Wrap Up August 2021

Somehow the end of the month came suddenly. Where is the time going? I had a pretty decent reading month, courtesy of some much needed rereading of favourites of mine.

Books I read in August:

It took me nearly two weeks to finish my first book of the month. I read Tessa Bailey‘s newest: It Happened One Sommer (3 out of 5 stars) which was fun but not my favourite of hers. For some reason I do not get on as well with her traditionally published books. I appreciated that she switched it around and had her heroine be the one with the commitment problems for once and I adored that the hero just wanted her to see how brilliantly he thinks she is. But other than that, I can hardly remember anything about my reading experience. Then I reread the the first book in the second Hidden Legacy trilogy by Ilona Andrews, Sapphire Flames (5 out of 5 stars) – which I loved as much as the first time I read it. I am still sad that the publication of the third book was postponed until the summer of 2022 though. Then I finally read my ARC of Magma by Þóra Hjörleifsdóttir (4 out of 5 stars) – a quick and intense read chronicling an abusive relationship using short, diary type chapters. It made me a bit too mad for it to be a five star read and I didn’t quite love the ending but it is absolutely well worth the hype, with its perfectly sharp chapters with perfectly sharp prose, and its main character who is difficult: she is lonely and judgemental and even in the midst of her (horrible!) relationship that she knows is horrible cannot admit that her friends might know what they are talking about when they say they are worried. Afterwards, I needed something light and fun – and inhaled the next book in the Hidden Legacy series, Emerald Blaze by Ilona Andrews (which I upgraded to 5 out of 5 this time around). I just love this series and the characters and the family dynamics and this time around, Alessandro’s arc really hit me in the feelings in the best way possible. Afterwards I finished the absolutely incredible Negative Space by Lilly Dancyger (5 out of 5 stars). This is impeccably structured in a way that blew my mind, the self reflection at the core of this made me realize what memoirs can do, the inclusion of art is necessary and so helpful in grounding this, and I just loved this a whole lot, even the more sentimental parts. Then I finished Afterparties by Anthony Veasna So (3 out of 5 stars) which I did not love as much as thought I would. Everybody adores these stories, so do take my opinion with a grain of salt. While there were some really interesting sentences and the observations were really sharp, overall the structure of the stories didn’t ever seem to work for me and with short stories, structure is really what makes a story work for me.

I then decided to DNF Somebody’s Daughter by Ashley C. Ford – the memoir just did not work for me and once I realized I was actively avoiding listening to the audiobook even when I had the time, I decided to call it quits.

Favourite of the Month:

Negative Space. I adored this book beyond measure and want everyone to read it. It is very clever, very beautiful, very honest.

Stats(ish):

I read six books, three of which were written by women, one by a man and two by a husband and wife team. I read two speculative romances, one contemporary romance, a short story collection, one translated novel and one memoir. I rated three books five stars!

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

For the next two weeks I will be focussing on my ARCs for Rachel and my #ArcsOfShame readathon. Wish me luck!

Wrap Up July 2021

I am back on track for my reading goal!

While this was not my best month ratings wise, I do feel like I am a bit back in the groove of actually choosing to pick up a book rather than mindlessly scroll through social media.

Books I read in July:

The first book I finished this month was Neon Gods (Dark Olympus #1) by Katee Robert (2.5 out of 5 stars) – a fake dating retelling of Hades and Persephone which happens to be my exact catnip. But the world building is flimsy at best and the romantic and emotional beats did not always work for me. I also finished Pure Gold by John Patrick McHugh (3 out of 5 stars), a short story collection blurbed by and compared to Sally Rooney and Colin Barrett. McHugh’s prose is incredible (a stunning blend of more colloquial Irish English and super interesting descriptions and metaphors) and the way in which he structures his stories impeccable – but this was so very, very bleak, featuring many sad and unlikable characters, many of which where teenaged boys. Afterwards, I went on a bit of a romance kick having recently renewed my Kindle unlimited subscription because it was free for three months. I first read Twisted Love (Twisted #1) by Ana Huang (2 out of 5 stars) which I thought was fun but unfocussed. A jumble of tropes (brother’s best friend, only one bed, grumpy and sunshiny one, I hate everybody except you, morality chain) and sub-genres (small town romance, darkish romance, New Adult) meant that some parts worked better for me than others. I did not expect this to go this dark and I kind of wish it hadn’t. To counteract the darkness of this romance, I went to an author whose work I often enjoy and read Claire Kingsley’s Marrying Mr. Wrong (Dirty Martini Running Club #3) (3.5 out of 5 stars) which was just what I needed. I like how fundamentally kind Kingsley’s characters are and how competent the women are at their jobs. I particularly like the friendship at the heart of this series. Still feeling like this exact kind of romance, I reread Claire Kingsley’s Cocky Roommate (4 out of 5 stars) which is probably my favourite of her books. I then finished my audiobook of The Five: The Untold Lives of the Women killed by Jack the Ripper by Hallie Rubenhold (4 out of 5 stars) – which I found very clever and interesting and heartbreaking. I loved how the murderer is incidental to the story and that Rubenhold does not linger on the gruesome details, choosing rather to tell these women’s lives to the best of her abilities. The prose is effortless but effective, the research is impeccable, and Rubenhold manages to fill the gaps in a way that I found mostly satisfying if sometimes a little bit too convenient. I learned a lot about Victorian London and I really appreciated the structure and the humanity of the venture. I then finally finished an ARC – Pop Songs by Larissa Pham (3.5 out of 5 stars) was a wonderful reading experience for the most part. I found it clever and stimulating (I kept googling all the art and artists she refers to), but sometimes rather sentimental. I enjoyed her musings on art more than I enjoyed her post-mortem of her unsuccessful relationship with the unnamed “you” she kept refering to. I then finally finished Big Bad Wolf by Suleikha Snyder (2 out of 5 stars) which took me four months to read because although I liked the world building and the secondary characters – the romance did not work for me at all and Joe was not my favourite. I think if this had gone harder for the fated mates angle with the accompanying compulsion, this could have worked for me better. But most of all, I found this boring which is something I cannot deal with in urban fantasy.

I also finally DNFed a couple of ARCs that I had started ages ago (but never even added to my Goodreads currently reading shelf), both because they were just too dark for me. After the Silence by Louise O’Neill I could not read because it stressed me out very badly. A combination of new motherhood and a pandemic made reading stressful books impossible for me. I felt claustrophobic reading this – from the very first page. O’Neill’s writing had this effect on me before in the only other book of hers I’ve read (Almost Love) but where I loved that one, this time around I could not get myself to read this. I am sure this book will work beautifully for other people who are not as anxious about reading as I am. In the Dark by Loreth Anne White was different to what I anticipated. I expected something less tense and more along the beats of a romantic suspense (heavy on the romance, light on the suspense) but from the 15% I read, this was not the case. I am sure this will work better for people who actually can read thrillers without being stressed out but I am not that reader, especially not anymore.

I also moved the books I hadn’t picked up to my “on hold” shelf to return to them when I am more in the mood for them. This helps me for some reason.

Favourite of the Month:

I really appreciated The Five’s project with its focus on the victims of Jack the Ripper and their lives and I am very happy to have listened to my friend Jill (the Book Bully on Youtube).

Stats(ish):

I finished 8 book, 7 of which were written by women and one written by a man. Five books can broadly be categorized as romance, two non fiction, and one short story collection.

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I am mostly feeling like reading non fiction and speculative romance, so this is what I will be picking up I think. Or, I could actually try to read the books I am currently reading and have the lovely feeling of a clean slate.

Two of my pre-ordered books cme out this month: Battle Royal by Lucy Parker and The Devil You Know by Kit Rocha and I am so vey excited for both of them.

Wrap Up June 2021

I will just have to stop complaining that my reading month was awful. There is no way this state of affairs will change, especially now that I am back at work and really, really need to finish my PhD – as I just accepted a PostDoc job starting in August (I am super excited about the job and think I can do it very well but at some point this next year I will need to have the title for it).

This does mean a couple of things for my blog though: I cannot even attempt to write reviews for everything I read (which I have not been doing for about two years anyways) and this will be the part of my hobbies that is least likely to survive. I will for now change the way I do my wrap ups to include mini impressions of the books I read and hopefully will be able to write at least this post each month.

Books I read in June:

I began the month strong by finishing the absolutely incredible Empire of Pain by Patrick Radden Keefe (5 out of 5 stars): an impeccable researched and structured deep dive into the Sackler family (of OxyContin “fame) – my main takeaway is, as usual, capitalism is the worst and regulation is indeed not the enemy. The audiobook is read by the author himself which is always something I adore. Afterwards I listened to my chaotic buddy read: Brood by Jackie Polzin (4.5 out of 5 stars) – which has stuck and grown on me. It is a surprisingly gruesome story about a griefing woman and her chicken – and I loved her so much. She is prickly and sad and so sure of some things (and probably very wrong about them!) while being very anxious and unsure about other things. She is a near perfect character. Afterwards I fell even deeper into my reading slump, as I went back to work and got just hammered with things to do. Thankfully, I still have some Ilona Andrews’ books to read, which is what I did. I inhaled the first two books in their Innkepper Chronicles Clean Sweep (4 out of 5 stars) and Sweep in Peace (3.5 out of 5 stars) – they are just my “break in case of reading slump” authors. At least once a year they manage to ignite my love for reading anew. This is technically the third series of theirs that I am reading and while it is not my favourite, it has all the things I love about their work: great world building, brilliant characters with wonderful interactions, main characters that are just my kind of overly powerful women – and an emotional core that hits me as a surprise again and again. I also finally DNFed A Crooked Tree by Una Mannion which had been sitting at 62% read on my Kindle for six months. This is not a bad book by any means but I found it unfocussed and for me at least the mix between coming-of-age and thriller did not work. I thought the coming-of-age elements, even if they followed expected story beats (the skinny dipping scene, the awkward first kiss, the falling out with friends, the fights with sisters), worked beautifully due to how expertly the main character is drawn. The thriller-y elements on the other hand did neither work for me nor kept me interested enough to keep reading.

Favourite of the Month:

Empire of Pain was as brilliant as I expected it to be.

Stats(ish):

I finished four books, three written by women and one by a man. One book was non fiction, one fiction and two can broadly be categorized as Urban Fantasy (albeit with scifi explanations).

Currently Reading:

What I should be getting to next:

I should be trying to finally finish some of the books I have been reading for literal months – and stop adding more and more books to my currently reading shelf. 10 books is just ridiculous!