After feeling burned out at the end of last year, reading fever kicked in on January 1st. I want to get these challenges done! Las year, I allowed myself to get distracted by non-challenge books, and ended up finishing PopSugar at 10pm on December 31st. Not gonna happen this year. Once I get all major challenges taken care of (or at least mostly taken care of), then I can focus on other books without guilt (and possibly other non-book projects as well).
Nine of the books are for various challenges, so they’ll be written about in future posts. The Queen’s Poisoner was a disappointment. There wasn’t a cohesive plot, Owen was wishy-washy and kind of weak, and Elysabeth Victoria Mortimer was incredibly annoying. So very annoying. The author also couldn’t make up his mind of King Severn was evil or just misunderstood. I have no interest in reading any other books in this series. One Good Dragon Deserves Another was a decent listen. It dragged on a bit in the beginning, but the wheels started turning, and now I’m looking forward to listening to book three.
Novels (9) / Nonfiction (3)
Every single book in this section is for a reading challenge, so they will be written about in future posts.
The first four books are for various challenges, so more will be written about them in future posts. Monstress, Volume 1: Awakening was the lone “read for the fun of it” graphic novel. The illustrations were lush and complex, as was the story. I’m looking forward to reading the next volume.
Read Alouds (2)
Bug (my 6-year old) liked the first Never Girls book, so we gave the second one a try. They are only minimally annoying, which is good for me. I read Stories from Hawaii to all three kids because of their curiosity about Maui after watched “Moana” in the theater (very catchy songs). This was the only book on Hawaii my library system has. The writing was a bit simplistic and redundant, but the kids enjoyed the stories.
My reading slowed down as the end of the year approached. I overdid it with the book challenges (given everything else going on), and by December I was in a reading rut from “having” to read certain books even as my neglected TBR list continued to grow. We’ll see how 2017 goes.
Most of my December reading consisted of audiobooks. I didn’t feel like I had the time to sit down and focus on an actual book. Plus I have a bunch of titles sitting in my Audible queue, and I needed to make them disappear. A Man on the Moon was wonderful. I’ve listened to several other space race/outerspace books recently, and it’s always nice to get slightly different perspectives on both people and events. It also brought back memories of when I got to listen to an astronaut give a talk in the officers club at Kirtland AFB when I was kid (couldn’t tell you who, but I was mesmerized during the entire thing). I ended up finishing it a few days before John Glenn passed away. The Magicians is a reread, and I liked it more than I did when I first read it in 2009. It’s full of ennui, and I can relate to that because I feel like I’m in a life rut. Royally Screwed ended up being a bit of a disappointment. I know to suspend belief when reading romances, but I couldn’t get past the complete lack of plausibility of a crown prince falling for an American commoner, and then abdicating for lurve. Redshirts was more entertaining than expected. A fun riff on Star Trek and other old sci-fi shows – this is what happens when a tv show intrudes on another reality. I liked the main ending, but could have done without the various epilogues focusing on some of the secondary characters.
Novels (5) / Novellas (3)
Five of the books listed here were from the PopSugar reading challenges, and there will be another post with my thoughts about them. As a whole, I enjoy the Dark Kings series by Donna Grant, but I’m kind of over the romance part of it – it’s fairly predictable and formulaic, and generally doesn’t add anything to overarching plot. The overarching plot and various secondary characters are what keeps me coming back. These characters tend to be more complex, more ambiguous in what their angle is or whose side they’re actually on. Dark fairies vs. dragons, dragons vs. exiled dragon(s), light fairies claim neutrality, the Reapers (what amounts to the fairy Justice League) have made their reappearance, and the humans are unwittingly caught in the middle of it all. Natural Born Charmer was a cute book. It was well-written, and the plot generally felt believable.
Read Alouds (2)
Bunnicula was the first chapter book I ever read (age 8, finished while riding in a car somewhere in Nevada). It will always have strong sentimental value to me. I still have the same copy, and a few years ago, I got it signed by James Howe at a book festival. It was the highlight of my day. This time around marks the third time I have read it to my children, and I am happy they enjoy it as well. While trying to find books to read to my 6-year old, I stumbled across Clementine. She absolutely adores it. Me…not so much. I found her kind of bratty in a pig-headed, “they don’t understand me” kind of way.
Life has been crazy recently. Holidays, upcoming (now completed) travel, and Girl Scouts, have made life fairly overwhelming. Quite frankly, I want to curl up in a little ball, read some fluff romance novels, and be left alone.
The Hemingses of Montecello was fascinating, if a bit long and dryly academic. The conjectures she made were fascinating – such as why Sally and James Hemings would walk away from freedom in France in order to go back to slavery in Virginia. The Astronauts Wives Club was also fascinating. One doesn’t normally think about the wives behind the scenes, but they had to maintain the “All-American” front, sometimes to the detriment of their own health. NASA dropped the ball on giving them support when they needed it. The Anubis Gates has been on my TBR list for a while because it’s considered a classic steampunk novel. I liked it, but I wouldn’t consider it steampunk. It’s magically focused, not technologically focused. Lesser Beasts was very good, and I highly recommend it – a history of the pig and humans’ relationship with keeping and eating pigs. American Gods is my least favorite Neil Gaiman book. I can’t pinpoint why exactly, but it feels rougher than his other books. That being said, matching the old gods against the new human-made gods is a cool concept; and I liked the small vignettes that focused on various gods and goddesses.
Novels (8) / Nonfiction (1)
Seven of these books are for various PopSugar reading challenges, so there will be another post with my thoughts on them. The Big Tiny was on my TBR list for a while, and it ended up being a good read. I like the idea of tiny houses (though I know I would never want to live as tiny/off-grid as the author). Life is so much easier with less stuff. It was an uplifting read in that she took a horrible experience/health issue and used it as the springboard to reevaluate her life and her things, and ended up freeing herself from a lot of the previous stress and disconnectedness. I had high hopes for Doon, being that it involved Scotland and time-travel (interdimensional travel, in actuality), but I had to push myself to finish it. I have no interest in reading the remaining books in the series. The plot was poorly developed, stereotypes and clichés abounded. Character-wise, Mackenna is the one who drove me nuts. She is supposed to be the foil for Veronica (a complete Mary Sue), but Mackenna came off as self-absorbed and idiotic.
Read Aloud (1)
October saw a decrease in how many books I read – only 18 instead of my normal 30+. It’s quibbling, I know, since 18 books is still a large number of books to read in a given month. My decrease was caused by an increase in other obligations: Girl Scouts, deep cleaning my house, swim meets, etc… There wasn’t a way to make time for everything, and books got the boot because even I get sick of looking at my disaster of a house sometimes.
Of the nine books I listed to this month, three were in the magical boarding school genre: Dark Waters, Schooled in Magic, and The Bronze Key. I loved all of them. Dark Waters was an adult book, with the school being a college, and the plot focusing on a murder mystery. Schooled in Magic was YA, with the main character, Emily, being transported to a different universe because a necromancer wanted to sacrifice a “child of destiny”. She was rescued by a sorcerer, and then then shipped off to a boarding school to figure things out. Both this book and The Bronze Key followed the standard trying-to-keep-evil-from-taking-over-the-world plot line. The Accidental Alchemist was surprisingly entertaining. It was unique story idea that was well executed. Oliver Twist was very good as well. Very tongue in cheek and sarcastic. And horrifying to know that the squalor and treatment of children it depicted was a part of life back then. A Bollywood Affair was another book I enjoyed more than I thought I would. A light, fluffy romance read.
The Geek’s Guide to Unrequited Love, The Gunslinger, Clash of Eagles, and The Hopefuls were all PopSugar books, so there will be another post with my thoughts on them. Do You Want to Start a Scandal was a fun romp. Two characters who needed a book finally got one. I loved Charlotte’s straight forwardness. I attempted to read Restoree for PopSugar, but while it was a romance, it wasn’t set in the future (even though I’d seen it on lists for that very thing). The concept of being abducted and then resurrected on an alien planet was well done.
Read Aloud (1)
I read The Wonderful Wizard of Oz to my younger daughter (with my son listening in on most of it, but it didn’t always hold his attention). She absolutely loved it! To the point that she dressed up as Dorothy for Halloween, complete with silver shoes. I know the movie is much beloved, but I still think the book is incomparably better.
Thirty-ish books seems to be my monthly average. It helps that I listen to a lot of audiobooks and read manga/graphic novels. There isn’t much else to report. I read. A lot. To the exclusion of things I should not be ignoring.
My audiobooks this month were split evenly between fiction and nonfiction. Three books were rereads (Nice Girls Don’t Have Fangs, The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf). Victorian Britain was a basic overview of the Victorian Era. Given that each lecture was 30 minutes long, it did not go into a lot of depth. Rise of the Rocket Girls was amazing! I’ve known about women computers for since I was child, but never really knew anything beyond that they existed. Rocket Girls focused on the women who helped turn the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) into the powerhouse it is today. It is boggling to think that (for example) the Viking mission trajectory calculations, etc… were done longhand by women. Ghengis Khan was also fascinating. Yes, he was ruthless, but he was also incredibly progressive and religiously tolerant. The Invention of Nature kept the amazing/fascinating nonfiction train going. Alexander Von Humboldt is the father/grandfather of modern natural science. His central idea was that all living things were connected – the web of life. This might seem blasé to us now, but the idea was incredibly revolutionary when he first presented it. His ideas inspired scientists such as Charles Darwin – whose own ideas had a strong foundation in Von Humboldt’s. Henry David Thoreau and John Muir are two other men who wouldn’t have become who they were without Von Humboldt.
I’m skipping over my thoughts on eight of the listed books because I read them for various PopSugar challenges and will talk about them in other posts. Sarah McLean is one of my favorite romance authors, and as I mentioned in another post, assholishness is something I can overlook in male characters. Most of the time. A Scot in the Dark was not one of those times. Neither Lily nor Alec did anything for me. They had zero chemistry. Alec also drove me nuts. Really, give the man a fedora or some black eyeliner. Kudos that he was in touch with his inner self, but he spent too much time agonizing over how unworthy he was, and in his drive to “protect” Lily from his unworthiness, HE LEFT HER multiple times when she needed him. Nope. Just nope. The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic was alright. I liked the concept; kind of Alice in Wonderland. It’s gotten a ton of mixed reviews, and it’s easy to see why. It’s rambly, not a lot actually happens, and there is a very poorly executed attempt to draw parallels between Elizabeth/Darcy and Nora/Aruendiel. Again, with the total lack of chemistry or romance. The Prom Goer’s Interstellar Excursion was a cute book – dorky guy asks the popular girl he has a crush on to the prom, she says yes…then gets abducted by aliens. Dorky guy then has to figure out how to rescue her, and ends up on his own adventure with a washed up alien rock band. The book doesn’t take itself too seriously, so neither should the reader.
Read Aloud (2)
I never thought I would say that a Magic Tree House book is a preferable read, but I would gladly read a stack of 40 of those suckers before I would even think about picking up another Anna & Elsa book. Beyond the horrible writing, it’s just obnoxious on too many levels. The Candymakers was good book. I liked how the story was told from multiple perspectives, and having to piece together what was going on. The only thing I didn’t like was that the tension was built up and then let down without an explanation for how the issue was resolved.
August saw a notable uptick in books read. I was no longer on my workcation, and thus had more time to read and binge listen. It was definitely a mixed bag of books this month. Some I absolutely loved (Homegoing and Starlight), and others I had to force myself to finish (Hot Pterodactyl Boyfriend and Sex Criminals). There were also a few books I wasn’t able to make myself finish (Confessions of a Triple Shot Betty, Ivory and Bone, and And I Darken). The three main characters in Confessions were two-dimensional cliches, Ivory was written in first person present, which I find horrible to read. Plus it wasn’t that interesting. I would have overcome my disdain if it had been an interesting story. Darken was blah. Lada became annoying and felt like a caricature. Radu was too whiny.
Ten of the books listed here I read for the Reader Decathlon. My thoughts on them can be found here.
The A Royal Spyness series was a light, somewhat fluffy mystery series. The books are fun to listen to, but I recommend doing so in small doses – don’t binge listen or the flaws will get very annoying. There really isn’t any character growth across the 10 books, Queenie needs to disappear from future volumes, and Georgie’s obtuseness and poor decision-making abilities start to grate. Katherine Kellgren, however, was a phenomenal narrator. She could easily switch accents and genders. Predictably Irrational focused on the fact that while people think we are rational beings, they really aren’t. We are easily manipulated and tend to make decisions that aren’t always the best even if we “know” what we’re doing isn’t the most efficient or logical decision. Murphy’s Law was the first book in another light, somewhat fluffy mystery series. I liked it, but I’m not making the mistake of binge listening to it as I did with A Royal Spyness.
Entreat Me was an interesting take on Beauty and the Beast. It wasn’t bad, but definitely not my favorite retelling (that place is held by Bryony and Roses). The Rose and the Dagger was a decent sequel. The duology as a whole wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great either. Not books I’ll ever reread. Homegoing was beautiful. I plan on writing more about it in a review (to post later in September). My sister told me to read A Wild Swan, and she was right to. The fairy tale retellings were beautiful and dark and fractured. The tone reminded me of Poisoned Apples: Poems for You, My Pretty. I also agree with her regarding the Beauty and the Beast retelling – messed up and thought provoking. Hex Hall was alright, interesting enough that I’ll read (or at least skim) the sequels. A Royal Experiment was a fascinating look at George III and his epic failure to bring monogamy and morality back to the British court. Queen Charlotte especially was unable to step out of the role he wanted of her, to the ultimate detriment of her relationships with her children.
Graphic (5) / Manga (1)
I’m still plugging away at One Piece. I like it, but it isn’t a series I need to devour.
Read Alouds (2)
My South Carolina workcation took up the first three weeks of July, though this caused less of an impact because I spent most of my Fourth of July weekend reading. I had also reached my social interaction limit, and other than occasionally surfacing to play Cards Against Humanity, holed myself up in my room.
Lamb was an tongue in cheek satire from the perspective of Jesus’ best friend Biff, sent back to earth in order to set the record straight. I found it entertaining, if a tad bit long. ~ Menagerie was beautiful. It was hard to listen to at times, but that was more because of the implications of what could happen, than actual violence. I couldn’t imagine how unbelievably hard it would be to have your identity and humanity stripped from you, and then be so callously and inhumanely treated. ~ I love books about strong women, and Isabella: The Warrior Queen does not disappoint. The history I learned in school always portrayed her with a given slant, and it was interesting to see her from a different perspective. She had very rigid morals and ideals, and everything she did was done in order to force her country to live up to and maintains those ideals. She was a powerhouse who brought a level of stability that hadn’t been seen in generations.
Beauty Queens is one of my favorite satires – and Survivor-style pageant adventure. ~ Daughters of the Samurai was a fascinating look at how Japan’s opening of its borders to the Western world directly impacted three girls who were sent to the US to be educated. By the time they returned to Japan, the country had cooled on Western ideas and the girls ended up stuck in a no-man’s land, trying to reacclimate themselves into a society they’d been away from for ten years. ~ The Book of Speculation was awful. Really neat idea, poor execution. After some initial excitement, the story plodded along. The characters weren’t able to save it, either. Simon was whiny and hand-wringy. His sister was utterly obnoxious and self-absorbed. ~ Both The Golden Dynasty and Fantastical hooked me because of the romance/switching places with your inter-dimensional doppelganger. Of the two, Fantastical was better. The Golden Dynasty was a bit too culturally-rapey-still-falls-in-love. There are other books in this series, but one of them was didn’t seem interesting, and the heroine of the other was too annoying (couldn’t finish reading it).
Manga (2) / Graphic (1)
Saga, volume 6 was the weakest of the volumes so far, but “weak” is relative as the story was still riveting. ~ Tokyo Ghoul continues to keep me hooked, especially with how volume 7 ended.