February 2021 Favs

Reading Wrap-ups

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?

Recent Reads 5

Reading Wrap-ups, Reviews

It’s time again for another round of recent reads! I know it’s been a while. I’ve been in such a slump and can’t seem to get it together but no matter! I’ve finally read three books so here we go. This time I’ll be talking about a middle grade classic fantasy, a stunning historical fiction, and the second book in a beloved middle-grade series. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Emerald City of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Release Date: 1910

Genre: Middle-grade fantasy

Pages: 160

Here’s a link to the synopsis for the first book in the series. I did this, not because of spoilers but because the Goodreads synopsis makes absolutely no sense.

Brief Review

“To be angry once in a while is really good fun, because it makes others so miserable. But to be angry morning, noon and night, as I am, grows monotonous and prevents my gaining any other pleasure in life.”

I have a lot of thoughts about this book. To start with, the author’s note made me smile because Baum talks about the kids who have sent him letters with ideas for his Oz books. As I was reading, I tried to guess what the kids might have suggested and I’m so sure that the school pills, pills you take to learn everything you need at school, were their idea. I also think this book is incredibly funny. The Nome King and the Whimsies particularly made me laugh out loud. This book also included some more anti-capitalist themes but he is sure to say that the way Oz works would only work in Oz. I wonder if Baum felt that way or if he was saying it to appease someone else. 

I also was pleased to see Baum playing with a narrative structure he hadn’t tried before in previous books. He went back and forth between the Nome King and Dorothy and I was excited to see how these plot lines came together but they just… didn’t really. The ending felt a little cheap. I also think the VERY end of the book had some anti-immigrant rhetoric and I was a bit confused? I don’t want to spoil anything but it was strange. Baum made the ending seem like this is the last book in the series but clearly there’s at least eight more to go so I’m interested to see what’s going to happen next.

The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett

Release Date: June 2, 2020

Genre: Historical Fiction

Pages: 343

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

The Vignes twin sisters will always be identical. But after growing up together in a small, southern black community and running away at age sixteen, it’s not just the shape of their daily lives that is different as adults, it’s everything: their families, their communities, their racial identities. Many years later, one sister lives with her black daughter in the same southern town she once tried to escape. The other secretly passes for white, and her white husband knows nothing of her past. Still, even separated by so many miles and just as many lies, the fates of the twins remain intertwined. What will happen to the next generation, when their own daughters’ storylines intersect?

Weaving together multiple strands and generations of this family, from the Deep South to California, from the 1950s to the 1990s, Brit Bennett produces a story that is at once a riveting, emotional family story and a brilliant exploration of the American history of passing. Looking well beyond issues of race, The Vanishing Half considers the lasting influence of the past as it shapes a person’s decisions, desires, and expectations, and explores some of the multiple reasons and realms in which people sometimes feel pulled to live as something other than their origins. 

Brief Thoughts

“When you married someone, you promised to love every person he would be. He promised to love every person she had been. And here they were, still trying, even though the past and the future were both mysteries.”

I feel like everyone’s heard about and probably even read The Vanishing Half and I’m late to the party but as someone who loves multi-generational family stories, I’m glad to be here now. It took me a bit to get used to the time jumps but once I was into it, I was hooked. I found myself thinking about the characters even when I wasn’t reading. I especially thought about one of the twins, Stella, and the mystery surrounding her in the first half of the book. There is a bit of a cliffhanger before one of the first big time jumps that had me ready to keep reading. The characters are definitely the strongest part of this book. Bennett took time and care with developing every single character. The twins and their daughters were certainly interesting to watch change and think throughout the story but the side characters were just as interesting. I particularly enjoyed reading about Reese and his experiences being trans. I also liked that Bennett didn’t provide us with a neat ending for every character. It felt more realistic that way. I have mentioned before my love of stories about strained family relationships that aren’t just tied up in a bow at the end and this does that well. Those wounds take time to heal and I love authors who understand and acknowledge it. Bennett’s in-depth and nuanced look at not only racism but colorism is something I think everyone should read.

Also, if you like the “two women who are close come from the same town but make different choices” aspect of this story, please pick up Sula by Toni Morrisson. 

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 4, 2011

Genre: Middle-grade Fantasy

Pages: 513

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Since this is a series, here’s a link to the synopsis of the first book, and this one.

Brief Thoughts

“Life is only precious because it ends, kid.”

I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump and I wasn’t loving the first bit of this book. I liked learning about a new setting and group of people but there was a camp games type event that went on a bit too long for me. After that, though, the action really took off and I was invested. I think Riordan does a great job and slowly introducing more aspects of the characters’ personalities. I felt really attached to Hazel and Frank. I also think Riordan is great at writing endings that get you so excited to see what happens next in the series. If I wasn’t already a bit burned out from fantasy, I would have a hard time not going ahead and picking up the next book. Also, Nico is in this one and that made me happy.

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

Books With Romances I Can Get Behind

Book Recommendations

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!

January 2021 Favs

Personal Updates, Reading Wrap-ups

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. so let’s get started!

Books

I have two stand-out books from this past month. If you’ve talked to me about books or read anything I’ve posted about books recently, this shouldn’t be a surprise because these books are from two of my new favorite authors.

First, I want to talk about The Obelisk Gate by NK Jemisin. This is the second book in the Broken Earth Trilogy and I loved it just as much as I loved the first book. This is rare for me. I typically don’t pick up a series because I’m afraid of investing time in something only to not like a large chunk of it. I also have never been a series fantasy reader but I think this series is going to be the thing to get me into fantasy and I am so excited for that possibility. I’ve really loved being able to jump into this world. It certainly takes a certain level of time and focus to read and get everything from Jemisin’s writing. As someone who zones out a lot, it can be difficult for me sometimes but for me, it’s totally worth it. I think Jemisin creates such interesting characters; I want to know what happened to them before and what will happen to them in the future. I also appreciate Jemisin’s narrative structure in both of these books. It isn’t linear and she has a way of bringing everything together in a way that seems simple but takes me by surprise every single time. 

I also want to give attention to Grown by Tiffany D Jackson. I never read books in one day. That’s just not my style, but Grown was impossible to put down. This book deals with some difficult subject matter and my heart broke for the main character, Enchanted. I had to know that she was going to be okay and the writing really lent itself to me being able to fly through the story in two sittings. If you’re familiar with Jackson’s work, you probably know that she tends to write hard-hitting YA contemporaries or thrillers. I read a fair amount of YA and enjoy it but it never quite ends up being a favorite but now that I’ve read two of Jackson’s books and they’ve become instant favorites, I’m starting to see what is possible in those genres. With Grown specifically, I appreciated the commentary on the way society doesn’t listen to women, especially Black women, when they have been abused. They are blamed or called liars when they speak up and while this story takes place in the music industry, it has messages that apply to the broader conversation surrounding women and sexual assault, grooming, stalking, etc. 

Music

I’m in a *very* specific mood musically. I’ve made a YouTube playlist to put on when I’m having a hard time focusing on anything that’s primarily live performances by Arctic Monkeys and Neck Deep. I really miss live music and since the seasonal depression is hitting hard, I’m reminding myself of better summer when I could go to shows. I’ll include a favorite performance for each band below in case you want to check them out. I wish I had something new and exciting to talk about musically but my brain just wants old, familiar sounds these days.

TV

There are two TV shows I’ve really been watching this month. First, I started getting back into One Piece. This is an anime that follows a group of pirates. The main character has a special ability that made him essentially made of rubber. It sounds lame but it comes in handy quite a bit. The trade-off – he can’t swim. If I’m not mistaken, this series is the longest-running anime and manga and I have a love/hate relationship with it. I’ll never catch up and I’ll never collect all the manga. It’s not feasible. But I love the story so much so I keep trying. Comedy is a must in my anime and while this one has plenty of action, it also makes me laugh all the time. Luffy is blindly confident and sometimes it gets the crew in trouble and a lot of times, it really pays off. Besides him, my favorite characters are Zoro and Ace.

I’ve also been watching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. Again. I can’t help it. I love this show so much. The main characters are totally unlikeable and are awful people and that’s the point. The creators make fun of the worst people you could meet and shows how ridiculous it is to act horribly and hold the worst beliefs. That being said, I do have a favorite character – Mac. He is incredibly religious and tries to use his religion to justify his ignorant beliefs all while struggling with his sexuality. And somehow, the writers turned this into something that is comedy gold (though I will say that the finale to season 13 takes a more serious look at his character and is just such a beautiful episode).

Hobbies

Especially at the beginning of the month, I was playing a lot of videogames. Primarily I was playing various Assassin’s Creed games. I am not great at finishing or sticking to one game so I’ve been switching between Valhalla, Origins, and Odyssey. I get really sucked in when I’m playing because I like tracking quests and traveling all over the world to accomplish small things that add up. I also played a ton of Kingdom Hearts this month. I played Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance the most. This is one of my favorite game series because I like the mix of Disney + Final Fantasy and how it’s kind of surprisingly dark sometimes. I think a lot about the conversations that were had that made Disney decide to agree. I made it all the way to the boss and then just didn’t finish the game. I’m really bad about that.

I also have been learning to cross-stitch. It’s really relaxing and helpful especially when I’m feeling anxious. Since I’m new to it, I really have to focus on what I’m doing which means I can’t think about everything else that’s going on in my brain. I finished this piece a week or so ago and while I left out the French knots (they’re *really* hard, okay), I’m still satisfied with it.

So what have you been enjoying this month?

Recent Reads 2

Reading Wrap-ups, Reviews

Before I took a break from blogging, I did monthly wrap-ups and they were really long and took ages to write and put together so I wanted to try something different. I want to put out mini-reviews every time I complete three books. I think this will be more manageable for me and more readable for you guys so let’s get started! Find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Genre: YA Horror

Pages: 352

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape. 

Brief Review

It’s been a little while since I finished this book but I still am not quite sure how I feel about it. I think it was incredibly atmospheric and I really liked Margot as a character. She wanted answers and something different from the life she had at home and there were many times growing up where I could relate. I also really liked Tess. She starts out pretty unlikable (or at least I was unsure about her) but I grew to love her more as the story progressed. The problem for me was that I felt that the first 75% of the book was really slow. I had some theories about the mystery that’s presented (I was wrong) and some of the early clues and reveals were exciting but overall, I just felt like it was so slow. I wanted something more but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The ending, on the other hand, was phenomenal. I really liked the direction the story took and I was satisfied with the ending. It was a wild time and I’ll never think about corn or apricots the same ever again.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 12 2010

Genre: YA fantasy

Pages: 553

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

JASON HAS A PROBLEM. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and his best friend is a guy named Leo. They’re all students at the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids,” as Leo puts it. What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly? Jason doesn’t know anything—except that everything seems very wrong.

PIPER HAS A SECRET. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out, whether she wants to or not.

LEO HAS A WAY WITH TOOLS. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?

Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first book in The Heroes of Olympus series. Best-selling author Rick Riordan has pumped up the action, humor, suspense, and mystery in an epic adventure that will leave readers panting for the next installment.

Brief Review

The first thing I noticed about this book was the length. It’s over 550 pages but I still flew through it and enjoyed every moment of it. This has the same amount of action and excitement mixed with comedic moments that made me laugh out loud that were in the original series. I also really loved the characters we meet in this series. I really connected to both Leo and Piper and was really rooting for them to accomplish their goals and be happy. The ending was also phenomenal! That realization! That cliffhanger! I was so hype after I finished and excited to see what happens next in the series. Let’s GOOOOO!!

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Pages: 270

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago—from National Book Award finalist Brandon Hobson

In the fifteen years since their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer’s in her husband, Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their son, Edgar, fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation.

With the family’s annual bonfire approaching—an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death, and a rare moment in which they openly talk about his memory—Maria attempts to call the family together from their physical and emotional distances once more. But as the bonfire draws near, each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world. Maria and Ernest take in a foster child who seems to almost miraculously keep Ernest’s mental fog at bay. Sonja becomes dangerously fixated on a man named Vin, despite—or perhaps because of—his ties to tragedy in her lifetime and lifetimes before. And in the wake of a suicide attempt, Edgar finds himself in the mysterious Darkening Land: a place between the living and the dead, where old atrocities echo.

Drawing deeply on Cherokee folklore, The Removed seamlessly blends the real and spiritual to excavate the deep reverberations of trauma—a meditation on family, grief, home, and the power of stories on both a personal and ancestral level.

Brief Review

This isn’t an easy read, not just because of the subject matter, but because the way the story is told isn’t a structure you might be used to if you tend to only read white, western authors. Though this book is only 270 pages, it takes time to process and think about. Without spoiling anything, there are chapters that do not take place in the real world. There are chapters told from the perspective of an ancestor of the family that don’t seem immediately connected to the main story but if you sit and think and maybe watch some interviews and do some outside research, the genius of this book starts to become more apparent. This story draws from Cherokee folklore as well as history. There are discussions about, not only the trauma that has impacted this family in their lifetimes but also intergenerational trauma. I am reminded of Toni Morrison’s Beloved when I think about this book. I really enjoyed it and if you’re in the mood for a book that forces you to take it slow and think, I’d suggest picking this up. Flying through it just because it’s short probably won’t give you the best experience and taking it slow is worth it. Please check out own voices reviewers for this book as I am not Indigenous and will certainly have missed some of the nuance and maybe even some important aspects of this story.

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

WWW Wednesday – October 7, 2020

WWW Wednesday

I think I’m finally back into some semblance of a blogging schedule and I am glad to be in a place where I can create content and talk to you guys. So here I am with the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

One of the books that I’m currently reading The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. I’ve divided up so that I can finish it on the 15th. Since it doesn’t really fit into my spooky plans this month, I wanted to be able to read other spooky books while I’m reading this one. I just want to say, I love this book so much. There’s so much action the entire time and the tension is so high and it might be my favorite in the series so far. I’m already planning to get myself the next series in this universe for my birthday because I definitely need more.

I am also reading A Study in Charlotte by Brittany Cavallaro (which I realize was in my spooky TBR jar and not on my spooky TBR list). This book is about the modern, high school descendants of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson and their mystery-solving adventures. I am having a really fun time reading this and going along for the ride. It’s dramatic; there are some dark moments, and excited to see who the killer is. I do wish the romantic vibes weren’t there actually because the main characters seem better as friends but maybe that’s just me.

Since last week, I finished two books. First, I finished This Bridge Called My Back. I really enjoyed this and it’s definitely my favorite nonfiction reading experience. I really took my time with this to be sure I could stop and underline and make notes in the margins as I went along. I talked about this collection of pieces written by women of color in my wrap-up and I had a ton to say so I’ll just leave that link here.

I also read my first spooky book of October – The String of Pearls, or you might know it as Sweeney Todd. I thought this was fine. If you’re familiar with the musical, the actions of Todd and Lovett are actually the big reveal in the book version so the structure is really different. There’s also this entire other main plotline with a necklace and the relationships between the characters aren’t the same as the musical so if you know the musical, I don’t think this will work for you in the same way. I didn’t hate it; it just was what it was, I guess.

I’m truly not sure what I’m going to pick up next and probably won’t for the next two months or so. I plan to randomly select all of my reads for October and November from my backlog of spooky reads but you can check out the potential list here!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

September 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups, Uncategorized

September felt like the longest month in the world. I was able to continue teaching online and I was able to spend a little time with my family and it made me feel a lot better. I did have some struggles with my ability to focus on much of anything and that was difficult but I’ve been trying to get back to using organization methods and checklists to stay on top of things and feel a little more in control. October is my birthday month and I don’t want to spend the whole time unable to focus or enjoy it so towards the end of September, I made conscious efforts to get my life back in order.

I talked about the music I was listening to last month in my wrap-up and I am here to report that I’m still constantly listening to Arctic Monkeys but I was also incredibly surprised by Machine Gun Kelly’s new pop-punk album, Tickets to My Downfall. The song, “title track” feels really nostalgic for some reason (Travis Barker’s drumming) and I definitely recommend it if you were into pop-punk in the early 2000s.

Now for the books! I read a variety of genres this month and many of them were ebooks from my library so essentially, my TBR went out the window but that’s okay. I still read some fantastic books I’d been wanting to pick up anyway. I will say that I did listen to some Arthur Miller plays via audio and read some Oscar Wilde short stories but since there were so many and they were short, I’m not really going to talk about them specifically or include them in my stats, but I do want to say that All My Sons by Arthur Miller and “The Canterville Ghost” by Oscar Wilde are both fantastic and I want to recommend them generally.

Ratings:

3 five-star reads

6 four-star reads

1 unrated read

Format:

1 audiobook

7 ebooks

2 physical books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Much like August, I started September by listening to whatever audiobooks my library had available to me that also happened to be on my physical TBR. I listened to Roald Dahl’s James and the Giant Peach over the course of two cleaning sessions and I’ll admit, it was a great time. This book follows James whose parents have been killed and he has to live with his two less-than-likable aunts. They treat him like Cinderella before the ball but when a magical, mysterious man brings him a bag of weird crawly things and one crawls into a peach, magic ensues and James goes on an exciting journey. Unlike my listening experience with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as soon as I started this audiobook, I immediately felt nostalgic for the movie (HAVE YOU HEARD THIS SONG FROM THE 1996 HIT FILM?). I don’t think I ever read this book as a child and I was really interested in the parts that were left out of the movie, particularly the cloud men. I also can’t quite remember what happened to the ladybug at the end of the movie but I think book-ladybug’s ending was interesting to think about. Dahl’s ever-present characterization of fat people is an issue to be aware of when picking this up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was lucky enough to be sent Trust Me by the author, Nell Grey. I posted a dedicated review for this book here so head over and check that out! We love a good mystery/romance here.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Early in the month, I had a hold come through from my library for Camp by L. C. Rosen. This book is a YA contemporary that takes place at a summer camp for queer teens. Randy has been going to this camp for a few years and has a crush on a guy named, Hudson. Hudson definitely has a type and it’s masculine. Randy reinvents himself as “Del” to try and get Hudson’s attention and we follow their relationship over the summer. This story is definitely messy but there’s so much more to it than that. Both characters really grow over the course of the story and I really appreciate that. I also think Rosen is able to tackle a variety of issues in this story and that gives Camp so much depth. Not only does Rosen deal with the issue of some people thinking there’s a right and wrong way to be queer, but they also tackle supportive and unsupportive parents, homophobia and bullying, and the importance of “queer-only” spaces. I think the biggest conversation surrounding queer-only spaces is the fact that while they are important and can build confidence to be yourself at all times, some people, especially teens living with unsupportive parents, don’t have the luxury of or are safe in being their true selves at all times. It’s unfortunate but I’m glad this was talked about. While this is a YA book, there is one fairly descriptive sex scene so if that’s not your jam, I just wanted to give that warning. Also, here’s a link for trigger warnings, if you need them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Since I’m currently four books into this series, I won’t say a lot but The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan is action-packed and a great time. It was glad to see more of Nico and his journey and the tension between Percy and Annabeth is fun to read about even though I usually don’t care about romance at all in books that aren’t specifically in the romance genre. I was having a really hard time focusing and read along with the audiobook but that wasn’t because the book wasn’t interesting. My brain has just been all over the place. I am nervous and excited to see how this series will end and then hopefully pick up the other books in this universe early next year. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I got A Song Below Water from Libby after waiting for ages and I’m so glad I got a chance to read it. I wasn’t sure what to expect since I heard it was fantasy but that it wasn’t really or that it was confusing. I am so glad I didn’t let that deter me. This book follows Tavia and Effie, one is a siren and one pretends to be one at the Ren faire. When a suspected siren is murdered, things become dangerous and tensions run high as Tavia tries to keep her identity a secret and Effie is trying to figure out who she really is. This book takes place in our world but there are magical and fantastical elements revealed as if it’s completely normal. It reminded me of my recent read-through of Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go; I was given pieces of world-building and had to put things together for myself. I loved that aspect of the experience. Ultimately, this is a story about black girls finding and using their voices to stand up for themselves and bring awareness and justice to their community and I highly recommend it. Here’s a link to the trigger warnings, if you need them.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I know that I should be prioritizing my physical TBR but I’ve had to ebook for Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender for a few months and it was calling to me so I put it on my TBR for September. I don’t typically give five stars to contemporaries but this one certainly deserved it. Going in, I knew this book followed a black, trans, teen named Felix, and someone at his school posts old pictures of him as well as his deadname for everyone to see. There is so much more to this story, though. This is a story about acceptance and privilege and identity and love between friends, family, and partners. This book is emotional and funny and so much more than I expected. I know if you’ve seen anyone talk about this book, you’ve probably seen a lot of praise and I’m not sure that I have anything unique to add so I will just say that I highly recommend this beautiful book. Here’s a link to trigger warnings.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Ever since I read Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert earlier this year, I’ve wanted to pick up the sequel. Plus, I’ve been listening to a ton of Arctic Monkeys and have been in the mood for a romance. Thankfully, Take a Hint, Dani Brown came through from the library and I was able to read it before the mood for a romance passed. As much as I loved Chloe’s story, I think I loved Dani’s even more. Dani teaches college English (I can relate) and has sworn off romance after some bad experiences but when a video of her being carried out of a building by a gruff security guard goes viral, they decide to fake a relationship and reap the benefits. The banter and pining were so fantastic in this story and I also appreciated the discussions surrounding grief and anxiety. It isn’t just a romance; Hibbert tackles some more serious topics and that’s what keeps me coming back to her romances. I’ll definitely be checking out Eve Brown’s story when it comes out. Here’s a link to trigger warnings.

This is another book I got from my library and I’m going to be honest, I’m still processing my feelings. This book follows Vanessa in the present day as she finds out her English teacher from about fifteen years ago is being accused of sexually assaulting his students. The chapters alternate to show what happened between Vanessa and her teacher when she was fifteen years old. I won’t say that I enjoyed this book but I do think it is incredibly well written and gives the reader a lot to think about. There were many times where I was frustrated with “present day” Vanessa and I had to stop and think about why she was doing the things she was doing. Kate Elizabeth Russell doesn’t shy away from showing not only what happens in the moment, but also the mental turmoil that lasts for years after it’s over. It gives a view that books such as Lolita don’t offer. There were times that I had to sit back and think about things that have happened to me and the way I responded to those things. I also appreciated the perspective and discussion about the trauma that comes with women speaking out against abusers and that many times, there’s not any/much justice served. This is a heavy read, for sure and I had to stop many times to really think about what was going on. I sometimes find myself reading books and not really thinking about the broader applications and implications to real life but this one certainly made me think constantly. There are quite a few heavy trigger warnings for this book, so here’s a link.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

The last library book I read this month was Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson. This book follows Claudia who is concerned because her best friend, Monday, hasn’t contacted her all summer and hasn’t shown up to the new school year, and no one seems to care. That’s all I knew about the book going in but I will say that this is not just a simple mystery story. I think it is pretty clear early on what the general nature of what happened to Monday, but there is another twist that I didn’t see coming, so there is still an element of mystery. Even though I did have an idea about Monday’s mystery, reading the description and the way it impacted Claudia really punched me in the gut. I had to put the book down and just breathe for a minute. Even if you don’t normally check trigger warnings, I would definitely consider checking them before going into this book. Something about this one is particularly unsettling but it does shine a light on how systems that are put into place to protect people can fall short in the most horrifying ways and I appreciate this book for being able to do that. I have also seen some people talking about the structure of this book and that it can sometimes be confusing and I agree that it takes a while to get used to and doesn’t fully make sense until the less obvious reveal. That’s why I didn’t give it 5 stars but I still think it’s totally readable and makes sense if you just stick with it.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This Bridge Called My Back is a collection edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua and was BY FAR my favorite read of the month. This is a collection of poems, speeches, and essays written by women of color that deal with topics such as intersectionality and the dangers and failure of white feminism among other things. Even though many of these pieces were written in the 80s, there are points that are still totally relevant today and sometimes it’s frustrating that we are still fighting the same fight, but that’s definitely part of the process of reading TBCMB in 2020. Part of why I wanted to (and had to) take my time reading this collection is because I constantly wanted to stop and make notes and underline sections while I read. I’m not really sure yet how to best review collections of work by various authors but I do want to end this review by mentioning a few of my favorite pieces from the collection. One piece I really enjoy is the introduction to the fifth section, “Speaking in Tongues” which is written by Gloria Anzaldua. This is a letter to women of color writers that discusses the importance of women of color to continue to write and take control of their stories. She also acknowledges the danger and difficulty that can come with that. It is a fantastic letter and really makes you think about the importance of writing. Another piece I really enjoyed was Pat Parker’s “Revolution: It’s Not Neat or Pretty or Quick.” This speech talks about the fact that real change takes a ton of time and you can’t give up quickly. This piece feels incredibly relevant now and I’ll just leave this review with a quote from this piece. “To end Klan or Nazi activity doesn’t end imperialism. It doesn’t end institutional racism; it doesn’t end sexism; it does not bring this monster down, and we must not forget what our goals are and who our enemies are. To simply label these people as lunatic fringes and not accurately assess their roles as part of this system is a dangerous error. These people do the dirty work. They are the arms and legs of the congressmen, the businessmen, the Tri-lateral Commission.”

If you read the whole thing, thanks! I appreciate you for putting up with my rambling. So, come chat with me about any of these books in the comments!

Stay safe!

Sam

WWW Wednesday – September 30, 2020

WWW Wednesday

I think I’m finally back into some semblance of a blogging schedule and I am glad to be in a place where I can create content and talk to you guys. So here I am with the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I only have about forty pages left in This Bridge Called My Back and I’m really hoping to finish it today so that I can talk about it in my September wrap-up. I am still really enjoying it and savoring it and I’m certain that it will be my favorite read this month. It certainly gave me a lot to think about and I think that pairing certain pieces from it with Hood Feminism would be interesting and hopefully I can get my hands on that book, too.

I am also reading The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan. This is the final book in the Percy Jackson series which I’ve been reading through them for the past few months for the very first time. I can’t say much because it would spoil parts of the series but the beginning of this final book feels more intense and dark than other beginnings in the series. I am very excited to see where this book goes and what ultimately happens at the end of the series. I hope to have a spoilery blog post about the entire series in October so if you’re interested, keep a look-out for that.

Since last week, I finished two really dark books. The first is My Dark Vanessa. I’ve been really thinking about this book since I finished it. It was heavy. I found myself disgusted by the teacher, obviously, but I also found myself fighting frustration with the main character in the present day timeline over a decade after her initial abuse took place. I don’t want to talk too much about my specific frustrations, but I will say that the author does not shy away from the reality of what life is like after being sexually abused as a child and sometimes that means making bad decisions. She also starts a conversation about whether or not it’s always worth it for women to relive trauma in order to speak up in these situations. I found myself having to stop reading and reflect on my own life and experiences and sit with some discomfort so if anything, this book really has me thinking. My Dark Vanessa also references Nabokov’s Lolita quite a bit and I think there’s something to be said about the point of view of that story in comparison to this one and it might be worth picking up and exploring but I definitely can’t do that right now because this was a tough read.

After My Dark Vanessa, I had another library book come through Libby called Monday’s Not Coming. This book is written by Tiffany D. Jackson and I’ve been hearing people talk about her and her books for a while now. After finishing Monday’s Not Coming, I definitely see why and I want more. This book follows a girl named Claudia and her best friend, Monday, is missing but no one – her parents, Monday’s family, the school – seem to care so Claudia takes the investigation into her own hands. I think early on, the general idea of what’s happened to Monday is clear but even having an idea did not prepare me for that particular reveal. I truly felt like I’d been punched in the gut and I kept thinking about it for days after. There is another reveal that I definitely didn’t see coming and I think it was cleverly done even if it makes the timeline a little confusing at first. Because this book was so shocking to me, I will leave a link here to trigger warnings if you want to check it out.

I’m truly not sure what I’m going to pick up next and probably won’t for the next two months or so. I plan to randomly select all of my reads for October and November from my backlog of spooky reads but you can check out the potential list here!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

WWW Wednesday – September 9, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Since I’m really enjoying checking in here weekly, I’m going to continue doing the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently in the middle of three books. First, I am continuing my read-through of This Bridge Called My Back. I only annotate my books when it feels right and this book just feels right. Each piece I’ve read so far is so powerful and I find myself underlining and writing notes in the margins and I definitely recommend it especially if you’re wanting to learn more about intersectional feminism. The pieces also use really accessible language so it shouldn’t be too difficult to get into.

I’m also reading The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan. I’m only a couple of chapters in because I got distracted by playing Mario Odyssey for a few hours yesterday. As always, there’s a lot of action in the opening chapters and I love that. I was supposed to pick up Felix Ever After next but I was really up for some action and adventure.

Lastly, I’m listening to another Arthur Miller play – Broken Glass. I’m only in scene three as I just started it this morning but I’m intrigued. The main character is constantly reading news from Germany during WW2 and she suddenly can’t walk anymore. I’m not sure where this is going to go but so far, I’m interested.

Since last week, I finished three books. First, I finished Trust Me by Nell Grey. This was kindly sent to me by the author and I have a full review scheduled to go up on the 18th but I will say that I really enjoyed the mix of romance and mystery aspects and I am really excited to pick up the sequel in October!

I also finished James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl. This was magical and fun to listen to and I liked the parts that weren’t in the movie quite a bit, especially the cloud people. I also recommend the audio version that has the added sound effects. It makes for a really fun experience. I still haven’t had a chance to watch the movie again but I do still want to.

Lastly, I finished Camp by L. C. Rosen. I got this from my library and I have a ton of thoughts. I will save my rambling for my wrap-up but I think this story does so much. This story takes place at a camp for queer teens and there’s a messy romance between two campers but Rosen also tackles themes of toxic masculinity, homophobia, supportive and unsupportive parents, the importance of queer-only spaces, and the unfortunate reality that once they leave this space, they have to look out for their own safety. There is a fairly descriptive sex scene, so if that’s not your thing, I’d maybe skip but I do think this book does some important work.

I’m going to say that I’ll pick up Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender next for the second week in a row. I definitely want to get to it since it’s on my TBR and Percy Jackson should quench my action/adventure thirst so I shouldn’t have a problem flying through Felix next!

Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

Five on my Backlog – 2

Five on my Backlog

Due to years of browsing overstock stores, used book stores, library sales, and yard sales I’ve acquired more books than any person needs. I also didn’t really read anything outside of school for two years. The backlog is real and I really want to get through them but sometimes I just don’t know what to pick next. I often use a random number generator to choose but I’m curious if there are any books you guys can give me any thoughts about. 

In order to do this, once or twice a month I want to make a post where I feature five books on my backlog and see if you guys suggest I prioritize some or warn me about others – anything! I read from a ton of genres and will just be working across my shelves to gather some thoughts. Last month, a lot of people had thoughts about Flowers in the Attic by V. C. Andrews and I’ve added it to my weird/spooky/creepy list to read in either October or November so I hope you guys have some thoughts about this next round of books.

First, I have A Paper Son by Jason Buchholz. I got this from an overstock store for a few dollars and all I know is that it is about a writer who is writing about a family of Chinese immigrants and then there is a mystery about a missing son. I think there is a magical realism element to the story and I am not always a big fan of that so that’s why I’ve been putting it off. I know I’ll eventually get to it but as of right now, it’s near the bottom of my priority list.

The rest of the books I have on my backlog are classics that I just haven’t encountered for school yet. Among them is Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. I only need to look at my friends’ reviews on Goodreads to see that so many people I know have read it and for the most part, enjoyed it. I am sure that I’ll like it but I also know that it can take me a while to get through classics and this one is chunky! I’m not intimidated but I am maybe a little nervous to pick it up.

I also haven’t read Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen. I have read all of her other major novels but I just haven’t gotten around to picking this one up. Like with Jane Eyre, I’m sure I’ll enjoy this. I’ve heard it’s really different from her other novels but I still think it will be an interesting read. It’s also relatively short and I have two copies of it so it’s honestly pretty ridiculous that I haven’t read it yet.

The last two books I want to talk about this time are classics for children. First, I have Peter Pan by J. M. Barrie. I’d started listening to this one on audio last month but quickly realized that I needed to be able to physically read this one so I can follow the plot. I know the basic story but I kept feeling like I was missing a lot while listening to it.

Last, I have The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. There are a lot of film adaptations for this book; there was one in 2017 AND apparently in 2020. I used to really enjoy the 1993 version but I’ve never read the book. I couldn’t tell you a single thing about the plot because it’s been so long since I’ve seen the movie but I do remember that it was incredibly magical and beautiful. I hope the book has that same feeling. 

So, there’s a few books that are on my backlog. Have you read any of these and enjoyed them? Did you read and hate any of these? Are there any that you’re interested in but want me to read so I can report back? Let me know in the comments!!