November 2020: My Favorite Wrap Up of the Year

I have said all year how much I needed books. But in was November, I really needed books.

            To say this month was stressful is an understatement. The election…didn’t go the way I hoped. Put it this way: I was on the side most people were not. And I will leave it at that. Then, other things—mostly internal—started happening. I’ve been living inside my head too much this year, stuck at home all the time. It finally reached a tipping point. I stress-bought things I didn’t need instead of spending it on things I did.

            When Goodreads Choice Awards for 2020 began at the end of October, I realized how far behind I was on 2020 releases. Books I had once been excited for, yet did not get around to reading. Books that were deep in my comfort zone.

            I decided November I would go out of my comfort zone by picking up picture books and middle grade novels. And I’m so glad I did. I read a total of sixteen books this month. Better yet, none of them were below 4 stars and the majority are my favorites of the year.

            The library books that made me want to do nothing but read for the rest of 2020 are:

Picture Books

Julian at the Wedding by Jessica Love

4 stars

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I read Jessica Love’s previous picture book, Julian is a Mermaid, for my children’s literature class. I adored it, so naturally I expected to adore Julian at the Wedding. While the story was cute, the artwork still beautiful, and had subtle LGBTQ+ themes, it didn’t pull me in the way Julian is a Mermaid did.

Just Like Me by Vanessa Brantley-Newton

5 stars

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The girl-power of this picture book warmed my heart.

This Book is Gray by Lindsay Ward

5 stars

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This Book is Gray is all about what others perceive as bad might not be so, if put into certain circumstances. I had a hard time picking a nominee, but I settled on this one.

I Am Every Good Thing by Derrick Barnes

4 stars

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While I understand and appreciate the motive behind the writing of I Am Every Good Thing, I don’t know why I did not love it more.

Bedtime Bonnet by Nancy Amanda Redd

4 stars

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Cute, with a lesson about the importance hair has to Black culture, but the grandpa was kind of an asshole.

Antiracist Baby by Ibram X. Kendi

4.5 stars

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Again, while I appreciated the message and the issues presented in this book, it just missed the mark for me. It felt more like a textbook written for toddlers.

The Oldest Student: How Mary Walker Learned to Read by Rita Lorraine Hubbard

5 stars

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You’re never too old to learn. Or to realize to never take reading for granted. How Mary Walker survived so long without reading makes me both sad and amazed.

Bird Hugs by Ged Adamson

4 stars

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So darn adorable!

Dewdrop by Katie O’Neil

5 stars

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There are not enough words to describe how sweet and adorable this book is.

Library Lion by Michelle Knudsen

5 stars

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All about a lion living inside a library. Obviously, I loved it.  

The Undefeated by Kwame Alexander

5 stars

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I loved the poetry in this one. We need more powerful children’s books like this.

We Are Water Protectors by Carole Lindstrom

5 stars

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The artwork in We Are Water Protectors is absolutely stunning. It also serves as a reminder that nothing is perfect and there are good and bad sides to everything.

Other Books

The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate

4.5 stars

The One and Only Bob by Katherine Applegate

4.5 stars

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I remembered Katherine Applegate’s books existed after Disney+ released a movie adaption of The One and Only Ivan. The One and Only Bob was a nominee for this year’s middle grade Choice Awards. As you can tell, I enjoyed both of them.

            Ivan the gorilla had a surprising amount of amusing ego and Bob was the smartest little wise-ass. Serious issues, like animal abuse, were put into a perspective that children could understand without being graphic. Some of the significant human characters were complex; the ones you would think are bad might not necessarily be as such. The short chapters and easy dialogue made The One and Only Ivan and The One and Only Bob easy to fly through. And I seriously hope baby elephant Ruby gets her own book.

Before the Ever After by Jacqueline Woodson

4.75 stars

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I read Before the Ever After in under 24 hours. I looked for any excuse to read it. In case you were unaware, Before the Ever After follows twelve-year-old boy ZJ, whose father is an NFL player that is showing signs of severe mental decline. Written in verse, it describes how he and his parents cope with the situation as his father’s health declines. They also receive tremendous support from those who continue to stand by them. I almost gave it 5 stars, but the unexpected time jumps annoyed me too much.

The Night Diary by Veera Hiranandani

4.25 stars

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Set during the partition of India in 1947, twelve-year-old Nisha tells the story of The Night Diary via letters to her dead mother. She describes the political unrest in India following liberation from the British and the family’s migration over the border to the new India after where they lived became Pakistan. In her note at the end, the author described how it was loosely based off her family’s history, though not specifically their experience. Instead, she chose to put her characters through enough pain where the reader got the point. Still, the events are rooted in reality, as during the actual migration people’s experiences differed.

            As a protagonist, I liked Nisha and saw a lot of my twelve-year-old self in her. She was quiet and reserved, but she did her best to cope with her situation and help out her father, twin brother Amil, and her grandmother. The characters felt fleshed out and their reactions to situations realistic. Near the end, we see strong representation of trauma I think was handled quite well. The reason I gave The Night Diary 4 stars instead of 5 is because the story dragged at parts and Nisha would babble on about unimportant things that took me out of the story. Other than that, I enjoyed The Night Diary and would highly recommend it to someone looking for a historical middle grade.

What was your favorite book you read in November?

September 2020 Wrap Up: The Month of “Meh” Books

In case no one noticed, I didn’t post a to be read pile for September. Truth was, I had no idea what I wanted to read.

            I managed to read three of the library books I checked out at the beginning of the month, then returned the rest unread. There are over 20 books I want to read before the end of the year. It’s simply a matter of my attention span. My inability to settle on what I wanted to read in September proved that. I even went back to the library last week.

            In September, I read four library books and three TBR books. Unfortunately, I have no strong feelings about any of the books I read this month, even the ones with higher ratings.

But I’m just fussing over the negative. On a positive note, I reviewed two of the books I read after having not written reviews in months. Unemployment and the quarantine has taken away my feelings of optimism, sadly.

            This month, I read:

Blubber by Judy Blume (library book)

3.5 stars

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Prior to picking up Blubber, I had not read anything by Judy Blume in well over a decade. And it happened to be the book that reminded me how much I hated my adolescence. The main character, Jill, is a fifth-grader with a mean streak that joins her classmates in bullying another, Linda, after the latter gives a report on whales.

My rating takes into account I am not the target audience of Blubber. If I had read it while still as a fifth-grader, I probably would have given it 5 stars. The writing and plot were simplistic, but accessible. Jill and the others felt like real middle-school children. If you want to teach a kid about bullying, use Blubber by Judy Blume. For more of my thoughts, go check out my review.

Fever 1793 by Laurie Halse Anderson (library book)

4.5 stars

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A fitting book to read in 2020, if there ever was one. Set in Philadelphia circa 1793, during the yellow fever pandemic. Fourteen-year-old Matilda “Mattie” Cook and her family are right in the middle of it at the popular coffeehouse they own.  

The plot revolves entirely around the yellow fever pandemic and how the characters reacted to it. Much like now with COVID-19, there was panic everywhere. However, it was ten times worse then, without the use of social media and other resources we have today. I liked the protagonist, Mattie, how ambitious and realistic she felt. It’s not my favorite book by Laurie Halse Anderson—that spot still belongs to Speak—though I recommend it, nonetheless. For my full thoughts on Fever 1793, check out my review.  

The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox (library book)

2 stars

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The Slave Dancer was a book I found on the ALA list of banned books and the title peaked my interest. When I saw my library had a copy, I requested it. In case you have never heard of this book, The Slave Dancer follows thirteen-year-old Jesse, who is abducted from the streets of New Orleans to play his flute on a slave ship during the slaves’ exercise periods. In short, this is not the kind of book you would expect to be boring. And, yet, it was.

The writing style—the overly long descriptions, the lack of dialogue—did not accommodate the dark subject material. The Slave Dancer is the kind of story where you are supposed to care about Jesse and what happens to him. Except the writing and pacing made me feel disconnected from the story. I might have given it 1 star, had it not been for the slightly better ending.   

The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys

4.75 stars

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I bought The Fountains of Silence (signed) from one of the independent bookstores near my last job almost right after it came out last year. I’ve wanted to read it ever since, but kept putting the book aside until I knocked off more from my priority TBR. With the fear of a reading slump coming on, I impulsively picked up The Fountains of Silence.

            I went into The Fountains of Silence expecting it to be a 5 star book after reading Salt to the Sea (twice). While it was half a point shy, by no means was it that disappointing. The writing was still engrossing and I liked the characters. Daniel, an American boy vacationing in Spain, is the definition of perfection. However, despite the short chapters, I felt The Fountains of Silence dragged towards the end. There was one or two characters I think were not as fleshed out as I expected. The overall storyline also felt like it wrapped up a little too quickly. Only that is just picky criticism. I would still recommend The Fountains of Silence by Ruta Sepetys.

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

3.25 stars

Bid My Soul Farewell by Beth Revis

3 stars

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Give the Dark My Love and Bid My Soul Farewell are a fantasy duology set in a world where a plague called the Wasting Death is infecting an empire and killing large portions of the population, mainly those in poorer communities. Nedra is a promising young alchemist from one of those poorer villages that is accepted into an elite alchemy school and is desperate to find a cure. She, along with her classmate and love interest Grey, set out to find the cause of the plague before any more lives are lost. As desperation grows, Nedra turns to the greatest taboo of their world: necromancy.

            A 3 star rating is not bad by any means. Admittedly, I went into this duology with lower expectations because what little I’ve heard about it was relatively lackluster. I liked Grey and Nedra as protagonists respectively, though their romance felt a like insta-love. The writing was not bad and the chapters were short, making the books easy to fly through. However, towards the end, they dragged. And the motivations of the villains were weak. On the flip side to that, the fantasy world was easy to follow, if generic, and the concepts of alchemy and necromancy were fascinating, nonetheless.

A Cloud of Outrageous Blue by Vesper Stamper (library book)

2 stars

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A Cloud of Outrageous Blue was probably the most “meh” book of September. Yet another pandemic book, it is set during the year of the Bubonic Plague in Europe. After the death of her parents, Edyth is sent by her older brother to work in a priory. While she manages to make friends and build a new life there besides dealing with her grief, her new normal is threatened by the arrival of the plague.

            I gave A Cloud of Outrageous Blue the rating I did for two reasons: the beautiful, colorful illustrations and the fact that Edyth has synesthesia. As you can probably guess, saying music looks blue is not going to go well in the 1390s. The author did not shy away from the fact that anything, no matter how innocent, could have been seen as a sin or demon possession back then. Edyth was a likeable protagonist and she felt like a normal teenager trying to make the best of her situation.

Unfortunately, unlike Vesper Stamper’s debut novel What the Night Sings, A Cloud of Outrageous Blue was extremely boring. It took too long to get to the point. The plot did not go anywhere and not all the characters were as fleshed out. That being said, I was also not in a good headspace near the end of September. I fell into a deep rut and my desire to read took a hit. I might one day give A Cloud of Outrageous Blue a second chance.

How did your reading go in September?

August, Otherwise Known as the Second Smallest Wrap Up of 2020

In all honesty: it was me, not the books.

At the beginning of August, I was struggling to even pick anything to read. I went to the library, thinking it would help, but managed to read only two and lost interest in the rest of them quickly.

The motivation to read came in spades. When I did reach for a book, I did not last very long before putting it down again. Boredom during quarantine and frustration over not having found a job yet got to me. Now, I don’t even want to think about anything but reading. It might be the only thing to save my sanity.

The four books I read in August of 2020 were:

 

The Queen’s Assassin by Melissa Da la Cruz (library book)

2.75 stars

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While the reveal at the end was good (if expected) and the overall world-building interesting, The Queen’s Assassin felt like almost every other YA fantasy novel I’ve read. The characters and the romance fell flat, though admittedly I did start out liking the characters. Unfortunately, I could not stay focused on this book no matter how much I was enjoying a particular scene. The overly simplistic writing sometimes pulled me out of the story. However, because these covers are so damn gorgeous and I think it has more potential than I gave it credit for, I am considering rereading The Queen’s Assassin next year when it’s sequel, The Queen’s Secret, comes out. Only that is up in the air at the moment.

 

How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather (library book)

3.5 stars

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The entire time I was reading How to Hang a Witch, all I could think was how good it would be as a CW or Freeform TV show. It had a fun, lighthearted, and spooky feel to it. The protagonist, Samantha, was flawed but also someone you could still root for, although most of the side characters were not as fleshed out as she was. The mystery was not overly complex, but the situation was so ridiculous it could only be in fiction. There was also a strong romantic element, except the romance did not go in the direction I expected it to. While I do not think I will buy a copy of How to Hang a Witch, I will get the sequel, The Haunting Deep, from the library next time I can.

 

Home Before Dark by Riley Sager

5 stars

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I read Home Before Dark in a single very stressful day. It was a welcome distraction from what was happening. The writing sucked me right in, connecting Maggie’s storyline with her father’s book. The plot was fast-paced and the mystery blended the paranormal with the contemporary. Maggie Holt was a smart, levelheaded protagonist. And the ending was one I did not see coming, keeping me up until well past my bedtime. If anything, Home Before Dark caused a book hangover instead of got me out of a reading slump.

 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

3.75 stars

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Mexican Gothic was a 5-star prediction. It checked off a lot of my boxes. But as you can see, I did not give it 5 stars. Only it’s not entirely the fault of Mexican Gothic.

I liked the protagonist Naomi; she was a girly-girl diva, but she was also sassy and sharp. The love interest, Francis, is the perfect “soft boy.” The atmosphere was delightfully creepy, if the descriptions lengthy. However, I was not impressed by the reveal at the end. That being said, Mexican Gothic is a book I would definitely reread later, with time away and in a better mindset.

 

How many books did you read in August?

 

 

July 2020 Wrap Up

July felt kind of…off….

I can’t fully explain it. Between the end of June and the first half of July, it was hard to focus on reading. Honestly, it’s getting harder to focus on a lot of things these days: reading, writing, applying for jobs. The only thing that seems to help is YouTube or Netflix.

Gradually, I am coming out of it. I went back to the library and checked out more books. I read two this month; the rest you will see on my August TBR.

While there were not any 5-star reads this month, I did enjoy all seven books in this wrap-up.

 

Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman (library book)

2.5 stars

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Snow, Glass, Apples is the third book/graphic novel I read by Neil Gaiman. And it has been my least favorite so far.

The artwork in Snow, Glass, Apples is beautiful and, truthfully, the primary reason I kept reading. Though I enjoyed seeing the Snow White fairy tale flipped on its head while still incorporating the elements of the traditional story as well as including gorier aspects, I was just…bored.

In this version of Snow White, the queen is not supposed to be a villain, yet I did not feel like her character was completely fleshed out. I could not figure out if she was supposed to be sympathetic or an anti-heroine. Nor was Snow White’s character, for that matter; she was monstrous and nothing else. There was so much more that could have been done with this sort of dynamic, except there was not.

 

With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

4 stars

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With the Fire on High is one of the books I kept picking up and then putting back down, even though I was genuinely enjoying it. The writing was as beautiful as the cover. I liked Emoni, related to her in ways where she had goals and dreams she wanted to pursue, but also felt an equal pull to her responsibilities, forgetting when to put herself first sometimes. I also loved the cooking element woven as well as the strong family presence and the realism of the issues presented. That being said, the book felt more like a “slice of life” story, which is fine in and of itself. Yet I think that is what pulled me out of it, especially once so many things started happening at once.

 

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi

3.75 stars

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Like With the Fire on High, I picked up Homegoing in the middle of June, only to keep putting it back down over and over. Also like With the Fire on High, I don’t think it was entirely the book’s fault.

I really liked the writing style of Homegoing as well as the conversations had between characters, the issues discussed, and the historical anecdotes. The chapters felt more like short stories, which was fine, except I did not feel so connected to the characters and I thought some were not as fleshed out as others. Plus, I preferred the stories of Esi and her descendants over Effia and hers. I found the latter’s boring most of the time, even with all the political tension going on in their country. Also, the pacing was off, with time jumps that came without warning. Other than that, I would highly recommend Homegoing.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

4.5 stars

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Again—it’s me, not the book. I know 4.5 is still a good rating; the problem is everyone else and their mother seems to give The Hate U Give 5 stars. There was something about the writing style that grated on my nerves. While it handled real issues in a way that was fair all around, the overly simplistic writing made me feel disconnected as well as reminded me of all the “stupid white people stuff” (if you get my drift) I said in the past. By default, I also did not connect to Starr, even as I felt sorry for her. Then again, she was sixteen and going through a lot, trying to maintain a façade between two worlds she felt she had to keep separate. The element I most enjoyed was her family and I’m looking forward to Big Mav’s book, Concrete Rose, coming out next year.

 

What the Night Sings by Vesper Stamper (library book)

4.75 stars

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What the Night Sings is the book that helped me feel like reading again after getting stuck in a rut for a bit. It is an emotional, honest portrayal of tragic history, with beautiful illustrations woven in and lovely writing. We see what happened after the war, in the displaced persons camp and how people like the protagonist, Gerta, felt lost and had no idea of what to do or where to go. However, the love triangle between the “good, supposedly perfect boy the main character is denying her feelings for as he keeps disrespecting her boundaries” and the obvious fuck boy got on my nerves. Lastly, the ending was rushed and things just fell into place without any work to it. Although, given everything these characters went through, I guess they deserve everything to come easy to them.

 

Fierce Fairytales by Nikita Gill

3.5 stars

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I picked up Fierce Fairytales off my shelves because I wanted to read another poetry collection. While it made me think, mostly to remind me of my upbringing, which I thought was liberal but was more on the side of conservative in some aspects. I was also reminded of some embarrassing incidents where my own conservative ideals have come off the wrong way. Whether or not it was because of this, I wasn’t as blown away as I expected to be. This is the first poetry collection I’ve read by Nikita Gill. She is often compared to Amanda Lovelace, a personal favorite of mine. Though the two cover similar topics, their writing styles are different.

My favorite poems/short stories in this collection were the “villain origin stories,” where Nikita Gill uses well-known villains, like Gaston and Ursula, to explain how bad people are sometimes actually hurt people that have yet to recover from their traumas or are fighting demons no one else can see. However, overall most of the poems felt “meh” to me, as if I had read them before. She also did not always stick to the “fairy tale” theme all the way through, which I personally found a little annoying.

That being said, I did enjoy her switch from poetry to writing short stories where she turns traditional fairy tales on their heads. And though I lost steam reading by the end, I am still interested in reading more by Nikita Gill. Her collection Greek Goddesses is high on my radar. I think I could learn to appreciate her writing style more if was exposed to it again.

 

Echo North by Joanna Ruth Meyer (library book)

3.25 stars

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Echo North is a Beauty and the Beast retelling with elements of Eastern European tales I am unfamiliar with. After her father goes missing while on a trip to the city, the main character, Echo, finds him half-frozen in the woods. She encounters a wolf, who makes a deal with her to go back with him to his house for a year in exchange for her father’s safety. Echo agrees; while there, she uncovers secrets, a magical library filled with book-mirrors, and a boy named Hal trapped inside them.

Though I loved how atmospheric Echo North was, the magical library with its book-mirrors (obviously) and how the writing sucked me in, it did not entirely meet my high expectations. That is probably my own fault, though, since I am trash for any sort of Beauty and the Beast retelling. The characters and their relationships to one another felt two-dimensional, with no real qualities or flaws. The pacing was off, especially towards the end. Lastly, the alleged romance felt more like a friendship, which would have been fine if it was not a Beauty and the Beast retelling. Sadly the cons outweigh the pros for me in regards to Echo North. But it made me feel like reading more, so something came out of it.

 

What was your favorite book you read in July?

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?

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?

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

thebloodofolympus

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

themermaidsvoicereturnsinthisone

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

thehandmaidstalegraphicnovel

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?

December 2018 Wrap Up

How is 2018 over?

Every year around this time, I see people talking about how such-and-such year was the “best year” or the “worst year” for them. I personally don’t agree with those statements—unless every day of your life for a year was total crap, then I am deeply sorry.

The beginning of 2018 was hard. I lost my mom and my grandmother within three weeks of each other. Grief is something I have been living with, will probably continue to live with, for a while longer. I had the scare of my life when my dad got into a car accident in October (he’s fine, thank God). But I also got my acceptance letter to graduate school in January and had a successful first semester. No year will ever be perfect, but no year could be terrible, either.

On a happier note, I had a good reading month in December, a nice way to wrap up my 2018 reading year. In the past, I got hit with a huge reading slump in December. That wasn’t the case this year. I read a total of five books, which were:

 

The House of Hades by Rick Riordan

4 stars

thehouseofhades

It took me almost two months to read The House of Hades—not because I hated it, but because of graduate school. And the emotional turmoil I was in for most of it.

I won’t get into too much because of spoilers, but if you have not read the Heroes of Olympus series, I’m sure you can guess where the seven chosen demigods have ended up. While I enjoyed the character development, as well as several of the relationships presented in this installment, and the moments that pulled on my heartstrings (I seriously love Bob), The House of Hades was not my favorite in the series. Some scenes took too long to resolve, some problems seemed to be unnecessary to have, and there were too many POVs yet there were characters I thought didn’t get enough page time. I plan to wrap up reading this series by reading The Blood of Olympus during my winter break from school.

 

Sold by Patricia McCormick (library book)

5 stars

soldlibrarybook

An older title on this list, Sold is set in Nepal and follows thirteen-year-old Lakshmi, who narrates the story in verse. While life is hard and her stepfather is not the most responsible individual, Lakshmi finds happiness in the simple pleasures of life. Then, a monsoon destroys her family’s crops. Her stepfather informs her she will go work as a maid in the city to support the family. Though sad to leave her home, Lakshmi is more than happy to help. Only it is too late when she realizes she’s been sold into prostitution.

In her author’s note, Patricia McCormick explained she took inspiration from stories of many girls, like Lakshmi, who were sold into prostitution either intentionally or unintentionally by their parents. Besides the disgusting treatment she receives at the hands of the men she is forced to serve, Lakshmi is also abused by the brothel madam, who cheats her and the other girls out of their earnings. Aside from Lakshmi, you get the stories of the other prostitutes and the children growing up in the brothel. Even in those dark moments, there is happiness for Lakshmi and that really got to me.

 

Girls on the Line by Jennie Liu (library book)

2 stars

girlsonthelinelibrarybook

After reading Sold, I was looking for another short, intense book I could fly through. Girls on the Line is set in modern-day China (2009), told through the eyes of two seventeen-year-old orphans, Luli and Yun. After turning of age, Luli leaves the orphanage she has lived in since she was eight and joins Yun at a factory. While shy Luli is trying to get her footing in the real world, Yun is thriving on the independence and head over heels with her boyfriend Yong, ignoring the rumors about him being a “bride trafficker.” Then, she gets unexpectedly pregnant and fired in the same day. And, several days later, goes missing.

Girls on the Line covers the laws in China surrounding the country’s One Child policy and its mistreatment of women, as well as discussions around bride trafficking, in which men pay for young women to be kidnapped and brought to them, and child trafficking. The book focuses heavily on female friendship and covers the different issues young women, specifically young Chinese women, face in the modern day. However, the story was terribly slow, despite being roughly 250 pages. I was really bored the entire time I was reading Girls on the Line.

 

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (library book)

4 stars

skywardlibrarybook

My first Brandon Sanderson book and I am glad to say I enjoyed it. He is an author I have been interested in picking up for years, but he has so many books I never know where to start. Skyward caught my interest after Booksplosion announced it as their December read.

Set on a planet where the supposed last of humankind is defended by pilots, Skyward follows Spensa, a sixteen-year-old girl who lives in the shadow of her father, who was labeled a coward and killed after fleeing a battle. She is determined to get into flight school and fulfill her dream of becoming a pilot. Despite other people’s efforts to break her will, Spensa refuses to back down. Then, she makes a shocking discovery in a cavern that changes everything.

Skyward was fast-paced and fun. Spensa was a bold, brash, and interesting heroine. I actually did not like her at first. She is flawed but she grows throughout the novel. There are side characters I also enjoyed that I hope we will know more of in future books. My main complaint about the book was how long it was; it could have shaved a few hundred pages and done fine, I think.

 

Part of Your World by Liz Braswell (library book)

2 stars

partofyourworldlibrarybook

I honestly don’t have much to say regarding Part of Your World. The latest installment in the Twisted Tales, a reimagining of Disney movies in book form. While I enjoyed As Old as Time, the Beauty and the Beast retelling I read earlier this year, I was not blown away by it. Sadly, I was even more disappointed by Part of Your World.

            The plot takes place five years after the events of the original film, only Ariel did not defeat Ursula and King Triton was killed. She returned to Atlantica as its voiceless queen and Ursula, disguised as Princess Vanessa, marries Prince Eric and rules his kingdom. When she receives word her father could still be alive, Ariel returns to the human world, where she is reunited with the prince she thought she would never see again.

Part of Your World was just boring with overly flowery writing. The characters were flatter than the original Disney creations. The motivations didn’t make any sense. It was honestly a struggle to get through.

 

Happy New Year everybody! Looking forward to 2019!

What I Read Recently #1

I’ve been up for almost an hour and, as I begin to write this post, I’m already worrying about the amount of homework I need to complete today. I have to rationalize it that writing this post is getting my brain warmed up to write two papers I have due in the next couple of weeks. That is how much graduate school is taking over my life right now.

But I miss my blog and writing for fun. Unfortunately, I haven’t read much for pleasure in the last two months. I want to read, I just don’t have much time or energy for it lately. I have to remind myself to make sure I take breaks when I can, to let my batteries recharge. So, that’s what I’m doing right now.

From the beginning of September to the middle of October, I have read a total of four books. Those are:

 

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan

4.75 stars

themarkofathena

I finished this the week before I started graduate school. And I realized later it is the worst book to pause at in the middle of the Heroes of Olympus series. If you have read this book, you know the ending is a cliffhanger that makes you want to drop everything to read The House of Hades. But I had to stop myself from doing that and favor books that were not likely to be so life consuming.

Besides that, I did enjoy The Mark of Athena very much, although I think The Son of Neptune is still my favorite. The Mark of Athena had some of the best Leo moments as well as adorable relationship moments between Annabeth and Percy. The plot was stronger in this one, we got to see places like Rome, and encounter familiar characters from mythology, like Hercules (who, by the way, is not like the guy from the Disney movie).

As of right now, my plan is to get back into the Heroes of Olympus series around Thanksgiving break…hopefully.

 

Mansfield Park by Jane Austen

3.5 stars

mansfieldpark718

It took me almost a month to finish Mansfield Park. Not because I didn’t like it—because of graduate school. Mansfield Park is one of Jane Austen’s least popular works, and I can guess why. Compared to a character like Lizzy Bennet, Fanny Price stays on the sidelines most of the time. The drama doesn’t involve her until near the second half of the book and most of the plot are people hanging out being teenagers. And, of course, there is the fact that Fanny’s only obvious love interest is her cousin, Edmund.

But I personally saw a lot more of myself in Fanny than I have in most other Jane Austen heroines. She’s quiet and shy, but very observant. She comes off as naïve, but she sees right through Henry Crawford when he starts toying around with Julia and Maria. And she does try to be nice to everyone, even the Crawfords. I found the drama of this novel to be extremely entertaining, especially since it was so tame compared to what you see now in most contemporary young adult novels. In terms of the romance, I don’t think it was unusual for that time period, given cousins married often. So, I took it with a grain of salt. Overall, I enjoyed Mansfield Park very much.

 

The Opposite of Innocent by Sonya Sones (library book)

4 stars

theoppositeofinnocentlibrarybook

At the beginning of October, I felt compelled to check out a bunch of library books. The Opposite of Innocent was one of them. It was the first that I read and as soon as I finished it, I brought it back to the library because it disturbed me so much.

Told in verse, The Opposite of Innocent follows fourteen-year-old Lily, who is madly in love with Luke, her father’s best friend. After travelling for two years, Luke returns and stays with Lily’s family. They soon begin a physical relationship that turns sexual and then abusive very quickly.

The Opposite of Innocent was one of those books I had to be careful when and where I read it. Because once I picked it up, I wouldn’t want to put it back down. While there were many parts I was uncomfortable—which I think was the author’s intention—the story is an important one. When I become a librarian, this is definitely a book I will encourage young girls, as well as boys, to read, so they can be wary of grooming and know that Luke’s behavior towards Lily, even though he says he loves her, is unacceptable. I wanted to give The Opposite of Innocent five stars, for the honest portrayal of pedophilia and Lily coming into her own. But I took off a star for the anticlimactic ending and I wish it were slightly longer.

 

The Life and Death Parade by Eliza Wass (library book)

2 stars

thelifeanddeathparadelibrarybook

Ever had that experience with a book where you are left feeling why did I read this? That’s what happened with me with The Life and Death Parade.

The novel follows Kitty, whose boyfriend, Nikki Bramley, died unexpectedly after a psychic told him he had no future. Grief has torn her away from the Bramley family, and she makes it her mission to track down the psychic that gave Nikki his fortune. Instead, she finds Roan, a master con artist she brings to the surviving Bramleys in hopes his tricks will give them comfort, as well as give her clues to the Life and Death Parade, a group of charlatans that mess with the balance between the living and the dead. But Kitty, like the Bramleys, soon falls under Roan’s dark spell.

I had read Eliza Wass’s novel, The Cresswell Plot, two years ago and I was terribly disappointed by it. But I wanted to give her a second chance, since it was her debut novel. Unfortunately, The Life and Death Parade was a let down, too.

Her writing was still good; she created a spooky atmosphere that was perfect for Halloween. The portrayal of Kitty’s grief felt realistic in that she wasn’t thinking clearly most of the time and she was beating herself up for not always being the most loving girlfriend (she was the daughter of the family’s maid, so their class difference bothered her, among other things). Since Eliza Wass lost her own husband, I can imagine she was reliving her own experiences. But that’s about it.

The characters were one-dimensional and not much happened in terms of their development, including Kitty. Roan is probably the only one I would call interesting, except barely. Though he was only seen at the beginning of the novel and in flashbacks, I found Nikki to be utterly annoying. As far as plots go, this one was weak. Nothing made sense. Lastly, the ending wrapped up too quickly. It happened so fast the book ended before I could process it. If she had allowed herself to write a few more pages, I think Eliza Wass could have done much better with The Life and Death Parade.

 

What books have you read recently?