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

persepolis2

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?

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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?

 

 

August 2018 Wrap Up

August was the month I had planned to read all the library books as I prepare for the next chapter of my life as a library science student. It started out that way. Problem is, I checked out more books than I could read (as usual). I lost interest in a lot of them, too. It wasn’t too bad, though. I can always check them out from the library later or even buy them if I am so inclined, now that I have a job. The library I worked in last year hired me back for a part-time position the same length as my first semester and they were totally fine with working around my school schedule. Isn’t that awesome?

This month’s reading started out well enough. Then, there was a period of a few weeks where books were really letting me down. I felt a reading slump coming on until I returned the library books and did what I really wanted to do: focus my attention on my TBR books at home. Overall, I read a total of seven books in August and I am very happy with that.

In August, I read:

 

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang (library book)

4.5 stars

thepoppywarlibrarybook

I picked up The Poppy War from the library after seeing it praised almost everywhere. It is a Chinese alternative history fantasy novel. It follows Rin Fang, a war orphan from the poorest province in the kingdom who escapes her drug-dealing foster parents and an arranged marriage by enrolling into Sinegard Academy, an elite military school so few are allowed in. Only life at school is harder than she anticipated, as her wealthy classmates are not too pleased to have a dark-skinned peasant girl among their ranks. Rin later discovers she is a shaman and has the power to protect the kingdom from a Third Poppy War. But can she protect her people, and herself, from a vengeful god?

The Poppy War is graphic; every trigger warning you can think of—violence, rape, and drug abuse, to name a few—can be applied to this book. I enjoyed the writing style and the characters, including Rin, were unlikeable but realistic, something I appreciated more than I thought I would. The magic system and history woven throughout the novel were fascinating. However, I found it to be slow at times, which caused me to dock points off my star rating. For my full thoughts on The Poppy War, go check out my review.

 

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager (library book)

5 stars

thelasttimeiliedlibrarybook

When I read The Last Time I Lied, my expectations were low. I was disappointed by Riley Sager’s debut novel, Final Girls. I enjoyed his writing style, but the plot of that novel ultimately fell flat for me. Still, I was intrigued by the synopsis of The Last Time I Lied. It follows Emma, an artist haunted by the disappearance of three of her friends, Vivian, Natalie, and Allison from Camp Nightingale fifteen years ago. When the camp’s founder asks her to come back to the reopening of Camp Nightingale as a counselor, she jumps at the chance to investigate the disappearance of her friends and finally get some answers. But when she gets there, Emma discovers the only security camera in the entire camp is in front of her cabin and finds clues left behind by Vivian that could lead to the truth to what happened to the missing girls. And, in Emma’s mind, no one is above suspicion.

The Last Time I Lied blew me out of the water. I liked Emma as a protagonist and I enjoyed all the other characters as well, especially Vivian and Theo, the son of Camp Nightingale’s founder. I finished the book in two days; once I started reading, I could not stop. It was fast-paced and kept me guessing the whole way through. The twist at the end was a little out there, yet I was not put off by it like I was by the twist in Final Girls. The twist in The Last Time I Lied started to make sense, once I put the pieces together. I think I liked it more than a lot of other people seemed to.

 

A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell (library book)

1.5 stars

asimplefavorlibrarybook

A Simple Favor is what got me on the slump train. It is a chick-lit mystery about two moms, Emily and Stephanie, who are supposedly best friends until Emily goes missing and leaves behind a baffling mystery for Stephanie to unravel. I picked this up mainly because of the movie with Anna Kendrick and Blake Lively coming out in September. Sadly, I was disappointed by the book’s mediocre writing, a cheesy plot, and flat characters. It made me really nervous about the movie. For my full spoiler-free thoughts on A Simple Favor, go check out my review.

 

Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz (library book)

2 stars

aristotledantelibrarybook

A Simple Favor got me on the reading slump train, but Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe kept me on it. I was terribly sad I didn’t like this book. It’s probably one of the most beloved works of fiction to be published in the last ten years. If I’m being honest, what really got to me was the cringey, repetitive writing style that had more telling than showing. I liked Aristotle’s sarcasm and I could relate to some of his teenaged angst. As for Dante, I’m not so sure about him. All I know is, to me, Dante and Aristotle’s relationship felt forced. If you want to know all my feelings towards Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe, check out my rant.

 

Stuart Little by E.B. White

3 stars

Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White

3 stars

ebwhite

A few weeks ago, when we were going through my mom’s things, on her bookshelf I found this collection of stories by E.B. White, something she probably bought when I was little. I’ve wanted to read Charlotte’s Web for years, yet I only ever thought about it whenever I happened upon it in Target’s book section. And I had no idea Stuart Little was a book before it was a movie, written by the same author.

            I don’t know if it was because of the reading slump or what, but both Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web were “meh” to me. They were quick reads individually, with not too much depth to them, which is the kind of book you need during a slump. Between the two of them, Charlotte’s Web had more of a plot, with the spider Charlotte trying to save the life of her friend Wilbur the pig. In my mind, neither book was particularly memorable, sadly.

 

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

4.25 stars

sirenqueen718

Daughter of the Siren Queen is the sequel to Daughter of the Pirate King, one of my favorite books of last year and it was better than its predecessor. It follows the protagonist Alosa as she comes into her siren abilities while leading her predominantly female pirate crew on an epic treasure hunt with her distractingly handsome captive Riden in tow.

This novel was as bloody and emotional as it was fast-paced and fun. Alosa is now one of my all-time favorite heroines. And, if you love angsty romance, Alosa and Riden are for you; they are proud people with daddy issues that hate being vulnerable to anyone. It brought on so many feelings watching them barter back and forth, with all that sexual tension simmering underneath. And the crew on this ship is definitely one I would want to be a part of, were I a pirate.

 

To let you all know: I don’t know how active I’m going to be in September on my blog. I’m not making a TBR post for the month because I don’t know how much work I’ll have and, really, I need to focus on school these next few weeks. All I know is I will be doing this month’s Top 5 Tuesday. I’m writing and scheduling those posts throughout this Labor Day weekend. Besides that, I can’t promise a lot. And I want to thank you all for how nice you’ve been to me lately. You’re awesome!

My July 2018 Wrap Up

I know a lot of people are going to say this in their wrap-ups, but it’s amazing how we are already halfway through 2018.

In terms of reading, July was much better than June. I read five books, a combination of library books and TBR books plus one reread, and none of them were below three stars. The first two weeks of July, my dad was on vacation and I took the time off, too. I could relax, read, and work towards getting my emotional state under control. Although, that last one, I think I might still need to work on more. But now Dad is back at work and I’m taking advantage the free time I have now until my next temp assignment. So, overall, July was pretty good.

In July of 2018, I read:

 

The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan

4 stars

The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

4.25 stars

 

The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune are books 1 and 2, respectively, of Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series, the spin-off to Percy Jackson and the Olympians. The Lost Hero follows three new demigods named Jason Grace, Piper McLean, and Leo Valdez. The Son of Neptune follows a now seventeen-year-old Percy Jackson, as well as two more new demigods named Hazel Levesque and Frank Zhang. The series is about the Greek demigods of Camp Half Blood joining forces with the Roman demigods of Camp Jupiter to work together with the gods to defeat Gaea, Mother Earth, who is slowly waking from her long sleep and bent on destruction.

            The Lost Hero was a solid first book. It set up the foundation for the rest of the books as well as introduced new characters that will likely have important roles later on. I liked Jason and Piper, but Leo was definitely my favorite of the three, with his wit and easygoing nature. I enjoyed the quest they went on and how well they worked together, too, even though Jason had amnesia for most of the book.

I enjoyed The Son of Neptune a little more than I did The Lost Hero. Of course, we have the return of Percy Jackson and his winning personality, but I also loved Hazel and Frank. They are easily my two new favorite characters in the series thus far. I was also taken aback by the plot twist Rick Riordan presented at the end; it was not something I anticipated.

 

The Address by Fiona Davis (library book)

3.5 stars

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The Address is a historical mystery novel set in two timelines, following two women with a connection to a man murdered in the famed apartment building, the Dakota, in New York City. The first is Sara, a young English woman that comes to New York City in 1885 after being hired as a manager by Theo Camden, the architect behind the Dakota. A year later, after seven months in an insane asylum, Sara stabs Theo to death in his apartment. 100 years later, in 1985, recovering alcoholic Bailey Camden, the great-granddaughter of Theo’s ward, is hired by her “cousin” Melinda to redesign the apartment Theo had been murdered in. By doing so, she uncovers secrets about the murder and the truth about Sara. For my full spoiler-free thoughts, check out my review.

 

Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling (reread)

4.5 stars

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Continuing with my reread of the Harry Potter books, it took me about a month and a half to complete Harry Potter and the Goblet. I kept putting it down and picking it back up. I forgot how long it was—a little over 700 pages—and it’s only going to get longer in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. Overall, I enjoyed my reread experience of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. It served as a good gateway book to the rest of the series, as Voldemort rises to power and Harry steps into his role as the Chosen One. For all the spoiler-filled thoughts I had, go check out my review.

 

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman (library book)

4 stars

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Tess of the Road is a unique medieval fantasy novel following a troubled young woman seeking redemption in a world typically unforgiving towards females. Instead of going to a nunnery like her parents want her to, Tess dresses up like a boy, puts on boots, and, literally, walks away from her old life in hopes of finding a new one. By doing so, she meets a variety of people that teach her a thing or two and learns to forgive herself after she makes a terrible mistake that ended in tragedy. Tess of the Road is beautifully written and it made me want to read Rachel Hartman’s debut series, the Seraphina duology, which is set in the same world. But if you want to know my full non-spoiler thoughts on Tess of the Road, go check out my review.

 

What is your favorite book that you read in July?

My Pitiful June Wrap Up & Hopeful July TBR

Is it just me or was June emotionally draining?

I read only two books this entire month. I had more of an urge to buy books than read them (you will see the result of that in a week or two). I would not say the desire to read wasn’t there, but I really had to push myself to even pick a book up.

Then, the temp job I had left at the end of May asked if I could come back for another four weeks. Not that I am complaining—it was a nice state job I can put on my resume and my co-workers were awesome. Plus there was a swell restaurant across the street where I ate lunch every day run by funny Italian men. Still, I had to wake up at 4:30 every morning to catch a bus and the assignment itself could be mind numbing.

The best explanation I can come up with to appease myself is that what I was feeling was a combination of a reading slump, tiredness, the overwhelming desire to read all the books (TBR, library, and books I wanted to buy), and grief. It’s like I see, hear, or read something and I get into these terrible thought spirals where I am plunged back into memories of that last awful year of my mother’s life. Books helped a lot in the beginning. Lately, though, YouTube was a more engrossing distraction.

Fortunately, the bad days are few and far in between now. I’m trying to tell myself I cannot change the past and my life is now a wide, open, sea clear of my mother’s storms. I have great friends, an amazing dad and brother, a blog I enjoy, and graduate school and my future as a librarian to look forward to. And those bad days is just grief playing with my emotions. It will pass and it does.

But now enough of Debbie downing and onto the reader shaming! The two books I completed in June were:

 

The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big Round Things by Carolyn Mackler (library book)

4 stars

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Virginia Shreves is a sweet but insecure plus size girl and the youngest daughter in a family of slim overachievers. She puts her family on pedestals, especially her big brother Byron, and goes out of her way to please her parents. But when Byron is suspended from school for date rape, the Shreves family unravels, leading Virginia down the road to self-discovery.

I really wish I had read The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things when I was younger. Most of the books I read back then did not feature plus-size main characters. Virginia has some of the best character development I’ve seen in young adult literature, though the novel was too short and everything seemed to be resolved too fast. For my full thoughts on The Earth, My Butt, and Other Big, Round Things, go check out my spoiler-free review.

 

And When She was Good by Laura Lippman

3 stars

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This is the first and only book I completed of the Backlist Book Challenge I barely attempted in June. While I was excited to try it, I quickly learned that I am a control freak that prefers to arrange my TBR in a specific order I want to read my books. It is fair to say I overwhelmed myself.

Anyway, And When She was Good is an adult fiction novel about Heloise, a high-price madam posing as a lobbyist in Washington, D.C. She gets swept up in a murder investigation when another madam in a neighboring county dies under suspicious circumstances and fears for her life at the prospect that Val, a murderer and her former pimp, could be released from prison on a technicality.

In my head, I compared And When She was Good to a less cheesy Lifetime suspense film. Heloise is a strong and self-assured but morally gray protagonist that makes many selfish mistakes out of self-preservation and has no scruples against using her sexuality to get what she wants. Val, the “villain” of the novel, was fascinating in that he was psychotic and unpredictable, yet he was the only man in Heloise’s life to respect her intellect. On the flip side to that, the pacing of the novel was off and the plot fell flat, as it took forever for anything to happen. If you are interested, go check out my spoiler-free review of And When She was Good for more of my thoughts.

 

Since my June wrap-up was so short, I figured I would combine it with my July 2018 TBR, just to fill up all the empty space….

When last month began, I realized I had almost forgotten about my Harry Potter reread. I read Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban towards the end of last year, then got wrapped up in all the shiny new books I had sitting on my shelves. I made it about 170 pages into Goblet of Fire before I set it aside a few weeks ago. I really enjoyed myself when I reread the first three books and shared my adultish thoughts with you all, so I want to keep moving forward with the Harry Potter series.

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The Heroes of Olympus was one of the series I hoped to read in 2018, though not as badly as some others, to be honest. Then, I reached a certain point in June where I needed something fun to read. I picked up The Lost Hero, the first book, on a whim. I had as much fun as I did when I read the original Percy Jackson books. Right now, I like the new characters Jason, Piper, and Leo. At the time I am writing this, I have about 100 or so pages left in The Lost Hero and I plan on reading the rest of the novels in July, which include:

The Son of Neptune

            The Mark of Athena

            The House of Hades

            The Blood of Olympus

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Lastly, being on brand, I went to the library.

I currently have three books checked out and another eight on hold (I never learn from my mistakes). The three I have in my possession at the moment are:

 

The Address by Fiona Davis

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The Address is a historical mystery set in dual time periods, following two women 100 years apart and their connection to the Dakota building in New York City. The first perspective is Sara, a young woman in 1884 who is offered the chance of a lifetime by famed architect Theodore Camden to work as a female manager in the Dakota. Then, years later, for reasons no one fully understands, Sara stabs Theodore to death.

The other perspective is Bailey, a recovering drug addict, interior designer, and granddaughter of the boy adopted by Theodore Camden. However, because she is not biologically related to Theodore, Bailey will not see a penny of his money. Then, Melinda, Theodore’s actual great-granddaughter, offers her a chance to redesign the Camden’s lavish apartment within the Dakota and, in doing so, Bailey uncovers secrets about Theodore’s murder and the truth about the acclaimed madwoman Sara.

 

Tess of the Road by Rachel Hartman

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Tess lives in a medieval world where men and women are expected to live by certain rules, and dragons can do whatever they want. She is a magnet for trouble, but when she does something so disgraceful she can’t even think about it, instead of going to a nunnery, she disguises herself as a boy and, literally, walks away from it all. From my understanding, it is a novel about redemption and healing, following the younger sister of the main character in Rachel Hartman’s Seraphina series. I was more interested in Tess of the Road and, thankfully, I was told I didn’t need to read the original books to get into this one.

 

Love, Life, and the List by Kasie West

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What is summer without a fun, lighthearted young adult contemporary? While I have not heard some not so great things about the first books she published, Kasie West’s newest novels since P.S. I Like You are said to be up to par. Love, Life, and the List is one I’m most interested in. It follows Abby Turner, a seventeen-year-old dealing with an unrequited crush on her best friend Cooper and her mom’s growing anxiety about Abby’s dad being overseas, who tries to submit her art work into a show. But when the gallery owner tells her that her work lacks heart, she sets out to complete a list of goals within the next thirty days in hope to get some real inspiration for her art.

In case you were wondering, the books I currently have on hold are:

 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Circe by Madeline Miller

Listen to Your Heart by Kasie West

The English Wife by Lauren Willig

My Name is Venus Black by Heather Lloyd

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

The Broken Girls by Simone St. James

The Last Time I Lied by Riley Sager

 

Will I read all these books? More? We shall find out!

May 2018 Wrap Up

It didn’t really hit me until now…it is the end of May.

I’ve been trying to get back to the place I was before the beginning of this year: not dwelling on time and living my life. Don’t know if I’m quite there yet, but I have graduate school to look forward to and books, writing, and temp jobs keep me preoccupied until then.

I feel like I wrote more for my blog in May than I did in April. I did more book reviews, which I’m really happy with. Except I feel unfortunately meh towards most of the five books I read this month. I don’t know if it was just the mood I was in or it was the books I was reading. I’m starting to wonder if my TBR is getting the better of me.

(And, as you will see in my June book haul in a few weeks, it’s my own fault.)

In May, I read:

 

Freeks by Amanda Hocking

2.5 stars

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Freeks is a young adult paranormal novel reminiscent of the Twilight era. Set in the 1980s, it follows Mara and her family of travelling circus performers that end up in a small Southern town where nothing is what it seems. While I did have quite a few problems with the novel, such as a heavy amount of insta-love and a weak plot, I was filled a surprising amount of nostalgia. Freeks is a super easy, fun read, but I think I would have given it 4 stars instead of a 2.5 stars had I read it when I was sixteen. For my full thoughts, check out my review.

 

RoseBlood by A.G. Howard

2 stars

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RoseBlood is a retelling of The Phantom of the Opera by Gaston Leroux set in a French boarding school. Rune Germain is born with an extraordinary singing voice, but whenever she uses her gift, she feels physically drained afterwards. Her mother sends her to RoseBlood, a conservatory in Paris, in hopes training will help Rune with her affliction. Except Rune has been brought to Paris for a dark purpose by the Phantom and he uses his dashing protégée Thorn to lure her into his web.

RoseBlood has been high on my TBR for a year. I went into ignoring whatever lackluster reviews I heard, wanting to have my own opinion on it. A.G. Howard has a beautiful writing style; if you like atmosphere and descriptive writing, you will definitely enjoy this book. I especially love how it was set in modern-day Paris, a place I have never been. She also did a good job going from first-person to third-person, though I admittedly liked Thorn’s third-person perspective more than Rune’s first-person. Between the two of them, his arc was the most interesting. Rune also finds a solid friend group midst the catty competitiveness at the school and I enjoyed those characters.

Unfortunately, within the gorgeous writing there was more telling than showing and there were big time gaps never explained. While I liked Thorn, Rune was OK; her character was underdeveloped in my opinion. The romance was borderline insta-love (Hi, my name is Jillian and I hate insta-love). A pet peeve of mine in young adult literature is the “fated lovers” where they have dreams about each other before meeting. I don’t know why, per say, but that trope really irks me. Lastly, the plot was confusing and weak in some spots. I did not hate RoseBlood; right now, I’m chalking it up to “read at the wrong time,” because this book had so many elements I usually enjoy in other books.

 

This Heart of Mine by C.C. Hunter (library book)

4 stars

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Without a doubt, This Heart of Mine was my favorite book I read in May. It is a young adult contemporary novel following Leah Mackenzie, a seventeen-year-old with an artificial heart until a donor miraculously appears. Only that donor is Eric Kenner, a popular boy in her school that allegedly committed suicide and the twin brother of Leah’s long-time crush, Matt. When Leah starts having dreams about Eric’s death, she and Matt team up to find answers.

I went into This Heart of Mine with low expectations. I have not heard good things about C.C. Hunter and this book promised a blend of too many genres—contemporary, mystery, and magical realism—I had no idea how she would make it work. Somehow, she managed to blend them all together, though the contemporary elements were stronger. But for me, the most surprising thing about this novel was how much I loved the romance. Plus, the topic of transplants hits home for me and I was happy to see it represented in young adult literature. Check out my review for my full thoughts.

 

The Memory Trees by Kali Wallace (library book)

3 stars

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I went into The Memory Trees expecting the same emotional punch as The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender. That was no one’s fault but my own.

            Sorrow Lovegood’s older sister, Patience, died in a mysterious fire eight years ago. When she is sixteen, her memories of the day her sister died are blurry and to get answers, she leaves her father’s home in Miami for her mother’s home in Vermont. In the apple orchard that has belonged to the Lovegood family for generations, Sorrow finds her emotionally unstable mother, land that seems to have a life of its own, and a legacy of deep family secrets.

If you are looking for a novel without romance and more focus on family, The Memory Trees is one I would recommend. Kali Wallace’s writing style makes you feel like you are in the Lovegood apple orchard. Unfortunately, the descriptions took up a lot of page space, making the novel drag. Also, if you like plot-driven stories, you might enjoy this one, too. For my full thoughts on The Memory Trees, go read my spoiler-free review.

 

Lizzie by Dawn Ius (library book)

1 star

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A reimagining of the Lizzie Borden murders in modern-day Fall River? Yes please! Except…the author took that literally.

The Victorian ideals of the parents put in a modern-day setting clashed terribly. The author was trying too hard with her writing and she had this weird repetition thing that got seriously annoying. The mental illness element was handled in a way that was almost dramatized, when an illness like depression should not be at all. The characters were flat. Bridget, the love interest, was a Manic Pixie Dream Girl type. And, worse still, the romance was so obsessive and unhealthy on Lizzie’s part that it made me a little uncomfortable.

Needless to say, I will be very happy when I return this book to the library.

 

What was your favorite book that you read in May?

April 2018 Wrap Up

April was a really weird month for me. While my TBR was all over the place, I was genuinely excited to read all the books on that list. With my daily commute about an hour and a half long and my weekends generally free, I thought I could do it. In 2015 I did, and I was in college.

Then, all of a sudden, I had little to no motivation to read or blog. Going to the library cheered me up a little. Only that didn’t last long—two weeks ago, I was coming off the bus on my way to work and I hurt my foot. I thought it was nothing. A week after that, my doctor is writing me a note to call out of work for two days and I’m on painkillers to treat my foot.

So, yeah…April was weird.

In contrast to “not having motivation to read,” I managed to read six books this month, thanks to my foot.

In April of 2018, I read:

 

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

4.75 stars

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I really enjoyed Heartless, despite the weird reading mood I was in. In fact, I enjoyed it even more than its source material, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. But it took me longer than it should have to read.

Regardless, my favorite aspect of the whole book was watching Catherine, this sweet, idealistic young woman determined to make her dreams come true, become the villainous Queen of Hearts. The writing was lyrical and vivid; Marissa Meyer created a beautiful yet twisted version of Wonderland. The synopsis implied the romance was insta-love, instead it was more of a slow burn, which I definitely liked. While I wanted to give Heartless five stars, it did seem to drag in some spots and it took a long time before anything happened. But the book made me excited to finally read Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles series. I figured, if I enjoyed Heartless, I might also enjoy those books.

 

The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

3.5 stars

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The only book I reviewed this month, The Beast is an Animal is, I think, perfect for fans of Uprooted by Naomi Novik. I liked the book overall, though I had some problems with it. The writing was beautiful; I couldn’t get enough of it. Alys is an interesting protagonist, watching her struggle to be good and eventually come into her own. However, there was not much happening in terms of plot and an element of insta-love that did not sit well with me. For my full spoiler-free thoughts, check out my review.

 

Of Fire and Stars by Audrey Coulthurst

3.75 stars

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I finally read Of Fire and Stars! It took me long enough and…well….

My expectations for Of Fire and Stars might have been a little too high. Don’t get me wrong—it’s got a lot of good qualities. The world-building was very good, explaining the magic system and the politics without being info-dumpy. There was no homophobia present in this world; you loved who you loved, even if the person was of the same gender. The main characters, Denna and Mare, were both likeable. Their romance was a slow burn. I really liked how the two prominent male characters, Thandi (Mare’s brother and Denna’s betrothed) as well as Mare’s best friend Nils, were decent men that respected women. Usually, the rival love interest is portrayed as almost a villain, but that didn’t happen with Thandi; he actually treated Denna very well. The ending was cute and a little messy, more than what the usual young adult fantasy novel is.

On the flip side to all that, Of Fire and Stars still had some flaws, given that it is a debut novel. As far as plots go, it was similar to a lot of other ones in young adult high fantasy novels I’ve read. Writing style was good, but Mare’s voice was stronger than Denna’s. And at one point towards the middle of the novel, it got a little too romance heavy. I wanted the girls to focus more on the political problems than their personal ones. Still, I’m glad I finally read Of Fire and Stars.

 

The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan (library book)

4.75 stars

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The Astonishing Color of After is a diverse magical realism/young adult contemporary novel that has gotten some buzz lately on BookTube. It follows Leigh, a seventeen-year-old American that is half white and half Asian, whose mother commits suicide. Convinced her mother has become a bird, she travels to Taiwan to visit her estranged maternal grandparents and find the bird. In doing so, Leigh uncovers some family secrets in an unusual way and faces her grief and guilt in the wake of losing her mother.

I read The Astonishing Color of After in two days. Once I started reading, I had to keep going. The writing style was so beautiful and descriptive, sometimes it felt like I was experiencing Taiwan first hand. Leigh is a good protagonist: she’s flawed, but she was strong when it counted. The author handled the topic of depression and suicide well, carefully but realistically. She also wove fantasy and contemporary together, blurring the lines between imagination and reality in a unique way.

I really, really wanted to give The Astonishing Color of After five stars, but….

I had two major issues with this book. The first being Leigh’s father. He was, in my opinion, a spineless dumb ass. His insistence that Leigh put aside her art for more “practical” choices was annoying, but not the worst thing he did. He refused to talk to Leigh about her mother’s depression, yet left her alone to deal with the problem while he travelled for long periods of time. Then, he just leaves her alone in Taiwan with her non-English speaking grandparents, who are essentially strangers to her, because he simply can’t deal with it. I could go on, but it would just raise my blood pressure.

Second, the story suddenly became more about Leigh’s relationship with her best friend Axel and their growing romantic feelings for each other rather than her relationship with her mother. It says it right on the dust jacket that on the day her mother died, Leigh kissed Axel. After, she’s struggling with guilty feelings over it. I could understand why she kept pushing Axel away after the fact. But the flashbacks became more about him than her mother and the depression. That got really irritating. I eventually realized what the author was trying to do with that, connecting it to Leigh’s family’s secrets. But I still wanted the story to be more about family than teenaged romantic angst.

Despite this, if you are grieving a parent, I would recommend you read The Astonishing Color of After. You might get something out of it.

 

Everless by Sara Holland (library book)

3.25 stars

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For me, as the case with some other people, Everless by Sara Holland was hard to rate. When I first heard about it, the concept seemed a little out there: it takes place in a world where time is used as a form of currency, taken from a person’s blood and turned into coins. The main character, Jules, is in desperate need of time for her father, who is slowly dying. To make money, she goes to work as a servant at Everless, the estate she and her father fled a decade ago. In doing so, she uncovers secrets about her world, and her past, that could unravel time itself.

As far as young adult fantasy novels go, Everless was OK, but not necessarily mind-blowing. I enjoyed my overall reading experience and there was an interesting twist, which led to the .25 in the rating. I liked Jules as a protagonist, I like Sara Holland’s writing style, and I do like where the possible future romance is going. However, the concept of using time as currency I still had some problems following and the plot was entertaining enough, just not much different from other young adult fantasy novels. That doesn’t mean I won’t check out the sequel to Everless, Evermore, when it comes out next year.

 

The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton (library book)

3 stars

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One of the most talked about young adult releases of the year, The Belles is set in a fantasy world where beauty is treasured among all else and these women called the Belles are the only ones that can save ordinary people from living a half-life with gray skin and red eyes. The protagonist, Camille, is determined to prove herself worthy to be the favorite Belle, the one who serves the royal family. But when she gets into the palace, she uncovers dark secrets floating around the kingdom of Orleans and the depth of just how dangerous, and coveted, her powers are.

I would not dare say I went into The Belles expecting I would not like it. Much like Everless, the concept was a little out there for me to fully grasp. Only I gave it three stars for a reason.

As the reviews said, the Kingdom of Orleans in The Belles is much like the Capitol in The Hunger Games trilogy: outlandish and colorful, mixing modern technology with more primitive methods. That is one of my favorite aspects of The Belles as a whole, as well as the disturbing moments of society’s obsession with beauty and the lengths people go to get it. I liked Camille as a protagonist. Though she was often times jealous and competitive, she was already the kind of person that questioned and challenged authority. There was a strong element of sisterhood and we see how women are often pitted against each other, when they should be pulling each other up. Plus, there was very, very little romance. Lastly, the book was easy to fly through and I like Dhonielle Clayton’s writing style.

On the flip side to that, the mythology behind the Belles was confusing. With certain elements, it felt like Dhonielle Clayton made her world seem more like a dystopia than a fantasy one and where she tried to go with the Belle magic seemed like a stretch. Certain scenes of the novel dragged as well, even despite the short chapters. Finally, there were just one too many revelations regarding the Belles; there were some things the author could have left for the second book, since The Belles is supposed to be the first in a series. Also, I feel I should mention a trigger warning for sexual assault, should you decide to read this book.

Overall, I did like The Belles, although not enough to want to buy my own copy. Most likely, when the sequel comes out, I will check that one out from the library like I did the first book.

 

What was your favorite book you read in April?

March 2018 Wrap Up

March was a decent reading month. I read seven books, one an interesting reread. I read a mix of fantasy and contemporary, with a little poetry and classic thrown in, as well as library books.

Since 2018 began, I have fallen behind on my reading challenge each month. March was the worst so far. I finally got a new job after fifteen weeks of unemployment and the adjustment is harder than I expected. The work itself is not terrible; I sit in front of a computer all day and my co-workers are hysterical. I realized recently it is the commute that is getting to me. I have to get up super early and when I try to read on the bus, I fall asleep. And when I get home, it’s a struggle to stay awake.

Actually, now that I’m thinking about it, managing to read seven books is an accomplishment, I guess.

In March, I read:

 

As Old as Time by Liz Braswell (library book)

3.75 stars

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As Old as Time is a reimagining of Disney’s animated movie, Beauty and the Beast, the third novel in a companion series by Disney Publishing. Except the story is changed at a pivotal moment in the movie, going in an entirely different direction. In this adaption of Beauty and the Beast, after touching the enchanted rose inside the Beast’s castle, Belle discovers that the mother she barely remembers is the enchantress who cursed the Beast. Shocked and confused, she agrees to help the Beast find another way to break the spell over him and his castle.

Overall, I enjoyed As Old as Time. It was a fun read and I ate it up. It fairly expressed people’s different viewpoints and no one was strictly good or strictly evil. But I am also Beauty and the Beast trash, so I would have liked it anyway. If you want to know my full spoiler-free thoughts, check out my review.

 

Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann (library book)

3 stars

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I picked up Let’s Talk About Love because it was a new adult contemporary novel that spoke to my inner gender studies student. Alice is biromantic asexual and the recent bad break-up with her girlfriend has convinced her that dating is off-limits. She is spending the summer living with her two best friends, Feenie and Ryan, in an apartment and working at the local library while dodging her family’s expectations for her. Then, she meets super sweet, super hot Takumi, her co-worker who becomes her unexpected ally in her friend drama. As they grow closer, Alice begins to wonder if Takumi is worth the chance of telling the truth.

The main thing I liked about Let’s Talk About Love is the asexual representation and the quotes surrounding it, as well as society’s views on sex and how it does not always mean love—something most people have a hard time understanding. I don’t know if it is OWN voices, but I do appreciate the book educating people on asexuality and how it is no different than being bisexual or gay or lesbian. The cast was also very diverse in other ways, such as Alice is a black woman and Takumi is half Japanese. And the romance is totally adorable and healthy.

However, while the romance blossoming between Alice and Takumi was made for a rom-com, the whole book itself lacked in a plot. It was mostly taken up by friendship and family drama, which is normal for a college-aged student in a contemporary setting. Except Feenie really annoyed me and at times I didn’t like how she tried to play the field vicariously through Alice when she was in an allegedly committed relationship. Also, the writing made the book an easy read, but it was a little too simplistic for my taste. It might have done better in first-person rather than third-person. Despite that, if you are interested in learning more about asexuality, I highly recommend reading Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

4 stars

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One of the most polarizing reads currently floating around on Booktube, The Hazel Wood is a dark fantasy young adult novel about Alice, the granddaughter of a notorious author who wrote a collection of short stories similar to the work of the Grimm Brothers. When someone claiming to be from the stories her grandmother wrote kidnaps her mother, Alice goes to her late grandmother’s estate, the Hazel Wood, to find her. What she finds is a world unlike anything in normal fairy tales.

I originally checked out The Hazel Wood from the library because the reviews made me nervous. Then, I read it and really liked it. Though I understand why people did not like Alice as a main character and the twist seemed kind of out there to some people, I enjoyed both of them. Alice is meant to be unlikable and the big reveal was one I did not see coming; something I liked, as I tend to predict plot twists in fantasy books. Plus, I really liked Melissa Albert’s writing style and the world she created in The Hazel Wood. Since it is her debut novel, I only hope she will get better with each book she writes.

 

Flame in the Mist by Renee Ahdieh

5 stars

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I realize now I put off reading Flame in the Mist for so long because I subconsciously knew I would enjoy it so much, I didn’t want to have to wait too long for the sequel.

Mariko, the daughter of a prominent samurai in feudalist Japan, disguises herself as a boy to infiltrate the Black Clan, bandits she believed were ordered to assassinate her en route to her wedding to a prince. She succeeds and among the members of the Black Clan, she is finally appreciated for her skills in alchemy. But aren’t they supposed to be her enemies?

While I personally cannot speak to the representation of Japanese culture in this book, I did enjoy how it played into characters’ respective mindsets. Honor is a cherished value yet everyone has different interpretations of it. The world itself was historical, with elements of fantasy woven throughout. There are also complicated politics and almost everyone is playing the game to their own end. Renee Ahdieh’s writing was flowery and the world she created was vivid. Lastly, Mariko is a strong, independent female protagonist that uses her head to get out of messy situations. Characters like her are some of my favorites.

However, for most of the book, not much happened in terms of plot. If I rated Flame in the Mist on the first 150 or so pages alone, I would give it a 4.5. Then, the last half happened. The action started to get underway, though not all questions have been answered just yet. That is to be left to the second book, Smoke in the Sun, which I’m sure will be a mind-blowing finale.

 

The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace

4.75 stars

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I bought this book in March (breaking my book-buying ban, but more on that later) a few days after it came out. I read The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One for two reasons: I was falling behind on my Goodreads challenge and I loved Amanda Lovelace’s first poetry collection, The Princess Saves Herself in This One.

While I enjoyed The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, I didn’t love it as much as its predecessor. Amanda Lovelace is still an amazing poet and she touches upon a lot of serious issues like rape culture as well as how society expects women to be a certain way, then lashes out when one or more don’t fit the norm. However, this one personally didn’t get too close to home for me and I didn’t love all the poems. I still recommend girls (and boys too) read The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One, though, for educational purposes.

 

My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

4.5 stars

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Another of my favorites that I read this month, My Lady Jane is a comical, entertaining retelling of Lady Jane Grey, the Nine Day Queen. Sixteen-year-old Jane is betrothed to Gifford (call him G) Dudley by her cousin and best friend, King Edward, who is dying from a sudden illness. Neither Jane nor G is happy with this situation, as she wants to be left alone with her books and he doesn’t want anyone else to know he spends his days as a horse. But when Edward, Jane, and G uncover a conspiracy, it is up to them to save England.

The story was like reading a fun history book, with kick-ass females, shape-shifters, and a sweet romance. The writing style made it an easy read, though it admittedly dragged at certain points. For my full spoiler-free thoughts, go check out my review.

 

Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (reread)

1 star

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I decided to reread Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll because I will in the middle of reading Heartless by Marissa Meyer, which is a retelling of the origin story of the Queen of Hearts. I first read it in 2013; I wanted to reread it to see how close Marissa Meyer’s book was to the original story, as some things I remembered and others I did not.

This was the review I wrote on Goodreads about Alice in Wonderland in 2013, when I gave it 3 stars: “Whoever wrote this book was on something. The simplest way to describe this book is strange. But entertaining. It can be used to describe a child’s imagination–vivid and bright and full of talking animals in another world–or what the world would really be like without structure and order. Overall, a good book, and it pulled me out of the reading slump. The only drawback, I can think of, is that I kept comparing it to the Disney movie I watched as a little kid.”

Now: reading Alice in Wonderland was like pulling teeth. I had no idea what message the author was trying to convey, despite my appreciation for some of the more well-known quotes. Even two years out of school, my English-major brain will kick in and analysis a classic novel. That didn’t happen this time. Alice was annoying. The Queen of Hearts wasn’t as crazy entertaining. And, overall, Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll was boring.

That review in 2013 was written back during a time I was scared to give books a bad review. Alice in Wonderland is a classic and open to anyone’s interpretation, so it’s not like people are going to get offended if I didn’t like it. But I’m just disappointed because I watched the Disney movie as a kid and the edition I read this year was in the same Owlcrate box Heartless came in (I own two copies of Alice in Wonderland, go figure).

 

Have you ever reread a book and your opinion of it changed? Let’s discuss!

February 2018 Wrap Up

I read a total of eight books in February. Painful events happened this month that I turned to books to cope with. And I learned something.

It’s good to be strong, but there is such a thing as being too strong. You are allowed to feel weak and take time for self-care. Books allowed me do that, and so did my friends and certain family members.

 

The ratings are all over the place, ranging from five stars to two. I would say it was successful on that front, too. I shamefully admit I broke my book-buying ban by purchasing copies of novels I originally checked out of the library. Although, because I read them already, my physical TBR has not gotten any bigger. So, I guess it’s fine. Right?

 

Saga, Vol. 8 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples

4.5 stars

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Volume 8 picks up right where Volume 7 left off. I can’t give too much away because it is the eighth book in a series, but what I can say is that I overall enjoyed it, even though I would not say it was one of my favorites in the series.

The most interesting thing about Volume 8 is that it touches on sensitive topics people in the real world don’t want to talk about. There is more world building in the same beautiful artwork this series has always had. Common themes of these graphic novels are the gray areas in a world not black and white, which was evident in Volume 8. However, the plot was quite boring and not much happened in terms of action.

 

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

3.5 stars

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A beloved young adult novel, especially on BookTube, I can see why people enjoy Carry On. The story of Simon Snow, a boy wizard that turns the Chosen One trope on its head. However, this novel did not live up to the hype for me.

Carry On is clearly a spoof of Harry Potter, which I went into knowing. While I saw a lot of the Harry Potter characters in Carry On (such as Penelope being similar to Hermione), I did not feel connected to any of them, despite how likeable most of them were. In fact, the only one I can say I genuinely connected to is Baz; the .5 in the rating is for him. Aside from Baz, the only other interesting character was the Dumbledore figure in the novel. Plus, there were just too many POVs to deal with.

The chapters were generally very short, making it somewhat of an easy read. Only the book should have been 200 pages shorter, in my opinion. It was also kind of awkward to know Carry On was taking place in Simon’s eighth year of school without events from previous books to go off of.

I did like Watford and how it combined modern technology with magic. They even had regular soccer offered at the school. The magic system was easy to follow; people didn’t just use wands for magic and words were a big part of it.

Regardless of what I feel presently, I think I might reread Carry On in the future to see if my rating changes.

 

Tender is the Night by F. Scott Fitzgerald

2.5 stars

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In my last book haul, I mentioned that Tender is the Night was one of the books I was most excited to read. Powerhouse American couple Nicole and Dick Diver’s marriage is shaken with the arrival of beautiful young actress Rosemary Hoyt. Dick is Nicole’s psychiatrist as well as her husband and her wealth allows them to live it up on the French Rivera. While vacationing, the Divers meet Rosemary, who falls for Dick and whose friendship gives Nicole the strength that leads to Dick’s downfall.

Tender is the Night was written after F. Scott Fitzgerald had not published a book for nine years…and it shows. Fitzgerald’s writing style changed significantly. It was descriptive, but it made the story dense despite being 317 pages. There was a lot of over-explaining and over-foreshadowing. The classic Fitzgerald social commentary was still present, such the comments on the war and gender roles.

However, Rosemary becomes infatuated with Dick, but she has guilty feelings about it because she does genuinely like and admire Nicole. As for Dick, he also becomes infatuated with Rosemary, but she’s eighteen to his thirty-something. He is clearly a narcissist, going out of his way to prove his worth as a psychiatrist. None of the characters were that interesting, unlike those in Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Overall, Tender is the Night was hard to get into and hard to finish. The only things I can say I liked about it were the “psychiatrist going psycho” trope and how the women come into their own in spite of Dick.

 

The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson

5 stars

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Though I completely strayed from my February TBR, I was in desperate need of poetry towards the middle of the month. Emily Dickinson is my all-time favorite poet. Her insights on life, death, and nature were what I needed. She asks the hard questions and makes you think. She criticizes religion, war, and societal expectations. While I was slightly overwhelmed with the amount of poems, I still loved The Collected Poems of Emily Dickinson.

 

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

5 stars

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I had The Princess Saves Herself in This One on hold at my library for the longest time. But it was worth the wait. I read this book in less than 24 hours. It is a free verse self-published poetry collection that focuses on healing, self-love, and self-awareness. Amanda Lovelace opens up about the abuse she experienced at the hands of her mother and how that affected the rest of her life, but also led her to becoming the person she is today. I did a whole post on how much I love The Princess Saves Herself in This One, if you are interested.

 

Speak: the graphic novel by Laurie Halse Anderson and Emily Carroll

5 stars

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I had no idea Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson was being adapted into a graphic novel illustrated by Emily Carroll until I happened upon it at Target. Since I was still sticking true to my book-buying ban, I got it out of my library instead. I read the original novel in high school, but have never owned my own copy. I decided to change that.

In case you don’t know, Speak follows Melinda, a thirteen-year-old girl who starts high school an outcast after calling the cops at a party. Even her best friend turns her back on her and she is a target of bullying. But what no one knows is that Melinda was raped by an upperclassman at that party. The book is her journey through healing and finding her voice again. Even in graphic novel, Speak is still a powerful story.

 

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

5 stars

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I read Rupi Kaur’s debut poetry collection, Milk and Honey, last year. I enjoyed it, except it did not live up to the hype for me personally. I got her recent publication, The Sun and Her Flowers, out of the library. And it blew me out of the water.

The Sun and Her Flowers is another collection of free-verse poetry. It covers relationships, trauma, and healing, as well as touches upon worldly issues such as immigration and female genocide. The Sun and Her Flowers is one I had to own for myself. Plus, it promises more great poetry from Rupi Kaur in the future.

 

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

2 stars

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My first Holly Black book…and it was disappointing. I bought The Coldest Girl in Coldtown a few years ago, back when I was hardcore into vampires. However, given the recent publication of her new book The Cruel Prince, Holly Black’s other books have gotten attention. The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was one of them. And the reviews were not the best.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is set in a world where vampirism is a plague that has infected a large portion of the world’s population. Coldtowns are quarantined cities housing vampires and those infected by the disease, as well as those obsessed with vampires. After a party, Tana, the main character, wakes up to find other guests dead, her ex-boyfriend infected and tied to a bed, and a brooding vampire chained to a wall. Fearing she is also infected, Tana and her two companions travel to the nearest Coldtown.

The main thing I enjoyed about The Coldest Girl in Coldtown was the nostalgia factor for me. The world of this novel was a nod to the dark, romantic, and slightly obsessive vampire culture humans create. But, overall, the book was ultimately boring. It was 100 pages too long. The characters were flat. The writing was not bad, but it could have been better. But I am glad I finally read The Coldest Girl in Coldtown.

 

What was your favorite book you read in February?

 

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