February 2021 Favs

Reading Wrap-ups

Because I’m doing recent reads every week or so, it doesn’t make sense to do full wrap-ups the way I used to but I do want to have a place to reflect on the month overall so I’m going to start talking about some of my favorite things each month. I’ll start with books but I also want to talk about hobbies, movies, music, TV, etc. To be transparent, it was not a great month for me. My mental health usually takes a dive in February and this time was no exception. I truly spent a lot of time just listening to music and unmotivated to do anything but I do have a few things I want to talk about.

Books

Even though I read significantly less this month than I did in previous months and so many of them were just okay, I still had two books that really stood out to me. They probably won’t surprise you if you’ve been reading my blog but I’m going to talk about them anyway.

Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert

I was INCREDIBLY lucky to receive an ARC of Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert this month. I’ve loved this entire romance series and immediately dropped everything to read this ARC. Obviously, I don’t regret it. If you want a slightly cohesive review, click the link above but I just want to use this space to gush about the one book that made me truly have a fun time this month. I don’t usually read romance but now that I’ve finished this series, I’m looking for more. I couldn’t stop smiling while I was reading about this grumpy/sunshine couple going from annoyed to in love while working together in an English bed and breakfast. The banter was *chef’s kiss* and so was the steam! I went from unsure about Eve to really relating to her in the end and I’m thankful to Hibbert for taking me on that journey with a character. I also loved all the music references. I think I want to compile a playlist of all the mentioned songs just for fun, but I’m sure someone has already done that. The books in this series can be read as standalones so I definitely recommend picking this up when it comes out on March 9!

The Stone Sky by N. K. Jemisin

I’m also going to talk about N. K. Jemisin again this month. I read the final book in The Broken Earth Trilogy, The Stone Sky and I’m just going to say this is absolutely my favorite series of all time and I don’t see how anything can top it. This is one of the last books I finished this month and I haven’t written my official review yet so this might be unorganized but I’m always unorganized so what’s the difference? This is how to end a story. There was so much action and the stakes were so high; I couldn’t put it down. It was both heartbreaking and beautiful. What I really appreciate about this series are all of the real-world themes Jemisin covers in this fantasy world. This story is very much about surviving but it also contains discussions of environmentalism, blood relations vs. found family, prejudices, and slavery and exploitation. There is SO MUCH going on and so much to think about and I’d really love to read the entire series again because this is one of those stories where I’m certain I’ll get something else out of it every time I read it again. I can’t recommend this series enough if you’re in the mood for a truly clever fantasy that takes a bit of work but is DEFINITELY worth it.

Music

I’ve still been watching Arctic Monkeys concerts but there are some other songs in my rotation. First, I showed up a little late to the Ashnikko party. Her DEMIDEVIL album is so much fun and I just feel so hyped when I listen to it. Both “Daisy” and “Deal With It” are standouts and I highly recommend. I also found an acoustic cover of Ariana Grande’s “God is a Woman” and I didn’t know that I needed it but I did. I am considering making playlists in future months but I need to check my privacy settings because I don’t want to expose myself that much 😂

TV/Movies

The Muppet Show opening.

I’m still rewatching It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia but I’m also watching The Muppet Show. I grew up with practically no internet and limited television so I was constantly watching the couple of Muppet Show VHS tapes we had at my grandma’s house. It definitely shaped a lot of my early music taste and I was thrilled to see it available to stream this month. I still think it’s such an innovative idea for a variety show that showcased celebrities of the time with a combination of comedy and musical numbers. Is it cheesy? Absolutely. Is it sometimes offensive? Unfortunately. While it isn’t perfect, I have fun revisiting episodes I had on VHS and seeing ones I’ve never seen before. So far, Paul Williams from the band, Three Dog Night is my favorite. His version of “An Old Fashioned Love Song” on the show is better than the original. That might be controversial. I don’t know. But here’s a link to a low-quality video of his performance where he sings the song with two muppet versions of himself.

The cast of Knives Out.

I don’t really consider myself a person who likes movies if I’m being honest. There are some that I like, of course but it takes a lot to get me to sit down and watch one. I do like Knives Out, though. Knives Out is sort of a long movie – over two hours. I’ve watched it twice, in full and didn’t scroll through a single app during it either time. It’s a compelling, funny, mystery where the twists don’t stop. Phenomenal. I rewatched this movie a few weeks ago with my partner since he’s never seen it and I had such a fun time seeing him react to all the twists. I’m chasing the feeling of this movie in book form and I’m not sure I’m going to find it.

Hobbies

I had a difficult time enjoying hobbies this month but I did do a few things with my free time outside of reading and watching things. I’ve started making aesthetic journal spreads to review my favorite books each month. I am having a ton of fun planning out spreads and putting things together. I haven’t done one for The Stone Sky yet but I did for Eve Brown and I really like how it turned out (see below).

I’ve also been playing a few videogames. I got the remaster of Super Mario 3D World for Switch. Before Mario Odyssey came out, this was my favorite Mario game of all time. I’ve been trying to make it last and not play through the whole thing in just a few weeks but I’m approaching the end of the main game because I spent a couple of afternoons unable to put it down. It’s such a fun time.

I also started a new cross-stitch project but it’s much more complicated than the one I did before so it’s taking me a bit more time to finish. I’m really excited to show off the final piece.

So what have you been enjoying this month?

Act Your Age, Eve Brown Review

Reviews

Release Date: March 9, 2021

Genre: Contemporary romance

Pages: 400

Trigger Warnings: child neglect, anti-autistic ableism

Pre-order here!

Goodreads Synopsis

In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.

Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It’s time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she’s not entirely sure how…

Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.

Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.

Brief Review

***ARC provided through NetGalley***

“All Eve really knew was how to be fun, and experience had taught her she ought to stick to her strong suit and avoid reaching too high. She used to reach, once upon a time. But it hurt so terribly to fall.”

Talia Hibbert

I didn’t think I could relate to a character from this series as much as I did Dani but I was wrong! She journals, she LOVES music and always has to have it playing, and there’s a scene towards the end with her family that really made me *feel something.* At first, I was really unsure about Eve. Her parents made good points about her and she seemed a little spoiled but her charm and willingness to grow as a character made me change my mind, obviously.

Additionally, I really loved the relationship between Jacob and Eve. They’re so completely different from each other on the surface; they shouldn’t work but they do and it’s wonderful to see. They are definitely the grumpy/sunshine trope or “annoyed to lovers.” Their banter made me laugh and smile so much. The build-up to their romance was particularly well done. It easily could have happened too quickly or too easily but I think the pacing was perfect. THE POND SCENE!! Both characters are incredibly thoughtful and the final resolution was the cutest thing. Talia Hibbert really gave me a relationship I had no trouble rooting for. Please check this out on March 9 when it releases!!

This book does feature an autistic character and as I’m not part of that community, I would consider checking out own voices reviews for commentary and discussion about the representation.

I did a journal spread for this book and I just wanted to share that here as well because I’m kind of proud of it!

Only marginally related but there’s an @arcticmonkeys reference and it just made me happy because I’ve been aggressively listening to them for months now.

Lastly, I just wanted to show my IG post where I made a spread in my reading journal for this book. Let me know what you think!

Books With Romances I Can Get Behind

Book Recommendations

If you’re seeing this the day I post it, it’s Valentine’s Day and while I don’t normally care much about this corporate holiday, it does make for a good excuse for me to talk about romance. Now, I don’t usually care about romance in my media. In fact, I often actively avoid it but there are instances where I not only have the patience for it but I also LOVE it. I want to use this day of corporate love to talk about five books with romances I can get behind.

First, I want to talk about a book that comes out next month and that I have a dedicated review scheduled for – Act Your Age, Eve Brown by Talia Hibbert. This is the final book in the Brown Sisters trilogy but you can read them in any order. This is a romance so my enjoyment of the book really hinges on my enjoyment of the romance and while I like all the books in this trilogy, Eve Brown is definitely my favorite. I have a lot I could say about Eve herself but I’ll save that for my full review. What I want to talk about here is the perfect grumpy/sunshine (or annoyed – to – lovers) trope with two thoughtful people with wonderful banter that made me smile the entire time. Eve and Jacob really couldn’t be more opposite in manner but Hibbert made it work and I was rooting for them the whole time.

Not to completely change gears but my next recommendation is a YA contemporary romance called The Henna Wars by Adiba Jaigirdar. This soft romance between two girls, Nishat and Flavia. They develop a rivalry during a school competition all while Nishat is fighting her feelings Flavia. Their interactions balance that romantic tension and rivalry tension well and make for an intriguing story. The scenes with both girls alone are really heartwarming as they talk through serious issues such as homophobia and cultural appropriation. The whole time I was just hoping for them to be happy.

Next, I want to talk about a historical fiction called Water for Elephants by Sara Gruen. I know this is a film starring Robert Pattinson and Reese Witherspoon but I’ve never seen it. I did, though, pick up this book early in 2020 and immediately found myself wrapped up in Jacob and Marlena’s story. They met at a circus which I think makes for an interesting backdrop for a romance. Marlena is married to a horribly abusive man and works together with Jacob to train an elephant named Rosie; of course, they fall in love. Readers get this story from Jacob as an old man reflecting on his life and that frame narrative really makes it an interesting story.

Speaking of frame narratives, I can’t not mention Atonement by Ian McEwan. I’ll start by saying that this book is heartbreaking. Robbie and Cecilia are in love but ripped apart by a false accusation and the second World War. There are a lot of other things going on in this story but the tragedy surrounding Robbie and Cecilia is something I think about all the time (I like sad books) and I kept wishing they could be back together again and waiting for that opportunity for them. I don’t want to say anything more because so much of the appeal comes from the ending but if you know, then you know.

I struggled for a fifth book. I really did. But I’m going to talk about a book everyone is probably tired of seeing and that’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V. E. Schwab. While I’m a HUGE Luc fan (don’t come for me), I did really feel emotional at some points in Henry and Addie’s relationship. Addie just wants to be loved and that isn’t really possible when no one can remember her. Addie’s inner monologue at the end of her first date with Henry had me one emotional bitch and I DID NOT see that coming for me. I really liked how the circumstances of their lives worked together and had to be navigated in order for them to work as a couple. Additionally, I really liked the tension in the scenes with Addie and Luc. I know they’re not really the focus but there was *something* there and it was a good time for me.

I like tragic romances and soft romances and basically, romances that make me feel things so do you have any recommendations? How did you feel about these, if you’ve read them? Let me know!

September 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups, Uncategorized

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

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

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

Ratings:

3 five-star reads

6 four-star reads

1 unrated read

Format:

1 audiobook

7 ebooks

2 physical books

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

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

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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

Rating: 5 out of 5.

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

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

Stay safe!

Sam

WWW Wednesday – September 23, 2020

WWW Wednesday

You might have noticed that I took a week or so off from writing on my blog but things have been pretty stressful and chaotic for me so I just needed some time step back and rest for a bit but I’m back in some capacity now. So here I am with the WWW Wednesday tag hosted by Taking on a World of Words. I like having a chance mid-week to share what I’m reading and see what you guys are up to, as well.

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I am currently continuing to read through The Bridge Called My Back which is a collection of letters, poems, and essays written by women of color and deal heavily with intersectional feminism. I find myself constantly underlining and making notes and just thinking about each piece. It takes me a while to get through each piece because of that, but it’s completely worth it.

I am also reading My Dark Vanessa by Kate Elizabeth Russell. I am about halfway through this book and it’s really heavy. It follows two timelines – one when Vanessa was fifteen and being abused by her English teacher and the other seventeen years later and new allegations are coming out against the same man. This book does not shy away from the subject matter in any way so I would be cautious going into this but it is very well written and heartbreaking.

I won’t go through everything I’ve read since the last time I posted one of these but I will talk about my last two reads. This is the month of library holds and throwing my TBR out the window so I picked up Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert recently. I really enjoyed Chloe Brown and didn’t think it could get better but it did. This romance has fake dating, an English PhD student, and a grumpy security guard. It’s fun and sweet and steamy and just a really great time. I usually don’t care about romance but something about Talia Hibbert gets me every time.

I was also able to finally read Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. I usually feel pretty average about YA contemporaries but this one truly surprised me. It wasn’t just about Felix being trans and trying to deal with the aftermath of someone posting old photos and his deadname at school. It’s also about love between friends, romantic love, acceptance, and identity. I don’t have anything unique to add to all the praise this book has been given but just pick it up if you can!

Next, I’m going to pick up Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson because it’s currently waiting for me in the Libby app. This is a mystery about a girl named Claudia who is looking for her friend, Monday, who is missing and no one else seems to notice. I have had this on my wishlist for a while and am excited to get to it and see if it’s something I definitely want to own.

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

Book Review – Trust Me – Nell Grey

Reviews

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Release date: June 27, 2020

Genre: Romance, Mystery/Thriller

Pages: 266

Trigger warnings: suicide and abuse

Goodreads Synopsis

A powerful love story with a dark underbelly full of unexpected twists. Glyn Evans’ death is clearly a tragic suicide. An open and shut case. And yet something about it feels off…In a single day, Annie Evans’ life is blown to bits. It’s a huge mess and she desperately needs to escape from London. Her father’s died and she needs to go home. The place she’s been avoiding for years. Jac Jones is back home too. Annie’s vowed to ghost him. Whatever possessed her parents to let this ex special forces soldier rent their farm? Is he playing her again? For Sion Edwards, his old army buddy’s place is the perfect bolt hole. A safe place to hide from the people who want to make him pay for what he’s done. And they won’t rest until he’s dead. The detective is right. In this sleepy Welsh valley, not everything is as it seems…An addictive and compelling exploration of trust and betrayal.

Review

I was sent this book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Annie is having issues with work and with romance when she learns of her father’s death. When she first returns to her childhood home, she is quick to accept the suicide ruling but is it that clear-cut? In addition to taking care of that, she discovers that someone she used to be romantically involved with is working on her family’s farm and she definitely doesn’t want to have anything to do with him.

I’ve never read a book that was both a romance and a mystery/thriller so I didn’t know what to expect. I typically read a lot of thrillers but I don’t read romance that often but this book definitely made me want more. We follow two story lines – one with Annie and Jac and another with one of Jac’s friends from the army. The whole time I wasn’t sure how the stories were going to come together and at a few points, I was nervous that it wouldn’t feel connected but I was definitely wrong. I had so much fun trying to figure out what these plots had to do with each other.

Something else I really enjoyed about this book was that it was clearly well-researched. This book takes place, in part, on a sheep farm and I didn’t really know what that entailed but seeing Annie and Jac get closer while having to do all of the work involved with the sheep was interesting to read about and made for a unique setting.

I will say that there was one place early on where I wasn’t sure if I was reading about the present or if it was a flashback but it was short and didn’t really hinder my overall enjoyment of the story.

The ending of Trust Me definitely gave me enough closure while still leaving things open enough for the sequel, Find Me. From what I understand, Find Me follows some of the side characters from Trust Me. I am excited to read and review the sequel in October!

WWW Wednesday – September 9, 2020

WWW Wednesday

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

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

August 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

August was… a lot. I spent the first half planning courses and the second half teaching college English face to face. I talk more about what that’s been like in the context of a pandemic in this blog post. There has definitely been an update on that front, though. At the end of the second week, cases really began to spike on campus (obviously) so I was able to move my class online. It’s taken a ton of stress off of me and some of my students. We all meet on Zoom and talk about the same things we’d normally talk about in the classroom and getting comfortable talking that way will be an adjustment for some but I think most of them are understanding of the complexity of this situation. Also there was a hurricane last month! It felt like it happened ages ago.

Love is a Laserquest – Arctic Monkeys

Another thing that happened this month is that I’ve rediscovered how much I love Arctic Monkeys. I’ve been listening to them nonstop and really reliving my best college life through music. “Love is a Laserquest” has been a real favorite lately. It’s put me in the mood to read more romance so that’s been an interesting development.

But let’s talk about books! Audiobooks really saved the day while I was working this month so while I own most of these books physically, I ended up listening to so many of them.

Ratings:

4 five-star books

7 four-star books

1 three-star book

2 two-star books

1 one-star book

Formats:

7 physical books

1 eBooks

7 audiobooks

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The first book I read this month was The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva. I was lucky enough to be sent this book by the author to review and since I wrote a full review of this book on my blog, I will be brief but you can read more here. This book follows Amy throughout her average life but shows readers the ways her OCD and depression can change the ways in which she goes about her everyday life. Though there is a bit of a plot involving international travel and romantic relationships, this book definitely feels, at times, like a character study. In this way, Riva accomplishes her goal of showing what maintaining a regular office job and a social life can look like with OCD. I definitely think this book picks up in the second half as Amy starts to really have to deal with the things in her life that she feels are holding her back from being happy. Overall, a fairly quick read which I enjoyed.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I know that I was hoping to not really have any holds from my library come through this month but I did get Hunger by Roxane Gay in early August. It also came the day of Hurricane Isaias so I found myself with plenty of time to read. Hunger is a memoir that discusses Gay’s relationship with her body and how past trauma shaped that relationship. This is a powerful and real look at what it means to be a fat woman in this world and also gets into what it means to be a fat, Black woman. Though it does deal with weight and eating and is titled “hunger,” it is not just about being literally hungry; it’s also about being hungry for affection, attention, and other desires Gay has denied herself over the years because of her weight and trauma. “Enjoyed” isn’t the right word but I definitely recommend this book. I would suggest looking for trigger warnings as this book covers topics including rape and disordered eating.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

After reading and adoring Daisy Jones and the Six, I knew I wanted to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. This story begins with Monique, a journalist at a magazine. Her magazine is contacted by the famous actress, Evelyn Hugo who wants Monique (and only Monique) to tell her story after she dies. I don’t want to say much more because that’s about all I knew going into it and I loved reading this book. Since the book spans from the 1950s to the present day, Reid is able to cover such much history and touches on it as it becomes relevant to Evelyn’s story. The writing is beautiful and Reid keeps the reader interested as she describes Evelyn’s life with each of her seven husbands. The last 100 pages or so were definitely emotional and had me close to tears many times. We all know I like sad books so it’s no surprise that I adore this one. I do think I like Daisy Jones a little more though, but that’s simply because I have always been a sucker for the 70s rock aesthetic.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

I’m pretty sure I got this book from a box at a yard sale once. I was going through my spreadsheet of books looking for something I wouldn’t mind listening to on audio while I worked so I found this available through my library. The Bridges of Madison County is a book that follows Francesca who isn’t really happy in her marriage. When a photographer comes to town to take photos of the covered bridges, she begins a short affair with him. The whole time I was listening to this book, I kept thinking maybe she should just talk to her husband about the things she doesn’t like but he didn’t really seem to matter at all to anyone. Since this book is less than 200 pages, there was little to no development in the relationship so it just felt… fake. Not a fan.

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Due to last-minute changes with my job, I found that I needed to be at a computer for 12+ hours a day and needed something to listen to on audio. I own a collection of every Arthur Miller play and found myself listening to a few of them on Scribd while I was working. 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 and made him look like an angel. 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.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I was nervous going into Never Let Me Go because I don’t usually connect with science-fiction but Ishiguro created something different from any other sci-fi I’ve ever tried before. This story follows Kathy as she reminiscences and pieces together the truth about the boarding school she used to attend. Switching from the past to present-day timelines, Kathy has the help of her childhood friends, Ruth and Tommy. Ishiguro creates a beautiful and atmospheric story that slowly drops information for the reader to piece together. Nothing is spelled out until the very end which means this is a world where everything feels almost normal but something is just a little off (aka the plot of all my dreams). I can’t really say anything about the social commentary without spoiling it but I read another book this year that has similar themes and I really appreciated that. The ending is pretty sad and we like sad endings in this house so definitely one I will come back to.

Rating: 2 out of 5.

My Lobotomy by Howard Dully is a book I’ve had for ages and just never got around to picking up. As I was going through my spreadsheet, I found that this was available with no wait through my library so I decided I’d listen to it while I continued setting up my courses for the new semester. This book is a true account of the horrifying experience Howard faced when he was given a lobotomy at just twelve years old. I have a difficult time assigning a star rating to this book because his experiences were so traumatizing; much of the “reasoning” behind his step-mother wanting this procedure was just Howard being a regular child and it’s important to bring attention to the fact that that happened at least as late as 1960. That being said, I just thought this story as a book was just okay. The writing was pretty average and I really didn’t enjoy the way Dully talked about other people in the asylum he lived in for a while – he kept making sure the reader knew he wasn’t like them. I haven’t listened to the NPR documentary that was released before the book but that might be a better way to take in this story. Overall, a powerful and important story but this format just didn’t work for me.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Somewhere in my mom’s house, there’s a low-quality VHS animated film adaptation of The Marvelous Land of Oz that I didn’t really like but still watched quite a bit and that’s the movie’s problem because I really enjoy this story. In this story, Tip lives with the evil Mombi until he has to escape so that she doesn’t turn him to stone. He travels Oz and meets the Scarecrow while he’s in the middle of a crisis. Adventure ensues. This book is definitely less iconic than the first and a little more silly but I still appreciate the sense of adventure and magic. I also think there were a lot of strong women in this story and the reveal at the end could bring up an interesting conversation but because it’s the twist, I can’t really say much here.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The Percy Jackson series really is just fantastic book after fantastic book, isn’t it? I read The Titan’s Curse this month and the magic from the first books is still there. This one was a bit longer than The Sea of Monsters and I appreciated that. We got to spend a bit more time with each of the characters, old and new. There were some really sad and intense moments that I also really enjoyed. I also think the commentary about humans being willing to do whatever the gods ask, especially if there’s money involved was an interesting idea to drop in a middle grade. That makes room for some big conversations. Also, if Nico is a recurring character (which after that reveal, he HAS to be) I think I’m really going to like him. I can’t wait to see what happens next and I think The Battle of the Labyrinth will be one of my first reads for September!

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings was a reread for me but it’s been over 10 years since I first read it and that made it like a fresh book for me. This is the first of Maya Angelou’s memoirs and recalls her life from early childhood to the birth of her child. This memoir contains stories of trauma and joy and family and what it was like to grow up predominantly in the south as a black woman in the 30s and 40s. I think the story about her graduation is particularly interesting and important to understanding her and her classmates’ experience with education during this time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I don’t often pick up short story collections but I am glad I picked up Zora Neale Hurston’s complete collection. I read a story each day throughout the month and finished it a little early. The types of stories in this collection vary drastically in content and style and it took me a while to be able to read the dialect at my usual reading pace but there were certainly some standouts here including ‘Hurricane’ and ‘Sweat.’ I also loved the slang dictionary she created to go along with her stories. It made me think a lot about linguistics and how certain languages can be seen as less-than or nonsensical but there are rules whether people want to see it or not.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

It’s been a while since I’ve picked up a literary fiction book. It used to be one of my favorite genres but for some reason, I’ve been reading less of them. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi reminded me of the power this genre has to make me feel and to make me think. This story begins in 1990s Nigeria when Vivek’s mother finds her son’s body wrapped in cloth at her door. From here we explore a timeline of Vivek’s life as well as the time after where his mother, Kavita desperately seeks answers about what happened. We also see Vivek’s father, aunt, uncle, cousin, and friends process this grief in different ways. This story also deals with themes of reincarnation which I thought were incredibly interesting and done really well. Additionally there is queer and trans rep. I will definitely be picking up more works by Emezi as their writing is phenomenal. There are trigger warnings for violence and abuse in this book so just be aware going in. Additionally, there was one particular aspect of the book that made me stop and think for a minute and I initially had a bad reaction but I found that this interview with Emezi and Rivers Solomon was helpful in thinking about that. I don’t want to be too specific and spoil anything.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

I have owned Amy Tan’s memoir, Where the Past Begins since it came out but have just gotten around to picking it up. It was available through my library via audio so I alternated between listening to the book while doing household chores and reading along while listening to the book. First, I think Tan is a fantastic writer and I love the way she explains pieces of her life are often so beautiful. It made for an interesting experience reading her memoir but I do think there were some times where I’d have liked a more straightforward approach. I do think that as the memoir went on, it became more interesting and her writing style lent itself to the story. The section where she talks about learning to read was so beautiful and insightful. My favorite part was the end where she talked about linguistics and related it to the immigrant experience and, ultimately, her mother. It was heartbreaking, beautiful and insightful. I’ll probably find myself revisiting those last sections of the book again.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

On the last day of August I listened to the audiobook of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory while catching up on some work and it was a pretty fun experience. This story is fun and whimsical but also a little dark and I think that’s a theme throughout so much of Dahl’s work. It is important to point out the flaws, though. The way the Oompa Loompas are handled is definitely problematic given the imperialistic notion of how they came to the factory. The ways Dahl talks about fat characters isn’t all that great either so just knowing that and recognizing the implications of those elements is crucial if you’re going to pick up and talk about this particular text.

I’m starting to think I need to split my wrap-ups into two parts because this was ridiculously lengthy. As always, thanks for reading and come chat!

Stay safe!

Sam

WWW Wednesday – September 2, 2020

WWW Wednesday

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

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

Because I’ve finished a lot of books and reading a ton of books, I have a lot to talk about today so I am going to try and be brief. I’m currently in the middle of four books for absolutely no reason. First, I’m reading Trust Me by Nell Grey. She kindly sent me this book and the next in the series for review. Trust Me is equal parts thriller/mystery and romance. I’m not totally sure where this book is going and I’m having a really good time.

I’m also currently reading Camp by L. C. Rosen. This book takes place at a queer camp for teens and that’s really all I know about it. I am only two chapters in since I just got it from my library yesterday, but I’ve heard there’s some romance and drama so I’ll enjoy reading it.

Like I did last month with The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston, I’ve picked up This Bridge Called My Back edited by Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua to read throughout the month. This is a collection of poems, letters, speeches, and other kinds of texts all written by women of color. They really get at the heart of intersectional feminism. I’ve read selections from it for school but wanted to come back and read the whole thing. I’ve read a couple of poems so far and I’m liking it a lot.

Last, I’m listening to James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl on audio. This was available with no wait from my library and it’s been fun to listen to this story while taking bookstagram photos and folding laundry. It really has me itching to watch the movie again and maybe I can convince my partner to join me this weekend ❤

Somehow (audiobooks) I was able to finish five books since I last checked in. If you want to know more of my thoughts about any of them, look out for my wrap-up on Friday. First, I finished I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou. I was almost done with it last week and finished it later in the day. I liked getting a glimpse into different moments in Angelou’s life and each chapter ranged from heartbreaking to exciting to fun. So much to offer here!

I was also able to finish The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. Like Angelou, Hurston is able to tell stories with a variety of emotions. What interested me the most were the dictionaries of slang terms she created to show that her writing wasn’t nonsensical. From a linguistic standpoint, this was important and fascinating to look at.

Speaking of linguistics, I was also able to finish Where the Past Begins by Amy Tan. I alternated between listening to this on audio and reading along with the audio. I love Tan’s writing and think she has such a compelling way of giving readers information. I sometimes wanted things to be a little more straightforward but she doesn’t give us that. I was particularly interested in the final sections talking about reading and linguistics as it applies to the immigrant experience.

I also finished The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi this week. This book opens with Vivek’s mother finding his body wrapped in cloth at her door. From there it is about figuring out what happened to him but it also is an exploration of grief. Emezi is able to pack a lot into a book that’s less than 250 pages and it doesn’t feel rushed. They did a fantastic job telling this story and it’s definitely my favorite read of August.

Lastly, I listened to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl on audio. This was a short, fun listen and made me miss Gene Wilder. There are definitely some issues with the story especially regarding the Oompa Loompas that people should be aware of and think about but otherwise it’s just as fun of a story as it’s always been.

Who knows what audiobook I’ll find next but I know that as far as physical reading, I’d like to get to Felix Ever After by Kacen Callender. I’m finding it way easier to fly through ebooks right now and this is another from my September TBR I have digitally. Plus it has a gorgeous cover and I’ve heard SO MUCH praise for this book.

Thanks for sticking with me through this longer WWW post! Have you read any of these books? What are you reading? If you participate in WWW Wednesday, link me your posts!

September 2020 TBR

TBRs

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