Top 5 Books on my TBR (Physical)

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

Arsenic and Adobo by Mia. P. Manansala

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

Wundersmith by Jessica Townsend

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

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

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

Accidentally Engaged by Farah Heron

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

The Inheritance Trilogy by N. K. Jemisin

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

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

Recent Reads 9

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

The Patchwork Girl of Oz by L. Frank Baum

Release Date: 1913

Genre: Children’s fantasy

Pages: 346

Trigger warnings include racism.

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

Brief Review

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

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

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Release Date: May 30, 2018

Genre: Adult contemporary romance

Pages: 314

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

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

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

Brief Thoughts

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

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

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

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

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 2, 2012

Genre: Middle-grade fantasy

Pages: 586

Goodreads Synopsis

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

Brief Thoughts

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

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

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

Recent Reads 5

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!

WWW Wednesday – September 9, 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’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!

September 2020 TBR

Now that I’m back at work, my reading is a lot more unfocused and truly depends on what’s available through my library at the time so my TBRs are going to be a bit more like “September possibilities.” I definitely have some books I really want to prioritize so I’ll talk about those first and then go from there.

First, I have Trust Me by Nell Grey. I was kindly sent this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. I don’t know a ton about this apart from that there’s thriller and romance elements which sounds like a fun time. I’m always down for a thriller and lately, I’ve been listening to a lot of Arctic Monkeys so I’m in the mood to also read a romance so I’m thinking this book will really do it for me.

Next, I am continuing my read of the Percy Jackson series with The Battle of the Labyrinth. I can’t say much without spoiling the other books in the series but I’ve been loving these so far and I have a feeling (and have heard) that Nico is going to have more page time and he’s becoming one of my favorite characters in the series. 

I also want to read Cardcaptor Sakura: Clear Card vol. 1 this month. A friend of mine asked if I’d like to buddy read the series together because we both love Sailor Moon and want more magical girl content. I might also try to watch the show on Netflix as we read through the series so keep a lookout for some blog posts about that experience in the future.

Those are the books I definitely need to read this month but I also have three that I’m really hoping to get to. The first is The Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color which is a collection edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa. I have read writings by both of these women and loved them. I’ve also already read sections of this book for school but I want to go back and read the entire anthology. This will likely be one that I start at the beginning of the month and read throughout the entire month much like I did last month with The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. 

Next, I’d really like to catch up on my backlog of Book of the Month books. I just have two sitting on my shelves right now and the one I’m hoping to pick up this month is November Road by Lou Berney. All I know about this book is that it’s a historical fiction set around the time of the JFK assassination. I have no idea how I’m going to feel about this because, while I do like historical fiction, I don’t usually read from this time period so we’ll see!

Additionally, I’d like to finally read Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. This YA contemporary follows a black, queer, trans boy named Felix who wants to be in love, but when another student starts sending him transphobic messages and posting old pictures of Felix and posts his deadname, things start to get really difficult and complicated for Felix. I’ve heard so many people praise this book and I’ve had the ebook for a while and I want to stop neglecting my ebooks as much as I have been, so I feel like this would be a good place to start.

This might be a stretch but I’d also be down for participating in BooksAndLaLa’s final Buzzwordathon at the end of September. The word this time is “night” and I have two books on my backlog that will word for this prompt. First, is Night by Elie Wiesel. I’ve somehow never read this book and maybe September is the time I finally read it. I also have Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie. I’m not usually one for magical realism and this book is chunky but I’ve already seen the movie and would like to compare the experience. 

That’s everything that’s on my radar for September. We’ll see if I get to everything but if I don’t, I’m not going to feel too bad about it since I’ve been having to rely on audiobooks a lot more than usual. 

What are you reading next? Have you read any of these and what were your thoughts? Come chat with me!

Stay safe!

Sam

WWW Wednesday – August 26, 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?

The theme for August is that I’m, again, in the middle of three books. While continuing to read a short story each day from The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston, I’m also listening to Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan. I’m not sure how I feel about this book yet. I enjoy hearing stories from her life and about her writing process but sometimes the writing feels a little too lofty for me. I am excited to hear more about her work with linguistics, though. I’ve always been really interested in linguistics and studied it a bit in grad school, but I’d always like to hear more about it.

I’m also *almost* done reading I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I’m enjoying reading this memoir as Angelou creates an immersive experience and contains both fun and exciting scenes paired with some much more serious and sad anecdotes from her life. I’m reading this fairly slowly both because I’m having a hard time focusing on anything for long and because the new semester is taking up so much of my time but I should be able to finish it today.

I was able to finish two books since last week. One was the audiobook for The Marvelous Land of Oz – the second book in the Wizard of Oz series. I really enjoyed this book. It doesn’t have the iconic factor of the first book but I think there are some strong women in this book and there is still so much adventure and magic involved.

I was also able to finish the third Percy Jackson book – The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan. So far, this is my favorite book in the series and was just so exciting! I really enjoyed meeting Nico and hope he’ll stick around (after THAT reveal, I’m sure he will). I can’t wait to read the fourth book in the series next month. I really am ready to see where this story goes and already want to get the next series in this universe. I’m thankful there’s so much more to read!

Who knows what audiobook I’ll find next but I know that as far as physical reading, I’d like to get to The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi. This was my BOTM pick for August and I’m not completely sure how to explain the plot so I’ll link you to the Goodreads synopsis. This is a fairly short book and I just might be able to finish it before the end of the month if I can start focusing again.

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

Choose Your Fellowship Book Tag

I had a totally different blog post planned for today but as I was catching up on some Youtube videos, I noticed the TolkienAlong was taking place this year and lines up with my original plan to finish the Lord of the Rings trilogy in November and December of this year. I re-read The Hobbit and The Fellowship of the Ring earlier this year and then got distracted by Percy Jackson but I’ve always planned to go back and read the final two books in the LOTR before the year ends. 

All of that being said, there’s a tag associated with the read along so I decided to post that today instead of my original plan. You can find the tag here if you’d like to participate!

Frodo “I will take the ring to Mordor.” – A book you’re not actually sure if you like or not

A book that immediately comes to mind for this question is These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling. I enjoyed the basic plot but I had issues with some of the characters and that really made me feel confused about whether I enjoyed the book or not and whether I should continue with the series.

Sam “I can’t carry it, but I can carry you.” – A book you’ll always be loyal to

Easy. Atonement by Ian McEwan. That book (and film) is just so sad and powerful and tells a different kind of WWII story than a lot of the others I’ve read in the past. I also appreciate the twist that makes your feelings even more confused than they already were. Plus, a REALLY interesting narrative structure which is something McEwan does in many of his books.

Pippin “What about second breakfast?” – A book you’d like to reread

So many! I love rereading favorites. Turning around to look at my shelves, I think I’ll go with Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. I read this a few years ago and I picked it up off and on over the course of a few months and while I really enjoyed it, I think it would be a different experience if I read it straight through without reading a bunch of other books in between.

Merry “We’re going with you, Frodo.” – A book about friendship

I think I’ll pick a manga for this question and choose One Piece. I am super new to the One Piece world which is a questionable and intimidating choice since the anime has over 900 episodes and there are over 90 issues of the manga BUT one of the things I really enjoy about this series is that Luffy is able to befriend anyone he brings into his group of pirates. It’s just such a fun time and I know I’ll probably never catch up but I’m enjoying where I am with the series.

Aragorn “For Frodo!” – A book with a hero or heroine to swoon over

Can I count Red from Get a Life, Chloe Brown? He’s got a tough exterior and seems gruff and unapproachable at first but really, he’s so kind and caring and I love that about him. 

Legolas “That still only counts as one!” – The biggest book on your TBR

That’s easily The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon. I have books unread on my shelves that are maybe a bit longer but this is the one that I’m most eager to get to. I want to read it before the end of the year and it might just end up being my entire December TBR alongside The Return of the King. I’ve just heard so many good things about Priory and really want to read it relatively soon but I don’t want to drag it out like I initially did with Anna Karenina

Gimli “Shall I get you a box?” – A short, but fun read

For this, I’m going to choose Coraline by Neil Gaiman. I read this after seeing the movie and I was surprised by how much more creepy it was but I also had a lot of fun reading it. I liked how immersive this world is and meeting all of Coraline’s odd neighbors. A fun time all around.

Boromir “They’ve taken the little ones!” – A series you still haven’t got past the first book in

This one is a little difficult because I’m in the middle of a few series or either finished with them but I can answer based on a technicality. If you group Little Women and Good Wives together, then I haven’t got past the first book to read the Little Men/Jo’s Boys book(s). I want to reread the first book(s) and continue with the series at the beginning of next year.

Gandalf “All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” – A book that makes you question your life

I could choose a number of books here but I think I’ll go with Hunger by Roxane Gay. It made me really think about my own relationship with hunger, both literal and figurative.

So that’s the last question for this tag. I have links at the beginning of this post both for the tag and the announcement about the TolkienAlong itself. Like I said, I’m not officially joining in until the last two books but I am very excited to have a community to read them with so hopefully you’ll join if you’re interested.

Stay safe!

-Sam

WWW Wednesday – August 19, 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’m still currently in the middle of three books. The fear and anxiety of having to walk back into a college classroom and teach face to face is really getting to me, but I might write a short blog post about that later. I’m still reading a short story a day out of The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. I appreciate the atmosphere and how immersive each story is. Sometimes big things happen and sometimes it seems like not much happens but there’s still something to think about. I am getting a bit faster with being able to read the dialects so that helps!

I’m also listening to the audiobook for The Marvelous Land of Oz while I’m working this week. I am basically picking up any available audiobook for physical books I own so that I can get through more of my backlog. This sequel to the The Wonderful Wizard of Oz is much less iconic, much more goofy, but still really magical. I’m having a good time listening to this as it’s been a long time since I’ve read it or watched the 1987 animated film (it’s on Youtube and I am really tempted to watch it).

Lastly, I’m reading The Titan’s Curse by Rick Riordan. I’m still working through the Percy Jackson series for the very first time and even though I’ve just started the third book, I am already hooked! The beginning is so dark and intense and I’m so excited to see where Riordan takes us next. This is the lightness I need during such a stressful time for me.

Thanks to audiobooks, I’ve been able to actually get through a lot of books this week. First, I made the call to DNF Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan with only 100 pages to go. I just did not care; I’d accidentally spoiled myself but I didn’t really care that much to begin with so I decided to move on.

I listened to The Bridges of Madison County by Robert James Waller this week, as well. I did not like this book. It follows a short affair between Francesca, who is largely unsatisfied with her life and husband, and a long-haired photographer who comes to town. Everything felt rushed since it was less than 200 pages and I just felt like she should have had a conversation with her husband or something. Not a fan.

I also listened to two productions of Arthur Miller plays this week. I listened to both After the Fall and The Man Who Had All the Luck. I found After the Fall to be really pretentious and self-serving. It’s semi-autobiographical and really made Marilyn Monroe look awful. The Man Who Had All the Luck, on the other hand, was really enjoyable. It’s about a man who has so much good luck and he’s just waiting for the luck to run out. I definitely recommend listening to this if you have the chance.

Next, I finished Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I did have some time to actually hold a book and read and I used that time to finish this book. I LOVED it. Ishiguro’s writing is so atmospheric and beautiful while he tells a haunting story of childhood friends whose lives are aren’t exactly normal. Everything in this world is *almost* normal but something is a little bit off. The answers are slowly revealed in such a matter-of-fact way; it doesn’t feel like you’re reading major plot twists but you are. I highly recommend this one and I want to check out the film especially now that I know Carey Mulligan is Kathy.

Lastly, I listened to the audiobook for a memoir called My Lobotomy by Howard Dully. Dully get a lobotomy in 1960 at the age of 12 and his memoir follows his life both before and after this happens. This is a horrifying story and gives a look at what a life after a lobotomy can look like and the systems that allowed this to happen. That being said, I don’t know that this needed to be told in a written format or it just didn’t work for me. The story was a bit slow in places and the way Howard talks about the other people in the asylum he lived in for a while was not the best. Dully originally told his story on NPR and if you’re interested in what happened, this might be the way to go. I might eventually check it out myself.

Up next for me, I can’t predict what audiobooks will be available from my library but I do only have one book left on my official TBR for the month and that’s I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I’ve only read parts of it and am excited to read the whole thing.

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!