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.

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 #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.

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: 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.