2019 Reading Wrap Up #6

When I opened my agenda to write down my work hours last week, it hit me: I start school again in a week.

Now that I’m down to fourteen hours a week at this place I’m currently working, I am at a loss of what to do on my days off. To be honest, I am not reading as much as I should be on those days.

In the past month or so, I have fallen down the rabbit hole of the scary side of YouTube, watching channels like Mr. Nightmare and Corpse Husband. I also want to write and post all the ideas I had before I become so busy with school I won’t be able to give my blog much attention. But thanks to this young adult literature course I’m taking this semester, I will be reading a lot.

While I will be reading, I don’t know how much I will be posting after all my pre-written material goes up. One of the priorities is the next reading wrap-up.

Since my last reading wrap-up in July, I am delighted to say that I have read four books on my list of books to read before the end of the year. Then, in the middle of August, I took a week off at the insistence of my boss. I suddenly had an urge to visit my local library again. I checked out a bunch of books, then returned a bunch a couple of weeks later. Of the original ones I checked out, I managed to read two. There are others I kept or checked out later. You will see those in a future reading wrap-up (if I ever get around to reading them).

In between the last few weeks of July and August, I read six books. Those were:

 

A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi

4.75 stars

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A Crown of Wishes is the companion novel to The Star-Touched Queen. It follows Gauri, Maya’s younger sister, who teams up with Vikram, the prince of a rival kingdom, to compete in a tournament for a wish. Gauri does this in hopes of winning her kingdom back from her wicked brother.

The setting was simply gorgeous, set in an otherworld where humans and mystical creatures all compete in various challenges for a wish. It was also a little spooky at times, since you never really knew what happened next. Roshani Chokshi’s writing was as beautiful as ever. She created a complicated heroine in Gauri; she was flawed, but she was someone you could root for. Vikram was also a very likeable character and the romance was a satisfying slow burn. The plot was also well thought-out, with webs weaving and interconnecting as the book went on.

I wanted to give A Crown of Wishes 5 stars. However, there was a POV introduced that I was not sure why it was included. I liked the character, but I wasn’t sure why we had chapters narrated from her perspective. Lastly, the end of the book seemed to drag a little too long. By that point, I simply wanted to reach the happily ever after and get hit with the feels I was waiting for.

 

Windwitch by Susan Dennard

4.5 stars

Sightwitch by Susan Dennard

4 stars

Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard

4 stars

I am finally caught up with the Witchlands series by Susan Dennard. I said before this series has potential to be greater than Throne of Glass and I stand by that statement. Admittedly, I am still confused about what directions certain aspects of the plot are going, which is why I have yet to give any book in the series over 4.5 stars. I love the character dynamics and how not all the main relationships driving the series are romantic. Obviously, I can’t go any further than that because of spoilers, but I highly recommend the Witchlands series. My favorite so far would have to be Windwitch.

 

Kill My Mother by Jules Feiffer (library book)

1 star

killmymotherlibrarybook

Kill My Mother was facing front and center in the graphic novel section of the local library; the title in big, bold lettering that immediately pulled me in. It is a noir mystery set in the 1930s and 40s, following five women connected by two murders.

On the surface, it sounded interesting. Two of the characters are a mother, who works as a secretary for a drunk loser private investigator, and her grief-stricken teenaged daughter. The daughter felt abandoned by her mother, who threw herself headfirst into her new job after the murder of her cop husband, leaving her daughter alone in her grief. That was the only thing I remotely understood what was happening out of this entire graphic novel.

I liked the artwork, but that’s about it. Nothing about the plot made sense. It bounced from one thing to another without any warning. I had no idea what was happening or why the writer was introducing so many characters at once or how all these people could be connected. Graphic novels are usually quick and easy to get through. Only Kill My Mother was a real struggle for me.

 

Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef (library book)

3 stars

maryshelleylibrarybook

2019 is the year of nonfiction for me apparently. I found this biography of Mary Shelley in the young adult section of the library. I picked it up expecting a fictional retelling. Only it turned out to be a literal biography, written in plain English for a teenaged audience.

            At first, I was intrigued. I learned that Mary Shelley’s mother was feminist writer Mary Wollstonecraft, who died shortly after giving birth to Mary. Mary also had an older half-sister, Fanny, her mother’s child by an American lover than abandoned her. The girls were brought up by their father, a writer in his own right, and he would eventually remarry a woman with two children of her own. One of those children, a daughter, would grow up to be Claire Clairmont, lover of Lord Byron.

Another fact I learned that surprised me (though not really) was that Mary’s husband, Percy Bysshe Shelley, was married to someone else when he met Mary. She was sixteen, smitten with him as he was with her. Eventually, Percy would abandon his wife Harriet and their two children to run off to Geneva, Switzerland with Mary and Mary’s stepsister Claire (who, by the way, was born Jane). I was also heartbroken to learn that Mary lost three children before the age of five to illnesses.

However, at a certain point, I felt like I was reading an extended Wikipedia page on Mary Shelley. While all the information I was getting provided insight to how she might have come up with a novel like Frankenstein and most of what I learned about her early life was fascinating, eventually I got bored. If you are interested in Mary Shelley though, I would recommend picking up Mary Shelley: The Strange True Tale of Frankenstein’s Creator by Catherine Reef.

 

What is a book you’ve read recently that you did not like much?

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2019 Reading Wrap Up #5

Summer 2019

Expectations:

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Reality:

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The semester officially ended for me in May. But since Reading Wrap Up #4, I’ve been in a weird reading mood. I don’t think I would call it a reading slump. It had more to do with the fact that I was not reading the books I actually wanted to, in favor of other things.

After school let out, I had an itch to visit my local library again. Since the library isn’t open Saturdays July through August and I work during the week, I decided to take advantage of the limited time to visit. I checked out too many books (as usual). Thus, I neglected my TBR at home (again). It didn’t help that the first three library books in this wrap up were extremely meh. There was a point I did fear a reading slump coming. Then, I read the other three library books in this wrap up and was saved.

The library books I read recently are:

 

The Everlasting Rose by Dhonielle Clayton

3 stars

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While I enjoyed The Belles when I read it last year, I went into The Everlasting Rose expecting a finale. Though I like the author’s criticism of beauty culture and how the ones with the most power sometimes don’t have the control, I was bored throughout the latter half of the book. I liked Camille’s character development and her growing romance with Remy. It was an easy read, but near the end I felt like I was finishing it just to be done with it. Honestly, if I had picked up The Everlasting Rose knowing for certain that it was a second book, I might have enjoyed it more than I did overall.

 

Death of an Eye by Dana Stabenow

3 stars

deathofaneyelibrarybook

Death of an Eye is a book I found while browsing the new book shelves in the library lobby. Tetisheri is an old friend of Queen Cleopatra, who is currently very pregnant with Julius Cesar’s child. When her personal spy, the Eye, is found dead, Cleopatra enlists the help of Tetisheri to find the killer and expose a conspiracy.

I liked the characters, the writing style, and the ancient Egyptian setting. There is a love interest in here that also I like very much. But the novel was too short and the plot seemed too rushed. The ending felt abrupt. By the time I was finished, I felt meh, like nothing truly exciting had happened. In all, though, I liked Death of an Eye and I might continue with the series.

 

Still Star-crossed by Melinda Taub

3 stars

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Probably the most meh book I’ve read so far this year, Still Star-crossed is a “sequel” to William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Someone is bent on breaking the delicate truce between the Capulets and the Montagues following the deaths of the doomed lovers. To keep the families from killing each other, and destroying the entire city of Verona in the process, the prince forces Romeo’s cousin Benvolio to marry Juliet’s cousin Rosaline. While the synopsis is intriguing when you read it, everything about Still Star-crossed was two-dimensional at best: characters, writing, plot, etc. I was so bored while reading, I had no idea what to feel.

 

Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar

4 stars

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Vanessa and Her Sister is the first book I had individually reviewed since I started graduate school. It follows sisters painter Vanessa Bell and writer Virginia Woolf, and their famed social circle the Bloomsbury Group. The entire family has revolved around Virginia’s unstable mental health and indulging her whims. But when big sister Vanessa finds love, manipulative, possessive Virginia is not about to let her go so easily.

The novel is written in a diary-style format, with letters and other media of the era thrown in. You get inside Vanessa’s head as well as gain perspective of others involved from the development of the Bloomsbury group, leading into the drama that nearly destroys the Stephan family. The characters felt like real, complicated people, as if Priya Parmar might have personally known them, not like imagined historical figures.

 

Rainbirds by Clarissa Goenawan

4.5 stars

rainbirdslibrarybook

Another library book I reviewed individually, Rainbirds is an adult contemporary novel set in Japan. After his older sister Keiko is murdered, Ren Ishida travels to the small town of Akakawa to collect her remains. While there, he gets roped into taking her position as an English teacher at the local cram school and living in her old bedroom inside a politician’s house, where he reads to the man’s bedridden wife. Ren does this not only to escape his failing relationship in Tokyo, but to understand what happened to Keiko and why anyone would want to hurt her. Turns out, his sister kept more secrets than he thought.

Rainbirds sounds like a mystery, but it’s more of a family drama. This one focuses on a brother/sister relationship that was close-knit, but the two still kept secrets from each other. The writing was beautiful and the characters, especially Ren, were all flawed and multifaceted. The author created an atmosphere that felt exotic and isolated, sucking me right in. If you enjoyed Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng, you will like Rainbirds.

 

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

4.5 stars 

aurorarisinglibrarybook

When Aurora Rising was announced, I had no intention of reading it. I did not love Illuminae, so I didn’t see the point. Except the synopsis did intrigue me once I heard it. A group of mismatched astronauts get lumped together after the leader, Tyler Jones, misses the draft to save a girl, Aurora, trapped in a frozen state on an abandoned spaceship that has been lost for over 200 years. This leads Tyler, Aurora, and the rest of the reluctant heroes on a mission that has been centuries in the making.

Unlike Illuminae, Aurora Rising was written in prose and in first-person narrative of each of the squad members. I was able to follow along better because things were explained rather than shown. I also liked Squad 312 more than I did Katy and Ezra. The squad felt more fleshed out, each with their own voices and thought process and feelings. While I felt some parts dragged, I did have a lot of fun while reading. There were two romances in here, one that frustrated me but the other was adorable. The ending pulled at my heart, too.

I definitely plan on continuing with the series. I might even buy my own copy of Aurora Rising.

 

Those of you that have read both Illuminae and Aurora Rising, what did you think of them? Do you prefer one over the other?

 

2019 Reading Wrap Up #4

I’m back from my unexpected mini-hiatus!

For the last couple of weeks, I have been completely focused on my final assignments. I turned in my final paper last Monday and I start my new part-time temp job tomorrow. It’s in a fine arts library that I’m super excited for. I might take on another part-time job or an internship, if I can manage it. I’m devoting this summer entirely to making money and reading.

Since my last reading wrap up in March, I have read nine books. All of them were between four and five stars. All of them you should expect to see on my favorite reads list of the year. All of them I made a big mistake of picking up when I had so much homework. The books I read were:

 

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

4.25 stars

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The Blood of Olympus is the final book in the Heroes of Olympus series and, I must confess, it was not my favorite. While I love Reyna and Nico (and I low-key ship Nico with Percy), we didn’t get enough of Leo, Piper, Jason, and the rest of the seven as much as I wanted. In my opinion, it made a lot more sense to narrate the final novel through all their perspectives rather than introduce two new narrators.

Still, I enjoyed The Blood of Olympus for how everything wrapped up in the central plot. The series was a fun read and the book made me laugh, a relief from any stress I was feeling. The book solicited my love for Leo Valdez as well as Leo and Calypso (which we were also denied more of). I like Piper and Jason grew on me. If anything, finishing The Blood of Olympus made me realize how behind I am on Rick Riordan’s books. I plan to remedy that soon enough.

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

5 stars

vicious

Vicious lived up to the hype. I enjoyed Victoria Schwab’s writing style and the character development. I liked Victor Vale more than I expected to, as he’s clearly a sociopathic anti-hero. But it shows in this novel, as well as the sequel, he does care for Mitch and Sydney in his own way and they’re like family to him. Eli, with his twisted moral compass, was a fascinating character as well. Sydney was easily my favorite.

As for the plot, it was fast-paced and read like a superhero/super-villain movie. Once I started reading, I kept reading until I had to put it down to tend to “responsibilities.” Then, as soon as I could, I started reading again. I read Vicious in a matter of days and, once I finished it, I had to read Vengeful immediately.

 

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

4 stars

vengeful

Sadly, Vengeful was not nearly as entertaining as Vicious. The time jumps in this novel were off-putting. The plot was more focused on Victor and Eli, bringing up more problems that were resolved in the previous novel. The new character, Marcella Riggins, started off with such great potential. She was a woman murdered by her mob assassin husband after she caught him cheating and comes back from the dead as an EO with the power to literally ruin things with her touch. Then, by the middle of the novel, she lost any chance of complexity when she became consumed by her ambition to be in charge, eventually only becoming a plot device.

As for the other new female character, June, I had no idea what was going on with her or why she was so fixated on Sydney. There are holes in her backstory as well as her motive, leading me to believe there is potential for a third novel. The other characters—Victor, Eli, Mitch, and Sydney—didn’t seem to have much in their own development, either. While Vengeful was still enjoyable, I did not have as much fun as I did reading Vicious.

 

The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One by Amanda Lovelace

4.5 stars

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I made the mistake of picking up The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One while waiting for one of my classes to start right in the height of finals. All I wanted to do was read it. The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One is the third and final book in her first series of poetry. The first two being The Princess Saves Herself in This One and The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One. Unfortunately, despite owning this really pretty exclusive Target edition, it was not my favorite in the series.

Part One really sucked me in. Amanda opened up about her own “Me Too” story and I appreciate what an extremely brave thing that was. Still, by Part Three, I was starting to get bored. I felt like she was repeating herself in a lot of the poems. While I love her writing and style of poetry, eventually I was reading just to finish it. Regarding the subjects covered in The Mermaid’s Voice Returns in This One, I think she handled it well, yet I somehow kept getting the “all guys are bad” vibe. I know we all hate the “I’m a nice guy” type, but there are men who are genuinely good men. Regardless, Amanda Lovelace is still one of my favorite poets.

 

Voices: the Final Hours of Joan of Arc by David Elliott

5 stars

voicesjoanofarc

Voices is a novel written in various forms of medieval poetry about the final hours of Joan of Arc before she is burned at the stake as a heretic. In addition to Joan’s perspective, we also see snippets of her life, her mission, and her death through the eyes of the people and even the objects around her. Her parents describe how a pious though slightly rebellious girl grew into a martyr, wearing men’s clothing and leading an army against the English to put the (sexist) Prince Charles back on the throne.

Besides the beautiful prose and the “insights” of objects like Joan’s sword and her discarded dress, what got to me was that, in hindsight, what led to Joan’s demise was the patriarchy. In between sections of poems, there are excerpts the author took of the transcripts from her trial as well as the one after her death, of which her supporters moved to clear her name. Once I started reading Voices I couldn’t stop. It was so short and I was so captivated, I finished it in a day.

 

The Handmaid’s Tale graphic novel by Margaret Atwood and illustrated by Renee Nault

4.75 stars

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I have been wanting to reread The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood for a while, especially with The Testaments coming out in the fall. The graphic novel adaption was the perfect alternative.

While I overall enjoyed the beautiful artwork, I couldn’t shake the feeling that something was missing. Some things were taken out and/or modified to fit the graphic novel format, which I understood. We also got a little more exploration on certain gender/sexuality issues brought up, like how the protagonist, Offred, was her husband Luke’s mistress before she was his wife and how her friends viewed her actions versus how the new society of Gilead viewed it. (Spoiler: neither was pleased with her choices, for different reasons.) Still, while the central plot points were kept, I didn’t feel the same emotional punch as I did with the original novel.

But, if you have read and loved The Handmaid’s Tale, I recommend reading the graphic novel, nonetheless.

 

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

4.75 stars

shout

Another of my anticipated releases of the year, Shout is a novel written in verse, told in a vignette style as the author covers different events in her life. Laurie Halse Anderson describes how she was sexually assaulted at thirteen, which led her into a wild few years until she got her act together. Then, as an adult and after some more troubling encounters with members of the opposite sex, she became a reporter and an advocate for survivors of sexual assault.

I wanted to give Shout five stars and I almost did. In the first half, in addition to the aftermath of her rape and her high school years, she talks about her parents’ tumultuous relationship and how her dad was a war hero turned drunk pastor that occasionally beat his wife. I loved how she handled honestly discussing her rape and how her inner strength helped her turn her life around. We also see the first draft of Speak. But after Part Two, it steadily grew more boring. It took me a little longer than it should have to finish, but not really because of finals. Despite my feelings that it dragged in certain parts, Shout was a powerful read and, like Speak, I highly recommend everyone read it, especially girls.

 

Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi

4.75 stars

persepolis

If you remember, I mentioned Persepolis, as well as the sequel Persepolis 2, in my Top 5 Tuesday five-star predictions. Well, as you can see, it didn’t quite make it.

            I enjoyed the history aspect of this graphic novel and I liked the black-and-white comic strip art style. I liked learning about the Islamic Revolution through the eyes of someone who actually lived in Iran during that time, as well as from someone whose family was emotionally impacted by the changes in the country. Truthfully, I was bored for the majority of the story. It was the last 100 or so pages that gave me the emotional impact I was looking for. Until then, I didn’t feel connected to the plot or the narrator Marjane, who, frankly, I didn’t always like.

 

Persepolis 2 by Marjane Satrapi

4.5 stars

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Unfortunately, I was even more bored reading Persepolis 2 than I was the first volume. While I liked it well enough, I did not feel as much emotion as I was expecting. It took too long for her to move the plot back to Iran. To be honest, I didn’t care for Marjane much, even if I sympathized with her at points. I wanted more on the country’s political climate than her series of failed relationships. But I did eventually see how the new roles for women brought on by the new government in Iran played into her personal life.

My favorite aspect of the Persepolis graphic novels, as a whole, is getting a view of Iran’s Islamic Revolution through an Iranian that did not agree with the ideology of the country’s new government. Marjane’s family were communists and Marxists, and many of their close friends and family were persecuted by the regime, so they didn’t see what was happening with rose-colored glasses. Most people seem to have the misconception all Iranians supported the Islamic Revolution. Marjane proved otherwise.

 

What was your favorite book that you’ve read recently?

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

aschoolforunusualgirlslibrarybook

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

twocankeepasecretlibrarybook

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?

2019 Reading Wrap Up #2 (2/23/19)

When this semester started, I was fully prepared to not be reading much. A month into last semester, I was completing one or two books in the span of a month. So far this semester, I have read seven books.

Granted, most of these were graphic novels. And it helps to have two free days in the middle of the week. Since I get up early enough, I get an adequate amount of homework done where I can read in the afternoons. This also usually leaves my weekends open.

This wrap up is a combination of books I own as well as library books, plus one book that was a recommended read for one of my classes. But more about that in the wrap up.

Between the last week of January until now, I read:

 

Evermore by Sara Holland (library book)

3.5 stars

evermorelibrarybook2

Evermore is the sequel to Everless and is the concluding novel to the duology. In case you are unaware, Everless is set in a fantasy world where time is based in currency taken from the blood. The main character, Jules Ember, returns to the manor home she fled years before to earn money for her ailing father. In the meantime, she learns something about herself, as well as the kingdom at large.

While I enjoyed Evermore, I think I liked it a little less than Everless. The writing was atmospheric, yet a little too flowery at times. The magic system was fascinating and so was the mythology, however I think there were still holes in the story. Though I liked Jules and adored the romance in this novel, even if some might say it came out of nowhere, the plot was slow, then rushed to reach a resolution.

I checked both Everless and Evermore out of the library. Despite that I was interested in the synopsis, I didn’t want to risk the money on them. The concept seemed so out there for me to wrap my head around it.

Overall, I say I enjoyed the Everless duology. I might buy my own copies someday, and will likely read anything else Sara Holland writes.

 

Saga, Vol. 9 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

5 stars

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It took me a while to come up with something to say about the ninth volume of the Saga graphic novels. At least, something coherent or not a spoiler.

Even as they brought up strong criticism about media and intentionally spreading fear, there was a point I suspected it would be another “filler” volume, until the ending happened. The last thing I have to say is that what I have been anticipating since the first volume finally happened. Yet, it was not quite how I expected it to happen. This particular event was also coupled with something I had not seen coming. It added on more to the emotional preparation I had built up from the previous eight volumes.

Needless to say, it’s going to be a hard year before the next installment of Saga.

 

Poe: Stories and Poems: a graphic novel adaption by Gareth Hinds

4.5 stars

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Gareth Hinds is a graphic artist that recreates classic stories in graphic novel adaptions. Poe: stories and poems is the first of his that I read. Inside are illustrated adaptions of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of the Red Death, The Cask of Amontillado, Annabel Lee, The Pit and the Pendulum, The Tell-Tale Heart, The Bells, and The Raven. While the language has been condensed a little to fit the graphic novel format, the artwork in this collection is simply gorgeous. He uses different color schemes to match each work, like beachy pastels for Annabel Lee and a monochromic one for The Raven.

If I was rating the Poe graphic novel on artwork alone, it would be five stars. However, the majority of the stories featured in this were not my favorite of Edgar Allan Poe’s works. Gareth Hinds’ illustrations added something to them, though. The visuals in The Cask of Amontillado gave me a new appreciation for it. I already loved The Tell-Tale Heart, so the artwork added more to it. Yet the artwork for The Masque of the Red Death didn’t quite appeal to my imagination. So, if I’m being perfectly honest, I’m rating this Edgar Allan Poe graphic novel mostly on my reading experience.

 

To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

5 stars

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The Princess Saves Herself in This One had an emotional impact on me, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One unfortunately did not have the same effect. Because of that, I kept my expectations for To Make Monsters Out of Girls neutral.

To Make Monsters Out of Girls was originally published on Wattpad under a different title. After her success with her previous works, it was republished with a new title as well as illustrations that added something to already hard-hitting, lyrical free verse poetry.

I’m not entirely sure how to review a poetry collection, beyond rating it by how it made me feel. I love Amanda’s style of poetry; how direct and honest she is. I also appreciated how she owned up to her mistakes, like how she was involved with a man already in a relationship. I enjoyed the topics covered in this collection and how it made me think and feel. I had the same kind of reading experience with To Make Monsters Out of Girls as I did with The Princess Saves Herself in This One.

 

And The Ocean Was Our Sky by Patrick Ness and illustrated by Rovina Cai

4 stars

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And The Ocean Was Our Sky is a retelling of Moby Dick through the eyes of the whale. Bathsheba is a member of a whale pirate crew that hunt humans, claiming to be protecting the ocean from the world above. When they capture a human, it leads Bathsheba and the rest of her crew on a mission they deem to be their destiny. But as the whales carry out their mission and she talks more with their human captive, she has doubts about not only their mission, but the relations between humans and whales.

I flew through And The Ocean Was Our Sky like I thought I would. It is a combination of prose and beautiful dark blue/black/white/red artwork, as illustrated by Rovina Cai. Patrick Ness does a good job blurring the lines between who is right and wrong between the whales and humans, making neither look entirely innocent. Bathsheba is the narrator and we see directly through her eyes as the world she thought she knew unravels around her. I wanted to give it five stars but the plot twist kind of threw me for a loop. I had no idea where the author was going with it.

 

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman (library book)

5 books

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Nonfiction is a genre I don’t reach for often, if at all. True Notebooks is a book recommended by the professor of my Friday class, Literacy Services to Underrepresented Populations, in preparation for our visit to a correctional facility in a few weeks.

True Notebooks is about the author, Mark Salzman’s, experiences as a creative writing teacher in a juvenile detention center. When his friend first approached him with the opportunity, he tries to think of ways to politely decline until he is persuaded by Sister Janet, a nun in charge of the program trying to rehabilitate these incarcerated minors. The book chronicles the various challenges Mark encounters—rowdy students, illiteracy, prejudice from outsiders and insiders, among other things—and how he not only helps his students, but they help him.

The book is narrated primarily from Mark’s first-person perspective, with samples of his student’s writing. For the first half of the book, the boys annoyed me. By the middle, as they began to understand these writing classes were a privilege that had to be earned, they had my sympathy. I felt the justice system was being too hard on most of them for a single mistake they made at fifteen.

However, towards the end of the book, you realize some of those boys had good reason to be in prison. They severely injured or even killed someone. And, while most of the boys grumbled society failed them (which in some cases, it was true), there were those that understood they were their own people who made their own choices that got them to where they were. That is what I appreciated the most about True Notebooks: there was more gray area than black or white.

 

The Darkest Part of the Forest by Holly Black (library book)

3.5 stars

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The Darkest Part of the Forest is a young adult fantasy novel based around traditional, non-Sarah J. Maas fairy folklore that I have had my eye on for years. Holly Black is also an author that has peaked my interest, especially since she published The Cruel Prince. Before I bought The Cruel Prince, though, I had owned one of her first works, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. I read it last year, wanting to read her previous works before the new. While I liked the nostalgia I got for my Twihard years, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was ultimately boring. Since I heard mention that a character from The Darkest Part of the Forest might make an appearance in The Cruel Prince, I checked it out of the library to read, instead of buying it.

Thankfully, I enjoyed The Darkest Part of the Forest. The writing was lyrical and the town of Fairfold a beautiful, atmospheric kind of creepy. I liked the traditional dark faerie folklore woven in and how the humans coexist with the fairies as they have always been there. The Sleeping Prince, a horned boy sleeping inside a glass coffin in the woods, was treated like a weird tourist attraction. I liked the protagonist, Hazel, her brother Ben, and Jack, Ben’s changeling best friend. The plot twist I kind of saw coming, but I liked it nonetheless, mostly because I don’t see it used often.

My favorite part about The Darkest Part of the Forest was the primary focus the relationship between Ben and Hazel. Though they resent each other deep down for different things and a lot of bad stuff happened to drive an emotional wedge between them, the siblings put each other ahead of everything. They both have love interests, but the romance is more of a side plot than a driving force.

Which leads me into the things I didn’t like about the novel. While I liked Hazel’s love interest, Ben’s romantic relationship feels too much like insta-love for me to get on board with. The writing was overly descriptive and sometimes certain scenes took too long to get to the point. Lastly, the ending seemed to drag on for longer than it should have, although it might feel that way to me because I checked the library book out for too long and I had to return it, so I had to read fast.

 

Have you read any of these books? What did you think of them?

 

In case you are curious, here is the link to my first reading wrap up of 2019.

2019 Reading Wrap Up #1 (1/22/19)

I go back to school this week and I’m excited for the new semester. Although, I admit, I did enjoy the break. It allowed me time to recharge my brain batteries and have a lot of free reading time.

I took advantage of the time off to visit my local library. I have four books left from the library that you will likely see in my next reading wrap up in two weeks (hopefully). After that, I will be preoccupied with piles of schoolwork. Plus, it’s starting to snow and there are books at home I want to read.

Over my winter break, I read:

 

Praise Song for the Butterflies by Bernice L. McFadden (library book)

4.75 stars

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I found Praise Song for the Butterflies while browsing the new additions shelf at my library. I almost did an individual review on this book, but it messed with my emotions so much I had no idea how I could write it.

Praise Song for the Butterflies is set in West Africa. Abeo Kata is the nine-year-old daughter of a government worker living a life of luxury until her father falls on hard times. Taking his mother’s advice, her father takes her to a religious shrine, hoping the sacrifice of his daughter to the gods will improve the family’s fortune. For fifteen years, Abeo endures horrible physical, sexual, and psychological abuse as a shrine slave. When a heartbreaking tragedy finally pushes her over the edge, Abeo has to find her way back into herself after being rescued and learn to trust and love others again.

The writing in Praise Song for the Butterflies was beautiful. Bernice L. McFadden doesn’t shy away from the harsh reality of shrine slavery and the brutality these women experience on a daily basis, but she doesn’t get too graphic. As for the characters, I felt they were realistic, yet I didn’t connect with any of them. Most made me angry, like Abeo’s parents and her grandmother. In fact, I think I disliked them more than the men at the shrine abusing Abeo and the other shrine slaves. There was a twist in the story that I saw coming, but they also revealed it too early. Despite the book being short, the pacing dragged in the beginning and the end for longer than it needed to.

I wanted to give Praise Song for the Butterflies 5 stars. Sadly, I still found some problems with it that bothered me.

 

I Am the Messenger by Markus Zusak (library book)

4.5 stars

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After buying Bridge of Clay a few months back, it didn’t feel right to read it without having read Markus Zusak’s other well-known, though not as beloved, work, I Am the Messenger. And I am very glad I did.

Ed Kennedy is a wise-cracking but good-natured underage cab driver with a coffee-drinking dog named the Doorman and an unrequited crush on his best friend Audrey. After inadvertently stopping a bank robbery, he gets playing cards in the mail that lead him on various missions of helping and occasionally hurting others by an enigmatic mastermind. As he delivers each message, the identity of the person behind Ed’s mission remains a mystery.

I really, really liked I Am the Messenger. The main reason I would say is Ed himself. He’s a wise-ass, but he’s not mean about it. He has a good heart and a strong conscience. There are certain situations in the novel that he could have easily backed out of, but he chose not to, even if he was potentially in danger. He tends to see the good in most people, which made me hate his verbally abusive, spiteful mother very much. The best part was watching Ed grow as a person. He was already good; he was just feeling a little lost.

Ed and his mission carried the novel. I liked his friends, though Audrey got on my nerves for most of it. It might be my loneliness talking, but if a guy like Ed Kennedy wanted to date me, I would absolutely give him a chance. Eventually, she grew on me, like Ed’s other friends did. Lastly, I liked the overall message of I Am the Messenger.

 

Strands of Bronze and Gold by Jane Nickerson (library book)

3.5 stars

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Strands of Bronze and Gold is a reimaging of the fairy tale Bluebeard set in 1855 Mississippi. After the death of her father, seventeen-year-old Sophia is sent from Boston to Mississippi to live with her godfather Monsieur Bernard. Though he showers her with expensive gifts and attention, as she explores his beautiful home, Sophia discovers dark secrets of her godfather’s past hidden within the abbey.

Strands of Bronze and Gold is a book I have wanted to read for years. Only it’s been out of print for so long, you can hardly find it anywhere anymore, even on Amazon. The library came to my rescue. Turns out, while I did enjoy the book, I did not love it as much as I thought I would.

Sophia is a likeable protagonist. She doesn’t stick her head in the sand; she knows Bernard’s abusive behavior towards her is wrong and she looks for various ways to get out of the situation. The mystery was solid, with a fantasy element woven through. However, at times I was bored, even though it was a fast read.

 

Kiss Me in Paris by Catherine Rider (library book)

3.75 stars

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In the vein of The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon, Kiss Me in Paris follows two people, Serena and Jean-Luc, who meet by chance in Paris and spend a whole day together. Serena is on a mission to make a scrapbook for her mother and she’s on a tight schedule. But easygoing Jean-Luc intends to show her a different kind of Paris, leading her on a path she never intended to take on this vacation.

Kiss Me in Paris is one of the cutest books I’ve ever read. It was overly dramatic sometimes but fun and fluffy. While you could argue the relationship in this story is sort of insta-love, it didn’t really bother me. It was also compulsively readable and addictive; when I wasn’t reading it, I wanted to. Highly recommend Kiss Me in Paris if you are looking for something cute and easy to fly through.

 

The Sleeper and the Spindle by Neil Gaiman, illustrated by Chis Riddell (library book)

3 stars

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Despite owning his novel American Gods, The Sleeper and the Spindle is technically my first read by Neil Gaiman. It is a fairy tale that turns the popular tropes on their heads. The queen saves the princess and does her own thing. There is no prince or knight on a horse coming to save them. It was even written like a fairy tale. And the illustrations in this graphic novel were simply gorgeous.

While I read The Sleeper and the Spindle in less than a day, I admit I was not as blown away by it as I wanted to be. It was entertaining and had a worthy moral to it, yet I left it wanting more. Also, the plot was resolved a little too quickly, I think. Sadly, The Sleeper and the Spindle was a middle-of-the-road novel for me.

 

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab (library book)

2.75 stars

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The Near Witch is my second book I’ve read by Victoria Schwab (the first being This Savage Song) and it was her debut novel. And it is a product of its time.

The Near Witch is set in a small village where children are going missing after a strange appears in the middle of the night. While magic is known in this world, it is feared and anyone that practices it is looked down upon. The main character, Lexi, is feisty, curious, and determined to get answers, even though her uncle wants her to be a good girl and stay put.

I hate to admit it, but I had to push myself to read The Near Witch. While I liked Lexi’s thirsty curiosity and the atmospheric writing, that was all that carried the book. The secondary characters, including Cole, had little to no depth in their development. The magic system was unclear. Despite being roughly 250 pages, the plot seemed to drag and took forever to resolve. Unfortunately, after a certain point, I stopped being entertained and kept reading hoping things would get better.

To be fair, given how old the novel is and it is a successful author’s debut, I went into The Near Witch with relatively low expectations. Only I was expecting more of a 3 star rating than a 2 star.

 

The King of Elfland’s Daughter by Lord Dunsany (library book)

1 star

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I checked out The King of Elfland’s Daughter from the library after seeing it on a list of “best fantasy novels ever” while doing research for one of my final projects last semester. It follows a young lord who, at the orders of his father, marries the daughter of the King of Elfland so the people of their kingdom might have a future ruler that practices magic.

I want to ask the person who wrote that list—and Neil Gaiman, who wrote the introduction—how this was possibly a good book.

Plot? What is plot? Characters? What are those? Dialogue? That’s a thing? This book was basically one long description after another and the characters were just part of the set without any real development or depth to them. I can’t remember the last time I was so bored reading a book.

 

What have you been reading so far in 2019?