Sinister Sister July Announcement

July Books

Hard to believe it’s already time to announce the next books!

In July, we are going to read the Shamanborn series.

Book 1 Forest of Souls, Lori M. Lee

This book was published June 2020, so it counts as our backlist pick. We’ll be reading it until the 17th.

Book 2 Broken Web

This book was just published June 15, so it counts as a (very) new release. We’ll be reading this starting on the 18th.

This series seems really interesting. It’s inspired by Hmong shamanism, which I’d like to learn more about. The main character is also a royal spy, so there’s bound to be some excellent political intrigue.

I’m still doing my best to keep reading at pace to gauge if this is manageable, but that may change due to some fun things I have planned. I’m not sure which format I’ll read this in. I can get Book 1 from my library, but not Book 2. I might end up buying the ebook if it’s not available at the library or on Scribd in time. Though these covers are so gorgeous I definitely wouldn’t mind adding them to my shelves if it weren’t for the impending move.

You can read the full announcement and find out live events on the Book Club’s blog:

So far we’ve got some reading sprints scheduled and some ideas for our Live discussions, which are always a lot of fun. I hope you join in on the fun!

Catch Up Book Chaos

Catch Up TBR

Whew! Ok, finally made it through TBRvatar! That was quite a ride. So even though it may not be as fun, I decided to use this month as more of a “rest”. I won’t be trying to work on a certain set of prompts other than I’ve been meaning to pick this up. I’m not saying for sure that I’ll read all of these books, but they’re the ones I want to put the most effort into getting to read. The “challenge” is to have all the books I’ve put on hold at the library that I’ve put off come through. I’m also super proud of myself for being ahead of my goal for the year’s anticipated reads. This list is ambitious, but I’m not teaching at the moment, so I should have more time for reading?

Anthropocene Reviewed, John Green

I loved this podcast. I’m really interested to see how it’s been adapted from there. I admire John Green on so many levels, and I’m really interested in seeing his first non-fiction work. I will definitely be keeping tissues on hand.

The Infernal Devices, Cassandra Clare

Soooo I may have bought the anniversary exclusive set from Illumicrate. This is one of my favorite series, and I really needed it in my library, ok??? Even if it seems sacrilege to read these editions, I’m due for a re-read. It was actually my starting point for Cassandra Clare at a friend’s recommendation, and so far it is my favorite by the author. I am super behind on the more recent series, though. I anticipate I’m going to really enjoy the Last Hours when I finally get around to it. I really want to read this, but I’ll probably keep this a low-priority.

A Sky Beyond the Storm, Sabaa Tahir

I am so behind on keeping up to date with this series. I’ve heard good things about this, so I’m super excited to be devastated finally wrapping this book. I’ll need to do a quick recap because it has been so long since I’ve read one of these.

Red, White, and Royal Blue, Casey McQuinston

I’ve heard of this book from a couple different sources. It sounds adorable and I have been slacking on my rom-com style books. Bonus that this is an anticipated read. Also, what better time to read a romance than summer as you try to avoid the existential dread of your future?

A Taste for Love, Jennifer Yen

Again, I felt I was missing out on some more contemporary and romance reads. I also wanted to bring back some To All The Boys I Loved Before vibes with a romance which centers on baking.

Give the Dark My Love, Beth Revis

I bought this on Libro.FM since I’d been waiting years for my library to get it. Since it’s an audiobook, I’m feeling confident that I can get through this easily, especially since at regular speed it’s only 12 hours.

Jade War, Fonda Lee

So I requested my library to get these, and yay they listened! I did really like Jade City, so I’m excited to see where thing go from here.

Music of the Night, Angela J. Ford

This is one of the books that wasn’t selected for last’s month poll. It’s a rather short retelling of two of my favorite stories.

The Traitor’s Game, Jennifer A Nielson

This was another recommendation from a friend. I said a long time ago I’d read it, but it also wasn’t the poll winner last month.

Book Club TBR

Sinister Sister Book Club

The Unwilling, Kelly Braffet

Where Dreams Descend, Janella Angeles

Find out more about these two in this post:

Subtle Asian Book Club

Dial A for Aunties, Jesse Q Sutanto

This sounds so cool! It’s a Sino-Indonesian rom-com/murder mystery. It sounds so funny and I can’t wait to see how these two genres come together. This sounds so fun and I’m in a mood for some rom-com, but not sure I want to invest in it. Might skip this month.

Subscriptions TBR

BOTM

I have a pretty decent backlog from Book of the Month. These are fairly low priority.

Ariadne, Jennifer Saint

I love mythology, so I’m very excited for this. I hope it has Circe or Song of Achilles vibes. I’m surprisingly not as well versed with Ariadne despite knowing about the Labyrinth, Theseus, and the Minotaur. Not being as familiar with her actually makes me more excited to read this!

Illumicrate

Change Your Stars

This one also sounds really cool! Magic, political intrigue, and an Indian setting all sound right up my alley. I’m a bit nervous that this is an Adult book.

Our book this month is an epic fantasy set in an Indian-inspired world. A princess, held captive in an abandoned, ancient temple plots revenge on the brother who banished her there. When the princess witnesses the hidden powers of one of the maids sent to clean the temple, she forces her into an uneasy alliance in order to escape and overthrow her brother. Together, they will set an empire ablaze. We loved the gorgeous prose and the dynamics between our two morally grey main characters!

Illumicrate Announcements

I’m attaching some more details if you’re interested which includes some CWs.

Fairyloot

Spellcraft

My first Fairyloot box! I am so excited! This book sounds so cool!

Our featured book of the month is a Jamaican-inspired fantasy about two enemy witches who must enter into a deadly alliance to take down a common enemy.

Shaz, Fairyloot Theme announcement

I’m not quite sure how I want to handle updates on this. I feel like I’m not posting frequently, making posts longer as I get more involved in read-a-longs. I think I might to a “Recently Read” update midway?

That’s it for this time. I’ve got a lot of great options to work from, so I’m very excited. I’ve also got something rather exciting planned for July.

May Wrap Fire, Bookclub, Asianreadathon

This was a pretty odd month. I had a bit of a hard time getting into things, and wound up kind of disappointed since there were some anticipated books this month. Teaching stuff and second COVID dose symptoms got pretty draining as well so I wasn’t as up for some books that I had planned for. I had a little mini slump but hopefully I’m moving out of it. I’m still pretty proud to have such a strong finish to this challenge.

Fire TBRvatar

Roku: Book with a dragon on the cover or title; Fire bonus

The Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon

DNF; Just not feeling it

This seemed promising and I’ve heard a lot of people enjoyed it. I probably just wasn’t in the mood for the higher fantasy writing style. I really want to try it again. I’ll maybe see if I can grab a physical copy and try the mixed media approach.

I will technically call this prompt complete because I did realize now that I look closer that there’s a dragon on Rule of Wolves.

Music Night: Read something that’s between 350-370 pages whilst listening to music, Fire Bonus

Unmarriageable, Soniah Kamal

C: 6 A: 6 W: 7 P: 6 I: 4 L: 7 E: 5, 5.86, 3 Stars

This was so great. It did read as a love story to Pride and Prejudice. I love the original story, so it was nice to see how much of the original was kept. It didn’t really make me feel that it was terribly important to read this book, but still a fun time.

This was a double up for Asian Read-a-thon.

It’s always us females who are given this despicable advice and told to shut up and put up with everything.

Alysba “Alys” Binat, Unmarriageable
The Avatar State: Read something from your favorite author Bonus for any

Escaping from Houdini, Kerri Maniscalco

C: 9 A: 9 W: 8 P: 8 I: 9 L: 8 E: 8, 8.43, 4 Stars

CONTENT WARNING: MUDER, GORE, MEDICAL CONTENT

As anticipated, such a great read. I loved how it brings in all the visuals and pretty much everything about the story was God Tier for me as the rest of the series had been. I was really intrigued by the ship carnival mystery. It was really interesting. I was surprised the title character didn’t end up being more of a key player, but I was intrigued by how Audrey Rose began examining another path for herself based on her interests.

Truth was a blade I did not wish to stab her with.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth
Hama: Read a horror; Bonus: water

The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix

C: 3 A: 5 W: 4 P: 6 I: 4 L: 6 E: 4, 4.57, 2 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: DEATH, SUICIDE ATTEMPT, GORE, STATUARY RAPE, ASSAULT

I’m not terribly surprised that this ended up being a modernish Dracula. I wasn’t a huge fan of that book, so it wasn’t too big of a surprise I didn’t enjoy this one. I had heard good things, but it wasn’t what I expected. I would have preferred a different story, but if you enjoyed Dracula, you might find this more your speed.

You’d rather get stabbed forty-one times than ruin the curb appeal of your home?

Maryellen, The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires
Paisho: Pick 3 Books and put them on a poll, no bonus

The winner was:

We Hunt the Flame, Hafsah Faizal

C: 9 A: 9 W: 9 P: 9 I: 9 L: 9 E: 9, 9.00, 5 Stars

Night feathered the horizon, painting the skies a blend of charcoal and winterberries, while a smattering of stars winked and danced in shy greeting.

Zafira bint Iskander, We Hunt the Flame

Avatar State: Treat Yoself

The Damned, Renee Ahdieh

C: 6 A: 8 W: 7 P: 7 I: 6 L: 6 E: 6, 6.57, 3 Stars

This was my buddy read with Leila. I’m really enjoying doing this. I’d really been missing New Orleans lately, so I was glad when we decided to pick this up. I was a bit lost when I picked it up. It had been a little bit since I read The Beautiful, so it kind of threw me trying to dive back in. In general, I felt very detached from the story and it seemed like most of the story was very unrelated to the first book. I kind of wanted more focus on the vampire underworld, but it’s hard to find ones which don’t draw in other creatures.

This was another Asian-read-a-thon book.

A true hero would find his way back to her. Would seek a path of redemption for his lost soul. A chance to stand once more in the light.

Sebastien Saint Germain, The Damned

Book Clubs

Sinister Sisters Book Club

King of Scars, Leigh Bardugo

C: 7 A: 7 W: 6 P: 7 I: 6 L: 6 E: 6, 6.43, 3 Stars

I was fully expecting what was going on with Nikolai. I’m not sure about the potential Beauty and the Beast aspect of this. I love that story, but the retellings often disappoint me. I was really intrigued by Nikolai’s sections, but I hadn’t ever been much of a fan of Nina’s. I do wish we got more of Nikolai. I’m curious to see where all this is going. I’m really intrigued by where Zoya and Nikolai’s storyline will work out. I did get more into this book the last quarter when I paired the ebook with the audio.

He wishes to be soothed, entertained, reminded of the gentler things in this world, the things we fight so hard to protect.

Jarl Brum, King of Scars

Rule of Wolves, Leigh Barudgo

C: 7 A: 5 W: 4 P: 5 I: 4 L: 4 E: 3, 4.57, 2 Stars

I’m really disappointed in how challenging it is to get into Leigh Bardugo’s work. I remember really liking Shadow and Bones but now ugh. Most of it is multiple perspectives, which is a format I almost universally dislike. But a lot of it is also I just don’t like many of the characters that end up being the focus. I still really liked Zoya and Nikolai, but I didn’t want as much of Zoya. I have very mixed feelings about how all of this was “resolved”. It definitely left the door open for more, which makes sense based on the rumors of the Crows duology being expanded. I was really hopeful for these books, but honestly if I hadn’t been doing this for a book club I co-host, I probably would have DNF’d early into the first book. I did enjoy getting to see the Crows again, though.

War can make it hard to remember who you are. Let’s not forget the human part of ourselves.

Nikolai Lanistov, Rule of Wolves

Subtle Asian Book Club

The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali

C: 5 A: 8 W: 8 P: 6 I: 7 L: 5 E: 5, 6.29, 3 Stars

CONTENT WARNING: SEXUAL HARRASSMENT OF MINORS, MISCARRIAGE AND INFANT DEATH, ATTEMPTED SUICIDE

This was so sweet! The childhood romance was so cute! I loved how they came together over genuine shared interests despite the initial attraction. I was so upset with the route it took despite knowing what would happen. I felt so bad for all that Roya went through. Her husband was that quintessential safety net which was so disappointing. I had hoped she’d have some deeper feelings for him. I never got the sense that she was in love with her husband. I still really liked the story.

This is an Asian Read-a-thon book.

It was like landing somewhere she should have been all along, a different plane, soft and unbelievably seductive—a place completely theirs but one she’d never dared explore.

Roya, The Stationery Shop

The Way of the Japanese Book

Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi

C: 4 A: 5 W: 5 P: 6 I: 5 L: 3 E: 4, 4.57, 2 Stars

This was a rather odd book. It was rather hard to make sense of the “magic” system around the time-travel café. I might have done better with an e-book or physical copy where I could go back and re-read the “rules” for how the time-travel worked. I did like the audio for this, but it did have some downfalls. They did go over it again, which helped. It was interesting to read a translated Japanese book. I loved how history was also brought into this book. I did start liking it a bit more once some of that initial world building was settled. It had a very Japanese feel to it.

This is also a double up for Asian Read-a-thon.

If it’s all a lie, then so be it.

Fumiko, Before the Coffee Gets Cold

Illumicrate

In the Ravenous Dark, A. M. Strickland

C: 6 A: 8 W: 4 P: 4 I: 4 L: 3 E: 3, 4.57, 2 Stars

CONTENT WARNING: GORE

This was a really interesting book. I loved the mythical feeling of this book. The world Strickland build really fascinated me. I ended up caring more about the world and magic system than the romance. It seemed a bit off how plot developed.

I march the rest of the way to the washroom, banishing the dead man’s utterly perfect cheekbones from my mind.

Rovan, In the Ravenous Dark

Asian Readathon

There’s a lot of crossover, so I’ll just list the one that isn’t a double-up.

Remembering Shanghai, Isabel Sun Chao and Claire Chao

C: 4 A: 6 W: 5 P: 5 I: 5 L: 7 E: 2, 4.86, 3 Stars

CW: BODY MUTILATION

I love when audiobooks bring in great sound effects and this had lovely opening music. It was really interesting how personal recollections were combined with historical overview. I do feel they did this part very well. It was a bit of a tough read as it covered topics like footbinding.

Every rich man must begin somewhere.

Grandfather, Remembering Shanghai

That’s it for this time. I’ll be taking a bit of a break from reading challenges for a bit. I’d definitely be interested in picking up TBRvatar again, but I want a little more flexibility in my reading for a bit as I’m getting more into book clubs and want to try other themes or challenges. Next month will be a catch up rest.

Sinister Sister June Picks!

Changes

There’s been some changes in the Sinister Sister Book Club. We originally wanted to have one public buddy read and one read for the Sisters. We’ve decided to pick up the pace and do two public reads. Each month we will have a backlist read (books published over a year ago) and a new release (books published within the past year).

Backlist

For June, we start with The Unwilling.

The Unwilling, Kelly Braffet

This will be our backlist pick. We want to be clear that this is borderline YA/Adult and has many content warnings, particularly related to violence against others in the form of torture and rape. I would encourage you all to check if there are any warnings for content you wish to avoid. I am including a link to the StoryGraph page which includes all the warnings given by readers.

New Release

Our second pick will be a new release, Where Dreams Descend.

Where Dreams Descend, Janella Angeles

The paperback is coming out June 8th, so we will read this in the second half of June. I’m really excited for this. I adored The Greatest Showman and I heard it gives off a lot of the same vibes along with a magical competition element. There are limited content warnings for misogyny, so I’m linking the StoryGraph as well to help you decide if this will be something you want to avoid. I’m personally very much looking forward to this and it was one of my first suggestions when we were coming up with ideas of what to read.

May TBRvatar Fire and Asian Readathon TBR

Hooo boy. This is going to be a month. Not sure how I feel about this. This term has a crazy workload, so I’m guessing I’m not getting to all these. But, it is the final part of the challenge!!! So close as long as I read more than 3 of these books. If not, I’ll just add it as a make up in June. Maybe I should do some 48 hour readathons over the weekends?

Fire TBR

Last time I ended on the third tile of Fire.

I read 4 books in Air, so +4, start on a blank tile after Sozin’s comet.

Turn 1: 2: Blank: Draw a Card

Hama: Read a horror; Water Bonus

Hmm, this is an interesting one. I’ve got a few mystery but not as many horror? It’s not a genre I typically go for. I struggle with some of these genre prompts.

Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires, Grady Hendrix

Olivareadalatte recommended this book a couple times and it sounds really interesting. I do enjoy vampire stories, and would like to move away from some of the teen paranormal romance portrayal.

Turn 2: 8: Blank: Draw a Card

Originally got the Promise for a Graphic novel/manga/comic, so I used my Yip Yip card from last month to respin since I don’t have any on my TBR.

Ooh I do like this one. That’ll be fun! I haven’t been listening to music as much during lockdown.

Unmarriagable, Soniah Kamal

I’m really interested in this book! I adore Pride and Prejudice and actually heard a really great bit on it from Dear Hank and John. I for some reason had though I could do The House in the Cerulean Sea but I think I misread the prompt, so it turned out to be too long. It was actually surprisingly hard to find a book cause I had to nix two of my original ideas. I’m going off the page numbers for the Kindle edition and the original hardback which fit, even if the paperback doesn’t. I thought a nice romance would also be good for this time of year. It’s also on the shorter end, which will help me a lot with how many books I want to read.

Turn 3: 4: Blank: Draw a Card

Roku: Book with a dragon on the cover or in the title

I’m really glad I drew this one. Roku was one of my favorite characters and dragons are some of my favorite mythical creatures.

Priory of the Orange Tree, Samantha Shannon

I had so many options! It was so hard. I ended up going with this one because I’ve heard it mentioned more often. I’m bit nervous cause this one is a bit hefty.

Turn 4: 1: Blank: Draw a Card

The Avatar State: Read something from your favorite author; All bonus

Escaping From Houdini, Kerri Maniscalco

This was really hard actually. I have a lot of authors I really enjoy, but I wouldn’t say I have a “favorite” at the moment. I have really loved this author and have been dying to continue on with this series. I’ve reread the second book multiple times.

Bonus

Turn 5: 2: Blank: Draw a card

Pai Sho: Pick three books and put them on a poll

Oooohhh….ok…interesting this should be fun.

If there’s issue with the above poll, here is the Google form version

I will allow 2 weeks for replies. I’m sure I’m in for a good time with whichever I get.

Turn 6: 3: CLEAR! Avatar State! Treat yoself!

I totally ignored by book buying ban, even if they were books on my TBR already. I guess I’ll take this as read what you want?

The Damned, Renee Ahdieh

This is another buddy read with Leila. We apparently can’t help ourselves. It makes sense with us having similiar interests and following the same authors. We decided we needed to do this one after seeing the cover reveal for the next in the series. The first book was pretty good, and I love New Orleans and vampires, so I have high hopes.

Well, this was an interesting turn of events. I managed to get a longer TBR. I’ll be reading 6 books. In total, I’ll have read 20 books. This is still great progress and allowed me to keep doing what I love when I might have been tempted to slack off. I did end up managing to work through some of my original issues with the series. I do think I’ll end up trying this again as is. I do need a bit of a cleanse, and I’d like to try doing some more theme monthly reads.

I was also amused as I watched the originator’s TBRs and seeing how we ended up drawing the same cards.

Book Clubs TBR

Sinister Sisters Book Club

King of Scars and Rule of Wolves, Leigh Bardugo

I’m super excited to read Leigh Bardugo’s latest: Rule of Wolves! (I know it came out at the end of March, but we did want to give time in case of order delays and make sure we got to Legendborn sooner.) It’s our pick for the month, but I will be needing to read King of Scars as well.

Subtle Asian Book Club

The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali

I will be reading this via Scribd since I really don’t want to add another physical book to my collection. If I enjoy it, I may splurge once I’m settled and add it because it sounds really interesting. I’m so here for more historical fiction. This one is 1950s Tehran which is a also a second chance romance.

The Way of the Japanese Bookclub

Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi

I’ve been so bad at keeping up with this! It’s a bit tougher to find their picks. I’m trying out this as an audiobook via Scribd. Hopefully doing this as audio will help!

Illumicrate

I’m not sure about the timing of all this, but hopefully I’ll get to the Dearly Departed readalong. I’ve been enjoying their monthly readalongs since I discovered them at the beginning of the year.

Asian Readathon TBR

There will be a lot of crossover, which will make this easy. The challenge does request you use different nationalities for different prompts, but you are allowed to use one book for multiple prompts. This challenge was created by ReadWithCindy. I had a lot of books selected already which easily fit multiple categories due to my typical reading interests, but I did have a bit of a struggle with non-fiction as its not my cup of tea. I decided to do this not only to challenge myself to be better about diversifying my experience with Asian authors and books, but also to give myself a bit more accountability to try to get through this TBR especially since it is AAPI Heritage Month.

Read a book by an Asian Author

Before the Coffee Gets Cold, Toshikazu Kawaguchi (Japan)

Read a book featuring an Asian Protagonist

The Stationery Shop, Marjan Kamali (Iran)

Read a book by an Asian Author in your favorite genre

The Damned, Renee Ahdieh (Korea/Mixed)

This is a favorite author, I love paranormal YA, and she’s Korean-American. I’m excited to include this because I for some reason hadn’t realized she was Korean-American. I think this could fit multiple prompts as well if I remember correctly.

Read any nonfiction book written by an Asian author

Remembering Shanghai, Isabelle Sun Chao and Claire Chao (China)

This will be a short audiobook add on.

Read a book by an Asian author that is not US-centric

Unmarriageable, Soniah Kamal (Pakistan)

Again, another fairly ambitious TBR. With proper pacing, I do hope to make it through this. I did get a lot of books I’m super excited for again, so I do think that will help. I’m trying to be better about not buying the books on the TBR, but sadly shopping my shelves didn’t work too well.

April Air and Readalong Wrap Up

Air TBRvatar Wrap

What a month! There was quite a bit of drama at school at the beginning of the month.

This is such a small thing, but I was glad to reach 10 followers. I don’t really even talk about this blog at all, so it means a lot that you stumbled across this and decided you liked it. Thank you all for showing your interest in my bookish rambles. I appreciate it!

I’m super happy I managed to do some work to get these posts to look more like what I had hoped. Let me know if this is working better for you to read in the poll at the end.

I was also surprised that it turned out that a lot of people I enjoy from the Book Community also picked up some of these books recently. I did get a few spoilers, but none that I cared about.

Yip Yip! Yay, keep this card and use it on the next one you’d like to re-draw! No bonus

House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Mass

C: 5 A: 6 W: 4 P: 7 I: 7 L: 3 E: 4, 5.14, 3 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: BLOOD/GORE, DRUG USE, DEATH, GRIEF, TRAFFICKING, S*EXSHAMING FEMALES

This was technically a free credit I gave myself when I got a redraw card. I used this to showcase my buddy read with Leila, which was House of Earth and Blood. Definitely an intimidating and hefty book! The first chapter was a bit odd. There was a lot of world building which needed to happen, but not all the terms were recognizable in the way I’d hope. It was still very much like the ACOTAR series’ writing style, just a bit more amped up. Very bold and brash, much like her characters. This is the one I did get “spoiled” but it wasn’t a major spoiler as you know vaguely something happens. I didn’t mind mainly because I had been on the fence about whether this book would be for me so I watched a few reviews/reading vlogs about it to see if it’d be worth it. I’m actually kinda glad I went in knowing that a certain thing happened rather early on; I feel like that might have been a big turn-off if I hadn’t been prepared. I was super confused by all the mixed references to classical, Biblical, and Norse lore in a world that didn’t have these cultures in this weird mishmash. Like they flat out named the “world” Midgard. It was another book where I did struggle a bit with the immediate use of these terms for people within the world that wasn’t explained. It’s not my favorite writing style or characters, like I definitely have to be in certain mood to pick up Maas. I’m glad I gave it a try. It picked up quite a bit, but I wasn’t as into all the drug content and brash writing style. This did ease up significantly in some parts, which I really enjoyed. I did end up enjoying the relationship, even if I was disappointed about what happened with the original love interest and some of the twists that happened. There were also some rather disjointed plot points which really took me out of the story, especially relating to some of the major twists. They just seemed very shock-factor to me rather than actual plot development or value-added.

It was meant to be an invitation for merriment, to seize each moment as if it were one’s last, as if tomorrow were not guaranteed, even for slow-aging Vanir.

Hunt Athalar, House of Earth and Blood
Aang: Read a book with a chosen one trope. Air bonus

Tower of Nero, Rick Riordan

C: 8 A: 7 W: 8 P: 6 I: 6 L: 7 E: 6, 6.86, 3 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: GORE/BLOOD, PTSD, MANIPULATION, ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIPS

So bittersweet to reach the end of this. I really love how this serious handles things like PTSD, emotional abuse, and coming to terms with less desirable parts of your past. While I love Riordan’s other series, these themes have made this one my favorite. It’s such an interesting way to approach mythological stories to have a disgraced god cast out and deal with an identity crisis and take a hard look at how he’s behaved in the past. It had a brilliant blend of humor and deep introspection. This was a bit of an odd book for me. I’ve read a lot of middle grade adventures especially from this author, but I did really feel the climax pacing was a bit off. We built up these final confrontations between Apollo and Nero and Python which makes sense. We spend a lot of the book trying to sorta plan out the “heist”-esque aspect of sabotaging Nero. We get a brief final battle there, and then we’re immediately launched into Apollo finally confronting the nemesis he’s avoided for 4.8 books. There’s another rather brief big bad battle, and then we hear of how everyone’s doing. I was glad to hear of the happy endings for beloved characters, and there were still a lot of great moments, but I did struggle a bit with that pacing. The character growth we see for Meg and Apollo throughout the series is amazing, and definitely one of my favorite parts. It’s sad to see another long time favorite world wrapped. I’m curious to see what’s next for Riordan apart from the 10,000 Leagues inspired book. That’s definitely an interesting change-up, but I am still hoping for more myths.

Change is a fragile thing. It needs time and distance.

Apollo/Lester Papadopoulos, Tower of Nero
Koh: Read a retelling. Face bonus?

These Violent Delights, Chloe Gong

C: 4 A: 7 W: 5 P: 4 I: 4 L: 4 E: 4, 4.57, 2 Stars

CONTENT WARNING: GORE, EPIDEMIC, DRUG USE, MEDICAL CONTENT

Ok…this is odd. I don’t think my actual copy from Owlcrate is as green as this image, but it’s not the black of the regular. Needless to say, This was probably one of my most anticipated books especially as I saw a lot of my faves in the Book Community pick it up. I tried to avoid spoilers for their discussions on this, which was pretty easy. I’m looking forward to being able to go back and compare thoughts now that it’s wrapped. I really loved how this book opened, it was so well done. I was also glad to see the Shanghainese representation. I did end up placing it in the danger zone then pausing on page 100. I was struggling with some depictions of a parasite which really grossed me out. It made me nauseous every time I had to read about it. I was super interested in this so it was really disappointing to find out there was something I was so sensitive to being a major plot point. The End of Chapter Nine was the worst. I definitely would have enjoyed it more if there was a change in what caused the disease. But, with how much it came up, it made the book much less enjoyable. The original premise had been so fascinating, but I was ultimately disappointed with little to like about the book. If you aren’t sensitive to that kind of thing, you could probably enjoy it more than I did.

They say Shanghai stands tall like an emperor’s ugly daughter, its streets sprawling in a manner that only the limbs of a snarling princess could manage. It was not born this way. It used to be beautiful…..Now it may be ugly, but it is glorious.

These Violent Delights
Azula: Book with a morally grey character’s or villain’s POV. Fire bonus

A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab

C: 5 A: 8 W: 7 P: 7 I: 6 L: 6 E: 4, 6.14, 3 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: GORE, DEATH

I had to really fight not to re-read Addie LaRue during some of these weird reading pauses, so I hope this satisfies the urge. I was really happy to get into a well-known series. It definitely had an interesting world. I had hoped for the different Londons to be a bit more like ours, but they were each very interesting. I was really intrigued by the idea, but it didn’t really end up impressing me a lot. It wasn’t bad, I just didn’t really connect.

That was the thing about magic. It was everywhere. In everything. In everyone. And while it coursed like a low and steady pulse, through the air and the earth, it beat louder in the body of living things.

Kell, A Darker Shade of Magic

Book Clubs Wrap

Lengendborn, Tracy Deonn

C: 8 A: 9 W: 8 P: 10 I: 10 L: 8 E: 10, 9.00, 5 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: GRIEF, PTSD, RACISIM, RAPE, TRANSPHOBIA, VIOLENCE, SLAVERY

I’ve made it no secret I love this book. I was glad we did this for the Sinister Sister Book Club without my pushing for it. Even re-reading the prologue gave me an intense case of Feels. I got chills reading it. I did originally read this in a short period, but I did take some pretty significant pauses to just…feel when I did. I do feel that breaking it up a bit more suited me for a good chunk. I absolutely loved the romance between Nick and Bree.

But when your entire world is shattering, a little bit of magic is…nothing.

Bree Matthews, Legendborn

The Court of Miracles, Kester Grant

C: 7 A: 8 W: 8 P: 7 I: 8 L: 5 E: 7, 7.14, 4 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: ALCOHOLISM, DRUG ABUSE, TRAFFICKING, CHILD ABUSE

This was my surprise read! I was super excited for this retelling of Les Mis so I recommended it as a Sister read. I really love that show and was intrigued by the counterfactual history it took on with a Paris where the Revolution failed an an underground group called the Court of Miracles is created, filled with guilds of thieves and assassins. There were so many incredible design elements which made the book such a pleasure to read. I was also really glad it focused on Eponine, who was my favorite from Les Mis. If you like Les Mis retellings, I really enjoyed A Little in Love by Susan Fletcher, which is entirely from Eponine’s perspective and a bit closer to the source material. I had hoped to do this as mixed media, but I was a bit frustrated with the British accent of the narrator in the audiobook. The actor was lovely, but it kinda irked me since it’s a very French story, but they did the French bits well, which appeased me. I was also trying out Libro.fm for the first time. I liked it a bit better than audible, but not as much as Libby. I like having progress bars reflect chapter and overall book progress. For this book, I also found myself at an odd reading pace, so it didn’t quite synch up as much as I’d hoped. I was almost a 1.45X speed? The app seemed alright overall, and I love that it supports indie stores. I also think that in general, loaning audio is my preference. I did eventually just give it up and put on Les Mis in the background. I was also rather confused by the characters, but that’s probably because I haven’t read Les Mis and despite specifically taking a course on French Revolutionary history, I can never keep it straight. Timelines are also a bit off. They mention the founding of the court in 1160, but I had thought it had happened after the failed revolution. But that also gets into a lot of the confusion as to which events are actually being depicted in Les Mis, which is the 1832 June Rebellion. This book mainly takes place in 1820s, with 1832 not happening until part 4. So the Capetian dynasty headed by Marie Antoinette’s son is in tact and rivaled by the “Miracle Court”. I was also confused as to how old they all are supposed to be, there wasn’t really any hints until Part 2. Despite my appalling lack of knowledge of French history, It was really interesting. Even though I am very much Team Eponine, I didn’t know how to feel about her in this. I wasn’t personally a fan of how Eponine, an icon of unrequited love, was flipped to have multiple characters interested in her, especially when so much of her character’s relation to Cosette is this hurt over her being “rescued” from the Thenardiers and Eponine’s long-time crush using her to get to Cosette. That being said, I really liked Grant’s writing style and the idea was really cool. She definitely made it her own and brought a lot to the retelling. If you aren’t a strict purist of retellings or don’t have a lot of attachment to Les Mis, you’d definitely enjoy it. I had to look at it more as “oh they have the same names and there’s some similar things in the climax.” Of itself, it was a pretty solid read, which is why it still was rated so highly despite it not being what I had been hoping for.

It’s not just her features that are beautiful. Something inside her draws people to her. Innocence, a kindness that could swallow the city whole if she let it.

Eponine “Nina”/ “Black Cat” Thenardier, The Court of Miracles

The Mountains Sing, Nguyen Phan Que Mai

C: 7 A: 6 W: 9 P: 7 I: 7 L: 7 E: 6, 7.00, 4 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: WAR, PTSD, GORE, RAPE, TORTURE, ABORTION, ASSUALT, CHILD ABDUCTION, IMPRESSMENT STILLBIRTH, CHILD CHEMICAL AGENT SIDE EFFECTS

I knew very little about this going in, which has kinda been my method lately. A lot of times knowing too much of the summary leads to confusion, like with The Court of Miracles. The writing was so beautiful, you can definitely tell Nguyen is a poet. It was definitely a hard read with all the things which happen to the family. It was a struggle to read this content, but it was so well-written. Absolutely stunning. The grandma is my hero.

In her stories, I tasted the sweetness of the sim berries on my tongue, felt grasshoppers kicking in my hands, and slept in a hammock under s sky woven by shimmering stars.

Tran Huong, The Mountains Sing

The Unbroken, C. L. Clark

DNF: Pacing off/not feeling it

CONTENT WARNING: MANIPULATION, GORE, DEATH, IMPRESSMENT

This was the book for Illumicrate’s March “Fighting Spirit” box. I found out that Illumicrate has readalongs for their book each month. I didn’t actually do a specific unboxing for this month, but I was really intrigued by the book. I had a bit of a tougher time with this. As a historian, it was definitely interesting to see all the propaganda and social commentary on imperialism (especially as I’m discussing this in my Teaching History course and a lot of the topics I’m being asked to look at relate to this). I was really interested in this North-African inspired story, but I had a really tough time with this. It was really hard to get into the plot and I kept having these moments where I didn’t see were things came from.

It made Luca wonder what new boundaries people would have to make in the future – how they would call themselves, what else they would find to separate themselves from each other. Humans tended to do that.

Luca, The Unbroken

Random Loans for Teaching Wrap

I did also pick up some random books with my library because I don’t have impulse control. This also happens a lot with DNF months.

We Want to Do More than Survive, Bettina Love

4 Stars (Non-fiction)

CONTENT WARNING: RACISM, SEXISM, HOMOPHOBIA, POLICE BRUTALITY, MURDER, ANXIETY

This was a really great book. It gave me a lot to consider about my future teaching. Basically this covers the idea of how minority students are not being served and may experience a mental frame which can’t move past “survival” mode.

The House in the Cerulean Sea, TJ Klune

C: 9 A: 7 W: 9 P: 7 I: 7 L: 7 E: 8, 7.71, 4 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: CHILD ABUSE, BIGOTRY

This book wrecked me in the best way. The Linus’ settling for being alone and not having bonds with people despite the love he feels he has to give is so sad. It’s definitely been something on my mind as well as I’m only a few years older than Linus was when he came to this determination. It’s a weird feeling because I view myself as a romantic person, yet I don’t think I possess a lot of qualities which would make me a good partner or parent. This is why I push myself so hard on trying to build a career I can be proud of and making a difference as a teacher and mentor. This book focused more on social work for magical orphans, but they are “home-schooled” and there’s a lot of beautiful passages on the importance of creating meaningful relationships and catering to social-emotional needs that is just simultaneously beautiful and heart-breaking. I’d definitely say that aspect of it makes me in 100% agreement with Olivareadsalatte that teachers should definitely read this. I’d say anyone who deals with caring with others could get a lot out of it.

I have to say, I found it very interesting to have so many books this month dealing with grief and legacy. These books were Not Here for a Good Time.

That’s it for this month! 3/4 of the way done with the challenge and knocked out two more of my 2021 Anticipated Reads. Next month I take on Fire and try to reach the Avatar State. Hopefully this post wasn’t too long with challenge and book club wraps. Hopefully that’ll get better once I’m on a break from this challenge.

Sinister Sisters Pick for May

Sinister Sisters Book Club May

Hello, everyone!!! Sorry this is a bit late, but things have been a bit crazy. (Welcome to adult life.) Just wanted to do a quick update for our May pick.

We will be reading Leigh Bardugo’s latest: Rule of Wolves!

I got my copy from Illumicrate a little while ago, and she is stunning! I can’t wait to dive in.

With 49 chapters, I suggest the following breakdown:

May 1-2: Chapter 1 and pick up buffer

May 3-9: Chapter 2-13

May 10-16 Chapter 14-25

May 17-23 Chapter 26-37

May 24-30 Chapter 38-49

It’s about two chapters a day with some buffer for a day off each week, so hopefully it won’t be too overwhelming!

As always, we want to try to give a heads up so that we can start on time. I’ll be starting a little bit later as I’ll need to catch up on King of Scars first, but I’m hoping to knock that out fairly quickly and do a catch up during sprints. I’m very interested in continuing more with the Grishaverse and focusing on Nikolai. He was a favorite from the other two series, so I am excited.

I’m also planning to watch the Netflix series and share my thoughts on that, but the timing is a bit in the air as a very intense professor designed my Teaching History course and my Curriculum and Assessment course. The teaching world is Going Through It at the moment.

March Buddy Reads

Buddy Read Wrap

I had three buddy reads this month outside of my TBRvatar challenge.

And Then There Were None, Agatha Christie

C: 3 A: 6 W: 4 P: 6 I: 5 L: 4 E: 4, 4.57, 2 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: DEATH, SUICIDE

A friend from high school and I had been seeing a lot of interesting things about the author’s life lately and were surprised that neither of us had read anything by her. I really liked how the poem was worked into the story. I also am a fan of Clue, so I was really interested in a similar story of a murder mystery dinner party. I had hoped there was a bit more of a gradual release of and variety of the secrets of the guests. I was disappointed by the poor aging of some descriptors and some culturally insensitive aspects of the original work, and was glad to see that edits were made. It’s certainly a challenge of reading some older books. The ending was infuriating, though. It wasn’t really an ending at all. The suspense was well-developed and I did had a hard time anticipating which character would match with which death from the poem.

Jade City, Fonda Lee

CONTENT WARNING: VIOLENCE, DEATH, DRUG USE, SEX

C: 7 A: 8 W: 7 P: 7 I: 6 L: 7 E: 6, 6.86, 3 Stars

This was the Subtle Asian Book Club’s pick for March. I had been wanting to read this for a while after hearing some positive reviews. There were some weird order tracking issues, but it did make it to me at some point. This did mean that I read a the first 150 or so pages in one go to catch up before switching back to at pace. This was really interesting. I liked the use of jade as simultaneously being empowering and dangerous to use. The intrigue between the various families was also really interesting. I had a hard time imagining where this story would go, which was nice. I promise, I really am trying to get more into books for my age and this really helped. I did find it a bit hard to get into because we are thrust into a very specific world without much world building at the start. The opening has this power play of families and references these groups and roles which make no sense and we don’t get much exposition for a while. Once it’s explained, it makes a lot of sense but it was a near deterrent for me. It really kept me on my toes. The clan wars were very exciting. I was on my toes for most of this book. I’m not sure how I feel about continuing the series. I’d probably need a bit of a break. I was also really glad to make a live author talk hosted by the book club.

A Dark and Hallow Star, Ashley Shuttleworth

C: 6 A: 7 W: 7 P: 8 I: 7 L: 6 E: 7, 6.86, 3 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: ANGER, ARSON, BLOOD/GORE, BODY HORROR (MINOR), DEATH OF A CHILD, DEPRESSION, DISOWNMENT, DIVORCE, DRUG USE/ADDICTION, GRIEF/GRIEVING, HUMAN TRAFFICKING, POVERTY, PSYCHOPATHY, STALKING, SUICIDE (PAST, OFF-PAGE), SUICIDAL IDEATION, TOXIC RELATIONSHIP/MANIPULATION, TRAUMA/PTSD, RACISIM, VIOLENCE/GUN VIOLENCE, HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION

I hadn’t intended to pick this up this month, but I just can’t help myself. I worked through my other reads around the time Illumicrate launched their read-along for this book. I also got in the mood for a fae story, so before I knew it the book was in my hand. I was really intrigued by the playlist the author shared for the book, but it wasn’t really my vibe. It was a lot of video game scores and were paired with specific chapters. It did help set the mood for a few, but there were a few that didn’t match my reading and trying to synch it was a bit more effort than I wanted at the time. It was cool, but I would have preferred a more general mood playlist I could have running on its own time. This had a really interesting take on fae. I did not expect some of the links which came up. This was such a wealth of lore! This was another multistory-line books. It was a bit challenging keeping timelines straight as they weren’t always clear. It also kept me waiting a while for the different storylines to converge longer than I’d hoped. I really enjoyed a lot of the pop culture references made one of the characters. This also had one of my favorite tropes: pining and unfulfilled mutual attraction.

That’s it for this time! I’m actually not sure how splitting up so many books worked out for me. I’m usually one at a time reader, and it did get a bit frustrating at times because I would have reached the “goal” for the day and still had a bunch of extra time where I wanted to keep reading but didn’t have any additional material.

April TBRvatar Air and Buddy Reads TBR

Air TBR

Another crazy month ahead. Terms are changing, so it’s hard to anticipate how much time classes will require. I’m also starting as a TA and it’s the beginning of the hiring season for School Year 2021/22, so I’m nervous about not having as much time as I’d like for this month. A lot of challenges, but hopefully being licensed and having a chance to get teaching experience will help me find success this season. I do have a short “break” between terms, so I might be able to do a readathon then. There’s also quite a few buddy reads, which means I’ll only be reading a few chapters a day which is usually manageable for me.

As usual, I will include my progress on the board:

Start: 1st tile of Air

6 books completed Earth, +6 tile bonus, Blank before storm

Turn 1: 5: Blank: Draw a Card

Yip Yip: Yay, Keep this card and use it on the next one you’d like to redraw! No bonus

Alright, a free turn basically in terms of adding books. I’m going to save this card and use this tile as a free read credit for this month because I don’t want just 3 books. I’m not sure if this is technically how it should work, but oh well!

House of Earth and Blood, Sarah J. Maas

This is a book that’s been on my TBR for a while. I know a lot of people like Olivareadsalatte really enjoyed Maas’ official entry into adult paranormal romance. I’ve heard that if you like her other books, there’s a strong chance you’ll like this. I’m curious how the male dynamics are going to be because I have been moving away from her usual possessive male characters. My fellow Sinister Sister, Leila P. Morgan and I were discussing it after Olivia and I had a short conversation about how tempting the floppiness of the paperback was, so their combined “enabling” convinced me to pick it up. Leila and I will be buddy reading this, and I’m very excited!

Turn 2: 2: Blank: Draw a Card

Koh: Read a retelling: Face Bouns?

Ohhhhhh yaaaaassss. I am so hyped to have gotten this card! There’s so many Anticipated Books to fit! Not sure what the “Face” thing in the Bonus indicator circle is supposed to mean? Maybe you get a bonus for a face on cover/title? If that’s the case, no bonus unless you count the reverse dust jacket.

These Violent Delights, Chloe Gong

I have been dying to get my hands on this. I saw the lovely cover and heard the plot and instantly went:

I was particularly jealous when I saw the lovely edition from the November Fairyloot Enemies to Lovers box. I finally caved in January and bought a copy from OwlCrate when I saw it was in their December box and still had the one-off book only option in stock. I do think I am quite pleased with how it ended up, though. I think keeping the gold lettering worked better than the rose gold for me, even if the OwlCrate didn’t have sprayed edges. I did also finally notice that the cover is slightly different: it’s a very dark green with an art-deco design. I have been waiting so long to read this, and I’m even more excited with the upcoming sequel announced. Plus, Oliviareadsalatte once again taunting me by picking this up at the end of March which made me want to pick it up even sooner.

Turn 3: 7: Blank: Draw a Card

Azula: Book with a morally grey character’s or villain’s POV; Fire bonus

Ok, not sure about this. But I think I can role with it.

A Darker Shade of Magic, V. E. Schwab

I haven’t read too much of V. E. Schwab, but so many people love her and this series so I’m hoping to get into it. I recently got a UK collector’s edition to help inspire me to get to it. I’m sure it’ll bring back some fond memories of my year in London.

Turn 4: 6: Clear Air, Blank 3 tiles into Fire: Draw a Card

Aang: Read a book with a Chosen One trope; Air Bonus

The Tower of Nero, Rick Riordan

This book has been on my holds list for so long and I kept having to push it back when I did challenges. I adore Rick Riordan’s demigod worlds, and I’m sad to see the conclusion of this series. Apollo was such an interesting narrator. Kind of counts since there’s kind of prophecies around Apollo and Meg and Zeus has forced Apollo to work as penance for his betrayal to regain his divinity. I’m really curious what Rick has in store after this apart from the Jules Verne inspired work. This will be my only e-book for the month, which is kind of nice.

I know this is gonna sound crazy, but I’m actually kinda sad I’m not getting more prompts. I also somehow seem to be missing almost all of the special tiles. 4 books this month, meaning I’ll have read 14 books with this challenge. Not as much as I’d hoped, but it’s still progress. I did manage to get some of the books I’ve been putting off into this set. Book clubs also definitely help me feel less weird about a short TBR. I’m also glad that I’m going to end up working so much from a physical TBR instead. I’ve been growing weary of e-books.

I also saw a promising new reading challenge Mythothon. I was tempted to try to overlap some of these reads, but I don’t think I have quite enough time to do all the prompts for this month. I was super excited to see the Arthurian legend prompts, so I may be trying out this challenge in the future.

Buddy Reads

Sinister Sister Book Club

Legendborn, Tracy Deonn

Our main buddy read is a re-read for me. I’ll be picking up Legendborn again. It’s honestly one of the best books I’ve read in a long time, so I’m curious how it goes knowing the end now. There’s also a highly anticipated Sister read I’ll be discussing April 15.

Subtle Asian Book Club

The Mountains Sing, Nguyen Phan Que Mai

This is a multigenerational story set in Viet Nam during the war and rise of the Communist government. This is a lovely cover. I was a bit nervous about picking up this book since it’s set in a challenging time. I do feel like this topic is an important area of growth for me as a student of Asian history and history teacher candidate. There was also a great partnership with the book club to support an AAPI indie bookstore in the wake of all the hate crimes against these people, so I ended up agreeing to pick this up.

That’s it for this time. Pray for me, y’all. Maybe this time I won’t be stuck in not reading limbo.

March TBRvatar Earth Wrap

This was an interesting month. Lots of exciting events and hard work. My student job picked up and I got consulted a lot on improving it since its a new role, I started a new 6 week class, am close to the end of my second term for my MAT, and got word I’m going to have to figure out being able to make in-person classes for the fall. I technically had three read-along books, but only two fit the prompts. I am also taking some license on the interpretation of Crooked Kingdom fitting the prompt. I also picked up Jade City which I had wanted to get to for a while, so I was excited when the Subtle Asian Book Club picked it up. Since there were so many read-alongs, I ended up reading some of these in small amounts each day. It was an interesting experience, but when I started doing this I was nervous that I would end up getting things mixed up. The stories were different enough where I didn’t experience this problem.

Earth Kingdom: Word ‘earth’ in title or earth/planets on cover; Earth Bonus

Winter’s Orbit, Everina Maxwell

C: 9 A: 8 W: 8 P: 9 I: 9 L: 9 E: 10, 8.86, 4 Stars

CONTENT WARNING: PAST TOXIC/ABUSIVE RELATIONSHIP, MANIPULATION

I did not expect to enjoy this book so much from the get go. I had originally expected this to be enemies-to-lovers, but I’m not disappointed that I was wrong. I also had a lot of fun doing this with the Illumicrate Read-along. I almost instantly fell in love with Kiem and Jainan. Kiem was trying so hard to be sensitive to the situation, and I really wanted the to find a way to work it out. It was paced really well and I found myself more willing to tolerate the unbalance dual POV. Reading a section with memory manipulation was so sad since there’s already a lot of manipulation themes. There was a lot of pressure to speak out about the past abusive relationship because of its political implications and its ties to certain crimes which didn’t sit right with me. It takes a lot to handle these situations and I personally was still feeling the victim wasn’t fully comfortable doing so and had other reasons for doing so. The wrap up was also a little odd and had a little bit too much of a “wow that five minutes just made everything ok!” feeling, but I was glad to see a happy ending. Those last few bits sadly brought it down from a 5 star rating, but it was still really close. The gender-neutral titles were a bit disorienting, but it was also really cool. I had to go back a few times when certain characters were introduced because there was a lot less gender differentiation in the world’s language norms.

The Desert: Read a book that includes a topic of mental health

This is Where it Ends, Marieke Nijkamp

CONTENT WARNINGS: ALCOHOLISM, CHILD ABUSE (PHYSICAL, VERBAL), ASSAULT, HOMOPHOBIA, SCHOOL SHOOTING, SUICIDE

C: 7 A: 7 W: 7 P: 8 I: 8 L: 8 E: 5, 7.14, 4 Stars

I definitely wanted to get this out of the way quickly since I was sure it would be an emotional read. It definitely hit hard very early on. This story is one of my worst nightmares and I pray I never experience it. I was pretty much crying the whole time. It weaves together the different story lines very well. It was also very easy to forget that the events of the story all occur within a very short time span. As an educator, it’s a powerful reminder of why emotional-social support is so vital. It is such a tragedy that shooter’s grief and isolation was allowed to escalate to the point where this happened. I was surprised to find out the author was Dutch, but it seems like they did a great job of researching. It was definitely not a Good Time, but it was really well-done. I’ve been impressed with how good some of the books I’ve read recently are despite tackling things which I am not Here For. There was some discussion of trauma, so I’m still saying this is acceptable.

June: Read a book featuring assassins or mercenaries; Fire Bonus

Crooked Kingdom, Leigh Bardugo

C: 6, A: 6, W: 6, P: 6, I: 5, L: 6, E: 5, 5.71, 3 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: GORE, SLAVERY, PLAGUE, ABUSIVE PARENT, DRUG ADDICTION

The Sinister Sister Book Club’s first pick! I debated if I should try to push through this first, but I’m trying to go through at pace of the buddy read, aiming for 11 chapters a week to help in case anyone followed along in real time. This did lead to a small issue as I could only have the loan for 21 days and couldn’t renew since it was so highly in demand, so I did get the Kindle version since a course text was also available for KindleUnlimited. I think this split also helped me work through the longer list and the slump I can face with this series. It was a lot easier to only read about two chapters a day than trying to push through the whole book. I did get some serious nostalgia for my life in London during that library scene with Wylan and Jesper. I did really come to love those two. I did feel this wrapped up nicely, but I didn’t see the emotional turmoil people discussed at the ending.

Yue: Book with the word ‘Moon’ in the title or moon on the cover; Water Bonus

Foundryside, Robert Jackson Bennett

C: 4 A: 5 W: 4 P: 4 I: 5 L: 7 E: 3, 4.57, 2 Stars

CONTENT WARNINGS: GORE, MURDER, PEDOPHILIA, SLAVERY, SEXUAL SLAVERY, HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION

This book was off to an odd start for me. I’m very intrigued by the magic system, but the writing style didn’t really do much for me. I am trying to work on breaking out of YA and getting more into adult reads, but this wasn’t one of the best for transitioning at first. I was very determined to follow through with this book since I heard about it from multiple sources, including the challenge creator. Once we got to a certain point where all the secret truths are being revealed on how things worked in the past it became a lot harder to try to make it through the last hundred pages. I think normally I would have DNF’ed it as the secret is something I very much despise. I’m not going to continue with the series.

That’s Rough, Buddy: Read the lowest rated book on your TBR; Fire Bonus

Bellman & Black, Diane Setterfield

C: 5 A: 5 W: 5 P: 4 I: 3 L: 5 E:3, 4.29, 2 Stars

This was an odd read for me. I really loved The Thirteenth Tale, and had really high hopes for this book. It didn’t really have that same gothic vibe I had enjoyed, so it was hard to get into. The very short chapters also had an odd effect of feeling like I was making progress yet not at the same time. This sadly very much fit the prompt as it was a rough read. It did end up being a little more intriguing in the second half. It reminded a bit of my favorite Japanese movie, Okuribito, which is about a man who secretly takes a job ritually preparing bodies for burial (something incredibly taboo in Japan). They both speak to the great need for compassion to those grieving and gentleness towards the deceased. I would have liked to see the main character have more of a life outside of work, but it makes sense with the story.

Joo Dee: Read a dystopian novel; no bonus

Champion, Marie Lu

C: 6 A: 5 W: 6 P: 7 I: 7 L: 7 E: 4, 6.00, 3 Stars

CONTENT WARNING: PANDEMIC/PLAGUE, GORE, HUMAN EXPERIMENTATION, BIOLOGICAL WARFARE, CHRONIC ILLNESS AND PAIN (CANCER)

I had been worried this wouldn’t arrive on time, but it ended up coming in early! In retrospect, quarantine probably isn’t the best time to read this series. I was disappointed when reading about Metias’ last moments. It has been a huge part of the story, and for that to be how he died was awful. I don’t want to give to much away, but it was a very BYG! vibe. I was also really rooting for Anden and June to get together. I felt so bad for him which also carried to a character with the same name in Jade City. There was some really great commentary that was very timely to the situation in the States now. It’s not surprising that their estimated downfall of the country is in 30 years. I could very much see aspects of the world Lu puts forth being how future events could take place. I’ve had this lingering concern that we are headed toward an actual split given the political climate of the past few years. I did also find her comments on how June couldn’t imagine forcing the two nations to reunite very interesting. I think that definitely applies to the situation in Korea. After 70 years creating two different societies, I was always skeptical during my Korean history course in grad school when reunification was brought up, and I’m curious how it shapes out in light of an actual truce instead of a ceasefire. Definitely made me think! It was rather tough reading a main character fade from illness and have memory impacted. The ending was very unsatisfying. I was able to go through this rather quickly, which made me happy after struggling with Bellman & Black and trying to balance some crazy shifts at work and school. I probably could have easily wrapped it in a day or two if I hadn’t been so tired. First completed series of 2021!

Also, I’ve sort of managed to get the blogs to look what I had originally hoped. I’m not certain if the effect is working. Feel free to let me know your thoughts since I want to make sure this is accessible to readers. I know sometimes it’s not as good as what I had before. I sometimes struggle when trying to write the posts, so I’m sure there’s similar issues in reader view.

I’m also going to have to think about how to manage my wrap ups. I don’t really want to include books outside of the challenge like some of the buddy reads I’ve got planned, but I do feel odd about having two separate wraps. Maybe do a more generalized Monthly Wrap with sections for why I read the books? (Buddy read/book club, readathon/challenge, free reads?) This all is probably moot at this point in readership, but I guess since I feel like I’ve reached a certain point in getting what I want in terms of the appearance, what is best?

That’s it for this time. I had a lot better luck with my picks this month, and there were some definite surprises! I’m going to finish a full game play since it has been fun. April will be the Air section month, so I should finish my first round at the end of May. After that, who knows? A bit of a break will be nice to take the pressure off and ensure that I can actually read the things I’m excited about in a more timely manner.

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