Down the TBR Hole #2

My Goodreads TBR needs desperately to be cleaned out, so I’m doing these posts twice a month until I feel it’s manageable, or until I’m back at the beginning of the list.

The Rules

  • 1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  •  2. Order on ascending date added.
  •  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  •  4. Read the synopsis of the books.
  •  5. Time to Decide: keep it or should it go

I’m adding my own twist on this and adding a 6th piece: if I’m on the fence about a book after reading the synopsis, I’ll read the preview of a book and make that part of my decision.

Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s just get started.

Memoirs of a Geisha

#1 Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden

[Goodreads Link]

Now, I suspect that I could get a lot from this book if I read it. However, something about a white American man writing a book from the perspective of a Japanese Geisha is a little off-putting to me, and on top of that, a lot of the more ‘literary’ books I’ve tried recently have either felt underwhelming or have bored me to tears, so…

VERDICT: GO

The Girl in the Tower (Winternight Trilogy, #2)

#2 The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden

[Goodreads Link]

I loved The Bear and the Nightingale when I read it back in 2018. I already own this book in hardback, I’ve just been waiting for the seasons to shift to pick it up. Likely I’ll be reading this in December or January.

VERDICT: KEEP

A Darker Shade of Magic (Shades of Magic, #1)

#3 A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

[Goodreads Link]

If the Villains series is anything to go by, V.E. Schwab is a good writer but not necessarily my favorite. I have my criticisms of both of those books, but I still enjoyed reading them. The premise of this is so-so for me, I’m not big on multiple-world type stories or low fantasy in particular, however it is still intriguing enough that I do want to eventually give it a shot. That said, if I go through my TBR again and I still haven’t read it, it could go either way.

VERDICT: KEEP

The Golem and the Jinni (The Golem and the Jinni, #1)

#4 The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

[Goodreads Link]

After re-reading the Goodreads summary for this I’m reminded of how good it sounds and wondering why I haven’t read it yet. Seriously, what’s the deal @ me? That’s another good part of doing posts like these; they’re a good push to read something I should have read ages ago.

VERDICT: KEEP

The Bone Clocks

#5 The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

[Goodreads Link]

Almost three years ago now, I read Slade House— not realizing it was a companion to this book– and loved it. After putting that down and learning that it was related to this novel I had to add this to my TBR. Slade House isn’t a book I think about a lot these days, but I do remember immensely enjoying the story, plus this book is sitting on my shelf already… it’s just a thick ass book, so I’ve been putting off committing to it.

In total I am keeping 4 books and letting go of` 1. Definitely not as much of a dent as I was hoping to make, but there’s always next time.

Down the TBR Hole #1

My Goodreads TBR has been quickly getting out of hand so in an attempt to get it under control I’m going to start doing these once or twice a month.

The Rules

  • 1. Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
  •  2. Order on ascending date added.
  •  3. Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books.
  •  4. Read the synopsis of the books.
  •  5. Time to Decide: keep it or should it go

I’m adding my own twist on this and adding a 6th piece: if I’m on the fence about a book after reading the synopsis, I’ll read the preview of a book and make that part of my decision.

This first one and possibly the next few will be a little bland with me not getting rid of much as I have culled my Goodreads to-read shelf a few times in the last few years.

Now that I’ve gotten all that out of the way, let’s just get started.

The Lies of Locke Lamora (Gentleman Bastard, #1)

#1 The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

[Goodreads Link]

Okay, this is a book I’ve been meaning to get to for ages and the only reason I haven’t is that I’m always hesitant to start new series that are unfinished and that haven’t been updated in years. From what I know the fourth book of the series is coming, but I’m not keen to start reading this series and catch up just to have to wait for the rest of the books. I definitely am excited to get to this series eventually, I’m just waiting for the right time to do so. Maybe when the final book is on its way and I can read it knowing that there will be an end to the series.

Verdict: KEEP

Uprooted

#2 Uprooted by Naomi Novik

[Goodreads Link]

This book is right up my alley. There’s fantasy, there’s woods, its protagonist is a young woman, there’s a man whose magic keeps their whole village alive. This is giving me some Deathless vibes, and that’s one of my all-time favorite books, so honestly there’s no way I’m letting go of this one. I’m not quite sure why I haven’t read it already, to be honest, and I think the longer I’ve put it off the less likely I’ve been to pick it up. I definitely want to change that soon, and it feels like a fall read to me so maybe sometime in the next couple months I’ll finally get around to reading this.

Verdict: KEEP

West (East, #2)

#3 West by Edith Pattou

[Goodreads Link]

This is the sequel to East which was one of my favorite books when I was younger. I still want to read this, but I plan on re-reading East first since it’s been probably 12 or 13 years since I’ve read it. That’s a long ass time. Even though I haven’t ever re-read it, it’s still one of the few books I still think about a lot. So I’m definitely looking forward to re-reading East and giving West a read as well.

Verdict: KEEP

Leviathan Wakes (The Expanse, #1)

#4 Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey

[Goodreads Link]

This is a book recommended to me by my boyfriend. According to Goodreads it’s been on my to-read shelf since 2017, but I’m fairly certain he may have told me about it even before then. In any case, I definitely want to read it because of that, but also because of my own reading goals, one of which is read more science fiction. Plus I finally bought a physical copy of this book only a couple of weeks ago, so this will definitely be a book I get to sooner rather than later.

Verdict: KEEP

Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children, #1)

#5 Every Heart a Doorway by Seanan McGuire

[Goodreads Link]

Okay, so I was a little on the fence about this re-reading the synopsis on Goodreads, but the preview convinced me. This is one that I think I really will love when I get around to reading it; I just keep putting it off for some unknown reason. I don’t read a lot of portal fantasy, not because I don’t like it, but because it’s not a genre I think about very much. I definitely want to give this books and series a chance though, and it’s short which is a plus.

Verdict: KEEP

So in total I am keeping 5 books and letting go of 0, but like I mentioned above, I had a feeling that would be the case for this first post and possibly the next one as these books have already made it through multiple Goodreads culls that I’ve done in the past.

Review: The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia #1) by Sarah Beth Durst

The Queen of Blood (The Queens of Renthia, #1)

Genre: Fantasy

Publisher: Harper Voyager

Date Published: September 20, 2016

Date(s) Read: August 29, 2019 – September 1, 2019

My Rating: ★★★★☆

The Queen of Blood is the first book in a High Fantasy series. The world has spirits, who exist solely to create and destroy things, and one of the things they want to destroy is Humans. Some humans are born with the affinity to spirits, which gives them the ability to bend the spirits to their will. Only women have the affinity, and so queens are chosen to keep the people (and the spirits, as well) safe. A new queen is chosen from a pool of “heirs” who have been trained extensively and hand-picked by the queen herself.

Despite there being a queen in power there, attacks on outer forest villages have been happening more and more frequently. The Champion Ven and his candidate to become heir (and our main character) Daleina try their best to help these villages, while not breaking the “Do No Harm” command between the spirits and humans.

I don’t want to give away too much, but a lot of politics and magic ensues.

Some people have this shelved as YA on Goodreads, enough that it’s only second to Fantasy, but it actually is not marketed as a YA series and was shelved with adult books at my library. However, I do see the crossover appeal. Our main character is a young woman who for a good part of the book is training at a magical school and then under a mentor. There are trials that then take place before the girls are selected as heirs. There’s background romances, strong female friendships, and a big part of this book is grappling with the idea of growing up and leaving home and coming to terms that home isn’t going to stay the same forever. Also there’s not any vulgarity, gratuitous violence, and there’s only mild sexual situations, so it’d definitely be appropriate for teens.

As far as writing style goes I can’t say I noticed it at all while I was reading it, which generally for me means it was pretty good. There were no distracting attempts at abusing a thesaurus nor were there any glaring flaws. It’s a straightforward style, which I tend to like.

The plot had a decent amount going on. Our main perspective is from Daleina, but we also get chapters from Ven, and occasionally from Queen Fara.

I really enjoyed the world here. The spirits are more a part of the world than they are anything else (except for one, but I won’t say more than that) even as a large part of the plot revolves around them. Aratay is a forest kingdom complete with houses and entire villages in the trees. It was such a fun setting to read and it was easy to become immersed in throughout the story.

There’s enough going on to keep things moving and intriguing, but not so much that I think it would confuse anyone. As far as fantasy goes this one is fairly accessible, and you know, I like that. Not every fantasy has to go out of its way to make the world and plot as complicated as possible (though I do love intricate world-building and plots with a lot of different folds, too, when done well.)

The stakes are high, and I won’t spoil anything, but the ending had all the payoff I was looking for.

The characters felt decently fleshed out to me.

There were points where I didn’t feel super connected to Daleina or where her choices and frustrations didn’t really make a lot of sense to me. But that wasn’t a problem throughout, and the times I felt that way didn’t ruin the overall story for me. Overall I enjoyed her a lot as the main character.

It was extremely refreshing to have a fantasy story revolve around a character that actually had to work hard to achieve their goals. I’m so sick of these perfect men (and women, though that’s more in YA) that are great at absolutely everything without even trying. Oh, and if they’re a man they also get all the ladies with just the bat of an eyelash. Those characters are hard to connect with, annoying to read about, and I don’t even want to root for them because I know they’re going to succeed no matter what. In this story, there was a real chance of Daleina not succeeding; there was a lot of emphasis on how much harder she had to work than all of her peers- not even to excel at the magical school she was at, but only to passably get through her training- and that makes her one of the more admirable main characters I’ve read about. I really cannot stress enough how much I appreciated this.

That said, Champion Ven was absolutely my favorite character of the whole thing. He’s disgraced toward the beginning of the book, and spends the rest of it adventuring among the outer forest and trying his best to save villages from spirit attacks. He tries his best to do the right thing and to be noble, but he has one major thing holding him back, a past affair with the Queen.

On that note, Ven and Queen Fara’s romance didn’t really translate well, in my opinion. The chemistry felt fabricated. There was a lot of telling rather than showing, and I didn’t feel any romantic or sexual tension in the scenes I think I was supposed to. It was in the background enough that it didn’t bother me too much, but I did sort of find myself rolling my eyes whenever they were together or whenever Ven thought about how beautiful she is.

Daleina and Hamon on the other hand were a couple I really liked. Their chemistry felt real, at one point they have an argument and that tension feels real and relatable as well, and I just really appreciated what we got of their romance, and I’m also glad it stayed mostly in the background.

Overall I really enjoyed this book, and I am planning on continuing this series. This series deserves way more attention than it’s got- if this first book is indicative of anything- and I’m so glad I gave it a shot. I literally only decided to see if it was at my library because I had nothing else to read and sorted my goodreads shelf by random to pick the first three books that came up. And I’m glad I did.

August Wrap Up

I read four books in the month of August, which certainly isn’t a lot, but it is more than I read in June and July combined so I’m pretty happy with that.

Beastly Bones (Jackaby, #2)

The Beastly Bones (Jackaby #2) by William Ritter

Page Count: 320

Dates Read: August 2-6

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This is the second book in a YA paranormal mystery series. The series is fun and lighthearted and often involves culprits that are mythical creatures. I really enjoyed the first book in this series but this one was a disappointment. I didn’t feel connected to the characters at all, including Abigail who we’re supposed to relate to in comparison to Jackaby. The supporting characters didn’t seem that important, and I didn’t really care much for the mystery. I may continue this series in the hopes it gets back to what I liked about the first book, but I’m not in a rush to read the next one.

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit

Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit by Jeanette Winterson

Page Count: 171

Dates Read: August 7-8

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This is a book about a girl who grows up with a very strict and devout mother. Their religion, at times, seems like a cult. The main character starts to question everything she knows when she realizes that she loves women. The premise was very interesting to me as were the themes, but unfortunately the execution of this left a bit too much for me to be desired. I think I need to take a sabbatical from reading literary fiction, because I’ve been having a hard time with it in general recently and have had a tendency to just roll my eyes at how unnecessarily high-brow it all is. I ended up DNF’ing a literary fiction book in July, and I haven’t read any that have really felt like books I want to be reading in a few years.

Vengeful (Villains, #2)

Vengeful (Villains #2) by V.E. Schwab

Page Count: 478

Dates Read: August 9-13

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

This is the sequel to Vicious, which I read in April but which was published 5 years before this. While the first book of this series was also about 3-star read for me, this was noticeably worse. The new female characters were especially disappointing. Marcella had so much potential, but ended up just being a plot device who was characterized entirely by two tropes (the jilted lover and the femme fatale.) There was nothing about her that made me care about her ever though I really wanted to like her. June, who is— from how this book ends— actually supposed to be important doesn’t actually do much of anything nor do we learn all that much about her and certainly not enough for me to so much as pretend I wanted to care. I don’t think we needed this book or the one that may come after it. Vicious was not only fine on its own, but better on its own. I’ll probably read the next one, but to me this is just obviously a cash grab and I’m not wholly impressed.

Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor, #2)

Grey Sister (Book of the Ancestor #2) by Mark Lawrence

Page Count: 415

Dates Read: August 17-29

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Ending the month on a strong note! I was so happy with this book, especially as I hadn’t been fully enamored with Red Sister when I read it. I think it was just a matter of timing, and reading this after a whole bunch of books I didn’t quite love made it that much better. Or maybe it was genuinely better than the first book. I really enjoyed Nona and her budding friendship with Zole and her continuing friendships with the other novices. I loved the final scenes. Joelie Namsis was a great antagonist; I found her extremely irritating but I’m also interested to learn more about her (which I don’t know for sure that we will.) The world of this series continues to keep me wanting to know more about it. I’m super excited to continue with this series and will being doing so after I catch up on a couple others.

That’s all I read in August! Have you read any of these books? Or what did you read in August? Let me know in the comments!

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.

Q2 Reading Stats

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.


Q2 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 just don’t tend to pick it up. 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 prefer it in the background of other stories instead of as the main focus.

So I went into this book hopeful but a little skeptical.

Now, 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/Younger 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 in a sort of underwhelming realization. And it was a similar realization for Alex, you know it was sort of an identity crisis but not at all portrayed as the end of the world, and I’m so glad that the author portrayed a bisexual character so damn well.

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.