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July Reading Wrap-Up (Yes, July)

Apparently it’s now a trend for my monthly reading wrap-ups to be super delayed; I’m sorry! I’ll try to get back on track next month, but July was pretty crazy: I turned 30, and to celebrate went on a 10-day trip to Croatia, which was absolutely amazing. Because my trip was right in the middle of the month, it was pretty hectic with trip preparation and then catching up with life things once I got back. And because it was my birthday month, I decided that I was in the mood to re-read some past favorites in addition to picking up new-to-me books.

A Court of Mist and Fury (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #2)A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses #3)

First, I re-read the second two books in the Court of Thorns and Roses series by Sarah J. Maas, which are possibly my favorite YA fantasy books (even if they’re technically New Adult?). I would have re-read the first book as well, but I wasn’t able to check it out from the library in time. I’ve re-read ACOMAF several times, as it’s mine and everyone else’s favorite of the series, but unlike a lot of people, I actually enjoy ACOTAR and ACOWAR as very close seconds.

Dead Until Dark (Sookie Stackhouse, #1)Living Dead in Dallas (Sookie Stackhouse, #2)Club Dead (Sookie Stackhouse, #3)Dead to the World (Sookie Stackhouse, #4)

Next, I turned to one of my favorite book series, which I was first introduced to back in college: Charlaine Harris’s Sookie Stackhouse/Southern Vampire Mysteries series. Unlike ACOTAR, it’s been many years since I’ve picked one of these books up, and they’re just as fun, funny, and addicting as I’d remembered. I love all of Harris’s little character details, and the Bill/Eric/Alcide love square situation is quite a fun one.

And here are all of the new-to-me books I read this month, plus reviews:

Josh and Hazel's Guide to Not Dating by Christina LaurenWilder Girls by Rory PowerThe End We Start From by Megan HunterHag-Seed by Margaret AtwoodWith the Fire on High by Elizabeth AcevedoThe Right Swipe by Alisha RaiSweep of the Blade by Ilona AndrewsFix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood (5 stars) – As with most of my 5-star reads, I can totally understand why someone might not like this book–I think it’s written to a very specific taste, and the writing style is very Margaret Atwood. It’s also extremely Shakespeare-focused and also extremely meta, so if you’re not a fan of any of those things, you may hate it. But for me, a diehard Margaret Atwood fan who enjoys weird and weirdly written books, and who went to see a production of The Tempest the same evening that I started reading this book, it was an absolutely fantastic read. I never had the chance to study The Tempest in college; if I had, I probably would have gotten even more out of the reading experience than I did, but I also felt that I was able to keep up just fine with having only seen the play. Hag-Seed is a story within a story (within a story?) about a disgraced former Shakespeare theater director who, after sequestering himself in obscurity for years, re-emerges to direct a modern production of The Tempest through his new role as a theater director in a prison. I loved this book because every scene works on multiple levels; it kept me thinking, and kept me engaged with Shakespeare’s work, while bringing new insights at a constant pace. There’s a lot of critical analysis of Shakespeare, and as a book nerd, I’m always going to be into that. It’s definitely not realistic fiction, as you might expect from the synopsis; I’d put it closer to magical realism as far as genre goes, although it’s hard to classify. Reading this book was a fun, thought-provoking experience that reminded me why I fell in love with Atwood’s writing years ago, and why I’ll continue to read from her in the future.

Wilder Girls by Rory Power (4 stars) – I read an eARC of Wilder Girls courtesy of NetGalley, and will be posting a full review in the next few weeks, but essentially I’d call it the YA version of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation. It was well-written and disturbing, although with an unresolved ending that I didn’t love.

The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this ARC of a smart, fun contemporary romance that I was lucky enough to win in a Goodreads giveaway. Check out my full review here.

The End We Start From by Megan Hunter (4 stars) – This very short book about a flood-centric apocalyptic event wasn’t my favorite post-apocalyptic read, but it wasn’t my least favorite, either. Even for the brief length of this book, there wasn’t very much plot or character growth, but I did find the writing really lovely in parts, and I enjoyed the short, prose poem mini-paragraphs that comprised the narrative. It’s not a book that has stayed with me long after reading it, but I did overall enjoy the experience.

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey (4 stars) -I love being surprised by a book. I’d say that I’m someone who reads pretty widely across genres, and who’s willing to try something new or give a book a chance, but there are always certain things that, when I see them in a book description or review, don’t appeal to me at all and tend to make me want to avoid a book rather than reach for it: epic fantasy with a lack of female characters or set in a pseudo-medieval European setting; anything self-help-related; WWII historical fiction. Add to that list romances with former pro-sports players as the love interest, because that’s a trope that I just don’t find appealing at all. Strangely, I found myself pleasantly surprised by two books with this trope this month, including this one, Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey. On the surface, Fix Her Up didn’t sound like my type of book: not only does it feature a former pro-baseball player as the male main character, but it also deals with a lifelong unrequited crush/hero worship on behalf of Georgie, the female main character. But after hearing fantastic things from several reviewers I trust (namely Chelseadollingreads and Meltotheany ) I decided to give it a chance and really enjoyed it. I still didn’t love the male main character, Travis, but Fix Her Up is a very fun romance with a fake dating trope and a heroine who helps found a feminist organization in her town to help women empower each other. Would definitely recommend this one for fans of contemporary romance looking to start a new series that focuses on supportive female friendships in addition to the romance.

With the Fire On High by Elizabeth Acevedo (3.5 stars) – I enjoyed this YA contemporary featuring an aspiring chef who’s balancing high school; a difficult relationship with her father; supporting herself, her grandmother, and her daughter; figuring out her future, and maybe falling for the new kid in school. I especially enjoyed the recipes and how Elizabeth Acevedo describes the main character’s love for food, since although I’m not even close to a chef, I am a huge fan of Chopped and the Food Network.

Sweep of the Blade by Ilona Andrews (3.25 stars) – Compared to how much I normally love Ilona Andrews books (which is a LOT), Sweep of the Blade was a bit of a miss for me. It’s ostensibly a love story between Maud, the sister of previous books’ main character Dina, who is a fierce warrior and mother to a half-human, half-vampire child, and Arland, a medieval-ish vampire warrior from another planet (yep) (I’m actually totally into the medieval space vampires, that’s not my issue with this story), but it’s really a sort of mystery/political subterfuge type of story (again, not a bad thing). For whatever reason, I didn’t find the main characters as charismatic as most Ilona Andrews leads tend to be, and the plot was pretty lackluster, while the romance was pretty nonexistent. It was still a fairly fun read, but I’ve read much better from this author.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating by Christina Lauren (3 stars) – This was a fun, quick listen on audiobook; I picked it up after hearing the Heaving Bosoms podcast review and saw myself in the mood for a rom-com. I definitely wouldn’t say that I loved it, because although I did like Josh and Hazel together, the plot didn’t really work for me.

 

Well, it’s basically September now. I’ll be back soon with more reviews (including Wilder Girls!).