July Reading Slump Wrap-Up / Thinking of Starting a BookTube?

Hello everyone. It’s that time that everyone publishes their July wrap-ups and I read….

Absolutely nothing. I didn’t read a single book. I got about 100 pages into A Little Life by Hanya Yanigahara, and I even brought it on my business trip with me, but I didn’t read a single god damn page of it and as of yester, 8/1, I still hadn’t touched it so I have officially moved it to my “DNF for now, it just wasn’t the right time for this” pile.

Instead I picked up the most opposite book I could find to that in my unread book piles that I could find and I happened across the second Jackaby novel, so I’m gonna try reading that and see if it can break me out of that.

In other news, I’ve decided that as much as I like blogging, I enjoy watching BookTube videos much more than I enjoy reading blog posts. So I have decided that I’m going to make my own BookTube channel, for now with very low quality videos and natural lighting because who gives a shit? It’ll get me started, and it’s something I’ve been thinking about doing for a long ass time anyway. I’ll definitely be keeping this blog up & running, and I’ll probably try to figure out how to crosspost things between that and this blog and I’ll definitely keep you all posted on that.

My macbook finally decided to give up RIP. I’m on the market for a new laptop, and I think I’ve figured out what I want I just need to get expenses from a work trip and another work expense paid back to me before I’ll have enough money to order it. The silver lining about that is it finally gave me the motivation to DNF A Little Life and actually work towards getting out of this slump.

Q2CY19 Wrap-Up

I’m not gonna lie to y’all, I sort of fell into a reading slump at the end of May so I didn’t end up reading that much in the months of May or June, but I figured this wrap-up was worth doing anyway. I ended up DNF’ing a lot of stuff that I think I would have enjoyed if I was in a big reading mood, but it sort of started with me not feeling like listening to any of the audiobooks I had on hand and then went downhill from there.

I didn’t stop reading by any means but my reading definitely slowed substantially.


Q2CY19 Stats:

I read a total of 5,565 pages in Q2, and the average length of the books I read was 371 pages (with a 109.9 standard deviation).

My average book rating was a 3.71 (standard deviation of .78,) which is much higher than Q1 which had an average of 3.40 and also higher than my 2019 so far average which is a 3.60. My lifetime average on Goodreads is a 3.43.

The most popular genre I read was Fantasy.


The Books:

Monstress, Vol. 3: Haven, Marjorie Liu and Sana Takeda
★★★★☆ / Goodreads Link

This one I didn’t review because I haven’t gotten comfortable enough with graphic novels to feel like I can/should review them. Maybe that will change.

Red Sister, Mark Lawrence
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This one was a case, I think, of a hyped book falling a bit flat for me, and I’m not sure whether that’s just because of how hyped it was for me or the content itself. I do plan on continuing the series, but I’ll probably get them from the library.

Vicious, V.E. Schwab
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was one I expected to be 5 stars, so even though I really enjoyed it, it still didn’t live up to my expectations/the hype, in my opinion. The concept was really interesting, but I think this one needed to be longer and taken more time to develop the characters— which is not something I say often about books. I do plan on reading the sequel.

Before The Devil Breaks You (The Diviners, #3), Libba Bray
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

I didn’t love this quite as much as the first two books in the series, but the narration from January LaVoy is an amazing narrator so I rounded my rating up to four stars anyway. If you’re thinking about reading this series, audio is the way to go.

Long Way Down, Jason Reynolds
★★★★★ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was my first 5-star book of 2019. I highly recommend listening to the audio for this book. It’s phenomenal, nothing I can say can do this book the justice it deserves so like, go listen to it.

American Gods, Neil Gaiman
★★★☆☆ + ½ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

I wanted to like this more than I did. I couldn’t stop comparing it to the TV show the whole time I was reading it though, and I ended up skimming a lot of it for some reason.

The Devouring Gray, Christine Lynn Herman
★★☆☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was a disappointing one for me. The writing style was too obviously inexperienced and unpolished, and it just didn’t live up at all to the comparisons to Stranger Things or The Raven Cycle. It’s average rating on Goodreads has dropped significantly since I originally read it so I think the hype only hurt this book more than anything.

Circe, Madeline Miller
★★★★★ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This is definitely making it into one of my all time favorite books. I loved Madeline Miller’s first book as well so she’s definitely an author I plan on following damn near religiously.

The Poet X, Elizabeth Acevedo
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This book has gotten really high praise. I think it was very good at hitting home about what it’s like to grow up in a house with a very devout Catholic parent. My family is Irish-American, not Latinx, but the similarities were striking. That said, I thought that this book could have been shorter and focused more on that specifically and less on the romance aspect because that just gave me second-hand embarrassment. The audiobook is excellently narrated.

Descendant of the Crane, Joan He
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was so good! I really enjoyed the atmosphere of the whole thing, and the unique magic system, and the different dynamics between the characters (even though some of the characters by themselves fell flat.) I definitely plan on reading the next book from this author whether it’s a continuation of this story or something else.

Autoboyography, Christina Lauren
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

Originally I rated this four stars because I was thoroughly entertained while reading it, but now that it’s been awhile since I’ve read I can honestly say the flaws stick out more than the things I liked. I just edited my full review to reflect this while writing this post. I may even drop it down to two-stars, but for now it’s a three.

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings, Ellen Oh + Various
★★★☆☆ / Individual Story Ratings (Goodreads) / Goodreads Link

Like all anthologies, some stories were really strong, others were really weak, most were just fine or okay. My enjoyment of short stories is heavily affected by writing style so a lot of my lower ratings were because the stories didn’t seem polished or well-written, even if the ideas were interesting.


The Wallcreeper, Nell Zink
★★★☆☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This was a really weird book. I don’t know if there was a point to anything that happened in it, the entire plot is hazy to me now nearly two months after reading it, but I also don’t think there really was a plot. I still don’t know whether I liked it.

Red, White & Royal Blue, Casey McQuiston
★★★★☆ / Full Review / Goodreads Link

This book exceeded every single expectation I had going in. I love the enemies-to-lovers trope, I loved how relatable the characters were (they seemed like actual twenty-somethings I’d be friends with?), and the writing style was super easy to get into.

Normal People, Sally Rooney
★★★★☆ / Review to Come / Goodreads Link

A very interesting book. This is another one I thought would be 5 stars, but just barely didn’t live up to my expectations. The writing style is very slow, in a almost lethargic type of way, and none of the dialogue in the entire book is in quotes. These aren’t bad things, but it did put me in a strange headspace whenever I was reading it. I really enjoyed the characters and reading about how their relationship progressed and what happened to them.

And that’s all the books I read in Q2! I’m looking forward to hopefully getting out of my reading slump at some point during Q3. Maybe this month, maybe next month. I’m slowly chipping away at a rather long book, so I don’t think I’ll get much read in July, but who knows? It’s still early in the month.

Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Red, White & Royal Blue

Genre: New Adult Fiction, LGBT Romance

Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin

Length: 423 pages

Date Published: May 14, 2019

Date(s) Read: May 26, 2019 – Jun 2, 2019

Goodreads Synopsis: A big-hearted romantic comedy in which First Son Alex falls in love with Prince Henry of Wales after an incident of international proportions forces them to pretend to be best friends…

First Son Alex Claremont-Diaz is the closest thing to a prince this side of the Atlantic. With his intrepid sister and the Veep’s genius granddaughter, they’re the White House Trio, a beautiful millennial marketing strategy for his mother, President Ellen Claremont. International socialite duties do have downsides—namely, when photos of a confrontation with his longtime nemesis Prince Henry at a royal wedding leak to the tabloids and threaten American/British relations.

The plan for damage control: staging a fake friendship between the First Son and the Prince. Alex is busy enough handling his mother’s bloodthirsty opponents and his own political ambitions without an uptight royal slowing him down. But beneath Henry’s Prince Charming veneer, there’s a soft-hearted eccentric with a dry sense of humor and more than one ghost haunting him. 

As President Claremont kicks off her reelection bid, Alex finds himself hurtling into a secret relationship with Henry that could derail the campaign and upend two nations. And Henry throws everything into question for Alex, an impulsive, charming guy who thought he knew everything: What is worth the sacrifice? How do you do all the good you can do? And, most importantly, how will history remember you?


My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Review:

I don’t read a lot of New Adult nor a lot of romance. Not because I don’t like it but because I normally get my fill of romance through reading fics on Ao3. There’s something about romance between characters I’m already otherwise invested in that just makes it a lot more meaningful to me. So I went into this book hopeful but a little skeptical.

Now, as someone who reads a lot of fic, I have to say that this book read like a fan-fiction and I mean that in the best way. It was captivating, the characters felt like people I could know in real life, and they talked like people I do know in real life (which is amazing to read in a book, and I hadn’t realized how much I needed that until I read this.) It is a very real portrayal of the Older Gen Z/Young Millennial crowd. Alex and Henry talk like real young people. There’s one part of the book where the author inserted a group-chat text thread and I loved that to pieces because it’s actually how my friends and I talk in our own groupchats.

I know it’s probably a strange thing to focus on, but that is what I loved most about the book.

It’s not the only thing I loved though. Alex’s realization that he was bisexual was both funny and realistic and reminded me of my own realization about my sexuality. For me it was very “Oh, so much makes sense now” when I put two and two together, and that’s what it was for Alex and I’m so glad that the author portrayed a bisexual character so damn well. I don’t want to assume anything about the author’s sexuality but when I read this section part of me was wondering whether they’re also batting for both teams.

The romance itself was lighthearted and fun. The enemies-to-friends-to-lovers trope is one of my ultimate weaknesses as far as tropes go, and it was done so masterfully here. I swear this author has definitely written fan-fiction before, I refuse to believe otherwise, and once again I mean that in the best way.

This is definitely one of the best romances I’ve read recently (not that I’ve read many) and it’s definitely worth the read, even for people who might not normally pick up romances.

Review: The Wallcreeper by Nell Zink

The Wallcreeper

Genre: Fiction, Literary Fiction

Publisher: 4th Estate

Length: 176 Pages

Date(s) Read: May 16, 2019 – May 21, 2019

Date Published: March 10, 2016

Goodreads Synopsis:

Nell Zink’s debut novel follows a downwardly mobile secretary from Philadelphia who marries an ambitious soon-to-be-expat pharmaceutical researcher in hopes that she will never work again. They end up in Germany, where it turns out that her new husband is tougher, sneakier, more sincere, more contradictory, and smarter than she is; she’d naturally thought it was impossible. Life becomes complicated with affairs, birding, and eco-terrorism. Bad things happen, yet they stagger through, clinging to each other from a safe distance.


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Review:

Going into this book, all I knew about it was that it was “weird, but good” (actual quote from my friend who had to read it for grad school, and said I should, too). My friend was mostly right about that. It was a weird little book, and it wasn’t bad, but I remember putting the book down and not knowing whether I liked it and now, all these weeks later, I’m still unsure of my opinion as to whether it was ‘good.’ I’ve given it three stars, which isn’t a bad rating, but it isn’t an exceptionally ‘good’ rating either. I’m still not sure whether it’s the right rating for this book.

The worst part about this book was, there was no point to it. I don’t generally care whether a book has a great plot as long as it has very solid characters, but the only character with any solidity is the narrator and to a far lesser extent her husband. And the relationship between them constantly annoyed me. It’s clear our narrator is married to the idea of needing a man around constantly so she never has to work. What’s unclear is how these two ended up together because it certainly doesn’t seem to be love, or even money. She simply seems to stay with him because he won’t make her get a job, and she really does not want a job.

The ending to this book was the worst part to all of that, though I won’t spoil what happens. The event there came so abruptly that I had to re-read the passage several times as I was so sure I missed something.

Still, there were some interesting pieces to the book. The settings were fun to lose myself in, in a sleepy sort of way, and there was a lot of information about birds that I’d never have known without reading this book. (Honestly I didn’t even know a wallcreeper was a type of bird going into this.) And though the relationship between the narrator and her husband constantly annoyed me for its substance, I thought the way it was portrayed was very well done. The way the narrator has affairs as if it’s no big deal, and her husband has affairs too and he also doesn’t seem to think it’s a big deal, paints a very foreign to myself yet intriguing relationship.

I personally don’t condone cheating, and in a lot of books it just annoys me when two characters cheat or emotionally cheat, especially if we’re supposed to be rooting for them. Here, though, I didn’t feel like I was supposed to be rooting for anyone, it was a just told matter-of-factly, and I greatly appreciated that.

But I’m still not sure whether I actually liked this book.

Review: Descendant of the Crane by Joan He

Descendant of the Crane

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Publisher: Albert Whitman & Company

Length: 416 Pages

Date(s) Read: May 1, 2019 – May 9, 2019

Date Published: April 9, 2019

Goodreads Synopsis:

Tyrants cut out hearts. Rulers sacrifice their own.

Princess Hesina of Yan has always been eager to shirk the responsibilities of the crown, but when her beloved father is murdered, she’s thrust into power, suddenly the queen of an unstable kingdom. Determined to find her father’s killer, Hesina does something desperate: she engages the aid of a soothsayer—a treasonous act, punishable by death… because in Yan, magic was outlawed centuries ago.

Using the information illicitly provided by the sooth, and uncertain if she can trust even her family, Hesina turns to Akira—a brilliant investigator who’s also a convicted criminal with secrets of his own. With the future of her kingdom at stake, can Hesina find justice for her father? Or will the cost be too high?

In this shimmering Chinese-inspired fantasy, debut author Joan He introduces a determined and vulnerable young heroine struggling to do right in a world brimming with deception.


My Rating: ★★★★☆

My Review:

Knowing that this was a YA Debut, I went into this with some reservations, but I was completely pleasantly surprised by this book.

The writing style is absolutely wonderful. Honestly I wouldn’t have guessed that this was a debut if I had just happened to pick it up without hearing about it. The writing style itself shows that author has put in a lot of work and practice into the craft. It’s great to read writing like this, especially after the last YA Fantasy Debut let me way down in terms of writing, and frankly if I were to recommend this book for one thing, it would be the writing itself.

The plot was intriguing, and it’s not an idea I’ve seen done that often in YA fantasy. The idea of soothsayers not just being able to tell the future but to manipulate time using their magic is such a cool magic system, and the Chinese inspiration throughout the plot, the worldbuilding, and the magic was beautifully executed.

However I felt like the pacing of it wasn’t quite right. Some places I was bored and ended up skimming, and other places I wasn’t sure I was actually keeping up with what was going on. There needed to be a little more balance in the execution, but otherwise I really enjoyed the plot of a young queen trying to fill her father’s shoes, while also attempting to solve the mystery of his death.

The setting was just brilliant. I don’t have anything bad to say about it. The world felt so vivid and I just really enjoyed learning about the world. It wasn’t an intense exercise in worldbuilding by any means, but I’m hoping we’ll get more of that if she decides to write a second book.

The characters, in my opinion, were the weakest link for me. It’s been less than a week since I’ve read this book and I forget pretty much all of their names already. None of the characters feel all that developed, except for Hesina, and I think more could have been done to develop them on the page. What’s strange is that I definitely didn’t feel this way when reading the book, but now that I’ve had a week to digest it, I’m definitely seeing that.

That said, there were moments while reading that I felt the emotions that the author was trying to convey. I teared up twice while reading it. Even though some of the character’s didn’t feel developed, Hesina cared about them enough that when something happened to them I felt for her more than for them.

I’d definitely recommend this, for the writing style, the unique and diverse setting, and just for a good time.

Rave Review: Circe by Madeline Miller

Circe

Genre: Adult Fiction, Fantasy

Subgenre: Retellings

Publisher: Little, Brown

Length: 393 pages

Date(s) Read: April 28, 2019 – April 30, 2019

Date Published: April 10, 2018

Goodreads Synopsis:

In the house of Helios, god of the sun and mightiest of the Titans, a daughter is born. But Circe is a strange child—not powerful, like her father, nor viciously alluring like her mother. Turning to the world of mortals for companionship, she discovers that she does possess power—the power of witchcraft, which can transform rivals into monsters and menace the gods themselves.

Threatened, Zeus banishes her to a deserted island, where she hones her occult craft, tames wild beasts and crosses paths with many of the most famous figures in all of mythology, including the Minotaur, Daedalus and his doomed son Icarus, the murderous Medea, and, of course, wily Odysseus.

But there is danger, too, for a woman who stands alone, and Circe unwittingly draws the wrath of both men and gods, ultimately finding herself pitted against one of the most terrifying and vengeful of the Olympians. To protect what she loves most, Circe must summon all her strength and choose, once and for all, whether she belongs with the gods she is born from, or the mortals she has come to love. 


My Rating: ★★★★★

My Review:

This is, without a doubt, the best book I’ve read so far in 2019. I’m calling it now, I think this is it. If not my favorite book of 2019, it’s gonna be close.

Madeline Miller’s writing style has done it again. Even though there were parts of this book that I was bored enough to skim, I found myself so emotional at the end that I couldn’t give this less than 5-stars. It’s rare that I find an author whose writing style I both love and envy and am confused in the best way by (Like, how does she do that?) The Song of Achilles was by far my favorite book that I read in 2018, and now this. Now Circe.

Circe is portrayed in a way that makes her feel so real. She’s a goddess who hates her own divinity, and has been exiled by the other gods to live on Aeaea for the rest of eternity. I loved how it began with her compassion for Prometheus during his trial before the gods. I loved all the mythology intertwined throughout the novel. Madeline Miller’s love for Greek mythology really comes across in her writing, only an expert in the field could do it so well, of course. There were glimpses of this in The Song of Achilles, but she honestly shows this off much more in Circe.

She also has a way of writing emotions that makes me feel like I am the character. In Circe, I feel her heart aching for Glaucus, her jealousy of Scylla, her hopeless admiration for her brother, her anger at the men who come to Aeaea and try to take advantage of her, her fierce love and protectiveness for Telegonus, her quiet love for Telemachus. It’s all there on the page and, yet, the way that Madeline Miller shows Circe’s feelings through words brings the same feelings in me. This isn’t something most authors are capable of, and I cherish that she is.

The other characters come and go throughout the book, but none of them feel undeveloped. Odysseus feels like a fully formed character, not something untouchable. Penelope and Telemachus feel equally developed. The same can be said of Aeëtes, Pasiphaë, Hermes, and all the others.

I won’t spoil anything, but the ending of this book had me teared up, and it’s probably the perfect ending for this book. I can’t think of anyway it could have been done better. If you haven’t read Circe, please, do yourself a favor and read the heck out of it.

Review: Autoboyography by Christina Lauren

Autoboyography

Genre: Young Adult Fiction, Contemporary

Subgenre: LGBT, Romance

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Length: 407 pages

Date Published: September, 2017

Date(s) Read: May 9, 2019 – May 11, 2019

Goodreads Synopsis:

Three years ago, Tanner Scott’s family relocated from California to Utah, a move that nudged the bisexual teen temporarily back into the closet. Now, with one semester of high school to go, and no obstacles between him and out-of-state college freedom, Tanner plans to coast through his remaining classes and clear out of Utah.

But when his best friend Autumn dares him to take Provo High’s prestigious Seminar—where honor roll students diligently toil to draft a book in a semester—Tanner can’t resist going against his better judgment and having a go, if only to prove to Autumn how silly the whole thing is. Writing a book in four months sounds simple. Four months is an eternity.

It turns out, Tanner is only partly right: four months is a long time. After all, it takes only one second for him to notice Sebastian Brother, the Mormon prodigy who sold his own Seminar novel the year before and who now mentors the class. And it takes less than a month for Tanner to fall completely in love with him. 


My Rating: ★★★☆☆

My Review:

This book actually isn’t very good. Like, if I took this book apart critically and based my rating solely on the things it did well and the things it didn’t do well, it would have got maybe 2.5 stars with an extra half-star for the great narration of the audiobook. But my rating system is a mix of critical analyses and personal taste and enjoyment, and god damn did I enjoy listening to this book (even though, listening to the audio on a road trip, I had to keep switching back to Spotify whenever Tanner’s actions gave me too much secondhand embarrassment.) It’s not a literary masterpiece, it’s not even an especially thought-provoking piece of literature, but it was just pure fun.

One of my biggest pet peeves was the writing style. It felt very amateur to me, even though I was listening to it instead of reading it physically (which generally helps me to not notice writing style as much.) For example, Instead of saying what a character did or felt the authors were constantly writing things like “seemed to” or “practically.” Every time I noticed the narrator saying things phrases like the side of my brain that edits my own writing just couldn’t help but notice it and that took me out of the story because it felt overwritten. I don’t know what someone’s hands ‘practically shaking’ means, are their hands shaking or aren’t they?

Another thing I didn’t like was the insta-love aspect of Tanner and Sebastian’s relationship. I feel like it’s one thing to look at your classroom TA the first day and be like “Damn they fine” and another to be like “I would jump off a cliff right this second if they asked.” Unfortunately, Tanner’s thoughts are closer to the latter but it sure does set the tone for how much unnecessary drama ensues throughout the next 400 pages.

The side characters don’t really matter at all. I’m not sure what I was supposed to feel for Tan’s BFF Autumn, but whatever it is, I didn’t. Speaking of Autumn, the whole thing that happens with them later in the book is just ??? I have no other reaction to it besides “what the fuck” and it never really gets resolved? It gets pseudo-resolved, and then we just move on and it never gets touched on again. I still don’t know what the fuck to make of it.

I thoroughly enjoyed the exploration of the intersection of religion and identity, and what happens when those two things maybe don’t fit together as nicely as we’d like. I’m a sucker for that shit, and it makes me wish that this book had been written entirely from Sebastian’s perspective. It would have even been nice to have alternating perspectives throughout the book, but the sections from Sebastian’s point of view at the end of the book felt a little like an afterthought, like the authors decided “Oh, maybe we should give some of Sebastian’s thoughts?” After…. not doing that for the first 85% of the book.

What I didn’t really enjoy was that the resolution to the religion problem was for a fade-to-black scene of Sebastian having a conversation with his parents— which I think the reader should have been privy to, and because of that I suspect maybe the authors just didn’t know how to write it— and then a “Happily-Ever-After”-esque ending for Tanner and Sebastian. I almost wish the epilogue had been cut, because the ending where Tanner went to college and Sebastian finally decided that Mormonism wasn’t right for him was the perfect place to end it. I cared more about whether Sebastian’s family would eventually come around and accept him for who he was than I did about him showing up at UCLA to make out with Tanner.

Other than the insta-love and the less-than-impressive ending, I did fully enjoy the rest of the journey of Tanner and Sebastian’s journey. I liked Tanner as a character, even though he sucks at writing fiction (but still gets an A for some reason,) I really enjoyed Sebastian, even though I wish we’d had his point-of-view more consistently. There wasn’t much room for me to care about the other characters one way or another (there are a bunch of characters that have names, but literally don’t do anything that matters) but, with the exception of Autumn, I was fine with that.

The book was just entertaining, and I enjoyed reading it a lot despite that it maybe had more flaws than not. If you’re a fan of searching for light angst fics on Ao3—as I am— this is a book you’d probably enjoy.

EDIT 7/7/19: Dropped the rating from 4-stars to 3-stars. Now that it’s been awhile since I’ve read it the flaws stick out to me more than what I remember liking.