Wednesday, April 29, 2020

April Wrap-Up

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April was a very good month for me. I was able to get a ton of reading done and discovered the works of plenty of new authors. I've compiled a list of all the books I read throughout the month.

Books I Read and Reviewed

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman- 2.9 Stars

Ubiety by Grzegorz Kunowski- 2.3 Stars

After Alice by Gregory Maguire- 1.7 Stars

The Vine Witch by Luanne G. Smith- 3.7 Stars

Books I Read, Didn't Review

American Crumble by Lawrence Jay Switzer- 4 Stars (Goodreads review here)

Green Arrow: Year One* by Andy Diggle- 4 Stars

The Girl of Hawthorne and Glass* by Adan Jerreat-Poole- 4 Stars (Goodreads review here)

The Redwood Con by Reagan Keeter- 3 Stars (Goodreads review here)

Wonder Woman Vol 2: Year One* by Greg Rucka- 4 Stars

Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman- 4 Stars

Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year One* by Tom Taylor- 4 Stars

Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Two, Vol* 1 by Tom Taylor- 4 Stars

Injustice: Gods Among Us, Year Two, Vol 2* by Tom Taylor- 4 Stars

Deep Space by Milo James Fowler - 3 Stars (Goodreads review here)

Genres Read

Comic Book/Graphic Novel: 5

Fantasy: 3

Science Fiction: 1

Thriller: 2

Literary Fiction: 2

Mythology: 1

Figures

Number of DNFs: 0

Total Books Read: 14

Pages Read: 2,801

Average Rating: 3.47 Stars

What did you read in April? Any recommendations?

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Monday, April 27, 2020

The Vine Witch

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The Vine Witch is a 2019 historical fantasy by Luanne G. Smith. It was published by 47North. The stroy takes place in turn-of-the-century France. I discovered the novel while browsing Kindle Unlimited one day.

The novel tells the story of a woman named Elena who is a vine witch, witches whose spells have created world-renowned wines for centuries. After breaking a spell that she'd been under for years, Elena returns to the vineyards at Ch√Ęteau Renard, the only home she's ever known, only to find that it has fallen upon hard time in her absence. While Elena struggles to regain her former life, she plans her revenge on the witch who cursed her and the lover who wronged her.

One of the most enjoyable aspects of this novel is the magic system. I initially decided to read this book because I was curious about how the author would entwine magic and wine-making in the narrative. Smith not only explained how magic can be used to improve wine-making, but also how it can be used for sabotaged. One of the reasons Elena's beloved vineyard has fallen upon hard times while she was cursed is because another witch has placed a hex on the vineyard, resulting in a series of bad vintages by the winemakers. Vine witches aren't the only type of witches in this story, either. There are witches who specialize in poisons, witches who are experts in healing arts, and plenty of other magical disciplines. I enjoyed the variety of magical abilities on display in the story.

Smith's writing is very vivid, which works in this story's favor. As I was reading, I could practically see the rural landscape. I could taste the wine being described by the narrative. I also enjoyed the pacing of this novel. It is a little slow in the beginning, but the plot escalates in a way that makes sense but also doesn't feel rushed. The story builds up tension appropriately, and while the conclusion felt a little cliche, I didn't have any major complaints about how the story was resolved. One thing that I was surprised by was the revelation of who cursed Elena and turned her into a toad, the curse she breaks at the beginning of the novel. That revelation was one of the few plot elements that genuinely surprised me.

While I liked Smith's overall writing style, and the magic system she created, there were a few things I didn't enjoy about The Vine Witch. The biggest complaint I have is the lack of characterization. Most of the characters fell flat with me, including some of the main characters. They didn't really have much depth to them. The reader wasn't given enough of a reason to hate Bastien, Elena's former fiance who she believes cursed her, other than the fact that she does. He's a shrewd businessman who wants to grow his business, and that fact, combined with her suspicions of him, is supposed to be enough for the reader to want him to fail and suffer. This book also has quite a bit of filler, which I normally wouldn't have a problem with, but this isn't a long book and having as much filler as it does works against its favor. Lastly, there is the romance, which I wasn't a fan of. There isn't enough shown of the developing relationship between Elena and Jean-Paul, so it felt a bit rushed. I also didn't think they had much chemistry. Overall, the romance felt like it existed to tick off a box on a list and not because it was necessary to the story. 

The Vine Witch is a book that I would call average. I don't think it's a groundbreaking, amazing novel, but it isn't terrible either. It lags in places, and is a little boring, but the story overall is sound and well-crafted. It fits into a category that I call "beach reads", which are books that are quick, easy reads that keeps the reader engaged without being overly deep or memorable. The book is enjoyable, but it wasn't a favorite of mine.

Rating: 3.7 Stars

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Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Info Dump Bookish Tag

6 Steps to Take when Styling a Bookcase - Under Construction - Medium

I was tagged by Books And Chocoholic to do this tag last week, which she created. Her original video can be found here. It took me longer than I expected to be able to sit down and The purpose of this tag is to just info dump all of your reading preferences. Anyway, now let's get into the tag.

1) How many books on average do you read per month?

I normally read around 10 books for month. April is turning out to be a very good month, as I've already read 13 books so far. In all fairness, some of those books are short or graphic novels.

2) How many books are on your TBR?

Around 40 books are on my TBR, but I don't know the exact number because I add books and remove books almost daily. I also don't like thinking about how long that list is getting.

3) How are your books organized on your shelves?

I don't. I keep series together and my comic books/graphic novels are together, but beyond that, I don't have a rhyme or reason in how books are placed on the shelves. I know some people organize by author or by genre, but I'm not that organized, so books end up wherever there's space on the shelf.

4) Which genres do you read the most from?

I read a lot of fantasy, especially epic fantasy. I also read a great deal of science fiction. Surprisingly, there are also a lot of general/literary fiction books I've read so far in 2020, or at least more than I thought I'd read. I'm hoping to read a little bit more non-fiction this year, as well as try to get back into thrillers

5) Which genres do you own the most of?

Fantasy and science fiction, definitely.

6) What is your preferred form of reading (physical books, e-books, etc)?

I read mostly physical books, but I've started reading more e-books recently. Audiobooks are just not really my thing, unfortunately.

7) Who is your most owned author?

Tolkien, hands down. There are so many Lord of the Rings-related books in my house, it's not even funny. The runner-up would be Kiersten White.

8) Describe your favorite writing style.

I like writing that is appropriately descriptive, which may sound weird at first glance, but let me explain. If the author is describing another planet or a different dimension or magical realm, they should be using more detail than if they're describing something more mundane, like anything in "our" world. I prefer 3rd person, but I don't have a problem with writing in 1st person. I'm not a big fan of flowery dialogue or when an author uses overly complicated words to "enhance" the writing.  I don't know if this fits under here, but pacing is a big thing for me as well. I dislike it when a book spends 300 pages building to a confrontation that lasts half a page.

9) Which literary devices do you like/dislike?

I love well-executed instances of foreshadowing. My favorite books tend to be the ones where I'm surprised by a turn of events, but it doesn't seem to be coming out of nowhere. I'm a big fan of symbolism as well, especially in fantasy. I'm not a huge fan of split timelines. I also have issues with stream of consciousness writing.

10) Which character archetypes do you enjoy?

This probably isn't groundbreaking or unique, but I loved flawed characters. Snarky characters, anti-heroes, characters that are complicated. I'm also a huge fan of pure evil villains. Someone who just wants to take over the world, or whatever. I don't need a tragic backstory, and depending on the genre, I don't want a backstory, or a villain who is evil only because they oppose the heroes or may have a point.

11) Which are your favorite book settings?

I like books that take place in other worlds or on other planets, pretty much as far from reality as possible. Historical settings for fantasy are also a big hit with me. I don't have anything against modern settings or urban fantasy, but they're just not my favorite.

12) Which are your favorite romantic and plot tropes?

I don't really have a favorite romantic trope, just a few that I heavily dislike, such as instalove, love triangles and couples that keep getting together and breaking up. If I had to pick one, I'd say my favorites tropes are strangers-to-lovers or second-loves. It honestly takes a lot for me to care about romance in the books that I read. As for plot tropes, I love the "found family" trope. I'm a sucker for strong friendships/the power of friendship. Also, I don't know the agreed-upon term for this trope, but I love it when there is a prophecy and it's fulfilled in an unexpected way, usually involving either vague wording or "the chosen one" not actually being the chosen one.


And that's the tag! Now, it's time for me to do some tagging of my own. I tag:

Leah's Books & Cooks

Caffeinated Fae

Behind the Pages

And anyone else who wants to give this tag a try!

Monday, April 20, 2020

After Alice

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After Alice is a 2015 fantasy novel by Gregory Maguire. It was published by William Morrow in October 2015. The novel is a retelling of Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

The novel follows Ada, Alice's friend, who arrives a moment too late to prevent Alice from going down the rabbit hole and ends up taking a trip to Wonderland herself. Ada traverses Wonderland to try and bring her friend home. Meanwhile, Ada's governess Miss and Alice's sister Lydia search for the missing girls.

While I wanted to enjoy this story, I feel like Maguire chose to put the wrong amount of emphasis on certain parts of this novel. I can't speak for anyone else, but when I read the blurb on the back of this book, I was expecting a story about a new character traveling through Wonderland and getting to experience it for the first time. Perhaps the reader would get to see new parts of Wonderland that weren't mention, or were barely touched upon, in Carroll's original story. Unfortunately, that isn't what happens in this novel. Over half of the novel focuses on events happening in Victorian England as opposed to Wonderland itself. Ada's governess Miss Armstrong searches for Ada while Lydia is more concerned with learning about the visitor, Mr. Winter, than her missing sister. There is also a section of Lydia's story where discussions about slavery and evolution occur. While slavery was still happening in America when Alice in Wonderland is set, and Charles Darwin is a character in this story, around the time he released The Origin of Species, these topics felt out of place with the rest of the story. The commentary on those topics were almost completely unnecessary and distracted from the story Maguire set out to tell. While some may have wondered what happened in England while Alice was in Wonderland, the chapters taking place in Victorian England really slowed the story down and distracted from the parts of the story I wanted to read most.

The chapters of the story that did not focus on life in Victorian London took place in Wonderland. Sadly, Ada's adventure through Wonderland was far less entertaining and exciting as Alice's. For the majority of Ada's adventure in Wonderland, she's simply trying to find Alice and has no adventures for herself. She often arrives just after an iconic scene from Alice in Wonderland has ended, missing all of the excitement and most of the wonder. For example, she arrives at the Mad Hatter's tea party after Alice has already left. Ada could've had her own adventure, but instead spends page after page chasing after Alice and not being able to truly experience Wonderland. Due to a combination of too much emphasis on Victorian England, and no excitement in the Wonderland chapters, I found After Alice to be rather boring.

I chose to read this book because I loved Maguire's more famous work, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West. I was amazed by the character work and character development he created in that story.He turned a character who was seen as pure evil, the Wicked Witch, and gave her personality and complex motivations. I was expecting the same to happen in After Alice, but sadly we don't get that. While there are a plethora of characters, none are fully-fleshed out. Lydia is a stereotypical self-involved teenager and Ada's most notable character trait is a dislike for her governess and the fact that she's awkward. The characters aren't really characters, and thus there's no character growth or real character arcs that take place. It's difficult for me to read a novel where I don't connect, or even like, a single character, and that's what happened here.

While I wasn't a fan of this book overall, there were some things that I enjoyed. Maguire's writing style has always enraptured me. He excels at writing his descriptions and creating a clear, vivid picture of the world for the reader. In the case of After Alice, he took great pains to try and replicate Lewis Carroll's clever writing, and in places, he achieves that goal. He gets closer than most Alice-inspired works do at capturing Carroll's voice, and while I didn't enjoy the plot overall, his ability to imitate the original work kept me closing the book and giving up.

Overall, I have to say that After Alice simply wasn't the novel for me. The writing is amazing, but the plot and character-work left me feeling unfulfilled. My main issues with the novel stem from one factor: the story is incredibly boring. There's no wonder in Wonderland and while the blurb promises a new story, the promise goes unfulfilled.

Rating: 1.7 Stars

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Friday, April 17, 2020

The YA Series No One Talks About

Shadow Children Complete Set, Books 1-7: Among the Hidden, Among ...

Since I started this blog, I've been thinking a lot about books I've read over the years. Not only have I been remembering books that changed my life on a very deep level, but also some series I remember loving that I'd forgotten about. When I was making a list of young adult series that I love for another post, I was suddenly reminded of the Shadow Children series by Margaret Peterson Haddix. So, I decided to dedicate an entire post to that series by itself.

The Shadow Children series consists of seven novels (Among the Hidden, Among the Impostors, Among the Betrayed, Among the Barons, Among the Brave, Among the Enemy and Among the Free). It takes place in a dystopian country where the government has enforced strict population control laws in order to control overpopulation after environmental conditions have severely limited resources, particularly food. As a result, it is against the law for families to have more than two children; the law is strictly enforced by the Population Police, who are said to conduct raids specifically to find and punish families who have more than two children. Due to these circumstance, the third, and any subsequent, children are denied the right to exist and must spend their lives hidden to avoid imprisonment or death.

The first book in this series, Among the Hidden, was the book that sparked my interest in dystopian novels. While I'd read some dystopian fiction before it, I either didn't understand the dysptopian elements at the time, or I didn't find the story particularly interesting. Not with this series though. They were the perfect book to get me into dystopias. From this series, I found The Hunger Games and other, more widely-discussed dystopian series.

While books such as The Hunger Games certainly deserve the attention they get, I feel like this series is being forgotten by people. I read these books in middle school, and while several other students read them, I don't think that was the case for everyone. I think they've been largely overlooked, as many people I've asked haven't heard of them. Or maybe I've been asking the wrong people. It's a good series for the middle grade and young adult audience, being on the right reading level and age-appropriate for readers at the younger end of the YA age range. It's being overlooked, and it doesn't deserve to.

In conclusion, if you enjoy dystopia fiction and you haven't read this series, I think you should check it out. If you have read this series, what did you think of it? Are there any novels or series you think aren't getting the attention they deserve?


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Wednesday, April 15, 2020

April Book Haul

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With everything going on, I've been doing a lot of reading. As a result, I've inevitably gone on more than one book-buying binge recently. Strangely, all of the books I purchased arrived on the same day, so I've decided to make a book haul post to show off my purchases.

(Please note, all book blurbs are copied from Goodreads.com)

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And I Darken by Kiersten White || Genre: Fantasy

Blurb: No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwlya likes it that way. Ever since she and her gentle younger brother, Radu, were wrenched from their homeland of Wallachia and abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman courts, Lada has known that being ruthless is the key to survival. She and Radu are doomed to act as pawns in a vicious game, an unseen sword hovering over their every move. For the lineage that makes them special also makes them targets. 

Lada despises the Ottomans and bides her time, planning her vengeance for the day when she can return to Wallachia and claim her birthright. Radu longs only for a place where he feels safe. And when they meet Mehmed, the defiant and lonely son of the sultan, Radu feels that he’s made a true friend—and Lada wonders if she’s finally found someone worthy of her passion. 

But Mehmed is heir to the very empire that Lada has sworn to fight against—and that Radu now considers home. Together, Lada, Radu, and Mehmed form a toxic triangle that strains the bonds of love and loyalty to the breaking point.


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God Emperor of Dune by Frank Herbet || Genre: Science Fiction

Blurb: More than three thousand years have passed since the first events recorded in DUNE. Only one link survives with those tumultuous times: the grotesque figure of Leto Atreides, son of the prophet Paul Muad'Dib, and now the virtually immortal God Emperor of Dune. He alone understands the future, and he knows with a terrible certainty that the evolution of his race is at an end unless he can breed new qualities into his species. But to achieve his final victory, Leto Atreides must also bring about his own downfall.


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Prelude to Extinction by Andreas Karpf || Genre: Science Fiction

Blurb: When Jack Harrison climbed down the short ladder from the airlock and stepped onto the debris covered soil, the ground crackled with the sound of dried leaves and twigs. Warm sunlight shined through his helmet, making him almost forget the decade he just spent captaining Earth’s first ship to another star system. The serene tropical surroundings, though, stood in stark contrast to the long abandoned structures that lay nearby.

Evidence points to a massacre – the systematic extermination of an alien colony hundreds of millennia ahead of humanity. Time, however, has erased any trace of the attackers. Jack and his crew barely start probing the ruins before their curiosity betrays them as an abandoned alien device cuts them off from their main ship. Lost and short on supplies, survival soon becomes their only goal. Even their short-lived rescue by an alien race, who themselves are under siege, offers little hope. As they struggle to find a way home, signs begin pointing to a danger darker than any they could have foreseen. Jack knows that playing it safe may no longer be an option – but his only other choice is to confront a threat that they don’t even begin to understand.



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Batman Volume 1: The Court of Owls by Scott Snyder || Genre: Comics

Blurb: After a series of brutal murders rocks Gotham City, Batman begins to realize that perhaps these crimes go far deeper than appearances suggest. As the Caped Crusader begins to unravel this deadly mystery, he discovers a conspiracy going back to his youth and beyond to the origins of the city he's sworn to protect. Could the Court of Owls, once thought to be nothing more than an urban legend, be behind the crime and corruption? Or is Bruce Wayne losing his grip on sanity and falling prey to the pressures of his war on crime?


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Superman, Volume 1: Son of Superman by Peter J. Tomasi || Genre: Comics

Blurb: After the stunning events of DC Universe: Rebirth, the world is left without Superman! Luckily, there is another Man of Steel to fill his shoes: the pre-Flashpoint Kal-El! However, can this new Superman protect the world while raising a super-son with his wife, Lois Lane? And should they help their boy use his new and rapidly increasing abilities, or hide them from the world?

Those are the books I bought during my book-buying sprees. I know it's not a huge haul, but it's more books than I've bought in a while, and I felt like sharing them.

Have you bought any new books recently? Any books you'd recommend?

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Monday, April 13, 2020

Ubiety

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Ubiety is a 2019 adult fiction novel by Grzegorz Kunowski. The novel has elements of mystery and magical realism as well as some aspects of psychological thriller. I was provided with a free copy of the novel, by the author, in exchange for an honest review.

The description of the novel is as follows: If you were to find yourself at the edge of a dying world with a lingering sense of reality, would you simply fade into the nothingness or would you fight for everything you hold dear? This assertive question is at the heart of the thought-provoking book Ubiety, for this book was designed to help people emerge into reality and find the truth whilst questioning both what could and should be. Join Adam’s journey through the gruelling world of the unforgiving future, diving into the many mysteries which will uncover bittersweet secrets to see if he can save the fate of his daughter along with that of the world, using nothing but his boldness of character, the brilliance of one’s mind and a hint of madness.

One of the strengths of this story comes from how well-written and descriptive the setting is. As Adam moves from one scene to another, one section of the book to another, the author goes to considerable length to make sure the reader isn’t only able to envision a given location, but feel as if they are really there. Some may feel the writing is too vivid at times, but it makes the novel very immersive. There was also a great deal of creativity used in forming the dream sequences that occur in each part of the story. The dream sequences are used to pose philosophical questions about life, the world, the nature of free will and death itself. Make no mistake, Ubiety is a book meant to make the reader think.

There’s not very much I can say about characters, as the only named character in the book is Adam himself. Given that he’s an unreliable narrator, and it’s never made sure how much of what occurs is real and how much isn’t, he doesn’t have a character arc and there’s not a lot that can be said about his personality. He’s a man in a very dark place. Additionally, I can’t say anything about the plot of this book, since there isn’t one. Each section has it’s own plot, in one way or another, but the story lacks a central conflict and resolution, instead being a series of vignettes that are loosely connected.

When I was first contacted by the author, he described the book as being similar to James Joyce’s Ulysses, which I feel is a fair description. Ubiety is written in a way that is intentionally confusing, including run-on sentences that last most of a page and making sure many details of what’s going on aren’t clear. This isn’t an easy, quick read, despite the fact that it’s less than 125 pages. I found myself having to read at a very slow pace to be able to follow what was happening and needing to reread in parts. I do feel like the author went a little overboard with what some call “10 cent words”. Using complex language and words is not something I take issue with, but the amount used here makes this work very frustrating to read. It’s difficult to like a story and become immersed in it if the reader needs a thesaurus to understand every single page. Having said all of that, this book is a success in the sense that the author seems to have achieved what he meant to with his writing style. I didn’t like the writing style, though.

Overall, I can’t really say that I enjoyed Ubiety. It was a struggle to get through, and since its story is all over the place and has no real resolution, I was a bit annoyed when I reached the end. I will commend the author for writing this work at the age of 16 and I feel like, given some time and with some editorial feedback, he could have a very successful career as an author. Fans of dark and intense literature might enjoy this book, as well as anyone who wants to ponder over the meaning of life for a few days. This book simply wasn’t for me.

Rating: 2.3 Stars  

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Friday, April 10, 2020

The TBR Book Tag

I was tagged by Krista over on The Bookish Hedgemom to do this tag. So, let's dig into my seemingly endless TBR pile.

HOW DO YOU KEEP TRACK OF YOUR TBR?

I have a spreadsheet which shows all the books I've bought, ARCs I've received and books I own but haven't read. Whenever a new book is purchased, it's added to the list. When a book is read, I move it to a separate column. I also use Goodreads, but I'm not as diligent about keeping the to-read shelf up to date, because it feels overwhelming.

IS YOUR TBR MOSTLY PRINT OR EBOOK?

Honestly, it's about 75/25. Most of my TBR are physical books, but I have quite a few eBooks on the list as well. 

HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHAT TO READ NEXT?

Every few weeks, I break out my calendar and plan for the next month. Obviously, adjustments are made if I'm not in the right mood to read a certain book, but for the most part, that's how I decided what's next.


A BOOK THAT'S BEEN ON YOUR TBR THE LONGEST?

The Witcher series. I have most of the books, and I've had them since before the Netflix series, but I just haven't gotten around to reading them yet.

A BOOK THAT YOU RECENTLY ADDED TO YOUR TBR

And I Darken by Kiersten White. In fact, it's so recent that I don't even have the book itself yet.

A BOOK THAT'S ON YOUR TBR BECAUSE OF THE BEAUTIFUL COVER
The Hollow Gods (The Chaos Cycle Duology, #1)

The Hollowed Gods by A.J. Vrana. The cover just looks so gorgeous to me.

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT YOU NEVER ACTUALLY PLAN ON READING


While I want to say that I plan to read everything on my TBR, I'm pretty sure that I probably won't ever actually end up reading The Once and Future King


AN UNPUBLISHED BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT YOU'RE EXCITED FOR


The Orphanage of Gods


The Orphanage of Gods by Helena Coggan. This cover is gorgeous and the description makes me wish it was already June.


A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT EVERYONE HAD READ EXCEPT YOU

Blood Heir by Amelie Wen Zhao. I keep seeing it in everyone's tweets and bookstagram posts

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT EVERYONE RECOMMENDS TO YOU.

This is a tie between Red, White and Royal Blue and the Six of Crows duology.

A BOOK ON YOUR TBR THAT YOU ARE DYING TO READ

Children of Virtue and Vengeance by Tomi Adeyemi. I loved Children of Blood and Bone and I can't wait to see where the story goes from there.

THE NUMBER OF BOOKS ON YOUR GOODREADS SHELF


16, but as I said on the first question, most of my TBR list isn't on Goodreads, because seeing too many things on the TBR shelf stresses me out. The actual number is around 40.



And that's the tag. I'm not good at tagging people in these things, because I never know who has/hasn't done the tag before. If this looks interesting to you, consider yourself tagged!

Wednesday, April 8, 2020

WWW Wednesday

Hello everyone! Today is Wednesday, which means it's time to do the three Ws. For those who don't know, the three Ws are:What did you recently finish reading? What are you currently reading? What are you reading next?


What I Recently Finished:
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I recently finished Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. While I didn't hate it, it wasn't exactly my cup of tea. My review can be found here.


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I also finished Wonder Woman: Year One by Greg Rucka, Nicola Scott and Romulo Fajado Jr. Maybe this is an unpopular opinion, but I count comics and graphic novels as reading.

What I'm Currently Reading:
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I'm currently reading Ubiety by Grzegorz Kunoski. I'm about 90% through it as I write this. My next read will be Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman, which I'll be starting either today or tomorrow.

What I'm reading next:
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My next read will be After Alice by Gregory Maguire which is a retelling of Alice in Wonderland that I picked up because I enjoyed Maguire's more well-known novel, Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West.

What are you guys reading right now? What are you planning on reading next? Let me know in the comments!

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Monday, April 6, 2020

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine


Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine is a 2019 literary fiction novel by Gail Honeyman. It was published by Penguin Randomhouse in 2019 and became a New York Times bestseller. Reese Witherspoon selected it as one of her book club picks and it’s going to become a motion picture in the near future.

The novel follows the titular character Eleanor Oliphant, an accounting clerk in her late twenties living a very lonely and strictly scheduled life. Everything changes when she meets her new coworker Raymond who is determined to find a way to bring Eleanor out of her shell. Along the way, his big heart helps her repair her own heavily damaged one.

To start off, I’d like to point out that this book is not a romance. I know the blurb written above, which I paraphrased from the back of the book, makes it sound like one, but its not. The novel isn’t the story of a man and a woman meeting unexpectedly and falling in love. Instead, it’s a story about an unlikely friendship and said friendship being that catalyst in Eleanor realizing some difficult truths about herself and her past.

This book was recommended to me by a coworker. She’d begun reading it and thought it was an amusing story, which it is at first. At the beginning, Eleanor’s inner monologue is funny. She doesn’t have great social skills, she doesn’t know how to relate to people and doesn’t have a filter. She’s, for lack of a better term, a weirdo and spends a lot of time judging people for perfectly normal behavior that she finds strange. At first, Eleanor’s eccentricities were funny. I was reading about a story about an incredibly strange woman who was wondering why everyone else seemed so strange to her. Before long, however, it stopped being funny. Because Eleanor’s whole life, a boring job, no real connections to anyone, adhering to a strict schedule, is the result of a very troubled upbringing. She strives to be normal, but her childhood makes any idea of “normal” completely impossible. There are small moments of humor, but mostly the book is rather sad.

I don’t want to make it seem like I didn’t enjoy this book, because I did. It was a thorough deep-dive into self-discovery and self-improvement. It also delves into discussion trauma and how it can affect people. The author went out of her way to show Eleanor going through a major change in her life without it changing her personality completely. Eleanor still has her quirks at the end of the book, and she wouldn’t be described as “normal” but she’s in a healthier place. She’s stopped ignoring her problems and confronted some of the issues she’s been burying for so long.

Eleanor is an interesting character, although a tad bit annoying at times. Scenes where she’s being overly judgmental towards people for doing things like not knowing how to respond to something she said, or trying to have a conversation with her are hard to read. Her inability to relate to people makes sense in the context of the story, but until it becomes clear that there’s more to her than just that, she’s difficult to like. Raymond is one of the first people Eleanor really lets in because he seems to accept her exactly as she is. Sure, sometimes if she says something that’s inappropriate he’ll tell her, but he’s not trying to change her. He realizes that she’s not doing well, and wants to help her, but not in a way that’s self-serving. She’s his friend and he wants his friend to get better. Even in moments when Eleanor doesn’t want his help, but needs it. Another character that changes Eleanor’s life is an elderly man Sammy. Shortly after Eleanor and Raymond meet, they save Sammy when he falls and injures himself. Raymond continues to check in on Sammy after he’s taken to the hospital and talks Eleanor into joining him. During these visits, Eleanor starts to open up a bit more to both men and for the first time in a long time, develops a real connection with other people. The last character I want to discuss, and the one who had the biggest impact on Eleanor by far, is Mummy, her mother. Eleanor doesn’t see Mummy but at the beginning of the novel, they talk over the phone every Wednesday night. Mummy is a piece of work to say the least. Several of their calls are depicted in the story, but you only need one to understand their relationship dynamic. Mummy is a terrible mother, abusive in more than one way, and yet everything Eleanor does is in an attempt to please her mother. Mummy is the antagonist of this story, and her connection to Eleanor’s trauma is what propels the story forward.

I liked Eleanor’s character journey. I like the realizations she came to along the way as she let more people in and realized that she wasn't “fine” regardless of how often she claimed to be. What I liked most, however, was that the ending didn’t wrap everything up neatly. Eleanor doesn’t end the book by being completely recovered from her trauma. There isn’t a happy ending, just a realistic one. She’s getting better, her life has improved, but she still has a long way to go.

I didn’t love this book. I also didn’t hate it. I wish that the blurb adhered a little closer to the actual story than it did. Still, it’s an entertaining slice-of-life story while also discussing heavier themes. I’m not eagerly awaiting the motion picture, unlike some other readers I've talked to, but it’s a good book overall.

Rating: 2.9 stars

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Wednesday, April 1, 2020

March Wrap-Up

Image result for book closing

For the last two months, I wrote a wrap-up post going over the books I read but didn't review in a given month. I've decided to stop doing that, since it ends up being more work for me and it was getting overly complicated. So, instead, I'm going to go over all of the books I read in March, because that's just easier for me. Now that I've explained all of that, let's go over the month of March

Books I Read and Reviewed

Until All Curses Are Lifted by Tim Frankovich - 3.9 Stars

Children of Dune by Frank Herbert- 3.9 Stars

Eve: The Awakening by Jenna Moreci- 2.3 Stars

Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi - 4.8 Stars

Tying the Leaves by June Toher- 3.6 Stars

Books I Read, Didn't Review

Alexandra Forever 2337 by D.W. Richards- 4.5 Stars (Goodreads review here)

Animal Farm by George Orwell- 3.5 Stars

Mad Max Fury Road by George Miller, Illustrated by Mark Sexton- 4.0 Stars

A Day in the Garden by Su Kim- 5.0 Stars (Goodreads review here)

The Sea by Sophie Jupillat Posey- 2.5 Stars (Goodreads review here)

Genres Read

Comic Book/Graphic Novel: 2

Fantasy: 2

Science Fiction: 2

Literary Fiction: 3

Children's Book: 1

Figures

Number of DNFs: 1

Total Books Read: 10

Pages Read: 2,292

Average Rating: 3.8 Stars

What did you read in March? Any recommendations?

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