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!

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!

Choose Your Fellowship Book Tag

Blog Tags

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stay safe!

-Sam

WWW Wednesday – August 12, 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. 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!

July 2020 Wrap-up

Reading Wrap-ups

I was shocked that I read thirteen books last month but I somehow topped it this month at fourteen. This is going to be a long post so I’ll just give some quick stats and then get into talking about each of the books.

Ratings:

1 five-star book

5 four-star books

3 three-star books

1 two-star book

4 unrated books

Formats:

7 physical books

5 eBooks

2 audiobooks

The first book I picked up this month was the audiobook for So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo. This was available with no wait through Libby and I wanted to continue my anti-racism education. Oluo is writing to anyone who wants to start entering conversations about race and each chapter explains different topics within the larger conversation about race. These topics include microaggressions, the model minority myth, and cultural appropriation among others. Oluo knows who her audience is and speaks directly to them honestly and clearly. I think this is a good place to start if you’re new to talking about race but I also think Oluo has some good reminders for people who are more experienced. If you want to continue to work towards being anti-racist, this is a good book to pick up.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

This month is about the time all of my Libby holds started coming in at once. That meant TBR be damned (for now) so that I could read these next few books before I had to give them back. The first book I had to read was Wilder Girls by Rory Power. This is a young adult horror about an all-girls school where students and teachers are quarantined on an island. There is a disease called “The Tox” impacting everyone and they are waiting for the Navy and the CDC to find a cure. I really enjoyed this book. The concept is intriguing and I found myself thinking about this book a lot when I wasn’t reading it. I am continuing to think about Power’s commentary on womanhood and puberty and female sexuality because that seems to be a central theme of the book. There are queer characters and a bit of a romance but that’s not a huge part of the story. As far as the ending, I know some people have problems with it being open and ambiguous but I really think it works in this situation. Since this horror, I will warn you that there are some graphic scenes and a ton of body horror so if that’s not your thing, I wouldn’t read this book. Otherwise, I definitely recommend it. 

Rating: 2 out of 5.

The Deep by Alma Katsu came through on Libby mere hours after I got the email about Wilder Girls. I honestly don’t know how to give a concise summary of what this book is about so I will include the link to Goodreads here. I went into this not really knowing what it was about apart from “spooky at sea” and boy was I surprised to find out that this book includes the Titanic, World War I, sirens? and ghosts? These are all things I love reading about individually but unfortunately, it just didn’t come together for me in the end. I felt there were lengthy plotlines and entire characters that didn’t really add anything to the main story and resulted in a book that felt MUCH longer than its 300 pages. I was also incredibly lost when the book did end. There were elements that didn’t make any sense. To be fair, I was skimming by the end because I just wanted it to be over. Overall, it felt like there was just too much crammed into the plot and if this would have been just a historical fiction novel with no horror elements, it would have been a fantastic book. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

As someone who literally never reads romance and usually thinks the romance plots in tv shows are a waste of time, I went into this book not expecting much despite everyone loving it. And also as someone who doesn’t read romance, I’ll go ahead and give an unqualified opinion and say that this is a good romance to start with if you want to get into the genre. Get a Life, Chloe Brown follows Chloe after a near-death experience as she works through a list she created in order to get a life. This could have easily been cheesy and sometimes it was but I didn’t mind because Talia Hibbert balances the lovey, cheesy moments with some more serious topics and fantastic character development. I also appreciated how both parties truly did their best to take into account each other’s pasts and limitations. It was refreshing to see. I don’t think I’m going to turn into an avid romance reader any time soon but I might not be so scared to pick up one every once in a while.

I love Mindy Kaling. I’ve had her second book, Why Not Me? for an embarrassingly long time and I figured since it’s a short, easy read, it’s about time I picked it up and read it. This is also the first book from my July TBR I actually picked up. In this book, Kaling talks about relationships, her show The Mindy Project (which I now want to rewatch), and meeting President Barack Obama among other things. I laughed and related to her in so many chapters. If you tend to like books by comedians, I’d definitely suggest picking this one up. It’s a quick read you might pick up after reading something heavy and an all-around fun time.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Black Enough is a collection of short stories edited by Ibi Zoboi. It contains stories that explore a span of Black experiences in America ranging from straight, LBGTQ+, wealthy, and poor. There are stories that tackle serious topics such as racism and homophobia but there are also stories that are truly about joy and just being a teenager. My goal going into this collection was to find some new authors to check out and that was definitely accomplished. Some stories that stand out to me are “Warning: Color My Fade” by Leah Henderson, “Black. Nerd. Problems.” by Lamar Giles, and “Kissing Sarah Smart” by Justina Ireland. It’s rare that I come across a collection where I enjoy every story but I did have a good time reading every piece in this collection. I think this is a good way to read from a variety of Black authors and find new voices to diversify your shelves.

Throughout the first half of the month, I listened to The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander on audio. This is a nonfiction book that primarily focuses on the mass incarceration of Black men in the United States. Though it was written ten years ago, much of the information still holds true. Alexander breaks down both how Black men are specifically targeted by law enforcement agencies and the impacts this targeting has on the community as a whole. Even though Barack Obama was president, that doesn’t mean that things are better for Black people as a whole. It’s frustrating to see these patterns continue and repeat but it is something you want to be aware of. There is a ton of information in this book and I would really like to get my hands on a physical copy at some point and read this physically. I know there are pieces to the timeline that I missed while cleaning and doing laundry but I still got so much from this book. Again, if you’re looking to continue your anti-racism education, this is a great book to pick up. It’s probably a step or two up from So You Want to Talk About Race as far as difficulty but even if you don’t get every single point, there is plenty there to take in and learn. 

Rating: 4 out of 5.

In my quest to read the entire Percy Jackson series this year, I finally picked up the second book, The Sea of Monsters. Like this first book in the series, this one definitely didn’t disappoint! I can’t really talk about the plot of this book without spoiling the first one but I can say that I think this is a great continuation of the series. Rick Riordan is able to wonderfully recapture the comedy and action I loved about The Lightning Thief. He also combines history and mythology in such a fun way that I always appreciate. Also, I LOVE Tyson. I will say that this book is a bit shorter than the others in the series and I felt like it went by pretty quickly and I would have liked a little more in this entry in the series. Like I said, I can’t really say much but I do plan to write an entire spoilery blog post about the series when I finally finish it.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

Like many people, I first encountered The Crucible in high school. I remember it being one of the few books I actually read from beginning to end that year so I guess I enjoyed it. I wanted to see if I still enjoyed it as much this time around. The conclusion: I guess I still liked it? If you aren’t familiar, this play follows John Proctor and Abigail Williams during the Salem witch trials. Kids are acting weird and everyone is being accused of being a witch and total chaos ensues. During this read, I was more in-tune with the parallels between the Salem witch hunts and the “red scare” so it made for an interesting read. I also thought quite a bit about John’s quickness to condemn Abigail and not take much accountability for his part in what happened until, maybe, the very end. Lastly, I had some problems with the way Tituba’s character was talked about and treated and the audiobook I listened to while reading the play didn’t help. The white man’s attempt at an accent was not great. Overall, it was nice to revisit and analyze this play as an adult but I was definitely in tune to more issues with it.

Men We Reaped by Jesmyn Ward is another nonfiction I picked up this month. It’s also another in the series of Libby holds coming in all at once. In this book Ward tells the stories of the men in her life she lost to suicide, drugs, accidents and also talks about her experiences growing up poor in the southern US. The structure of this story is what initially drew me in. She talks about her life chronologically and this is broken up with chapters about each of the men who were lost. These are in reverse-chronological order. It sounds confusing, but it works. This book is simultaneously heartbreaking and powerful. I particularly appreciated the honesty Ward gives readers while discussing a larger problem of a world that doesn’t work in favor of Black men. I’d previously read her novel, Sing, Unburied, Sing and while I’m not a fan of magical realism, I loved the writing in that book. The writing is just as strong, if not stronger, in Men We Reaped. I just might try and pick up Sing, Unburied, Sing again. 

Rating: 3 out of 5.

The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley is another Libby hold I’ve been waiting on for quite a while. I really enjoyed The Guest List back in May and wanted to check out more of Foley’s work. The Hunting Party’s premise sounds a lot like The Guest List – rich people go to a remote location where someone is dead and you don’t know who it is or who killed them. I was suspicious at how close these books felt to each other but the twists were definitely different. There were other things that really bothered me about this book, though. The “friends” don’t really seem like they ever could have been actual friends and participate in middle-school bullying and drama that doesn’t seem realistic for 30-somethings. There were also aspects of the twist that just didn’t sit well with me and one character particularly did something that just made absolutely zero sense. I still gave this a three-star rating because I think that if I’d read this before The Guest List, I would have enjoyed it a lot more but because I kept comparing it to The Guest List, it lessened the experience for me.

Rating: 4.5 out of 5.

I know so many people have either been re-watching Avatar: The Last Airbender or watching it for the first time recently. I have been re-watching it and was in the mood for more content centered around this universe so I picked up F. C. Yee’s The Rise of Kyoshi this month. I was completely blown away. This book follows Avatar Kyoshi, an Avatar who existed before Aang, and her journey in realizing that she is, indeed, the next Avatar. I didn’t expect to get so attached to a new cast of characters but I certainly did. There’s battles, political intrigue, bending, and the sweetest blossoming romance. I even almost cried. It read like a season of the show and I really appreciated that. The only thing that kept me from giving this five stars was that you can tell this book is meant to set up a series therefore, the beginning is a little slower than the second half. Otherwise, what a magical, beautiful book. I definitely think watching the show first will add to the experience but I don’t think it would be too confusing to jump into without having seen Avatar.

Rating: 3 out of 5.

While I was reading The Rise of Kyoshi, I wanted something else to listen to on audio while I was doing chores and working on my reading journal. I chose something I owned physically so I can continue going through my physical TBR. This book follows Leonora as she’s received an email invitation to someone’s bachelorette party – someone she hasn’t spoken to in a decade. Leonora wakes up in the hospital unsure of what happened that led her here and we go along with her as she pieces it together. I think I listened to this too close to The Hunting Party. I had a difficult time distinguishing what happened in each book and I didn’t feel much connected to any of the characters though I do remember thinking Flo was really strange. I did enjoy the writing and the plot but it was a little slow to start. I also enjoyed the gripping suspense towards the end of the book. It was really exciting and I wanted to know what would happen next. Overall, this is a typical thriller and if you like Ruth Ware generally, I think you’ll enjoy this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I had given up hope that I’d have a five-star read this month. That was until I picked up Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book follows Noemí who receives a disturbing letter from her cousin who lives in the countryside of Mexico. She goes to check on her cousin and see if she needs to return to the city. When she arrives at the house, though, she finds that this is much more than a typical check-in. I’ve seen some reviews calling this book “slow” especially in the first half and I get that there isn’t a ton of action but I think it does provide such atmospheric writing typical of a gothic novel and starts to plant both creepy and sinister seeds which become important as the story goes. I enjoyed the commentary on imperialism and I think this book has so much to offer beyond “scary.” Here is a link to a list of trigger warnings, though because there are quite a few.

Anyway, that’s everything I read this month! I think I’ll start slowing down in August once the new semester begins and my wrap-ups might be a bit shorter in the future. I hope you also had a good reading month and if you want to chat about any of these books, leave a comment!

August 2020 TBR

TBRs

Welp. It’s August. In June I was able to finish fourteen books (look out for a lengthy wrap-up Monday!). I will officially be returning to work in a few weeks and probably won’t be able to keep that same energy in August but I’m still going to put six books on my TBR and see what happens. Here’s what I’m planning to read!

The first book I want to read this month is The Existence of Amy by Lana Grace Riva. Lana was kind enough to send me this book so that I could review it on my blog. I got it last month and have been excited for a chance to read it. This book follows Amy as she navigates life with a brain that sometimes makes things difficult. I know that this book talks about OCD and depression but I don’t really know much else and want to go into it relatively blind. Keep a lookout for a full review of this book later this month!

I also plan to pick up I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou this month. I have owned this for such a long time and have read parts of it but haven’t read the whole thing. This is an autobiography and having read Angelou’s poetry earlier this year, I am delighted to learn about her life. I am hoping my hold on the audiobook comes in time for me to listen and read along but if not, I’ll still be reading it this month.

This month I’ll also be continuing my first read-through of the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan. This month I’ll be picking up The Titan’s Curse – the third book in the series. I’m expecting to continue loving this series and to write a fun, spoilery blog post about my experience reading this series for the first time as an almost-thirty-something.

I’m also definitely planning to read The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid. This book is about Evelyn, an older movie star, who is finally ready to write her biography. That’s about all I know (apart from the seven husbands bit). Oh and apparently people have cried and I’m here for that. I read Daisy Jones and the Six by the same author a few months ago and it became an instant favorite. I’ve heard so much about Evelyn Hugo from people across so many platforms and it’s just making me even more excited. I hope to have another favorite after I finish!

I also hope to pick up The Complete Stories by Zora Neale Hurston. I read Their Eyes Were Watching God by Hurston in high school and read at least one of the short stories in this collection in undergrad. This collection has her published stories plus some that weren’t published before. I don’t have much else to say about this collection currently but I am thrilled to finally pick it up.

Lastly, I’d like to read Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro. This book is about an English boarding school that doesn’t allow its students any outside contact but when a few kids do leave, they realize something isn’t totally normal about their school. I bought this book during undergrad after reading Ishiguro’s The Remains of the Day which I adore. Though that book is historical fiction and this book is classified as sci-fi/dystopia, I still have hope that I will love Ishiguro’s writing just as much.

I guess the theme of this month is that I’ll be reading books from authors I’ve already read and enjoyed. I hope I can get to all of these but since I’ll be teaching this month, who knows! If I can’t get to all of these, are there any you’d prioritize (besides Evelyn Hugo obviously)?

Sunshine Blogger Award

Blog Tags

Last week I was nominated by the wonderful Naemi at A Book Owl’s Corner for the Sunshine Blogger Award. I am so thankful and really urge you to check out their blog if you haven’t already. They are so supportive and kind!

What is the Sunshine Blogger Award?

The Sunshine Blogger Award is given to those who are creative, positive and inspiring while spreading sunshine to the blogging community.

How does it work?

  • Thank the blogger(s) who nominated you in a blog post and link back to their blog.
  • Answer the 11 questions sent by the person who nominated you.
  • Nominate 11 new blogs to receive the award and write them 11 new questions.
  • List the rules and display the Sunshine Blogger Award logo in your post and/or on your blog.

  1. What is an interesting non-bookish fact about you that most people don’t know?

Most people in my real life know that I used to be an art major but I don’t think I’ve talked about it here. I started undergrad as a photography major and then switched to visual communication. I was incredibly depressed and broke so after two years, I dropped out of school. When I went back, I decided to major in English.

  1. Has your opinion on a book ever changed as you got older? For example: Is there a book you used to dislike that you now love, or a book you adored but fell out of love with?

I used to like the first three Twilight books when I was younger. I read about half of Breaking Dawn and threw it in the trunk of my car for six months because I thought the plot was ridiculous. I don’t think I could get through and of them now because I am able to recognize all of the issues with this book and would probably cringe so much. 

  1. Which fictional food would you love to try someday?

Lembas. I love a good bread.

  1. You get to resurrect a fictional character of your choice, but in order to gain the energy necessary to restore their life, you have to kill a different character. Who would you save and who would you sacrifice?

SKIP IF YOU DON’T WANT SPOILERS FOR ATONEMENT

My favorite book of all time is Atonement by Ian McEwan. It’s very sad and I love sad books. My answer will spoil this book (and film) so skip this question if you don’t want to be spoiled. I would revive Robbie Turner and kill Paul Marshall. Though, I guess the book wouldn’t be as sad that way…

  1. Do you ever feel second-hand embarrassment when reading? If yes, name a scene that really made you cringe!

I don’t usually get second-hand embarrassment from reading but I DO get it from movies sometimes. One movie that stands out is The Guilt Trip with Seth Rogan and Barbara Streisand. I watched this with my grandma and Seth Rogan was so awkward I was embarrassed for him. I think about that a lot.

  1. If you could have one item of clothing from a book, what would you pick? Be aware that any magical properties won’t transfer to our world.

I’m certain the hobbit ladies had some style and I’d love to embody that in my life. I’d probably wear shoes, though!

  1. Do you speak any other languages? If so, what is one unique thing about them? If not – are there any languages you would like to learn?

I work off and on learning Spanish but I’d love to be better at it.

  1. What is your biggest bookish pet peeve?

I think people are sometimes caught up in policing other people’s bookish habits. People like to say thing such as “audiobooks aren’t reading” or “counting ‘X’ to your Goodreads goal is cheating” (at what?). Let people live!

  1. What would you like to see more of in books?

I’d simply like to see more horror written by women. Leave me some recs if you have any!

  1. What is the first book you ever read by yourself?

I have no idea! My grandmother used to check out a ton of books from the library and read to me until I could read myself. If I had to take a guess, it was probably one of the Arthur books by Marc Brown or this weird book about a red car.

  1. Recommend a book that you think doesn’t get enough love!

I already talked about Atonement but I’ll talk about it again. It’s about a child named Briony who falsely accuses someone of a crime when she sees things she doesn’t understand. We follow her effort to make up for what she did for the rest of her life. It’s beautiful and sad and I love it so much!


That’s the last question! I’ll leave my nominations below. If you’ve already been nominated, I apologize and no pressure to participate. I just really enjoy everyone listed here 🙂

Here are my questions:

  1. If you could only read one genre forever, what would you choose?
  2. What genre do you tend to avoid?
  3. What is one of your hobbies outside of reading?
  4. How do you track your reading?
  5. Do you often reread books?
  6. Why did you start blogging?
  7. What post are you most proud of and why?
  8. What is your favorite and least favorite trope?
  9. What is the last piece of music you listened to?
  10.  If you were to get a pet right now, what would it be (it doesn’t have to be real or practical) and what would you name it?
  11.  If you could get everyone to read one book, what would it be?

That’s it for now! Come chat with me about any of these questions in the comments!

WWW Wednesday – July 15, 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 am currently reading Black Enough which is a collection of short stories edited by Ibi Zoboi. I know I said I was reading this two weeks ago, but as you might know, a ton of my library holds came through at once and I had to put this down for a bit. I am now able to get back into this collection. There hasn’t been a story I haven’t enjoyed yet which is rare for anthologies, I think. Additionally, I am listening to the audiobook for The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander. This non-fiction work discusses the ways in which the US prison system works to maintain racial control. The New Jim Crow is both frustrating and enlightening. Seeing the same events continue to happen over and over again will certainly make you angry considering how much everyone preaches that we shouldn’t forget or erase our history.

I’ve somehow finished three books since I last checked in. First was The Deep by Alma Katsu. Last week I mentioned that I wasn’t sure if this book contained too many plot elements in one story. Those feelings didn’t change. I found myself unsure about why some scenes and even characters were included in the story. I also think the ending was a bit confusing and drug out. I will definitely talk about this more in my wrap-up but generally, I was pretty disappointed with this one which sucks because it had so much potential.

I also read another one of my Libby holds, Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert. This is a romance that follows Chloe who is just trying to “get a life” after a near-death experience. I don’t read romance. Ever. But other people I know who don’t really read romance seemed to be enjoying this one so I thought I’d give it a try. I definitely wasn’t disappointed. It had those cheesy romance moments but also tackled important issues such as chronic illness and recovering from an abusive relationship. It’s also definitely got some STEAM! I don’t think I’m going to turn into a serious romance reader or anything but after this experience, I’m definitely more likely to pick one up.

I also FINALLY read a book from my original July TBR this month! I picked up Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling and it was such a joy! I was at my mom’s this past weekend and I wanted to bring a smaller book to throw in my bag and this seemed like the best option. I really enjoy reading books by hilarious women and this was no exception. Not only did I laugh, but I also want to watch The Mindy Project again because she mentioned that the male lead, Danny, is inspired by Mr. Darcy and now I feel dumb for not seeing this show as a modern Pride & Prejudice. Plus, I just want to laugh at Morgan Tookers some more.

Next up for me is probably The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan. I started the Percy Jackson series for the first time back in May and I had SUCH a fun time. I’ve been excited to continue the series but it just wasn’t in the cards for me in June so I definitely want to make it happen this month. I put it on my TBR specifically to ensure that I actually get to it. I’m beyond ready to jump back into this magical, mythical world.

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

Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

Blog Tags, Uncategorized

I am incredibly late in making this post, so I hope you guys are still interested enough to give this a look. I was debating whether or not to do this tag because I’ve only really been tracking my reading for the past few months, but ultimately, I decided it would be fun to try and answer these questions with the books I have read either for fun or for school before July.

Best book you’ve read so far this year

This might just be because it’s a recent read and because I JUST talked about Fun Home last time, but I’m going to say that my favorite book this year is Home Before Dark by Riley Sager. I’ve never had so much fun reading a thriller, and I’ve also never been so scared! Talk about the definition of a page-turner; I sat on the floor for hours completely entranced by this story. I never needed to know the end of a book so badly in my life. As someone who primarily comes to books to be sad or scared, these haunted house vibes really did it for me.

Best sequel you’ve read so far this year

I haven’t really read many sequels this year, but I did re-read The Hunger Games trilogy, so I’m going to go with Catching Fire. Remember how I said I like to be sad when I’m reading? Well, this one gets me every time. I also just enjoyed meeting all of the contestants in this set of games. Each character really had something to offer, and they didn’t feel like they were just thrown in without any thought. Plus, I think most people agree that Catching Fire is the highlight of the series.

New release you haven’t read yet but want to

For this question, I’m going with Mexican Gothic. I just got this in the mail last week, and I am so excited to be creeped out again this year. I also just have a feeling this book will be really atmospheric, and that’s something I genuinely enjoy. The historical element is also incredibly appealing to me. Fingers crossed, I can read this before the end of July!

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I recently added Invisible Girl by Lisa Jewell to my list, and since we have a thriller/horror/general creepy theme going on, I’ll say that one. I don’t know a ton about it apart from a woman goes missing, and everyone thinks it’s a guy who lives near the place where she went missing. I also know GabbyReads included it in a reading vlog recently, and we tend to have similar taste in thrillers, so I definitely want to check it out.

Biggest disappointment so far this year

Since I’m not going with books I read in July, it’s a little more difficult to choose my biggest disappointment this year. I guess I’ll go with The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer. This book had the potential to really give some new ideas about feminism, and instead, it was just a bunch of rich white people not doing much. I don’t really have anything else to say apart from the fact that it was so long and didn’t offer anything new.

Biggest surprise so far this year

Easy. The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan. I was a little older than the target audience when this book came out, but my younger brother LOVED it. We usually don’t agree on books, so it was a LONG time before I picked it up. I’m so mad I didn’t read this book sooner. It’s such a good story that pulls from mythology and history while still being a ton of fun. And talk about magical! I haven’t finished the series yet, but I’m just going to say who needs Harry Potter when we have Percy Jackson?

Favorite new to you or debut author

I haven’t read a ton from the same author this year, but my experience reading Daisy Jones & the Six made me want to read everything Taylor Jenkins Reid writes. I flew through Daisy Jones in two days, and not long after, I ordered The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo. I am so excited to jump into more of Reid’s work.

Newest fictional crush

I don’t really crush on book characters at all, so I’m going to pass on this one!

Newest favorite character

I really admired Starr Carter’s ambition, and vulnerability in The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. I also re-read The Fellowship of the Ring this year, and I have such a soft spot for Samwise Gamgee. What a great example of a friend!

A book that made you cry

I don’t ever actually cry at books this often, but the saddest book I read this year is probably Fun Home by Alison Bechdel (I had to talk about it, okay!). I read this for a class, and we were asked to listen to some songs from the musical as well, and that combination really hit hard. This graphic novel is funny and sad and insightful and made me feel so many things. 

A book that made you happy

I read volume one of One Piece this year, and Luffy just makes me so happy. There’s something about high seas adventure mixed with a bit of comedy that makes me smile the whole time I’m reading. Also, unpopular opinion, but Usopp makes me laugh a lot.

The most beautiful book you’ve bought or received this year

I treated myself to Gyo, Uzumaki, and Tomie by Junji Ito this year because I was really sad about finished grad school during COVID. Not only are the covers beautiful in such a creepy way, but the artwork inside is also fantastic! 

What books do you need to read before the end of the year

I definitely want to finish the Percy Jackson series this year, but apart from that, my main goal is to just work through my tremendous backlog of physical books so that I can start parting with some of them. I usually randomly pick books from a spreadsheet and work through them that way, so we will see what happens for the rest of the year!