Recent Reads 16

Since I’ve been reading more lately, I just haven’t been taking good review notes. That means these reviews might be a little lacking so hopefully you don’t mind too much. This time I’ll be reviewing Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Genre: Adult fantasy

Pages: 454

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return

When the earth and sky converge

Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain

Brief Review

“Usually,” Xiala said carefully, “when someone describes a man as harmless, he ends up being a villain.”

I don’t think I ever would have read this book if it weren’t for Some Obscure Book Club and that would have been a shame. This fantasy story is full of political intrigue and complex characters. While many of the characters are likable, I never knew who to cheer for because what’s right and wrong isn’t really clear. Speaking of likable characters, I was most drawn to Xiala. She is an amazing ship captain but people are scared of her because of her powers but they need her to survive. I adored the chapters that follow her because I love ocean stories and because she’s such a strong character and I always wanted to see what she would do and say next. I’m really hoping to learn more about her as the series goes. Just like with my favorite book, The Fifth Season, I am happy to see more fantasy that isn’t centered around European-based worlds and Black Sun really delivers on this. I am really excited for the rest of the series and will definitely be rereading this one because there is likely so much I missed from only listening to the audio in the beginning.

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Genre: Adult fantasy romance

Pages: 625

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

A Maiden

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Brief Thoughts

“Fear and bravery are often one and the same. It either makes you a warrior or a coward. The only difference is the person it resides inside.”

After DNFing ACOTAR earlier this year, I just assumed fantasy romance wasn’t for me and I had no plans to pick this one up. That was until one of my best friends was like, “no really read it.” So I did. And I’m surprised that I honestly had a pretty good time. I was sometimes confused by the plot and some scenes were a little strange especially towards the end but I was completely intrigued with what was happening. There’s SO much tension, political and otherwise and it’s just a fun time.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Genre: YA fantasy, mythology

Pages: 560

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Since this is the last book in a series, I’ll link the synopsis for the first book here, and this book here.

Brief Thoughts

“You can’t choose your parentage. But you can choose your legacy.”

I finished the Heroes of Olympus series at the very end of last month and I think this is the best book in the series. All of the aspects of the other books I’ve read in this universe are still there – high stakes, friendship, comedy, heartwarming. In this book particularly, I appreciated the jumps between perspectives because it made all of the action seem really fast-paced. I also loved seeing how much the relationships between different characters developed while they are trying to save the world. I am excited to continue reading the books in this universe. I think I’m going to take a little break before picking up The Kane Chronicles but I look forward to seeing what happens with a new set of characters.

What are you guys reading now? Have you read any of these? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 15

I’ve been having so much fun reading recently since I have no real obligations for a while so I’m hoping to read more and maybe write a little more here if I can come up with some more ideas. Recently, I’ve read a YA fantasy with a ghost dog, a YA coming of age story about two friends who are very different, and a cute, cozy mystery. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Elatsoe by Darcie Little Badger

Release Date: August 25, 2020

Genre: YA fantasy, mystery

Pages: 362

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Imagine an America very similar to our own. It’s got homework, best friends, and pistachio ice cream.

There are some differences. This America been shaped dramatically by the magic, monsters, knowledge, and legends of its peoples, those Indigenous and those not. Some of these forces are charmingly everyday, like the ability to make an orb of light appear or travel across the world through rings of fungi. But other forces are less charming and should never see the light of day.

Elatsoe lives in this slightly stranger America. She can raise the ghosts of dead animals, a skill passed down through generations of her Lipan Apache family. Her beloved cousin has just been murdered, in a town that wants no prying eyes. But she is going to do more than pry. The picture-perfect facade of Willowbee masks gruesome secrets, and she will rely on her wits, skills, and friends to tear off the mask and protect her family

Brief Review

“Maybe, sometimes, wants felt like needs. Because the alternative hurt too bad.”

This is SUCH a great YA book! The beginning of this story is so cute! A ghost dog named Kirby? Get out of here; I love it so much. I also really like the family dynamics in this story. It is refreshing to see parents involved in their child’s life in a positive way – they believe and trust Ellie. Thematically, this story brings forward so many discussions about microaggressions, white-washing and erasing history, stolen land, revenge, and exploitation by those with some degree of power. Darcie Little Badger is able to weave these themes into the story while still maintaining a fun and exciting atmosphere. I know people have been talking about this book since last year and I just want to add my voice to others who recommend this book.

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Aristotle and Dante by Benjamin Alire Saenz

Release Date: February 21, 2012

Genre: YA contemporary

Pages: 359

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

A lyrical novel about family and friendship from critically acclaimed author Benjamin Alire Sáenz.

Aristotle is an angry teen with a brother in prison. Dante is a know-it-all who has an unusual way of looking at the world. When the two meet at the swimming pool, they seem to have nothing in common. But as the loners start spending time together, they discover that they share a special friendship–the kind that changes lives and lasts a lifetime. And it is through this friendship that Ari and Dante will learn the most important truths about themselves and the kind of people they want to be.

Brief Thoughts

“I got to thinking that poems were like people. Some people you got right off the bat. Some people you just didn’t get–and never would get.”

This character-driven, coming-of-age story contains some of the most beautiful writing I’ve ever read. It is heartbreaking and beautiful and I found myself rooting for Aristotle and Dante’s friendship. It isn’t an easy friendship and they go through so much but I still believed in it. I also loved the family dynamic of both boy’s families. They weren’t perfect by any means but they did accept Aristotle and Dante for who they are. I knew I would like this book but I didn’t think it would be something I absolutely fall in love with but I did. I know that I’m late to the party for this book but if you are too and enjoy YA contemporary, you should pick this one up. A sequel was announced not too long ago and I’m really excited to see where Ari and Dante are now.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala

Release Date: May 4, 2021

Genre: Adult cozy mystery

Pages: 336

Trigger warnings in the front of the book: indications of evidence planting and police intimidation, drug use, fatphobia, racism, and domestic violence.

Synopsis

The first book in a new culinary cozy series full of sharp humor and delectable dishes—one that might just be killer….

When Lila Macapagal moves back home to recover from a horrible breakup, her life seems to be following all the typical rom-com tropes. She’s tasked with saving her Tita Rosie’s failing restaurant, and she has to deal with a group of matchmaking aunties who shower her with love and judgment. But when a notoriously nasty food critic (who happens to be her ex-boyfriend) drops dead moments after a confrontation with Lila, her life quickly swerves from a Nora Ephron romp to an Agatha Christie case.

With the cops treating her like she’s the one and only suspect, and the shady landlord looking to finally kick the Macapagal family out and resell the storefront, Lila’s left with no choice but to conduct her own investigation. Armed with the nosy auntie network, her barista best bud, and her trusted Dachshund, Longanisa, Lila takes on this tasty, twisted case and soon finds her own neck on the chopping block…

Brief Thoughts

I’ve never read a cozy mystery before but I definitely think I want to read more. I loved the small town vibes and all the talk about food. I was constantly hungry and I think one of Lila’s later visits to a restaurant made me start wanting hush puppies. I also really liked Lila’s friendship with Adeema. They felt so realistic! There is a small, underlying romance developing in this mystery and it isn’t explored so I am interested to see what happens with the rest of the series. As far as the actual mystery, my second guess was the answer but I still really enjoyed the story. I don’t know if this is a cozy mystery thing, but the end happened so quickly and I might have enjoyed the discoveries slowed down a little more but I still really had a good time. I’ll definitely be checking out more from this author.

I’ve also read six volumes of manga so far this month! I’m still trying to figure out how and where to talk about them on my blog. It might end up being part of my larger monthly wrap-up with a special post on my Instagram giving my general thoughts. What are you guys reading now? Have you read any of these? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 14

The semester is over and I’m done grading so I’m hoping to pick up my reading pace a bit this summer. This week, I have a contemporary romance, a queer romance set in ancient Greece, and a short story collection that celebrates love and mythology. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Release Date: January 26, 2021

Genre: Adult contemporary romance

Pages: 336

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

Brief Review

“Sometimes I wonder if content is really just a synonym for complacent.”

I really love the setting and set-up for this story. It’s such a fun concept. I also found it interesting only being in her head and not knowing what her love interest, Dominic, is thinking. Speaking of Dominic, I think he’s an interesting hero with the cutest family ever. I wish I knew more about them. This romance deals with some serious themes of grief and loneliness and developing and maintaining friendships as an adult so while this is a romance, it also offers up so much more to think about. Shay is my age and seeing her having to think about what she wants to do with her life and work through the “what’s next?” in her late twenties is both relatable and refreshing. She’s also older than Dominic which is cute. It might have just been me, but I think the build up to the romance was a little slow but I didn’t really mind it because I like the payoff. Also, there’s a cute dog named Steve.

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Release Date: September 20, 2011

Genre: Adult historical fiction, mythology, fantasy

Pages: 352

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Brief Thoughts

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

Only a few pages into the book I made my first note and it says, “Oh, this is going to break my heart, isn’t it?” Even though I knew what was going to happen, it still had a deep impact on me. It was fun once I started remembering specific plot points of The Iliad, which I haven’t read since undergrad, because I could anticipate what would happen and how it would happen in Madeline Miller’s story. This story is a bit slow moving at the beginning but I was fine with it because I like getting to see Achilles and Patroclus get to know each other as well as explore the building tension between them and Achilles’ goddess mother. When the war started, I think it got a little tedious and I was really unsure of how I felt about Achilles but I do think the way Briseis’ character is explored really adds to that part of the story. I was overwhelmingly sad for Patroclus and really love this story.

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

Release Date: August 20, 2020

Genre: Adult romance, short stories, mythology

Pages: 278

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Discover love from times long ago…

Join Bolu Babalola as she retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology in this stunning collection. From the homoromantic Greek myths, to magical Nigerian folktales, to the ancient stories of South Asia, Bolu brings new life to tales that truly show the vibrance and colours of love around the world.

The anthology is a step towards decolonising tropes of love, and celebrates in the wildly beautiful and astonishingly diverse tales of romance and desire that already exist in so many cultures and communities.

Get lost in these mystical worlds and you will soon realise that humanity – like love – comes in technicolour.

Brief Thoughts

“What matters most is that you feel like you are at your fullest.”

Short story collections are often hit or miss for me but this one just might be the best collection I’ve ever read. There isn’t a single story that bored me or that I didn’t like. The writing in these stories is so beautiful. It is so nice to see stories of joy and love for people of color rather than trauma. The women in these stories are largely powerful and have autonomy which you might not always get in older texts such as mythical tales. I wasn’t familiar with many of the source texts but I still really enjoyed reading these stories and want to look more into the stories I don’t know. The first story was a bit confusing but that might have been because I didn’t know the source material so looking up that story might help me fully appreciate it more. Some standout stories in this collection include Scheherazade which is based on 1001 Nights, Zhinu based on The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, and Psyche. For Psyche, imagine your favs from Greek mythology working at a fashion magazine called Olympus! I am so excited to see what else Bolu Babalola writes because this collection is beautiful.

I’m still reading manga just at a bit of a slower pace from last month. I will probably wrap all of those up in an individual post since I’m just working through one series (Blue Exorcist). Have you read any of these? Do you want to? Come chat with me!

Ace of Spades Review

Ace of Spades

Release Date: June 10, 2021

Genre: YA Thriller, Dark Academia

Pages: 480

Publisher: Usborne

Click here for trigger warnings.

Pre-order here!

Goodreads Synopsis

An incendiary and utterly compelling thriller with a shocking twist that delves deep into the heart of institutionalized racism, from an exceptional new YA voice. Welcome to Niveus Private Academy, where money paves the hallways, and the students are never less than perfect. Until now. Because anonymous texter, Aces, is bringing two students’ dark secrets to light. Talented musician Devon buries himself in rehearsals, but he can’t escape the spotlight when his private photos go public. Head girl Chiamaka isn’t afraid to get what she wants, but soon everyone will know the price she has paid for power. Someone is out to get them both. Someone who holds all the aces. And they’re planning much more than a high-school game…

Review

***ARC provided through NetGalley***

Ace of Spades by Faridah Àbíké-Íyímídé is one of my most anticipated releases this year and I couldn’t wait to dive into this YA dark academia novel, debut. I was immediately drawn to the characters in this story. Readers follow two points of view, the only two Black students at Niveus, as their secrets are slowly revealed to the school and in the first half, there’s this unease that slowly builds until the second half where the tension really starts to pick up. Then, there’s a constant feeling of dread and hopelessness as Devon and Chiamaka try to figure out what’s happening and why. I’ve never read a young adult dark academia before and wasn’t sure what to expect and I was nervous there would be a lot of high school drama. I was wrong. There are elements of drama that happens in high schools but with the stakes getting higher and higher as the story continues, it’s so much more than that.

Further, I was also invested in the relationships the main characters had throughout the story whether it was with friends or family. As the story progresses, these relationships are challenged and things start to change. Devon and Chiamaka feel that they can’t trust anyone outside of their family and that feeling is passed on to the reader. I was questioning EVERYONE. When it comes to their families, they have to decide how much to tell them about what’s going on and how anything they tell them will impact them in the long run. I can’t spoil anything but the stakes are MUCH higher than you might think at the beginning of this story and I was racing to the end because I needed to have answers. And that ending… *chef’s kiss*.

I really appreciate what this book does thematically; the dark academia genre is incredibly white and sometimes fails to really critique the issues within academia. This story centers Black characters and deals with themes of institutional racism and how that racism is something that is passed down over generations. I was terrified for Devon and Chiamaka as they navigated this horrific situation and I think Àbíké-Íyímídé leaves readers with so much to think about. I highly recommend pre-ordering this book if you can, or just checking it out next month when it comes out.

Recent Reads 13

Here are the last of the books I read in April while also participating in a 30 Days of Manga challenge. This week I have a beloved fantasy I didn’t really love, a historical fiction with a touch of magical realism, and a phenomenal YA fantasy. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

Release Date: March 16, 2020

Genre: Contemporary Fantasy?

Pages: 394

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A magical island. A dangerous task. A burning secret.

Linus Baker leads a quiet, solitary life. At forty, he lives in a tiny house with a devious cat and his old records. As a Case Worker at the Department in Charge Of Magical Youth, he spends his days overseeing the well-being of children in government-sanctioned orphanages.

When Linus is unexpectedly summoned by Extremely Upper Management he’s given a curious and highly classified assignment: travel to Marsyas Island Orphanage, where six dangerous children reside: a gnome, a sprite, a wyvern, an unidentifiable green blob, a were-Pomeranian, and the Antichrist. Linus must set aside his fears and determine whether or not they’re likely to bring about the end of days.

But the children aren’t the only secret the island keeps. Their caretaker is the charming and enigmatic Arthur Parnassus, who will do anything to keep his wards safe. As Arthur and Linus grow closer, long-held secrets are exposed, and Linus must make a choice: destroy a home or watch the world burn.

An enchanting story, masterfully told, The House in the Cerulean Sea is about the profound experience of discovering an unlikely family in an unexpected place—and realizing that family is yours.

Brief Review

“Change often starts with the smallest of whispers. Like-minded people building it up to a roar.”

I’m really torn about this book so I’m going to break this review up into things I like and things I don’t like. I really appreciate how many touching moments there were with the kids. They really were the best part of the story. The humor really was exactly my style and I laughed out loud more than once. I also was really interested in the interactions between the kids and the villagers in town. There was definitely some prejudice on the side of the villagers and so you never knew what was going to happen when they were confronted with the kids just trying to live their lives. This book really gets into themes of acceptance and the way people who are treated. It’s nothing new and groundbreaking but it was pretty cute.

That being said, I think the pacing for this book was not the best. I had a hard time getting into the story in the beginning and it felt a bit slow. I think the second half picked up a bit but the start was a little lacking plot wise. I also found it strange how focused TJ Klune was on Linus being overweight. It came up so much. I think he was trying to make a point about accepting yourself or about internalized fatphobia but it just felt weird and forced and I really did not enjoy those throwaway comments about how Linus felt like he shouldn’t eat X because he’s worried about his weight or whatever. Overall, there are cute elements to this story and they made me laugh but, for me, the annoying bits are practically equal to the things I enjoyed.

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

The Night Tiger by Yangsze Choo

Release Date: February 12, 2019

Genre: Adult historical fiction, magical realism

Pages: 384

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A sweeping historical novel about a dancehall girl and an orphan boy whose fates entangle over an old Chinese superstition about men who turn into tigers.

When 11-year-old Ren’s master dies, he makes one last request of his Chinese houseboy: that Ren find his severed finger, lost years ago in an accident, and reunite it with his body. Ren has 49 days, or else his master’s soul will roam the earth, unable to rest in peace.

Ji Lin always wanted to be a doctor, but as a girl in 1930s Malaysia, apprentice dressmaker is a more suitable occupation. Secretly, though, Ji Lin also moonlights as a dancehall girl to help pay off her beloved mother’s Mahjong debts. One night, Ji Lin’s dance partner leaves her with a gruesome souvenir: a severed finger. Convinced the finger is bad luck, Ji Lin enlists the help of her erstwhile stepbrother to return it to its rightful owner.

As the 49 days tick down, and a prowling tiger wreaks havoc on the town, Ji Lin and Ren’s lives intertwine in ways they could never have imagined. Propulsive and lushly written, The Night Tiger explores colonialism and independence, ancient superstition and modern ambition, sibling rivalry and first love. Braided through with Chinese folklore and a tantalizing mystery, this novel is a page-turner of the highest order.

Brief Thoughts

“We were a chocolate-box family, I thought. Brightly wrapped on the outside and oozing sticky darkness within.”

I haven’t read much historical fiction or magical realism recently and that might be why I found the beginning of this book to be pretty slow. When I did start to latch on to this story, I was primarily thinking about it from an academic perspective since I was exposed to a lot of colonial literature in undergrad. I think this story is interesting as a foil for those texts since it’s written by a woman of color and offers undeniable criticism of colonization. This story contains a great deal of mystery and mysterious deaths and at the center, it appears at least one white doctor is the common denominator. Malaysian people are the primary victims, many of whom are women and that gave me a lot to think about in terms of colonization criticism. If I were going to write a research paper, I might pair this with something like South Sea Tales by Robert Louis Stevenson and talk about how authors of color are now able to combat these narratives and use their own voices via historical fiction while celebrating their cultural traditions through magical realism.

I know this review is REALLY different from what I usually write but 90% of my notes on this book are me thinking about how I would write a paper about this text. The other 10% is about how much I didn’t enjoy the toxic romance and how magical realism is really hit or miss for me.

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 8, 2013

Genre: YA Fantasy, Mythology

Pages: 597

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Since this is the fourth book in a series, I will link the synopsis to the first book here, and this book here.

Brief Thoughts

“Oh, I wouldn’t say Love always makes you happy. Sometimes it makes you incredibly sad.”

This *might* be my favorite book in the Heroes of Olympus series so far. The main characters are really split up in this book so that means there’s a lot of jumping around. I really enjoy stories that do that because the pace feels even faster than it already is. I was particularly interested in Percy and Annabeth’s situation. Riordan also blesses us with more Nico content and the reveal from him around the halfway point broke my heart but also made me happy. Protect Nico at all costs, thank you. There is also a plot line with Leo on his own that I thought was very cute. Before this, I wasn’t super invested in Leo as a character but I think this really raised my interest. The themes of friendship felt so particularly strong in this book and I am nervous to see what happens in the final book of this wonderful series.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

30 Days of Manga Wrap-up

In the month of April, I decided to try to read 30 volumes of manga in 30 days. I own a lot of manga and really wanted to make a dent in my collection. I decided to read the entirety of Tokyo Ghoul, the entirety of Death Note, and the first four issues of my favorite series, Blue Exorcist. I didn’t include these in my monthly favorites or my recent reads because I wanted to talk about them in their own post. This is that post. I know manga and comics don’t always do well in the book community, but I hope those of you that are interested will enjoy hearing my thoughts.

Tokyo Ghoul vol. 1

The first series I read through was Tokyo Ghoul by Sui Ishida. This series follows Ken Kaneki who is living a pretty normal life; he loves books and hanging out with his best friend. But when an accident happens that leaves him half-ghoul and half-human, he must figure out how to survive in both worlds.

This series is one that I’ve been mildly interested in both in anime and manga form but just never picked up. I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it but the more I saw people talk about it, the more certain I became that it would be something I love. I treated myself to the manga boxed set earlier this year and when I planned a “30 days of manga” challenge for myself, I knew this had to be part of it. This series is phenomenal! It opens the door for discussions about good vs. evil and morality. I expected a horror series full of twists and turns and gore; I got that, but I also got so much more. I think what really added to my enjoyment the most was something that I didn’t think I would like – we get to follow both the ghouls and the humans whose job is to hunt the ghouls and that is what really leads to some further understanding of good vs. evil. 

The characters really added to my enjoyment of this series, as well. Sui Ishida creates a few characters that really had me wanting to know everything I possibly can about them. The first character I was really drawn to was Uta. He’s a mask maker for ghouls and his character design alone was enough to hook me. Talk about FASHION. We don’t get a ton about him but I loved the things I was able to learn. I am also really interested in Juuzou Suzuya, the ghoul investigator. His backstory is brutal and heartbreaking and I really felt bad for him.

Overall, this series was so much more than I thought it would be and I am so glad I read each issue back-to-back so I could really immerse myself in the story. I hope to watch the anime at some point though I’ve heard mixed things.

Death Note All-In-One Edition

The next series I picked up was Death Note by Tsugumi Ohba. I know a lot of people have an idea of what this series is about but I’ll still give a general synopsis. When Light finds a notebook that was dropped by a death god, he learns that any name written on the pages will die. He vows to use it to rid the world of evil but once the police and a detective, L, start trying to figure out what’s going on, Light has to become even more clever so that he can evade capture.

I received the all-in-one edition of Death Note for Christmas so I knew I wanted to include it in my 30-day manga challenge. The first four or five volumes were a reread for me but a particular plot twist made me stop reading the first time. I pushed through this time and while that specific twist didn’t bother me as much this time around, I still didn’t LOVE the series. In this story, you get to see both Light and the people who are trying to capture him and their thought processes unfold right before your eyes. In Tokyo Ghoul, that sort of dynamic really worked for me but here, I felt that I spent pages and pages reading characters figuring out things that the reader already knows. Sometimes it was interesting to see how they got there but other times, it was very tedious. I also think there was a lot of info-dumping going on. This makes me realize that while my taste in anime is not usually action-heavy, I do want more action in my manga.

My experience wasn’t all bad, though. Again, as with Tokyo Ghoul, the conversations about right and wrong, good vs. evil, were really interesting because Light really is a morally gray character. By using the Death Note to kill criminals, crime rates fall and people feel safer but who is he to get to decide who dies and who doesn’t? It’s a fascinating situation to watch unfold in a fictional world. I also think the Shinigami (death gods) are so funny and they really made the whole story especially in the second half. Sidoh is absolutely a gem and is by far the best thing in the second half of this story. I do think that towards the end the stakes felt really high and the tension was wonderfully built and I appreciated that after some of the more tedious chapters. I could say so much more about this series, particularly the way women were quite literally used in the story but this I’ve already talked a lot so I’ll save it.

Blue Exorcist vol. 1

After completing these series, I spent the last four days of the month rereading the first four volumes of Blue Exorcist. This anime is definitely one of my favorites and I’ve read a huge chunk of the manga but I took a break ages ago. My goal is to start at the beginning and get caught up. This series is about Rin who thinks he’s a normal kid until one day, demons attack him. He then finds out that he’s the son of Satan. Oh, and he was raised by an exorcist. He then goes on to an exorcist school with the hopes of learning how to defeat Satan.

I’m only going to talk about the first four issues here because I am planning to keep reading a chapter per day until I’m caught up so I don’t have a ton to say other than that this is definitely still a favorite. I like manga that combines action elements with complicated friendship dynamics and comedy. This certainly does that. Rin has to hide his powers from others and that adds to the tension of the story. The fight scenes are really exciting. The other students at the academy are just as interesting as Rin and I love getting to know more about them. This is the first anime (besides Sailor Moon and Pokemon) that I really got into and I immediately picked up the manga. It has a special place in my heart and I can’t wait to get caught up on the story.

Also, this isn’t manga but I started reading Lore Olympus this month. People have been telling me to pick it up but I don’t remember anyone telling me that it was a romance! When I discovered that tidbit, I immediately started reading it and now I can’t stop. IT’S SO CUTE AND FUN! I’m sure I’m the only one who hadn’t picked it up but if you haven’t, please do.

Do you like manga, graphic novels, or comics? Do you have any recommendations? Please let me know!!

Recent Reads 12

I’m currently in the middle of a “30 days of manga” challenge but I’m not going to talk about all the issues individually but I have some other books I want to talk about. This week I have a truly feminist YA fantasy, a “meh” historical fiction, and a YA contemporary where the movie is better. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Release Date: February 9, 2021

Genre: YA fantasy

Pages: 432

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs.

But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death.

Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat.

Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.

Brief Review

“My anger builds as I realize how thoroughly my mind has been poisoned that I would be shocked to see women in these positions.”

This book does not shy away from the brutality of war the mistreatment and gore Deka and others like her have to face. From the beginning, Forna makes this clear and gets to the point. Forna has also given YA audiences the truly feminist fantasy they need. Women are shown in positions of power at the training facilities and the girls have such a focus on protecting each other, working together, and friendships. While there is a budding romance in this story, Deka’s friendship with Britta (who is absolutely the cutest) is valued just as much if not MORE than her romantic interest. While I had an idea of what the twist was going to be, I still really enjoyed reading The Gilded Ones. This story is largely about building up the word and Deka discovering her powers and origin and sets up for an interesting series. I don’t usually have the urge to annotate fantasy but when I re-read this in preparation for the sequel, there are some places I’d like to go back and highlight.

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

Ross Poldark by Winston Graham

Release Date: 1945

Genre: Adult historical fiction

Pages: 379

Goodreads Synopsis

In the first novel in Winston Graham’s hit series, a weary Ross Poldark returns to England from the American War of Independence (1783), looking forward to a joyful homecoming with his beloved Elizabeth. But instead he discovers his father has died, his home is overrun by livestock and drunken servants, and Elizabeth—believing Ross to be dead—is now engaged to his cousin. Ross has no choice but to start his life anew.

Thus begins the Poldark series, a heartwarming, gripping saga set in the windswept landscape of Cornwall. With an unforgettable cast of characters that spans loves, lives, and generations, this extraordinary masterwork from Winston Graham is a story you will never forget.

Brief Thoughts

“The greatest thing is to have someone who loves you and—and to love in return.”

I barely have thoughts about this book. It wasn’t bad by any means; I just listened to the story and had no thoughts about what was happening. It was truly the most middle-of-the-road story I’ve ever read. I usually find some enjoyment in books set in this time period but for some reason, I just didn’t feel any connection to what was happening. There is drama and our main character has some heroic moments but by the end, I was just upping the audiobook speed as much as I could. I might try and watch the BBC series and see if that makes me more interested because, by all accounts, this should have worked for me but it just didn’t and I wish I knew why. 

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

Release Date: September 15, 2015

Genre: YA Contemporary

Pages: 371

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.

Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.

With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

Brief Thoughts

“All my life I’ve had a body worth commenting on and if living in my skin has taught me anything it’s that if it’s not your body, it’s not yours to comment on.”

I was really unsure about this book, especially in the beginning. I found myself preferring the film in part because the plot is lacking and also because Willowdean is a bit judgemental of others. The more I thought about the story, the more I was okay with her being a bit unlikable in the beginning. I don’t need to totally love main characters and I think she learns too as the story continues. One of the major takeaways from the story is that people deserve to exist just the way they are. Whether they’re fat or have imperfect teeth or whatever, they don’t have to want to change. I think people expect people with physical imperfections to WANT to change them but sometimes they don’t And that’s okay.

Speaking specifically about the fat rep, I thought this was pretty good. There’s a balance between insecurity (mostly caused by her mother) and knowing that she doesn’t have to and doesn’t want to change. I really related to a lot of what Willowdean was feeling especially when she felt insecure about being touched. It’s like you become hyper-aware of what your body must feel like compared to what the beauty standard must feel like. While I think the plot was a bit slow, I’ll likely pick up the sequel from my library eventually because there are things I enjoyed about this story including, but not limited to, the Dolly Parton references. I was reminded of how good “Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That?” is. Can’t stop listening to it.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 11

I’m currently in the middle of a “30 days of manga” challenge but I’m not going to talk about all the issues individually but I have some other books I want to talk about. This week I have one of the weirdest books I’ve ever read, a WILD story about motherhood, and the next book in a series that almost redeemed how bad the last book was. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Bunny by Mona Awad

Bunny by Mona Awad

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Genre: Adult horror, dark academia

Pages: 307

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Samantha Heather Mackey couldn’t be more of an outsider in her small, highly selective MFA program at New England’s Warren University. A scholarship student who prefers the company of her dark imagination to that of most people, she is utterly repelled by the rest of her fiction writing cohort–a clique of unbearably twee rich girls who call each other “Bunny,” and seem to move and speak as one.

But everything changes when Samantha receives an invitation to the Bunnies’ fabled “Smut Salon,” and finds herself inexplicably drawn to their front door–ditching her only friend, Ava, in the process. As Samantha plunges deeper and deeper into the Bunnies’ sinister yet saccharine world, beginning to take part in the ritualistic off-campus “Workshop” where they conjure their monstrous creations, the edges of reality begin to blur. Soon, her friendships with Ava and the Bunnies will be brought into deadly collision.

The spellbinding new novel from one of our most fearless chroniclers of the female experience, Bunny is a down-the-rabbit-hole tale of loneliness and belonging, friendship and desire, and the fantastic and terrible power of the imagination.

Brief Review

“Why do you lie so much? And about the weirdest little things?”, my mother always asked me. “I don’t know”, I always said. But I did know. It was very simple. Because it was a better story.”

This is probably going to be in my top 10 for 2021. I don’t think I could really explain this book if I tried but I did jot down some thoughts while I was reading and I’m going to try to make them read cohesively. I immediately related to Samantha, not just because we share a first name but because we both grew up creating stories. I almost got my MFA instead of my MA so this was an interesting main character for me to follow. This book kept me thinking and I’m still thinking and theorizing about this story. I don’t usually try to guess twists or guess what’s going to happen in books but Awad forces you to be confused along with the main character. I was constantly asking myself “is this real or is this a metaphor for X?” Parts of it, especially towards the end, felt like a commentary on imposter syndrome, and that GREATLY resonated with me. This book has some gruesome and potentially disturbing imagery and I’ll include some trigger warnings but I also think this book is quite funny, especially the Bunnies. This book is so well written and made me want to write again. At the end of this post, I’ll share a photo of the page I created in my reading journal based on this book.

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: Adult phychological drama

Pages: 307

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A tense, page-turning psychological drama about the making and breaking of a family–and a woman whose experience of motherhood is nothing at all what she hoped for–and everything she feared.

Blythe Connor is determined that she will be the warm, comforting mother to her new baby Violet that she herself never had.

But in the thick of motherhood’s exhausting early days, Blythe becomes convinced that something is wrong with her daughter–she doesn’t behave like most children do.

Or is it all in Blythe’s head? Her husband, Fox, says she’s imagining things. The more Fox dismisses her fears, the more Blythe begins to question her own sanity, and the more we begin to question what Blythe is telling us about her life as well.

Then their son Sam is born–and with him, Blythe has the blissful connection she’d always imagined with her child. Even Violet seems to love her little brother. But when life as they know it is changed in an instant, the devastating fall-out forces Blythe to face the truth.

The Push is a tour de force you will read in a sitting, an utterly immersive novel that will challenge everything you think you know about motherhood, about what we owe our children, and what it feels like when women are not believed.

Brief Thoughts

“We could have counted our problems on the petals of the daisy in my bouquet, but it wouldn’t be long before we were lost in a field of them.”

PLEASE CHECK THE TRIGGER WARNINGS FOR THIS BOOK! I’ve seen people describe this as a thriller but I think that the synopsis calling it a psychological drama is MUCH more accurate. The mother, Blythe, is an unreliable character and seems to have an unfounded dislike for her daughter but as events unfold and her husband is increasingly frustrating, I started wanting to believe Blythe more. I was uncomfortable reading through Blythe sometimes because I didn’t want to believe the same things as her. There are flashbacks throughout the book that give a glimpse into her mother and grandmother and what they were like as parents. There is definitely some commentary on women feeling pressured to have children and then realize they hate it. Audrain seems to really challenge the “natural mother” any woman who has made the decision to not have kids has heard about 1000 times.

There are some things that didn’t work for me, though. Some of them are picky such as, “What does she do for work in the second half of the book?” or “the ending is wild but maybe confuses the message a bit.” Another thing that raised a flag was Blythe expressing that she would hate to have a disabled kid. It was such a yikes moment; I think it fits with Blythe’s non-nurturing nature towards her daughter, Violet, and made me question her as a character even more but it is something I wanted to point out in this review.

You can see a list of trigger warnings on The Storygraph page (linked above) for this book. Please check them if you need them especially with anything surrounding children because I was taken by surprise.

Tik-Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Tik Tok of Oz

Release Date: 1914

Genre: Children’s fantasy classic

Pages: 272

Goodreads Synopsis

Join Tik-Tok, the Shaggy Man, and a host of other friends–both old and new–on an exciting, imaginative journey through the world of Oz.

The fun begins in an isolated corner of Oz, in the small country of Oogaboo. There Queen Ann Soforth musters an unlikely army and sets off to conquer the rest of Oz. Meanwhile, a girl from Oklahoma named Betsy Bobbin and her companion, Hank the mule, are shipwrecked and washed ashore in the Rose Kingdom, a magical land of talking roses. There they meet the Shaggy Man, who is on a quest to rescue his brother from the clutches of the wicked Nome King. Betsy, Hank, and the Rose Princess join the Shaggy Man on his journey, and before long they meet up with Polychrome, the Rainbow’s Daughter; Tik-Tok; and Queen Ann with her army. The rest of Baum’s tale is filled with hairbreadth escapes, wild puns, and mystifying magic.

Brief Thoughts

“If we didn’t want anything, we would never get anything, good or bad. I think our longings are natural, and if we act as nature prompts us we can’t go far wrong.”

I wasn’t a huge fan of the previous Oz book but this one was a bit better. From the beginning, Ann made me laugh. Her reasoning behind any of her actions struck me as ridiculous. I also really liked Betsy Bobbin. She and her mule, Hank, were stuck in the Rose Kingdom and she was a strong character throughout the rest of the book. She said, “Well, I’m not afraid of a man.” and that’s a mood. Baum explores themes of colonialism, slavery, and refugees in this story and it’s interesting to see how these things work in a land such as Oz. It’s a definite improvement after the last book. And Toto has an interesting surprise at the end of the story!

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 10

I guess my reading slump is kind of over because I feel like I flew through these next books!  This time I’ll be talking about a memoir about a Black man who infiltrates the KKK, a coming-of-age story told in verse, and a whimsical classic. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Black Klansman by Ron Stallworth

Black Klansman

Release Date: May 13, 2014

Genre: Adult memoir

Pages: 191

Trigger warnings include racism, racial slurs, and KKK imagery.

Goodreads Synopsis

In 1978 the community of Colorado Springs, Colorado experienced a growth of Ku Klux Klan (KKK) membership. One man dared to challenge their effort and thwart attempts to take over the city, Police Detective Ron Stallworth. He launched an undercover investigation into the Klan, gained membership into the organization, briefly served as Duke’s bodyguard, and was eventually asked to be the leader of the Colorado Springs chapter. The irony of this investigation was that Stallworth is… A Black man. In the process he battled internal departmental politics to successfully pull off this “sting.” Black Klansman explains how he overcame these obstacles and accomplished this almost unbelievable unique achievement.

Brief Review

“Publicly he would not talk about hate but about heritage and history. He spawned a new racism for the right-wing masses, one that melded the antipathy to blacks and other minorities to general dissatisfaction with government and fear of an ever-changing complex world.”

One of the first things that struck me about this story is that it doesn’t take place in the American south. So many times we want to relegate that kind of hatred to the south but it’s everywhere; just pointing at the south is not the way to talk and think about racism. This story is particularly interesting because it gives so much insight into some of their recruitment tactics in the late 70’s as well as about the ways they tried to push their message. It wasn’t just cross burning and making themselves known by rallying; the people Stallworth was dealing with were active politically and either trying to register their members to vote or even running for office themselves. They also had a lot of ties to religion which is something interesting to consider. I also appreciated the conversations surrounding media coverage and how that gives their group a sense of validation. This was in the late 70s so just think about what the advent of social media means for them. Beyond the serious and intriguing insight this memoir gives, Stallworth finds ways to include humor to poke fun at their ideas and how others perceived them. This is a short, easy-to-understand memoir and I definitely recommend it if you’re interested in this topic.

The Poey X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X

Release Date: March 6, 2018

Genre: YA contemporary

Pages: 368

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.

But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.

So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.

Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.

Brief Thoughts

“I only know that learning to believe in the power of my own words has been the most freeing experience of my life. It has brought me the most light. And isn’t that what a poem is? A lantern glowing in the dark.”

I picked up the audiobook for The Poet X while I was on a walk and needed something to listen to. I was immediately drawn into Acevedo’s voice and storytelling and couldn’t stop listening even after my walk was over. This is a short story but one that packs so much into it. I remember thinking that if I’d picked this up at my local library when I was a teenager, it would have been one of those that I checked out over and over again. I really appreciated the discussion about religion and women’s bodies. Xiomara is made to see her changing body as something that will bring her trouble and something she needs to pray about. Seeing her struggle particularly with this aspect of religion was something I don’t think I’ve seen explored in a YA book before. At the end of the story, Xiomara comes to her own conclusion about religion that I think is beautiful and something that would have really stuck with me growing up in the US south.

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll

Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

Release Date: November 1, 1865

Genre: Children’s fantasy classic

Pages: 96

Goodreads Synopsis

After a tumble down the rabbit hole, Alice finds herself far away from home in the absurd world of Wonderland. As mind-bending as it is delightful, Lewis Carroll’s 1865 novel is pure magic for young and old alike.

Brief Thoughts

“If you drink much from a bottle marked ‘poison,’ it is almost certain to disagree with you, sooner or later.”

I picked this audiobook up because I was at a point where I needed a ton of audiobooks while I was working. This was a re-read for me as I’ve read this story countless times before but I always enjoy coming back to it. It’s probably the definition of whimsical and it’s certainly nonsensical but much like with Oz, I like seeing who or what Alice will encounter next. I particularly love the scene where she’s stuck in the house and the White Rabbit has to get Bill to help. That’s one of my favorite parts of the first Disney film, as well. My other favorite part of the film isn’t included in the book but I’ll share it below. I don’t remember having read the second part of this story before (though I might have as a small child) but I am excited to listen to it the next time I need a quick audiobook.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 9

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! This time I’ll be talking about a problematic book in a children’s series, a contemporary romance I have mixed feelings about, and a continuation of a fun fantasy series. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Release Date: 1913

Genre: Children’s fantasy

Pages: 346

Trigger warnings include racism.

Goodreads Synopsis

Forced to venture out of the dark forest, Unc Nunkie and Ojo the Unlucky call on the Crooked Magician, who introduces them to his latest creation: a living girl made out of patchwork quilts and cotton stuffing. But when an accident leaves beloved Unc Nunkie a motionless statue, it is up to Ojo to save him. In his search for the magic ingredients that will restore his uncle to life, Ojo is joined by the Patchwork Girl and by the conceited Glass Cat, who boasts of her hard ruby heart, the resourceful Shaggy Man, and the lovable block-headed Woozy, whose tail hairs are just one of the things Ojo needs to rescue Une Nunkie.

As they travel to the Emerald City, home of the wise and powerful Ozma, they meet Dorothy, the kind and sensible girl from Kansas; the gallant Scarecrow; and, of course, Toto. But no one proves more loyal than the spirited Patchwork Girl, who, although she was brought to life as a servant, is determined to see the wide world for herself.

Brief Review

“But I have noticed that those who continually dread ill luck and fear it will overtake them, have no time to take advantage of any good fortune that comes their way.”

While I like the idea of a story where the characters are on a quest to collect things in order to save people, the characters really let me down in this one. I’ve always been a big fan of the characters and beings Baum creates but this one just wasn’t it. The first half of the book is spent with a new cast of characters and almost all of them were annoying. There is a  glass cat that is particularly irritating. Later on, we see some more familiar characters including my guy, the Shaggy Man, but it was too late. I do think there are some interesting things going on here as far as thinking about the ideals of Oz; I am particularly interested in the story opening with people who don’t have enough food because that just isn’t something I expected to happen in a place like Oz. I also thought a lot about the Patchwork Girl and the fact that she was brought to life in order to be a servant for the family who created her. I don’t want to spoil the ending so I can’t say more but something happens with that. Lastly, I can’t talk about this book and not talk about the racist depiction of what is likely the Khoekhoe people from southern Africa. They don’t play a major role in the story but do prove to be a minor obstacle to the main plot. I can’t say I was surprised to see it given when it was written. It reminded me of a less intense version of what was going on in the last book in the Narnia series. Overall, the worst in the series so far.

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Release Date: May 30, 2018

Genre: Adult contemporary romance

Pages: 314

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

A heartwarming and refreshing debut novel that proves one thing: there’s not enough data in the world to predict what will make your heart tick.

Stella Lane thinks math is the only thing that unites the universe. She comes up with algorithms to predict customer purchases — a job that has given her more money than she knows what to do with, and way less experience in the dating department than the average thirty-year-old.

It doesn’t help that Stella has Asperger’s and French kissing reminds her of a shark getting its teeth cleaned by pilot fish. Her conclusion: she needs lots of practice — with a professional. Which is why she hires escort Michael Phan. The Vietnamese and Swedish stunner can’t afford to turn down Stella’s offer, and agrees to help her check off all the boxes on her lesson plan — from foreplay to more-than-missionary position…

Before long, Stella not only learns to appreciate his kisses, but to crave all the other things he’s making her feel. Soon, their no-nonsense partnership starts making a strange kind of sense. And the pattern that emerges will convince Stella that love is the best kind of logic…

Brief Thoughts

“When you love someone, you fight for them in every way you know how.”

I’m not sure how I felt about this book so I am going to break this review into things I enjoyed and things I felt unsure about.

Like: The start isn’t slow. By chapter two or three it already feels like things are going where some romances feel like they take a bit to hook me. I also liked the love interest, Michael, in regards to the dynamic he has with his family. He has an interesting past with his father and some things going on with his mother and that was engaging to read about. I also really liked the relationship he had with his sisters. They were so funny and comfortable with each other. There were also interactions between him and Stella that were very sweet. I also enjoyed being in Stella’s head. Learning about how she thinks especially when it comes to her work was fun.

Didn’t like so much: Sometimes Michael felt pushy. Stella wanted help learning things but it felt like Michael sometimes would brush her discomfort aside and just continue. This, of course, wasn’t all the time and I don’t think the consent was dubious but it felt like she was uncomfortable and then just wasn’t really suddenly. There are also some jealousy issues with Michael and I just didn’t like it at all. I don’t want to say too much but he was very jealous and pushy towards to end to try and win Stella back. I didn’t like reading those scenes at all. I have also seen some discourse about the autism rep as far as Stella just magically being “better” around Michael and while I can’t speak about this as I’m not part of the community, I would urge you to check out some own voices reviewers before or after going into this one because it’s something we should be aware of when discussing this particular book.

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 2, 2012

Genre: Middle-grade fantasy

Pages: 586

Goodreads Synopsis

Since this is the third in a series, here’s a link to the first book in this series and a link to the synopsis for this book.

Brief Thoughts

“Hercules, huh? Percy frowned. “That guy was like the Starbucks of Ancient Greece. Everywhere you turn–there he is.”

I feel like this third book in the Heroes of Olympus series is really where things start to take off. I really loved seeing this group of demigods take on such a big quest. The fact that they had to figure out how to work together in pretty dire circumstances really heightened the tension. I also think this book really allowed us to get to know Annabeth more than we have in the past. She has definitely had moments to shine in the last series but here, I was incredibly impressed with her as a character. I only have two books left in this series before I jump into the Kane Chronicles and I’m really excited to see where this is going to go.

What have you been reading recently? Have you read any of these? Are you interested in any of them? Come chat with me!