Tag Archives: reading wrap-up

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:

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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:

October Reading Wrap-Up

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October was an awesome reading month for me. The last few months haven’t been great (I didn’t read good books in August, and in September I read good books but very few of them), so I was really relieved to have a month of great books and lots of reading. I participated in the Dewey’s 24-Hour Readathon, which was wonderful; read a total of 3 books with a significant focus on artificial intelligence, which was a total coincidence; and participated in a Halloween-themed reading challenge for which I read 4 books. I also read an absolutely enchanting 5-star book and discovered a few new authors that I’ll definitely be reading more from in the future.

Here are my stats:

Total books read: 13 (!)

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 4

Book Riot Read Harder challenge tasks completed: 1

✓ 20. Read a book about religion (fiction or nonfiction)
The Daylight Gate by Jeanette WintersonThe Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson

And here’s what I read, ranked in order of awesomeness:

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet (Wayfarers, #1)The VegetarianThe Beautiful BureaucratThe Daylight Gate

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers (5 stars) – this is the perfect example of a book that lives up to all of its hype and yet still manages to surprise you. It’s a shockingly positive, daringly upbeat science fiction novel focused on character development and the interactions between seemingly disparate societies, and I LOVED IT. I want to pick up the sequel very soon.

The Vegetarian by Han Kang (4 stars) – I thought the writing was really beautiful, and this was dark and immersive. The multiple perspectives worked well for me, as each one takes you deeper into the story. I really liked it but didn’t love it.

The Beautiful Bureaucrat by Helen Phillips (4 stars) – this was a short, unsettling novel about a woman who takes a dull office job entering data into a database and finds her reality slowly start to unravel. The weirdness was great for October, and it’s one that I’d recommend.

The Daylight Gate by Jeanette Winterson (4 stars) – this was a disturbing, starkly written historical fiction/fantasy about the famous witch trials that took place in Lancashire in the 1600s. It wasn’t a subject that I had prior knowledge of, but Winterson includes a brief historical note before and after the story that helps to orient people like me. The book’s main character is Alice Nutter, a beautiful, mysterious, independent bisexual woman living in an era completely pervaded by misogyny and religious persecution. As a witch hunt begins to take place in her present, we begin to learn about her fascinating backstory. It’s a really brilliant and impactful book, and I’d highly recommend it–but I’d add the caveat that there is a lot of sexual violence and torture throughout the book, so if that’s something you typically have a hard time with, steer clear.

Illuminae (The Illuminae Files, #1)Fun Home: A Family TragicomicForest of MemoryAlex + Ada, Vol. 1 by Jonathan Luna

Illuminae by Jay Kristoff and Amie Kaufman (4 stars) – I read this for Dewey’s after procrastinating it for awhile; it’s a book that’s just so popular all over Bookstagram and the blogs that I got tired of seeing its cover. Turns out that I was wrong and everybody else was right, because I thouroughly enjoyed it.

Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (4 stars) – this graphic memoir, which focuses on Bechdel’s relationship with her father and learning about her sexuality, was insightful, emotional, and I’d highly recommend it.

Forest of Memory by Mary Robinette Kowal (3.75 stars) – this was a short novella set in the near future where everyone has a personal AI that sort of acts like a google inside their heads was a perfect pick for Dewey’s. The story starts when our main character, a dealer in antiques (which are basically modern-day objects, although some are older) is abducted by a man in the woods and finds herself without an AI and completely out of contact with the world. There is also something mysterious going on with deer. I don’t want to say more because it’s quite short, but you should pick it up.

Pretty Deadly, Vol. 1: The Shrike

Pretty Deadly, Vol 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick and Emma Rios (2 stars) – Sorry, Pretty Deadly, but I am just not on board. For me, this graphic novel was too bloody and never took the time to establish any characterization. The mythology could have been interesting, but just wasn’t in the way the story was told. I won’t be picking up the next volume.

Bird Box by Josh MalermanFuriously Happy by Jenny LawsonIn a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth WareThe Geek Feminist Revolution

Audiobooks! I’m not going to lie, I crushed it with audiobooks this month. Four audiobooks is a lot for me, and the great thing was that I was really absorbed in most of these. I decided to rank these separately, for some reason.

In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware (4 stars) – this was a really pleasant surprise for me. I don’t read a lot of mystery/thriller books, but Ware does a fantastic job with characterization and I was immediately drawn in to the atmosphere of this story. Essentially, an introverted author is invited to the bachelorette weekend of an old childhood friend she hasn’t spoken to in years, and things begin to get creepy from there. My favorite character was Nina, the bitingly sarcastic doctor friend of the book’s main character.

The Geek Feminist Revolution by Kameron Hurley (3.5 stars) – this book of essays was interesting and insightful, but the audiobook narrator was TERRIBLE. I would absolutely recommend the book itself, but I’d really advise people to steer clear of the audio version–the narrator sort of overly-pronounces words and seems like she’s trying to sound super proper, but she somehow still manages to mispronounce a lot of things. It’s very odd; I kept going because the essays were so interesting, but I persisted in spite of the audio narrator.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson (3.25 stars) – at turns entertaining and insightful, and a really good listen on audio.

Bird Box by Josh Malerman (2.5 stars)  – I really liked the science fiction/horror concept of this book, which was why I didn’t give it a lower rating. The problem for me was characterization, and this is a big deal for me in books–if the characterization is flat, then it doesn’t really matter how many twists and turns there are in the plot, it just isn’t going to be a great book for me.

So that’s what I read in October! How did everyone else’s reading month go?

 

August Reading Wrap-Up

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So August was…not great. I spent a lot of the month reading a book that I didn’t end up finishing (The Story of the Lost Child by Elena Ferrante) and although I did end up with a respectable-sized wrap-up stack, the majority of those were library books and I’d really wanted to #readmyowndamnbooks this month. Also, my August reads overall were a bit disappointing, although all in different ways. I haven’t had a really lackluster reading month in awhile, and I’d started out with such a great TBR that I wasn’t expecting it. Highlights of the month include Bout of Books, a really good audiobook, and the bad guy love interest from Everneath; low points included, oddly, Harry Potter and Pablo Neruda.

Here are my stats for August:

Number of books read: 7

#readmyowndamnbooks: 3 (eek, not so good)

Audiobooks: 1

Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 2

✓ 13. Read a book set in the Middle East
The Underground Girls of Kabul In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg The Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in Afghanistan by Jenny Nordberg

✓ 23. Read a play
Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. RowlingHarry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling

Also, an update on the 20 books of summer challenge that I signed up for at the beginning of the summer: I ended up reading 29 (!) books this summer, exceeding my goal of 20! I wonder if I’ll be able to read 20 books this fall as well–it seems to be a good seasonal goal number for me.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - Parts One and Two (Harry Potter, #8)Vicious (Vicious, #1)Everything Is TeethThe Underground Girls of Kabul: In Search of a Hidden Resistance in AfghanistanEverneath (Everneath, #1)Everbound (Everneath, #2)Love Poems

So, here’s what I read in August, ranked (as usual) from most awesome to least:

The Underground Girls of Kabul by Jenny Nordberg (4 stars) – this was an extremely powerful nonfiction book about the lives of women in Afghanistan, focusing on the intriguing tradition of some young girls dressing as boys. It’s well-researched and detailed, and highlights the lives of several different women that the author interviewed.

Everything is Teeth by Evie Wyld (4 stars) – I thought this was fantastic, although maybe I’m biased because I’ve always been a shark person. This was the first graphic memoir I’ve read, and I thought that Wyld’s story and the illustrations really conveyed both her literal fascination with sharks and her metaphor of sharks as the constant dangers in life lurking beneath the surface.

Vicious by V.E. Schwab (3.5 stars) – I thought the characters were great, and V.E. Schwab does a wonderful job building tension throughout the book; it just wasn’t as original as I had expected. This book gets a ton of hype; for me, I didn’t fully get why.

Everneath and Everbound by Brodi Ashton (2.5 stars each) – I read the first two books of this YA trilogy during Bout of Books; it’s about a girl who has just returned to the real world after living for 100 years in a sort of underworld where her emotions were used to feed an immortal (who happens to be a snarky and very attractive guitar player who used to be a Viking back in the day). She then is allowed to return to her former life for 6 months before being sucked back into the underworld and used as a living battery to feed the immortals there for eternity. It’s a very dark story; the main character’s mother was killed by a drunk driver, and when she returns from the underworld everyone she loves believes she was missing for 6 months and was a drug addict during that time. I liked the dark tone and the concept; I really, really did not like her other love interest (meathead high school quarterback) and didn’t end up wanting to read the last book in the series, although the first two were dramatic and fun.

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling, John Tiffany, and Jack Thorne (2.5 stars) – this book has already been discussed so much; personally, I found it really disappointing. I’d love to see it as a play; I’m sure it’s better in that format. In general, though, it didn’t feel like a “real” continuation of the story to me.

Love Poems by Pablo Neruda (2 stars) – I actually feel very weird rating this so low; I know that Pablo Neruda is such a highly regarded poet, and there were a few lines in this short volume that I thought were strikingly beautiful. But the majority of it, for me, just did not feel like anything special. It could have been that my expectations were too high and I expected every poem to be brilliant, but I really didn’t end up enjoying this.

 

I hope everyone’s reading month for August went better than mine did!

July Reading Wrap-Up & Mini-Reviews

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So, July was an absolutely fabulous reading month for me; I think it was actually my best reading month of the year. The books, as a whole, that I read in July were really great; I had a lot of fun and got a ton of reading done during #24in48; and I did a pretty great job of reading my own damn books.

Number of books read: 14 (!!!!!)

Audiobooks: 4 (!!!!!)

#readmyowndamnbooks: 7 (!!!!!)

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 4

✓ 2. Read a nonfiction book about science
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

✓ 16. Read the first book in a series by a person of color
Binti (Binti, #1) by Nnedi Okorafor Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

✓ 18. Read a book that was adapted into a movie, then watch the movie. Debate which is better.
The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler

✓ 21. Read a book about politics, in your country or another (fiction or nonfiction)
Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay (The Neapolitan Novels, #3) by Elena Ferrante Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante

 

So, here’s what I read this month, ranked (as usual) in order of awesomeness, with favorites first:

milk and honey by Rupi KaurThose Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena FerranteConfessions by Kanae MinatoMen We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur (4.5 stars)  – This is my preferred style of poetry to read – short poems in free verse with huge emotional impact. The middle two sections of this book absolutely blew me away. I read each poem at least 2-3 times because it’s impossible not to savor her words. Will definitely be re-reading this.

Those Who Leave and Those Who Stay by Elena Ferrante (4 stars) – the third book of Ferrante’s four Neapolitan novels deals with adult Lila and Elena, delving into their careers and politics and still maintaining their complex friendship. This may have been my least favorite of the quartet so far, but it was still very good; Ferrante’s writing remains excellent and I only care more about these characters are the books continue, no matter what crazy choices they make.

Confessions by Kanae Minato (4 stars) – this was a psychological thriller where the twists just kept on coming. The premise is that of a middle-school teacher confronting her class about the death of her daughter and accusing two of them of her murder; it only gets more intense from there. I read most of this in this sort of deep trance and literally could not stop reading. Definitely recommend this for fans of well-written, intriguing dark books.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward (4 stars) – it’s hard to talk about this book. It’s devastating and powerful, and it should absolutely be read by everyone. Jesmyn Ward is an incredible writer, and I admire her so much for being able to tell this story.

Binti by Nnedi OkoraforSaga, Volume 6 by Brian K. VaughanSecond Star by Alyssa B. SheinmelShrill by Lindy West

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (4 stars) – this is a science fiction novella about Binti, a brilliant girl living in an isolated community on Earth who is selected to attend the most prestigious school in the universe. Going to school involves breaking with her cultural traditions, but she is determined to remain herself and honor her heritage on her trip. On the way, she faces an unexpected enemy. I thought the worldbuilding was fantastic, especially considering how short this was, and I LOVED Binti as a protagonist. I found out that there will be at least one sequel to this novella, which I’m very excited for.

Saga, Volume 6 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples (4 stars) – the latest volume in this science fiction/fantasy mash-up graphic novel series about an unconventional family defying the odds to try and stay together was really good; there’s only been one volume of Saga that I really didn’t like. This was not it. It was sweet and exciting and exactly what I was looking for. Can’t wait for Volume 7.

Second Star by Alyssa B. Sheinmel (3.5 stars) – this was Peter Pan, if the characters in Peter Pan were surfers living in Southern California. Essentially, straight-A student Wendy Darling is searching for her brothers who went missing and during her search meets and falls for both Pete and Jas (Captain Hook, although with a very odd name choice and two hands. This really bothered me. Why couldn’t he have a hook??). I’ve mentioned before that YA is really hit or miss for me, but this totally worked. It’s full of romance and drama and I enjoyed the entire thing.

Shrill by Lindy West (3.5 stars) – this memoir was somehow both very funny and very important and relevant. I wasn’t familiar with Lindy West prior to picking up this audiobook; I’d definitely recommend it now that I have.

The Quick by Lauren OwenThe Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca SklootGods Behaving Badly by Marie PhillipsBitch Planet, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick

The Quick by Lauren Owen (3 stars) – I wanted to like this book more than I did. Vampires in a historical setting? A sister going to rescue her brother? Sounded great. The Quick is essentially about James, a young writer who moves to London and gets pulled into mysterious circumstances that he wasn’t aware of or looking for; it’s also about his older sister, Charlotte, who travels to London to look for James after she hasn’t heard from him in awhile. It’s hard to say much more than that without spoiling things. There were some things I really liked: I liked both romance storylines in the book (the romance is very light, though, it’s definitely not a romance-oriented book). I also liked Charlotte’s devotion to her brother, and I thought the writing itself was good overall. There were a lot of issues, for me, with the storytelling, though–the first 200 or so pages are from James’s perspective, except for the first chapter, which is in Charlotte’s, and after that it switches around sort of randomly between five or six character perspectives. A lot of this felt really unnecessary to me; we didn’t need a lot of the extra information and perspectives, and it threw the pacing off quite a bit as well. Overall, I liked this, but definitely didn’t love it. I wouldn’t highly recommend it; if you really enjoy historical fiction and vampires, though, you may like it also.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot (3 stars) – Henrietta Lacks’ story is an important one, and I was so intrigued and shocked by the journey of her cells. I thought all of the scientific information was really interesting; where the book didn’t work for me was how much the author inserted herself into the story.

Gods Behaving Badly by Marie Phillips (3 stars) – this was a funny, quick read satirizing Greek mythology by bringing all of the Olympians to modern-day England and seeing how two ordinary people fare when brought into the mix. It’s not at all deep or emotional, but if you’re a Greek mythology fan, it’s definitely enjoyable.

Bitch Planet by (3 stars) – I loved the feminist concept and creepy worldbuilding in this graphic novel, but for me there wasn’t enough characterization and it really took away from the story.

Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane AndersThe Jane Austen Book Club

Six Months, Three Days by Charlie Jane Anders (2.5 stars) – this is technically classified as a “novelette,” although it seemed like a short story to me. I enjoyed Anders’ novel All the Birds in the Sky and had her shorter work on my TBR for awhile; it ended up unfortunately being a disappointment. I feel like the characterization was really lacking, and although the concept was sort of interesting, it was a letdown overall.

The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler (2 stars) – I LOVED Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves, which was this really unique and emotionally gutting novel that was one of my favorite books of 2015. Unfortunately, that book and this one had absolutely nothing in common. I went in expecting a cute story of friendship and romance; The Jane Austen Book Club ended up being about 80% backstory with almost no plot taking place in the present. It was really frustrating to listen to because nothing ever happened; even the discussion of Jane Austen seemed really lacking to me.

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So, what did you guys read in July? Let me know!

 

May Reading Wrap-Up!

 

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Total books finished: 7

#readmyowndamnbooks/#SmashYourStack:  4 (!)

Audiobooks: 2 (!)

Library books: 1

Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 1

✓ 6. Read a biography (not memoir or autobiography)
Notorious RBG The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg by Irin Carmon

Severity of Ferrante Fever: high

So, I had decided to participate in the #SmashYourStack challenge for May and challenge myself to take down books from my physical TBR. I actually did OK on this challenge–I read hardly any of the books I thought I would, but I did manage to read 4 books that I actually own. (Although I totally cheated by buying the first 2 Ferrante books and then counting them for the challenge.) Overall, the quality of the books I read this month was fantastic–I added 2 books to my ongoing list of my top ten reads of 2016 (of course, it’s all subject to change, since 2016 isn’t even halfway done yet).

I also listened to 2 (and a half, since I started Citizen: An American Lyric this month too) audiobooks this month, which is crazy for me. Bout of Books gave me a lot of audiobook motivation, and I feel like I’ve really found my audiobook niche with nonfiction.

The Story of a New Name (The Neapolitan Novels #2)My Brilliant Friend (The Neapolitan Novels, #1)Death My Own WayMr. SplitfootRoses and RotNot That Kind of Girl: A Young Woman Tells You What She's "Learned"Notorious RBG: The Life and Times of Ruth Bader Ginsburg

So here’s what I read in May, ranked in order of awesomeness:

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My Brilliant Friend by Elena Ferrante (5 stars) – If you haven’t read this series yet, prepare to become obsessed. It opens with a mystery and the two main characters in their sixties, then flashes back to their fascinating and violent childhood in a poor neighborhood of Naples. The relationship between the two main characters is constantly fraught with emotion in different ways, and the world of 1950s Italy is alien and immersive. I highly, highly recommend this for anyone in a reading slump or looking for a new series to become addicted to–I honestly think anyone would enjoy these books, even if, like me, you typically steer clear of realistic fiction in favor of science fiction/fantasy.

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Mr. Splitfoot by Samantha Hunt (4.5 stars) – this quickly became one of my favorite reads of 2016 so far. I loved the dual narrative structure and the consistent weirdness of this book. Highly recommended for anyone interested in weird fiction.

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The Story of a New Name by Elena Ferrante (4.25 stars) – Although I liked My Brilliant Friend more, this was still incredibly well done–especially the whirlwind last 200 pages and the OH SHOOT ending. The middle had a long plot section that I wasn’t a fan of, but once it transitioned out of that, it went back to amazingness. It’s the perfect springboard into the third book, which I started this morning.

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Death My Own Way by Michael Graziano (4 stars) – I picked this book up at the Buffalo Small Press book fair as part of my effort to read more books from independent publishers, and found that it was a perfect entrancing book to read in one sitting. It’s a philosophical take on life, death, and art set in a single night in Central Park. Recommended for anyone looking for a short, thought-provoking read.

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Roses and Rot by Kat Howard (3.5 stars) – This book was released last month and got a great review from Neil Gaiman, which is how I heard about it. It came in as a library hold and I only had a week to read it; I was nervous about finishing in time so I ended up reading it in 2 days! That kind of binge reading has been rare for me lately due to work, but it was a great feeling to just dive into a book and barely come up for air. This is a dark fairytale/fantasy about two sisters, a writer and a dancer, at an artist’s retreat after escaping an abusive mother; it’s about the love between siblings and the devotion to art.
I loved the setting, the concept, and overall liked the plot and characters, but I found the writing style to be way too simplistic for my taste. I needed a lot more detail and description, and although the characters were interesting, they could have been much more fully drawn. I also found the love interest very boring.
If you enjoy dark fairytale themes, then you’ll probably enjoy this; for me, it was good, but just not amazing.

Not that Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham (3 stars) – I liked this audiobook a lot more than I expected to, although I found the quality to be very inconsistent. I like Lena Dunham’s delivery, and found her very easy to listen to.

Notorious RBG by Irin Carmon and Shana Knizhnik (3 stars) – I loved hearing more about the amazing RBG, but didn’t love the structure and writing style of this audiobook. The narrator was also not awesome.

 

What did everybody read in May???

February Reading Wrap-Up

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Total books read this month: 6 (not too shabby!)

#readmyowndamn books (books I actually own): 4 (!)

Audiobooks: 1

Book Riot Read Harder Challenge tasks completed: 4

✓ 1. Read a horror book – Fledgling by Octavia Butler

✓ 8. Read a book originally published in the decade you were born (1980’s) – The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro

✓ 10. Read a book over 500 pages long – The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss

✓ 12. Read a book by or about a person that identifies as transgender – All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

 

Favorite book I read this month: I don’t know! It’s a three-way tie. I honestly enjoyed every book I read this month.

 

Fledgling

 

I was so glad I returned to Octavia Butler with Fledgling; I plan to read all of her books eventually, and the unconventional vampire story tagline hooked me completely. It’s a story about vampires that also tackles issues such as consent in relationships and the insidious nature of racism in a fresh way. I’m just so sad that the rest of the trilogy (this was supposed to be the first book) will never be written. But it still works well as a standalone title, and I’ll be reading more Butler this year for sure.

 

The Remains of the Day

 

The Remains of the Day surprised me. I was expecting the Downton Abbey vibe and the classic Ishiguro use of the unreliability of memory as a central theme, but I was not expecting the fascinatingly creepy historical intrigue. And it’s just beautifully written.

 

All the Birds in the Sky

 

I liked the juxtaposition of magic and science in All the Birds in the Sky; I love when science fiction and fantasy are combined. It kept each chapter fresh since the two main characters had such opposite paths and perspectives. I also liked the realistic climate-change catastrophies and the Magicians-esque vibe I got from the characters.

 

Biggest reading disappointment of the month: The Wise Man’s Fear.

 

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)

 

It’s not that I hated the book–I didn’t even dislike it! I genuinely enjoyed reading the majority of the book, but…parts of it just fell very flat for me as a reader. I was expecting this when I started the series, since I tend to avoid the cliche sort of fantasy where this young white “chosen one” boy becomes famous and powerful and destined for greatness–I greatly prefer creativity in my fantasy reads, and I like when books don’t remind me of anything else–but the thing about the Kingkiller Chronicles is that this trope is done really, really well, and the storytelling is done in a very interesting way. It’s enough to make you forget about all of the overused fantasy tropes that the books contain, because it’s well-written and has this very well-crafted structure. My favorite parts of this series have consistently been the present-day scenes; I find older Kvothe, Bast, and Chronicler so much more interesting than the child characters we encounter earlier in the timeline. (Except Elodin, who is my absolute favorite.) But there really weren’t enough “flash-forwards” in this gigantic book, and too much time was devoted to less interesting storylines (Denna) and less interesting characters (Denna). I just don’t feel that this author’s strength is in writing romance; personally, I’d rather read a book without a romantic storyline than one I just can’t find authentic.

Don’t even get me started on the Felurian parts–while I’m sure the whole elf-princess-sex-goddess-is-suddenly-obsessed-with-our-hero thing is a fantasy that many people are into, as a woman in her mid-twenties, this part just really…bored me. That is, when I wasn’t skeeved out reading about a fifteen-year-old having sex with a milennia-old fae. It just wasn’t new, or interesting, or done well. If you want to make it romantic, make it romantic! If you want to make it creepy, then go full-on creepy! As long as it feels authentic. I don’t mean “realistic,” this is fantasy and I get that. But make it believable, give us some emotion! Instead, it was just sort of ambivalent, while we as readers were supposed to believe that this fifteen-year-old child was learning the best sex moves of all time from this ageless faerie who for some reason had nothing better to do that day. Felurian could have been an interesting character if the author had given her some depth, but the majority of her characterization was that she was very pale and had a personality like a spoiled child. Sorry, not buying it. This fae is thousands of years old! I get tired of these ageless fantasy characters who act in ways that don’t make sense (falling in love with teenagers is the #1 issue)(Edward Cullen). Can’t we find something more interesting for them to talk about?

This turned into a rant, and now I sound like I hated the book. I promise, I didn’t! I actually really enjoyed it, but these things have been bugging me ever since I finished it. I loved the first half of the book when Kvothe was still at school; every time Elodin shows up I know it’s going to be amazing. I love Devi; she’s multi-faceted and intriguing. I love that we’re getting to see the dark side of Kvothe. I loved the part that I’m not going to talk about because it’s a spoiler (you’ll know it when you get there! Such a cool twist). And I love the consistent beginning/ending bookending of the story.

 

What has everyone been reading this month?