2019 Reading Wrap Up #4

I’m back from my unexpected mini-hiatus!

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

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

 

The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan

4.25 stars

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

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

 

Vicious by V.E. Schwab

5 stars

vicious

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

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

 

Vengeful by V.E. Schwab

4 stars

vengeful

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

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

 

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

4.5 stars

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

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

 

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

5 stars

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

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

 

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

4.75 stars

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

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

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

 

Shout by Laurie Halse Anderson

4.75 stars

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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

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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?

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2019 Reading Wrap Up #2 (2/23/19)

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

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

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

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

 

Evermore by Sara Holland (library book)

3.5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

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

5 stars

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

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

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

 

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

4.5 stars

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

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

 

To Make Monsters Out of Girls by Amanda Lovelace

5 stars

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

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

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

 

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

4 stars

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

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

 

True Notebooks by Mark Salzman (library book)

5 books

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

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

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

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

 

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

3.5 stars

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

Get to Know Ya Tag!

I found the Get to Know Ya Tag on Kristin Kraves Books. I saw the opportunity to talk about some books I have not mentioned on my blog for a while now, or maybe some I’ve never mentioned before. Plus, it’s a super fun tag getting to know people.

I don’t know who created it, but if you do know, give them a shout out.

 

Favorite book of all time

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I honestly have no idea how to answer this question. It’s like asking me to choose my favorite child, or more appropriately, since I am childless, my favorite friend. That, and I firmly believe that nobody can have just one favorite book. How is that even possible?

So, I’m going to choose five of my all-time favorite books, which are:

The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace

Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie

Jane Steele by Lyndsay Faye

 

Favorite book five years ago

confessionsofamurdersuspect

At first, I was going to say maybe The Summoning by Kelley Armstrong or Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn. For the heck of it, I checked on Goodreads for my reading stats in 2013. That was the year I picked up Confessions of a Murder Suspect by James Patterson.

Confessions of a Murder Suspect was the first novel in a young adult mystery/thriller series following Tandoori “Tandy” Angel, the daughter of two extremely wealthy parents who are found dead in their bedroom. The only suspects are Tandy, her twin brother Harry, and her younger brother Hugo, as well as their older brother Matthew. There were a lot of twists and turns as Tandy tries to figure out who killed her parents, even if it means she did it, but the plot twist shook me to my core. I was obsessed with Confessions of a Murder Suspect, as well as its sequel, The Private School Murders, which I also read in 2013.

 

Favorite Duology/Trilogy/Series

Not surprisingly, I have an answer for all three of these.

Duology: It’s a tie between The Wrath and the Dawn duology by Renee Ahdieh and the Passenger duology by Alexandra Bracken. Both of these made me feel everything plus they were fun, exciting reads with characters I adored.

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Trilogy: Easily the Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. I found very little fault in these books when I read them. However, since I have not read Lord of Shadows yet and Queen of Air and Darkness is not out until December, I’m wondering if maybe The Dark Artifices will soon take its place as my favorite trilogy. And there are a few other contenders on my TBR that could prove worthy competition.

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Series: Does it count if your favorite series are incomplete? The two series (again, I’m indecisive) that I am certain are my favorites are the Stalking Jack the Ripper series by Kerri Maniscalco and the An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. I just loved everything about these books.

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Last book you read

At the time I am writing this, the last book I read was A Simple Favor by Darcey Bell, a cheesy thriller about two mothers you think are best friends but they both have deep, dark secrets they use to manipulate each other. Unfortunately, it was not that entertaining.

 

Last book of poetry you read

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The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One by Amanda Lovelace, which I read and bought as soon as it came out. While I did enjoy it, sadly, I did not love it as much as her debut collection.

 

What book most influenced your life?

Honestly…I can’t say it was just one book, because a lot of books have influenced me in different ways throughout the years. To name a few:

Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing by Judy Blume is the book that awoke my passion for storytelling and inspired my first “novel” when I was eight years old.

At fifteen, The Darkest Powers trilogy by Kelley Armstrong made me realize my strongest writing niche was in the fantasy and paranormal genres.

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The Princess Saves Herself in This One by Amanda Lovelace and The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur came to me earlier this year, making me feel empowered when I wasn’t really feeling like it.

 

 

 

 

 

Book that made you ugly cry

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Definitely A List of Cages by Robin Roe made me ugly cry. It takes a lot to make me cry in books in general. With this book, it was a full on sob fest.

 

Book that made you laugh

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All the Rick Riordan books I’ve read so far. That includes the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series plus the first two books in the Heroes of Olympus series, The Lost Hero and The Son of Neptune.

 

Character you’d like to be for a day.

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No brainer: Hermione Granger from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling. I get to practice magic and go to Hogwarts, plus share a brain with one of the most badass women in literature.

 

Book so good you dreamt about it

nightmare

Hmmm…. I don’t remember my dreams. I remember my nightmares though. One book that was really good but also one I should not have read before bed was The Dead House by Dawn Kurtagich. There was a scene with a mirror…and I have one in my bedroom, right across from my bed, so it took me a while to go back to sleep after.

 

Book you DNF’D

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After You by Jojo Moyes, which I tried to read over a year ago. I got about 35 pages in before I had to put it down. I think it bothered me that Me Before You got a sequel when it was perfectly fine as a stand-alone, in my opinion. However, I’ve heard decent things about the third book, Still Me, when Louisa goes to New York City, so I might pick up After You again, eventually.

 

What book are you most excited to read?

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

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

Sea Witch by Sarah Henning

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

…To name a few.

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I tag….

Grey (once she’s back from her hiatus! I completely forgot. Sorry Grey!)

Crystal

Shanah

Joe

And anyone else that wants to do this tag!

“Slightly” Shameful Book Haul

At the beginning of the year, after I went crazy with the book buying for Christmas and my birthday, I told myself I would go on a book-buying ban until I had my physical TBR under control. For the first three months of 2018, I was reading good books I already had and the library was a great resource for checking out other books I heard about. However, I never told myself how long this book-buying ban was supposed to last….

I got a new job early on in March and I was making money for the first time in about five and a half months. To make matters even more difficult, I work in a city with an abundance of amazing bookstores. Still, I resisted somehow. Then, I make it into work one cold Friday afternoon, only to discover the entire building was closed due to a plumbing problem. I thought about going home, then I thought: go home and do what? I decided to visit a bookstore someone had recommended to me and…well, you can guess what happened from there.

I call this haul “slightly” shameful because some of these books were previously library books I read. So, my physical TBR didn’t get any bigger than it already was. Also, most of these books are anticipated releases or popular books I have wanted to read for a while, but they are always on hold at the library for somebody else, or they are by authors I am familiar with. And don’t worry—these are a mix of bookstore purchases and Amazon, bought on different days.

Of course, it sounds like I’m making excuses. Most of you probably understand the struggle. And it’s my own money I’m blowing. But still…there’s graduate school in September. Needless to say, my wallet is not too happy with me about that.

Anyway, onto my new books!

 

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

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After checking out the new graphic novel adaption of Laurie Halse Anderson’s novel, Speak, from the library, I realized I never had my own copy of the book. I really enjoyed the graphic novel as much as I did the original work; in fact, the artwork added a lot more to the story, in my opinion.

 

The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

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After my mom died in February, I was in a deep mood for poetry. The Sun and Her Flowers, Rupi Kaur’s newest publication following her successful debut Milk and Honey, was not a book I originally anticipated too much. While I liked Milk and Honey, I did not get much out of it personally. Then, I decided to check out The Sun and Her Flowers from the library. I read it and it hit me right in the feels. This book came to me at the right time.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

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I’ve talked about this book almost every other post since I read it in March. An anticipated January 2018 release that has gotten mixed reviews, I fall into the group that loves The Hazel Wood. I’m sure you are already familiar with the story at this point, so I won’t bore you with details. However, fun fact: books bought from bookstores (either in store or online) feel way better than books bought from Amazon or Target. Am I crazy or has anyone else noticed this?

 

The Princess Saves Herself in This One & The Witch Doesn’t Burn in this One by Amanda Lovelace

I already talked about my love for The Princess Saves Herself in This One. Like The Sun and Her Flowers, it came to me at just the right time. A month after I checked that book out from the library, The Witch Doesn’t Burn in This One was released. That was the one that inspired the whole splurge at the bookstore. I read that one as soon as I bought it and enjoyed it very much. Between the two though, The Princess Saves Herself in This One, is my favorite.

 

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi

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Children of Blood and Bone has taken the book world by storm. This is one I decided to take a chance on and buy it, rather than wait forever for it to be available at the library. It is based in West African mythology, following a young woman determined to restore magic to her kingdom with the help of her brother and a rogue princess. The reviews for Children of Blood and Bone have been good so far. Still, I’m waiting for the hype to die down at least a little bit before I read it (and knock some other books off my TBR first, too).

 

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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The moment I learned about To Kill a Kingdom, I knew I had to read it. It is a twisted retelling of The Little Mermaid, following Lira, a siren banished to the human world by her mother the Sea Queen after accidentally killing a fellow mermaid. In order to return to the sea, she must kill the prince of the world’s most powerful kingdom and steal his heart. The said prince, Elian, happens to be a siren hunter and when he meets Lira, you can guess what could possibly happen from there. But I love The Little Mermaid and I love mermaid stories in general. That’s all I needed to know to make me pick up To Kill a Kingdom.

 

The Price Guide to the Occult by Leslye Walton

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I knew I was going to buy The Price Guide to the Occult as soon as it came out. First off, because it was written by Leslye Walton, who wrote The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender, one of my favorite books. Second, this new book follows generations of witches on a small island and their connection to a book that could mean the end-all for everyone. I could be totally butchering the synopsis—her stories are a little more complex than that. I just love Leslye Walton’s writing style and storytelling.

 

Truly Devious by Maureen Johnson

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Truly Devious was another young adult book that got some hype over the last few months. It is set in a boarding school where the founder’s family was kidnapped in 1936 and the mystery was never solved. In present day, new student Stevie Bell has decided to solve this cold case herself, just as death has visited the school again. While the plot does intrigue me, I mainly took a chance buying it because of Maureen Johnson. One of my favorite books as an adolescent was her novel Thirteen Little Blue Envelopes, which I unfortunately lost when my family moved years ago, and it was what fueled my desire to travel. Plus, she’s a good writer, so I have fairly high expectations already in place for Truly Devious.

 

The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl

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A complete impulse buy from the used bookstore not far from where I work, The Dante Club is written by Matthew Pearl, who wrote another thriller on my TBR, The Poe Shadow. As the title suggests, The Dante Club is focused on Dante’s The Divine Comedy, as a group of respected literary figures attempt to bring a controversial European work to the New World. The novel is set in 1865 Boston and the city has been terrorized by gruesome murders mirroring Dante’s Circles of Hell. One member of the Dante Club teams up with the first black cop on Boston’s police force to solve the murders before Dante’s journey to America ends before it begins and more innocent people are killed. OK…maybe this wasn’t that much an impulse buy.

 

The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

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A book that swept the world of books off its feet, The Hate U Give follows a young black woman finding her voice after witnessing her unarmed childhood best friend be shot by a police officer. This is one of the books that is always on hold at the library. With all the rave reviews surrounding it and my desire to be more educated on the Black Lives Matter movement, I decided it is time I read The Hate U Give.

 

When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Manon

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Another hyped book on social media, When Dimple Met Rishi is a young adult contemporary about two Indian teens with different views of their shared culture that are in an arranged marriage by their parents. Dimple is driven by her desire to go to college and pursue STEM while Rishi is a hopeless romantic. After their initial meeting doesn’t go as planned, the two are suddenly thrown together for a project and shenanigans ensue. When Dimple Met Rishi is a book I’ve had my eye on for a while. I definitely plan on reading it this summer.

 

Love, Hate & Other Filters by Samira Almed

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After reading All We Have Left by Wendy Mills last year, I want to read more young adult books featuring Muslim main characters. Love, Hate & Other Filters is just what I’m looking for. American-born Muslim Maya is torn between pleasing her parents and pursuing her dreams of studying film in New York City. When she starts her senior year of high school, a terrorist attack strikes Chicago and the perpetrator shares her last name. Suddenly, Maya and her family are faced with hatred and bigotry from people they have known for years.

 

Daughter of the Siren Queen by Tricia Levenseller

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Daughter of the Siren Queen is the sequel to Daughter of the Pirate King, one of my favorite books of 2017. It is the last book in the duology and I really want to finish the series. (I haven’t finished any so far this year). Despite all the books sitting on my nightstand currently waiting to be read, I am seriously considering picking up Daughter of the Siren Queen this weekend….

 

The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes

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I don’t know why it took me so long to buy this book, honestly. Stephanie Oakes wrote one of my favorite books of all-time, The Sacred Lies of Minnow Bly. The Arsonist is her second novel. It is a historical thriller, following two teens with serious problems (the girl’s father is about to be executed and the boy is an immigrant with an embarrassing seizure dog) that are tasked with catching the murderer of an East German resistance fighter whose death brought on the destruction of the Berlin Wall.

This one is going to be so fun….

 

Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare

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Ink, Iron, and Glass is probably one of the most original books I own. It is set in a world where certain people are gifted with the ability, called scriptology, to alter their realities as they see fit with the written word. The protagonist, Elsa, finds herself in an alternative Victorian Italy when her mother is kidnapped and she turns to an elite society for help. That’s all I need to know and want to know. Plus, the cover is beautiful.

 

Here We Are Now by Jasmine Warga

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Finding out your long-last dad is an indie rock star should be awesome, but for sixteen-year-old Tal, reality is about to hit her hard in the face. After so many years of no contact and her mother dodging questions, Tal’s father shows up for an unexpected family reunion. He takes her across country to meet the rest of her extended family, including the dying grandfather her dad wants her to meet. But in doing so, the fantasy she has built around him slowly crumbles as family secrets come to light. And if Here We Are Now is anything like Jasmine Warga’s debut, My Heart and Other Black Holes, I am anticipating getting hit with the feels.

 

In Search of Us by Ava Dellaira

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Much like with Leslye Walton, I nearly fell out of my seat when I found out Ava Dellaira was coming out with another book. I read and loved her debut, Love Letters to the Dead. Her newest release, In Search of Us, is an intergenerational story about Angie, a biracial teenager, and her mother, Marilyn. Raised by a white mother and looking more like her brown-skinned father, Angie wants to know about her dad, but Marilyn tells her daughter very little. When Angie discovers she has an uncle in LA, she convinces a friend to tag along with her on a road trip to meet him, hoping to learn more about the dad she never knew. But in doing so forces Marilyn to reveal some secrets she would rather bury.

 

I think I’m good for a while…what was your favorite book you bought recently?

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!