March reading round-up

  • # of books read: 14
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 3
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 3
  • total page count: 3,998
  • year total page count: 12,251

Well, I still haven’t beat that crazy reading streak I had in January.  It does seem that I’m reading roughly 4,000 pages a month, though, and I can attest that several of the books this month were really long (including one that will end up being in next month’s round-up).

Only 3 audiobooks this month.  The first was the YA novel Shallow Graves by Kali Wallace, which I enjoyed despite its unevenness.  The other two audiobooks were both similar in genre and tone: Paul Tremblay’s Disappearance at Devil’s Rock and Megan Abbott’s You Will Know Me.  Both dealt with mothers and the hidden lives of their teenagers.  Both were also interesting character studies as not much by way of action happened, but kept me hooked until the end.

Darkly amusing #bookstagram #thedinner #hermankoch #justfinished

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The Dinner was recommended to me by a friend, and it was both short and disturbing.  I enjoy disturbing.  This was the kind of real-world disturbing, a scenario showing how thin the masks of polite society are, and how easily people descend into violent depths.

One of my favorite reads this month was Silence Fallen by Patricia Briggs.  This series continues to keep me hooked on the complicated political world of supernatural creatures.  Of course, Mercy Thompson is one of the strongest female characters I’ve ever read, and this installment revolves around that reputation.  I finished off another series just today, the Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle.  The final book, Dust to Dust, wrapped everything up nicely.  If you enjoy those ghost hunter shows, this series is for you.

I started watching “The Man in the High Castle” last month, and binge-watched both seasons.  The book doesn’t develop the characters quite so much as the show does, and is more about the randomness of possibility and choice rather than the concept of parallel universes, but it was a thought-provoking read. (I’ll have to include Girls on Fire in next month’s round-up, since I’m still only halfway through).

On the graphic novel front, I only read 3 and they were from the same series: Harrow County.  I had read volume 1 last spring and only now discovered that a.) there were 4 volumes out already and b.) my library consortium had them all!  These are kind of horror, but also strangely wholesome?  The main character Emmy is a witch, but she wants to use her powers to help people.  She also has a familiar in the shape of a boy’s skin that speaks to her, and an evil twin, and there are lots of “haints” around who are more than ready to do evil stuff.  (See what I mean about wholesome/horror?)

Two more books in the Throne of Glass series read this month: The Assassin’s Blade, a prequel which contains 5 novellas, and Heir of Fire, book 3.  It seems like each book in this series gets longer and longer… and Heir of Fire in particular felt long, more like a setup for a grand finale.  However, it’s still really good!  Only 2 books left to go…

Finally, I got around to reading Caraval, which I received via Owl Crate.  I was pretty psyched about this month’s theme, which was circus.  I was half-expecting to receive the book Freeks, which would have better fit the theme, but Caraval had its own charm.  It’s a fun read if you don’t take it too seriously.  It’s also a beautiful book, and receiving it through the mail with lots of luxurious little goodies fit the theme of the book.  I can’t wait for next month’s box!

I may decide to include a Wattpad reading round-up at some point in the future – but probably not next month, since I’ll be busy participating in Camp Nanowrimo and hopefully cranking out the third and final Wolf Point prequel!

What have you read this month that you enjoyed?

February reading round-up

  • # of books read: 17
  • audiobooks listened to: 3
  • ebooks read: 6
  • ARCs read: 2
  • books from the Throne of Glass series: 2
  • graphic novels: 4
  • total page count: 3,877
  • year total page count: 8,253

Well, not so many books read as last month, but a lot of that has to do with February being 3 days shorter than January, as well as the fact that I took a week off from work, which means less time commuting to listen to audiobooks.

I breezed through 2 advanced reader copies, one from Edelweiss Above the Treeline and one from Netgalley.  I had some issues with Reaper by Kyra Leigh, although it was still a fast read (mostly to do with the ending).  Bad Blood by Demitria Lunetta fit in well with my rewatch of the Outlander series.  It involves a history of Scottish witches using blood magic.  Reaper will be released in May and Bad Blood will be coming out next month.

In newer releases, I got to read Veronica Roth’s new book, Carve the Mark.  This wasn’t the easy read Divergent was, and for a while in the beginning I thought I wasn’t going to be able to finish.  A few chapters later, once I hit Cyra’s point of view, all that changed.  Akos and Cyra’s slow burn relationship was quite enjoyable to read, so much so that I can almost forgive the fact that this ends without really wrapping up ANYTHING.

I also got my hands on History of Wolves, by Emily Fridlund, which has been on the hold shelves at my library for months.  It wasn’t quite as thriller-y as the jacket blurb makes it out to be, but the tension throughout and the descriptive passages made this a worthwhile read.

The graphic novels I read this month can be split quite evenly into Awesome and Pretty Good.  In the Pretty Good category: The Monstress is an award-winner, and has gorgeous artwork (the story itself is a bit too confusing and complex for me), and Trashed (by the author of My Friend Dahmer) was part memoir and part lecture on landfills.  In the Awesome category: Paper Girls 2 had all the greatness of the first volume, and Reindeer Boy by Cassandra Jean was cute as all hell.

In vintage YA, I discovered a horse series that I hadn’t read: Flambards, by K.M. Peyton.  It was delightfully old-fashioned, I suppose because it was written in 1967 and takes place in the early part of the century.  Since I would have to interlibrary loan the rest of the books, I attempted to watch the TV series, but that was really too old-fashioned for me.  Guess I’ll never find out if Christina marries William or Dick.

And finally, I finally read Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (immdiately followed by Crown of Midnight) and I was a near-instant convert!  What took me so long??  In a way, I’m sort of glad I waited, because it means I get to read them all at once. Up next is the prequel, The Assassin’s Blade.

January reading round-up

  • # of books read: 20
  • audiobooks listened to: 5
  • ebooks read: 6
  • nonfiction read: 2
  • ARCs read: 1
  • books from the Experiment in Terror series: 4
  • books from the White Cat series: 3
  • vintage YA: 3
  • total page count: 4,376

I did a ton of reading this month.

In newer releases, I finished up Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital, which was fascinating not quite in the way I had anticipated – I had thought Bellevue was mostly a mental hospital – but still learned a lot about the early days of medicine in America and about the various plagues that swept through New York City.

Freeks, by Amanda Hocking, was an impulse add to my reading list when a stack of new books came up from the library’s tech services and one I had forgotten to put on hold for myself, A List of Cages, was on hold for someone else… The circus/carnival/sideshow theme of course was calling to me.  I like her writing style – it’s easy to read, and fun.  This one took place in the 80’s so there were tons of 80’s references.  I personally think the title is a little cheesy but it fits.

I also read an ARC of Hellworld by Tom Leveen.  This was the kind of post-apocalyptic story I love, where monsters hinted at in ancient religious texts are unleashed – a sci-fi horror thriller.

Another newer book I loved was Challenger Deep, by Neal Shusterman – it completely deserves the National Book Award!

I blazed through 5 audiobooks.  Three of those were Holly Black’s White Cat series, which were narrated by Jesse Eisenberg, and were short and fun to listen to.  Patient Zero was much longer, and yet I blew through that one as well.  Then I listened to Every Exquisite Thing, by Matthew Quick – so, so good.  So quotable.

Three of the books I read this month were “vintage YA.”  The first was The Executioner, a book I thought I remembered reading as a teen back in the 90’s.  Not sure if I actually did… let’s just say the characters weren’t exactly memorable and the mystery didn’t make much sense.  The second, a donation that appeared in my box at the library, was Attitude Problem, which had even bigger plot holes and possibly even flatter characters.  The third was The Woman in the Wall, which was a bit of strange magical realism.  What all of these books made me nostalgic for were the days when you could read a book in a matter of 2-3 hours.

Stealing some reading time at the laundromat #reading #bookstagram #laundry

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I downloaded the rest of the books in the Experiment in Terror series, which I last left off in 2014.  Still just as good two years later.  The premise is two ghosthunters, each with the ability to see ghosts, team up for an internet show.  The sexual tension is insane, and finally I got to the part where Perry and Dex get together!  Naturally, not without Sasquatch, zombies, and plenty of ghosts.  (That’s Into the Hollow, book #6, that I’m reading at the laundromat above).  I also found myself binge-watching “Paranormal Lockdown,” which gave me the Dex & Perry feels.

And finally!  I got to read A List of Cages, which is officially my favorite book this month. Might be my favorite book for the rest of the year, too.  It was so heartbreaking and lovely.  Highly recommended!!

Top 5 Reads of 2016

The only book I rated 5 stars in 2016 was the last book in the Captive Prince series, Kings Rising, by C.S. Pacat. This is a great series which is as much about the main relationship between two princes as about political intrigue.

Another series that I highly enjoyed in 2016 was the Falling Kingdoms series by Morgan Rhodes.  I had read the first book back in 2014, and on a whim decided to listen to the second book on audio.  The narrator for these audiobooks is fantastic, and I quickly ran through the rest of the series.  I’m eagerly awaiting the day my library gets the audio for the 5th book in the series, which was released this month.

Golden Boy by Abigail Tarttelin gave me all the feels, almost as many as Girl in Pieces by Kathleen Glasglow.  The first is about an intersex teen trying to find his place in the world after the unthinkable happens, and the second is about a cutter trying to make her way alone after being released from rehab.

Finally, I have to include the book that gave me the chills: And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich.  As a girl slowly goes insane, she is haunted by creeping trees and a Slender Man-like figure.

Those are my top five!  I read a lot, so there are many, many books I enjoyed this year that were close calls.  Check out my Goodreads profile if you want to see ALL the books I rated as 4 stars – I review every book I read, too, and I’d love to be friends with you and see what you’re reading!

reading list April 2016

This is about a week late, but I’m going to try to make this a monthly column, where I give a brief review of everything I’ve read that month – so here’s April!

Series Fiction

257762101There are only a handful of series that I’m really into.  The Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs is one of them (her Alpha & Omega series is another!), and the 9th entry, Fire Touched, could not truly satiate my hunger, but it mostly filled me up… for now!    This is truly one of my very favorite werewolf series.  Mercy is a great character, and the other characters also quickly worm their way into my heart.

51-5ix9w9gl-_sx330_bo1204203200_I only just finished Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard in March, but I figured the 2-story prequel collection of Cruel Crown wouldn’t take too long to read.  I liked Red Queen more than I thought I would, but I was a bit divided on the stories here.  The first, Queen Song, I really loved.  It felt like a complete story to me, that was not dependent on information from Red Queen.  The second story, Steel Scars, actually skipped what I figured would be the climactic event because it occurred in Red Queen.  Still, now that I’m reading Glass Sword, I’m grateful for the extra background of both stories.  For those of you who haven’t read this series, it blends fantasy with a lot of the dystopian elements seen in YA literature over the past few years – the Red blood vs. Silver blood reminded me of Divergent, while the Queenstrial and the various fights to the death reminded me of Hunger Games – and also has a Cinderella-esque feel to it.

16000044Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes was a book I read for my teen book club over a year ago.  I had really enjoyed it, but waffled about getting the subsequent books, because series take time, and I have so many books to read!  I was stuck without an audiobook for my commute, so I went online and downloaded Rebel Spring (Falling Kingdoms #2) and I was surprised at just how easily I was transported back into this fantasy world and the cast of characters.  Normally I only listen to audiobooks in my car, because I have them on CD, but the downloadable audio gave me the opportunity to listen while I did household chores like cooking dinner or preparing my lunch for work, or folding laundry (although part of this was because the due date was rapidly approaching!).  As soon as I’m done Glass Sword I’ll be checking out Gathering Darkness!  I’ve been slogging through the 3rd book in A Song of Fire and Ice for about a year now, and I’ll just say that this has a lot of similarities to Game of Thrones but reads very quickly and easily.  The world-building isn’t overly complex or intimidating, and each character has such a strong agenda that I can’t help but root for each in turn, even the not-so-good ones (ahem, Magnus!).

Standalone Fiction

51v6koptydl-_sx331_bo1204203200_My enthusiasm for the standalone fiction I read this month pales a bit in comparison.  Two of these I finished reading while I was on a trip to Iceland.  Valhalla by Ari Bach was one I had downloaded and was super excited to read, based on some strong marketing.  I did not, however, enjoy it as much as I wanted to.  The main character, Violet, seems to have antisocial personality disorder of the serial killer type, which makes her difficult to relate to.  The world-building seemed to take up a lot of the story.  Considering that the characters undergo modifications that make them able to come back to life and not feel pain, I didn’t feel that there was much at stake throughout.  This is the first in a series, but I won’t be reading the rest, hence why it’s in my “standalone” section.

18166941Boy on the Edge by Fridrik Erlings was on my to-read list, possibly because it sounded like the story of a troubled, possibly suicidal boy stuck in a foster care system.  Then I quickly discovered that it was originally written in Icelandic and takes place in Iceland – what a coincidence!  While being in the country while the author is describing the lava fields and landscapes was pretty awesome, the story felt old-fashioned, probably because it was being told by an older man about his childhood.  The book was alright, but I doubt its appeal to modern teens.

The Wendigo by Algernon Blackwood is a classic short story/novella that in my mind I associated with werewolves.  Intellectually I knew that the wendigo as it is known to Native Americans is not the same as what wendigo has come to mean to popular culture, but still, I was under the impression that this was going to be a horror story.  Basically, this is the story of a group of explorers and traders of different nationalities (British, American, French Canadian, and one lone Native America who is described in the racist fashion of the times) who encounter a wendigo.  One of them is spirited off, and returns much changed.  Or, not really changed at all, other than raving about his burning feet, because apparently wendigos are just really big creatures with burning hooves that run around and don’t eat humans. Not exactly what I was expecting – or hoping for.

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Nonfiction

Nonfiction is a category I don’t often read, and it’s hard to really decide if I’ve “enjoyed” it, so it’s more along whether or not I found it “interesting” or learned something from it.

41ouqvxzgfl-_sy344_bo1204203200_As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I’ve been writing some fanfiction.  Fic: Why Fanfiction is Taking Over the World by Anne Jamison is one of the few books out there about the culture of fanfiction (although it didn’t really get as deep into the “why fanfiction is taking over the world” as I would have liked).  This compiled a bit of the history of fandoms and fanfiction as it evolved over the centuries, which sometimes got a bit boring when it delved into fandoms I’m not a part of nor interested in (such as Star Trek, or even Sherlock Holmes).  This focused a bit heavily on the Twilight fandom, as that fandom has produced a number of published authors in recent years and fueled the debate over what is transformative fiction and what is copyright infringement. There were a few philosophical essays and bits that were really tedious and boring, but there were a number of great essays as well.

life-changing-magic-not-giving-a-fuckNow, I haven’t read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, but I still wanted to read The Life-Changing Magic of Not Giving a F*ck by Sarah Knight.  The subtitle, A Practical Parody, really sums up this book.  It’s funny, but you can also use the advice contained within.  I found it really amusing that so many reviewers on Goodreads marked this book down for containing too many instances of the f-bomb – I mean, it’s in the title, what did you expect?  I, however, really enjoyed it.

 

 

goodreads stars & how i use them

I see a lot of things about reviewers on Goodreads who give reviews that are either 1 star or 5 stars, with little in-between, and whenever I read about reviewers like that, I always feel a little confused.

This is the exact opposite of how I rate books.

I like a nice bell curve.  Most of my reviews are 3 stars, because that’s an “average” rating.  Three stars means I liked the book… because, surprise!  I like to read, and I like books.  I like most things I read.  That’s normal right?  If I hated 50% of the things I read, I probably wouldn’t like to read so much.

It’s very rare that I absolutely HATE a book, and usually I can’t even say that I hated it.  Most of my 1-star reviews are for books that I couldn’t finish.  And sometimes even a favorite author will make that list (Stephen King, for Dreamcatcher).

Two stars, that means I could finish the book but didn’t particularly enjoy it.  A lot of school reading falls into this category.  Or sometimes I didn’t enjoy it, but can see the literary value.  Or sometimes it’s the rating version of “Meh.” (The official Goodreads description of a 2-star rating is “it was ok.”  Meh.)

When I give a book four stars on Goodreads, that’s a recommendation from me.  Usually I will rate a book 4 stars if I can imagine myself recommending the book to someone (as a librarian, I do this a lot!).  These are books that I think are well-written, that captured my attention, and especially series books that I am likely to continue reading.

Now, when I rate a book FIVE stars, that’s something rare.  (Almost as rare as 1 star!  Because I like my bell curve!).  Sometimes a book transports me into another world, where I think about the characters outside of the story, or maybe I imagine myself IN the story.  I’m emotionally invested, fully.  These things might also describe a 4-star book as well.  But I’d also re-read a 5-star book.  I hardly ever re-read anything.

Some of the books that I’ve given 5 stars to:

  • Where the Red Fern Grows by Wilson Rawls
  • The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath
  • The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams
  • The Changeling by Zilpha Keatley Snyder
  • The Stand by Stephen King
  • The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  • The Twilight & Hunger Games series
  • The Vampire Armand by Anne Rice
  • A Solitary Blue by Cynthia Voigt

Now, when I write reviews on Amazon (which I do very rarely), the rating scale slides a little bit.  Some of my 3-star reviews become 4-star reviews, because on Amazon, 3-star is “it was ok.”  Which I guess makes sense.  But I like my Goodreads bell curve 🙂

back when YA was an afterschool special

“Vintage” young adult books fall into only a few genres, and I’ve just had the pleasure (?) of reading a few that fit the “Afterschool Special” genre.  This breed of YA is rarely seen for today’s teens.  Reading these books is like being hit over the head with the book’s Very Special Message.

The Wave (1981), written by Todd Strasser under the pen name Morton Rhue, is based on the true story of a classroom experiment that got out of hand.  In teaching his students about how an ordinary person could become involved in the Nazi movement, a teacher institutes “The Wave,” a movement based on discipline, community, and action.  Within a week, the movement spreads beyond the classroom.  Members of The Wave are bullying non-members into joining.

This novel brought to mind some experiments I read about in college, such as the Stanford Prison Experiment and the Milgram Obedience Experiment.  However, the retelling for teens is full of those stock characters you often find in vintage YA.  The main character is the popular and pretty Laurie, dating football star David.  Naturally, Laurie is one of the few who questions The Wave – no one wants to be the drone who buys into The Wave!  The teacher, Mr. Ross, is probably the most three-dimensional character of the lot, unsurprising as it was the original teacher’s story that was mined for the screenplay for the actual afterschool special this book is based on.  Mr. Ross, the “cool teacher,” comes up with this idea and begins to waver between knowing the experiment has gotten out of hand and believing he has created something good.  The ending is especially heavy-handed.

The Very Important Lesson: Nazism is bad, Individualism is good.  Even you can become a Nazi if you don’t think for yourself!

The second Very Special novel I read was Too Young to Die (1987) by Alida E. Young.  Check out this awesomely cheesy cover, which actually depicts a scene in the story!

It seems this story was written as some kind of public service announcement about Students Against Drunk Driving.  That’s the main thrust of the story: popular kid Shane gets hit by a car, driven by a classmate who was drunk driving.  His girlfriend Robin starts a crusade S.A.D.D. chapter at her school and alienates all of her friends in her undying concern for her boyfriend, who lies in a coma in the hospital.  Statistics about drunk driving accidents are spewed.  Months go by.  Eventually she sees that the kid drunk driving, Troy, felt guilty about the whole thing.  Takes her almost the entire book, too.

The most unbelievable part of this story, I thought, was that Robin was only fourteen.  Not to say that a fourteen-year-old couldn’t be so in love with her boyfriend that she sits by his bedside for months.  Part of me – the sarcastic, skeptical part – had Robin pegged from the very beginning as that girl who laid all her hopes and dreams of becoming popular on her boyfriend.  Without Shane, who was she?  Basically no one.  She doesn’t seem to have any of her own interests.  I felt like this was the true reason why she sat by Shane’s bedside all those months.  Ah, well.

The Very Important Lesson: Don’t drink and drive!

Last, and sort of least, was More Than Just a Smart Girl (1987) by Lurlene McDaniel.  I say least mostly because this wasn’t as heavy-handed as the first two.  But it was still a story about a nice girl who learns a Very Important Lesson.

Alissa is such a smarty-pants she got skipped ahead and now at age 13 she’s starting high school. What’s scary at first turns super awesome when she discovers that Derek, the star football player, is in her study hall and also needs her help with math homework. Soon Alissa is lying to her old fat friend Georgia and to her parents and doing Derek’s homework for him and hoping Derek will realize she’s just as pretty as any of the cheerleaders.

This book was so predictable I laughed a few times. I think everyone in the world could see that Derek was just using Alissa; I mean, she practically begged him to let her do his homework for him. The story is written in such an old-fashioned way that I could have told you exactly how it would end, including Alissa making it up to Georgia and her new friend Casey’s brother Steve showing up to be The Nice Guy. Not only did Alissa learn that she shouldn’t bother putting on make up or dress up for a guy, but Georgia learned an important lesson as well, as she “decided not to be fat anymore” and went on a diet and lost a bunch of weight.

The best part was Alissa’s freak out after she figures out Derek is using her.  Throughout the entire book she’s such a nerdy wallflower and then she basically loses it in the hallway at school.

The Very Important Lesson: Don’t change for a guy.

Sure, these are important lessons to impart to the youth.  Luckily, YA has evolved as a genre so the lessons aren’t *quite* so laughably obvious.