Category Archives: Reading Recaps

January Reading Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap on January! I definitely started off my 2018 reading with a bang: I participated in 2 readathons this month and had my first 5-star read of the year. It was an atypical reading month in that I read more YA and novellas than normal, but that can be attributed to the fact that I tend to pick those types of books up more during readathons. I also managed to pick up a book from my Top 10 2018 TBR, so that’s a good start as well.

Here are my stats:

Total books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7

Audiobooks: 2

If We Were Villains by M.L. RioWitches of Lychford by Paul CornellThe Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnisWe Are Okay by Nina LaCourBeneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuireRhapsodic by Laura ThalassaNo Is Not Enough by Naomi KleinAn Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers SolomonEliza and Her Monsters by Francesca ZappiaThe Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell

And here are my reviews, from most favorite to least:

If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio (5 stars) – I had no idea that I would love this book as much as I did; I really don’t think it’s getting enough attention. If We Were Villains is about a group of seven tightly-knit theater students at a prestigious arts school whose bonds with each other begin to fray during their senior year. This results in our main character, Oliver, going to prison for ten years; the book opens with his release from prison and decision to finally confess what really happened to the police officer who arrested him. The story is told mainly in flashbacks and chronicles the relationships between these characters, who are typecast as certain characters in all of the Shakespeare that they perform, but whose roles begin to bleed into their real selves. I absolutely loved the characters in this book; you get to know them and feel for them almost immediately. They quote and reference Shakespeare constantly, which I was very into, and I liked that two of the main plays they focus on are Macbeth and Julius Caesar, two of my favorites. The plot never stops moving, and it’s definitely a book that sucks you in and doesn’t let you go. It’s one that will stay with me for awhile and that I’d definitely want to re-read in the future. Highly recommend.

An Unkindness of Ghosts by Rivers Solomon (4 stars) – An Unkindness of Ghosts is set on a generational ship that has been fleeing a ruined Earth for centuries when the book opens, seeking an unknown refuge somewhere in space. During this time the ship has become a strictly stratified society based on racism and ruled by a tyrannical government called the Sovereignty. Our main character, Aster, is a brilliant healer living on one of the ship’s lower decks who, along with her friend Giselle, discovers hidden secrets about the ship among her deceased mother’s journals. Aster strives to figure out exactly what information her mother was trying to convey and what to do with that information alongside facing daily prejudice and abuse from a corrupt system and working with the ship’s Surgeon General, Theo, who she has complicated feelings for. I thought that this book’s premise was fantastic and the characters very realistic; Aster, Theo, and Giselle will stay with me for a long time. My only issues were that the plot and the writing both at times felt disjointed, and I felt that the ending was too abrupt. Overall, a thought-provoking, character-driven science fiction read that I’d recommend.

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this one! Sometimes I feel like books get over-hyped and I have to wait until the hype dies down to really want to read them, which was what happened with this book. I’m glad that I ended up picking it up. It’s a really cute book with a great story-within-a-story; my main hope is that the author decides to publish a separate book or graphic novel of the webcomic in this book, because it sounds awesome.

Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire (4 stars) – I enjoyed the third book in the Wayward Children series just as much as the first two; definitely more than the second one. This series is just so enjoyable, and I loved that we focused on more of the children as a group. I’m very much hoping that the next book focuses on Kade, my favorite.

The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis (3.5 stars) – there were definitely a lot of things about this book that I enjoyed (Alex’s character, the premise, her friendship with Peekay) but I HATED the ending and was really not a fan of her love interest.

Witches of Lychford by Paul Cornell (3.5 stars) -I enjoyed this first novella in a series about modern English witches in a small town on the border between worlds. Things were definitely wrapped up too quickly and with not enough detail at the end, though.

The Lost Child of Lychford by Paul Cornell (3.5 stars) – The second novella in this series was just as strong, and I enjoy all three main characters.

No is Not Enough by Naomi Klein (3 stars) – I found this nonfiction book about resisting Trump’s agenda to be interesting, and I did learn a lot, but it was not as powerful as other similar works I’ve read. I listened to the audio version and did feel that things dragged a lot in the last few hours of the listen. Maybe it was just that I was tired of the book by then? Not sure.

We Are Okay by Nina LaCour (3 stars) – this was a prettily written YA contemporary that really never reached a deeper place with me, unfortunately. I did enjoy it and thought the audio version was well done, but I wasn’t blown away.

Rhapsodic by Laura Thalassa (2 stars) – Hm. I really wanted to like this book because it’s an indie, but unfortunately there were a lot of aspects that I found really problematic. I preferred the first half and did like both the main characters, though.

 

And these are the books I purchased in January, because I have no self-control when it comes to book buying:

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My 2017 Reading Wrap-Up!

I’m finally getting around to posting this–my 2017 reading year in review! I had an amazing reading year in 2017; it might have been my best ever. Here are my stats:

Total books read: 105

Total pages read: 31,245

Longest book read in 2017: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas (705 pages)

Shortest book read in 2017: The Bone Knife by Intisar Khanani (35 pages)

Most popular book read in 2017: Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

Least popular book read in 2017: Phantom Pains by Mishell Baker

Average Goodreads rating: 3.6 stars

Highest rated on Goodreads: Wildfire by Ilona Andrews

#readmyowndamnbooks: 70 (67%)

Live author/bookish events attended: BookCon, including a panel with Charlie Jane Anders, Annalee Newitz, John Scalzi, and Cory Doctorow; Toni Morrison; Roxane Gay; Kelly Link; Margaret Atwood; Dave Eggers

Female Author vs. Male Author

Format

Genre

Adult vs. YA

Colorful Book Covers Challenge – I tried to read 3 of every color and almost made it…

Red Cover
Magic Binds (Kate Daniels, #9) by Ilona Andrews Final Girls by Riley Sager The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

Orange Cover
Giant Days, Vol. 2 (Giant Days, #2) by John Allison Poison Princess (The Arcana Chronicles, #1) by Kresley Cole Perfect Little World by Kevin Wilson

Yellow Cover
Giant Days, Vol. 1 (Giant Days, #1) by John Allison Alex + Ada, Vol. 2 by Jonathan Luna Girls Will Be Girls Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act Differently by Emer O'Toole

Green Cover
Relish My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley A Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3) by Sarah J. Maas Heating & Cooling 52 Micro-Memoirs by Beth Ann Fennelly

Blue Cover
Men Explain Things To Me (Updated Edition) by Rebecca Solnit The Age of Miracles by Karen Thompson Walker Truthwitch (The Witchlands, #1) by Susan Dennard

Purple Cover
Wildfire (Hidden Legacy, #3) by Ilona Andrews Phantom Pains (The Arcadia Project, #2) by Mishell Baker Dear Ijeawele, or a Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Pink Cover
Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler Marlena by Julie Buntin Too Fat, Too Slutty, Too Loud The Rise and Reign of the Unruly Woman by Anne Helen Petersen

Black Cover
Sleeping Giants (Themis Files, #1) by Sylvain Neuvel Difficult Women by Roxane Gay All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

White Cover
Stiletto (The Checquy Files, #2) by Daniel O'Malley Hunger A Memoir of (My) Body by Roxane Gay The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Gray Cover
Down Among the Sticks and Bones (Wayward Children, #2) by Seanan McGuire How to Be a Woman by Caitlin Moran Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer

Brown Cover
The Queen of the Night by Alexander Chee There Once Lived a Girl Who Seduced Her Sister's Husband, and He Hanged Himself Love Stories by Ludmilla Petrushevskaya Herland by Charlotte Perkins Gilman

Colorful Cover
Big Magic Creative Living Beyond Fear by Elizabeth Gilbert The Animators by Kayla Rae Whitaker

December Reading Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap for December! I had a fantastic reading month in terms of quality of books, and I was able to catch up somewhat with my Book of the Month Club picks by reading three of them this month. Two of those even ended up being two of my favorite BOTM picks overall! And while I did only read one 5-star book, the quality of the 4-star books I picked up was fantastic, and December ended up hosting some of my most memorable reads of the year.

Number of books read: 7

#readmyowndamnbooks: 5

When did I acquire the books I read? August 2017 (The Bear and the Nightingale), October 2017 (Her Body and Other Parties, The Power), November 2017 (Turtles All the Way Down, Future Home of the Living God)

Her Body and Other PartiesTurtles All the Way DownAir Awakens (Air Awakens, #1)We Are the AntsThe Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine ArdenThe PowerFuture Home of the Living God

Here are my reviews:

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado (5 stars) – this short story collection absolutely lives up to the hype. If you like gorgeously written magical realism short story collections and you are also a feminist, I’d highly recommend this book. It’s unsettling and also beautiful. One of my favorites of the year, for sure. Machado uses magical realism to tell stories about women’s bodies and the everyday violence inflicted upon them; she explores what it means to be a woman in a variety of creative settings. My favorites of the collection were “The Husband Stitch,” “Inventory,” and “Real Women Have Bodies.”

The Power by Naomi Alderman (4.25 stars) – The Power won this year’s Bailey’s Prize, which first put it on my radar awhile back. Since then, I’ve been reading a lot of “meh” reviews that made me really hesitant to pick it up; I’m really glad that I did. I tend to be a fan of near-future female-centric SF, and this one ended up being no exception. The premise of The Power is that women evolve an organ that gives them the ability to deliver an electrical shock through their hands, not unlike an electric eel. This ability first arises in tweens, who are able to transfer the power to older women as well, and once it becomes widespread society begins to rapidly change. It’s told from multiple perspectives: there’s the daughter of a crime lord in England; the mayor of a city in New England; a foster child who becomes a religious prophet; and a male journalist from Nigeria. From each of these characters, we’re able to see gender roles flipped on their heads and an exploration of what would happen if all women were able to easily physically overpower men. It’s a fast-paced novel, and although there are many sentences and paragraphs that pack meaningful and emotional punches, I wouldn’t necessarily say that it’s beautifully written. The other issue I had was that I kept thinking that this story could be told in so many different ways; you could take the premise of The Power and imagine hundreds of different ways the course of history could go. You could even take the exact same events of The Power but present the story differently by focusing on only a single character, perhaps, or with entirely different leads. I definitely thought this was a good book, but I’m just not certain that this was the best version of the story that could have been told.

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden (4 stars) – this is one of those books that I knew I’d like as soon as I started hearing about it. It’s a historical fantasy set in Russia that focuses on the clash between Christianity and the older folk religion of the region. It’s told in a mythical, fairytale-ish way and focuses on Vasilisa, daughter of a rural nobleman, who possesses magical abilities that set her apart from everyone around her. I really enjoyed it and will definitely be looking to pick up the next book.

Turtles All the Way Down by John Green (4 stars) – I’ve only read one John Green book previously (The Fault in Our Stars; none of his others have sounded that interesting to me) but I knew I wanted to read this one after I heard that the main character had anxiety and OCD. This is definitely the kind of book that has strength in the characters rather than the plot; I loved Aza, the main character, and I thought that Green wrote her very well. The subplot about searching for the missing billionaire, however, did not make a ton of sense for me, and I had a lot of issues about how certain things were handled. Overall, though, the strength of the writing and Aza herself carried me through the book, and I definitely enjoyed it.

We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson (4 stars) – throughout this entire book, I just wanted to give the main character a hug. He’s going through a lot–his boyfriend killed himself, his father left, he’s being bullied at school, his grandmother has Alzheimer’s, and his brother treats him terribly. Oh, and he’s being repeatedly abducted by aliens, who are giving him a choice whether or not to save the world. The problem is that he’s so depressed because of everything else in his life that he just doesn’t really see the world as worth saving. Over the course of the story, he has to confront and work through various emotions and issues, and also meets an intriguing new love interest in the new kid in town, Diego. It’s a serious contemporary YA with a science fiction twist, and I thought it was very well-written; I rarely read contemporary YA, but this was great.

Air Awakens by Elise Kova (3 stars) – this is the first book in a romance-heavy YA fantasy series about elemental magic, and I liked it okay. The writing had a LOT of structural issues, but it was still fun and I liked the love interest, who sort of reminded me of Loki from the Thor movies. I’m not sure yet if I’m going to continue with the series, though, because although I enjoyed it, I definitely wasn’t blown away.

Future Home of the Living God by Louise Erdrich (3 stars) – In this book, Cedar, a pregnant young woman with Native American heritage who was raised by a white family, has to contend with the unbalancing of the world once evolution appears to start moving backward and pregnant women begin giving birth to genetic throwbacks from earlier types of humans. Unfortunately, this was mostly a miss for me. Louise Erdrich is definitely a very good writer, and I liked the family dynamics that she set up in this book, but the near-future SF premise is something that I’ve seen done so much better in other works. The plot was disjointed and full of plot holes; the worldbuilding in terms of what was actually going on was really under-developed. I really wish another author had taken this premise and written it in a better way, because it could have been so much more interesting.

And here are the books that I purchased in December:

November Reading Wrap-Up!

I participated in NaNoWriMo (for the first time!) this November, so I went into the month not expecting to get much reading done. I thought that setting aside time to write every day would cut into a lot of the time I normally spend reading, but I was really pleasantly surprised at how much I was able to read while getting a large chunk of writing done. Most excitingly, I read TWO five-star reads this month! I’m so picky that this is almost unheard-of for me, especially for a relatively lower-reading month. Don’t get me wrong, I’m impressed with how much I read this month, but it wasn’t quite as many books as I hit in a typical month. But TWO FIVE-STAR READS! Dang. I feel like a big part of the reason for that was that I didn’t set a big solid TBR for the month; I feel like maybe I read better books when I mood-read and don’t plan in advance. I’m going to be doing more of that going forward, although I did make a list of ten books I really want to get to this winter.

Number of books read: 6

#readmyowndamnbooks: 4

When did I acquire the books I read? March 2017 (Crosstalk), June 2017 (Norse Mythology), August 2017 (The Stone Sky), November 2017 (The Refrigerator Monologues)

CrosstalkThe Awakened Kingdom (Inheritance, #3.5)Norse MythologyThe Stone Sky (The Broken Earth, #3)Girls Will Be Girls: Dressing Up, Playing Parts and Daring to Act DifferentlyThe Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente

The Refrigerator Monologues by Catherynne M. Valente (5 stars) – This book could not be more incisive or more timely. I don’t understand why it’s not more popular. Essentially, this book takes on sexism in the world of superheroes, by highlighting women whose lives (and deaths) have been used solely as plot devices to motivate the male main characters. If, like me, you really enjoy superhero movies and are also a feminist, this book will resonate with you. You don’t have to have extensive comics knowledge to enjoy this book or to get most of the references (I certainly don’t); I’m not familiar with every character they referenced, but enough of it is mainstream, like riffs on Batman and Harley Quinn, that you’ll get it regardless. The book’s premise is that in the afterlife, here called Deadtown and expressed as this gorgeously banal yet macabre city, women who have been involved with superheroes gather as what they call the Hell Hath Club and tell their stories one by one. These stories are interspersed with life in Deadtown, which on its own would make a great book. I really wasn’t expecting to love this as much as I did. I both laughed and cried while reading this, and it’s very short. Highly, highly recommend. I need to read more from Valente, stat.

The Stone Sky by N.K. Jemisin (5 stars) – I definitely don’t want to give away anything about the plot of this book, since it would spoil the first two in the trilogy, but this was a very well-done and fitting end to the series. The world-building was incredible, and I was tearing up at the end.

Crosstalk by Connie Willis (4 stars) – this is a cute, funny, fast-paced, highly entertaining SF rom-com. It was a lot of fun to read; the dialogue is great, and you really end up loving the main characters. This was my third Connie Willis book, and my second of her “lighter” books; I have two others on my physical TBR shelf and a bunch more on my hypothetical one.

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman (4 stars) – I’ve always loved reading about mythology, although Greek mythology has always been my favorite, and this book was no exception. It was well-done and Gaiman also gave a great introduction talking about his connection to Norse myths. The parts about Ragnarok were particularly well-done.

The Awakened Kingdom by N.K. Jemisin (3 stars) – this novella takes place after the Inheritance trilogy, and the entire plot is a huge spoiler. It was cute and fun to read, but it wasn’t as awesome as most of Jemisin’s work tends to be.

 

And here are the books I acquired in November:

October Reading Wrap-Up

That’s a wrap on October 2017!

Overall, October was a really great and reading-filled month. I participated in two readathons this month: Dewey’s 24-hour readathon and Spookathon. Technically, I was also still participating in the R.i.P. XII reading challenge that encompasses both September and October as well, so there was a lot of themed reading as well as many books in a short period of time. Looking over what I read this month, I did give middling ratings to a bunch of books, but I did have a lot of fun with my reading overall and the books that were good, were very good. Unfortunately, I will be unhauling two of the books I read this month because I just really wasn’t a fan and don’t want them on my shelf. But overall, a good reading month! You can’t expect to love everything you read.

SourdoughNight FilmFever DreamFinal GirlsBelzharAgents of DreamlandThat Inevitable Victorian ThingLast Call at the Nightshade LoungeEnvy of Angels (Sin du Jour, #1)The Red Tree

Number of books read: 10

#readmyowndamnbooks: 9 (!)

When did I acquire the books I read? June 2017 (Night Film), July 2017 (Final Girls), August 2017 (Fever Dream, Belzhar), September 2017 (Sourdough, Agents of Dreamland, The Red Tree), October 2017 (That Inevitable Victorian Thing, Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge)

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin (5 stars) – stellar short novel about a woman lying in a hospital being questioned by a young boy. During the course of the novel, you figure out why. This book is creepy, unique, and ambiguously magical. Highly recommend.

The Red Tree by Caitlin R. Kiernan (4 stars) – I really got into Caitlin R. Kiernan this month; I wish I’d read her earlier and am glad that she has a lot of backlist titles that I can get to. This book was about an author who moves into an isolated house in Rhode Island which she discovers has a mysterious past; instead of trying to write a book, which she’s supposed to be doing, she obsesses in her journal about her ex-girlfriend and about the artist who comes to live at the house with her. She finds a manuscript from the house’s previous tenant, who killed himself, and the book includes excerpts of this manuscript as well as her diary. It’s atmospheric, creepy, and well-written; it was really the perfect October book.

Agents of Dreamland by Caitlin R. Kiernan (4 stars) – this was a Tor novella (I love Tor novellas!) about special agents investigating a cult mass suicide in the desert, that ends up being about a lot more than what it seems to be. I don’t want to give away anything more about the story, but there’s a lot packed into a very short book, and the writing is great.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston (4 stars) – this was a very nice alternate-history SF book about a world in which the British Empire never fell but instead strengthened itself through diversity and apologizing for its past mistakes and colonization. It delves into some interesting concepts while remaining very grounded in its three main characters. I found it really enjoyable and not at all dark, so if  you’re looking for a YA that fits those categories, I’d recommend this.

Night Film by Marisha Pessl (3.75 stars) – Night Film has a very cool premise–it’s about the mystery surrounding a famously reclusive horror movie director, Stanislas Cordova, after his daughter commits suicide. Our main character, Scott McGrath, is an investigative reporter who lost most of his credibility after publicly going after Cordova due to suspicions of criminality and then getting slapped with a lawsuit, after which the story he’s investigating completely falls apart. When Scott hears about Cordova’s daughter’s suicide, however, he’s drawn back into the dark and scary world surrounding Cordova, whose movies are so disturbing that the last few have been banned from distribution. As Scott delves deeper into the world surrounding Cordova, things get stranger and stranger and the lines between fantasy and reality seem to blur.

I’d say that I really, really enjoyed the first 2/3 of this book. The writing is solid (although WAY too many italics are used), and the author uses an unconventional format where she sprinkles in documents, photos, and newspaper articles along with the book’s regular text.

But.

I really did not like how the mystery wrapped up. Endings are crucial, and the ending of Night Film significantly reduced my rating. The writing in general seemed to get weaker towards the end as well.

So. I’d recommend this; I know that it’s a widely loved book, but personally, I was disappointed with how it ended. After the intriguing premise and great setup, the lackluster conclusion was a huge letdown.

Sourdough by Robin Sloan (3 stars) – this book was cute and fun, but not impactful. Nothing at all bad happens, and I liked the focus on the culinary scene in San Francisco, but it wasn’t a wow.

Last Call at the Nightshade Lounge by Paul Krueger (3 stars) – fun, fast-paced UF read about bartenders with magical powers from alcoholic drinks battling demons in Chicago.

Envy of Angels by Matt Wallace (2.75 stars) – I got this ebook free for subscribing to the Tor.com newsletter, and it’s something that I had wanted to read for awhile. It’s a fun, fast story about chefs who cook for the world’s secret supernatural elements, and I liked it, but not enough to probably ever continue with the series.

Belzhar by Meg Wolitzer (2.5 stars) – I expected a completely different thing from this book than what it actually was. That’s not the book’s fault–I really didn’t closely read the synopsis–but what the book actually was was not anything special. I did finish it rather than DNFing which I do with a lot of YA, but this isn’t a book that I’d really recommend to anyone, and it made me sad, but not in a good, Fault in Our Stars-ish way.

Final Girls by Riley Sager (2 stars) – I mean, if you want to read a book that’s supposedly a thriller but is actually really boring and barely anything happens until the very end, then this is for you. This book was coherently written and a few things were interesting (mostly the premise), but it really lacked dramatic tension and I didn’t care about any of the characters. A disappointment.

 

Has anyone read any of these? What did you think? Let me know!

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!

 

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.