Recent Reads 16

Since I’ve been reading more lately, I just haven’t been taking good review notes. That means these reviews might be a little lacking so hopefully you don’t mind too much. This time I’ll be reviewing Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse, From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout, and The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Release Date: October 13, 2020

Genre: Adult fantasy

Pages: 454

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

The first book in the Between Earth and Sky trilogy, inspired by the civilizations of the Pre-Columbian Americas and woven into a tale of celestial prophecies, political intrigue, and forbidden magic.

A god will return

When the earth and sky converge

Under the black sun

In the holy city of Tova, the winter solstice is usually a time for celebration and renewal, but this year it coincides with a solar eclipse, a rare celestial event proscribed by the Sun Priest as an unbalancing of the world.

Meanwhile, a ship launches from a distant city bound for Tova and set to arrive on the solstice. The captain of the ship, Xiala, is a disgraced Teek whose song can calm the waters around her as easily as it can warp a man’s mind. Her ship carries one passenger. Described as harmless, the passenger, Serapio, is a young man, blind, scarred, and cloaked in destiny. As Xiala well knows, when a man is described as harmless, he usually ends up being a villain

Brief Review

“Usually,” Xiala said carefully, “when someone describes a man as harmless, he ends up being a villain.”

I don’t think I ever would have read this book if it weren’t for Some Obscure Book Club and that would have been a shame. This fantasy story is full of political intrigue and complex characters. While many of the characters are likable, I never knew who to cheer for because what’s right and wrong isn’t really clear. Speaking of likable characters, I was most drawn to Xiala. She is an amazing ship captain but people are scared of her because of her powers but they need her to survive. I adored the chapters that follow her because I love ocean stories and because she’s such a strong character and I always wanted to see what she would do and say next. I’m really hoping to learn more about her as the series goes. Just like with my favorite book, The Fifth Season, I am happy to see more fantasy that isn’t centered around European-based worlds and Black Sun really delivers on this. I am really excited for the rest of the series and will definitely be rereading this one because there is likely so much I missed from only listening to the audio in the beginning.

From Blood and Ash by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Release Date: March 30, 2020

Genre: Adult fantasy romance

Pages: 625

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

A Maiden

Chosen from birth to usher in a new era, Poppy’s life has never been her own. The life of the Maiden is solitary. Never to be touched. Never to be looked upon. Never to be spoken to. Never to experience pleasure. Waiting for the day of her Ascension, she would rather be with the guards, fighting back the evil that took her family, than preparing to be found worthy by the gods. But the choice has never been hers.

A Duty

The entire kingdom’s future rests on Poppy’s shoulders, something she’s not even quite sure she wants for herself. Because a Maiden has a heart. And a soul. And longing. And when Hawke, a golden-eyed guard honor bound to ensure her Ascension, enters her life, destiny and duty become tangled with desire and need. He incites her anger, makes her question everything she believes in, and tempts her with the forbidden.

A Kingdom

Forsaken by the gods and feared by mortals, a fallen kingdom is rising once more, determined to take back what they believe is theirs through violence and vengeance. And as the shadow of those cursed draws closer, the line between what is forbidden and what is right becomes blurred. Poppy is not only on the verge of losing her heart and being found unworthy by the gods, but also her life when every blood-soaked thread that holds her world together begins to unravel.

Brief Thoughts

“Fear and bravery are often one and the same. It either makes you a warrior or a coward. The only difference is the person it resides inside.”

After DNFing ACOTAR earlier this year, I just assumed fantasy romance wasn’t for me and I had no plans to pick this one up. That was until one of my best friends was like, “no really read it.” So I did. And I’m surprised that I honestly had a pretty good time. I was sometimes confused by the plot and some scenes were a little strange especially towards the end but I was completely intrigued with what was happening. There’s SO much tension, political and otherwise and it’s just a fun time.

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 7, 2014

Genre: YA fantasy, mythology

Pages: 560

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Since this is the last book in a series, I’ll link the synopsis for the first book here, and this book here.

Brief Thoughts

“You can’t choose your parentage. But you can choose your legacy.”

I finished the Heroes of Olympus series at the very end of last month and I think this is the best book in the series. All of the aspects of the other books I’ve read in this universe are still there – high stakes, friendship, comedy, heartwarming. In this book particularly, I appreciated the jumps between perspectives because it made all of the action seem really fast-paced. I also loved seeing how much the relationships between different characters developed while they are trying to save the world. I am excited to continue reading the books in this universe. I think I’m going to take a little break before picking up The Kane Chronicles but I look forward to seeing what happens with a new set of characters.

What are you guys reading now? Have you read any of these? Come chat with me!

Recent Reads 14

The semester is over and I’m done grading so I’m hoping to pick up my reading pace a bit this summer. This week, I have a contemporary romance, a queer romance set in ancient Greece, and a short story collection that celebrates love and mythology. If you want to see more, you can find my last “Recent Reads” here.

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon

Release Date: January 26, 2021

Genre: Adult contemporary romance

Pages: 336

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Public radio co-hosts navigate mixed signals in Rachel Lynn Solomon’s sparkling romantic comedy debut.

Shay Goldstein has been a producer at her Seattle public radio station for nearly a decade, and she can’t imagine working anywhere else. But lately it’s been a constant clash between her and her newest colleague, Dominic Yun, who’s fresh off a journalism master’s program and convinced he knows everything about public radio.

When the struggling station needs a new concept, Shay proposes a show that her boss green-lights with excitement. On The Ex Talk, two exes will deliver relationship advice live, on air. Their boss decides Shay and Dominic are the perfect co-hosts, given how much they already despise each other. Neither loves the idea of lying to listeners, but it’s this or unemployment. Their audience gets invested fast, and it’s not long before The Ex Talk becomes a must-listen in Seattle and climbs podcast charts.

As the show gets bigger, so does their deception, especially when Shay and Dominic start to fall for each other. In an industry that values truth, getting caught could mean the end of more than just their careers.

Brief Review

“Sometimes I wonder if content is really just a synonym for complacent.”

I really love the setting and set-up for this story. It’s such a fun concept. I also found it interesting only being in her head and not knowing what her love interest, Dominic, is thinking. Speaking of Dominic, I think he’s an interesting hero with the cutest family ever. I wish I knew more about them. This romance deals with some serious themes of grief and loneliness and developing and maintaining friendships as an adult so while this is a romance, it also offers up so much more to think about. Shay is my age and seeing her having to think about what she wants to do with her life and work through the “what’s next?” in her late twenties is both relatable and refreshing. She’s also older than Dominic which is cute. It might have just been me, but I think the build up to the romance was a little slow but I didn’t really mind it because I like the payoff. Also, there’s a cute dog named Steve.

The Song of Achilles

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

Release Date: September 20, 2011

Genre: Adult historical fiction, mythology, fantasy

Pages: 352

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

Profoundly moving and breathtakingly original, this rendering of the epic Trojan War is a dazzling feat of the imagination, a devastating love story, and an almighty battle between gods and kings, peace and glory, immortal fame and the human heart.

Brief Thoughts

“I could recognize him by touch alone, by smell; I would know him blind, by the way his breaths came and his feet struck the earth. I would know him in death, at the end of the world.”

Only a few pages into the book I made my first note and it says, “Oh, this is going to break my heart, isn’t it?” Even though I knew what was going to happen, it still had a deep impact on me. It was fun once I started remembering specific plot points of The Iliad, which I haven’t read since undergrad, because I could anticipate what would happen and how it would happen in Madeline Miller’s story. This story is a bit slow moving at the beginning but I was fine with it because I like getting to see Achilles and Patroclus get to know each other as well as explore the building tension between them and Achilles’ goddess mother. When the war started, I think it got a little tedious and I was really unsure of how I felt about Achilles but I do think the way Briseis’ character is explored really adds to that part of the story. I was overwhelmingly sad for Patroclus and really love this story.

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

Love in Colour by Bolu Babalola

Release Date: August 20, 2020

Genre: Adult romance, short stories, mythology

Pages: 278

Click here for trigger warnings.

Synopsis

Discover love from times long ago…

Join Bolu Babalola as she retells the most beautiful love stories from history and mythology in this stunning collection. From the homoromantic Greek myths, to magical Nigerian folktales, to the ancient stories of South Asia, Bolu brings new life to tales that truly show the vibrance and colours of love around the world.

The anthology is a step towards decolonising tropes of love, and celebrates in the wildly beautiful and astonishingly diverse tales of romance and desire that already exist in so many cultures and communities.

Get lost in these mystical worlds and you will soon realise that humanity – like love – comes in technicolour.

Brief Thoughts

“What matters most is that you feel like you are at your fullest.”

Short story collections are often hit or miss for me but this one just might be the best collection I’ve ever read. There isn’t a single story that bored me or that I didn’t like. The writing in these stories is so beautiful. It is so nice to see stories of joy and love for people of color rather than trauma. The women in these stories are largely powerful and have autonomy which you might not always get in older texts such as mythical tales. I wasn’t familiar with many of the source texts but I still really enjoyed reading these stories and want to look more into the stories I don’t know. The first story was a bit confusing but that might have been because I didn’t know the source material so looking up that story might help me fully appreciate it more. Some standout stories in this collection include Scheherazade which is based on 1001 Nights, Zhinu based on The Cowherd and the Weaver Girl, and Psyche. For Psyche, imagine your favs from Greek mythology working at a fashion magazine called Olympus! I am so excited to see what else Bolu Babalola writes because this collection is beautiful.

I’m still reading manga just at a bit of a slower pace from last month. I will probably wrap all of those up in an individual post since I’m just working through one series (Blue Exorcist). Have you read any of these? Do you want to? Come chat with me!

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!

Let’s Talk About Romance… Again.

I know. Literally two months ago I talked about how I struggled to come up with a list of books that even include romances I love, but there has been a bit of a development so I’m back to talk about romance.

After finishing Act Your Age, Eve Brown, I was *ready* for some more romance books so I’ve been buying them even though I have about a million other books to read. I want to just share the romances I’ve acquired recently in the hopes that I can share with you what’s on my radar and maybe get some additional recommendations because I can’t stop thinking about romance books.

The Kiss Quotient

I got The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang at the end of February and I pretty much immediately read it. I didn’t love this one. I talk about it here, but I just had some issues with the hero, Michael, and how he treated Stella. I did really like the characters individually and the general writing so I went ahead and picked up the next book in the series, The Bride Test. I don’t know much about this book apart from the fact that it follows Michael’s autistic cousin, Khai. I’m nervous because I had some issues with TKQ but I still want to see more from Helen Hoang.

Spoiler Alert

I also picked up Spoiler Alert by Olivia Dade. I’ve never been into fanfiction or Game of Thrones-type things BUT I am intrigued to read a romance surrounding those things. Marcus is on a show and writes fanfiction about it while April is a plus-sized cosplayer and there is some online flirtation before things progress. I am hoping and excited for some positive fat rep in books, especially in the romance genre.

The Bromance Book Club

Another romance I picked up recently is The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams. People kept recommending it to me on Instagram when I first started posting about contemporary romances so I finally picked it up. This is about a man going through marriage troubles and he joins a romance book club with some other men in his city to improve their relationships. I think this book sounds so cute and I appreciate that this book deals with a man trying to save his marriage. They have an established past and as someone who’s been in the same relationship for eleven years, I think I’ll relate to this one a little more than the others. I’ve heard great things about it but not so much about the rest of the books in the series so I’m not sure if I’ll read more after this first one but we’ll see!!

The Hating Game

Lastly, I was browsing the Kindle daily deals, as one does, and saw The Hating Game by Sally Thorne on major sale. I know this is an office romance and the reviews I’ve seen from people I follow are either WONDERFUL or they HATE it. I’m always intrigued when there’s such a big divide with any book but I’m nervous since romance is so touch-and-go for me. This will honestly probably be the last one I pick up of these unless someone can convince me otherwise.

Those are the romance books I’ve picked up over the past couple of months and I am torn between marathoning them back to back and saving and savoring my new love for contemporary romance. I currently have my eye on The Ex Talk by Rachel Lynn Solomon and will honestly probably buy it before the end of the week because I can’t stop thinking about it but do you have any other romance recommendations? It doesn’t have to be contemporary! I’m also interested in historical but I don’t know where to start because I’m nervous about the older ones and the dubious consent that sometimes pops up. Let me know your thoughts!

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!

February 2021 Favs

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

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***

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.

Books With Romances I Can Get Behind

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

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

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!