June 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

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

Rating:

3 five-star books

6 four-star books

2 three-star books

2 unrated books

Format:

6 physical books

5 eBooks

2 audiobooks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

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

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 3 out of 5.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

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

Book Review – Ninth House – Leigh Bardugo

Reviews

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

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

Leigh Bardugo

Goodreads Synopsis

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

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

Review

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

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

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

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

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

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

Checking In

Reading Check-ins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make Your Mythtaker TBR June 2020

TBRs

I can’t believe it’s already almost June! Given the stay-at-home orders and the state of things, it doesn’t really feel like summer but I’m hoping I can start getting some sun while I read this month. My TBR isn’t exactly summery but it should be a lot of fun.

This month I’m participating in the #MakeYourMythtaker readathon! I’ve never participated in a readathon of any kind before but I figured that now is the time. I also don’t typically read a ton of fantasy so I’m trying to sprinkle some fantasy and fantasy-adjacent titles into my TBR. This readathon allows you to pick a path to become one of sixteen characters. There’s everything from assassins to oracles and opportunities to switch paths and create a rich backstory for your character. 

I went into selecting my TBR for this readathon by picking a few paths that interested me and seeing which ones I could accomplish with the books I already own and are in my apartment right now. Thankfully, the path of the witch works for me.

This image and others can be found in the description of the linked video above.

The first step in becoming a witch is to read a book featuring an animal. For this I chose The Wonderful Wizard of Oz

This book is about Dorothy, a farmgirl from Kansas, who is caught up in a tornado. It drops her and her house in Oz on top of a wicked witch. Now Dorothy must escape the witch’s wicked sister and return home to Kansas. Dorothy is accompanied by her dog, Toto, and the Cowardly Lion. Not to mention, there’s flying monkeys. Needless to say, this book features plenty of animals.

I read the first two or three books in this series when I was much younger and since it’s a fourteen book series, I’d like to one day complete them so I’m hoping that picking up L. Frank Baum’s first book is the Oz series, I will be inspired to get back into reading everything his world has to offer.

The second step in becoming a witch is to read a book with a foiled cover. For this prompt, I am picking up a manga – The Legend of Zelda: Legendary Edition, Ocarina of Time by Akira Himekawa. The titles and triforce on the cover are foiled.

This book tells the story of Link and his journey to find the triforce and save princess Zelda from the forces of evil. This manga is based on a video game franchise of the same name. Ocarina of Time was the first game I ever played on my Nintendo 64 and it sparked a lifelong love for Link and Zelda and their adventures. I have had this on my shelves for a bit and can’t wait to dive into the land of Hyrule in this new format.

The third step to becoming a witch asks me to read a book featuring a magical battle. This book might not contain a battle that’s as explicitly magical like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows but I’m going to make what might be a tiny stretch and read The Fellowship of the Ring by J.R.R. Tolkien.

This first book in the The Lord of the Rings trilogy follows Frodo and his journey to destroy the ring of power. Left to him by his uncle, the ring holds great power that could mean the end of the world if it falls into the wrong hands. Frodo must gather a group of friends who will help him complete this dangerous and difficult task. Wizards, hobbits, dwarves, elves, men, and more are represented in this classic fantasy.

I first read this book in fifth grade and have reread it once since then. Later on, the movies held a special place in my heart and I reread the series but I haven’t read them as an adult. I would love to go back to Middle Earth and reignite some of that nostalgia. 

The fourth and final step to becoming a witch is to read a book with occult themes. At first, I wasn’t sure I had anything to fit this prompt but then I remember I’d recently purchased These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling during a Kindle sale.

Hannah is an elemental witch living in Salem, MA who must keep her powers a secret or risk losing them. She’s also trying to avoid fellow witch and ex-girlfriend, Veronica. When there’s a threat from an incredibly strong witch, Hannah has no choice but to team up with Veronica to stop it.

I’ve heard mixed reviews about this book but I really want to give it a try. Queer witches? Count me in! I think it will have a nice balance of witchy magic and teen drama and I’ve definitely been in the mood for some lighter reads.

Apart from the Make Your Mythtaker Readathon, I’m reading my first Leigh Bardugo book, Ninth House with a group of friends. 

Like I said before, I don’t really read a lot of fantasy but this is our book for the month. I don’t know a ton about the plot of this book and want to go into it fairly blind but here’s a link to the Goodreads synopsis!

I try to only hold myself accountable for five books each month so I have some room to pick up other books based on my mood but I want to also loosely hold myself accountable for continuing the Percy Jackson series. I am reading the first book now and am really enjoying it. I am planning a blog post talking about my experience reading this series for the first time.

If you’re still reading, bless you. Here are my reading plans for June 2020. Have you read any of these books already? What did you think? Are you participating in either Make Your Mythtaker or any other readathons this month? What’s on your TBR? I’ve really been enjoying talking to people in the comments here or over on my Instagram so come chat!

Stuck at Home Book Tag

Blog Tags

Many of us have been at home for a few months and some people are going back to work (or have been working the whole time) but I’m going to be home for the foreseeable future since I won’t be teaching until August (knock on wood). I’m a bit late to the game but I’m going to do the Stay at Home Book tag!

I’ve seen a few other bloggers do this tag but it was originally created by Ellyn and you can see the original post here. I wasn’t specifically nominated but I most recently saw Tiffany over at My Bookish Fantasy do this and I wanted to give it a try. Hope you enjoy!

What are you currently reading?

I am currently listening to The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins. I keep putting this book down and picking it back up; it’s been an interesting reading experience to say the least. I also just finished Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. It’s a modern Pride and Prejudice retelling and I thought it was pretty good. That being said, I’m about to pick up another book to read physically and I randomized by TBR so it looks like I’m picking up The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde.

What’s your favorite “can’t-leave-the-house” activity?

Of course, I’ve been playing a ton of Animal Crossing. My island isn’t the cutest yet but I’m slowly working on it. I made a little park and my next project is to make a boardwalk.

I have also been watching more shows than I normally would. I am currently watching Avatar: The Last Airbender, Bob’s Burgers, and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia again. I might also start using this time to watch some more anime – One Piece and Blue Exorcist are both some favorites.

A book you’ve been meaning to read forever:

I have been meaning to get into Shirley Jackson in general for quite a while. I have a few of her books so I am going to try to work them into my TBRs over the summer if I can. I am also trying to get into Junji Ito’s work for a bit. Clearly, I am in the mood for all things spooky.

An intimidating book on your TBR:

Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. She’s giant, she’s old, she goes on tangents at length. I am interested in the plot but everytime I look at the book, I am unsure of how I’ll ever be able to tackle it. I fear the day that I randomize my TBR and that book comes up. 

Top three priority books on your TBR:

I am really looking forward to reading Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo with some friends in June. I don’t read a ton of fantasy and definitely haven’t read anything by Bardugo so I’m excited to give it a try. I mentioned Junji Ito before but I am really prioritizing Gyo because the synopsis is super intriguing to me. Lastly, I am looking to start the Percy Jackson series for the first time really soon. I’m picking up the books tonight so I want to put those high on my list.

Recommend a short book:

I keep talking about this book but I read it for a class this past semester and LOVED it. It’s a graphic novel called Fun Home by Alison Bechdel. It’s described as a tragicomic and talks about the author’s life and relationship with her father. She is coming to terms with her own sexuality and her family dynamic. I highly recommend it.

Recommend a long book:

I don’t exactly read a ton of really long books but I did really enjoy The Heart’s Invisible Furies by John Boyne. This book follows one man throughout his entire life. He is on a journey to learn about himself and who he is after he learns that he is adopted. I really enjoyed following him on this lifelong journey of self-discovery.

Something you’d love to do while stuck at home:

Since starting this blog and my bookstagram account, I have been playing with the idea of starting a YouTube channel. I have plans to film this week but I’m not yet sure if the footage will ever see the light of day. I am just really nervous and self-conscious about trying a new medium where people can see and hear me. But who knows?

What do you plan on reading next?

I am picking up The Happy Prince and Other Stories by Oscar Wilde. After that, I might have time to read one more book before I start Ninth House and my June readathon books and I think that will be the first book in the Percy Jackson series.

If you’ve made it this far, I tag you in the Stuck at Home Book Tag! I hope you’ve enjoyed reading this and learning a little more about books I’ve read and enjoyed or books I’m planning to read. ❤