April 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. I read some okay books but really had a great time with manga and comics but I’m going to talk about those in my next blog post.

Books

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

I read a lot of “meh” books this month. I just didn’t feel super invested in or connected to anything I read. There are two I really want to talk about, though. The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna. You’re probably just as surprised as I am to see a YA fantasy on this list. This book follows Deka when she figures out that she has gold blood, something that her community despises. She is put through so much brutal treatment until she is whisked away to join an army of girls like her. I appreciated that Forna doesn’t shy away from the brutality of war. I also think that this is truly feminist and the friendships are just as, if not more important than the romance. It makes me so happy to see that message being presented to young women. See my full thoughts here!

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

I also *just* finished listening to The House of Hades by Rick Riordan. I haven’t written my review yet but I think this story is so action-packed and there are some wholesome and sweet scenes with Nico and and Leo individually. Nico is my favorite and I want to protect him at all costs. The solo scene with Leo really made me connect with and feel for him where I hadn’t as much before. I don’t want to spoil anything because it’s the fourth in a series but I really did have a great time. This might be my favorite in the series so far but we’ll see next month when I wrap up The Heroes of Olympus.

Music

Again, my playlist for this month is all over the place. OF COURSE is has the new Lil Nas X song. It also has girl in red, Tracy Chapman, and an old, rare Arctic Monkeys song. And we can’t forget the DMX tracks (RIP). I’ll try to remember to embed it at the end of this post but there’s a link in this section so I hope you’ll check it out!

TV

Death the Kid

This month, my partner and I chose an anime to watch together over dinner and on the weekends and I’m having SUCH a good time. We chose Soul Eater because I had watched about half of the first season in the past but haven’t ever finished it. This anime takes place in a world where the grim reaper runs a academy to train students to prevent people’s souls from becoming completely evil. Half of the students are weapons and the other half, wield the weapons. This is, of course, action packed and fast paced but I don’t really like anime that doesn’t have comedy and this also has that. Lord Death’s son, Death the Kid, ALWAYS has to have things be symmetrical and that gets in the way of so much of what he has to do. I love him. We will probably finish this soon and I’m pumped to see how it ends.

Hobbies

I think my top new hobby is thanks to HelloFresh. We started getting the meal kids delivered this month and three times a week, Anthony and I have so much fun cooking and trying new things together. It’s so much fun and I don’t have to think about what to cook three nights a week. It’s all there and we don’t have to shop for it. We might keep it in some capacity after our discounted trial because I REALLY love it.

Stardew Valley

I’ve also been playing some videogames. I finally got my partner to download Stardew Valley on Playstation. We started a farm together and it’s been so much fun to work on in a few times a week. He’s never played before and I have a lot of Stardew hours put in so it’s interesting to have to remember to tell him things he needs to know. It’s a little less relaxing than playing alone while he’s learning but it’s so much fun to have this extra time together to just chill out and play a game.

Ni No Kuni

Another game I’ve been playing recently is Ni No Kuni on Switch. I had this on PS3 ages ago and I missed it so when I saw it was only $11 on Switch, I downloaded. It’s an RPG where you are transported to another world by a fairy. The art is STUNNING. Studio Ghibli worked on this game with Level 5 and you can definitely tell. It’s so whimsical and magical and I’m having the BEST time traveling between dimensions, going on side quests, and fighting monsters. What a cute game!

So what have you been enjoying this month? Don’t forget to check out my playlist for April!

Recent Reads 2

Before I took a break from blogging, I did monthly wrap-ups and they were really long and took ages to write and put together so I wanted to try something different. I want to put out mini-reviews every time I complete three books. I think this will be more manageable for me and more readable for you guys so let’s get started! Find my last “Recent Reads” here.

Burn Our Bodies Down by Rory Power

Release Date: July 7, 2020

Genre: YA Horror

Pages: 352

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Ever since Margot was born, it’s been just her and her mother. No answers to Margot’s questions about what came before. No history to hold on to. No relative to speak of. Just the two of them, stuck in their run-down apartment, struggling to get along.

But that’s not enough for Margot. She wants family. She wants a past. And she just found the key she needs to get it: A photograph, pointing her to a town called Phalene. Pointing her home. Only, when Margot gets there, it’s not what she bargained for.

Margot’s mother left for a reason. But was it to hide her past? Or was it to protect Margot from what’s still there?

The only thing Margot knows for sure is there’s poison in their family tree, and their roots are dug so deeply into Phalene that now that she’s there, she might never escape. 

Brief Review

It’s been a little while since I finished this book but I still am not quite sure how I feel about it. I think it was incredibly atmospheric and I really liked Margot as a character. She wanted answers and something different from the life she had at home and there were many times growing up where I could relate. I also really liked Tess. She starts out pretty unlikable (or at least I was unsure about her) but I grew to love her more as the story progressed. The problem for me was that I felt that the first 75% of the book was really slow. I had some theories about the mystery that’s presented (I was wrong) and some of the early clues and reveals were exciting but overall, I just felt like it was so slow. I wanted something more but I can’t quite put my finger on it. The ending, on the other hand, was phenomenal. I really liked the direction the story took and I was satisfied with the ending. It was a wild time and I’ll never think about corn or apricots the same ever again.

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

Release Date: October 12 2010

Genre: YA fantasy

Pages: 553

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

JASON HAS A PROBLEM. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper, and his best friend is a guy named Leo. They’re all students at the Wilderness School, a boarding school for “bad kids,” as Leo puts it. What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly? Jason doesn’t know anything—except that everything seems very wrong.

PIPER HAS A SECRET. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare about his being in trouble. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits during the school trip, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out, whether she wants to or not.

LEO HAS A WAY WITH TOOLS. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about, and some camper who’s gone missing. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. Does this have anything to do with Jason’s amnesia, or the fact that Leo keeps seeing ghosts?

Join new and old friends from Camp Half-Blood in this thrilling first book in The Heroes of Olympus series. Best-selling author Rick Riordan has pumped up the action, humor, suspense, and mystery in an epic adventure that will leave readers panting for the next installment.

Brief Review

The first thing I noticed about this book was the length. It’s over 550 pages but I still flew through it and enjoyed every moment of it. This has the same amount of action and excitement mixed with comedic moments that made me laugh out loud that were in the original series. I also really loved the characters we meet in this series. I really connected to both Leo and Piper and was really rooting for them to accomplish their goals and be happy. The ending was also phenomenal! That realization! That cliffhanger! I was so hype after I finished and excited to see what happens next in the series. Let’s GOOOOO!!

The Removed by Brandon Hobson

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Genre: Adult Contemporary

Pages: 270

Click here for trigger warnings.

Goodreads Synopsis

Steeped in Cherokee myths and history, a novel about a fractured family reckoning with the tragic death of their son long ago—from National Book Award finalist Brandon Hobson

In the fifteen years since their teenage son, Ray-Ray, was killed in a police shooting, the Echota family has been suspended in private grief. The mother, Maria, increasingly struggles to manage the onset of Alzheimer’s in her husband, Ernest. Their adult daughter, Sonja, leads a life of solitude, punctuated only by spells of dizzying romantic obsession. And their son, Edgar, fled home long ago, turning to drugs to mute his feelings of alienation.

With the family’s annual bonfire approaching—an occasion marking both the Cherokee National Holiday and Ray-Ray’s death, and a rare moment in which they openly talk about his memory—Maria attempts to call the family together from their physical and emotional distances once more. But as the bonfire draws near, each of them feels a strange blurring of the boundary between normal life and the spirit world. Maria and Ernest take in a foster child who seems to almost miraculously keep Ernest’s mental fog at bay. Sonja becomes dangerously fixated on a man named Vin, despite—or perhaps because of—his ties to tragedy in her lifetime and lifetimes before. And in the wake of a suicide attempt, Edgar finds himself in the mysterious Darkening Land: a place between the living and the dead, where old atrocities echo.

Drawing deeply on Cherokee folklore, The Removed seamlessly blends the real and spiritual to excavate the deep reverberations of trauma—a meditation on family, grief, home, and the power of stories on both a personal and ancestral level.

Brief Review

This isn’t an easy read, not just because of the subject matter, but because the way the story is told isn’t a structure you might be used to if you tend to only read white, western authors. Though this book is only 270 pages, it takes time to process and think about. Without spoiling anything, there are chapters that do not take place in the real world. There are chapters told from the perspective of an ancestor of the family that don’t seem immediately connected to the main story but if you sit and think and maybe watch some interviews and do some outside research, the genius of this book starts to become more apparent. This story draws from Cherokee folklore as well as history. There are discussions about, not only the trauma that has impacted this family in their lifetimes but also intergenerational trauma. I am reminded of Toni Morrison’s Beloved when I think about this book. I really enjoyed it and if you’re in the mood for a book that forces you to take it slow and think, I’d suggest picking this up. Flying through it just because it’s short probably won’t give you the best experience and taking it slow is worth it. Please check out own voices reviewers for this book as I am not Indigenous and will certainly have missed some of the nuance and maybe even some important aspects of this story.

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

WWW Wednesday – August 12, 2020

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

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

I’m currently in the middle of three books. I’m having a difficult time focusing this week as I’m really focusing on getting ready to teach next week and I think my current reading situation reflects that. I’m reading The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston and decided to catch up so that I can read a short story each day and finish it on the last day of the month. It gives me something to either start or end my day with. I’m out of practice with reading books written in regional dialect so that has slowed me down but I’m getting the hang of it, I think.

I’m also listening to the audiobook for Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan. This follows a woman named Serena whose interest in reading gets her an assignment with MI5 to recruit and fund writers who would write stories that politically aligned with the British government in the 1970s. I like Ian McEwan’s writing but feel pretty indifferent to the story right now. It has been nice having something to listen to while I build my courses, though.

Lastly, I’m reading Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’m only about four chapters in and all I know is “weird boarding school” but I’m really enjoying it. There’s definitely an element of mystery that I’m excited by and am ready to see how these pieces that are dropped throughout the beginning come together. The writing is also so fantastic. It has the same beauty I remember from The Remains of the Day. I am moving a little slower than I’d like, but this might just be me at the beginning of a new semester.

I’ve only finished one book since last week – The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I’m not even mad about that being the only thing I’ve finished because I loved it so much. I love the narrative structure and the subtle mystery. I also wasn’t bored by any of the romance (something that usually happens to me). Also, the last 100 pages or so were heartbreaking. I felt like I was always on the verge of tears. What a great read! I’m so glad I finally picked it up.

I’m really torn about what I want to read next. I’m feeling kind of detached from everything I’m picking up and keep thinking about whether I want to throw out my TBR or keep going. If I stick to my TBR, I’ll be picking up The Titan’s Curse and continuing the Percy Jackson series. That might really interest me but I also don’t want to pick it up while I’m in a slump and it taint my enjoyment of the series. If I throw out my TBR, I know I’ll pick up the next two issues of the One Piece manga. I’m currently torn between wanting to binge all my manga (it’s a lot) and wanting to space them out and savor them. I guess we’ll see what happens next week!

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

WWW Wednesday – July 29, 2020

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

The Three Ws are:

What are you currently reading?

What did you recently finish reading?

What do you think you’ll read next?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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