the ($60,000) trip on her own cards, despite the fact that she doesn’t have the money. Anna swears she’ll pay Williams back, but this turns into a drawn-out saga of Anna inventing every excuse in the book to avoid paying Williams, and Williams gradually coming to the realization that Anna isn’t who she says she is. I did overall find myself very engaged by the narrative, but I was also frustrated by Williams’s reluctance to believe the truth about Sorokin even when it became extremely obvious, and her insistence, even in the face of Anna’s crimes, that theirs was a true friendship. I’d still recommend it overall, and will be interested to see Shonda Rhimes’s Netflix series on the topic.

Vox by Christina Dalcher (3 stars) – This book was, unfortunately, quite disappointing. I wavered a bit about rating it lower, but honestly, I rarely give books 1 or 2 stars because if I dislike a book enough to rate it that low, chances are I’ll have DNF’d it long before finishing. And I did consider DNF-ing Vox, but I was still interested enough, and the writing was still strong enough, to make it to the end, so 3 stars it is. So, why did I dislike it so much? First of all, I’m generally a fan of dystopian books, and although I find them difficult reads in particular when they focus on the erosion of women’s rights (like The Handmaid’s Tale), I still think that they are important works to consume as warnings and political catalysts. And I understand that this genre has exploded in recent years, and that it’s hard for a feminist dystopia book to stand out unless it has a particularly intriguing premise. But Vox, to me, fell into the same kind of trap as When She Woke by Hillary Jordan, which I read a few years ago and also strongly disliked–the premise just doesn’t make any sense, even if the political inspirations do, and the subsequent plot makes even less sense than the premise, leading to a book that’s nonsensical and the opposite of cohesive. (The ridiculous premise of When She Woke involves peoples’ skin being dyed certain colors based on crimes they have committed, and their first few days after the skin dyeing process being broadcast on a weird version of reality TV.) In Vox, an extreme branch of the religious right has gained power, and somehow, over the course of a year, every woman in America has been forced to wear a word counter on her wrist that administers a painful electric shock if she speaks more than 100 words a day. Somehow also in this single transition year, the entire school system has become gender-segregated; LGBTQ people have been imprisoned in camps; all women have been forced to leave the workforce; and cameras have been installed in both public and private areas to make sure that the population follows these rules. Note that democracy is still in place; it’s the president who has started these changes, not some kind of creepy overthrow situation like in The Handmaid’s Tale, but yet still, in ONE YEAR, with our current laws and bureaucratic system, all of this has happened. It’s just not plausible. I’m someone who can set aside a strange premise; I like when books are weird, and if they’re really good, I may not care whether or not they make sense, but this was just too much for me. Also, the main character’s husband is part of this administration (?!) and we’re supposed to believe he had no idea that any of this was going to happen before it did. Once we found that out, I had a really hard time feeling like the main character’s husband, and the main character herself, weren’t complicit in the formulation of the dystopia they found themselves in. And I get that this is sort of the point of Vox–that passive objection isn’t the same as active resistance, and that you have to fight to protect your rights–but the message is greatly undermined by having the central family so close to the president and his cronies in the first place. Even setting aside the premise, I found that the rest of the story was unfortunately equally nonsensical, and that there were a lot of other paths the author could have taken plot-wise that might have been more interesting. Personally, I would recommend giving this one a pass, and picking up The Power by Naomi Alderman instead.

 

Have you guys read any of these? Any on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Gideon the Ninth (AKA My Favorite Book of 2019 So Far!)

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir (5 stars)

I’d like to start this by saying that Gideon the Ninth is, without question, my absolute favorite book of the year so far, and I did not at all expect it to be. Sure, I’d been hearing a lot of hype and seeing plenty of 5-star reviews leading up to BookExpo, and the premise sounded intriguing (it’s frequently pitched as “lesbian necromancers in space!”), but I’ve been burned by hype before, and I tend to go into most popular new releases with cautious optimism rather than sky-high expectations as a result. And then, less than 100 pages into Gideon the Ninth, I realized that my cautious optimism had turned into full-blown joy at how much I was absolutely loving  this book, and that I was reading something really special.

We’re thrown into the bleak, empty, skeleton-filled world of the Ninth House, where Gideon Nav, a sword-obsessed indentured servant, schemes and dreams of escape. An opportunity arises in the form of a magical competition of sorts between the nine Houses of the realm, where Gideon will need to form a tenuous alliance with her greatest enemy, Harrowhawk, the Reverend Daughter (princess/cult leader) of the Ninth, in order to survive. I don’t want to give away any more of the plot than that; I honestly feel that going in with very little plot knowledge is ideal, since Gideon the Ninth is full of twists, but I will tell you that the plot that we’re thrown into contains an abundance of dark humor, necromancy, alliances, betrayals, murder, scheming magical Houses, escape room-esque magic tasks, sword fights, and sarcasm.

It’s hard to express just how happy reading Gideon the Ninth made me feel. There’s this absolutely wonderful feeling you get when you’re completely obsessed with a world that you’ve only just met a few hundred pages ago, and it’s almost shocking how quickly you’ve been immersed, and you desperately want to keep reading because it’s so awesome, but you also want to slow down so that the book won’t end. That’s how it feels to read this book.

Tamsyn Muir imbues this story with so many completely intriguing concepts; the magical and political systems are intricate and yet we, as newcomers to this world, are able to become enmeshed in them alongside Gideon, whose isolation in the Ninth have kept her both literally and figuratively in the dark. And then there’s the characters, every one of whom I wished for more time with, because they’re all flawed, complicated people practicing dangerous magic and/or deadly swordsmanship, and because their interactions with each other illustrate the cultural differences between each House.

In summary: read this book. It comes out on September 10th, it’s the first book in a trilogy whose second book I literally cannot wait to read, and it’s something special.

 

Thank you so much to Tor for the opportunity to read and review an ARC of Gideon the Ninth.

September TBR: BookExpo ARCs and More

It’s September, and my reading for this month, like August, is going focus primarily on reading the ARCs that I was lucky enough to pick up at BookExpo in June. I’m trying to be systematic about this, while still leaving a little wiggle room for mood-reading, ebooks, and audiobooks. I’m also planning in advance a bit for October reading, since I like to read Halloween-ish books during that month (which to me can mean dark fantasy, horror, mystery/thriller, etc), so a few ARCs that fit into those categories will be pushed back into next month.

In August, I managed to read 3 out of the 6 physical ARCs that I was prioritizing (which isn’t great, but isn’t terrible), so I may likely be reaching for one or two of those unread end of August/early September ARCs this month to catch up:

After the FloodLost in the Spanish QuarterThe Other's Gold

I’ll also want to be attempting to keep up with upcoming release dates by reading as many books that come out at the end of September or early in October as I can, which include both adult and YA titles that I’m very excited for:

Late September/early October ARCs (adult):

The Future of Another TimelineFrankissstein[Dis]Connected: Poems & Stories of Connection and Otherwise Volume 2Trinity Sight

Late September/early October ARCs (YA):

The Grace YearThe Last True Poets of the Sea

And, if I have time, or if I want to get non-Octoberish reads out of the way before October (November ARCs):

The DeepQueen of the Conquered

 

What are you planning on reading this month? Are any of these books on your TBR? Let me know in the comments!