June 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I somehow read thirteen books in June. It’s surprising to me, too. I don’t want to write a long intro because I have a lot of books to talk about so before we get to the actual books, I’ll just give a few stats.

Rating:

3 five-star books

6 four-star books

2 three-star books

2 unrated books

Format:

6 physical books

5 eBooks

2 audiobooks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I started Crazy Rich Asians at the end of May but didn’t finish it until June. I picked this up as an impulse buy at Harris Teeter and had a decent time reading it. I tell myself I don’t care about “rich people problems” but low-key I sometimes really do. I think Kevin Kwan did an excellent job mixing both superficial problems such as spending too much on outfits with more serious issues such as cheating and divorce. Speaking of Astrid, I really enjoyed her character, and I really wanted to see what would happen for her above pretty much any other character. I think the reason I didn’t completely love this book is because of the pacing. I feel like there were some really traumatic reveals at the end, and then the book was basically over. While the book is already pretty long, I still felt like there needed to be more. I realize this is a series, though, so it does set up for that really well.

I don’t really like rating non-fiction anymore, but I did generally enjoy this book. I listened to Gold Dust Woman on audiobook while playing Animal Crossing. This is another book that started in May and carried into June. This is a biography of Stevie Nicks, written by Stephen Davis. It goes through different stages of her career, including her time with Fleetwood Mac. As someone who hardly ever went to school and stayed home watching VH1 Classic documentaries all day, I enjoyed this book. I like learning about music and music history. I would definitely recommend the audio for this book, and others like it because the writing style can be a bit dry. It certainly made me more excited about Daisy Jones and the Six, which I will talk about later in this post.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Since I wrote a dedicated review for Leigh Bardugo’s Ninth House here, I’ll try to keep this brief. I read this with a group of friends, and while I was reading it, I had a good time and initially gave it four stars. It was spooky, gripping, and well-written. As I continued to reflect on this book, though, I kept thinking about the significant number of trigger warnings and how some felt like they were added to push the “dark academia” aspect of the book. I also think Bardugo could have pushed the social commentary a little further since this book is intended for adults. It’s still a compelling read. I would recommend it if you want something a little creepy and dark but definitely check the trigger warnings because a lot is going on.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I think about The Wonderful Wizard of Oz a lot. It masquerades as a simple children’s story, but I am convinced there’s more to it. The glasses at the Emerald City are part of it, but there’s definitely more. I just can’t put my finger on it. I read this as the first prompt for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, which was to read a book featuring an animal. I wanted something easy, and since I’ve been wanting to read the entire Oz series, I figured this was a good excuse to start. I always have fun rereading the first book because I keep thinking about Baum’s commentary on our society and the nagging question: Is the book better? There are scenes in the book that aren’t included in the film that I really enjoy, but there’s something so nostalgic about the songs in the movie. Anyway, my rating is blinded by nostalgia, but I really like visiting Dorothy and Oz every once in a while.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I also wrote a review of Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann, which you can check out here. I will briefly say that I really enjoyed this book. This is a YA contemporary romance and definitely not something I’ve been known to read. Still, I think the cover is so gorgeous, and our main character, Alice, is asexual and Black, and that isn’t a perspective I’ve read from before. I also was incredibly stressed and sad, and I just wanted something fun and cute. This definitely gave me that, but it also gave me some discussions on serious topics. I also didn’t find the characters too immature, which is something that sometimes happens in YA for me. Kann gave me just what I needed, and I highly recommend picking this book up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

My next audiobook for June was Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. I had such a fun time listening to this, and Gaiman does such a great job bringing his text to life. I read a ton of Greek mythology as a kid. Still, my only exposure to Norse mythology was through general pop culture references. Gaiman’s version was compelling and had an adequate infusion of comedy to keep me invested. I’d enjoy picking up the physical book because I’m sure I missed key points while folding laundry or playing videogames. But generally, I enjoyed this experience.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

For the second prompt of the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, I read the manga adaptation of Ocarina of Time. This fulfilled the prompt to read a book with a foiled cover. This was also a nostalgic experience for me. Ocarina of Time was the first videogame I ever owned and had such much fun running around being bad at the game. I’ve played it a few more times as an adult, but revisiting it in this format was a first. I immediately picked up the DS remake of the game. If you know the game, it doesn’t add a ton, but it does have beautiful artwork. If you don’t know anything about the game, it’s a fun adventure story about Link trying to save a world he’s never really been to before. This made for a relaxing, fun afternoon.

White Rage is a non-fiction book by historian Dr. Carol Anderson. Anderson clearly shows that slavery didn’t truly end in the US, and it merely evolved. She writes in a way that is accessible to people who aren’t familiar with the subject, and while the subject matter is tough, it is relatively easy to follow what she’s saying. I was fortunate enough to go to a high school that taught some of these topics, but I still learned so much. I wish anyone who’s ever said “get over it slavery was 400 years ago” had to read this book. Even if you are familiar with the topics she covers, it is helpful to see in one text a timeline of how these systematic acts against African-Americans work to keep them from being successful. Required reading.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’ve had Daisy Jones and the Six on hold through Libby since April, and I thought it would be another couple of weeks before I get it, but it surprised me and became available early. I immediately started reading it and flew through it in two days. I LOVE this book. As someone who loves music documentaries of any kind, biographies about musicians, and Fleetwood Mac, this book really did it for me. I think the interview format was unusual and really added to the experience. I love the drama and the heartbreak and the rock ‘n’ roll of it all. Both Daisy and Billy had so much growth throughout the story. Camila and Simone added such great perspectives to the story as well. By including everyone involved with the band in the interviews, Taylor Jenkins Reid allows readers to see the story from all sides, and it’s always funny when characters contradict each other. It makes it feel so realistic. This book definitely didn’t disappoint.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I put The Hate U Give on hold through Libby way back in April. As June started, I still had a six-month + wait, so I went ahead and bought it during an impromptu trip to the bookstore. I’m so happy I finally got the chance to read it, and I’m even happier that so many people were requesting this book even before the protests sparked by George Floyd’s murder. This book looks at the impacts of police brutality and racial profiling on a community and individual level. Given that this book is YA, its ability to send this message to teens is incredibly essential. The characters feel real and will be relatable to a lot of teens, but they are also mature enough that it’s enjoyable for adults to read. I also think this book gives insight into many different challenges Black communities face and does these topics justice. It would be easy to gloss over a lot of things, but Thomas is sure to spend time exploring everything she brings up. I am glad this book exists. I read this and the next two books as part of a self-imposed 48-hour readathon, so if you want to see what that was like, you can read about it here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I grew up watching the LOTR films constantly. They’re still some of my favorites today. I read The Hobbit in middle school (and I don’t want to talk about those movies) but didn’t read the trilogy for the first time until high school. I haven’t read them since because I was scared I wouldn’t enjoy them as much this time around. I picked up The Fellowship of the Ring this month for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon for the prompt to read a book featuring a magical battle. I can definitely say I still enjoy the experience of reading Tolkien. I did use an audiobook to read along with sometimes because I can have trouble focusing just in general, and that was really pleasant. I love reading about Frodo’s epic adventure, and his friendship with Sam is so wholesome. There were times when I would zone out some, and that could have just been me and where I’m at this year but overall, a great read.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling was my last book for the Make Your Myth Taker Readathon, and it fulfilled the prompt – read a book with occult themes. This book follows an elemental witch, Hannah, who has recently broken up with her girlfriend, Veronica. When they suspect a Blood Witch is in town, they have to work together to stop them. This book is equal parts witchy and dramatic, and I had a pretty okay time. I enjoyed the plot of this book and wanted to know what would happen next. I wanted to know what happened next. I think where this book lost me was with the characters. I didn’t feel super connected to them and didn’t even feel like I really got to know them (though Gemma was a delight). I was not a fan of the dynamic between Hannah and Veronica. Veronica is incredibly manipulative, and it was frustrating to read. I might pick up the sequel, but I’m not totally committed to it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I’m planning to write a more in-depth review of Home Before Dark by Riley Sager because I have so many feelings, but I’ll just say a little bit for now. This book follows Maggie, who has returned to her childhood home to prepare it for sale. Her father wrote a book about their time in the house, but she doesn’t remember any of it. When creepy things start happening again, Maggie must figure out the truth. I wanted to squeeze this into my month with two days left, and I did it! This book switches back and forth between present-day Maggie and chapters of her father’s book, which takes place twenty-five years earlier. I am a sucker for unusual narrative structures, and this was so fun to read. It was also terrifying; I kept thinking about snakes and ghosts and listening for sounds while I was reading. I don’t usually get scared from books (movies are whole other things entirely), but Home Before Dark really got me.

So, that’s all the books I read this month. I think I had a good reading month and enjoyed everything I read at least to some degree. Have you read any of these? What did you think? What did you pick up in June?

Book Review – Let’s Talk About Love – Claire Kann

Reviews

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

Love was intangible. Universal. It was whatever someone wanted it to be and should be respected as such.

Claire Kann

Goodreads Synopsis

Alice had her whole summer planned. Non-stop all-you-can-eat buffets while marathoning her favorite TV shows (best friends totally included) with the smallest dash of adulting–working at the library to pay her share of the rent. The only thing missing from her perfect plan? Her girlfriend (who ended things when Alice confessed she’s asexual). Alice is done with dating–no thank you, do not pass go, stick a fork in her, done.

But then Alice meets Takumi and she can’t stop thinking about him or the rom com-grade romance feels she did not ask for (uncertainty, butterflies, and swoons, oh my!).

When her blissful summer takes an unexpected turn, and Takumi becomes her knight with a shiny library employee badge (close enough), Alice has to decide if she’s willing to risk their friendship for a love that might not be reciprocated—or understood.

Review

I’ve been having a hard time focusing on reading much of anything lately, so I gave myself the freedom to choose something that wasn’t on my TBR for this month. I wanted to read something fun and cute, and Let’s Talk About Love didn’t disappoint. I had such a fun time reading this rom-com and escaping from the world for a little bit.

What stood out most to me in this book was the characters. I thought Alice was code-orange cute! I was constantly rooting for her and her relationships with Takumi, her best friends, and her family. I was incredibly invested and HAD to know that everything was going to be okay for her. I also really liked Takumi. He is incredibly caring and thoughtful throughout the book.

I am neither black nor asexual, so I cannot speak for the accuracy of the representation, but it was refreshing to read a book that isn’t just your cookie-cutter white hetero romance. It is also important that Kann focuses on Alice’s friendships and her family dynamic as well. So many YA romances fall into the plot where the protagonist is all-consumed by their romantic relationships, and I don’t think it’s healthy for teens (or anyone really) to read or see that narrative over and over again. There are other things that are important in life contrary to what a ton of popular media primarily targeted to women would have you believe. This book can be important to pick up at any age, but I think it especially has a lot to offer for teens or young adults.

This book is not exclusively fluff and does bring up more serious topics. Not only is Alice discovering more about what being asexual and biromantic looks like for her, but she also mentions past microaggressions related to race. Seeing the intersectionality of being black and LGBTQIA+ is something else I think this book does well.

I bought this book on sale, and this Twitter thread will link you not only to places to purchase the book but also to a form to fill out when you do buy it so that Claire Kann can donate all royalties to National Bail Out. This is happening all month, so please check it out if you can!

Checking In

Reading Check-ins

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!