We've been vibing in a global pandemic for over a year now. What a crazy feeling! Time isn't even real anymore, so I'll spare you ramblings about it both feels like there was no before and also as if it's been just a couple of months.
In writing news, I sent a draft of Hen & Lu to some people to get feedback for the first time ever this month. It was truly terrifying and my stomach still knots up every time I think about it. I'm sure I'll share more about that experience in a post soon.
As far as reading goes, it was a pretty good reading month. Lots of audiobooks this month! I think with H&L out for feedback, I needed something louder than the panic about other people reading what I've written.
💩 = Hot Garbage 😢 = I shed a tear 😭 = I ugly cried
🍆 = Some steamy scenes (Rated R) 💎 = A gem
💘 = Warmed my heart 👻 = Scary! 🤢 = Gross
😍= Swoon-worthy love-story 🚩 = Red Flag!
Shadow & Bone by Leigh Bardugo ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
I picked up this book for two reasons. First, I wanted to read it before the upcoming Netflix series. The other being, I’ve heard great things about Six of Crows. From what I’ve heard, Shadow and Bone takes place in the same world, as Six of Crows, so it’s helpful to read it first. So I’m reading it first.
Shadow and Bone takes place in this Russian-inspired high fantasy world where there are “normal people” and people with abilities. It follows Alina, as she discovers she has the ability to control light and is whisked into a world of the upper class. There is this guy called the Darkling who is this super powerful hot guy who wants to work with her to help her change the world. This book is fine. Although it’s YA, it reads a little bit middle grades to me, just because it’s a pretty straightforward plot.
BABY SPOILER: (highlight the text to read) I’m also super bummed about how the Darkling storyline goes. I was really on team Darkling until the end there. He was just so interesting! I was really rooting for him to be the love interest until he shows his true colors at the end there.
The Cousins by Karen M. McManus ⭐️⭐️/5
I was so bored by this book. I was like 200 pages in and I realized that this book wasn’t for me but at that point, I was too invested to not know what happened in the end. This book follows three cousins who are sent to their grandmother’s island for the summer. Their wealthy grandmother disowned all of their parents for seemingly no reason before the cousins were born, so they have never met her. Something stranges seems to have happened and the cousins decide to figure out the mystery. There are several plot twists, but they all were boring and lacked emotional impact. It was not for me.
Thrillers are hard to pick because you don't want to know too much before you read. Also, the twists are so pivotal in whether it's enjoyable and obviously you don't want to know the twists before you go in!
A Million Junes by Emily Henry ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
As we’ve established, I’m an Emily Henry fan. This book is about June, whose dad has recently died, and the magic of her home and her family. The O’Donnell’s (June’s family) have a several-generation long feud with the Angerts. Supposedly, it has to do with magic cherry trees, but there is more to the story. Saul is an Angert, so June is explicitly forbidden to spend time with him, but when he returns to town from college they start to fall for each other. He’s is working to heal from the loss of his twin sister and they both use to magic found at June’s land to work through their grief.
Again, I don’t actually fully understand the definition of magical realism, but this feels like it would fit. I loved it. Emily Henry does such a beautiful job exploring grief and creating these uniquely sweet and simple bits of magic in her YA fantasy. I loved it!
It has a ton of similarities with Beach Read. It has another month-named girl, whose dad has died with secrets. She's also a writer. She has a connection to a body of water. They are different enough that you can read and thoroughly enjoy both, but there is definitely some overlap. I have a dream that Emily Henry will eventually write characters for every month. She’s already 25% of the way there.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
While this is technically a reread, I’m not counting it, because although I “read” it when I was fifteen. I think I mostly just looked at the words and moved on. I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand it at all.
First things first, this book is not a romance in the sense of it being centrally a sweet love story. The fact that so many YA heroines hold this up as their favorite book and swoon for Heathcliff is disturbing. I think Emily Bronte would be rolling in her grave.
Heathcliff has more in common with Ted Bundy than Mr. Darcy. Frankenstein’s monster was a more empathetic character than Heathcliff. That being said, he’s a fascinating character, who I truly have not stopped thinking about since I read the book. This book is a horrifying story about Heathcliff’s destruction of everyone around him.
The only one worse than Heathcliff is OG Catherine. Heathcliff’s love for Catherine is a major redeeming trait, also you kind of feel bad for the guy because Hindley (the brother) is a major a-hole when their dad dies. Catherine is a self-centered narcissist, who loves Heathcliff, but still thinks it’s a good idea to marry the neighbor.
I’m not saying there aren’t some truly romantic and beautiful lines. Catherine’s iconic line, “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same,” is just the tip of the iceberg. Heathcliff shouting, “And I pray one prayer—I repeat it till my tongue stiffens—Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad!” when he found out Catherine died made me cry. It’s easy to be tricked into thinking this is a romantic love story because damn these psychopaths are quotable, but we can’t forget they are psychopaths.
Heathcliff is out here kicking dogs, kidnapping people, laying in coffins with decomposing bodies, and calling his wife a slut, so maybe we shouldn’t swoon over him. But the story is impeccable. Emily Bronte is so incredibly talented.
A Deadly Education by Naomi Novik ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
I had seen this book around a lot with really mixed opinions, but I ended up really enjoying it. It takes place at this school where all young magic people are sent because there are creatures that want to eat them. The school serves to help protect them while they learn to handle their magic, but it’s a pretty dangerous place. The magic system was initially kind of confusing, but once you’ve got the basics it’s easy to follow. I really enjoyed the characters and the story. I’m eager to read the next book in the series when it comes out.
They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera ⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
Another book I’ve seen everywhere. I think it was fine. The premise is so interesting. Essentially it takes place in our world, with one big difference. At some point, we’ve created the technology to know the day you’ll die. So on your death day, you get a call sometime after midnight letting you know that you’re dying today. It mainly follows these two teen boys on their death days. They meet through a death day app and it follows their relationship. We also get little snippets of other people, some who are dying and some who aren’t. It was sweet, but I didn’t love it.
The Midnight Library by Matt Haig ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
This book was on a lot of favorite book lists for 2020. I did thoroughly enjoy it. It follows Nora as she ends up in this library between life and death. The library is stocked with books that show different versions of her life based on every possible decision. It lives somewhere between the TV show The Good Place and Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life.
Her cat being names Voltaire was the best little easter egg! If you've read the book and aren't familiar with Candide, google it, because it essentially gives away the ending.
The Mothers by Brit Bennett ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
You may know Brit Bennett from her book the Vanishing Half which was everywhere last year. The Mothers was her first book and I liked it even more than the Vanishing Half. The Mothers takes place in this small Southern California town. It starts by following Nadia, this seventeen-year-old girl getting ready to go to college, but over the years it spirals out to also follow several other people in her orbit. The plot isn’t important. Not to say that the plot isn’t interesting, but it’s secondary to these very broken human characters. It will break your heart. The characters make mistakes and make impossible choices and you feel for them, even when they aren’t always doing the right thing. Brit Bennett is incredibly talented.
There are also these sections narrated in first person plural (like “we”) which is something I don’t know if I’ve ever seen before. The church mothers narrate the beginnings of most chapters and it’s this fascinating blend of distant (because of the plural), but personal. I can’t explain this book, but it was so so good.
The Hunting Party by Lucy Foley ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5 (audiobook)
The Hunting Party is a classic thriller, where you find out pretty early that there is a dead body, but you don’t know who is dead or who did it. It follows this group of friends who went to Oxford together but are now in their thirties. Every year for the New Year they go on a holiday together and this year they are staying at a lodge in rural Scotland. Lucy Foley does amazing settings (she also wrote The Guest List).
I loved the twists. They were perfectly situated between making sense and being unpredictable, which is a tricky balance. I also just loved the characters. They were so fascinating and I was really sucked into their drama.
I listened to the audiobook for this one, which I rarely do for first reads, but I just listened and did puzzles. It was a pretty wild time. The narrator was great.
The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai ⭐️⭐️⭐️/5
Ummm I had mixed feelings about this one. I struggled to really get into the story for probably the first 40 to 50% of the book. I’m not entirely sure if that was a me-problem or a book problem. I was a little stressed when I read it and it was harder for me to get into books in general. The book starts after the central couple meets for the first time. They had previously hooked up before the book starts. I sometimes struggle when the initial meeting is off the page (unless they are like childhood friends) because I don’t get that initial chemistry.
I didn’t love the heroine, but by the end of the book, I was very much rooting for the love story and enjoyed it. I loved the guy. He was great. I loved the sub-plot with the football players advocating for concussion safety in football. It was a very different sub-plot than I was used to and I loved it. I like the heroine’s Bumble-esque founding story. That sub-plot was also great.
This book is very steamy and I didn’t love the sex scenes. I’m not sure what it was but they just felt a little TMI. I’m not anti-sex scene (as you will clearly see by the second to last book on this list), but the way these were written felt just wasn’t for me.
The Perfect Guests by Emma Rous ⭐️⭐️✨/5
I had high hopes for this, but it just didn’t do it for me. This is a thriller where we are following three women and their connections to Raven Hall, a big English manor house, but all three are taking place at different times. We have Sophie who has been invited to Raven Hall for a murder mystery party (ala Joey Garceffa’s Escape the Night 😂) in 2019. We have Beth who is an orphan staying at Raven Hall as a companion for the owner’s family’s daughter in the late 1980s. And we have a third unnamed, undated lady whose family has had to sell Raven Hall. I was very excited about an English Manor house and a murder mystery party. But I felt the twists (which are the crux of a thriller), just fell flat for me.
A Kingdom of Flesh and Fire by Jennifer L. Armentrout ⭐️⭐️✨/5
I struggled with whether to give this book five stars or not. Does this book deserve the same rating I gave The Mothers, which is a stunning and multi-layered, and brilliantly written piece of literature? No, probably not. But damn, I loved this book. It’s unquestionably garbage and I say that with all the respect in the world to Jennifer L. Armentrout. I adored every minute I spent reading it. But it’s total brain candy. But like my five-star rating for Midnight Sun, when it hits perfectly, you have to give it five stars. I won’t apologize.
This book is the sequel to From Blood and Ash (which I read last month). I think I like this one even more (although there were way less Selection vibes). Probably because there is more Hawke in this book. There’s this TikTok that I've seen several times where people talk about their oddly specific book tropes favorites and this book has all of mine (it has favorites, I didn’t even know I wanted). I don’t want to get into the plot too much because it will spoil the first book, but I loved it. Honestly, everything comes second to the romance in this book, which is just top tier. I understand the world better than I did in the first book, but they have really started to lean into the gods aspect of this world and it all went right over my head. I understood very little about what happened in the last two chapters.
It’s even raunchier than the first book, arguably excessively so, but I didn’t care (mostly). There is this one scene where they are doing it in the back of a carriage during a huge battle and that one felt like too much. There’s a time and a place and that was neither.
I cannot wait until April 20th when the third book comes out and I plan on rereading the first two before that time. I already have it preordered.
Dark Matter by Blake Crouch ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✨/5
This book was the definition of a page-turner! I read the whole thing in two days (which is not a common occurrence during the week). It’s a science-fiction thriller. It follows this man who is kidnapped in the first chapter and shoved into a box. It deals with ideas about quantum physics and the idea of the multi-verse. It’s almost like Midnight Library if it was a thriller. I thoroughly enjoyed it and it kind of spooked me in the best way.
During this quarantine, I’ve been reading (or rather listening) to a lot of rereads of old favorites. In fact, I’ve almost entirely abandoned podcasts in favor of audiobooks. There is something soothing and nice about listening to an old favorite during these unprecedented times. I’ve decided to start sharing them!
Daisy Jones and the Six (audiobook) by Taylor Jenkins Reid
This audiobook is truly phenomenal! Daisy Jones and the Six was one of my favorite books I read in 2019 and the audiobook adds another layer of great. If you aren’t familiar with Daisy Jones and the Six, it tells the story of a 70s band but does so in the form of a behind-the-music style interview. The audiobook is narrated by a full cast, so each person gets a different voice actor. Taylor Jenkins Reid is a queen.
The Star-Touched Queen (audiobook) by Roshani Chokshi
I read this book back in probably 2016 during for a short-lived podcast I did with my best friend. I remember absolutely loving it. It was one of those books I wanted to crawl inside of. I decided to reread it because I never read the follow-up, Crown of Wishes. The audiobook just didn’t hit the same 😢 but I am planning on reading Crown of Wishes in April.
This is How We Lose the Time War (audiobook) by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladston
I raved about This is How We Lose the Time War last month and I was already ready for a reread. I didn’t like this audiobook experience as much as reading the paper version, but it’s still a truly incredible book.
I didn’t DNF anything this month!