Top Five Books on my TBR (eBooks)

A few weeks ago, I talked about some books on my physical TBR that I was most excited about. I didn’t include the books on my ereader in that post but there are DEFINITELY some exciting books there too and I’d like to talk about. As always, library books are preventing me from picking up the books I own, but I think about the books on my ereader all the time. These are in no particular but I tried to pick books from different genres so I can offer a mix.

The Poppy War

Without even looking at my ebooks, the first one that comes to mind is The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang. I think this will be everything I love. It’s based on actual historical events, namely the Second Sino-Japanese War. I know a bit about this time period and I think reading this book will be the catalyst to help me learn more. It also deals with shamanism and that is where the fantasy elements come in. I think the reason I keep putting this off is because it sounds so perfectly matched to my tastes. I love interesting takes on historical events and morally grey characters and just generally dark stories so if I don’t like it, I’ll be really sad and start to question my taste in books.

Sister Outsider

Most of my nonfiction is in ebook format so I definitely have to include one of them in this list. The one I’m most excited about is Sister Outsider by Audre Lorde. This is a collection of essays and speeches by Lorde, a Black poet and activist. I’ve read from her before in my favorite nonfiction of all time, This Bridge Called My Back and I’m so excited to read more from her. I have been a little detached from nonfiction recently but I want to get back into reading it. This might be the one to get me back into that genre.

Finlay Donovan is Killing It

In my last TBR post, I talked about wanting to get back into thrillers and a lighter thriller/mystery on my ereader that I think will help reinvigorate my interest is Finlay Donovan is Killing It by Elle Cosimano. An author is overheard talking about her new book and someone thinks she’s a hitman so she gets caught up in this world. It just sounds fun! Like Arsenic and Adobo, which I talked about last time, I am hoping for something a little different from the thrillers or mysteries that I normally pick up. I’ve also just heard some great reviews for this story and I think it will make me laugh. That’s what I’m looking for in these warmer months.

The Only Good Indians

There are also quite a few horror novels on my ereader and it is really difficult to just choose one but I think I’m going to choose The Only Good Indians by Stephen Graham Jones. This is a horror novel written by an indigenous author and follow a group of men who are being hunted by a spirit. I have a certain idea about what the social commentary will be and if that’s the case, I am excited to see how it is woven into the horror narrative. I am a really big fan of horror that offers some sort of social commentary and I think Jones will deliver on that want for me.

Parachutes

Lastly, I want to talk about a YA Contemporary that I’m really excited about. I’ve seen Ashley from Bookish Realm on Youtube discuss Parachutes by Kelly Yang a number of times and I really trust her taste in books so I’m excited to read this one. This follows Claire who is sent from China to American to live after getting in some trouble. The daughter of her host family, Dani, resents Claire’s privileged background and I think they will end up having to learn from each other. I know that the cover is really cute but I’ve been told it isn’t a super light story and that really intrigues me. I am participating in a readathon next month and I’m hoping that I can work this into my TBR since contemporary is usually good for readathons.

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I’d love to be able to read these soon because I’m just so excited about them. My library holds are still coming through constantly so I haven’t been able to pick up my own books but I’m going to try and use the “deliver later” feature on Libby especially in June during the Clear Ur Shit readathon. What are you excited to read that you just haven’t been able to get to yet? Let me know!

30 Days of Manga Wrap-up

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

Tokyo Ghoul vol. 1

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

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

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

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

Death Note All-In-One Edition

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

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

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

Blue Exorcist vol. 1

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

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

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

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

Recent Reads 11

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

Bunny by Mona Awad

Bunny by Mona Awad

Release Date: June 11, 2019

Genre: Adult horror, dark academia

Pages: 307

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

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

Brief Review

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

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

The Push by Ashley Audrain

The Push by Ashley Audrain

Release Date: January 5, 2021

Genre: Adult phychological drama

Pages: 307

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

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

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

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

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

Brief Thoughts

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

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

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

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

Tik-Tok of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Tik Tok of Oz

Release Date: 1914

Genre: Children’s fantasy classic

Pages: 272

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

Brief Thoughts

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

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

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

Recent Reads 2

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

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!

October 2020 TBR

It’s almost my birthday month and time for all things spooky! While I know it won’t really be cool where I am for a while, I’m still in full fall mode and have a bit of a different idea for my TBR for the next two months. I want to read all things dark and spooky while still working towards my goal of getting through my embarrassing backlog of owned books, but I don’t want the pressure of selecting a few out of the many books I already own that fit the criteria.

The solution? I made a list of all the mystery/thriller/horror/generally dark books I already own and put each title in a jar and I’ll randomly select and read as many as I can over the next two months. I do have a couple of reads I’m already obligated to pick up (Find Me by Nell Grey and The Last Olympian by Rick Riordan) and some library holds are likely to come in but apart those, it’s going to be all spooky, all the time.

There is absolutely no way I can talk about each of these books in one blog post but I will leave a list with links to Goodreads to just show all of the options I have in my fall TBR jar.

This is clearly a long list that I definitely won’t complete in two months but I am looking forward to see how much I can knock off. I will definitely update my progress on my WWW Wednesday posts and at the beginning of November so I hope you’ll join me on this journey to get through my ridiculous backlog of books!

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.

The first book in my backlog is There and Back Again: An Actor’s Tale by Sean Astin. I got this book years ago and read most of it in middle school. I LOVED the Lord of the Rings films when I was growing up and my mom got me this book when it came out. I don’t really remember if I finished it or not so I have it with my unread books. This is a memoir written by Astin who plays the beautiful, wholesome Sam in the films. 

The next book I’m sharing from my backlog is actually two in one – Flowers in the Attic and Petals on the Wind by V. C. Andrews. I got this for like $5 at a used book store. All I really know about these is that there’s some scandalous stuff and kids are locked in the attic. My mom used to read a ton of V. C. Andrews when I was a kid and she’d tell me basic premise and I would just be completely scandalized at what my mom was reading. Nenia from @alwaysbeebooked on IG said I definitely need to pick these up so there’s a definite “yes” vote here.

I also have How to Read a Book by Mortimer J. Adler. I picked this up just before grad school but didn’t get a chance to read it. This is a non-fiction that gives best practices for increasing reading comprehension and different levels of reading. I’m sure that this will have information I know and stuff I wish I’d known while I was still in school but I think it still might be worth picking up even though I’m not sure I’ll ever go to school again. It might have some interesting information that I can share with my students, though.

Next, I have American Rose by Karen Abbot. I think I picked this up from an overstock store in the same haul as The Swans of Fifth Avenue (which I DNFd because it was SUPER problematic). This is apparently a biography about Gypsy Rose Lee who was a burlesque performer in the 1920s US. I like reading about the 20s  and I’m certain that’s why I picked this up but I don’t really know much else about it.

Last but not least, I have the Oxford press Selected Letters of Jane Austen. Austen is definitely one of my favorite authors and I have a ton of Austen-adjacent books and that I haven’t fully read yet. I have no idea where this book came from but I think it would be interesting to have that glimpse into Austen’s life.

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!!

WWW Wednesday – August 5, 2020

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 am currently reading The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I haven’t read too much but I am really enjoying the format most of all. I like having the sort of news clippings between chapters. I really like that Reid incorporates interesting elements to the format of her narratives. That was one of the reasons I love Daisy Jones & the Six so much.

Like last week, I finished three books since last Wednesday and DNFd an audiobook. First, I finished Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. I think this book was SUPER creepy and I really appreciated the commentary on imperialism. I *almost* wish I was still in school and had an opportunity to write an entire paper on this novel. Having horror intersect with imperialism is so fascinating to me.

I also finished The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva. This book was sent to me by the author in exchange for a review that I plan to post Monday so I’ll keep my discussion here brief. This book follows Amy in what appears to be a normal life but readers get insight into the ways OCD and depression can make normal things such as an office job and public transit so much more difficult. I think the first half reads a bit like a character study but the plot really picks up in the second half and has some important conversations about mental health that might also be applied to other “invisible illnesses.”

I know I said this month that I didn’t think I’d have any library holds coming through but just before Hurricane Isaias hit, I was blessed with Hunger by Roxane Gay. Since we lost power and my tablet was charged, I was able to read this through the night. Hunger is a powerful memoir about trauma, food, weight, and so many other topics – not just literal hunger, but hunger for affection, attention, and being able to indulge in femininity. I highly recommend this powerful read. I would check trigger warnings since this book deals with rape and disordered eating among other difficult topics.

Lastly, I DNFd the audiobook for Lost by Gregory Maguire. I thought the Wicked series was decent but everything else I’ve picked up by Maguire just hasn’t done it for me. I found myself bored and confused around 20% through the audiobook and just decided to call it a wash. I have a ton of other things to read on my shelves.

I think next I will pick up The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. I want to be able to finish all of my longer books on my TBR before I go back to work on the 20th. As long as no other library holds come in *knock on wood*, I think this will be manageable.

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

July 2020 Wrap-up

I was shocked that I read thirteen books last month but I somehow topped it this month at fourteen. This is going to be a long post so I’ll just give some quick stats and then get into talking about each of the books.

Ratings:

1 five-star book

5 four-star books

3 three-star books

1 two-star book

4 unrated books

Formats:

7 physical books

5 eBooks

2 audiobooks

The first book I picked up this month was the audiobook for So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. This was available with no wait through Libby and I wanted to continue my anti-racism education. Oluo is writing to anyone who wants to start entering conversations about race and each chapter explains different topics within the larger conversation about race. These topics include microaggressions, the model minority myth, and cultural appropriation among others. Oluo knows who her audience is and speaks directly to them honestly and clearly. I think this is a good place to start if you’re new to talking about race but I also think Oluo has some good reminders for people who are more experienced. If you want to continue to work towards being anti-racist, this is a good book to pick up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This month is about the time all of my Libby holds started coming in at once. That meant TBR be damned (for now) so that I could read these next few books before I had to give them back. The first book I had to read was Wilder Girls by Rory Power. This is a young adult horror about an all-girls school where students and teachers are quarantined on an island. There is a disease called “The Tox” impacting everyone and they are waiting for the Navy and the CDC to find a cure. I really enjoyed this book. The concept is intriguing and I found myself thinking about this book a lot when I wasn’t reading it. I am continuing to think about Power’s commentary on womanhood and puberty and female sexuality because that seems to be a central theme of the book. There are queer characters and a bit of a romance but that’s not a huge part of the story. As far as the ending, I know some people have problems with it being open and ambiguous but I really think it works in this situation. Since this horror, I will warn you that there are some graphic scenes and a ton of body horror so if that’s not your thing, I wouldn’t read this book. Otherwise, I definitely recommend it. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Deep by Alma Katsu came through on Libby mere hours after I got the email about Wilder Girls. I honestly don’t know how to give a concise summary of what this book is about so I will include the link to Goodreads here. I went into this not really knowing what it was about apart from “spooky at sea” and boy was I surprised to find out that this book includes the Titanic, World War I, sirens? and ghosts? These are all things I love reading about individually but unfortunately, it just didn’t come together for me in the end. I felt there were lengthy plotlines and entire characters that didn’t really add anything to the main story and resulted in a book that felt MUCH longer than its 300 pages. I was also incredibly lost when the book did end. There were elements that didn’t make any sense. To be fair, I was skimming by the end because I just wanted it to be over. Overall, it felt like there was just too much crammed into the plot and if this would have been just a historical fiction novel with no horror elements, it would have been a fantastic book. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who literally never reads romance and usually thinks the romance plots in tv shows are a waste of time, I went into this book not expecting much despite everyone loving it. And also as someone who doesn’t read romance, I’ll go ahead and give an unqualified opinion and say that this is a good romance to start with if you want to get into the genre. Get a Life, Chloe Brown follows Chloe after a near-death experience as she works through a list she created in order to get a life. This could have easily been cheesy and sometimes it was but I didn’t mind because Talia Hibbert balances the lovey, cheesy moments with some more serious topics and fantastic character development. I also appreciated how both parties truly did their best to take into account each other’s pasts and limitations. It was refreshing to see. I don’t think I’m going to turn into an avid romance reader any time soon but I might not be so scared to pick up one every once in a while.

I love Mindy Kaling. I’ve had her second book, Why Not Me? for an embarrassingly long time and I figured since it’s a short, easy read, it’s about time I picked it up and read it. This is also the first book from my July TBR I actually picked up. In this book, Kaling talks about relationships, her show The Mindy Project (which I now want to rewatch), and meeting President Barack Obama among other things. I laughed and related to her in so many chapters. If you tend to like books by comedians, I’d definitely suggest picking this one up. It’s a quick read you might pick up after reading something heavy and an all-around fun time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Black Enough is a collection of short stories edited by Ibi Zoboi. It contains stories that explore a span of Black experiences in America ranging from straight, LBGTQ+, wealthy, and poor. There are stories that tackle serious topics such as racism and homophobia but there are also stories that are truly about joy and just being a teenager. My goal going into this collection was to find some new authors to check out and that was definitely accomplished. Some stories that stand out to me are “Warning: Color My Fade” by Leah Henderson, “Black. Nerd. Problems.” by Lamar Giles, and “Kissing Sarah Smart” by Justina Ireland. It’s rare that I come across a collection where I enjoy every story but I did have a good time reading every piece in this collection. I think this is a good way to read from a variety of Black authors and find new voices to diversify your shelves.

Throughout the first half of the month, I listened to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander on audio. This is a nonfiction book that primarily focuses on the mass incarceration of Black men in the United States. Though it was written ten years ago, much of the information still holds true. Alexander breaks down both how Black men are specifically targeted by law enforcement agencies and the impacts this targeting has on the community as a whole. Even though Barack Obama was president, that doesn’t mean that things are better for Black people as a whole. It’s frustrating to see these patterns continue and repeat but it is something you want to be aware of. There is a ton of information in this book and I would really like to get my hands on a physical copy at some point and read this physically. I know there are pieces to the timeline that I missed while cleaning and doing laundry but I still got so much from this book. Again, if you’re looking to continue your anti-racism education, this is a great book to pick up. It’s probably a step or two up from So You Want to Talk About Race as far as difficulty but even if you don’t get every single point, there is plenty there to take in and learn. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In my quest to read the entire Percy Jackson series this year, I finally picked up the second book, The Sea of Monsters. Like this first book in the series, this one definitely didn’t disappoint! I can’t really talk about the plot of this book without spoiling the first one but I can say that I think this is a great continuation of the series. Rick Riordan is able to wonderfully recapture the comedy and action I loved about The Lightning Thief. He also combines history and mythology in such a fun way that I always appreciate. Also, I LOVE Tyson. I will say that this book is a bit shorter than the others in the series and I felt like it went by pretty quickly and I would have liked a little more in this entry in the series. Like I said, I can’t really say much but I do plan to write an entire spoilery blog post about the series when I finally finish it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Like many people, I first encountered The Crucible in high school. I remember it being one of the few books I actually read from beginning to end that year so I guess I enjoyed it. I wanted to see if I still enjoyed it as much this time around. The conclusion: I guess I still liked it? If you aren’t familiar, this play follows John Proctor and Abigail Williams during the Salem witch trials. Kids are acting weird and everyone is being accused of being a witch and total chaos ensues. During this read, I was more in-tune with the parallels between the Salem witch hunts and the “red scare” so it made for an interesting read. I also thought quite a bit about John’s quickness to condemn Abigail and not take much accountability for his part in what happened until, maybe, the very end. Lastly, I had some problems with the way Tituba’s character was talked about and treated and the audiobook I listened to while reading the play didn’t help. The white man’s attempt at an accent was not great. Overall, it was nice to revisit and analyze this play as an adult but I was definitely in tune to more issues with it.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward is another nonfiction I picked up this month. It’s also another in the series of Libby holds coming in all at once. In this book Ward tells the stories of the men in her life she lost to suicide, drugs, accidents and also talks about her experiences growing up poor in the southern US. The structure of this story is what initially drew me in. She talks about her life chronologically and this is broken up with chapters about each of the men who were lost. These are in reverse-chronological order. It sounds confusing, but it works. This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and powerful. I particularly appreciated the honesty Ward gives readers while discussing a larger problem of a world that doesn’t work in favor of Black men. I’d previously read her novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing and while I’m not a fan of magical realism, I loved the writing in that book. The writing is just as strong, if not stronger, in Men We Reaped. I just might try and pick up Sing, Unburied, Sing again. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is another Libby hold I’ve been waiting on for quite a while. I really enjoyed The Guest List back in May and wanted to check out more of Foley’s work. The Hunting Party’s premise sounds a lot like The Guest List – rich people go to a remote location where someone is dead and you don’t know who it is or who killed them. I was suspicious at how close these books felt to each other but the twists were definitely different. There were other things that really bothered me about this book, though. The “friends” don’t really seem like they ever could have been actual friends and participate in middle-school bullying and drama that doesn’t seem realistic for 30-somethings. There were also aspects of the twist that just didn’t sit well with me and one character particularly did something that just made absolutely zero sense. I still gave this a three-star rating because I think that if I’d read this before The Guest List, I would have enjoyed it a lot more but because I kept comparing it to The Guest List, it lessened the experience for me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I know so many people have either been re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender or watching it for the first time recently. I have been re-watching it and was in the mood for more content centered around this universe so I picked up F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi this month. I was completely blown away. This book follows Avatar Kyoshi, an Avatar who existed before Aang, and her journey in realizing that she is, indeed, the next Avatar. I didn’t expect to get so attached to a new cast of characters but I certainly did. There’s battles, political intrigue, bending, and the sweetest blossoming romance. I even almost cried. It read like a season of the show and I really appreciated that. The only thing that kept me from giving this five stars was that you can tell this book is meant to set up a series therefore, the beginning is a little slower than the second half. Otherwise, what a magical, beautiful book. I definitely think watching the show first will add to the experience but I don’t think it would be too confusing to jump into without having seen Avatar.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While I was reading The Rise of Kyoshi, I wanted something else to listen to on audio while I was doing chores and working on my reading journal. I chose something I owned physically so I can continue going through my physical TBR. This book follows Leonora as she’s received an email invitation to someone’s bachelorette party – someone she hasn’t spoken to in a decade. Leonora wakes up in the hospital unsure of what happened that led her here and we go along with her as she pieces it together. I think I listened to this too close to The Hunting Party. I had a difficult time distinguishing what happened in each book and I didn’t feel much connected to any of the characters though I do remember thinking Flo was really strange. I did enjoy the writing and the plot but it was a little slow to start. I also enjoyed the gripping suspense towards the end of the book. It was really exciting and I wanted to know what would happen next. Overall, this is a typical thriller and if you like Ruth Ware generally, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had given up hope that I’d have a five-star read this month. That was until I picked up Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book follows Noemí who receives a disturbing letter from her cousin who lives in the countryside of Mexico. She goes to check on her cousin and see if she needs to return to the city. When she arrives at the house, though, she finds that this is much more than a typical check-in. I’ve seen some reviews calling this book “slow” especially in the first half and I get that there isn’t a ton of action but I think it does provide such atmospheric writing typical of a gothic novel and starts to plant both creepy and sinister seeds which become important as the story goes. I enjoyed the commentary on imperialism and I think this book has so much to offer beyond “scary.” Here is a link to a list of trigger warnings, though because there are quite a few.

Anyway, that’s everything I read this month! I think I’ll start slowing down in August once the new semester begins and my wrap-ups might be a bit shorter in the future. I hope you also had a good reading month and if you want to chat about any of these books, leave a comment!

WWW Wednesday – July 29, 2020

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 am currently reading Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia and I really hope I can finish it before the end of the month. Noemí’s father receives a concerning letter from his niece and sends Noemí to check that everything is okay. It’s set in 1950s Mexico and the house makes strange noises and causes terrifying nightmares. This book is incredibly atmospheric and I’m really enjoying the commentary on imperialism. I also recommend listening to the Spotify playlist curated by the author. It really adds to the creepy vibes.

I am also listening to the audiobook for Lost by Gregory Maguire. I am trying to get through my physical TBR and was able to get this instantly from my library. It’s a little slow but I’m only about 15% into the book so who knows what will happen.

I finished three books since last Wednesday and DNFd an audiobook. First, I finished The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley. This books follows a group of friends who go on a New Year’s trip to a remote hunting lodge. Someone is dead and we’re not sure who or what happened. This sounds a lot like The Guest List by the same author. It is in premise but I did not enjoy this one as much. The twist felt a little cheap and one particular action by a character at the end didn’t seem realistic. I might have liked this better had I read it before The Guest List, though.

I also finished The Rise of Kyoshi by F. C. Yee. This is the first in a series of books that takes place before the events of the Avatar: The Last Airbender television show. This books tells the story of Avatar Kyoshi and her journey to realizing her powers. This book is definitely the first in a series because it spend a lot of time introducing characters and world-building – it might feel a little slow to some. I thoroughly enjoyed it, though. It’s so magical and full of political intrigue. I even almost cried at that one scene! Highly recommend.

I also listened to In a Dark, Dark Wood by Ruth Ware. I think I listened to this too close to The Hunting Party. This books follows a group of friends who travel to a house in the woods for a bachelorette party. Leonora was invited even though she hasn’t talked to the bride in nearly a decade and when she wakes up in the hospital, she has to piece together what exactly happened at this party. I think this was a standard thriller – not bad but nothing special. I didn’t really feel connected to any of the characters but there was quite a bit of tension.

Lastly, I DNFd the audiobook for The Swans of Fifth Avenue by Melanie Benjamin. I listened to about 30% before I had to stop. This book takes place in 1950s New York and follows a woman who is friends with Truman Capote. The amount of ableist, anti-Semitic, racist, and homophobic comments made by characters in the book was truly bothersome. I think I picked this up and a thrift shop so I’m not too put out that I’ll be getting rid of it.

I’m not too sure what I’ll read next but I think I want to get to The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. I LOVE Daisy Jones and the Six by the same author; I flew through it in two days without even realizing how fast I was getting through it. I have hears wonderful things about Evelyn Hugo and hope to have a similar experience.

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