Top 5 Books on my TBR (Physical)

I’m sure we’ve all done it. We are so excited about a book and we purchase it and then other things get in the way of reading it immediately. Whether it’s life in general, books we need to read for review or a project, readathons and book clubs, or my downfall lately, all those library holds, something prevents us from getting to those books we genuinely are excited about. I wanted to talk about some of those books I haven’t gotten to yet but am really excited about so here are my top five (in no particular order) books I physically own that I want to get to. I’ll have another list later for ebooks.

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia. P. Manansala

Browsing my shelves, the first book I see that *really* excites me is Arsenic and Adobo by Mia P. Manansala. This is the first book in a new cozy mystery series with Filipino characters. This particular story follows Lila who moves back home to help her aunt’s failing restaurant. When her ex boyfriend and food critic dies after going to the restaurant, people begin suspecting her. That’s all I really know but I haven’t read any mysteries this year which is surprising for me but I think this one will really get me back into my normal mystery mood.

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend

Next, I am really drawn to Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend. I read the first book in this middle-grade fantasy series, Nevermoor, last year and it was such a fun time. I really liked the whimsy and escapism this series has provided me with so far and want more from this world. I was trying to spread them out a bit since I can’t get the third book in paperback until late this summer so that’s why I’ve been waiting to pick up Wundersmith but with the twist at the end of Nevermoor, I’m really itching to see where the story is going to go.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

There’s obviously going to be more than one contemporary romance on this list because I am very much in the mood for them but I keep getting library books and then can’t pick them up but the first one I want to talk about is The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon. I mentioned wanting to pick this up in my post about my new interest in romance and I ultimately did. This follows two radio hosts who have to pretend they used to date in order to keep listeners invested in their radio show. I think this sounds like such a fun time and will give me all the summer vibes that I associate with contemporary books.

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

I’ll just go ahead and talk about another romance I picked up and am excited for – Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron. I don’t know a ton about this book other than there’s Muslim rep and the love interest is her neighbor but honestly? That’s enough for me. I’ve been keeping my eyes open for some more POC romances and the number of books with Muslim rep I’ve read are much lower than they should be so I figured this would be a fun one to pick up. I imagine myself carrying this book (and the last one) with me to my local beach and just sitting in the sun for a few hours and having a nice afternoon.

The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

The last book is sort of cheating because it’s three of them – The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin. It’s no secret how much I loved The Broken Earth Trilogy, especially The Fifth Season and I got a bind-up of The Inheritance Trilogy not long after discovering how much I love N. K. Jemisin’s writing. The Inheritance Trilogy deals with gods and mortals and there is a political power struggle and that’s about all I know but I love Jemisin so much, I don’t need anything else. So far, she’s truly taught me that I can love complex fantasy and shown me what fantasy can really be and I’ll never not be appreciative of that. I want to work my way through all of her works but I am pretty intimidated because what I’ve read so far really takes focus and commitment – something I’m lacking lately.

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I’d love to be able to read these soon because I’m just so excited about them. Hopefully my library holds spread out a little more and I can pick them up soon. Does this happen to you? What are you excited to read that you just haven’t been able to get to yet? Let me know!

February 2021 Favs

Because I’m doing recent reads every week or so, it doesn’t make sense to do full wrap-ups the way I used to but I do want to have a place to reflect on the month overall so I’m going to start talking about some of my favorite things each month. I’ll start with books but I also want to talk about hobbies, movies, music, TV, etc. To be transparent, it was not a great month for me. My mental health usually takes a dive in February and this time was no exception. I truly spent a lot of time just listening to music and unmotivated to do anything but I do have a few things I want to talk about.

Books

Even though I read significantly less this month than I did in previous months and so many of them were just okay, I still had two books that really stood out to me. They probably won’t surprise you if you’ve been reading my blog but I’m going to talk about them anyway.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

I was INCREDIBLY lucky to receive an ARC of Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert this month. I’ve loved this entire romance series and immediately dropped everything to read this ARC. Obviously, I don’t regret it. If you want a slightly cohesive review, click the link above but I just want to use this space to gush about the one book that made me truly have a fun time this month. I don’t usually read romance but now that I’ve finished this series, I’m looking for more. I couldn’t stop smiling while I was reading about this grumpy/sunshine couple going from annoyed to in love while working together in an English bed and breakfast. The banter was *chef’s kiss* and so was the steam! I went from unsure about Eve to really relating to her in the end and I’m thankful to Hibbert for taking me on that journey with a character. I also loved all the music references. I think I want to compile a playlist of all the mentioned songs just for fun, but I’m sure someone has already done that. The books in this series can be read as standalones so I definitely recommend picking this up when it comes out on March 9!

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

I’m also going to talk about N. K. Jemisin again this month. I read the final book in The Broken Earth Trilogy, The Stone Sky and I’m just going to say this is absolutely my favorite series of all time and I don’t see how anything can top it. This is one of the last books I finished this month and I haven’t written my official review yet so this might be unorganized but I’m always unorganized so what’s the difference? This is how to end a story. There was so much action and the stakes were so high; I couldn’t put it down. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful. What I really appreciate about this series are all of the real-world themes Jemisin covers in this fantasy world. This story is very much about surviving but it also contains discussions of environmentalism, blood relations vs. found family, prejudices, and slavery and exploitation. There is SO MUCH going on and so much to think about and I’d really love to read the entire series again because this is one of those stories where I’m certain I’ll get something else out of it every time I read it again. I can’t recommend this series enough if you’re in the mood for a truly clever fantasy that takes a bit of work but is DEFINITELY worth it.

Music

I’ve still been watching Arctic Monkeys concerts but there are some other songs in my rotation. First, I showed up a little late to the Ashnikko party. Her DEMIDEVIL album is so much fun and I just feel so hyped when I listen to it. Both “Daisy” and “Deal With It” are standouts and I highly recommend. I also found an acoustic cover of Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” and I didn’t know that I needed it but I did. I am considering making playlists in future months but I need to check my privacy settings because I don’t want to expose myself that much 😂

TV/Movies

The Muppet Show opening.

I’m still rewatching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but I’m also watching The Muppet Show. I grew up with practically no internet and limited television so I was constantly watching the couple of Muppet Show VHS tapes we had at my grandma’s house. It definitely shaped a lot of my early music taste and I was thrilled to see it available to stream this month. I still think it’s such an innovative idea for a variety show that showcased celebrities of the time with a combination of comedy and musical numbers. Is it cheesy? Absolutely. Is it sometimes offensive? Unfortunately. While it isn’t perfect, I have fun revisiting episodes I had on VHS and seeing ones I’ve never seen before. So far, Paul Williams from the band, Three Dog Night is my favorite. His version of “An Old Fashioned Love Song” on the show is better than the original. That might be controversial. I don’t know. But here’s a link to a low-quality video of his performance where he sings the song with two muppet versions of himself.

The cast of Knives Out.

I don’t really consider myself a person who likes movies if I’m being honest. There are some that I like, of course but it takes a lot to get me to sit down and watch one. I do like Knives Out, though. Knives Out is sort of a long movie – over two hours. I’ve watched it twice, in full and didn’t scroll through a single app during it either time. It’s a compelling, funny, mystery where the twists don’t stop. Phenomenal. I rewatched this movie a few weeks ago with my partner since he’s never seen it and I had such a fun time seeing him react to all the twists. I’m chasing the feeling of this movie in book form and I’m not sure I’m going to find it.

Hobbies

I had a difficult time enjoying hobbies this month but I did do a few things with my free time outside of reading and watching things. I’ve started making aesthetic journal spreads to review my favorite books each month. I am having a ton of fun planning out spreads and putting things together. I haven’t done one for The Stone Sky yet but I did for Eve Brown and I really like how it turned out (see below).

I’ve also been playing a few videogames. I got the remaster of Super Mario 3D World for Switch. Before Mario Odyssey came out, this was my favorite Mario game of all time. I’ve been trying to make it last and not play through the whole thing in just a few weeks but I’m approaching the end of the main game because I spent a couple of afternoons unable to put it down. It’s such a fun time.

I also started a new cross-stitch project but it’s much more complicated than the one I did before so it’s taking me a bit more time to finish. I’m really excited to show off the final piece.

So what have you been enjoying this month?

Books With Romances I Can Get Behind

If you’re seeing this the day I post it, it’s Valentine’s Day and while I don’t normally care much about this corporate holiday, it does make for a good excuse for me to talk about romance. Now, I don’t usually care about romance in my media. In fact, I often actively avoid it but there are instances where I not only have the patience for it but I also LOVE it. I want to use this day of corporate love to talk about five books with romances I can get behind.

First, I want to talk about a book that comes out next month and that I have a dedicated review scheduled for – Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert. This is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy but you can read them in any order. This is a romance so my enjoyment of the book really hinges on my enjoyment of the romance and while I like all the books in this trilogy, Eve Brown is definitely my favorite. I have a lot I could say about Eve herself but I’ll save that for my full review. What I want to talk about here is the perfect grumpy/sunshine (or annoyed – to – lovers) trope with two thoughtful people with wonderful banter that made me smile the entire time. Eve and Jacob really couldn’t be more opposite in manner but Hibbert made it work and I was rooting for them the whole time.

Not to completely change gears but my next recommendation is a YA contemporary romance called The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. This soft romance between two girls, Nishat and Flavia. They develop a rivalry during a school competition all while Nishat is fighting her feelings Flavia. Their interactions balance that romantic tension and rivalry tension well and make for an intriguing story. The scenes with both girls alone are really heartwarming as they talk through serious issues such as homophobia and cultural appropriation. The whole time I was just hoping for them to be happy.

Next, I want to talk about a historical fiction called Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I know this is a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon but I’ve never seen it. I did, though, pick up this book early in 2020 and immediately found myself wrapped up in Jacob and Marlena’s story. They met at a circus which I think makes for an interesting backdrop for a romance. Marlena is married to a horribly abusive man and works together with Jacob to train an elephant named Rosie; of course, they fall in love. Readers get this story from Jacob as an old man reflecting on his life and that frame narrative really makes it an interesting story.

Speaking of frame narratives, I can’t not mention Atonement by Ian McEwan. I’ll start by saying that this book is heartbreaking. Robbie and Cecilia are in love but ripped apart by a false accusation and the second World War. There are a lot of other things going on in this story but the tragedy surrounding Robbie and Cecilia is something I think about all the time (I like sad books) and I kept wishing they could be back together again and waiting for that opportunity for them. I don’t want to say anything more because so much of the appeal comes from the ending but if you know, then you know.

I struggled for a fifth book. I really did. But I’m going to talk about a book everyone is probably tired of seeing and that’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. While I’m a HUGE Luc fan (don’t come for me), I did really feel emotional at some points in Henry and Addie’s relationship. Addie just wants to be loved and that isn’t really possible when no one can remember her. Addie’s inner monologue at the end of her first date with Henry had me one emotional bitch and I DID NOT see that coming for me. I really liked how the circumstances of their lives worked together and had to be navigated in order for them to work as a couple. Additionally, I really liked the tension in the scenes with Addie and Luc. I know they’re not really the focus but there was *something* there and it was a good time for me.

I like tragic romances and soft romances and basically, romances that make me feel things so do you have any recommendations? How did you feel about these, if you’ve read them? Let me know!

Book Review – Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

I want to survive this world that keeps trying to destroy me.

Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Synopsis

Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?

Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Review

I wanted to write this review earlier in the week, but I had a hard time figuring out how I feel about Ninth House. Before I get into this, I don’t read fantasy that often, and I’ve never read anything by Leigh Bardugo. I went in with hardly any expectations and honestly knew very little about the plot outside of “dark academia.”

The structure of this book was interesting. Chapters jump back and forth in time, and it is definitely one of those books where you have to keep reading to not be confused. I’m not really a fan of that type of narrative structure, but I usually follow along enough to figure it out, but this book felt overly confusing. I felt like I was always missing something.

That being said, I was always interested in where the story was going. I knew that some people were bored by the beginning of the book, but I didn’t see that. A lot was going on all the time. Ghosts, and rituals, and murder, oh my! In addition to the spooky and exciting plot points, many scenes need trigger warnings (listed at the end of this post). Some of it really added to the story, but others felt like they were superfluous. 

Thematically, Ninth House explores the way people in positions of power or people who are generally privileged exploit others for their own gain. Bardugo could have pushed it a little further and may do so in future books in this series. The social commentary in this book reminded me of the social commentary in Lock Every Door. I talk about this in my review, which you can read here.

I initially gave this book 4 stars on Goodreads, but I think I feel closer to 3.5 stars after reflecting on it more. If you’ve read this book, please come talk to me about it because my rating still doesn’t feel totally right. I’d like to hear what other people think, especially if they are Leigh Bardugo or fantasy fans.

TW for Ninth House: rape and sexual assault, murder, drug addiction, overdose, suicide, blackmail, self-harm

Checking In

First and foremost, I’m sorry for not being active on my blog in the past week or so. The current events surrounding George Floyd’s murder and the subsequent protests made everything else in my life feel unimportant, I have been sharing resources over on my Instagram and Twitter but there are tons of other, more qualified creators speaking out on these issues so if you want more information, please seek it out. This link will take you to some places where you can help. This link will take you to some articles that discuss institutionalized racism and its history. If you were helping and amplifying black voices in the past week, keep that energy up because we are far from done. 

Additionally, I have been feeling a lack of personal motivation. These things might be related but I have just found myself spending a lot of time with the television on just zoning out for hours and not wanting to do much of anything. To be completely transparent, I have generalized anxiety and depression so I am working this week to push myself to read, write, clean, and leave my apartment so that my mental health can try to recover. Since this is a blog about books, I wanted to talk a little about what I’ve been reading since I last posted.

At the end of May, I started Crazy Rich Asians by Kevin Kwan. I know. I’m late. I was browsing the tiny book section at my local Harris Teeter and picked up the mass-market paperback. I have since finished this book and I gave it a solid three stars. I was interested in quite a few characters and their plotlines but I do think it was a bit longer than it needed to be. There were times I found myself a bit bored but generally, I enjoyed laughing at the ridiculous concerns and worries of rich people. Paired with some of the real concerns and obstacles characters were facing, it makes for a read that made me feel a range of emotions.

I also started the audiobook for Gold Dust Woman at the end of May. This book is a biography of Stevie Nicks and follows both her career and personal life. If you’re like me and have listened to the Rumours album in the car with your dad a million times, you know that there is plenty of drama and scandals to be found. It’s written like most biographies about music; the writing is a bit dry but it was interesting to listen to while playing Animal Crossing or folding laundry.

I am currently halfway through Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo. I don’t really read fantasy but some friends voted on this for our buddy read this month so I thought I’d go along for the ride. I was seeing a ton of people talk about this book and say that it’s good but it takes forever to get into it. Maybe this is my newness to fantasy showing, but I have been pretty invested in this book since the beginning. I haven’t really been bored at all yet. I plan to write a review with more of my thoughts when I finish since this is my first foray into modern fantasy so we will see how I feel as I keep reading!

You’ll notice that I haven’t mentioned any of the reads I planned for my #MakeYourMythtaker readathon. That’s because I’ve only read one: The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Every time I read this book, I enjoy it and then can’t decide if I like to book or the movie better. They both have elements the other doesn’t that I enjoy. I also think the commentary about politicians and figureheads is incredibly interesting for a children’s book. There is definitely more to unpack (excuse the stereotypical English Major™ phrase) here and I think about this book more than I probably should, if I’m being honest.

I haven’t started the second book for my #MakeYourMythtaker readathon yet because I got sucked into some Kindle $2.99 sales. Right now I’m about 20% of the way through Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann. This book follows Alice who definitely isn’t looking for a relationship after just being broken up with by her ex-girlfriend. But then she meets Takumi and really likes him. Since Alice is asexual, she has to navigate what this attraction means and a summer rom-com ensues. I’m not usually a YA contemporary romance person but this has been a cute read so far. I plan to review this book as well so keep a lookout for that!

All in all, I’m not sticking to my TBR in any way this month and I would feel bad about it but I’m just here to have a good time! Have you guys been sticking to your TBRs this month? Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Do you want to read any? Come chat with me in the comments!