Down the TBR Hole #4

My Goodreads TBR needs desperately to be cleaned out, so I’m doing these posts 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.

The Test

#1 The Test by Sylvain Neuvel

[Goodreads Link]

I’m definitely still intrigued by the sound of this, but I don’t feel particularly pulled to it. This is one of those ones where I’ll let it stay for now, but if I end up with it on a future Down the TBR Hole post (if I ever manage to get through my current TBR as is), it’s got to go.

Verdict: KEEP

For Better and Worse

#2 For Better and Worse by Margot Hunt

[Goodreads Link]

I got this in a Book of the Month box as an add-on awhile ago and still haven’t read it. I definitely do want to get around to it, and it might be something I read next month; it’s definitely not fitting onto my current plans for October anyway.

Verdict: KEEP

Heroine

#3 Heroine by Mindy McGinnis

[Goodreads Link]

I don’t read a lot of YA contemporary, so I’m hesitant as to how this book might handle the topic of drug addiction (which is probably an unfair generalization of YA contemporary on my part.) However, given the issues like the opioid overdose crisis affecting people close to me, this is a book that I’m interested in reading. It is something that needs to be talked about and discussed more, and I really do hope to read something that does the issue justice. One day I’ll get around to this.

Verdict: KEEP

Miracle Creek

#4 Miracle Creek by Angie Kim

[Goodreads Link]

This was another Book of the Month box for me. I honestly just haven’t been reading very many thrillers lately but this one I already own so hopefully I’ll get around to it sooner rather than later. I remember being very interested when I first picked it up I just… haven’t been reading this genre, unfortunately. Hopefully I’ll read more of them soon because I certainly have a lot of them to get to.

Verdict: KEEP

Once Upon a River

#5 Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

[Goodreads Link]

After re-reading the synopsis for this, I remember why I added this to my Goodreads TBR in the first place and that’s because it sounds exactly like something I’d love. I’ll have to read it this winter sometime, because it sounds like a great wintertime story.

Verdict: KEEP

So this was a rather boring rendition of Down the TBR hole because I’ve kept 5 books and gotten rid of 0. I swear there’s definitely books on my Goodreads TBR that need to be culled, I guess they’re just… futher down the list than I expected. So far all these posts have done are make me wish that there were more hours in the day to read so I could get to every single book.

Fall Time Book Tag

It’s been a little while since I’ve done a book tag, and I love all things fall, so I figured why not do a book tag that’s dedicated to my (and many others’) favorite season?

The original tag was created by Sam’s Nonsense on Youtube, and you can find it here.

Crunching Leaves: The world is full of color – choose a book that has reds/ oranges and yellows on the cover.

I’m going with Windwitch because I just really like the composition of reds and oranges on this cover. Also as a reminder to myself to finally read Bloodwitch. I liked this one more than book one, so hopefully this series just keeps getting better?

Cozy Sweater: It’s finally coll enough to don warm cozy clothing – what book gives you the warm fuzzies?

The Dream Thieves. Wow, and just like that, this post already has more YA in it than any other post I think on my entire blog. Anyway, I read the books in the series that were out at the time right after my freshman year in undergrad and The Dream Thieves still sticks out to me. This book also has some tangentially related memories it brings up for me, plus Ronan is one of my favorite characters in the series. I love the whole series, even though I do have a lot of criticisms of it, but if I could only pick one book to read it would be this one. I do want to re-read them before Call Down the Hawk comes out.

Fall Storm: The wind is howling & the rain is pounding – choose your favorite book OR genre that you like to read on a stormy day

I don’t know why, but the word stormy just makes me want to read thrillers. It’s been way too long since I picked up a thriller (I think the last one I read was in March?) but I am hoping to pick up a couple once I finish the book I’m currently reading. Horror might be a good choice too on a stormy day, particularly in fall as we’re getting closer to Halloween. In fact it was raining today and I got a good chunk of the way through ‘Salem’s Lot so yeah. Thriller or horror would be my genre of choice for that weather.

Cool Crisp Air: What’s the coolest character you’d want to trade places with?

I would not want to trade places with most characters I read about, considering that in a lot of the books I’ve read recently my favorite characters have either died or witnessed their closest loved ones die. Still, I’ll say Nona from the Book of the Ancestor series (Red Witch) because, fuck yes, I’d love to be trained by assassin nuns to become an assassin nun. What could be cooler than that?

Hot Apple Cider: What under hyped book do you want to see become the next biggest, hottest thing?

I feel like by nature of this question I have to pick a new release? This year I’ve only read 4 recent releases< Of those, 2 were way over-hyped and not very good at all. 1 was good enough, and the last one I haven’t seen talked about much so I’m going with Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. It’s certainly not a new favorite of mine but I was pleasantly surprised by how enjoyable I found it, plus I’m all for own-voices stories, and stories about criminally ignored myths or folklore (in this case, the Mayan gods.)

Coat, Scarves, and Mittens: The weather has turned cold & it’s time to cover up – What’s the most embarrassing book cover you own that you like to keep hidden in public? 

None of them. TBH if I think a cover is embarrassing I either won’t touch the book, or I’ll get it from the library. I know this is a very superficial thing to be worried about, but I also don’t care. This was months and months ago, but the most recent example I can come up with is that I got Red, White, & Royal Blue from the library because the pink was just too much. I feel like embarrassing covers would be more of a problem if I read more romance (or, I guess, erotica) just by its nature, but I rarely pick that genre up so.

Warm, Cozy BonfireSpread the cozy warmth – Who do you tag? 

Anyone reading this! And let me know in the comments if you do it after you read mine, so I can read yours too.

Q3 DNFs Wrap Up

This is just a list of some of the books I tried in Q3 that I ended up DNF’ing. If you don’t know, DNF stands for “did not finish.” There’s a variety of reasons I’ll DNF a book and I’ll get into some of them when I talk about why I DNF’ed these books in particular.

Side note: I was planning on making this a yearly thing, but I’ve DNF’ed a lot of books this year so I thought doing it quarterly might make more sense.

Without further ado, here are the books I DNF’ed in Q3 2019, in order of when I picked them up.

A Little Life

#1 A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara

[Goodreads Link]

Yup, this is it: the book that caused a month-long reading slump. I really wanted to be someone who liked this book, but it was just… not pulling me in at all. I only ever read like 80-ish pages of it and then every time I thought to myself “I should read” after that, I had exactly 0 desire to pick this book up. I think I would have liked this more if I had read it around the same time as when I read Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, which I rated 5 stars at the time I read it, but which I’m hesitant to revisit as I don’t think I’d enjoy it as much now. Something about “literary” fiction just hasn’t been working for me lately, and I’m not going to force myself. I do hope to eventually get back to this one though!

Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)

#2 Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

[Goodreads Link]

Some books, I leave the rating blank when I DNF them. Other times, I’ll give them one or two stars. It entirely depends on my reason for DNF’ing the book. I didn’t, for example, give a rating to A Little Life. I did, however, give a rating to Wicked Saints, because it was genuinely bad, and I wanted my thoughts about that to be reflected. I went into detail about why I DNF’ed this book here. If you just want the TL;DR version it’s that the writing was atrocious, nothing was explained, and in the 100+ pages that I managed to read, the author gave me no reason to care about the plot or the characters. Let’s just say I’m glad I got this book from the library because it would have been a waste of money.

Binti (Binti, #1)

#3 Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

[Goodreads Link]

I honestly just wasn’t connecting with this one. Conceptually, I liked the plot and the world and the characters, but I wasn’t feeling much about any of it. I also felt like things were moving too fast and not explained well enough. This book only has 90 or so pages but I just had a hard time getting past the fact that the MC sees a whole ship of people who have become her friends get murdered and then she’s all buddy-buddy with said murderers without question because they didn’t kill her and they actually like her for some reason. I don’t know. I felt like it didn’t make any sense, so I just stopped listening to the audiobook after that. I think, maybe, it was trying to do everything that a full novel would do, but in novella length.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

#4 Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand

[Goodreads Link]

Technically I DNF’ed this at the beginning of this month, so it’s not a Q3 DNF, but… semantics. Who cares? Not me. This one is another one that I went into depth about my reasons for DNF’ing over on my Goodreads. If you want the whole list of grievances, you can read about it here. Unfortunately this book was just boring. How can horror be boring? Out of all the genres that shouldn’t be boring, I’d say horror is probably at the top of the list. I’m in the minority about this one, for sure, but it’s convinced me to just not bother with YA horror from now on. The Diviners series is scarier than this book, and I wouldn’t even call that series ‘horror.’ I’m going to stick to adult horror for the foreseeable future, and we can all thank this book for that.

Let me know if there’s any books you’ve DNF’ed recently.

Q3 Reading Stats | Q4 Goals

This has been a slow reading season for me. It started with a slump that carried over from Q2. I tried for a whole month just to finish one book before finally deciding to DNF it. So my real Q3 for reading didn’t even start until August, so I only read 8 books in total.

I’ve discussed the books I read in my wrap ups for the months.

Q3 Wrap-Ups:

In total I read 8 books for a total of 2,953 pages. In comparison, my Q2 total was 15 books and 5,565 pages. That’s… less than spectacular… but on the whole, I’m okay with it. It probably would have been closer to even if I hadn’t spent a whole month trying to force myself to read one book.

The average length of the books I read this quarter was 369 pages, compared to 371 pages in Q2, so more or less the same. There was a significantly larger standard deviation with that average this quarter, though.

I read more fantasy than any other genre, which isn’t surprising for me. Fantasy tends to be my go-to genre, and it tends to be at least 50% of what I read in any given period of time.

I read more female authors than male authors, which is slightly surprising for me as I didn’t read much YA this quarter. In fact the only YA book I did read was by a male author. I probably shouldn’t be surprised by that, and it definitely draws attention to my own biases about the adult and YA categories.

My average rating for Q3 was 3.5, which is a little above my all-time ratings average. Not something I’ll complain about. That means I generally enjoyed the books I read this quarter.

I had an oddly even spread of ratings this quarter, with the exception of 1-stars, which I gave to 0 of the books I read.

In general I think my average ratings have been trending higher since I started allowing myself to DNF books I’m not enjoying. I don’t give ratings to books I DNF and most of them (with the exception of library returns) would probably be 1-star, or 2 if I’m in a good mood. The thing is, I just don’t get a lot of enjoyment out of hate-reading. I love to be salty, but with the little time I have available to read, I just prefer to spend my time on things I actually like.

That said, I have written some salty things about some books I’ve DNF’ed recently and in the further past. In Q3 I DNF’ed a total of 3 books. (Two physical books and one audiobook.) I always post my reasons for DNF’ing a book to my Goodreads.


Looking to Q4. My main goal is to keep with at least the 4 books a month that I managed in August and September.

Some other goals I have for myself:

  • I want to read at least 2 horror books in October (not counting the audiobook I’m listening to now, because it’s not nearly horrifying enough for me to even really call it ‘horror’, but I’ll leave that for when I write a review of it.)
  • I want to read at least 5 of the books I already own. I currently have a stack of 13 unread books sitting on my shelf, and I’d like to read at least half of those before I bring in anything new. (I know that’s not too crazy, but considering half of what I read comes from the library, it takes me awhile to get to the books I actually own.)
  • I’d like to finish at least 1 series that I’ve been putting off.
  • And I want to start at least 1 new series I’ve been putting off.

Again, my main goal is to read at least 4 books each month in Q4, which means I’ll have read another 12 books by the end of the year. That being said, I’ve already more this year than I have in a long time, so I am not at all going to stress myself out over hitting any of these goals.

If you have any similar end-of-year goals, I’d love to hear them!

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.