Category Archives: Books

July Books

July was an all-over kind of month. I was in FL for the first week, so only minimal reading was accomplished. Harry Potter was our driving home audiobook – Bug adored it, Bean still doesn’t seem to care about HP one way or the other. I also spent time watching movies. We introduced the kids to the Back to the Future movies, and found that they are still watchable with pretty much zero cringe-worthy moments. All three of the kids loved them, especially Max.

Audiobooks (16)

 

Novels (10)


The Hub – May

I have been trying to get my May Hub post written for a month and half. The post has been sitting as is for over two weeks, and I still have not written my thoughts on one of the books  (I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina and Stacey Robinson). I am going to call it good at this point just to get it out.

Pashmina by Nidhi Chanani
I read Pashmina in January, and was somewhat underwhelmed by it. The concept of the magical shawl and its use to help Pri deal with serious life changes was good, but the narrative was not cohesive. If the shawl is there to help Pri, then each time she used it, then she should have walked away with another piece of information to help her deal with her problems. This wasn’t the case, and ultimately, we never learned how Pri overcame her issues to be satisfied with her life. So much more could have been done with a magical shawl that gave women a new perspective, allowing them to better their lives.

#NotYourPrincess: Voices of Native American Women edited by Lisa Charleyboy and Mary Beth Leatherdale
The pros of this book were the diversity of voices, topics covered, and the creative layout. The con was the lack of density – meaning it have been better if there had been more. It felt like an appetizer instead of a full meal.

 

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee
I listened to Gentleman last year, and didn’t like it. The second time around and I still don’t like it. The book is essentially Monty whining his way across Europe, completely oblivious to how his words and actions hurt those around him. It’s not funny. If it’s satire, then the humor is beyond me. Monty is an entitled jackass, I get that his personal life is awful, but it’s hard to have sympathy for him when he treats everyone around him so selfishly. Everything is about Monty. Even when he learns of Percy’s epilepsy, Monty views it in relation to how it will affect him (meaning Monty) and his access to Percy. There is pretty much zero character growth for any of the characters, and only in the last 10 minutes of the book is there a whiff of growth potential for Monty. The book tried to be too much. It would have been better if it had focused on Monty, Percy, and Felicity, and their growth as human beings, and not on some conveniently lucky adventure that would have been better as a separate story.

She Rides Shotgun by Jordan Harper
I didn’t know exactly what to expect from a book about an 11-year girl who goes on the lam with her released convict father while he tries to find a way to protect her from a kill order. It was surprisingly gripping – I had a hard time putting the book down. The narrative flowed and was well-paced. I loved how Harper used words and cadence, and how he allowed Polly and Nate to grow. Definitely a book I will read again.

As the Crow Flies by Melanie Gilman
I have mixed feelings about this comic. It was a very uncomfortable read both in the careless racism exhibited my most of the characters, and the weird anti-male, Christian overtones. Bee, the camp leader, was squicky in her fanaticism. I did like the friendship Charlie and Sydney, but that’s about it. The comic also ended in the middle of the story. It was not a natural stopping point. I had to reread it several times to figure out why the story ended there, and I’m still not entirely clear on it.

The One Hundred Nights of Hero by Isabel Greenberg
I almost put this book down after the boring introduction. While it was a set up, and explained aspects of the following story, removing it wouldn’t have taken anything away from the narrative. Once past that, however, and The One Hundred Nights of Hero was a dark, beautiful, and painful feminist fairy tale. The framing is similar to Arabian Nights and Scheherazade, though in this case a young woman must protect her friend/mistress from unwanted sexual advances by telling stories to her would-be assaulter. The running theme throughout was how educated and/or powerful women can be scary to men.

Sandwiches!: More Than You Ever Wanted to Know About Making and Eating America’s Favorite Food by Alison Deering
Sandwiches! is essentially a cookbook with interesting tidbits of information thrown in. It was interesting and mostly well-researched – some of the dates relating to baseball off by a century. I believe they meant the 1700s/18th century as opposed to the 17th century (which would be the 1600s). While there are references to the origin game, early incarnations of the game as we know it came about in the 1700s, with the first actual baseball taking place in the mid-1800s. I put less stock in the facts presented because of this, though all three of my children were enthralled by the recipes and illustrations.

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard
The magical world operates invisibly along side daily life in NYC, and it’s time for a magical competition to determine which House will be in power until the next competition. The magical world is dark and corrupt, and given that magic has been waning, they will do what needs to be done in order to retain their magic/power. Told from multiple POVs, the story focuses mostly on Sydney, the mystery of her origin, and how she uses her underdog status to upend the status quo. The pacing was a bit slow at times, but the story was very, very well-conceived.

Spill Zone by Scott Westerfield
I read Spill Zone last year and thought it was intriguing, but somewhat vague. I found I liked it more the second time around. I was able to catch details and nuances I didn’t see before. While it ends with many questions raised, and almost none answered, I am curious as to how some of the threads will play out in future volumes, especially with Vespertine, and Addison’s “change”.

Electric Arches by Eve L. Ewing
The poetry felt a bit disjointed. Individual poems were good and/or wrenching, but it was hard to see how they all flowed together thematically. It is still a solid work of poetry, and I can the potential for it to resonate with the right reader. My favorite poem was “What I Talk About When I Talk About Black Jesus.”

 

The Whydah: A Pirate Ship Feared, Wrecked, and Found by Martin W. Sandler
This was a fast and fairly interesting read. The writing was a bit juvenile, so I’d range this more for middle school than high school readers. I liked the sidebars, but they were mini-chapters unto themselves (snippets of information, they were not), and their placement was awkwardly in the middle of chapters, which ruined the reading flow. The lack of illustrations, diagrams, and eye-catching photographs was a big mark against it. Give the readers an illustration of what The Whydah looked like, or at least of ships similar to her. Give the readers photos of the cool treasure, like the African gold. A syringe is not captivating. All my gripes aside, for what it is, The Whydah is a solid little read.

Kindred: A Graphic Novel adapted by Damian Duffy
I listened to this book in 2017 and absolutely loved it. I was a bit trepidatious about the graphic version because I didn’t know if it would stand up to the audio version. Duffy ended up doing a good job with translating the material into a visual format. His angular drawing style (while not my favorite) worked well with the rawness of Dana’s experiences.

 

Long Way Down by Jason Reynolds
I love how Reynolds uses words, and I love how he formatted Long Way Down. Verse worked beautifully for Will’s story, and each word had meaning, packing a punch, moving Will forward. It’s Will’s journey of learning about his family history, how the cycle of violence has both directly and indirectly affected him – the “whys” behind the cycle of violence. There is no judgement or moral lesson given, just a look at how toxic “rules” can be. The ending was the only sticking point for me because of its ambiguity. But having a straight ending would have put the story into good vs. bad territory, which would have caused it to lose credibility.

A Hope More Powerful Than the Sea: One Refugee’s Incredible Story of Love, Loss, and Survival by Melissa Fleming
My first thoughts on this book was that the writing felt juvenile, especially in the beginning. I read a similar book recently, The New Odyssey by Patrick Kingsley, and it quality of the writing was much better. I had to push through the writing style of Hope because I wanted to read Doaa’s story. I am glad I did because her experiences and the obstacles she overcame were incredible.  I cannot imagine living through and surviving such traumatic experiences.

Book Riot June 2018 Riotgrams

June brought with it another round of the Riotgrams photo challenge!  It’s always fun to come up with ideas to fulfill the prompts, and this month was no exception.  I did miss out on three of them towards the end of the month due to an awesome family vacation to Disney World 🙂

Book Riot Instagram Challenge #Riotgrams June 2018

1. Reading selfie – Not thrilled that it’s 80 degrees in my apartment, but Jon Krakauer’s chilling and chilly experiences on Everest are a good distraction. 

2. Library love – When the director lets you borrow his T. Rex suit but you still have to work the circ desk.

3. Favorite title – I saw these titles and knew I had to read them.

4. Travels & adventures – Nothing too exciting comes out of my kitchen compared to what Anthony Bourdain eats when he travels the world. Bonus author signature!

5. Rainbow book stack

6. Duologies, trilogies, & more – I stumbled across this trilogy of mysteries set in Bath, England, right after actually visiting Bath, which made reading them especially fun.

7. Ice cream/sweet treats – For me salty > sweet, but I do like it when they’re combined – like peanut butter and chocolate.

8. Best book friendship – The Lumberjanes are awesome – smart, funny, inclusive, and supportive of each other.

9. Spine poetry

10. Book deserving more readers – Everyone should read Octavia Butler. I hadn’t read any of her books until this year, and I can’t believe I let myself miss out for so long. She is amazing.

11. Naked hardcovers – Naked hardcovers in technicolor.

12. Queer reads 

13. Freebie – a shelfie!

14. Audiobooks or podcasts – My sister was able to get me a copy of the British version of the first Harry Potter audiobook – Jim Dale is great but Stephen Fry has my heart.

15. Maps, legends, or other bonus art – Finally diving into the books of Westeros.

16. Spell “June” in book titles – J U N E

17. Take your book on a date – Reading a few pages while I eat my not very photogenic lunch at work is as close as I’m getting to a book date this weekend.

18. Book you never finished – I made it about a third of the way through Vanity Fair before I set it down and just never picked it back up. I plan on conquering it eventually.

19. Favorite comic animal(s) – Let’s be honest, Lying Cat is the best.

20. Book you’ve reread – The Southern Vampire Mysteries are easy and comforting. I don’t even know how many times I’ve reread them.

21. Sunny reads – Robin McKinley’s vampire book is a fun one, led by a sun-loving heroine named Rae (nickname: Sunshine).

22. Paperback stack – Fat (paperback) stacks.

23. Pink – Julián is a Mermaid by Jessica Love is the sweetest, and it’s wonderfully illustrated.

24. Read in one sitting – I inhaled the first awesome Binti book during a single train ride, and I couldn’t wait to read the rest of the trilogy (which I finished in one sitting a few weeks ago) .

25. Disability reads – Challenger Deep is an impressive book – it addresses mental illness without judgment or glorification, and it fully immerses you in Caden’s struggle. It’s tense, disorienting, and gorgeous.

26. Set in your city, state, or country

27. Sequel, please!

28. Floral covers

29. Chills and thrills – This novel is packed with chills and thrills.

30. Current read – Last day of June riotgrams!  My current read is an easy recovery read after some heavy nonfiction.

1st Amazon TBR 2018

My first round of Amazon TBR reads (not read for a challenge)! I will pick up the pace once I complete PopSugar, but I know any dent I make will be negligible given I have already added over 500 new books to the list so far this year.

The standout book from this batch is Red Sister.

Lord of Scoundrels by Loretta Chase
This was one of the better romances I’ve listened to recently. Jessica was one of my favorite heroines. She was intelligent, didn’t take crap from anyone, and stood up for herself and others. I could give or take Sebastian. He fell into the stereotype of a whoring asshole who was really a broken little boy abandoned by his parents. In his favor, he wasn’t completely emo, and he actually listened to Jessica as opposed to putting her down.

A Good Debutante’s Guide to Ruin by Sophie Jordan
At the surface level, this book was a fun romp until close to the end when the heroine decided to make a horrible decision for the sake of the plot. There was also no real chemistry between Rosalie and Declan. They worked together as far as lust was concerned, but I didn’t buy into their romantic love. There was no real basis or growth for their relationship.

Mooncop by Tom Gauld
This book took me only about 15 minutes to read. The main character is the lone police officer on the moon, and the moon is a rapidly dying colony. There was very little dialog, with the illustrations carrying most of the story. It was well-done, but very depressing. The illustrations and situations are stark. The ending was also bittersweet.

 

Red Sister by Mark Lawrence
I wasn’t too sure of this book at first, specifically regarding the audio format, which didn’t initially feel like the right choice. I had a hard time keeping track of the various threads. However, once the story got going (and after I found some helpful information on the Kindle preview), it became less of an issue. The story itself is amazing! Ninja nuns is a succinct surface description, but religion, politics, and the end of the world all come into play. The world building and rules of magic were on point. It was a brutal world, and neither the children in the book nor the readers are cossetted.

Henchgirl by Kristen Gudsnuk
For a single volume story, Henchgirl had a lot going on, including something of a plot twist. Mary was a double dose black sheep, both of her family and her villain gang. She manages to muddle through it mostly unscathed. I liked that most of the characters were gray, neither completely good or bad. Some aspects of the plot towards the end of the book got a bit wonky and confusing, but it was a fun read overall.

His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik
While I liked the concept and execution of this story, and appreciate the mash up of dragons and the Napoleonic Wars, His Majesty’s Dragon is not a book (or series) for me. I am all about Regency romance, but have never been interested in Regency war fiction. My meh-ness about this book stems solely from that. It is still a book I would recommend. That being said, my mental image of Laurence was Norrington from Pirates of the Caribbean. They have similar personalities and senses of honor.

City of Brass by S.A. Chakraborty
Enough time has passed that I have only a vague idea of why I enjoyed this book. I liked it enough that I want to read the sequel, but thinking back on it, the plot didn’t really ratchet up until the end when it should have ratcheted up earlier on.

 

The Black Tides of Heaven by Y.J. Yang
I had a hard time following the story because there were significant jumps in time between chapters/parts. I wasn’t able to connect with either main character or the plot. I was also confused because the system of time, magic, and gender were not clearly explained and felt inconsistent. In regard to gender, I loved the idea of a child choosing (or not choosing at all) a gender they felt best suited them when they reached adulthood. However, there were young children who had labeled genders – was gender fluidity only for the upper class? The story also ended abruptly with no conclusion.

DNF

Lady Bridget’s Diary by Maya Rodale
I didn’t get very far into this one before I couldn’t handle the poorly contrived mash-up of Bridget Jones’s Diary and Pride & Prejudice. I am all for reimaginings and retellings (especially P&P), but I had a hard time getting into the story. It was weirdly modern-fluffy, which doesn’t work with the Regency Era.

The Gun Seller by Hugh Laurie
I made it about halfway through this book before giving up. It wasn’t horrible, but it didn’t hold my attention either. This was disappointing because Hugh Laurie was the author. Based upon the description, I assumed it would be a laugh-out-loud, tongue-in-cheek spy spoof. It wasn’t. It was a well-written story; there are definitely some great deadpan one-liners, and the story does poke fun, but without an obvious comedic angle. Spies/espionage is not a genre I enjoy reading. My criticism stems from my reading preferences and not from the quality of writing.

Smut by Karina Halle
So for a book that is supposed to be about the chemistry brewing between Amanda and Blake while writing erotica, the entire first half of the book was all set up. The. Entire. First. Half. It should have taken only several chapters to get there. In addition, I did not like Amanda at all. She was judgy and condescending towards many other characters. Blake was equally obnoxious, but in the way of many of the male leads in contemporary romances. He was a cocky asshole who thought he was god’s gift to women in bed, and he spent way too much time reminding us of that.

That Inevitable Victorian Thing by E.K. Johnston
The narrative felt jumbled, the characters were boring, and there were too many little plots without an overarching one. It was fluffy and superficial, with no real conflict. I also had a hard time buying into a utopian British empire (an oxymoron, really) where all social/political/racial evils are a thing of the past. Perfection is never interesting, unless the story is about subverting it or the dangers of achieving it, and this story wasn’t. In addition, the empire’s obsession with genetics was heavily into eugenics.

June Books

For the sake of getting a post, any post, out in a timely fashion, here are my June reads. June was full of potentially-not-going-to-graduate drama, prepping my portfolio, and packing for (and starting) a let’s-drive-19-hours-to-Disney-with-3-kids!

Audiobooks (13)

   

Books (6)

PopSugar – April & May

I have not been actively reading PopSugar for the past several months. Between school and the YALSA Hub Challenge, my attention has been focused elsewhere. It also doesn’t help that I have now maxed out the number of audiobooks I’ve allowed myself to use (20 out of 40). I have seven books left in the basic challenge, and hope to finish them in either July or August. Once I’m finished with those, I will move onto the advanced challenge prompts.

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn
#5 – Nordic noir
The Bird Tribunal wasn’t a slow burning story so much as it was dead in the water. I get that it was supposed to be an atmospheric build up to an explosive conclusion, but was frustrated for most of the book waiting for something to happen, or at least an increase in tension. There were glimpses of possibilities, but the only two things that kept me reading was that this book knocked out one of the tasks for PopSugar, and it was short.

Obsidio by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff
#28 – Two authors
Illluminae was amazing (Hal 9000 and reavers, oh my!), and Gemina was almost as amazing, but…Obsidio was not. It was good, but it was too ambitious with too many POVs.  It was hard to keep track of what was happening in Obsidio, and there were times I tuned out what was going on because I couldn’t figure out how a scene related to the story as a whole. It really should have been split into two books. One for Asha and Rhys, and one to tie everything together bringing BeiTech down in the process.

Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows by Balli Kaur Jaswal
#32 – Celebrity book club (Reese Witherspoon)
I didn’t know what to expect going into Erotic Stories. I assumed I would have to force myself to finish it because it was a celebrity selection, and I have a hard time reading/enjoying the majority of books chosen by celebrity book clubs. However, I was more than pleasantly surprised to find that I absolutely LOVED this book. Different subplots complimented or intertwined with each other, each one looking at community and/or a woman’s sense of self. There was also character growth all around! I enjoyed how Niki went in with a set perception, then had it drastically altered as her relationship with the widows grew. The widows were by far my favorite characters.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor
#40 – Favorite prompt from past PopSugar Reading Challenge
(2017 – #46 – Subgenre you’ve never heard of – afrofuturism)
This book was so very, very different, and weirdly wonderful. It’s speculative, magical realism, and science fiction rolled into one, though at the same time it felt like something more. Alien contact was the catalyst, and the impact of that event was seen from various perspectives – human, metahuman, animal, and mythological. Political, religious, and climatic implications of first contact were explored as well. It’s a character-driven story, with plot taking a backseat. Because of this, the story was a bit confusing at times, but I think it would have been more so had I read instead of listened to it.