August 2021 wrap up: what I learned from a tumultuous month of reading

August 2021 wrap up: what I learned from a tumultuous month of reading

Have you ever started your month with some pretty hopeful feelings only to really struggle through it? I started August with a lot of hopeful reads and ended up with a completely different feeling than I had when I first started the month. Let me tell you how glad I am August is over so I can start again in September.

I had put together a TBR of eight books, my regular routine, and excited to read them all. But the first book I picked up was a DNF. Then I read a couple that were exceptional. Then I picked up another DNF book mostly because I wasn’t in the right headspace to read it. Then I had a wonderful little streak of books only to end it with another DNF.

It’s always frustrating when you struggle through a book, go through the routine of whether you want to keep reading the book, and then dump the book despite the number of hours and days you spent putting time into it. However, I’m trying to get better at that aspect and really learned a lot of lessons this month. Before I go into my reading, I wanted to share them:

  • Let books that you aren’t loving go: This is probably the biggest lesson I’ve learned this month. Give myself 100 pages to read a book and if it doesn’t grab me in anyway, let it go. Either make the decision to put it off for another day or put it in the donate pile. But I’m no longer sacrificing so much of my energy and time to read a book that I hope will get better as I continue.
  • Always have some backups when you’re feeling burnt out: I put too many fantasy and science fiction books back to back with very little room for me to decompress. In future months, I want backups so that if I’m not feeling a book at that time, I can pick up a contemporary story to just cleanse the palate a little.
  • It’s okay if you haven’t read as much as you wanted to: I always get mad when I don’t read as many books (if not more) than I expect during the month. I need to let this go too. Reading one book is better than forcing yourself to read eight when you’re not in the right mindset. Reading may be a part of my self-care, but there’s also great value in rest.
  • You can always try again next month: Not finishing the books by the end of the month isn’t the end of the world. And a crappy month can be fixed with a new month of reads. Don’t be discouraged by a crappy reading month because there’s always next month to try again.

I hope these reminders help you out if you’re having trouble with reading lately. Here’s what I ended up reading this month (with links to my reviews if available):

July 2021 Wrap – Up

July 2021 Wrap – Up

And just like that, another month is over. I can’t believe 2021 is moving so quickly and sometimes I forget that 2020 happened, so time doesn’t seem to want to stop for anyone. But I’ve been keeping busy starting the month with my husband’s birthday, taking some courses, and starting the Olympics. Have you been watching? My husband and I basically watch whatever is on every night. Sometimes we even keep it on during the day so our breaks are all one sport or another. It’s fun to watch the Olympics and see the challenges these athletes face especially with COVID still around.

This month I read eight books, which is par for the course. They were some excellent books too and I only broke from my TBR once to read a YA book and cleanse my palate from some of the heavier fantasy books. It was well worth it and so happy to be entering August with some fresh books.

My Favorites of the Month

Six Crimson Cranes by Elizabeth Lim

This was such a sweeping fairy tale retelling with a great story and a mix of Eastern Asian culture. I absolutely loved the imagery, the characters, and I cannot wait to read the conclusion soon! My full review here.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

A Psalm for the Wild-Built by Becky Chambers

I absolutely love Becky Chambers and this book is by far my favorite. It was a beautiful story about a monk and a robot, but it also dives deeply into themes of existence, meaning, and the hope in it all. I highly recommend it to anyone who loves a good story with a deeper meaning. My full review here.

It’s been centuries since the robots of Earth gained self-awareness and laid down their tools. Centuries since they wandered, en masse, into the wilderness, never to be seen again. Centuries since they faded into myth and urban legend.

One day, the life of a tea monk is upended by the arrival of a robot, there to honor the old promise of checking in. The robot cannot go back until the question of “what do people need?” is answered.

But the answer to that question depends on who you ask, and how.
They’re going to need to ask it a lot.

Becky Chambers’ new series asks: in a world where people have what they want, does having more matter?

Instructions for Dancing by Nicola Yoon

I decided to read this one on a whim and I’m so glad I did. It reminded me of all those great dance movies, but with a little magical realism twist to it. I read through it so quickly wanting to find out the end, and I’ll tell you now, the ending will break your heart. My full review here.

Evie Thomas doesn’t believe in love anymore. Especially after the strangest thing occurs one otherwise ordinary afternoon: She witnesses a couple kiss and is overcome with a vision of how their romance began . . . and how it will end. After all, even the greatest love stories end with a broken heart, eventually.

As Evie tries to understand why this is happening, she finds herself at La Brea Dance studio, learning to waltz, fox-trot, and tango with a boy named X. X is everything that Evie is not: adventurous, passionate, daring. His philosophy is to say yes to everything–including entering a ballroom dance competition with a girl he’s only just met.

Falling for X is definitely not what Evie had in mind. If her visions of heartbreak have taught her anything, it’s that no one escapes love unscathed. But as she and X dance around and toward each other, Evie is forced to question all she thought she knew about life and love. In the end, is love worth the risk?

She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan

This was one of my highly anticipated books of the year and it delivered! OMG, I didn’t realize this was based off real people but not in real situations. It’s gender defying, deeply militaristic, and if you’re fan of books like The Poppy Wars by RF Kuang, I highly suggest it. To be warned, this book is marketed as fantasy, but it’s more historical fiction or literary fiction. I wasn’t disappointed there wasn’t much fantasy, but I can imagine folks going into it thinking it’s one thing and getting something completely different. My full review here.

“I refuse to be nothing…”

In a famine-stricken village on a dusty yellow plain, two children are given two fates. A boy, greatness. A girl, nothingness…

In 1345, China lies under harsh Mongol rule. For the starving peasants of the Central Plains, greatness is something found only in stories. When the Zhu family’s eighth-born son, Zhu Chongba, is given a fate of greatness, everyone is mystified as to how it will come to pass. The fate of nothingness received by the family’s clever and capable second daughter, on the other hand, is only as expected.

When a bandit attack orphans the two children, though, it is Zhu Chongba who succumbs to despair and dies. Desperate to escape her own fated death, the girl uses her brother’s identity to enter a monastery as a young male novice. There, propelled by her burning desire to survive, Zhu learns she is capable of doing whatever it takes, no matter how callous, to stay hidden from her fate.

After her sanctuary is destroyed for supporting the rebellion against Mongol rule, Zhu takes the chance to claim another future altogether: her brother’s abandoned greatness.

Jade City by Fonda Lee

This was our Fantasy Book Club read and I was so surprised by how incredible the story was. It was filled with action and intrigue. If you’re a fan of crime families like in The Godfather, then I highly recommend this one. It follows one family amongst two that are fighting each other for power over the city. And as you read, the story starts to turn for the worst for the Kaul family. I ended up rooting so hard for them in this interesting world Fonda Lee’s created. I plan on reading book 2 eventually, but this one definitely blew me away. Full review coming soon.

The Kaul family is one of two crime syndicates that control the island of Kekon. It’s the only place in the world that produces rare magical jade, which grants those with the right training and heritage superhuman abilities.

The Green Bone clans of honorable jade-wearing warriors once protected the island from foreign invasion–but nowadays, in a bustling post-war metropolis full of fast cars and foreign money, Green Bone families like the Kauls are primarily involved in commerce, construction, and the everyday upkeep of the districts under their protection.

When the simmering tension between the Kauls and their greatest rivals erupts into open violence in the streets, the outcome of this clan war will determine the fate of all Green Bones and the future of Kekon itself.

Small Favors by Erin A Craig

The final book of July 2021 and I have to admit, I wish I waited to read this one until the fall. It’s a spooky story, which would be perfect for October and Halloween time. Alas, I read it in July but that’s okay. This book was gripping and atmospheric from page one and I couldn’t put it down. Since it’s the final book of the month, I haven’t had a chance to write my thoughts, so full review will be coming soon!

Ellerie Downing lives in the quiet town of Amity Falls in the Blackspire Mountain range–five narrow peaks stretching into the sky like a grasping hand, bordered by a nearly impenetrable forest from which the early townsfolk fought off the devils in the woods. To this day, visitors are few and rare. But when a supply party goes missing, some worry that the monsters that once stalked the region have returned.

As fall turns to winter, more strange activities plague the town. They point to a tribe of devilish and mystical creatures who promise to fulfill the residents’ deepest desires, however grand and impossible, for just a small favor. But their true intentions are much more sinister, and Ellerie finds herself in a race against time before all of Amity Falls, her family, and the boy she loves go up in flames.

What about you? What did you read this month?

June 2021 Bookish Wrap Up

June 2021 Bookish Wrap Up

I can’t believe it’s the end of another month! It’s been a quiet reading month for me trying to juggle reading books while also starting my full time job. Apologies if I haven’t responded to your comments! I hope to make better of my time on here this month.

But let’s get to the books. This month, I read six books and DNF’d one. It was a pretty rough month on my mental health, so I spent a lot more time outdoors and exploring my city than staying in and reading. I also feel like now that things are opening up around me, so I’ve been wanting to get out of the house.

And we did just that. Not only did I head out to New Orleans for a work trip, but we stopped in Las Vegas for a weekend and then headed down to San Diego for a night. Maybe that’s why I’ve been so tired for the rest of the month.

My Favorites

Crier’s War and Iron Heart by Nina Varela

These were the last two books I read in the month, but they were stunners. I’m not usually the type to forego my entire TBR and read something else, but I was so enamored by this story after finishing Crier’s War for book club, that I needed to dive into Iron Heart right after. I will say I liked Crier’s War more than I liked Iron Heart, but the story was so well written, so well imagined, and beautifully romantic in all the ways you want fantasy to be that it didn’t even bother me. I finished reading both books like I just had a satisfying meal. It was a great read for those who are looking for something a little more character and human based.

One Last Stop by Casey McQuiston

I probably don’t have to say a lot about this one especially since Casey McQuiston’s been getting a lot of love for this work. It’s inclusive, a little sci-fi, and so romantic it made me squeal on more than one occasion. I love when a book makes me so happy I want to burst and the attraction between Jane and August is definitely worth the read.

Piranesi by Susanna Clarke

This was my first Susanna Clark book and it probably won’t be my last. What she’s able to accomplish in the 250 pages that make up this book was so weird and awesome at the same time that I couldn’t put it down. I put off reading so many books so I can savor every page of this one. While I was a little disappointed in the end, it was the creativity, the usage of Theseus in the labyrinth, and the mental state of Piranesi in the labyrinth that really kept me going. Wow. If she’s able to do that in 250 pages, I wonder what she accomplished in Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

Honorable Mentions

  • Very Sincerely Yours by Kerry Winfrey
  • Rule of Wolves by Leigh Bardugo

What did you read in June?

My Favorite Books of 2020

My Favorite Books of 2020

It’s getting close to the end of the year, which always means looking back and reminiscing about the events and happenings. Like the memes all mention, 2020 felt like the entire decade of events happened in one year.

But I think the one saving grace of the entire year was my love for books. With books, staying home didn’t feel too hard. Luckily, as readers, we don’t mind an entire weekend of reading. However, the novelty of having every weekend free until the foreseeable future messed with my head a bit. I definitely felt the anxiety about our future and I definitely felt that “when will this end?” So I’m glad books are in my life and I can spend my time reading.

This year, I read 98 books, over 34,000 pages, from across different authors, stories, and worlds. Just a few books shy of my yearly 100-book goal, but at the same time I kind of don’t care. I went into this year with a lot of different goals and challenges for myself and ended up just being a slug on the couch. I think it’s safe to say that this is the year for that kind of thing. But, I did find read some incredible books, found new authors I adore, and read much more into the sci-fi and fantasy genres than I have in years past.

I’m going to say it right now. 2020 sucked, but at least my reading life was profound. Here’s the books I loved in 2020. There’s 21 of them and I’m not even going to try to distill this down to a specific number because they were all great and I’m not a huge fan of trying to determine a top 10. Each of these books had something incredible to offer the readers, so I decided to write one sentence about each about why I loved it. I hope you enjoy!

The Unspoken Name by AK Larkwood: ORCS! F/F love story, but ORCS! I never see orcs used as the main content of a book. They’re usually the villains, but reading this one definitely excited me and being a dark fantasy was also a nice touch.

My Brother’s Husband by Gengoroh Tagame: A book that made me cry! This manga series was two volumes, but I ended up reading it in one sitting. I was so emotional at the end.

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson: I always describe this book as Top Gun in space! As a YA series, Brandon Sanderson really nailed the tone and there were some really funny lines in this one. I will always be a fan of doomslug as well.

The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet by Becky Chambers: My first Becky Chambers and it was perfection! I love a good space opera, but with a ragtag team of misfits who somehow come together to save the universe is totally my thing too. If you’re a fan of Firefly, then you’ll really love this.

To Be Taught, If Fortunate by Becky Chambers: This book was my second Becky Chambers, but also I loved the themes and the ending. It most definitely made me cry.

The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab: Do I need to say anything about this one? Incredible writing, lovely story, and I love the play on “the muse” character.

Middlegame by Seanan McGuire: I’m now a huge Seanan McGuire fan because of this book. I want to read everything she’s written. This book has alchemy, chess, twins, science fiction, fantasy, everything you ever wanted. It’s super complex and kind of confusing, but still so interesting and satisfying.

The Haunting of Tram Car 015 by P Djeli Clark: This one made me a fan of P Djeli Clark! I love alternate realities and this one dives into an alternate Cairo with an interesting murder mystery and a ton of fantasy elements. I cannot wait for his full-length book within this world coming out next year.

The City in the Middle of the Night by Charlie Jane Anders: My first Charlie Jane Anders and it was so good. I love dissection of different worlds and how those worlds play out with each other. Most definitely enjoyed it.

Gideon the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir: My favorite lesbian necromancers. It’s super dark and the story has so many twists and turns. You’ll be scratching your head for a while, but at the end it’s completely worth it.

The City We Became by NK Jeminsin: What if cities were people and they needed to fight against a greater power threatening to destroy humanity as we know it? What if each of New York’s boroughs were represented by the people who actually lived in them. This book explores not only magical themes in the real world, but also dives into the racial injustices we see everyday. Plus, it’s a great love letter to New York City.

An Ember in the Ashes Series by Sabaa Tahir: Yes, the entire series. It’s probably the first series in a very long time where I was so excited for the next book and had my jaw on the floor. I’m so glad I got into this series this year. I read the books slowly, one a month until the final book released. And I have to say that Sabaa Tahir is one of the most brutal authors I’ve ever read. This is a good thing because I haven’t seen an author be this ruthless with their characters in a really long time. Bravo on this series! I can’t wait to read what Sabaa will be publishing next!

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne A Brown: I absolutely loved this one. It was filled with blood magic, princesses with power and dreams, a young guy looking for his stolen sister, and their relationship to either fall in love or kill each other. I love stories like this so much and I cannot wait for the second book to finally come out.

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune: This book was the biggest bear hug from a best friend you can ever get. I treasure this story and the young folks who are portrayed in it. It discusses being different, having lost family at an early age, and the power of finding a new family. It most definitely made me cry at multiple moments.

Lobizona by Romina Garber: This was my surprise story of the year. I didn’t know what to expect when reading this, but I was so surprised that it didn’t get the kind of love it deserves. It discusses undocumented citizens in many ways than one, finding your family, yourself, and where you belong. It’s most definitely a YA filled with its regular tropes, but I didn’t mind any of that because the story was that good. I highly recommend if you’re a fan of magical schools, werewolves, and brujas!

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas: Speaking of magic, Cemetery Boys was such a sweet story about a boy trying to prove himself as a brujo to his family after coming out as trans. Of course, things work a little too well and our main character is stuck with the ghost of another boy following him around. While he tries to figure out how to save his new ghostly friend, our main character also discovers his own ability, defies the strict gender-based rules of his family’s culture, and falls in love.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson: The second book in the Stormlight Archive. OMG, I think with every book I read from Brandon Sanderson, I fall in love with his world a little bit more. I can most definitely see me devouring the rest of the Cosmere in the future.

The Rage of Dragons by Evan Winter: If I had a top 5 list of favorite books of the year, this will most definitely be on it. OMG, this book was so good with a hero’s journey, the chosen one, but also a lot of heart and loss. I love stories like this and I cannot wait to get into the second book next year.

Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse: This is my first book by Rebecca Roanhorse and wow, I was totally in love with it. Seriously, this was way different from any of the other stories I’ve read and it’s filled with Pre-Columbian folklore that was way worth the read. We read this one for book club and I have to admit, it was one of my favorites of the year.

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan: I finally started the Wheel of Time and I’m so glad I did. The first book in the series was interesting for sure. I loved all the characters and enjoyed the homage to The Fellowship of the Ring in the beginning of the novel. As you get into the rest of the story, then it starts to diverge and that’s when I started to really get into it. I think this series will definitely be appearing on my TBR next year.

Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson: I’m so glad to finish this year with another Brandon Sanderson novel. This will make my third Brandon Sanderson of the year and I don’t think I’ll be stopping. This story really impressed me especially with its magical systems and characters. I will most definitely be finishing this series next year.

October 2020 Bookish Wrap Up

October 2020 Bookish Wrap Up

It might be a week late, but I’m finally done writing about the books I read in October. While my brain is still a little mushy from the events happening in the United States, I was able to accomplish many of the goals I set up for myself. I read my fantasy books. I doubled up on fantasy and spooky reads. I also read some amazing Latinx authors to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month.

The books I read were all inspiring, hidden surprises, and some great reads. While not every book I read was a winner, there were definitely a few that I wanted to share.

My Favorites of the Month

Would Like to Meet by Rachel Winters

I picked Would Like to Meet just because I needed some lighter books as we approach the end of the month. Would Like to Meet was just perfect for it. It’s about a young woman who wants to prove herself as the next best rom-com screenwriter. She just has a big ass obstacle: her boss doesn’t take her seriously and he wants her to work with one of the best screenwriters. And we’re talking Hollywood level big time screenwriter who’s a little too arrogant for his own good.

This one was definitely surprising and in a very good way. I loved how this story moved and made you root for one of two very eligible dudes. It’s not a romance by definition, but if you’re looking for something a little bit relaxed, this might be for you.

Skyhunter by Marie Lu

I am always blown away by the worlds Marie Lu writes. Skyhunter is no exception as we journey to what feels like a dystopian world. It was definitely action packed with so much intrigue that I need to read the next one just to find out what happens next. I’m such a sucker for a military fantasy and this one is definitely on this list.

The best part of this book has to be the world building. There’s references to a world before, which makes me think this is Earth but after some cataclysmic catastrophe that wiped us out to the point of extinction. But that’s just my prediction. With the Skyhunter weapons and humans being turned into something evil, it will definitely keep you busy and make you think about what will happen next.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

This was THE spooky book of October and it was a perfect blend of fantasy, horror, and real world issues. I loved that Yadriel is a young trans man who wants to prove himself a brujo despite not having the kind of traditional ceremony the rest of his family received on their 15th birthday. Of course things go wrong on his way especially when the ghost of a newly dead person starts to follow him around. There were some light-hearted moments and it also had its darker components. I also love the deeper conversation about gender especially in a culture that’s got some hard and fast rules on what men and women should be doing.

But absolutely heart-filled and the scary bits weren’t too scary. It will definitely put a smile on your face, but also creep you out a little.

Lobizona by Romina Garber

This one was an absolutely sleeper. I’m so glad I read it, but I wish more people would. It’s the story about a young girl who is running from her father and moves to the United States to do just that. However, her family is being chased by ICE and being an undocumented immigrant is only the tip of the iceberg especially when Manu finds out the truth about why her family came to America and what her family is hiding from her. Similarly to Cemetery Boys, there was this conversation about how gender is deeply ingrained in the culture and traditions of this world.

It was such an exploration into YA fantasy and if you’re still getting your feet wet in the genre, this is a perfect one to start you off with especially since there’s that subtle connection to reality. I will say, I wasn’t a fan of Manu’s “Mary Sue”-style tendencies, but that’s just me.

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

With every book I read from Brandon Sanderson, I feel like my love for the Cosmere grows. This is no exception especially when the focus on this book was one of my favorite characters from The Way of Kings, Shallan. I love Shallan and I love that we got a taste of the world she came from and what her role is in the middle of all of this.

Of course the book also dives into more about the stormlight and how it works. I feel a lot more lore and intrigue will follow suit in the next book. Even though the book was over 1000 pages long, I still would reread this book in a heartbeat.

Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie

This was my first book from Agatha Christie, but it’s not my first Agatha Christie story. I knew that there would be some opulent story about rich folks who find themselves in the middle of a murder. What I absolutely loved is how scandalous the entire thing turned out especially at the end. HOLY COW!

I wouldn’t say this is the book for hardcore sleuths. It’s super quick and has a cozy feeling to it instead of the suspenseful, edge-of-your-seat vibe from most modern thrillers. It really caught my attention and I found myself trying to figure out the killer right alongside Poirot. If I had a moustache, I would’ve twirled it.

Honorable Mentions

Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes

I had high hopes for this one especially when the cover had a bunch of cats on it and the main character is a captain traveling across space to save her sister. Sadly, the story was a little too surface-level. I didn’t need the book to be hard science fiction or be super technical, but I did want more about Eva and her crew. Also, the plot itself felt a little scattered as it started with one thing, pivots a few times where you’re confused by the main plot again and then resolves itself to create another plopt. I don’t konw, but that scattered feeling was defintie

When No One is Watching by Alyssa Cole

I was so exited for Alyssa Cole’s first thriller book and she brought a level of fear that’s a little too close to reality. Learning about the horrors of this little neighborhood in Brooklyn while also trying to save the neighborhood was such a refreshing take on the psychological thriller. I was definitely creeped out especially when the body count started to go up. I think the only issue I had with this book is that it moved pretty slowly at first and then wrapped the entire thing in the last 50 pages. While I’m totally a fan of a slow burn, I’m not a fan of all the time spent writing the story with little hinting at the bigger creep factor trickling in and then stuck with everything happening all at once that the very end.

A Darker Shade of Magic by VE Schwab

This one is only on the honorable mentions list because I already read it before! This was a reread for our book club and it was just as enjoyable the second time as the first. Although, I will say I listened to the audiobook version of this one and I had to admit, I was a little disappointed. The narrator seemed to be much older than I imagined Kell to be, so every time Kell spoke, it seemed gruffer, older, and rougher. It’s very weird especially when you have a specific view of Kell from your first read.

September 2020 Wrap Up

September 2020 Wrap Up

Wow, we’re here again. I don’t know what’s happening, but I feel like these months keep getting shorter and shorter. I welcome it, though because that means October is a day away and I’ve got some great books to read in October.

This month, I fell into a little bit of a reading slump and only read six books. I feel like I slumped myself with a big science fiction novel, but then kept on reading and did myself a disservice. It was rough. I went days without reading anything, which is completely fine and something we all should do if we’re not feeling like reading, but at the same time I was so desperate to fall in love with a book and get myself out of the slump. Sadly, all I did was read another book that made me slump even more.

But my friends were talking about how they like to craft and listen to audiobooks. Since I didn’t have any audiobooks lined up for my September TBR, I did a little diverging. This was my first real move away from my TBR to read by my mood. In one way, I’m a little upset with myself for not reading what I planned out. In another (and more important) way, I feel like I did myself a service by switching over to a historical romance audiobook while I picked up knitting again. I cannot agree more with my friends who have been crafting and reading. This is such a great way to keep busy and read books at the same time. It really saved me especially with my mental health a little on the grim side (six months in quarantine will definitely mess with you).

Next month, I think will be a better reading month for me. I have my spooky books for the Halloween spirit, my fantasy reads for my yearly Fall for Fantasy reading challenge, and I’ve added a couple of Latinx authors to celebrate the end of Latinx Heritage Month. I’ve also mixed it up with both audiobooks and physical books as well as a few women’s fiction novels in case I start to slump again. I think it’s safe to say I’ve got a big old list of books to read next month.

But let’s get into this month. Here’s what I read:

Favorites of the Month

War Girls by Tochi Onyebuchi

This was such a good book on audio. I think that the audiobook helped contribute to my overall feelings about this book. It read like a science fiction movie, but with military fantasy elements to it. I’m working on my review for this currently, so I haven’t finalized my thoughts. I just want to say that this is my second book by Tochi Onyebuchi this year and his versatility in writing for both young adults and adults is incredible. I hope to read more from him in the future.

The Duchess Deal by Tessa Dare

I made some surprising moves this month with my TBR. Because of my slump from reading TSIASOS and Where Dreams Descend, I decided to read a historical romance that my friends have been telling me was good. They didn’t disappoint! I have a love/hate relationship with romance novels mostly because I need more story than just the two main characters’ relationship. This had a little bit of that especially with the main character who is a seamstress and a duke who wasn’t your classically handsome rake. It was also a slump buster because after this book, I felt like I could read again.

A Reaper at the Gates by Sabaa Tahir

Probably one of my favorite books of the month. I can always count on Sabaa Tahir to soothe my slumping soul and bring me a book that I will devour. And yes, I devoured this book like I have with the other books in this series. I’m finally caught up with the series and I can’t wait to see what Tahir has in store for all of us.

Kingdom of the Wicked by Kerri Maniscalco

I started getting spooky in late September because I couldn’t wait any longer for the best month of the year. And this was the perfect pick with all the horror and romance and fantasy you would want. I did have a few little issues with the book. Some did mess with my enjoyment of the story, but I think it was still a super strong start to a new YA fantasy series. I’ll be writing my review for this one in a couple of days, but it definitely exceeded my expectations and I would love to check out more work by Kerri Maniscalco. This book publishes on October 27, 2020.

Honorable Mentions

To Sleep in a Sea of Stars by Christopher Paolini

I started off with super high hopes this month reading this big tome of a novel. I hoped it would be one of my favorites of the year, but truthfully it didn’t reach my expectations. It’s still a good novel and if you’re a fan of hard science fiction, then this is for you. It gets super detailed and doesn’t leave anything out, but at the same time that detail got so convoluted that it made the rest of the story difficult to read. There were many points where I didn’t understand why the details were important especially when they contributed nothing to the story.

Where Dreams Descend by Janella Angeles

I’ve been holding off on sharing my review of this book because this was my least favorite read of the month. It wasn’t the worst book (I DNF those books and not give them any more time), but it was just okay. Perhaps my issue was that I put too much expectation into this book because I loved stories like Phantom of the Opera and Caraval. It just read flat to me and needed a bit more in it to make it truly intriguing and magical. Also, I felt the romance was forced and a little unnecessary in the story.

How was your month of reading?

August 2020 Wrap Up

August 2020 Wrap Up

I can’t believe August is already over. It’s kind of interesting that time moves so quickly when you’re stuck at home. I really do miss going out to cafes or the library and sitting for hours while reading a book and enjoying the people watching. I think I miss people watching the most.

While I did read a lot, I think my mental health is starting to take its toll. I read some great books, but my reading life felt mechanical. Almost as if I’m just doing it because I have to rather than having a love for books, if that makes sense. Obligation really turns any hobby into a chore, but I’m hoping September will be kinder to me especially with the dozen amazing fantasy novels I’ll be reading. But it’s been a productive month with 11 books read: nine books and two graphic novels. Here’s the breakdown:

Books I Recommend

The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune

This was my second book by TJ Klune and I think it really cemented my love for him and his work. He has this way of bringing you into this story, making his characters feel real to life (despite their magical aesthetics), and the little romance within the book is utterly charming and sweet. I highly recommend if you’ve ever been called a “weirdo” or a “freak” because of who you are. Because this book will teach you to love yourself and accept others as they are.

Harrow the Ninth by Tamsyn Muir

If you’ve read Gideon the Ninth, then I highly recommend its sequel. It was a zany novel that really confused the heck out of me, but I feel my greatest takeaway was to really trust your author. It was a super wild ride and quite entertaining while you take it, but I will warn you now that you’ll be so confused it’ll make your head spin. It’s possibly the only novel that really made me nervous all the way until the end. I’m glad I read it and I can’t wait for the last one. Hopefully this last book will be a little kinder to its readers.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

This is the book in the series that will destroy you. OMG, I didn’t have a clear understanding of Sabaa’s writing style until I read this one. Ooph, this is now one of my favorite series and I have two more books to go! This one definitely cemented the lives of the characters in her An Ember in the Ashes series, but it will break your heart over and over again. Sheesh, people weren’t wrong when they said Sabaa was brutal.

Take a Hint, Dani Brown by Talia Hibbert

Somehow, I snuck this final book into August and I absolutely loved it. It was also the second novel I read this month featuring British characters and a fake relationship. Perhaps I’m really into the fake relationship trope? I haven’t had a chance to write this review yet, but I will in the next couple of days. But truly, this book put a giant smile on my face, made me blush super hard, and the tenderness of Zaf and Dani is most definitely goals.

Boyfriend Material by Alexis Hall

If you need a little break from reading heavy tomes or if you’re in the middle of a massive slump, this is the book to get you out of that mindset. It’s witty and super laughable (I laughed out loud a lot and there’s some great one liners). It’s also super tender and sweet as a fake relationship turns into real love.

Honorable Mentions

My honorable mentions this month are also just as great as the books I read above. I want to mention this because I don’t want folks to think because they’re in this category that they were bad. Trust me, if a book was bad or I didn’t love it, I wouldn’t be adding it to this list. These were all great, but had something or another within it that made me pause from wholeheartedly loving them.

That’s my opinion, though. If any of these books are on your TBR or up your alley, you should most definitely read them. I share my full thoughts on these books throughout the month on my blog.

July 2020 Bookish Wrap Up

July 2020 Bookish Wrap Up

Yay! We made it to the end of July! Seriously, it’s been a tough month for me mentally. I’m struggling with staying home, but at least my time is spent with a little more reading than it was last month. This month, I finish out with 11 books under my belt.

There were definitely some things I noticed about my reading this month. First off, it took me five days to read Kevin Kwan’s Sex and Vanity, but then it took me two days to finish Catherine House. They may look similar, but one was a fun, summer book, and the other was a book filled with themes and ideas that made you think beyond your average scope. Two guesses on which was which.

The thing I’m most proud of is that I stuck to my TBR. I didn’t complete my TBR, but the books I read were all the ones I set out to read. However, I do want to make some adjustments for next month. I’ll share more when I share my TBR. For now, here’s what I read:

My Top 5 Standouts

The Extraordinaries by TJ Klune

I read this one on audio and it was such a great experience. The narrator brings a lot of personality to each character. I will say that there were moments when four or five characters are talking at once or their switching off what they’re saying and I couldn’t discern on audio who was who. But this book was fun! It’s got superheroes and teens trying to find their identity among the superheroes. I absolutely adored Nick. He reminded me so much of my friends in high school who would get obsessed with something to the point that they’re writing fan fiction (especially romantic fan fiction between Nick and Shadowstar lol). I also loved that TJ Klune included a kid with ADHD. It’s inclusive AF, it’s got so much to think about, funny and clever, but maybe a little unrealistic and I’m not talking about the superheroes. It’s probably better off you read this one on paper, but it was an interesting read. You can find my review of The Extraordinaries on Goodreads.

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

I prioritized this read because 1) the final book in this series is releasing later this year 2) I was participating in the readalong before then! I’ve been collecting these books for a few years and I’m so glad to have finally started reading them. I absolutely loved this first book. I loved the dual narrative because you get the full scope from two perspectives on what’s going on. I’m also a huge fan of spies and court intrigue, so it was definitely there in full force. My only issue? I didn’t start reading them sooner. I can’t wait to continue my dive into this series next month and I can’t wait for the final book. I feel like I’ll have more excitement for that one once I actually finish the ones I have first. You can find my review of An Ember in the Ashes on Goodreads.

Catherine House by Elisabeth Thomas

This was probably the most cerebral book I read all month and the one that I’m still thinking about today. I will note that this book isn’t for everybody, but if you’re a fan of literary fiction then you can truly appreciate this book. I went on a rant about transcendentalist philosophy in my review, which wasn’t my intention, but the story itself is engaging and has just enough in it to keep you going. I will note there was a little bit of a lull in the middle when Ines is going through school, but what you read there isn’t just unnecessary BS. I like to think that the lull in this book is the complacency of the school and the impact that it has on its students. That impact is more relevant when you finally see the end. I thought it was a wild novel with some twists and turns that kept me reading because I wanted answers. You can find my review of Catherine House on Goodreads.

A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne Brown

I just finished this book and wow. I haven’t written my thoughts about this one yet, but I can tell you right now that I absolutely loved it. It has deep magic in it, political intrigue, a little bit of a love story, and a massive world. Seriously, I’m so impressed with the magic in this world. It’s similar to many of the anime shows I watch where magic kind of pops up and a whole other world comes to light, if that makes sense. If anything, I was a little disappointed that the characters were so good at using magic without even trying. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s a Mary Sue situation, but it made me a little skeptical.

But I honestly was blown away and the book will keep you engaged and reading because there’s so much happening. And as you read, more and more is revealed into this world and I fell in love with it! I’m a huge fan of complex fantasy books and this is one of them. Nothing should be taken at face value and everything ultimately has an intriguing end. I also loved the characters here. They read incredibly real. I can’t stress that enough because sometimes I read these YA fantasy books and ask why decisions were made and chalk it up to them being teenagers. This read so much more mature, more articulate, and thoroughly well planned. I cannot wait for the second book!

Courting Darkness by Robin LaFevers

I read this one for a promotion on my Instagram and I was really worried I wouldn’t like it because it was dense and at some points a little dull, but I ended up really enjoying this one and anticipating the next book. I think the only issue I had with this is that it’s an offshoot from a bigger trilogy LaFevers wrote. If you’ve read her other series, then I would highly recommend this after because there was some stuff happening towards the end and throughout where I didn’t have any context and got lost. It wasn’t the worst thing in the world, but it wasn’t the greatest experience. But it’s another court drama, dual narrative between Genevieve and Sybella. Both of these characters are daughters of Death. One is the best at what she does and the other has been hidden away as a spy for five years. A little bit of a slow burn, but reads way more like an adult fantasy than a YA. You can find my review of Courting Darkness on Goodreads.

Honorable Mentions

Big Standout

Stamped from the Beginning: A Definitive History of Racist Ideas in America by Dr. Ibram X. Kendi

This particular book I picked up alongside many other folks in the world after the tragic murder of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and countless others. Reading a history book is not my favorite thing to do, but I wanted to know more. I wanted to understand when people say that our educational system didn’t include a lot of US history and I’m so thankful to those who suggested this book. It took me two months to read and I read about a chapter or two a day. It’s a big book, but the lessons you’ll learn will definitely resonate. I would highly recommend this book if you’re committed to anti-racist work and understanding the other part of American history that I didn’t know and never really learned. There’s lessons here that will stick with me for the rest of my life.

How did you make out this month? What did you end up reading?

The State of Simone: Where I’ve Been and My March 2020 Wrap Up

The State of Simone: Where I’ve Been and My March 2020 Wrap Up

2020 has been busy.

I moved to another city, but that wasn’t easy. We had to scout the city first and then find a place to live and then plan the rest of the move.

And then the Corona virus hit.

We moved a week before we were told to start practicing social distancing. I can’t believe I bought my toilet paper and paper towels for our new house right before it started selling out in stores. My husband and I’ve been staying home, staying safe. He’s been working, but since the virus broke out there’s been a slight hiring freeze. All the applications I’ve sent to places are now languishing in some HR limbo waiting for release. I mean, I think we’re all waiting for release.

So I’ve been keeping busy. We’ve been working on some projects at home and also keeping each other entertained while in quarantine. Hubby built a squat rack and platform (which is something we’ve been wanting and started working on before quarantine) and we were right at the start of working on our garden before everything shut down. I’ve set up a little reading nook in our third-level loft. It’s now the comfiest place to read, meditate, and just get away from the rest of what’s happening on ground level. I even bought Animal Crossing on Nintendo Switch to play.

As for reading, not so much. Since March was when they announced California would start “shelter in place,” I’ve been feeling a little lethargic. Like everyone else, the feeling of wanting to be at home vs. forced to be at home are quite different. As you know, I’m an avid homebody and love being home and doing things at home, but being told you can’t go anywhere really changes things. Normal walks require me to walk across the street whenever someone comes in the opposite direction. Keeping socially distant to avoid catching the virus. Constantly washing your hands or waiting in line for groceries because pandemic has made other folks hoard supplies. It’s been exhausting.

However, I also know that our lives are pretty privileged. We don’t have any kids so we don’t have to worry about school. We aren’t over the age of 65. We don’t have any respiratory issues or pre-existing conditions that would make us more susceptible to the disease. All we can do as able-bodied citizens is stay home, stay safe, and avoid contact with others. As the able-bodied, we are the ones that have to be more careful because our privilege lets us leave the house whenever we want. Our privilege lets us do jumping jacks without being out of breath. Our privilege needs to be under check through this time because those without the privilege won’t survive if we don’t.

So lethargy, I can get over. What I’m doing is protecting my mother who is over 65 and my father who has asthma. We’re protecting the huge senior citizen community that live here. We’re keeping our healthcare workers and essential employees safe from the virus. We’re putting those who are disadvantaged first because there’s no room to be selfish when there’s a virus going around that will literally strangle people of their breath.

But despite the pandemic and having an anxiety attack every time I go to the grocery store now (grocery stores were so soothing and now they’re panic inducing), I read seven books. I read my monthly average, which I’m very surprised and grateful about. There were so many accounts I’ve read from friends who can’t focus on their reading. So many people who are struggling with their mental health to sit down and enjoy a book. So many parents who need to focus their free time on taking care of their kids. So many folks who are working from home and trying to maintain a good work/life balance despite it all happening in the same place. The world is a little chaotic right now, so I’m grateful I read one book let alone seven.

Out of the seven, there were really only three that I wanted to highlight. You can find all my reviews on Goodreads, but a quick list of recommendations from me include:

For April, I plan on spending more time reading at home, working on my mocktails (a new hobby of mine), and baking to pass the time. What have you been doing to pass the time?

 

November 2019 Bookish Wrap Up

November 2019 Bookish Wrap Up

Happy December, folks! I feel like December crept up on us because one minute it was Thanksgiving and the next minute it’s all about the holidays. Then again, I guess every year is like that. I think the only difference is that the weekend after Thanksgiving this year was December 1st.

While there were a few rough bumps for me personally throughout the month of November, I felt pretty successful with what I accomplished. Last month, I read nine books and with pretty bad anxiety and a whole lot of depression, I have to say that was pretty good reading. I will note that half the books I read were romances, so that usually helps.

Some things I do want to note: I abandoned my TBR. I knew the TBR thing was a short burst in time, but I thought I would surprise myself and not read by my mood. Of course, I’m not awesome. It’s not a big loss for me. I still read plenty books, but I do want to control my moods sometimes because books keep getting put on the back burner. I’ve got books I’ve pushed off for years now and it’s finally time to read them.

I also didn’t read any of the Netgalley books I wanted to read. LOL, I didn’t do so well in November. But I’m not upset because I still read nine books, enjoyed every single one of them, and I’m excited for what December has to offer.

Here’s what I read

The Bromance Book Club by Lyssa Kay Adams

Well Met by Jen Deluca

Get A Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses by Jenny Hale

So I ended up reading a few more romances this month and I think it has something to do with the horror books I read. I read a few too many horror stories that I retreated into romances! All four of these were my favorite, but the one that stands out the most was Get a Life, Chloe Brown. I love the representation here and how natural Talia Hibbert wrote these characters. Also, it was pretty steamy which always gets some points in my book.

I also really loved Christmas Wishes and Mistletoe Kisses. While I’m not a huge fan of HEAs where the couple gets married and immediately have babies, it really surprised me. I was worried it would be as cheesy as the Hallmark holiday movies, but it had substance. I loved the characters and I thought that their motives made sense with the story. Very excellent read with a smattering of holiday cheer.

The Queens of Animation by Nathalie Holt

This was my only nonfiction for Nonfiction November and it was for my IRL book club. I loved this story mostly because it discusses the animators and women in animation who never got the credit they deserved. It was shocking to see how their influence made some of the most beloved Disney movies of all time, and they almost faded into the shadows. So sad! But such a great little book if you’re fan of Disney movies or if you want to know what the early days of animation looked like for women.

Sabriel by Garth Nix

Next year, my friend Deedi and I plan on reading some more backlist fantasy books we dubbed “the essential fantasy.” Basically, we’ve gotten to a point in our reading where we want to explore the foundations of fantasy books. While this isn’t scientific in any way, we chose a few books to get us started next year, but we didn’t want to waste the rest of 2019. So we started with Sabriel by Garth Nix and wow, I’m so shook by how fantasy worked back in the day. I definitely loved Sabriel, but it’s completely different from what we see fantasy today. It’s a quick read that will leave you with a lot of questions (that are answered in the subsequent novels after).

Incendiary by Zoraida Cordova

From older fantasy to a fantasy book that doesn’t publish until April 2020. I’m so excited for the opportunity to read Incendiary early and absolutely loved it. Filled with royal and political intrigue, diverse characters, and all your favorite tropes, you’ll love this one if you’re a fan of high fantasy and young people always making big mistakes.

Honorable Mentions

What did you end up reading this month?

Find all my reviews on Goodreads