June 2020 Wrap Up

In June, my reading game went up and down in waves. I did not have a TBR for June, so I could pick whatever I felt like. I read two books I was excited for in 2020. After those two books, I went back and forth on what I wanted to read next. Then, the Black Lives Matter movement took over social media.

With all the discussion floating around, I realized I added more books by Black authors to my TBR pile than I read them. So, I took a few off my bookshelves I wanted to read. I couldn’t remember the last time I felt so settled in a monthly TBR pile.

Then, towards the end of the month, I wanted to read everything and nothing. I went back to the library, the last thing I should be doing. Yet, somehow, those books made me want to read more. It’s because of library books I have six books in this wrap-up instead of four.

Books I read in June 2020 are:

 

Aurora Burning by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

5 stars

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Aurora Burning gave me the book hangover of my life. I thought I would like it as I did the first one, Aurora Rising. Only Aurora Burning played with my emotions—I equally laughed and felt on the verge of tears. I loved the romance. I loved the individual characters. It was hard to put down Aurora Burning. I read the book at the beginning of June and I am still thinking about it.

I need the next one. NOW!

 

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins

3 stars

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Thinking back to it now, with time away from it and reading other people’s reviews, I was wondering if I was generous in my rating of The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes.

Truthfully, I did not go into this book expecting much. I went into Snow’s origin story knowing a guy like that was always a sociopath. If they are done right, I have a weakness for sociopathic narrators. I find it fascinating getting inside their heads, seeing their thinking process. Obviously, Snow has no humility, as evident how he handled his family’s decline in financial status and how he used others to get what he wanted. His relationship with his family provided humanity to him, only not much. It’s rare to see a young adult book with such a truly awful protagonist that does not have a redemption arc.

While I enjoyed the conflicted commentary on the Hunger Games, how war effected the society and how people treated each other, the pros did not outweigh the cons. The pacing was off. Not much happened, with the only exciting part being the Hunger Games. The ending definitely dragged and we got how fully deplorable Snow was. But, admittedly, it was fun being inside this sociopath’s head.

Mark Twain would have appreciated The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes. If you know anything about his work or his criticism of the “penny novels” of his day, you will know why.

 

The Crossover by Kwame Alexander

3.75 stars

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To be honest, I added the .75 to my rating mostly for the ending. I love books written in verse. However, in the case of The Crossover, I felt disconnected the narrator, Josh, as well as the other characters. It seemed things moved too fast for me to process and not all issues were fully addressed or resolved. Plus, I’m not a sports person. I did not care for the basketball references. On the flip side to that, I enjoyed the writing style and the portrayal healthy familial relationships.

 

Dear Martin by Nic Stone

5 stars

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With all that happened in the past month, Dear Martin was a book I needed to read. I wanted to learn more about police brutality. Dear Martin was more than what I bargained for, though. This book made me think. I loved Justyce as a main character. I loved the questions about police brutality, race, and other issues that were answered, sometimes in more than one way. Most importantly, I love how fair Nic Stone was to everyone. There was no preaching, only educating. With all that Dear Martin made me think and feel, I am excited for the sequel coming out this fall, Dear Justyce.

 

Say Her Name by Zetta Elliott (library book)

3.5 stars

When the Stars Wrote Back: Poems by Trista Mateer (library book)

5 stars

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I know I said no more library books, but I needed an excuse to get out of the house and I fell into a weird funk in my reading. I was in the middle of one book and could barely get past 50 pages of another. I set those aside for the moment to pick up more library books.

Say Her Name is a collection of poems by Zetta Elliott and others on the repression of, or lack thereof, Black female voices within the Black Lives Matter movement. The drawings accompanying the poems were pretty and colorful. While I liked the writing style, most of the poems fell flat for me. I found it insightful on the Black women’s experience, how it is different from other women’s as well as how their stories are not always as heard as Black men’s stories. Say Her Name is a book I would recommend be taught in schools.

When the Stars Wrote Back: Poems was a book I saw everywhere when it came out a few weeks ago. Needless to say, I think I’ve found a potential new favorite contemporary poet after Amanda Lovelace. I loved Trista Mateer’s style of poetry. A lot of what she had to say hit home for me, especially her experiences with eating disorders and body image. She also wasn’t shy about disclosing on personal stories, some most people would be surprised by. I read When the Stars Wrote Back in under an hour and loved every second of it.

 

When was the last time you visited your local library?

 

Series I Don’t Mention a Lot (or at all) on My Blog

As I’m sure many of you can relate to as fellow book bloggers, we get into a rhythm of repeating the same books over and over. It’s a combination of reading new or favorite books and wanting to talk about them. Obviously, I was reading before I started this blog, yet I do not mention all those books I read prior to 2016.

I was big into reading series when I was in high school. I still do like series, but I am not always as consistent with keeping up with them like I was back then. Some of these I never finished, nor do I have any plans to do so. Others I read within the last few years, since starting my blog.

Seven of those series are:

 

The Dollenganger series by V.C. Andrews

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I don’t think I have ever talked about the Dollenganger series, which is Flowers in the Attic, Petals on the Wind, If There Be Thorns, Seeds of Yesterday, and Garden of Shadows. This is surprising, honestly, because I was obsessed. While I am uncomfortable with the aspect of sibling incest, in this case, it was realistic. Chris, Cathy, and twins Cory and Carrie were locked in an attic for five years by their greedy mother and fanatically religious grandmother. Chris and Cathy had to grow up fast, acting as parents to the twins during the delicate age of puberty. Plus, the series gets darker in the later books.

 

Blue Bloods series by Melissa de la Cruz

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There are not a lot of series I read in high school that I would reread now. Blue Bloods is one I go back and forth on. I remember it had such interesting vampire mythology (at least back then). In the world of Blue Bloods, the vampires are reincarnated souls of cursed fallen angels. The romances in this series were okay, not as toxic as most romances in YA in the early 2000s. The plot was pretty dark for young adult books at the time. I made it up to book four or five, but then I stopped reading. Why that was, I’m not entirely sure. I know there was an element of incest in these books, though I remember surprisingly being okay with it. I think I would still like them, only I’m scared to find out if that’s no longer true.

 

House of Night series by PC Cast

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I loved the House of Night books in high school. I read these right after riding the high of the Twilight saga. I read the first two or three books in rapid succession then, for whatever reason, it took me until my senior year of college to pick up the books again. Sadly, I made it up to book six before realizing I had “outgrown” the House of Night series. I hate using that word, except it’s true. I still loved the world of vampires practicing Wiccan magic and the fun, cheerful characters. I would have pushed through if it were not for the cringey writing.

 

1-800-Where-R-U series by Meg Cabot

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What I remember most about the 1-800-Where-R-U series? It was my least favorite series ever. The concept is cool—a girl gets the psychic ability to find missing people after being struck by lightning—but the execution was weak. I didn’t like the main character. I didn’t like her love interest. The only thing I liked was the representation on PTSD in the final book. That was the first time I saw something like that in a young adult book.

 

Wicked Lovely series by Melissa Marr

Wicked Lovely (Wicked Lovely, #1)

I distinctly remember reading the first and second book in the Wicked Lovely series, but I don’t know if I finished them. Back then, I had a bad habit of not reading books all the way through, unless I really liked them. I think I genuinely like Wicked Lovely back then. It was the book that introduced me to the darker side of faeries, based on actual fairy mythology. Only if I reread them now, I’m not so sure.

 

Passenger duology by Alexandra Bracken

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Ironically, I rarely talk about the Passenger duology on my blog and it is one of my favorite series. I enjoyed the time-travelling element as well as the complicated family dynamics. I liked the heroine, Etta, and the male lead, Nicholas, both who were genuinely good people. While their romance was insta-love, it was the kind of insta-love that I did not hate. Unlike Alexandra Bracken’s The Darkest Minds trilogy, the Passenger duology is a series I would gladly reread.

 

The Boy series by Meg Cabot

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I read the books in this adult companion series—The Boy Next Door, Boy Meets Girl, and Every Boy’s Got One—right as I was coming out of my Meg Cabot obsession phase. They were rom-coms written in email format following three different women working in the same fictional New York newspaper. Each of these were fun and funny; my favorite was The Boy Next Door. Since reading the first three books, another companion novel, The Boy is Back, has been published. I don’t know when I will read it, though.

 

What is a series you read in high school you might reread?

Small May 2020 Wrap Up

I’m preaching to the choir, but I really want this quarantine to be over.

I was slapped in the face by a reading slump in May. The first week and a half I deliberately took off from reading to focus on my final projects and finish grad school on a high note. Naturally, once I had the time to read, I wanted to do anything but.

At first, I rode out the slump, just like I always do. Except that got boring fast. Right now, I’m in the process of applying for jobs, while asking myself “why bother?” when libraries are still closed and places will be focused on bringing back their original workers over new hires. It was hard to stay focused on any other activity I tried—blogging, watching YouTube, Netflix, etc.

Near the middle of the month, I decided to try rereading old favorites, something I don’t do often when in a reading slump. Though I managed to read only three books this month, I’m slowly getting back into the groove of reading. Which means I’m getting excited about the pile of books on my desk instead of outright ignoring it. I just can’t pick a book to read yet.

It’s a start.

The books I read in May of 2020 were:

 

The Indigo Spell by Richelle Mead (library book)

4 stars

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The Indigo Spell is the third book in the Bloodlines series and, I’m sorry to say, might be the reason I fell into a reading slump. This book was weak compared to the first two. The same thing that happened with the Vampire Academy series; first two books were very good, then everything and nothing seemed to happen in books three and four.

The Indigo Spell seemed to focus more on the romantic drama between Adrian and Sydney than trying to figure out the Alchemist’s secrets or finding out who was killing local witches. While I understand the message of “take a chance,” did certain Moroi really think the Alchemists would not do anything to Sydney if she and Adrian took their relationship out in the open? I haven’t read The Fiery Heart yet, but I can already guess that is what’s going to happen. Regardless, The Indigo Spell was still fun with the little mystery surrounding the soul-sucking witch and what little there was to expose the Alchemists’ secrets.

 

The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes (reread)

4.5 stars

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The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly was one of my all-time favorite books that I read back in 2015. I thought if there was any book to get me out of a reading slump, it would be this book. It worked, but I got more than what I bargained for.

To be frank, part of my reason for lowering my rating of The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly is related to the Facebook TV adaption from over a year ago. Unlike the book, all the characters besides Minnow, Angel, and Jude were more fleshed out. Dr. Wilson was given more complexity and you could see how Minnow changed him as both a psychiatrist and a person. We got more of the Prophet’s backstory, making him a more humanized villain. The ending of the TV adaption was more hopeful and complete, rather than open-ended like the book.

Back in 2015, I was on a serious reading streak that summer and prior to reading The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly, I had never read a fictional novel about cults. I had high expectations going in, and I let those expectations influence my reading. While going from 5 stars to 4.5 stars seems like a harsh rating, it’s not. This book still provides good insights to society young adult readers should think about. Like deciding what they want to believe for themselves, and not let such decisions be influenced by the respective environments they grew up in. Nothing is quite black and white, including people. The book also did not shy away from the harsh reality of juvenile detention and how the justice system is not always fair to individuals of certain populations.

Lastly is a small nitpick I didn’t notice back in 2015. There was a lot of run-on sentences. Minnow also had a big vocabulary for someone that just started learning how to read. Plus, some characters seemed a little too philosophical, to a point where I thought, “No one talks like that.” Made me wonder if the author was a John Green fan….

But if you want to know: yes, I still recommend The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly by Stephanie Oakes.

 

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness (reread)

5 stars

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I first read A Monster Calls in January 2016. When I read it before, I gave it 4.5 stars. I don’t think I was as impressed or I read it too fast to get anything out of it. But given everything I went through since the previous read, I decided to see if I felt the same as I did before.

Since I stayed up until 1am to finish A Monster Calls and cried the whole time, you can say I feel differently about this book than I did four years ago. Because I understood the anger, hope, and other conflicting feelings Conor experienced, even though I was much older than him when I went through it. The painful part of finally acknowledging those feelings and accepting it does not make you a bad person. That’s only your brain telling you those feelings are wrong. Not to mention the intentional or unintentional self-isolation, thinking no one could possibly understand what you’re going through. Most people don’t, even if they mean well, but it doesn’t mean they don’t care. Other people might also not want to talk about it, because they do not want to lose hope or scare the person they care for. And these types of situations bring out the dark, vulnerable side of people that they try to keep hidden otherwise.

Needless to say, I loved A Monster Calls this time around.

 

cookie monster GIF

 

I won’t be posting a TBR for the month of June. Right now, I want to reread books, read the rest of the library books I still have, and start reading books I own in equal measure. I’m just going with my “mood” at this point. Maybe not being such a complete control freak with my reading will help get out of this slump I can’t seem to feel like I’m fully out of yet.

So, June 2020 will be a surprise. Who knows what I will be reading?

 

What’s a book you reread that had a different impact on you than it did the first time you read it?

 

April 2020 Reading Wrap Up

With school slowly winding down and COVID-19 still keeping me from going to work, I expected to read more this month. I usually keep my weekends free. By the middle of April, though, I was not reading as much as I wanted. I planned on participating on Shanah’s Off the Grid-a-thon as well as the Stay at Home Reading Rush hosted by Ariel Bissett on YouTube. I read one book that I had already started prior to the read-a-thon, finished it, and then decided to take a break before I got sick of reading.

That “break” basically went as long as the rest of the weekend.

Epic fail.

I read a total of five books in April. I wanted to aim for six, but that last week was all about schoolwork. Plus, the mental state I was in at the time, I had to set aside reading for the time being. However, four out of those five books were some of my favorites I read this year. And, when I checked my stats on Goodreads, I realized read 59 books so far this year, which is the amount I read the entire 2019. So, in hindsight, I suppose my reading streak is getting better.

In April of 2020, I read:

 

The Winter King by C.L. Wilson (library book)

3.75 stars

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The Winter King is a fantasy romance I went into with low expectations. While it was a long book that dragged too much in some parts and had ten-page sex scenes, the plot was not as cliché as you might think nor was the romance. It took me a month to finish, except that’s not entirely the book’s fault. I had a lot going on at the time, getting distracted by school. When I did read The Winter King, I had a lot of fun. If you want to know my full spoiler-free thoughts, click the link to my review.

 

Anne Frank’s Diary graphic novel adaption by Ari Folman

4.5 stars

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After finishing The Winter King and realizing I was not in the mood to read its sequel, The Sea King, I randomly selected one of the graphic novels on my TBR: Anne Frank’s Diary graphic novel adaption. I read the original novel in sixth grade. I don’t remember much about the book, so I’m assuming this graphic novel adaption follows the book to a T. Regardless, I enjoyed this probably more than I did the original work.

Anne could be seriously annoying, but then again, she was thirteen years old. She was also trapped inside of an attic with her family, fearing for her life and theirs. On the flip side to that, living inside Anne’s head and her overactive imagination was sometimes entertaining, especially when you take in the drawings. However, by a certain point in the story, I was bored reading, even as the tensions started to rise. While the graphic novel format added something, it also seemed to take something away from it. What that was, I’m not entirely sure.

 

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater (library book)

1 star

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In all honesty, I went into Shiver with relatively low expectations. I knew it was Maggie Stiefvater’s debut work, from the post-Twilight era where angsty, somewhat problematic insta-love was the thing in young adult paranormal romance. I tried to push forward, since people have said the first 100 pages of The Raven Boys are slow. I figured the same could be said for Shiver. But I reached almost 200 pages and I still did not feel it.

I know that, technically, Sam and Grace already kind of knew each other, but their romance still felt too much like insta-love. Individually, as characters, they were flat and there was no chemistry between them or any other feasible connection between the other characters. I wanted to keep reading the trilogy, as I checked all three books out from the library before the quarantine. But then I saw the other library books I had, ones I wanted to read way more than I did the Shiver trilogy. Shiver was just so boring and felt like pulling teeth. So, I set aside the trilogy.

If I had read Shiver at the height of its popularity, when I was in high school or college, I would have enjoyed it way more than I did now. However, since I am so excited to read Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys series and her other books, I am willing to give the Shiver trilogy a second chance if any of you can convince me otherwise.

 

Bloodlines by Richelle Mead (library book)

4.5 stars

The Golden Lily by Richelle Mead (library book)

4.25 stars

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The Bloodlines series was another I went into with low expectations. I didn’t think I would hate them or anything, except I thought of them as mediocre 3 star books. As you can see, at least books 1 and 2 beat those expectations.

Just from glancing at reviews on Goodreads and what I saw on social media in general over the years, people don’t like Sydney Sage, particularly in how she handled her feelings regarding Adrian Ivashkov. Though I understand people’s frustrations with her, I personally found Richelle Mead’s portrayal of Sydney’s conflicting feelings about vampires with her Alchemist upbringing very realistic. She’s been trained from a young age to be wary of vampires and that humans must not associate with them no matter what. That kind of brainwashing doesn’t disappear because of some boy, even if it is Adrian Ivashkov.

Regarding Adrian, I am slowly warming up to him, more than I did in Vampire Academy. I would find him funny and charming one second, than want to strangle him the next, especially when he made some not-quite-tactful comments on Sydney’s eating habits. Maybe I’m oversensitive, but it really bothered me, especially since I’ve been in Sydney’s position in obsessing over everything I ate. He’s also a little too cocky and arrogant sometimes for my taste. Jill is right that Adrian feels his emotions powerfully, though. And maybe a little fickle, considering it was only a few months since he was dumped by Rose. But I can relate to Sydney—a guy expressing his feelings like that to me would make me want to die from awkwardness, because I’m also socially inept and would have no idea how to react.

Speaking of Sydney, I dare say I like her more than Rose Hathaway. I identified with her more. I loved her awkwardness and how she’s such an intellect that lives inside her head, much like I do a lot. All she wants is to do right by people, even if she sometimes goes about it the wrong way.

Besides the characters making me feel everything, Bloodlines and The Golden Lily were binge-able with their fast-paced plots and easy to follow world building. I’m glad I waited so long to get into this series—these are the ideal books to read during the quarantine.

 

What was your favorite book that you read in April?

Hidden Gem Recommendations (April 2020)

If you have been on my blog for a while, you may have noticed that I do not read a lot of hyped books, at least not during the times they are at their peak.

Part of my job as a librarian is to keep up with book trends and what people are reading. But I also like to pay homage to the books that are not as hyped when I can. Because it might be the kind of book someone needs.

Those hidden gems are:

 

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter

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This Heart of Mine is a young adult contemporary novel with elements of magical realism. A teen girl with a rare heart condition receives the heart of her crush’s twin brother and starts having dreams about his death. And it was not a suicide like everyone thinks.

Despite the mix of genres, C.C. Hunter wrote them in a way that they balanced each other out. Interwoven is the core message of learning to live again after embracing the prospect of death. Plus, it deals with the effects and consequences of organ transplants, something so rarely seen in literature.

 

A School for Unusual Girls by Kathleen Baldwin

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A School for Unusual Girls is a fun, romantic historical fiction novel. This one is set in a boarding school where girls are trained to be spies. Georgie, the narrator, the headmistress Emma Stranje, and the other girls at Stranje House are all strong, smart, and independent women with their individual personalities and talents. The guys in this book are swoon-worthy. The plot was exciting and fast-paced. I don’t know why no one is talking about A School for Unusual Girls or any of the other books in this series.

 

The Memory Book by Lara Avery

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If you like “sick kid lit,” I highly recommend The Memory Book. The protagonist is a seventeen-year-old girl with a degenerate brain disorder that is slowly taking away her memories. Desperately trying to hold on to as much life as she has left, she keeps a diary of her memories in her computer, recording everything that happens to her as the disease eats away at her mind. The Memory Book is a fast read but packs a punch. The reactions of the main character and those around her were realistic as they all try to process what is happening and coping with it.

 

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

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If you enjoy dark fantasy or books with demons in the woods or ones on the weird side, I recommend The Beast is an Animal. The writing is beautiful; the setting is spooky and atmospheric. The main character lives bordering on the edge and resisting the dark side. There are stable, caring parental figures present, something so rarely seen in young adult books. And the creatures in the woods are straight out of folklore, but scarier. I personally had a hard time putting down The Beast is an Animal when I read it.

 

Invisible Ghosts by Robyn Schneider

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Reading Invisible Ghosts was one of the few times I truly saw myself in a fictional character. Rose Asher (I still remember her name) is shy and introverted, but a part of her wants to break out of the shell her ghost brother, Logan, has pushed her into. Slowly, naturally, she comes into her own, forgiving herself for perceived past mistakes as well as current real ones. Plus, there is a great friend group, a sweet friends to lovers romance, the topic of grief is handled realistically, and the fantasy element is woven in well with the contemporary.

 

Which of these books have I convinced you to read?

Book Review: The Winter King by C.L. Wilson (Spoiler Free)

I can’t remember the last time I did an individual book review. I might be a little rusty.

The Winter King by C.L. Wilson is an adult paranormal/high fantasy romance novel set in a fantastical world of witches with magic based in nature or seasons and other different types of mages with abilities like being able to communicate with animals. The story follows two main characters. The first is Wynter Atrialan, the king of the Craig, who started a war with the kingdom of Summerlea after the murder of his younger brother and he consumed the powerful Ice Heart, an ancient, deadly magic slowly taking him over. The second is Khamsin Coruscate, the hated daughter of the king of Summerlea who is forced to marry Wynter to establish peace between their kingdoms. Though distrust and suspicion lingers between them, their passion steadily grows, slowly becoming something more midst tensions between Wintercraig and Summerlea.

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The Winter King took me a full month to read—though it is not entirely the book’s fault. March was crazy. I kept picking The Winter King up, then putting it back down. It was not that I didn’t like it. When I did get around to reading it, I enjoyed the book. Stress impacted my reading.

On the flip side to that, The Winter King is still a somewhat cheesy adult fantasy romance with ten-page long sex scenes. The writing could be overly descriptive when simple sentences would have been fine. There were graphic sex scenes, so be wary of that if that is not your thing. The writing wasn’t particularly advanced, but it wasn’t simplistic or juvenile, either. This made the world building weak in certain aspects. However, the magic system and folklore of this world was not complicated like some other high fantasy novels. You learned things as you went along; there wasn’t any info-dumping.

As for the plot, it took too long to get to the point. Parts dragged for way too long. Once we got to the climax, it seemed to drag even more. The book could have been 100 pages, even 200 pages, shorter. It also became more focused on the romance, pushing Kham and Wynter closer together.

I might have found this annoying if I had gone into The Winter King expecting a high fantasy with romance as the subplot. In this case, I wasn’t bothered by it at all. The characters carried the story. Kham is strong-willed, stubborn, and flawed, but she grows up. Wynter is a big scary teddy bear—prime book boyfriend material.

Yes, the two have sex almost immediately. It is because Kham goes into the marriage believing her life depends on producing an heir for Wynter, and not producing one means death, as her father intended. However, the actual romance between them is a slow burn as they gradually open up to each other. The best part, Wynter always asked for consent whenever he and Kham got hot and heavy.

Surprisingly, the side characters were fleshed out. Particularly Lady Frey, a high priestess in Wintercraig who I really hope gets her own book; Wynter’s best friend Valik, who is like the Azriel to his Rhysand (though I like Wynter more than Rhysand, just saying); and Krysti, the young orphan boy Kham befriends. One of the antagonists, Kham’s older brother Falcon, who started the war with the Wintercraig, is also written with a complexity I enjoyed. Unfortunately, there was a lot of girl-on-girl hate that made me a little uncomfortable.

The best aspect of The Winter King is that the author turns problematic paranormal romance tropes on their heads. As I mentioned earlier, Wynter always asks for consent and he’s not the typical pushy, domineering, borderline abusive “Alpha male.” Abuse against women is not tolerated in this world; in some of the cultures mentioned, women are revered. Men even call each other out if one gets too handsy with women.

Overall, I give The Winter King by C.L. Wilson 3.75 stars. I plan to continue with the Weathermages of Mystral series, which are fantasy romance companion novels. The next one, The Sea King, follows one of Kham’s sisters, Summer, who falls in love with a minor character in The Winter King. If you are looking for a fun, steamy adult paranormal, fantasy romance, I highly recommend The Winter King by C.L. Wilson.

March 2020 Wrap Up

You know the last time I did a single monthly reading wrap-up? I don’t….

Since I started grad school in 2018, I opted to do reading wrap-ups every few months instead of monthly. Between work and school, I was not reading a lot. The only exception has been these past two semesters, when reading was part of the curriculum for a class. I wasn’t reading a lot in summer of 2019, when I was on break from school. Sometimes, after so many hours of school reading, fun reading was impossible. No matter how hard I tried.

I work and go to school in big, well-known cities. I was fully aware that the Coronavirus was happening and people were scared. And I understand why—America has never seen anything like this. I work at an academic library, and the school I worked for had been paying close attention to the updates. Meanwhile, my graduate school stayed informed, but had not made a fuss about it yet. Probably because the school is primarily full of commuters.

Then, three days into my spring break (the week of March 9th), my school sends out a mass email that they are extending the spring break to figure out what they were going to do about the Coronavirus and the rest of the semester. Two days after that, they announced they were going virtual for the rest of the semester, just like the university I work for and a lot of other schools.

The first week of this unexpected quarantine was a hard adjustment. Obviously, the library I work in is also closed and I have no idea when it will reopen. I can’t even go to my local library to study, since they are closed until April 6th. Right now, I am doing the best I can to not get distracted from my schoolwork. I’m also realizing that I can work later and sleep later now—I don’t have to work my schedule around catching a bus.

It’s the little things. Just like books and this blog and this platform.

I read seven books in the month of March. The first three were for my children’s literature class and mentioned in another wrap-up. The rest are here and mostly library books from my library book haul.

The last four books I read in March 2020 were:

 

I Work at a Public Library by Gina Sheridan (library book)

5 stars

I Work at a Public Library: A Collection of Crazy Stories from the Stacks

I checked this one out of my school library (great timing, huh?) after seeing it on a display. It is a collection of stories by a librarian working in a public library. They were laugh out loud funny, some were heartfelt, and all were brutally honest. If you have ever worked in a library, you will appreciate the humor.

 

Coraline graphic novel adaption by Neil Gaiman (library book)

4 stars

Coraline

I watched the movie adaption of Coraline on Netflix a few years ago, without having read the book. This graphic novel is technically also an adaption of the source material, so there were probably things changed to better suit the format here, too. Between the two, though, while I enjoyed the graphic novel of Coraline, it was not as unsettling as the movie. Of course, you can count on Tim Burton to make just about anything terrifying. On the flip side to that, I liked Coraline in the book more than the Coraline in the movie. She was spunky, a quick study, and thought on her feet. The Coraline in the movie was annoying.

 

Doll Bones by Holly Black (library book)

3.75 stars

Doll Bones

Doll Bones was a book I read for a review assignment in my children’s literature class. It’s my first middle grade book by Holly Black that I’ve read. It follows three friends, Zach, Alice, and Poppy, who play a make-believe game of pirates, mermaids, and evil queens with their toys and the china doll sitting in Poppy’s mom’s glass cabinet. When Zach’s asshole dad throws out his toys declaring he “grow up” and then Zach lies to the girls about why he can’t play the game anymore, they manage to convince him to go on one last adventure: to return the ashes of a dead girl inside the china doll to her grave.

I went into Doll Bones with semi-low expectations. While I have liked the books by Holly Black I’ve read so far, nothing has reached 5-star level yet. Doll Bones was a fun and quick read, blurring the lines between fantasy and reality. There were moments where I wasn’t sure if what was happening was real or imaginary. The characters were realistic, though we only get Zach’s point of view in the third person. As for the plot, it was entertaining and made me want to find out what was going to happen next.

 

Break Your Glass Slippers by Amanda Lovelace

4.75 stars

Break Your Glass Slippers (You Are Your Own Fairy Tale, #1)

I preordered Break Your Glass Slippers, something I rarely do. I was in the middle of reading another book, trying to finish it after dragging it out for over a month. But I could not stop thinking about Break Your Glass Slippers. The same day it came in the mail from Amazon, I caved and read it in the next 24 hours.

Break Your Glass Slippers focuses a little bit on toxic romantic relationships like some of Amanda Lovelace’s other poetry collections. But this one is more on toxic friendships, toxic family members, other toxic people, and women building up other women. Mainly, the message of Break Your Glass Slippers is to be your own Fairy Godmother and prince as much as a princess. I loved the stress on women supporting other women and learning to find your own self-worth instead of looking to others for validation. The reason I did not give it a full 5 star rating was because not all the poems hit a nerve or made me feel something compared to the previous one I read this year, To Drink Coffee with a Ghost. Which, if I’m being honest, I will probably compare the rest of her works to for the foreseeable future. Of all Amanda Lovelace’s published books so far, though, Break Your Glass Slippers is the prettiest with the light-blue undertones and starry night endpapers.

 

What did you read in March?

Books That Exceeded My Expectations

The good thing about being unexpectedly stuck at home? More time to read and work on my blog while still doing homework.

The bad thing about being unexpectedly stuck at home? I cannot focus on anything but the fact that I’m stuck at home because school, work, and everything else is closed.

I have an assignment due tomorrow that I should be working on right now, but blogging might help me destress and get my brain juices flowing.

Books that exceeded my expectations was another Top 5 Tuesday topic I missed. When I pick up certain books, I go in with minimum expectations. There are books I pick up from the library that I think I might not like for one reason or another but I’m too curious to not read it. The ones I read for school definitely fall under this category sometimes, too. Who likes a book they are forced to read?

Few things make me happier when a book exceeds expectations. Those books are:

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

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I read Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls, from the library shortly after it came out and did not love it. The book had such a good concept, but poor execution. I wondered if the same might happen with The Last Time I Lied. Since this one was set at a summer camp and involved complicated female friendship, I couldn’t ignore it. Most preferred Final Girls over The Last Time I Lied. For me, I thought the sophomore novel was better. I was engaged the whole way through The Last Time I Lied.

 

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman

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Until 2019, nonfiction was a genre I touched primarily for school. Very, very rarely on my own, honestly. True Notebooks I had to read for my literacy services class last spring, which is about a writer that volunteers to teach creative writing at a juvenile hall. The whole book was basically about the importance of literacy to certain populations, particularly prisoners. Though I would probably never reread it because the whole book had an unrelenting sadness throughout, True Notebooks showed how society can fail young people born into specific situations, as well as how books can help and heal.

 

Two Can Keep a Secret by Karen M. McManus

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When Two Can Keep a Secret came out last year, it was right after I heard some rather negative things about Karen M. McManus’s debut, One of Us is Lying. That, and young adult thrillers are sometimes kind of cheesy and overdone. However, the idea of three murders of high school girls taking place in the same small town over a period of twenty years inside a theme park known as “Murderland,” was intriguing. As you can already guess, Two Can Keep a Secret was not a disappointment. I was entertained the entire time, loved all the characters, and it had the best ending line in a young adult mystery I had read to date.

 

Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

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Initially, I had zero interest in reading Aurora Rising for two reasons. First, I didn’t really like Illuminae by this author duo. Second, science fiction was a genre that I did not give much thought to, as most of its subjects go right over my head. Then, I kept seeing the cover of Aurora Rising everywhere and saw my library had a copy. I picked it up on a whim, then could barely put it down until I finished it. Sadly, I was not surprised when it was not getting the best feedback from other readers. Illuminae set the standards too high. But I liked all the characters and I thought it was a fun, solid first book in a series.

 

City of Saints and Thieves by Natalie C. Anderson

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The main criticism regarding City of Saints and Thieves that I heard was that it was not an OWN voices author. Despite Natalie C. Anderson’s history of working with refugees from the Congo, I had to admit, a white American writing about those types of experiences could be a delicate situation. I thought she did a good job though; the plot was exciting, the setting heartbreakingly realistic, and the main character was a strong, smart girl that knew how to think on her feet.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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When The Hazel Wood came out a couple of years ago, the reviews were so mixed it was scary. As much as I loved the concept and the cover, I could not bring myself to take the risk on purchasing it without having read it first. While the main character is not exactly likeable, the writing and the world-building was lush and beautiful. The fairy tales were how I like them: dark and gruesome. I flew through The Hazel Wood. I’m expecting the same thing to happen when I get around to reading the sequel, The Night Country.

 

What books exceeded your expectations?

 

Books I Read for My Children’s Literature Class: January to March 2020

This semester, I’m taking a class on children’s literature and I love it more than I thought I would. If I’m being honest, it’s mostly because they helped me reach my Goodreads goal of 50 books in the first three months of the year.

The readings for this class were picture books and middle grade novels. Before this class, the only middle grade I read was the Percy Jackson books. I never even thought about picture books. Now, I seriously want to raid the super cute middle grade section of the bookstore near my work.

As for picture books, they were something I never appreciated. I would not call myself an expert in rating them by any means, though. All of these are rated based on my personal enjoyment of them.

There were so many of them, they had to have their own wrap-up. So let’s get right on it.

 

January

 

When Sophie Gets Angry, Really, Really Angry by Molly Bang (library book)

3 stars

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The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Remy Charlip (library book)

The Dead Bird by Margaret Wise Brown, illustrated by Christian Robinson (library book)

4 stars

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Yeah, we read the same book twice, just done by different illustrators. Basically, four kids find a dead bird in the woods and hold a funeral for it. Between the two, my favorite illustrations were Christian Robinson’s. Remy Charlip used too much blue.

 

The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats (library book)

3 stars

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Freight Train by Donald Crews (library book)

NO RATING

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This is the first time I opted not rate a book I read. Freight Train is simply a board book about colors. How does a 27-year-old childless graduate student rate that on Goodreads?

 

Tar Beach by Faith Ringgold

5 stars

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Tar Beach is the first picture book I rated five stars. It is based off a quilt from the author’s childhood and follows a little girl who flies over New York City every night in her dreams. It made me feel fuzzy all over.

 

Rosie’s Walk by Pat Hutchins

5 stars

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Madeline by Ludwig Bemelmans (library book/reread)

5 stars

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Madeline was one of my absolute favorite books as a child. I even had a Madeline themed birthday party when I was about eight. This one was a five-star completely for the nostalgia.

 

Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak (library book/reread?)

4 stars

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You notice I put “reread” with a question mark. I remember hearing lots about this book growing up, though I never recalled reading it. I think the monster drawings kind of freaked me out back then. When I mentioned it as one of the titles being used in my children’s literature class, my dad said he read Where the Wild Things Are to my brother and I when we were little. I’m simply taking his word for it.

 

The Little House by Virginia Lee Burton (library book/reread?)

4 stars

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I distinctly remember The Little House being read to me as a child, though by whom I don’t know. My dad didn’t recognize it, so it might have been a teacher. I really loved the pastel color scheme used in this picture book. The book overflowed with sweetness.

 

Knock, Knock: My Dad’s Dream for Me by Daniel Beaty (library book)

4.5 stars

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Mr. Tiger Goes Wild by Peter Brown (library book)

4.5 stars

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Big Cat, Little Cat by Elisha Cooper (library book)

5 stars

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Maria Had a Little Llama/Maria Tenia una Llamita by Angela Dominguez (library book)

4 stars

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Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love (library book)

5 stars

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I love Julian is a Mermaid with every fiber of my being. This is a book I hope to someday read to my own kids. And I would not be annoyed if they wanted me to read it a thousand times in a row. The artwork was beautiful. A little boy sees mermaids, dresses up like one, and his grandmother is cool with it. Even brings him to go hang out with other mermaids. Makes my heart happy just writing about it.

 

Los Gatos Black by Marisa Montes (library book)

3 stars

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One Family by George Shannon (library book)

3.5 stars

One Family

 

Black and White by David Macaulay (library book)

3 stars

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Arlene Sardine by Chris Raschka (library book)

4.5 stars

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Funny thing about this book: the other people in my class were freaked out that Arlene the fish had to die to become a sardine. I was the only one that appeared to be fine with it. While the color scheme was a little saturated, I liked this book and appreciated what the author was trying to do with it.

 

They All Saw a Cat by Brendan Wenzel (library book)

5 stars

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Little Bear by Else Holmelund Minarik (library book)

3 stars

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Ling and Ting: Not Exactly the Same by Grace Lin (library book)

3 stars

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Sammy the Seal by Syd Hoff (library book)

3.5 stars

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We Are in a Book! By Mo Willems (library book)

5 stars

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You Are (Not) Small by Anna Kang (library book)

4 stars

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February

 

Frog and Toad are Friends by Arnold Lobel (library book)

5 stars

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Amelia Bedelia by Peggy Parish (library book)

5 stars

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A super fun classic children’s book that I finally read at 27. And, in all honesty, I think Amelia Bedelia has a point. “Change the drapes” makes no sense, when you think about it.

 

Go, Otto, Go! By David Milgrim (library book)

3 stars

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Hello, Universe by Erin Entrada Kelly (library book)

4 stars

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The week I read Hello, Universe was the week of chapter and transitional books. We were only supposed to pick two to read. Of course, I read more than two.

Hello, Universe is a middle grade book I heard good things about. It follows fours kids, with one a bully and one trapped down a well. I liked all the characters, even identified with Virgil, the boy that finds himself trapped down the well. The writing surprised me; it was easy, but not too simplistic nor written in a way that talked down to the middle grade reader. I had a fun time reading Hello, Universe. I definitely plan on picking up my own copy and reading more books by Erin Entrada Kelly.

 

Give Please a Chance by James Patterson and Bill O’Reilly

4 stars

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We had to do an analysis on a picture book. I stressed on what to pick, if I actually had to go out and buy one. Then, I remembered my mom had asked for Give Please a Chance for Christmas a few years ago and I still had it. I agree with the reviews: how did such an impolite person like Bill O’Reilly write a book about manners?

 

The Year of Billy Miller by Kevin Henke (library book)

3.5 stars

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The other book I wanted to read along with Hello, Universe wasn’t available from my local library yet, but The Year of Billy Miller was. It was a great book that brought me back to second grade. I liked Billy and his family. But Emma Sparks was a little shit.

 

Balloons Over Broadway by Melissa Sweet (library book)

5 stars

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We Are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball by Kadir Nelson (library book)

4 stars

We are the Ship: The Story of Negro League Baseball

I don’t know if this would qualify as a “picture book” with how heavy it was and how dense the text. I personally knew next to nothing about the Negro League, mostly because I don’t care for baseball (or sports in general). But I did find it informative. So, if baseball history is your jam, I recommend We Are the Ship.

 

Josephine: the Dazzling Life of Josephine Baker by Patricia Hruby Powell (library book)

5 stars

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Funny Bones: Posada and His Day of the Dead Calaveras by Duncan Tonatiuh (library book)

4 stars

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Electric Ben: The Amazing Life and Times of Benjamin Franklin by Robert Byrd (library book)

5 stars

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Benjamin Franklin is my soul twin—he gets me and my love of buying books. His whole life was interesting. I also love how he was the only Founding Father that supported women’s rights and he saw nothing wrong with indulging a little once in a while, even if he felt guilty about it. This book also painted Ben Franklin as an imperfect, but good, man, which I deeply appreciated. I am still debating on whether or not to buy my own copy.

 

Giant Squid by Candance Fleming (library book)

4 stars

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Honey Bunny Funnybunny by Marilyn Sadler

NO RATING

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I have no idea how to rate this book, if I am being perfectly honest.

Honey Bunny Funnybunny is a reread for me. This was one of my favorite books as a child; I asked my dad to read it to me so much, the binding is almost falling apart. I completely forgot about it until I needed an easy reader for an assignment in my children’s literature. I found it on the shelves my brother and I keep our childhood books.

On Goodreads, I saw a surprising amount of negative reviews for Honey Bunny Funnybunny. While I understand people’s feelings towards the boy bunny expressing his love to his sister by being mean to her, anyone who has a sibling, especially if your sibling was a little shit like mine was, this book might resonate with you. And, to the book’s credit, the parents do punish the older brother when his behavior goes too far. Up until that point, it is all stupid kid stuff.

And, despite what many of the reviewers might think, my brother and I have an adult relationship now. Because we got it all out as kids.

 

The Boxcar Children by Gertrude Chandler Warner (library book/reread)

4 stars

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The Boxcar Children was one of my favorite books as a child. Sadly, I don’t own a copy anymore, or at least I think I don’t. I must have lost it or gave it away when we moved years ago. I had wanted to read it for an assignment, only it didn’t come from the library in time. I read it anyway. I thought I would give it five stars, except towards the end I didn’t care as much as I did years ago. In fact, I wonder now if I had finished it all the way through back then. (I was a naughty little reader.) Still, The Boxcar Children was as sweet as ever.

 

Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library by Barb Rosenstock (library book)

5 stars

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I picked up Thomas Jefferson Builds a Library for an informational text analysis assignment. Because what reader doesn’t love a book about books or libraries? Except it did not meet the criteria my professor set. I read it anyway. Yeah, Thomas Jefferson was a slave-owning man-whore, but the guy loved books.

 

Ghost Liners: Exploring the World’s Greatest Lost Ships by Robert Ballard (library book)

4 stars

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Ghost Liners is the book I ended up using for the informational text assignment I just mentioned. It was actually mentioned in an article I read for class. It’s about five shipwrecks, one of them being the Titanic. Lots of cool photographs and illustrations of the ships combined with the first-hand experience of survivors and witnesses (this book was published in the 90s). If shipwrecks or underwater exploration is your thing, Ghost Liners might be a good one to look into.

 

March

 

There is a Tribe of Kids by Lane Smith (library book)

4 stars

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A Fine Dessert: Four Centuries, Four Families, One Delicious Treat by Emily Jenkins (library book)

4 stars

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Beautiful hand drawings of different families making the same dessert. I know the drawings of happy slaves leaves a bad taste in people’s mouths, but props to the author for turning gender roles on their heads with the father and son making the dessert in the end.

 

A Birthday Cake for George Washington by Ramin Ganeshram (library book)

3 stars

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Another book with the unpleasant drawings of happy slaves, A Birthday Cake for George Washington follows Delia, the daughter of Hercules, George Washington’s slave chef. The artwork was beautiful, if you are willing to overlook the fact that the chef was working his ass off for the guy who kept him and his family enslaved.

 

Have you read any of these books?

 

What did you think of them?

 

What do you think of picture books in general? Do you still read them, with or without kids?

 

 

First Reading Wrap Up of 2020: January & February

It’s been two months since I have posted here on my blog. In that time:

I started my last semester of graduate school.

I’m currently on a now extended spring break because my school is taking precautions against the Coronavirus.

I broke at least two of my reading resolutions. (I’m sure you can guess which ones.)

I beat my Goodreads 2020 reading goal.

I READ 30 BOOKS IN ONE MONTH!

That is due to the children’s literature class I am taking this semester. Those books you will see in a separate reading wrap-up. But I have never read so much in a month.

I am glad to say I started off my 2020 reading year strong. Before school started again, I managed to read five books in January. It is also the month I read 30 books, making it more of a whirlwind than it already was. In February, I read only one book not school related.

In January and February 2020, I read:

 

January

 

Through the Woods by Emily Carroll (reread)

4 stars

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In the days leading up to 2020, I was fussing over what my first read of the year would be. Then, I heard a few people say they started the new year with a reread. I bought Through the Woods, which I read from the library in 2016, to reread at Halloween. That didn’t happen, so I decided to pick up this graphic novel anthology as my first book of 2020.

My rating is the same as it was in 2016. I love Emily Carroll’s art style. I liked all the stories, but I still have the same favorites: “A Lady’s Hands are Cold” with “My Friend Janna” as a close second. I really hope Through the Woods someday gets made into a movie.

 

To Drink Coffee with a Ghost by Amanda Lovelace

5 stars

To Drink Coffee with a Ghost (Things that Haunt, #2)

I already know that my favorite book of the year will be To Drink Coffee with a Ghost. The only book I can imagine topping it is A Sky Beyond the Storm by Sabaa Tahir, the final book in the An Ember in the Ashes series coming out in December. And that is if I read it right away when it comes out. But even that is a hard maybe.

I read Amanda Lovelace’s latest poetry collection in a single night before falling asleep. And I cried my eyes out the whole time. To Drink Coffee with a Ghost focuses on Amanda’s tumultuous relationship with her mother. Almost every single poem hit a nerve. It’s been a while since a book affected me so much. Which means extremely high expectations for Break Your Glass Slippers, coming out March 17th.

 

Sabrina by Nick Drnaso

2 stars

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Sabrina took me for a ride I was bored on the whole time.

I think the author was trying to provide a social criticism, but the execution made no sense. Too many times the plot went off course. Soon it became more about the characters’ life drama than learning what really happened to Sabrina. There isn’t any character development either; none of the characters seem to grow, including the main character, and none of their stories feel resolved in any way. Yet the book was so compulsively readable I had to find out if it got better. Some parts were good, and the author knew when to use dialogue, but I was ultimately disappointed.

 

Look Both Ways by Jason Reynolds

4.25 stars

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Look Both Ways called to me from my shelves, despite the fact it was not on my intended reading list. After reading Long Way Down last semester, my expectations going in were high. I did enjoy this book’s “slice of life” stories, though admittedly I was bored for a chunk of it. Some of the characters, all in middle school, felt more fleshed out than others. Regardless, Jason Reynolds’s writing style was almost perfect.

 

Pet by Akwaeke Emezi

3.5 stars

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Besides Look Both Ways, Pet also called to me from my bookshelves. And it was short, which meant getting ahead in my reading challenge. The concept was just too fascinating: a contemporary-feeling dystopian novel set in a city called Lucille, where no more “monsters” exist. Jam is a transgender girl who accidentally summons a creature called Pet from her mother’s painting with a drop of blood. When Pet tells her there is a monster living inside her best friend Redemption’s house, she agrees to help it find the monster, shattering her reality that Lucille, her whole world, is safe.

The concept behind Pet was really interesting. This book was packed with diversity. I liked how Jam being transgender was not a “thing”; her parents and friends just accepted it. Also, Redemption had three parents and there was a librarian in a wheelchair. Pet was a fascinating element, a frightening creature that was the only thing Jam could trust. However, the writing felt juvenile and it took a while to get to the point. That being said, I would consider picking up more books by Akwaeke Emezi if they write more.

 

February

 

The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan (library book)

2 stars

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I had checked out The Painted Girls twice from the library. I’ve had this saved on Goodreads for so long, I had forgotten about it until I saw it on someone’s blog recently. By no means it is not a long book, yet it took me far too long to get through.

I thought it wasn’t The Painted Girls fault that it was taking me forever to read. I am a graduate student, after all. However, when I was reading it, I lost interest quickly. When I had chances to read it I didn’t want to.

Despite how bored I was while reading The Painted Girls, I did like the writing style and the atmosphere. Unfortunately, the characters were flat, and the plot took forever to get to the point. Not to mention the time jumps that came without warning; those took me out of the story instead of into it. Despite this, I am willing to believe that the timing was bad. Maybe someday I will check The Painted Girls out of the library again to reread one day.

 

What books have you read recently?