Category Archives: Reading Recaps

September Reading Wrap-Up

So, that’s a wrap on September!

I’m so relieved that I was able to bounce back from my crappy reading month in August to have a great reading month in September. My plan to mood-read rather than giving myself a set TBR definitely paid off; I didn’t put pressure on myself to read certain books and genuinely just went with whatever I was in the mood for. This lead to a great mixture of genres: I bounced between nonfiction, fantasy, near-future SF, and thriller-ish reads. I was able to read three books that count toward the R.i.P. XII readathon, but I’m planning to get to a lot more of those spooky-type reads in October.

Here are my stats:

Number of books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 8

When did I acquire the books I read? June 2016 (Among Others), July 2016 (The Brides of Rollrock Island), December 2016 (The Glass Castle), February 2017 (The Last One), June 2017 (An Enchantment of Ravens, When She Woke), August 2017 (Blue Nights, All the Missing Girls)

Blue Nights by Joan DidionAn Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret RogersonThe Last OneVampire Girl (Vampire Girl, #1)The Brides of Rollrock IslandThe Glass CastleAmong OthersAll the Missing GirlsWhen She Woke

Among Others by Jo Walton (5 stars) – I fell in love with this book. It’s about a Welsh teenager obsessed with SFF literature who finds herself an outsider in a British boarding school after a family tragedy. Oh, and she can communicate with fairies. It’s a quietly powerful book about reading and growing up and finding your place in the world; I think it’s perfect for SFF fans of all ages.

The Brides of Rollrock Island by Margo Lanagan (4.25 stars) – First off, I’d just like to ask everyone to ignore this book cover, even though it’s very pretty, because it’s not at all an accurate representation of this dark little book. I’d also like to say that in my opinion, this book is really miscategorized as YA fantasy; I would call it an adult myth retelling.

The Brides of Rollrock Island is a very dark retelling of the myth of selkies that uses the folktale vehicle to shine a light on a lot of issues that are still so relevant today, including consent and how cultural misogyny can lead to women mistreating other women. It’s told in multiple perspectives, but if the story has one anchor, it’s Misskaela, the so-called witch of the island, who began life as a misfit and mistreated child and grew to embrace the powers that set her apart from others and use them to cause a complete upheaval in the lives of Rollrock’s inhabitants. Lanagan’s prose is atmospheric and skillful; she can go from describing something transcendent to something abhorrent in one sentence and it still seems completely natural. This book both entranced and disturbed me; I’m very much looking forward to reading more from Margo Lanagan, and I’d highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys darker fairytale and myth retellings.

All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda (4 stars) – I was not at all expecting to enjoy this book as much as I did. It’s a really smart, well-written thriller that’s told backwards over the course of 2 weeks when the main character returns to her small North Carolina town, during which memories of her best friend who went missing 10 years ago resurface and another girls in town also disappears. It was a perfect fall thriller, and now I need to pick up the author’s next thriller too, which just came out this year.

An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson (4 stars) – I enjoyed this book so much! An Enchantment of Ravens is the story of Isobel, a young human artist whose town’s economy thrives on the Fair Folk’s love of human Craft–essentially any type of artwork or human-made object. In exchange for the items they covet, the fae will gift humans spellwork, which will typically involve some type of trickery on behalf of the fae so that the humans never get what they really desire. Because of this, Isobel has learned to distrust her fae customers, and is able to cleverly manipulate the spellwork she receives in exchange for painting their portraits to be simple and practical enough to benefit without harming her or her family.

Everything changes for Isobel, though, when she meets Rook, the autumn prince of the fae, and in attempting to capture his likeness makes a terrible mistake not only by painting him with human emotions but by falling for him. Rook forces Isobel to follow him to the fae lands to stand trial for what she has done, and the two of them end up meeting with a lot more than they’d bargained for.

An Enchantment of Ravens is a standalone fantasy, which I really liked; I do get tired of everything becoming a series. It’s very well-written and uses a more traditional notion of the Fair Folk as being covetous and deceitful while at the same time distant from mortal emotions. I liked this depiction of faeries, and the writing style played well to this more traditional fairy-tale-esque vibe. I really admired Isobel’s practicality and intelligence; she’s not a heroine who stumbles into problems without thinking, and she always thinks of what’s best not only for herself but for her family before she decides on a course of action.

Overall, I really enjoyed reading this book, and I’d be very interested to see what Margaret Rogerson comes out with next. I’d recommend An Enchantment of Ravens to fans of fairy tale-ish books and YA fantasy with admirable heroines. (I received an ARC of An Enchantment of Ravens from the publisher at BookCon)

The Last One by Alexandra Oliva (4 stars) – If you’re like me and you like to try to read some books that are sort of horror/suspense/thriller-y as we move into fall, but you have a hard time finding books you really like in those genres, and you’re more into near-future SF and post-apocalyptic type things, you should pick up this book.

Basically, this book is about a contestant on a survival-themed reality show when the show’s structure appears to start breaking down around her and it becomes clear that there’s something very wrong happening to the world around her, but she can’t tell whether it’s real or just a part of the show. It’s told in first-person from the contestant’s point of view (she’s referred to by the show producers as Zoo because she works at a wildlife preserve), and also in third person descriptions of the early days of the show and her interactions with other contestants. There’s even some bits of internet commentary from the show’s fans.

This book does a great job of building creepy tension, and the reality-show/survival premise gives it some Hunger Games-esque vibes at times, which I loved. It’s definitely well-written, in case you’re also picky about that in your suspense-type reads (I very much am). Overall, definitely would recommend as a fall read. I’ll be interested to see what this author comes out with next.

Blue Nights by Joan Didion (4 stars) – this is the second of Didion’s memoirs focused on grief that I’ve read; her writing is skillful and heartbreaking.

The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls (3.5 stars) – this is a well-written and absorbing memoir, but it’s also really disturbing and I would not recommend it at all if you’re sensitive to reading about child abuse.

When She Woke by Hillary Jordan (2.5 stars) – I really don’t recommend this book. It’s just not very well-written, and everything stays very surface-level and obvious with the characters and plot. Things never reach any depth, and the author has not gotten the whole “show don’t tell” memo. This was really a disappointment for me.

Vampire Girl by Karpov Kindrade (1 star) – I hate giving books 1-star ratings. I went into this with low expectations just looking for a fun vampire read, but it was just very poorly written, the plot was rushed and predictable, and it was very cliched, to a degree that really bugged me. On top of that, this is NOT a vampire book! It’s a book that pretends that these demon princes are somehow also vampires.

 

What did you all read in September? What were your faves (or least faves)? Let me know!

 

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August Reading Wrap-Up

Before I get into everything, here are my reading stats for August:

Number of books read: 8

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

When did I acquire the books I read? August 2016 (Arcadia), June 2017 (Heating & Cooling), July 2017 (The Animators), August 2017 (Fierce Kingdom, Binti: Home)

Overall,  unfortunately, August turned into a disappointing reading month for me. I didn’t see it coming, especially since July was a FANTASTIC reading month (not only did I read a lot of books, but I read a lot of books that I just enjoyed the heck out of). I was actually super excited for my reading in August, since it featured two readathons that I love taking part in: Bout of Books and Tome Topple. And I still had a good time participating in those readathons, but overall the books I chose this month were disappointments in various ways, and I struggled finding motivation to pick them up for that reason.

So here’s what I read in August:

Wildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3)The Animators by Kayla Rae WhitakerArcadiaA Scot in the Dark (Scandal & Scoundrel, #2)Home (Binti, #2)Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud: The Rise and Reign of the Unruly WomanFierce KingdomHeating Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs

Arcadia by Iain Pears (4.25 stars) – So, here’s the thing. When I decided to pick this book up for the Tome Topple readathon (and when I put it on my top 10 tbr list for 2017), I had this really solid conviction that it would end up being a 5-star read. It’s been highly recommended by several bookish people that I trust, and its premise sounded so fascinating–it’s essentially a genre mash-up compared to David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas that is set in a dystopian future, an agrarian fantasy world, and 1960s England simultaneously. And it was still a very good book, and I enjoyed reading it. It just wasn’t amazing.

The plot was very fascinating and intricate, and I really enjoyed picking up the little pieces and hints throughout to figure out what the heck was actually going on. But. The characters were very surface-level, and I wasn’t getting the deeper themes and meanings that I’d need for a five-star read.

So do I recommend this book? Yes. If you enjoy both science fiction and fantasy and enjoy a good plot-driven novel, you will definitely like this book.

Wildfire by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – I love everything Ilona Andrews writes, and this was no exception. This is the third book in a trilogy (although if it sells well enough, it’s possible the series may be expanded *crosses fingers*) about magical family dynasties in Houston. It’s more paranormal romance than urban fantasy, but there is still lots of action, humor, and worldbuilding, in classic Andrews fashion.

Heating & Cooling: 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly (4 stars) – Before picking up Heating & Cooling, I had actually never heard of a micro-memoir before. I had, however, heard of microfiction, which I tend to absolutely love; there’s something about a short format that requires an author to pack so much meaning and complexity into every word. I think that shorter pieces are much harder to create than longer pieces for this reason; you just don’t have room for anything extraneous, and you have to make every bit count.

It turns out that I enjoyed the short memoir format just as much as I enjoy very short stories. Every piece in this collection–especially the extremely short ones–was impactful and concise; Fennelly’s writing style doesn’t waste a word. Fennelly writes about a variety of topics–her marriage, her parents, her children, the nature of memory, the less shiny aspects of her childhood and hometown–yet things never feel disjointed. In turns, I laughed out loud and felt profoundly disturbed by what she had to say, and I frequently re-read sentences to appreciate her skill in conveying things so concisely.

If you’re a short story or microfiction lover and are interested in picking up a memoir, this would be a great choice; I’d also recommend Heating & Cooling for anyone who enjoys memoirs and appreciates honest and well-crafted prose.

*I received an ARC of Heating & Cooling from the publisher at BookCon

Binti: Home by Nnedi Okorafor (4 stars) – The sequel to Binti really built on the first book and also delved back into what wasn’t fully addressed in book 1–namely, Binti’s relationship with her family. Binti continues to unintentionally push cultural boundaries in a variety of ways, and this novella is building toward what I hope will be a really interesting conclusion.

Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips (3 stars) – So the premise of this book is undoubtedly intriguing–it’s a suspense novel that takes place over the course of three hours, following a woman and her four-year-old son as they attempt to survive and escape a shooter who is loose at the zoo. And for the first third or so of the book, I’d say it lived up to my expectations; it was extremely suspenseful and made you want to keep reading while still devoting time to characterization. The problems for me came later in the book; without giving anything away, I felt that not enough really happened over the course of the book. If you’re going to write a short novel, you really need to make every conflict and scene count, and I don’t feel like that’s what this book did. It was too much buildup for not enough payoff.

Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud by Anne Helen Petersen (3 stars) – This book provided great commentary about and analysis of some of the most prominent female celebrities today, but it fell flat attempting to connect them into a broader statement.

The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker (2.75 stars) – I liked the characters and the premise, but the plot was really all over the place and the pacing was super inconsistent. I didn’t love a lot of the decisions about how the story progressed. I did think it was pretty well-written and I especially liked the discussion of how animation and the creative process of the characters worked.

A Scot in the Dark by Sarah MacLean (2.25 stars) – The beginning of this book was so much fun, but things got SO repetitive after awhile, and the actions of the main male character were so idiotic and frustrating that I basically had to stop rooting for them as a couple.
I liked the concept a lot, but this book really needed more to happen plot-wise to justify the amount of complications to the romance.
I’d like to try another of Sarah MacLean’s books to see if things are handled better in others, because I feel like there’s much more potential than was utilized in this story.

July Reading Wrap-Up

I had an absolutely wonderful reading month in July. I’m so glad about this, because July is my birthday month, and to celebrate I took myself on a vacation and was able to get some lovely beach reading done during that time. Beyond that, I gave myself a lot of room to mood-read in July, and because of that I ended up finding a lot of fun and enjoyable books. Here are my stats:

Number of books read: 13

#readmyowndamnbooks: 8

When did I buy the books I read? March 2017 (Borderline), April 2017 (Bloodchild), May 2017 (ACOWAR), June 2017 (Everything Belongs to the Future, Down Among the Sticks and Bones, A Million Junes), July 2017 (The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe, Phantom Pains)

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks completed:

✓ 14. Read a book about war.
A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3) by Sarah J. Maas A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

✓ 15. Read a YA or middle grade novel by an author who identifies as LGBTQ+.
Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) by Seanan McGuire Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

White Hot by Ilona AndrewsOne Fell Sweep by Ilona AndrewsA Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. MaasEverything Belongs to the Future by Laurie PennyDown Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuireBorderline by Mishell BakerDear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi AdichieA Million JunesEleanor & ParkThe Dream-Quest of Vellitt BoeTalking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls, and Everything in BetweenBloodchild and Other StoriesPhantom Pains (The Arcadia Project, #2)

 

White Hot by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – I think I liked this second book in the Hidden Legacy series even better than the first; honestly, I think I’d like just about anything that Ilona Andrews comes out with. This series is technically paranormal romance, as opposed to her Kate Daniels series which is more urban fantasy, but the world-building doesn’t suffer at all. This series is fun, smart, and has characters you can’t help but root for in this battle between magical dynasties in Houston.

One Fell Sweep by Ilona Andrews (4 stars) – Again, I think I liked this book even better than the previous ones in the series; this is technically the third in Andrews’ Innkeeper Chronicles, which is about an intergalactic inn in small-town Texas that hosts members of different alien species and attempts to hide their existence from the rest of humankind.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (4.25 stars) – this series isn’t perfect, but I’ve enjoyed the crap out of reading it. I’m so glad to hear that the author is planning on further books starring side characters!

Everything Belongs to the Future by Laurie Penny (4 stars) – This science fiction novella packs a lot into 120-ish pages. I picked this up after reading about it on Tor.com; Tor is really the only publisher that I actively follow and if they publish a book, it makes me instantly more interested. Without giving too much away, this novella focuses on a future where anti-aging medication has been developed that allows people to delay aging by decades, even a century or two–but costs are so prohibitive that only the ultra-rich and privileged are given access to the drug. Needless to say, this causes a lot of social upheaval, and the book focuses on a group of artists gradually becoming immersed in social activism against this new source of division in society. It’s beautifully written and well-structured; I think it could also have been a great full-length novel, but then again, I tend to think that about any shorter work that I like. I’d recommend this to anyone who enjoys plausible, near-future science fiction focused on social issues.

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (4 stars) – I love the concept that Seanan McGuire set up in Every Heart a Doorway so much, but it does mean that you essentially know all of the major plot points in this one before they happen. That being said, I still love her worldbuilding, and the world of the Moors that the twins enter into is fascinating. I did have issues with the pacing of this novella; I understand that the backstory had to be set up, but then it felt like we dwelt on their early childhood for too long and then glossed over a lot of what happened once they got settled in their new world, which was frustrating. Overall, this was a fast, absorbing read with memorable characters, and I’m looking forward to the next book in this series.

Borderline by Mishell Baker (4 stars) – This was a great, unique, fast-paced UF read with a memorable and well-developed main character. Millie has Borderline Personality Disorder and became a double amputee after a suicide attempt; she leaves the mental health facility she’s staying at after she receives a job offer from the enigmatic Arcadia Project. A former filmmaker, Millie is easily able to adapt and confront the new world that the Project introduces to her–a world that encompasses not only humans but also the fey, who live among us and inspire creativity. The Arcadia Project exists to police the boundaries between the human and fey worlds and regulate travel between the two, as the fey can also be very dangerous to humans if they want to be. Millie quickly gets drawn into investigating the disappearance of a fey nobleman in L.A. while interacting with an intriguing cast of characters that I quickly got invested in. I’d say that this is UF that can work for people who aren’t even UF fans; it did a great job of addressing mental illness and depicting Millie’s struggles and persistence. It’s also a really quick read; I’m not sure when the last time was that I tore through a 400-page novel in a few days.

Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (4 stars) – Like We Should All Be Feminists, this is a concise, effective, clear feminist message that everyone should be reading and internalizing.

A Million Junes by Emily Henry (4 stars) – this magical realism YA novel isn’t my typical cup of tea, but I found it really atmospheric and enjoyable.

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell (2.5 stars) – This was probably my least favorite of Rowell’s books, and I sort of expected that, which is why I left it until last to read. I’m not the biggest fan of contemporary romance unless it’s really unique, and I just wasn’t wowed by this book. I felt incredibly sympathetic toward Eleanor’s situation, and that’s the part of the book that really stuck with me, rather than the romance, which is what seems to get emphasized mainly in most reviews I’ve read.

The Dream-Quest of Vellitt Boe by Kij Johnson (4 stars) – So, I have to admit that I’ve never read anything by Lovecraft, so I’m sure that I missed all sorts of references and commentary in this novella. That being said, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it; I thought Vellitt was a great, mature main character, and I admired her determination throughout her quest. It was very well-written and I absolutely loved the ending.

Talking as Fast as I Can by Lauren Graham (3 stars) – this was a cute, quick memoir that I listened to on audio.

Bloodchild and Other Stories by Octavia Butler (5 stars) – this short story collection was absolutely incredible. Everything Butler writes absolutely blows me away, and this was no exception. In addition to short stories, Butler also provides commentary on her inspiration and meaning, and includes two essays, one of which made me cry through basically the whole thing.

Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker (4 stars) – this sequel to Borderline was just as fun, and I loved getting more insight into Caryl, who is one of my favorite characters.

I also purchased a bunch of books this month, of course, due to my lack of book-buying self-control:

(Belated) June Reading Wrap-Up

As far as reading months go, I think June was the best I’ve had all year.

I don’t know what it was! I think it was a combination of letting my mood reading tendencies take over and the fact that I went on a long road trip, which meant lots of audiobook listening. Basically, though, I read a whole bunch of really wonderful, enjoyable books, and only a few disappointing ones. (And yes, this wrap-up is super late–I’ve been out of town a lot and totally lost track of the fact that we’re already well into July!)

Here are my stats:

Number of books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 2

✓ 7. Read a book published between 1900 and 1950.
Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

✓ 20. Read an LGBTQ+ romance novel (From Sarah MacLean, author of ten bestselling historical romance novels)
The Seafarer's Kiss by Julia Ember The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember

When did I buy the books I read? March 2016 (North and South), February 2017 (Smoke Gets in Your Eyes), April 2017 (Marlena), May 2017 (Roar, The Seafarer’s Kiss), June 2017 (Herland)

Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond FearRoar by Cora CarmackMarlena by Julie BuntinNorth and SouthHow to Be a WomanThe Seafarer's KissSmoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin DoughtyHerlandThe Hate U Give by Angie ThomasHunger by Roxane Gay

So, here’s what I read in June! I didn’t rank them from least to most awesome like usual; instead, here they are in the order I read them:

Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert (3 stars) – this was a very quick, inspirational audiobook listen. I’ve never read Eat, Pray, Love and am not interested in doing so, but I did really enjoy how passionate Gilbert is about integrating creativity into your life.

Roar by Cora Carmack (4 stars) – if you like romantic YA fantasy (meaning YA with a romantic emphasis, like Sarah J. Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series), you really need to read this book. It centers on Aurora (Roar), a princess who’s never developed the storm-harnessing powers that those in her world depend on their rulers for. Her world is one ruled by powerful natural disasters, and those without the ability to harness these storms are forced to live and die at their mercy–or integrate themselves into one of the powerful kingdoms. Promised in an arranged marriage to an intimidating prince from another kingdom, Aurora instead runs away to learn about obtaining power from storms in a different way by joining a band of mercenary storm hunters. It’s fast-paced and fun with interesting world-building (I happen to love weather-related magic systems) and a romance of course develops between Roar and one of the storm hunters.

Marlena by Julie Buntin (4 stars) – if you like books for adults with teenage narrators, or stories about female friendships, I’d definitely recommend this one. It’s set in poverty-stricken Northern Michigan, with meth labs and a sinister air pervading every chapter, and partially told in flashbacks by a teenager and partially in present-day New York where she works for the library system. The book centers on the friend that our narrator makes when she and her family relocate to this desolate town, Marlena, an enigmatic girl forced to grow up too soon and who the narrators sees succumb more and more to the atmosphere around her. It’s dark, evocative, and engrossing.

North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell (4 stars) – this is the book that officially broke me out of my long classics slump! I’d actually watched the BBC miniseries a few years ago and loved it, and had been meaning to read the book ever since. It’s about Margaret, a strong-willed and intelligent but naive girl from the South of England whose family relocates to the manufacturing-centered North and is forced to confront her worldview and prejudices.

How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran (2.5 stars) – I laughed out loud several times while listening to this memoir, but I wasn’t overly impressed by the writing. It’s definitely funny and a quick audiobook listen, but it doesn’t achieve a lot of depth.

The Seafarer’s Kiss by Julia Ember (4 stars) – I’m one of those people who has loved the ocean and mermaids since childhood, so when I saw this mermaid-themed book at BookCon, I had to pick it up. The Seafarer’s Kiss is a retelling of the Little Mermaid myth centered on Ersel, a mermaid aching to break free of her patriarchal, childbearing-focused iceberg kingdom. She’s not quite sure how she can find the courage to leave her community and see the world until she meets Ragna, a shipwrecked badass Viking girl and ends up making a deal with Loki, god of lies, to help her. As we all know, this sort of thing never goes exactly as you’d expect, and all sorts of issues develop from there. I loved the way this book combined fairytale elements and Norse mythology, and I loved the romance between Ersel and Ragna.

Smoke Gets in Your Eyes by Caitlin Doughty (3 stars) – Unfortunately, this memoir ended up being somewhat of a disappointment for me. It’s not that it wasn’t good, but I have just read so many glowing reviews that I was expecting something amazing, while what it actually was was just interesting. It’s the memoir of a young woman who starts working as an assistant in a crematorium/funeral home in her early twenties and begins to develop different ideas of how she feels death should be handled based on her experiences; it definitely gives a lot of behind-the-scenes insight into funeral homes and what happens to bodies after death, but I wasn’t impressed by the writing or the structure of the book.

Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman (2 stars) – I gave this book a very low rating, but I’m still glad I read it, since it’s an early feminist classic. Basically, it’s about three men, all sexist but in different ways, who “discover” a civilization comprised entirely of women, and attempt to learn about and from this new world, with varying degrees of success. It’s an interesting premise, but I just…didn’t like it very much.

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas (4 stars) – this is one of those books that I’m really grateful that the Bookternet has been promoting all over the place, because as someone who almost never reads YA contemporary, I don’t know that I would have picked it up otherwise. It’s powerful and yet accessible, and I’m so glad that it’s being so widely read.

Hunger by Roxane Gay (5 stars, or more like 10 stars) – I have no idea how Roxane Gay had the courage and the ability to write this book and to write it the way she did. She is incredible. I cannot recommend this highly enough. It’s essentially a memoir, but I guarantee it’s more powerful and honest than any memoir you’ve ever read. Roxane Gay discusses her body and also how society views bodies like hers in a way that will absolutely gut you. Just read this book. Trust me.

May Reading Wrap-Up

It’s the end of May! What is even happening???

Seriously, it’s actually summer now.

Anyways, I had a great reading month in May. I FINALLY got out of my 5-star book slump by reading what has only been my second 5-star read of the entire year; I managed to catch up a bit on my Book of the Month Club picks by reading two of my previous selections; and I read some intensely weird fiction, which I always enjoy. Let’s break it down!

Total number of books read: 8

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

When did I buy the books I read? December 2016 (Pull Me Under), February 2017 (Perfect Little World), March 2017 (The Beauty), April 2017 (Difficult Women, Windwitch), May 2017 (Borne)

Famous in Love by Rebecca SerlePerfect Little World by Kevin WilsonDifficult WomenPull Me UnderThe BeautyTrainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and WhyWindwitch (The Witchlands, #2)Borne

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 2

✓ 11. Read a book that is set more than 5000 miles from your location.
Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce

✓ 13. Read a nonfiction book about technology.
Trainwreck The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear... and Why by Sady Doyle Trainwreck: The Women We Love to Hate, Mock, and Fear… and Why by Sady Doyle

 

And now, ranked from most to least awesome, here are my May reads:

Difficult Women by Roxane Gay (5 stars)  – This is, by far, the best book I have read so far this year. I picked it up when I went to an event where Roxane Gay was speaking a few weeks ago (she was AMAZING); I’ve previously only read her nonfiction (Bad Feminist was one of my favorite reads of 2016) so this was my first real exposure to her fiction writing. And wow. This book is devastating and will absolutely crush you, but it is completely worth it. The stories vary from realistic fiction to magical realism, and Gay’s style is sparse and completely entrancing.

Borne by Jeff Vandermeer (4.25 stars) – After I read the Southern Reach trilogy a few years ago, Vandermeer became one of my favorite weird fiction writers. This book definitely does not disappoint on the weirdness scale; I also really love how Vandermeer creates strong, multidimensional female protagonists. Borne is complex, haunting, and a must-read for weird fiction fans.

The Beauty by Aliya Whiteley (4 stars) – Super weird, disturbing, and very well-written. This book unfolds in a small, isolated community after a pandemic has killed all of the world’s women and the men are left to determine how to live out their lives in the aftermath. One day, Nate, the community’s young storyteller, finds that mushrooms are growing from the bodies of the dead women, and things start to get crazier and crazier from there. This is an unsettling story that packs a lot of plot and meaning into 99 pages. Definitely recommend for weird fiction fans.

Trainwreck by Sady Doyle (4 stars) – I listened to this book on audio and I thought it was a really fascinating cultural critique about how society tears down some female celebrities. There are plenty of great examples from both history and modern times, and I was very interested in the fascinating backstories of Charlotte Bronte and Mary Wollstonecraft in particular.

Pull Me Under by Kelly Luce (3 stars) – Very interesting premise and I enjoyed learning more about Japanese culture, but for me this fell short with character development.

Windwitch by Susan Dennard (3 stars) – a fun return to the world of the Witchlands and the wonderful friendship between Safi and Iseult. Unfortunately, the girls are separated for a lot of this book, but there’s still a lot of awesomeness, particularly in the interactions between Iseult and Aeduan.

Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson (2 stars) – Unfortunately, this was a disappointment. Interesting premise, but not well-executed, and the ending felt extremely anticlimactic and predictable.

Famous in Love by Rebecca Serle (1.5 stars) – I mean, this book was pretty terrible. I only read it because earlier this month I binge-watched the new show Famous in Love on Hulu. If you haven’t watched it yet, it’s a great guilty pleasure show about Paige, who is an aspiring unknown actress cast as the lead in a Twilight-esque franchise and all of the ensuing Hollywood drama. I definitely recommend the TV show to anyone who enjoys a good YA love triangle every now and then; the book, not so much. The book is actually way more simplistic than the show and none of the characters have any depth; the show gives all of the characters much more personality and backstory so that you actually care about all of them.

 

What did you read in May? Let me know in the comments!

April Reading Wrap-Up

Here’s my (belated) reading wrap-up for April!

I was actually really impressed with the amount I read during April. I feel like as it keeps getting warmer, hopefully I’ll be reading more and more since I love to read outside. This month, I participated in two readathons, Tome Topple and Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, and both were really wonderful experiences; I’m looking forward to the next Tome Topple sometime this fall and the next round of Dewey’s in October.

Here are my stats:

Number of books read: 7

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: I think zero 😦

When did I buy the books I read? April 2016 (The Age of Miracles), July 2016 (Sweetbitter), December 2016 (The Queen of the Night), January 2017 (The Grownup), February 2017 (Truthwitch), April 2017 (Replica)

So here’s what I read:

 

Sweetbitter by Stephanie DanlerTruthwitch by Susan DennardThe Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson WalkerThe Queen of the Night by Alexander CheeThe Grownup by Gillian FlynnReplica by Lauren OliverSaga, Vol. 7 by Brian K. Vaughan

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler (4.25 stars) – I loved this, I really did. For me this was one of a very few books that was really enhanced by listening to it on audio; the narrator’s husky voice and perfect accents really made the characters come alive. But beyond that, I loved the rich language and immersion in Tess’s world. There were a few points where the writing missed the mark for me, and I didn’t love how certain things were handled towards the end, but otherwise this was such a great reading experience and one I’d definitely recommend.

Truthwitch by Susan Dennard (3.5 stars) – I was really pleasantly surprised by this YA fantasy. I went in with low expectations and ended up really enjoying the strong female friendship at the heart of this story. I also really liked three of the four main characters; the fourth had these disturbingly sexist moments with abusive overtones that really bugged me

The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker (2.75 stars) -I thought the premise of this book, that the Earth begins to slow its rotation which has devastating consequences for life on the planet, was really interesting, but I wish it had been told from a different perspective.

The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee (3.75 stars) – this is sort of a hard book to rate. I absolutely loved the first half of the book and was completely immersed in late 1800’s France; the second half, unfortunately, had some plot twists that I really disliked and things started to drag somewhat there. The writing, however, was gorgeous and the historical period was obviously meticulously researched.

The Grownup by Gillian Flynn (4 stars) – a perfect twisty, absorbing short read. I’m hoping that Flynn will have another novel out soon since I do like her writing style.

Replica by Lauren Oliver (3 stars) – this was a fun, fast-paced YA read with an unconventional format; however, it wasn’t great.

Saga, Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (3 stars) – at this point, this is the only graphic novel series that I’m following, and it’s still consistently good–although I didn’t think this one was quite as good as some of the earlier volumes.

March Reading Wrap-Up & Book Reviews

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

Number of books read: 8

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 1

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge Tasks Completed: 2

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

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

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

So here’s what I read in March:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And here are the books I purchased in March: