2019 Reading Wrap Up #3

If I’m being honest, at the beginning of this year, I was expecting three months in between my reading wrap ups. I didn’t know how much reading time I would have in the new semester. This semester, I have extra amount of time on my hands that somehow makes me anxious that I’m forgetting a school assignment….

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Really, I’m not complaining. Since I went on my book buying ban, I’ve checked out more library books than I can read (as usual). Last week, I had to return all of them because there was no way I could read them before the due date (even after I renewed them). I have a lot of unread books at home that I need to get to.

In the meantime, here are the five library books I recently read:

 

Marina by Carlos Ruiz Zafon

4.5 stars

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Carlos Ruiz Zafon is an auto-buy author for me and Marina was going to be my next purchase…as soon as a copy became available on Amazon. Once I realized my library had it, I didn’t see the point in waiting anymore.

Marina is set in Barcelona, circa 1979, and follows school boy Oscar. When he was fifteen, he disappeared for a week and would not tell anyone what happened to him or where he went. He had been befriended by a girl named Marina, who showed him something peculiar in a graveyard: on the last Sunday of every month, a woman dressed in black leaves a single red rose on an unmarked headstone. Intrigued, the children follow her one day. The novel takes off from there.

As one would expect, Carlos Ruiz Zafon creates a beautiful, haunting version of Barcelona that both frightens and fascinates. The mystery was a weird one, but held my interest and the book was hard to put down. Oscar wasn’t as fleshed out as Marina, but their friendship was the driving force of the novel.

However, Marina didn’t go in the direction I had expected. It begs the question “did any of this really happen?” If any other author had written it, I’m not sure I would have liked it as much as I did in Marina. 

 

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

4 stars

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A School for Unusual Girls is an older title—it came out in 2015—and the first of an alternate historical fiction series set in a finishing school where teenaged girls are trained to be spies or scientists in the war effort after Napoleon is forced out of France.

A School for Unusual Girls follows Georgie, who is shipped off to Stranje House by her parents after accidentally setting her father’s stables on fire in an experiment gone wrong. Georgie thinks she’s entered a prison, when in fact Emma Stranje, the headmistress, has enlisted her to make a solution for an invisible ink. Teaming up with arrogant and handsome Sebastian, she soon realizes getting kicked out by her parents is the least of her problems.

If you all remember the days of young adult in 2015, the romantic tropes were not that great, or healthy. I loved Georgie as a protagonist and related to her feelings of awkwardness as she tries to come into her own, and I enjoyed how the plot unfolded as it went along. My biggest concern, however, was the romance. Sebastian came off a lot like William Herondale did when first introduced: arrogant and he talked down to Georgie. Once she proved herself to be his equal, he still teased her and flirted but he showed her more respect and he was never outright mean. Best part, while both felt an attraction, neither of them said “I love you” yet.

A School for Unusual Girls is a series of companion novels. I like all the girls and how Kathleen Baldwin turned history on its head. Plus, the second book is following two characters from the first book I am smitten with.

 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

4.75 stars

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When everyone and their mother was raving about Karen M. McManus’s debut novel, One of Us is Lying, I had no interest in reading it. In between the praise I had heard things that didn’t exactly thrill me. Then, Booksplosion announced their February read was Two Can Keep a Secret, Karen M. McManus’s second novel. This one had me intrigued.

Two Can Keep a Secret follows true crime buff Ellery, who moves from California with her twin brother Ezra to Echo Ridge, Vermont to live with their grandmother after their mom gets sent to rehab. Having a theme park previously called “Murderland” is not the only disturbing thing about this otherwise normal-looking town. Girls have gone missing over the years, the first being Ellery’s aunt twenty-five years ago. Then, five years prior, the homecoming queen is found strangled to death. When strange threats start appearing around town and yet another girl goes missing, Ellery decides to take matters into her own hands.

When I was not reading Two Can Keep a Secret, I wanted to be reading. The author does a good job at building suspense and making different characters look guilty. As a main character, I liked Ellery, as well as the other narrator, Malcolm, who was the younger brother of the boy who was accused of killing the homecoming queen. I also enjoyed Ellery’s twin brother, Ezra, and Mia, Malcolm’s best friend. There was a good amount of representation as well, such as Mia is Asian and bisexual and the twins are Latinx.

The mystery was very good, the killer being someone I had not expected, and the novel ended with the best line I’ve read in a mystery. It was the characters and their dynamics are what made the book for me. They all felt like real people, with personalities and relationships completely fleshed-out.

 

Where I Live by Brenda Rufener

2.5 stars

whereilivelibrarybook

Sadly, my second two-star read of the year is one I had relatively high expectations for. Linden Rose is a homeless orphaned teen living inside her high school and trying to hide it from her best friends, Ham and Seung. She runs the school newspaper and dreams of going to college with her friends, as well as of a possible romance with Seung. But when her classmate Bea starts showing up to school with bruises, Linden risks exposing her secret, and her painful past, to help someone get out of a bad situation.

While I appreciated the representation of teen homelessness and domestic violence, that was all I can say I liked. Linden was a two-dimensional main character, even though she was likeable. Ham and Seung were annoying characters, especially the former, even if he was totally comfortable in his sexuality and didn’t care what others thought. I didn’t care for the romance, either; the book would have been so much better without it.

The plot had a good concept, however the cringey, repetitive writing style did not help. There was a lot of winking and swearing and talking about how hot Seung is. My eyes glazed over a lot while reading. Needless to say, Where I Live had potential but fell flat. To be fair, though, it is a debut novel.

 

Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

4.25 stars

invisibleghostslibrarybook

Invisible Ghosts follows Rose Asher, a high school junior haunted by the ghost of her older brother, Logan, who died four years ago when he was fifteen. Shy and introverted, she spends her afternoons watching Netflix with her brother. Then, her childhood friend Jamie comes back to town, and slips back in with their former group of silly theater nerds like he never left. When he crosses paths with Rose, and she learns he has a secret of his own, Rose is drawn back into the life she was missing out on after Logan’s death. But what if by choosing a life out of the shadows means losing her brother all over again?

I really, really enjoyed Invisible Ghosts. I was a lot like Rose when I was in high school and, in a lot of ways, I still am. I liked Jamie, their group of friends, and the romance was sweet, too. As for Logan, I saw him more as a metaphor than a ghost. When she would go out with her friends or get more involved in school and her extracurricular activities, he would throw a temper tantrum. I thought he more represented Rose’s insecurities and social anxiety. Though the book dragged in some parts, I was glad to see Rose come into her own and figure the problem out by herself.

 

What have you read recently?

Book Blogger Confessions Tag

Spring break is over and I’m trying really hard not to stress about the assignments I have due next week.

 

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I told myself taking a break from school work the past two days was good for my mental well-being, allowing my brain batteries time to recharge. Besides reading, writing is the most therapeutic form of release. I didn’t realize how badly I needed it until now.

Thankfully, I saw this book tag on Rebecca’s blog. It looked easy and fun. Plus, it got me to talk about something I don’t bring up often: books I didn’t like.

On to the tag!

 

Which book, most recently, did you not finish?

Fade Into You by Nikki Darling

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I found Fade Into You while browsing the new arrivals in the young adult section of my library. From the synopsis on the back cover, it sounded like a memoir of the author’s high school years in the mid-1990s as she struggled with drug addiction and adolescence. Nineteen pages in, I was like….

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            I think the author was trying to write the book through the eyes of a teenager that was high all the time. But still…one minute, the narrator was having a spat with her mother, the next she was talking about dead hamsters. I couldn’t take it.

 

Which book is your guilty pleasure?

The Women of the Otherworld series by Kelley Armstrong

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These books are urban fantasy, the keeper of a lot of problematic tropes, i.e. borderline abusive relationships. I say I love this series and it holds a special place in my heart as inspiration for my writing. That is still true. Even at sixteen, I knew there were some problems that could not be overlooked. It didn’t change my love for the books, though. Only now, remembering how much I actually hated Elena Michaels and Clayton Danvers’s relationship, I’m starting to have second thoughts.

Clay changed Elena into a werewolf without her consent. He was extremely possessive, to a point where he almost killed a teenaged boy (who happened to be the son of a childhood friend) for having a crush on Elena. Elena herself could be nasty and petty. And she could be abusive towards Clay as well. It was overall an extremely toxic relationship.

I think that’s why I haven’t gotten around to rereading The Women of the Otherworld series and considering unhauling them. Elena and Clay’s relationship is not the only problem within this series, either. If it was just that, I would have done it already. Yet, if it came down to it, I don’t know if I could go through with getting rid of the series. Like I said, a guilty pleasure.

 

Which book do you love to hate?

The Princess Diaries by Meg Cabot

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I didn’t like these books when I read them in high school and I still don’t. Even now, when I think about them, I’m filled with annoyance. I hated Mia. I didn’t like Michael. I despised Lily. Overall, when I’m in a bad mood, I take my anger out on this series (which is funny because I don’t own the books anymore).

 

Which book would you throw into the sea?

Woman of God by James Patterson

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The fact that I enjoyed so many of Patterson’s other books only makes me madder. While I love the idea of a female pope, the whole book was executed poorly. No plot, no character development, and more than a little insta-love. Reading Woman of God was not a pleasant experience. So much so, I don’t know if or when I will pick up another of Patterson’s books.

 

Which book have you read the most?

The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong

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I probably reread The Summoning, the first book in The Darkest Powers trilogy, at least three or four times. I reread it each time I got the next book in the series. And I’m pretty sure I read the series straight through once I had all the books. I loved the series, but I was also an unemployed fifteen-year-old that had to rely on her birthday and Christmas for gift cards as well as not having access to a well-stocked library. So, I did a lot of rereading back then.

 

Which book would you hate to receive as a gift?

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz

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I wanted so, so much to love this book. I tried to, even though I had to sincerely push myself to read it. The writing made me cringe and the romance felt forced. If I got this as a gift, I honestly don’t know what I would do with it. I’d likely smile, say thank you, and take it. Then put it somewhere on my shelves I wouldn’t have to see it too much. Depending on whoever it was that gave it to me, I might keep it forever or wait a while and then get rid of it.

 

Which book could you not live without?

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace…or just books in general.

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For the sake of the tag, I picked The Princess Saves Herself in This One, which is true. It was my favorite book of last year and now one of my all-time favorite books. I read it at a time where I was caught between grief and a hard place, wanting to get my life started again but fully aware my family still needed me. Then, I read The Princess Saves Herself in This One. I was rejuvenated.

But, if I’m being honest, all the books I have read got me through a lot over the years, as much as people have.

 

Which book made you angriest?

Whitefern by V.C. Andrews

Screenshot_2019-03-10 Whitefern (Audrina, #2)

I nearly screamed from excitement when I saw we were getting a sequel to V.C. Andrews’s one stand-alone novel, My Sweet Audrina. I almost bought it, but it was $20. Thank God I didn’t.

This “sequel”, or rather the ghostwriter, completely butchered what happened in the original novel. Instead of a spunky, curious heroine determined to find answers, Audrina became a passive participant, waiting for things to happen to her. Another character did a total 180 that made no sense. I could deal with mediocre writing, but if you are going to write a sequel to a book like My Sweet Audrina, you better get all your ducks in a row first.

 

Which book made you cry the most?

A List of Cages by Robin Roe

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I am not a book crier. I might get teary-eyed, but never a full on sob fest. A List of Cages is the exception. I distinctly remember tears streaming down my face as I got into the graphic depictions of child abuse. I wanted so badly to protect the boy but I couldn’t. It hurt my heart more knowing there were real kids out there living through this on a daily basis.

 

Which book cover do you hate the most?

The entire Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead

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I don’t make a big deal about book covers. To me, it’s whatever. Even with the Vampire Academy series, I wouldn’t go as far as to say I hate them. More that they are so cheesy they don’t do anything for me.

 

What is a book you enjoyed but you hated the cover?

I tag:

Shanah

Joe

Grey

Crystal

Kristin

Sophie

Erica Mae

and everyone else!

 

 

 

Books I Want to Read Tag

I’m currently on spring break. It’s been nice, only I wouldn’t exactly call it “spring,” since we just had a big snowstorm nor would I call it a “break,” since I’ve been up to my next in homework assignments.

Other than that, I am proud to announce, the book buying ban is still going strong (it helps not having any money to spend). I’ve been using the library like crazy. I know there are books at home that I can/should read, but the library has been so helpful maintaining my book buying urges. Which brings me to the situation of my TBR.

Like many of you, I have a massive TBR, at home and on Goodreads. There is no chance of it getting smaller. But I like big to be read piles, so I’m fine with it. And I like to talk about the books I want to read. It decreases the likelihood I’ll forget about them. So, when I saw this tag on Kristin Kraves Books blog, I knew this is exactly what I needed for a homework break.

The Books I Want to Read Tag was created by Jamishelves. Thank you!

On to the tag!

 

A book that you feel like you need to read because everyone talks about it.

Every Heart a Doorway by Seann McGuire

Screenshot_2019-03-08 Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

To be fair, if you can sell a book to me, chances are, I will want to read it. When Every Heart a Doorway first came out and everyone was reading and loving it, I was neutral. Novellas aren’t my thing. It wasn’t until Beneath the Sugar Sky came out that I really felt compelled to pick up Every Heart a Doorway, as well as the companion novels. I plan on checking the series out from the library in the next month or so.

 

A book that’s really long.

Kingdom of Ash by Sarah J. Maas

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I think I have said this before, but I’m not as madly in love with the Throne of Glass series as I used to be. Only I’m too invested into certain characters to not finish it. The series finale, Kingdom of Ash, is well over 900 pages, so it will probably take me a while. Still, Sarah’s books are easy enough reads that, if I focused, it wouldn’t take me too long.

 

A book you’ve owned/had on your TBR for too long.

Wicked by Gregory Maguire

The Magician’s Lie by Greer Macallister

The Shock of the Fall by Nathan Filer

Sadly, I could name three books for this question. I attempted to read Wicked almost two years ago now, got about 50 pages in, and then set it aside. Not because I wasn’t enjoying it; I was in the throes of a reading slump brought on by the feeling of “I have no idea what to do with my life and there’s all this other stuff going on I can’t deal with.” But Gregory Maguire’s writing spoke to the English nerd in me. I definitely plan to pick this book up again.

As for The Magician’s Lie and The Shock of the Fall, there isn’t any explanation as to why I haven’t read these books yet. I have owned both of these books since my sophomore or junior year of college. And I still want to read them. The Magician’s Lie follows the Amazing Arden, a magician who is arrested for murder and the novel takes place over the course of a single night, as the detective interrogating her tries to unravel her secrets. The Shock of the Fall is a contemporary novel about a mentally ill young man struggling with his personal demons and the hidden truths behind the tragic death of his older brother years before.

Needless to say, I should have read these books a long time ago.

 

A book that is “required” reading.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Northanger Abbey by Jane Austen

Northanger Abbey is the only Jane Austen book I have not read. I have enjoyed every single one of her books, so there is a strong possibility I will also like Northanger Abbey. That will be remedied this year. As for Wuthering Heights, it was a summer reading book in high school that I know for a fact I did not finish. I read just far enough where I could gather quotes for the worksheet they wanted us to fill out. I don’t think I liked it back then. Only now that I have had more Bronte exposure, I want to read it cover to cover this time.

 

A book that intimidates you.

The Queens of Innis Lear by Tessa Gratton

Screenshot_2019-03-08 The Queens of Innis Lear

I checked this book out from the library months ago and stopped reading. I knew I wasn’t going to finish it, even if I renewed it. I just wasn’t feeling it at the time, or I thought I wasn’t.

I am 50/50 on The Queens of Innis Lear. The writing was dense, but also lyrical and the atmosphere the author created was beautiful. In the 50 pages I read, I hated the three female leads, but felt drawn to their male love interests. The synopsis still intrigues me, even as the mythology intimidates me. I really don’t know at this point.

 

A book that you think might be slow.

Queen of Air and Darkness by Cassandra Clare

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While I do enjoy them overall, because of their page length and the on-again, off-again pacing, sometimes Cassandra Clare’s books feel slow to me. While I am excited to complete The Dark Artifices trilogy with Lord of Shadows and Queen of Air and Darkness, it will likely take me a couple of weeks. Apprehensive is the word I’d use to describe my feelings.

 

A book you need to be in the right mood for.

Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Moby Dick by Herman Melville

Villette by Charlotte Bronte

A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations, and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens

The Beautiful and Damned and This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell

Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy

I don’t consider myself a “mood” reader. I make TBR lists and, for the most part, stick to them. Only there are some books that I do need a particular mood for when I read them. I learned that a few months ago when I attempted to read Leaves of Grass. I love Walt Whitman’s poetry, yet this one was a struggle bus to ride for some reason. I ended up putting it down.

Besides Leaves of Grass, the other ones I own are Villette, the Fitzgerald novels, and the Dickens books. Villette by Charlotte Bronte is a big book, which at the moment, is likely the only reason I haven’t given it much thought. Bigger classics are sometimes a chore, no matter how much you may or may not love the author. I loved The Great Gatsby when I read it in high school, though Tender is the Night was a disappointment. That only makes me apprehensive about the remaining two I own. The same goes for the Charles Dickens books. I grew up loving A Christmas Carol and I distinctly remember reading Oliver Twist as a child, but his book Hard Times, which I read for a college literature course, fell flat.

As for the rest of them, the thick, dense, complex books Anna Karenina, Moby Dick, and Gone with the Wind, those are on my unofficial “book bucket list.” I want to read them, mostly to say I did, but I’m not going to beat myself up if I don’t.

 

A book you’re unsure if you will like.

For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway

Screenshot_2019-03-08 For Whom the Bell Tolls

Of all the unread books I own, For Whom the Bell Tolls is at the very, very bottom of the pile. I read two other books by Hemingway, The Sun Also Rises and A Farewell to Arms, and was not crazy about either of them. I know he covers the more serious, less happy times of an era the modern world glamourizes, which I appreciate. However, his writing style in these books are like nails on a chalkboard to me and I don’t like how he portrays his female characters. After those rather unpleasant reading experiences, I don’t know when (or if) I will read For Whom the Bell Tolls. But I would never get rid of these books—they were passed down to me by my parents.

 

What are books on your TBR you’re not sure if you will like?

 

I tag:

Shanah

Grey

Crystal

Sophie

Rebecca

And anyone else who wants to do the tag!