Weekly Wrap Up #35

Well. That was a mixed reading week for me… I read some things that I sped through and really REALLY loved. And I read other things that felt like they took me forever to get through and that I was kind of meh about.

Let’s wrap up June 10th to 16th, shall we?

Books read: 6
Pages read: 2,357 pages (a whopping seven pages more than last week!!)

#1: The Unquiet Grave by Sharyn McCrumb

Audience: Adult
Genre: Historical fiction

Plot summary: In 1890s West Virginia, a young woman – newly married – is found dead. Her mother thinks the husband did it, especially after she sees her daughter’s ghost. In an asylum in the 1930s, an African-American lawyer involved in the case tells his side of the story.

Thoughts: I only read this because it’s set in West Virginia. Gotta tick those goal boxes, yo. I found the stuff set in the 1890s completely gripping. The ghost side of things never appears on the page, and you’re not sure whether Mary Jane is making it up in an attempt to get justice for her daughter or whether she genuinely did see her daughter’s ghost.

This is based on actual events, which I found FASCINATING. It took a really long time for me to understand why James’ part of the story was relevant, though I was enjoying reading it while I was miffed about its relevance. I found it slow at times, which hindered my enjoyment of it, but on the whole it was pretty decent!

Rating: 3.5 stars

#2: The Book Ninja by Ali Berg and Michelle Kalus

Audience: Adult
Genre:
 Romance

Plot summary: A 20-something woman working in a book store decides that the perfect way to find the love of her life is to leave her favourite books on Melbourne public transport with her email address in the back.

Thoughts: This was laugh-out-loud funny on multiple occasions, and I LOVED the fact that it’s set in Melbourne and relies heavily on public transport because…it me. I loved how bookish it is, and the whole idea of leaving books on public transport was super fun.

However. Frankie is SUPER judgemental. She judges her friends, she judges her family members, she judges random strangers for the books they read. She thinks adults reading YA is worse than reading nothing at all. And, like, FINE. Some people are like that! God know I am at times. But her judgement was so constant that it made it difficult to be in her head.

Add in the fact that her “second best friend” is a seventeen year old schoolboy (GIRL. NO.), the fact that she keeps dating other people FOUR MONTHS INTO A RELATIONSHIP, and that she’s really really terrible at using her words, and I just…oof. I gave this four stars when I first finished it, but the more I think about it, the more I don’t like about it. Sigh.

Rating: 3 stars

#3: The Cutaway by Christina Kovac

Audience: Adult
Genre: Thriller

Plot summary: When a woman disappears in Washington DC, a news director takes it upon herself to investigate the case.

Thoughts: This was incredibly compelling reading. I was hooked basically from the first page. It was gripping, it was tense, and it was fascinating to see the story unfolding from a journalist’s perspective. There’s a lot of “okay, we need to keep this story in the news, how are we going to do that?” type of stuff, which makes perfect sense now that I read about it, but which I’d never thought of before. There’s a lot of “how can we get the right camera angle?” and “we need to find someone who can corroborate this information?” going on, and I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I will say that there were a few little side plots thrown in that seemed…slightly irrelevant? I mean, the whole thing with Virginia having to drop everything to go and visit her estranged father in hospital? It was clearly meant to add depth and background to her character, but it just didn’t really do anything except allow some time to pass so that further developments could be made in the case of Evelyn’s disappearance. Still, that’s a pretty minor gripe.

Rating: 4 stars

#4: Save the Date by Morgan Matson

Audience: YA
Genre: Contemporary

Plot summary: Charlie’s older sister is getting married, and she can’t wait because it means all her family will be in one place for the first time in ages. Ridiculousness ensues.

Thoughts: This is one of my most anticipated books of the year. I mean, it’s Morgan Matson. Of course it’s one of my most anticipated books of the year. First of all, the Australian cover is hideous and it needs to go away forever. It’s indescribably generic and the US cover is perfect why the hell would you change that??

Anyway. I ADORED the family dynamic in this story. It’s complicated and messy but at the same time, they so clearly love each other deeply and the story is full of in-jokes and games that they play and the best friends of each of the siblings being a part of the family.

Unlike Matson’s previous books, there’s far less emphasis on romance here, perhaps because it’s set over a 2-3 day period and there’s not really time for there to be an emphasis on romance. And I for one was totally fine with that. I did think that parts of the story were predictable, but I didn’t really care because I loved this so much.

Rating: 4.5 stars

#5: The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

Audience: Adult
Genre: Romance

Plot summary: Stella, a 30-year old woman on the autism spectrum, turns to a male escort to improve her understanding and comfort with relationships. They fall for each other along the way.

Thoughts: THIS WAS SO STINKING GOOD. I mean, it’s a romance book featuring a woman on the autism spectrum. The autism rep is Own Voices. The love interest is a biracial male escort who’s really close to his family and is working as an escort to pay his mother’s medical bills. All of that sounds FABULOUS to me. And it was.

The dynamic between Stella and Michael is great. I loved that she worked in economics and was so passionate about her job. I loved that his family played such a significant role in the story and that he has this whole other life going on outside of being an escort. I love that there’s no real stigma around the fact that he’s a sex worker.

Look, it’s basically Pretty Woman but not. It’s a fairly predictable storyline. But I gave zero fucks because it was fast paced and pretty damned smutty and generally fabulous and I sped through it in a couple of hours.

Rating: 5 stars

#6: Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff

Audience: YA
Genre: Sci-Fi

Plot summary: After the robot gladiator Eve spent months building is destroyed in a fight and discovers that she has the power to fry electronics with her mind, she discovers a boy crash landed in her house. Except he’s not human – he’s a lifelike. A robot so closely resembling a human that you can’t tell the difference. Something beyond illegal.

Thoughts: So here’s the thing: I think Jay Kristoff is a generally great human being. I ADORE the Illuminae Files. I thoroughly enjoyed Stormdancer. I loved Nevernight. But this is not really my type of sci-fi. (And yes, this has more to do with me than Jay Kristoff, but whatever)

Over the years, I’ve watched sci-fi classics like Mad Max and 2001: A Space Odyssey and come to the realisation that I just. don’t. get it. Like, I enjoyed the Mad Max movies when I was watching them, especially Fury Road. But at the same time, I was never engaged in the story.

And I found the same thing here. I enjoyed it. I liked the characters, especially Lemon Fresh. But I wasn’t hooked. I wasn’t engaged in the story. So this is definitely more about me than the book, but for me it was a situation where I liked all of the ingredients – the author, the writing, the characters, the concept – and then when they were all mixed together, I was left with red velvet cake – it looks pretty and some things about it are great (cream cheese icing, mostly), but then you bite into it and it’s flavourless and it leaves you a little disappointed. This analogy has gotten weird, so I’m just going to stop rambling now…

Rating: 3.5 stars

What have you been reading recently?

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May Book Haul

I had grand plans for posting this on the 1st of June. LOOK HOW WELL THAT PLAN TURNED OUT.

But seriously. How is it June already?? In May, I acquired a total of 11 books, which is a dramatic drop from April’s 22.

THE STUFF I’VE ALREADY READ

White Bones by Graham Masterton
This is possibly the most fucked up book I’ve ever read. Like…so gory. So graphic. No one needs chapter after chapter from the victim’s perspective as they’re being tortured. You know?? I mean, I liked the police investigation side of things. But the murders were NYARGH.

Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson
I wanted to love this one, because I’ve given Lily Anderson’s first two books 5 stars. But this one? There were certainly elements of it that I absolutely adored. But the last third or so just…didn’t work for me. So while I loved the protagonist and her story, the way this ended was not my favourite thing of ever.

The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
This was INCREDIBLE. Seriously. It’s been a long long time since I’ve loved a fantasy book as much as I loved this. It’s very dark and very violent and deals with some horrifying topics, so despite the age of the protagonist this book definitely isn’t for teenagers. But I LOVED IT A LOT and it’s definitely in the running to be my favourite book of the year.

Squared Away by Annabeth Albert
Hands down my favourite of the series so far, probably because it features a protagonist on the ace spectrum. But also because the family side of things was so well done. Sure, the romance side had a lot of stuff in it that could easily have been fixed by USING YOUR DAMN WORDS, but you can’t win them all.

Am I Normal Yet? by Holly Bourne
I read this book a couple of years ago and adored it, and so I was incredibly excited when the lovely Sylwia gifted me a copy! I’m going to reread this one soon, I can tell.

THE STUFF I’M CURRENTLY READING

Lifel1k3 by Jay Kristoff
I struggled to get into this one, and was only managing to get through 25-ish pages a day. But yesterday I somehow read about 200 pages of it, so I think it’s safe to say that I’m well into it now! It’s not my favourite of Jay’s books but it’s definitely a fun world full of great characters.

The Cutaway by Christina Kovac
This is my pick for Washington D.C. for my US states project. I was planning on getting it from my local library, but when I realised that it was $1.65 on Kindle, it seemed logical to get it there instead. I’m enjoying it so far!

THE STUFF I HAVE YET TO READ

I’ll Be Gone in the Dark by Michelle McNamara
I am DYING to read this, but I know that it’s a terrible idea for me to read it while I’m home alone. But maybe on my flight to London next weekend………

The Neighborhood by Mario Vargas Llosa
I can’t remember which Booktuber mentioned this book, but the second I heard it was set in Peru and translated from Spanish, I jumped on it. The plot sounds pretty great too, so I’m excited to get stuck in!

The Brightsiders by Jen Wilde
I am DYING to get to this one. And I’m not quite sure why I haven’t picked it up yet, given how much I adored Queens of Geek when it came out last year. Soon, my pretty. Soon.

From Twinkle With Love by Sandya Manon
I’ve heard mixed reviews of this one, but mostly I haven’t read it yet because I want to reread When Dimple Met Rishi first. And I haven’t had a chance as yet, because I’ve been in this weird reading slump-adjacent place where I only finish like 5-6 books a week. It’s basically my version of Hell.

What books have you acquired recently?

 

Weekly Wrap Up #34

This week was the LibraryAThon, and while I did finish a book for each of the six challenges, it turns out that I made pretty terrible choices for a readathon because two of the books were INCREDIBLY long and so by the time I’d gotten to Wednesday night, I’d only finished ONE BOOK which is utterly ridiculous for me. Still, I made it through six books, although one of them was definitely not the book on my TBR…

Here’s what I read between June 3rd and 9th.

Books read: 6
Pages read: 2,350 pages

#1: The Eight by Katherine Neville

Audience: Adult
Genre: Adventure

Plot summary: A mysterious chess set that holds the power to change the world causes chaos throughout history.

Thoughts: Okay, let’s start with my biggest problem with this book: it was over 600 pages, which was TOO MANY PAGES FOR AN ADVENTURE NOVEL ABOUT A FUCKING CHESS SET. I picked this up for the challenge to read a book in a country you’ve never read a book set in before, because a lot of this is set in Algeria. But I definitely wasn’t expecting a chunk of the story to be set during the French Revolution and for David, Robespierre, Marat, and Napoleon to be integral characters.

I liked the stuff set in Algeria a lot more than I liked the rest of it. Those sections are set during the 1970s, and there’s a lot of Cold War tension going on, which was unexpectedly great. That said, this required a LOT of suspension of disbelief, I never entirely understood what the chess set’s power was, and I could have done without all the fatphobic comments about the protagonist’s best friend. Still, it was published in 1980, so I guess it could have been a lot worse??

It was definitely at least a hundred pages too long though. So I liked it, but I also wanted it to be over. You know?

Rating: 3 stars

#2: We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver

Audience: Adult
Genre:
 Thriller

Plot summary: A woman writes letters to her husband reflecting on their son’s childhood after he’s the perpetrator of a school shooting.

Thoughts: It took me literally forever to get into this book. It took me four days in total to read it. The first few days, I’d struggle through 50 pages a day. The last day, I sped through more than half the book. I have no idea what changed, but I was suddenly HOOKED.

To get the obvious out of the way, Lionel Shriver is a garbage human being and you should keep that in mind before picking up anything she writes. Also, this book features obvious trigger warnings for school shootings – not only is Kevin is perpetrator, but there’s a lot of discussion of the rise of school shootings in the aftermath of Columbine.

All the stuff about Small Child Kevin? I basically gave zero fucks. Yeah, we get it. He’s a creepy toddler. You’re a terrible parent. Stop devoting hundreds of pages to it. But once we started to hear about Kevin’s teenage years, the creepiness took on a whole new level, and I think that’s when the story became far more engaging for me. There’s a big plot twist that I didn’t see coming, so I’m glad I pushed through the slow start. But it’s definitely one where you should proceed with caution, so to speak.

Rating: 4 stars

#3: Carrie by Stephen King

Audience: Adult
Genre: Horror

Plot summary: A bullied teenage girl turns out to have telekenetic abilities and uses them to get revenge.

Thoughts: This is the third Stephen King book I’ve read, and I sped through it in a day (unlike Salem’s Lot, which bored me senseless as a teenager, and Under the Dome, which I DNFed). So the fact that I sped through it was definitely a plus.

I actually quite liked the way the story kept jumping between narrative and newspaper/journal articles. It meant that you always knew something big and dramatic was coming, which definitely helped with how long certain elements of the narrative story took at times.

But I just kept coming back to the fact that Stephen King does NOT understand how periods work. Like, AT ALL. For the majority of women, it’s not like turning on a tap and going from nothing to A WATERFALL in a matter of seconds. So that, along with a healthy dose of misogyny and the fact that King insists on describing the breasts of every female character (while often not describing their facial features or hair colour…) left me feeling decidedly meh about it. Still, I finished it. So…there’s that?

Rating: 3 stars

#4: The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman

Audience: Adult
Genre: Fantasy/Steampunk

Plot summary: A young woman working for a library that harvests fiction from multiple dimensions is sent to an alternate London, full of zeppelins and magic, to hunt down a copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales.

Thoughts: I picked this one up in order to fulfil the challenge of reading a book about books. And it more than fit the bill on that front! I loved the idea of the library that operates in multiple dimensions – it was somewhat reminiscent of a Gail Carriger book mixed with Rachel Caine’s Great Library series and a splash of Garth Nix’s Lirael, all of which I love. And so I feel like this sliiiiightly suffered in two ways:
1. It was none of those series; and
2. I was reading it at the same time as We Need to Talk About Kevin, and while this was definitely lighter and more enjoyable reading than that was, it was still kind of an intense reading experience at times, full of action and weirdness, and really my brain just needed fluff.

So I’m definitely glad I read it, and I definitely enjoyed reading it. I just feel like I would have enjoyed it MORE if I’d read it at literally any other point in time…

Rating: 3.5 stars

#5: Drag Teen by Jeffrey Self

Audience: YA
Genre: Contemporary

Plot summary: JT is desperate to get out of his small Florida town and go to college. Except he’s exhausted all the scholarship possibilities. Until his boyfriend finds a drag competition in New York with a college scholarship as the prize…

Thoughts: This book was NOT on my TBR. My original plan was to have it on my TBR, but then someone rudely borrowed it on Overdrive and I had to put a hold on it instead. But thankfully, I woke up on the last day of the readathon to an email saying that it was available and I sped through it in a couple of hours.

I knew nothing about this book going in. I saw the cover and the title and was like “I WANT TO READ THAT”. And it was definitely a good pick for a book I knew nothing about. It was funny and feelsy and enjoyable and just a hell of a lot of fun and I loved it.

But at the same time, everything was very simplistic, very surface-level. There was an easy fix for literally everything. JT’s past experience of drag is dressing up once for a talent competition at school. Others have to help him with literally everything from his make up to his costumes to his hair to his talent, and so a lot of the time it feels like he’s a very passive character in his own story. Buuuuuuut it’s fun. So…??

Rating: 3.5 stars

#6: Scythe by Neal Shusterman

Audience: YA
Genre: Dystopian

Plot summary: In a futuristic world where death has been cured, the population is kept under control by Scythes, who are tasked with killing five random people each week. Citra and Rowan find themselves reluctantly apprenticed to a Scythe, learning the art of death.

Thoughts: I’ve heard nothing but good things about this book, so when we got a copy at work, I immediately grabbed it. And I LOVED THIS SO MUCH. The world was great. The characters were great. The writing was great. It was exciting and creepy and gripping.

It’s SUCH a unique world, and I loved getting to see the way that the various Scythes carry out their duties. Some judge based on a person’s expression whether they want to die. Some are very systematic and use the statistics of death rates from the old days. Some are basically serial killers or mass murderers. It’s FASCINATING.

Citra and Rowan are wonderful protagonists, and I loved seeing their different approaches to rebelling against their futures. Basically? This was a blast from start to finish and I’m super excited to pick up a copy of the second book.

Rating: 5 stars

What have you been reading recently?

Weekly Wrap Up #33

After several weeks of feeling slumpy, I finally felt like I was back on track this week. HUZZAH!

Let’s wrap up May 28th to June 3rd, shall we?

Books read: 8
Pages read: 2,546 pages

#1: Fractured by Karin Slaughter (reread)

Audience: Adult
Genre: Thriller

Plot summary: A woman returns home to find her daughter raped and murdered and the perpetrator still in the house. Except that it’s not her daughter…

Thoughts: I’ve been slowly working my way through Karin Slaughter’s books in order, and I have to tell you – the series make a LOT more sense when you read them this way. I’m thoroughly enjoying rereading the Will Trent series. Will is such a fantastic character, with such a tragic backstory that he’s worked so hard to overcome.

This book was far less gory than the majority of Slaughter’s books, but it’s still got plenty of disturbing moments, not to mention twists and turns. It’s not my favourite of the series, but it was still a lot of fun to reread.

Rating: 4 stars

#2: Sleeping Giants by Sylvaine Neuvel

Audience: Adult
Genre:
 Sci-Fi

Plot summary: In South Dakota, a young girl falls into a sinkhole and finds herself on an enormous hand. Years later and now a scientist, she is hired to find the giant’s remaining parts.

Thoughts: I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about this book, so when it was on sale for $5 on Kindle, I figured it was time to give it a try. And it was fabulous. The story is told entirely in interviews as the various pieces of the giant are uncovered and the ramifications of assembling it become apparent.

Basically? There were great characters, a fascinating concept, plenty of action, and one hell of an ending. I’ll definitely be continuing with this series, that’s for sure.

Rating: 4 stars

#3: Dreamland Burning by Jennifer Latham

Audience: YA
Genre: Historical fiction/Contemporary

Plot summary: In the present day, renovations at Rowan’s house in Tulsa uncover a skeleton from the 1920s, leading her to investigate who it might be. Back in 1921, Will finds himself caught up in a racial firestorm and make some difficult choices.

Thoughts: Wow. This book blew me away. I picked it up from work on a whim, and sped through it. It’s largely set around the Tulsa Riot, an event I knew absolutely nothing about. Both protagonists are biracial – Rowan’s mother is African-American and her father is white, while Will’s mother is Native American and his father is white. Furthermore, Will’s mother is Osage, which made me really glad that I’d read Killers of the Flower Moon late last year and had an understanding of all the financial bullshit that his mother was stuck in the middle of.

It’s an incredibly compelling story full of diversity and great characters. I was hooked from page 1, and I’m so glad I gave this a chance, because I nearly didn’t based on the slightly boring cover…

Rating: 4.25 stars

#4: You Will Know Me by Megan Abbott

Audience: Adult
Genre: Thriller

Plot summary: Katie Knox’s daughter, Devon, is on the brink of becoming an elite gymnast, on track for the Olympic squad. But her performances start going downhill after the death of someone in their gymnastics community.

Thoughts: This was an often slow-moving and somewhat peculiar book. The gymnastics element of it was intriguing, but there were certain aspects of it that were hammered home over and over again – Devon has a weird foot because of a childhood accident, they’re super in debt because they pour all their money into her, their son is neglected in a lot of ways because they all pay attention to Devon.

It’s an interesting look at parental pressure and what that does to a kid, but I saw a lot of the twists coming well before they happened on the page, and there were definitely times when the story dragged for me. So…it was fine? But not much more than that.

Rating: 3 stars

#5: Little & Lion by Brandy Colbert

Audience: YA
Genre: Contemporary

Plot summary: Suzette returns home to California after a year at boarding school on the east coast. She finds herself struggling with her sexuality, two new crushes, and her bipolar stepbrother’s decision to go off his medication.

Thoughts: Everybody RAVED about this book when it came out, and I’d really enjoyed Brandy Colbert’s first book, Pointe, so obviously I grabbed a copy of this. And then I put off reading it for like a year. There was just something about it that meant I had very little interest in actually picking it up.

But I finally forced my way through that, aaaaaand I kind of wish I hadn’t bothered. The diversity was wonderful. Really, really wonderful. Suzette is black, bisexual and Jewish. Her stepbrother, Lionel, is Jewish and bipolar. One love interest is pansexual and Latina. The other is half black, half Korean and wears hearing aids because he has Meniere’s Disease. And Suzette’s best friend is a lesbian.

So from a diversity standpoint? A+. But the overlapping love triangle thing? No. Everyone else seems to have talked about how swoony this book is. I saw none of that. Suzette doesn’t actually seem that interested in Emil, even though she’s dating him. It’s more a case of “I’m trying to get over a broken heart, he asked me out, whatever” than “OMG CUTE BOY!!!”. She seems to mostly keep dating him because she has feelings for Rafaela, but Lionel is into Rafaela and she’s a) not out and b) iffy about stepping in between them.

So…I wanted to like it. But it was mostly kind of boring for me. Sigh.

Rating: 3 stars

#6: Night Swimming by Steph Bowe

Audience: YA
Genre: Contemporary

Plot summary: Kirby loves her small town in rural New South Wales – her family, her best friend Clancy, her goats, and her unofficial carpentry apprenticeship. But things are shaken up when a new girl, Iris, arrives in town…

Thoughts: This was a breath of fresh air after reading Little & Lion. Kirby – named after Australia’s most controversial High Court Judge – loves life in her small town, living with her mum, grandpa and older cousin. She’s got her carpentry and her best friend, although he has plans to move to Sydney ASAP and pursue musical theatre. She’s content, basically.

This was so freaking cute. Kirby is a great protagonist. Her friendship with Clancy is delightful. The small town is lovingly depicted and is full of fabulous characters. And the slow burn relationship between Kirby and Iris? An absolute delight. It reminded me in some ways of The Incredible Adventures of Cinnamon Girl, but with more goats.

I am describing all of this VERY badly, but essentially this book was great and I loved every second of it.

Rating: 4.5 stars

#7: Confessions by Kanae Minato

Audience: Adult
Genre: Thriller

Plot summary: On the last day of school, a teacher announces to her middle school class that she’s quitting. Why? Because she knows that two of them are responsible for her daughter’s murder.

Thoughts: This was a very peculiar and occasionally fucked up book. The narrative jumps between multiple characters – the aforementioned teacher, one of the murderers, his sister, his mother, etc etc. I really loved the change in characters, and the way the story unfolded. It DEFINITELY kept me guessing.

But there were also some pretty uncomfortable moments, namely the fact that the teacher is like “Hey, class. Two of you murdered my daughter. And btw, those two of you? I put my daughter’s father’s blood in your milk. And he has AIDS. So. Enjoy that.” Which…what? WHAT??

That said, the ending was pretty freaking amazing and brought the whole revenge thing full circle and I ended up loving it.

Rating: 4 stars

#8: Upside Down by Lia Riley

Audience: New Adult
Genre: Contemporary

Plot summary: After the death of her sister a year earlier, Talia decides to get away by undertaking a semester abroad in Australia. There, she meets Bran, who’s also struggling with loss and grief. And obviously, they fall in love.

Thoughts: Oh Lord. This book was…kind of a trashfire. I picked it up after hearing Whitney rave about it for literally years as one of the few new adult books she’d read with a healthy relationship in it. And, like, sure. It has that (although I do wish these freaking characters would just USE THEIR DAMN WORDS ALREADY).

My problem with this wasn’t the relationship. It was the CONSTANT “I know how Australia and Australian universities work” stuff while clearly literally having zero knowledge of how either of those things work. I started spotting inaccuracies and inconsistencies on page 19, and it didn’t stop for the remainder of the book. Add in the fact that basically everything that doesn’t involve an interaction between the two protagonists happens off the page and…I was done. Will I read the other two books in this trilogy? LOL NOPE. Because there’s a limit to how much terrible representation of Australia I can take, and apparently 224 pages is that limit.

Rating: 1.5 stars

What have you been reading recently?

Libraryathon TBR

Of course I was going to participate in a readathon that involved borrowing all the books from a library. OF COURSE I WAS.

The Libraryathon is running from 3-9 June, and it’s being hosted by Saajid, Kathy, Kelly and Jashana, all of whom are awesome.

Without further ado, here are the challenges and what I’m planning on reading for each of them!

1. Borrow and read a book set in a country you’ve never read a book set in before. 
First of all, HOW DARE YOU. I feel personally attacked. Sure, there are still 100+ countries I haven’t read books set in yet. But they’re all the difficult ones to fine waaaaaaah.

Anyway. I stumbled across The Eight by Katherine Neville on my library’s Overdrive site, and I’ve never read anything set in Algeria before so even though this doesn’t sound like my usual cup of tea, I figured it fit the bill so I’d give it a go.

2. Borrow and read a book you’ve never heard of before. 
For this one, I grabbed something off the shelf at work, and so I’ll be reading The Hanging Girl by Eileen Cook. I know I’ve heard of the author before, but I’ve never even seen this on Goodreads, so…we’ll see.

3. Borrow and read a book that’s out of your comfort zone.
There are few things that are outside my comfort zone, aside from, like, westerns and books about maths. But based on past experiences, this one is going to fit the bill very nicely. And that’s Carrie by Stephen King. I’ve read a few King books in the past and found them either indescribably dull or so over-the-top misogynistic that I had to rage-quit them. So…we’ll see how this goes.

4. Borrow and read a book you’ve been meaning to read but haven’t gotten to yet.
I’ve heard nothing but amazing things about Scythe by Neal Shusterman and considering I’ve had it on loan from work for weeks now without even touching it. So…this is a good excuse for me to dive into what I hope will be a great read.

5. Borrow and read a book recommended by a librarian or library staff member.
Literally months ago, I borrowed We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver on the recommendation of a colleague. Will I be able to get through this thick and horrifying book in a week? MAYBE. We shall see.

6. Borrow and read a bookish book – books on the cover or in the title, or a book about books. 
I thought about picking up a nonfiction book for this one, just to break things up. But I couldn’t find anything from any of my libraries that was sufficiently engaging or that seemed like it would be fast paced. So I scrolled through Overdrive until I found something that fitted the bill, and ended up with The Invisible Library by Genevieve Cogman. I know nothing about it, but it definitely meets the brief!

So, there you have it. My picks for the Libraryathon. Are you participating? If so, what are you reading?

Weekly Wrap Up #32

It’s been another slump-adjacent reading week this past week, and I honestly think I’ve worked out what’s to blame: that stupid Hogwarts Mystery game. I start playing it on the bus in the mornings (because my bus ride is only about 10 minutes, so I don’t bother reading), and then by the time I get to the tram, I’ve run out of energy points and I’m FREAKING OUT that I’m going to lose the level and have to replay it and so I spend time that I should be reading playing that truly terrible and very boring yet highly addictive game. And I hate myself for it.

Moving rapidly along… Here’s what I read between May 20th and 26th.

Books read: 7
Pages read: 2,295 pages

#1: The Mayan Conspiracy by Graham Brown

Audience: Adult
Genre: Adventure

Plot summary: An expedition from a US government agency uncovers a lost Mayan city in the Brazilian jungle. And then people start dying………

Thoughts: I’ve been in a place recently where I want to read things that require no brain ability. And this fit the bill perfectly. It was…a little too much like Matthew Reilly’s Temple for my liking, except crap. Temple is a non-stop thrill ride that I’ve loved for the better part of 20 years now, and this paled in comparison.

I didn’t feel like I knew enough about any of the characters to care about them at all. I wasn’t particularly keen on the writing. And I’m honestly not sure why you’d choose to place a lost MAYAN city in the BRAZILIAN jungle, when there’s literally zero evidence of any Mayan constructions further south than Honduras. So…it did what I wanted it to do. But it didn’t do it particularly well.

Rating: 3 stars

#2: The Impossible Fairy Tale by Han Yunjoo

Audience: Adult
Genre:
 Literature

Plot summary: The story of the antagonistic relationship between two schoolgirls that escalates to violence and death.

Thoughts: This book. I don’t even know what to say, really. This book was super fucking weird. The first half of the story is about a classroom full of children who like to strangle each other for fun when their teacher isn’t looking, who like to buy baby chicks from street vendors and then kill them, who are abused and bullied and nameless, who are animal abusers and murderers. And it was pretty fucking horrifying.

The second half of the book was just meta. Straight up meta. One of the children from the first half of the book turns up on the author’s doorstep and blames the author for the deeds she committed in the first half of the story. It made my brain hurt, it featured a ton of animal cruelty, and the word “brick” was used so much that it lost all meaning. Nope.

Rating: 2 stars

#3: Squared Away by Annabeth Albert

Audience: Adult
Genre: Romance

Plot summary: When Mark’s sister and Isaiah’s cousin are killed in a car accident, the unlikely pair find themselves left with custody of the couple’s three children and falling in love along the way.

Thoughts: This is hands down my favourite of this series (although I should probably reserve judgement until book 6 comes out…). I loved how front-and-centre the kids were throughout. And I absolutely adored the fact that this is an interracial M/M romance featuring a protagonist on the ace spectrum. Mark is demisexual and is still working out what that means for him and relationships. Isaiah is very supportive and works really hard to make sure he’s not pushing Mark into things he’s not comfortable with or that he’s moving too fast in their relationship.

And honestly? To have a ROMANCE BOOK with an ace protagonist is pretty amazing. But to have one where there’s an HEA at the end? *grabby hands*

Could a lot of this have been fixed far earlier if they’d just used their damn words? Yes. But that’s always the way in romance books. Whatever.

Rating: 3.75 stars

#4: Sparrow by Scot Gardner

Audience: YA
Genre: Adventure??

Plot summary: A teenage boy escapes from prison and ends up fighting for survival in the Kimberley.

Thoughts: I only picked this one up because it’s on the notables list for the CBCA Book of the Year for Older Readers, and given that I’ve already read all but one of the short listed books, I figured this year I’d try the notables as well. And…I did not love this.

It cuts back and forth between Sparrow’s current predicament, stranded on Australia’s north coast and struggling to survive, and his childhood, growing up homeless on the streets of Darwin. I can see what Gardner was trying to do, but ultimately it didn’t work for me at all, I didn’t care about Sparrow at all, and the whole thing was pretty meh-tastic. But, like, if you really liked Hatchet or My Side of the Mountain as a kid, maybe you’ll enjoy this??

Rating: 3 stars

#5: Love, Hate, and Other Filters by Samira Ahmed

Audience: YA
Genre: Contemporary

Plot summary: Life changes dramatically for the only Indian-Muslim girl in her small Illinois town when a suicide bomber with the same last name as her creates chaos in the state capital.

Thoughts: I’ve seen this one around the place a lot in the past 6 months or so, and most of the reviews I’ve seen have been pretty positive. I…wasn’t mad keen on this one, and I think it boils down to the fact that the blurb is very “ISLAMOPHOBIA IN SMALL TOWN AMERICA!!!” and in reality, you get about 50-75 pages of that and about 200 pages of a teenage girl falling for a string of boys.

And, like, there’s nothing wrong with a story about a teenage girl falling for a string of boys. But when the blurb is all ripped-from-the-headlines-y and that’s not what you get? I…yeah. I was a little disappointed.

I’ve also seen a lot of own voices reviews criticising Maya’s character for chasing boys and not being sufficiently Muslim or Indian because she never prays and she only mentions eating parathas and she sneaks out all the time. And those are clearly valid criticisms. But part of me suspects that while this is a book about an Indian Muslim girl,  the author was trying to be relatable for white readers and therefore toned down all the stuff about Maya’s religion and culture in favour of a story where white teenage girls could strongly relate to the protagonist. Or something? IDK IDK.

(Also, there’s a very brief relationship between a 17 year old girl and a 21 year old guy and EW NO MAKE IT STOP)

Rating: 3.5 stars

#6: The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Audience: Adult
Genre: Fantasy

Plot summary: In a world based on 20th century Chinese history, a teenage girl seeks to escape the life that’s been planned out for her by joining a military academy. But when war breaks out, she finds herself thrown into a world of magic and horrors she didn’t anticipate.

Thoughts: You guys probably know by now that epic fantasy books and I are not friends, unless they’re written by Terry Pratchett. So it probably surprises you to see this book in one of my weekly wrap ups. But I saw all the hype about it on Twitter and was interested enough to read the sample on Amazon. Aaaaaand the writing hooked me straight away, so then I had to buy it blah blah blah I loved this book.

There are a LOT of characters in the story, and I did occasionally forget who some of them were. But this was so well written and the worldbuilding was absolutely fantastic from start to finish. I loved the way that it paralleled Chinese history, and I loved that it’s a book with a teenage protagonist that is 100% NOT for teenagers.

This book doesn’t pull any punches. It’s bloody and violent and full of drug use, and there’s page after page of torture and genocide. But all of it – every last bit – serves a purpose in the story, and it was phenomenal. Also, the last sentence of the acknowledgements is a Hamilton quote, so…

I couldn’t quite bring myself to give it 5 stars, simply because it dragged a little for me in the middle, but I can see this being a series that I reread a bunch in the future and I’m already dying to get my hands on book 2.

Rating: 4.5 stars

#7: Open Season by C.J. Box

Audience: Adult
Genre: Crime

Plot summary: When a hunter turns up murdered in his woodpile, Wyoming Game Warden Joe Pickett finds himself caught up in a political game of cat and mouse.

Thoughts: I’m going to be perfectly honest: I only read this because it’s set in Wyoming. Gotta tick those goal boxes, yo. And for the most part, I enjoyed it. It was great to see an adult protagonist with a full time job who’s still struggling to make ends meet because they’re doing a job they love that pays shit money. And the ultimate motivation was pretty damned great, as was the big final confrontation scene.

But at the same time, this is VERY much an old school western, where there’s a new guy in town and he’s unpopular because he doesn’t do things the same way the old guy did them and everyone’s suspicious of him as a result and uuuuuuuuuugh I just don’t care. You know? So I enjoyed it. And I particularly liked the chapters that were from the perspective of Joe’s 7 year old daughter, even when they were kind of horrifying. But the western side of things? Snore.

Rating: 3.5 stars

What have you been reading recently?

Weekly Wrap Up #31

This was possibly the slumpiest feeling reading week I’ve had all year. I don’t know what it was, but I got to Friday morning and I’d only finished 3 books. Which, for me? Is UNHEARD OF. I have no idea what caused it, but it was NOT a pleasant feeling. Here’s hoping this week is better…

Anyway. Let’s wrap up 13-19 May.

Books read: 7
Pages read: 2,382 pages

#1: The Girl in Kellers Way by Megan Goldin

Audience: Adult
Genre: Thriller

Plot summary: The life of a woman is thrown into chaos when her husband’s first wife’s body is found years after her death and years after he thought he’d buried her………

Thoughts: This thriller has been on my radar for a while, mostly because it’s been all over every bookshop I’ve set foot in during the past six months. So when it was a Kindle deal of the day, the only logical thing was to grab a copy. And it turned out to be an incredibly compelling domestic thriller!

I have to admit, I did see some of the plot twists coming well before they happened, but I really enjoyed the split narration and getting things from both the perspective of the detective investigating the case and the woman who feels like her husband’s dead wife is taking over her life. Also, I don’t know what it was about the writing style, but I picked up on the fact that the author is Australian about ten pages in, even though it’s set in North Carolina. There was just something very…Australian…to me about the way it was written.

Rating: 4 stars

#2: In the Labyrinth of Drakes by Marie Brennan

Audience: Adult
Genre:
 Fantasy

Plot summary: The fourth volume of the Lady Trent series sees Isabella trekking to distant lands in an attempt to set up a dragon breeding program. Along the way, she encounters an old friend…

Thoughts: I think the second book in the series may be my favourite, but this one follows close behind it. It honestly felt very reminiscent of the Amelia Peabody series, in that it’s set in the desert, features a forthright woman conducting scientific investigations, and involves some archaeology.

The dragon stuff was all really compelling. I ADORED the archaeology side of things, and the illustrations that went along with it were stunning as always. And there’s a relationship that develops in this that I was 100% on board with, so all in all? It was thoroughly enjoyable.

Rating: 4 stars

#3: Ten by Gretchen McNeil 

Audience: YA
Genre: Thriller/Horror

Plot summary: Ten teenagers get invited to a party on an island off the coast of Seattle. A storm traps them there and they start dying one by one.

Thoughts: This is essentially a young adult retelling of And Then There Were None, minus the formerly racist titles and the antisemitism. And, having reread and LOVED And Then There Were None last year, I was more than a little familiar with the story, so I guessed basically everything that happened well before it actually did.

That said, it did some creative things in regards to the deaths, and the modernised side of things was handled pretty well – the killer has to make sure to cut off the wifi and the phone line as well as using a signal jammer so no one can call for help. That said, I’m not sure that a YA retelling of an Agatha Christie book is entirely necessary, because kids still gobble up Agatha Christie’s stories like there’s no tomorrow. So this balanced out to good, but not great.

Rating: 3 stars

#4: White Bones by Graham Masterton

Audience: Adult
Genre: Thriller

Plot summary: On a farm just outside Cork, eleven skeletons are discovered, the victims of an ancient ritual. The only female detective superintendent in the Garda investigates.

Thoughts: I…honestly thought I could cope with reading anything, given how much I adore Karin Slaughter’s stories. But this? This book fucked me up. It’s so over-the-top graphic that I ended up skim reading a bunch of chapters because I couldn’t stand to read them in detail.

Basically, these eleven women were killed 80 years ago as part of a ritual that requires the deaths of thirteen women. Someone else is trying to finish it off. And a LOT of the chapters were from the perspective of the victims as they’re being brutally tortured over the course of days. It…was utterly horrifying.

So while I really liked Katie – the detective – as a character and I wanted to see more of her story unfold, the chapters that were from the perspectives of these two young women being pulled apart by a murderer made it impossible for me to give this a higher rating than I have.

Rating: 3 stars.

#5: Wheels Up by Annabeth Albert

Audience: Adult
Genre: Romance

Plot summary: Dustin, a closeted bisexual Navy SEAL, spends a lot of time talking to other military personnel on a hook up app. He talks to one guy in particular, only to then discover that it’s the new guy who’s just transferred to his unit, Wes.

Thoughts: This is the fourth book in this series, and it’s probably my least favourite of the lot. Partly it’s because this got a lot kinkier than I like my romance reading, and partly it’s because Wes reports to Dustin and there are all kinds of rules about fraternisation that they know they’re breaking but they keep ending up together anyway. Which…yeah, no.

Still, it was exactly the fluffy palate cleanser I needed after the horrors of White Bones, so…I’m grateful to it for that.

Rating: 3 stars

#6: Cuckoo Song by Frances Hardinge

Audience: MG/YA
Genre: Paranormal

Plot summary: After falling in a pond, a girl realises that she’s not quite herself when her hair turns to leaves when it falls out and she starts crying cobwebs.

Thoughts: I…have read and enjoyed one of Frances Hardinge’s books before, so I thought this one – which sounded indescribably creepy based on the blurb – would be a good next step. Unfortunately, this was like wading through quicksand. I just…I didn’t like the characters. I didn’t like the writing. Any time I put the book down, I had literally no interest in picking it up again. And when I DID manage to pick it up again, I’d only get through one or two chapters before getting bored and putting it back down.

So I tried really hard with this one, but once I realised it was heading in a Fae direction, I noped my way to the exit because zzzzzzzzzzzzz.

Rating: DNF

#7: I Am Sasha by Anita Selzer

Audience: YA
Genre: NonFiction

Plot summary: In 1940s Poland, a Jewish boy and his mother have obtained false papers stating that they’re German and Catholic. But when the Nazis start making boys pull down their pants to check if they’re circumcised, his mother takes the drastic step of disguising him as a girl to keep him safe.

Thoughts: This is a biography of the author’s father, and it was SUCH a fascinating story. It’s a great comparison to Anne Frank’s story in a lot of ways because they’re both about Jewish kids growing up in hiding, but Sasha was hiding in plain sight. His story was tense and gripping and stressful and he clearly hated being disguised as a girl SO MUCH but at the same time, he knew it was the only thing keeping him safe, so he did what he had to.

There are plenty of close calls that add even more tension to an already tense story, but the whole thing was so compelling that I couldn’t put it down. Definitely worth the read!

Rating: 4 stars

What have you been reading recently?