I Failed the Reading Rush…

So I guess I technically failed the Reading Rush readathon…

… but I think I’m good with that.

How do you fail an entirely optional, self governable reading challenge?  Here’s how:

First of all, my TBR went out the window as soon as the readathon started.  I had a feeling my goals were a bit too ambitious to start with, and I ended up picking easier things and making them fit the challenge prompts.

Speaking of challenge prompts- my plan was to fulfill each with a separate book.  Seven prompts, seven books, no overlapping… which would also allow me to achieve the bonus of reading 7 in 7.  In the end I met 6 of the prompt challenges in 5 books.

1. Read a book with purple on the cover

  • I, Parrot by Deb Olin Unferth & Elizabeht Haidle

2. Read a book in the same spot the whole time

  • The Birds by Daphne Du Maurier
  • When I Walk Through That Door I Am, by Jimmy Santiago Baca
  • My Favorite Half-Night Stand, by Christina Lauren

3. Read a book you meant to read last year

  • The Birds
  • FAIL- The Fellowship of the Ring by JRR Tolkien (I read about half way through this)

4. Read an author’s first book

  • Property Of, by Alice Hoffman

5. Read a book with a non-human main character

  • FAIL- City of Brass by SA Chakraborty (got about 70% through this during the readathon, and finished it the day after the readathon ended)
  • FAIL- The Fellowship of the Ring

6. Pick a book with 5 words or more in the title

  • My Favorite Half-Night Stand (I count the hyphenated ‘half-night’ as two words… yeah?)

7. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation

  • The Birds (film by Alfred Hitchcock)… the book- well, short story- was better!

So I definitely didn’t accomplish everything I wanted to with this readathon, but I found myself pretty much burned out by mid week.  I definitely do not do well with week long readathons like this,  I much prefer month long ones.

That said, I haven’t decided if I want to do the NEWTs Magical Readathon hosted by Book Roast, or if I want to read randomly through my own TBR.  The NEWTs start today, and I have my pick of wizarding professions since I passed all my OWLs a few months ago.  What to do, what to do?

Reading Rush TBR

I am going to try my absolute best to participate in the Reading Rush readathon (formerly Booktubeathon) taking place July 22 through July 28.

If you don’t know what the Reading Rush is, find all the information for it here.

I have picked out 7 different books to go with the 7 challenges, but several of my choices can apply to multiple challenges, and I have other options on my shelves that could work for the challenges as well.  So at the end of the week I’ll check back in to see how well my reading goals aligned with my actual reading.


2019 Reading Rush Challenges:

1. Read a book with purple on the cover- The Color Purple, by Alice Walker

2. Read a book in the same spot for the entire time- Chronicle of a Death Foretold, by Gabriel García Márquez

3. Read a book you meant to read last year- The Fellowship of the Ring, by JRR Tolkien

4. Read an author’s first book- Property Of, by Alice Hoffman (audiobook through Hoopla)

5. Read a book with a non-human main character- Tik-Tok, by John Sladek

6. Pick a book that has five or more words in the title- Baseball and the Color Line, by Thomas Gilbert

7. Read and watch a book to movie adaptation- The Birds, by Daphne Du Maurier (film by Alfred Hitchcock)

Bonus Challenge: Read 7 books


My focus is definitely going to be on The Fellowship of the Ring, because it is the book club selection for the month of July for The Marauders Book Club on Facebook. This book alone would cover four of the challenges: meant to read last year, five or more words in the title, non-human main character, and read + watch adaptation.

Are you participating in The Reading Rush? Let me know if you are, and what you plan on reading.  If you are using the website, here is a link to MY PROFILE where you can add me as a friend!

Happy Reading!!!

Midyear Book Freak Out Tag

I thought doing this tag would be a great way to check back in with my long forgotten blog. This is something I see everyone and their mom doing on BookTube and figured I’d give it a shot. Without further ado…


2019 Midyear Book Freak Out Tag:

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2019.

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker stands out to me, but also Pachinko by Min Jin Lee, and There There by Tommy Orange.

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Some other favorites have been My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwait, Convenience Store Woman by Sayaka Murata, and the Murderbot Diaries novela series by Martha Wells.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019

In An Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire was by far the best yet in the Wayward Children series.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

I read Leigh Bardugo’s Shadow and Bone/Grisha trilogy this year during Book Roast’s OWLs Magical Readathon. I loved the books so much! I haven’t gotten around to King of Scars yet. Haven’t decided if I am going to reread Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom, or jump right into it.

I also have A Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson calling my name. I have very high hopes for it

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

I am looking forward to Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo and Supernova by Marissa Meyer

5. Biggest disappointment

There have been several books I probably expected to enjoy more than I actually did, but my greatest disappointment by far was Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. I have been meaning to read it for at least 9 years; since my first reading of Jane Eyre. I was expecting to fall in love with Antoinette “Bertha” Mason as a heroine, but it really fell flat for me. What a bummer.

Oh yeah, I almost forgot: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater. The series is one I put off reading because I knew I’d love it… so I wanted to wait until the perfect time. Well I did NOT love it, and I’m not totally sure I see myself continuing the series.

6. Biggest surprise

Pachinko by Min Jin Lee was a book club selection, and honestly I was not thrilled it was chosen. I had heard nothing but great things about it, but I really didn’t think it would be for me. Well…. it is definitely one of my favorite of the year (as you saw back in question 1). I am so pleasantly surprised at how easy it was to read and enjoy. I was expecting it to be more purple prosey in style, but it was very readable and accessable…especially when historical fiction is something I don’t read often.

7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)

Well, definitely not the best author(s) I’ve read this year, but they are new to me and I highly enjoyed them… Christina Lauren. This year I read Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating, Unhoneymooners, and Roomies. Were they amazing literature? No. Did I enjoy them? Yes, very much. Everyone needs a little brain candy now and then.

You could of course refer back to my answer for question 1 for more quality new-to-me authors.

8. Newest fictional crush

I’m just gon’ say it: Mal (the Grisha Trilogy). screw the Darkling. Mal and Alina are OTP. I LOVE MAL.

#unpopularopinion

I know, I know.

9. Newest favorite character.

Murderbot (From the Murderbot Diaries series). I love that sentient, anxious robot. So much.

10. Book that made you cry (Saddest book you have read).

One that took me by surprise was The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang. When I heard reviewers say they cried reading it I couldn’t imagine being so moved. But it got me. Those were pretty happy tears though. Proud, full of love tears.

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The book that made me saddest this year would probably be Pachinko. I did cry reading that one, too. An empty, wrecked cry.

11. Book that made you happy.

Umm…The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang.

But also, Red White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston…. which also brought me to tears actually.

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12. Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year.

Good Omens. OMIGOSH. David Tennant.

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13. Favorite review you’ve written this year.

I haven’t made much effort to do more than a Goodreads star rating when I finish a book. I track my progress and leave a note here and there as I read, but when I finish I click my star rating and move on.

But when I finished The Lost Girl by Anne Ursu… I had things to say.

My review for The Lost Girl can be found on Goodreads here.

14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

Sorcery of Thorns maybe? King of Scars?

For the sake of naming a book I haven’t mentioned yet, Aurora Rising by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff has a pretty cool cover and some great art. Haven’t gotten around to it yet, but you KNOW I preordered it in order to get a copy of Memento, which is the Illuminae Files prequel only available to US readers (or those willing to spend a small fortune) as an Aurora Rising promo.

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15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

All the books. Seriously, there are too many to name. Lots of backlist books I have purchased at thrift & used book stores, plus some new releases and next in series that I am looking forward to.


Have you done this tag? Leave your link if you’ve done it already, or make sure to come back and share when you do.

Happy Reading!

T5W: Disappointing Reads of 2018

Top 5 Wednesday is hosted by Sam, of the YouTube channel Thoughts on Tomes. The group topics and links are here.


I had a pretty decent reading year overall, but there were definitely some books that didn’t hit the mark for me. I wouldn’t say theses disappointing reads are the worst I read of there, and I’m not going to include DNFs in this list either. In fact, some of these books I did actually like, just not as much as I expected to… which is almost worse. If I straight up hated them, I could just be bitter about it. But instead some of these leave me confused about how I feel and how to proceed; you’ll see what I mean.

1. The Binti Series by Nnedi Okorafor

I listened to all three novellas back to back to back. I was expecting for these books to blow my mind based on all the reviews I’d seen of it. While I enjoyed the world and the plot, I was really let down by the speedy resolution of the conflict. Every book left me thinking ‘Seriously?! How anticlimactic.’ There is a point towards the end of the third novella where even Binti says the same exact thing! Is this just the nature of novellas? The world was built well, and the tension was developed well… but the resolution was just… ugh…

So where do I go from here? Before reading these I really wanted to read Akata Witch, and since reading these I’ve seen good reviews for her other novels and learned that Nnedi Okorafor is authoring graphic novels based on the Dora Milaje warriors from Black Panther which I kind of want to give a try. But will she just let me down again? What to do, what to do?!

2. Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

I was one of the few people who actually kind of liked Leah in Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I saw a little bit of myself in the character and was excited to get to read from her POV. THIS BOOK SHOULD NOT EXIST. It ruins the characters from the original book. Leah is the worst. The absolute worst. And yet…. I still enjoyed how Becky Albertalli portrays anxiety in her characters, and just like when I read Upside of Unrequited, there were lines from Leah that really resonated with highschool me.

3. Hiddensee by Gregory Maguire

So I’m still reading this actually. Slowly. But this was quite the disappointment because I bought it to be a Christmas-y read. It. was. not. In all fairness, I don’t actually know much about the original Nutcracker story (Hiddensee is a retelling of this), just that it’s associated with Christmas. I had to put it aside to read more holiday theme books which is what I was in the head space for in December. I went back to it shortly after the new year because I knew if I put it off longer than that I wouldn’t ever finish is.

My experience with every Gregory Maguire book I’ve read (Wicked, Son of a Witch, Mirror Mirror, and Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister), has been that I struggle through them… not quite sure of what’s going on… but then once I finish it, I decide it was really good. What does that mean? Do I enjoy his writing or not? Is it weird that I can’t tell?

4. Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Have you ever put off reading a book because you know you’re going to love it, so you may as well get some other books out of the way? That’s what I did with Uprooted. Even when I saw negative-ish reviews of it, I brushed them aside because I was sure I would be on the absolutely infatuated side of the spectrum. Imagine my disappointment when I just didn’t love it. I liked it…. I just didn’t love it. It took me FOR-EV-ER to finish, just about the entire month.

Now what? Do I read Spinning Silver? Even people who loved Uprooted were ‘meh’ about Spinning Silver. I already have it on my nook, though, so should I just go for it? I most likely will, but not anytime soon.

5. The Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson

Unpopular opinion time…. this series was just good. Not great.

Don’t get me wrong. Points in the second book had me screaming “Whaaaaaaaaaat?!?!” in my car while I listened to it on the drive home. I really loved the magic system and the fact that everything you thought you knew…. was WRONG! What a ride.

However…. the characters were the literal worst! So annoying. And the books were just too long, especially the third one. How many times can you say THE SAME THING, Brandon?! I actually came to really dislike Sanderson because I got the feeling he wrote such long books just to be able to say he writes long books. You know, page count bragging rights.

But I liked the world, right? So do I go on and read the Alloy series? Should I give The Stormlight Archives a try? What do I do? I just can’t decide. Because I listened to them all back to back over the summer, I am glad that I took a break from Sanderson and not go right into Alloy of Law, which I thought about doing at one point. If I do decide to read more from him it will be another major time investment, so I’m not in any rush.


Have you had similar experiences with these or any other book? Let me know.

Did you have the opposite experience with any of these books? Let me know that too!

Happy Reading!

Hello 2019!

We are going to power right on through the awkwardness of me trying to come up with a reason I went AWOL back in October and have been away from my blog 2+ months.   There’s no reason, it just happened.


And here we are.

Hello 2019!

Last year, I set my Goodreads challenge at 45 books.  Thank you audiobooks and graphic novels… I upped my challenge goal to 150 midway through the year, and PASSED that!  My final number on Goodreads was 163.  It’s not totally accurate, though, because I didn’t include all of the books I read with my kids, only the ones that felt were more substantial (not page count wise, but plot wise).

This year my Goodreads challenge goal is set to 75 (to start anyway).  I feel like this year won’t be quite as high because 1) I don’t have a 24+ volume graphic novel series to bulk up my numbers, and 2) I’ve set a couple of other reading goals for myself that I think will slow down my reading pace.

What are those goals?  I’m so glad you asked.

1. Read 12 nonfiction books

I think I can manage 1 nonfiction book per month.  I have a couple ideas of what I want to get to- mostly biographies of people like Walt Disney, Fred Rogers, Jim Henson, Steve Irwin, and I got a copy of Michelle Obama’s Becoming.  I enjoyed reading about a specific aspect of baseball history, so I think something similar may find its way into my summer TBR.

2. Read Them Classics

I have several examples of classic literature on my shelves that I have picked up here and there from thrift stores and library sales.  Now it’s time to read them.

3. Author/Series Goals

I took a good long look at all the books I own and prioritized authors I have multiple books from, and series I’m excited for and own at least the first book of.

4. Don’t Forget EBooks!!!

I have so many ebooks that I completely disregard because they are not visible!  I wrote out a list of titles I own digitally that I was excited about when I added them, but then forgot about.

5. Make a dent in my collection of unread physical books

We all have this goal, don’t we?


Do you set reading goals for the year? What are they?

Happy Reading!

Spookathon Readathon Day 4 & ‘Estranged’ Review

Well, I got one book finished for the readathon, and it wasnt even on my TBR for the week.

Estranged by Ethan M. Aldridge

This middle grade graphic novel was an impulse grab at the library. That cover just called out to me and refused to be ignored. I found all of the art stunning and the slightly reminiscent of Labyrinth…but not really… but kinda. I can’t decide, but I loved it regardless.

The plot of the novel follows a Human Childe raised by raised by Faerie Royalty. Well, raised by a goblin nanny actually, as the King and Queen were excessively superficial and interested only in how fashionable having a human Childe is. When an evil faerie queen takes the thrown, Childe and his golem friend, Whick, travel to the human realm to enlist the help of the powerful changeling who has been taking his place in his human family.

Set against a fantastical backdrop, the story raises questions of identity, acceptance, loyalty and belonging.

I initially gave it 4 stars on Goodreads, but almost immediately went ahead and gave it that last fifth star. Yup I went ahead and considered this a 5 star read. I found the queen a little to easy to defeat, but once I reminded myself that it was MIDDLE GRADE, and that I shouldn’t expect it to get as dark or as high intensity as a YA fantasy, I realized that I had no problems with it. 5 stars.


I had the coziest baseball mom set up today. But the dang wind kept blowing my pages and I was trying to keep my hands tucked into my sweater. I never get as much reading done as I hope to at the kids practices, but I always try anyway.

My Starbucks drink is a grande soy latte with one pump of vanilla.  It’s literally the only thing I know how to order.  That and steamed almond milk for the kids.


The Spookathon IG Photo Challenge for today was Ghosts. These are some of our Halloween picture books that fit the bill.


And finally…

Here is an update on my pages/challenges for the readathon:

My Plain Jane

  • Readathon challenge: Purple cover, Set in a different time
  • Currently on page 259 of 464

The Graveyard Book

  • Readathon Challenge: Has Picture, Spooky word in the title
  • Currently on page 35 of 307 This hasn’t changed since yesterday, even though I did listen to about an hour more.  I accidentally dozed off a few times while listening and have to go re-read whatever it was I missed.

Estranged

  • Readathon challenge: Has pictures
  • Finished

Spookathon Readathon Day 3 & T5W

Well, I feel like I haven’t done too much reading today… and I’m already yawning watching game 4 of the ALCS (Go Sox!)… so I don’t know how much more I’ll get done for day 3 of the readathon.

I read a little bit more of My Plain Jane when I woke up, then found the audio for The Graveyard Book on hoopla to listen to while I made lunch. It’s narrated by Neil Gaiman himself! I love his narration.

This afternoon I also started a middle grade graphic novel called Estranged. It is about changelings and the artwork is beautiful.

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On Wednesdays we library, and this Wednesday we did playground first. I got to squeeze in another few pages waiting for friends to meet us there.

The kids wanted to watch a movie when we got home….not just a movie.. my movie… so I cuddled up with then to watch and sing along.

Which brings us to today’s Spookathon IG photo challenge (candle), which I would have forgotten all about had my 8 year old not reminded me.


And now we move on to Top 5 Wednesday.

Top 5 Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Check out the Goodreads group for topics and links.


This week’s topic is favorite Monsters/Mythological Creatures. This is hard, because just when I have 5 cool creatures to list, I think of something else.

1. Let’s kick this list off with my hometown monster: The Jersey Devil. Not gonna lie, I could use a refresher of his story/origin. But as a New Jersey native I gotta include it. That said… when it comes to hockey, I actually hate the NJ Devils. Go Rangers!

2. Goblins. Love ’em!

3. Dragons. Especially of the Luck variety, but Draco from Dragonheart and Dragon from Merlin are probably my two all time favorite dragons. I really need to read Seraphina… and feel free to send me more Dragon recommendations (but no GoT please, at this point it’s just not gonna happen).

4. Gargoyles. Architecturally I’m actually more a fan of grotesques, but I think that most of the time the terms are used interchangeably. My heart belongs to one Gargoyle in particular- Goliath. Oh my.

5. And finally, Chimera. Not so much in the Greek mythology portrayal (okay, them too), but the kind from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy… they are so freaking amazing!


 

Here is an update on my pages/challenges for the readathon:

My Plain Jane

  • Readathon challenge: Purple cover, Set in a different time
  • Currently on page 179 of 464

Estranged

  • Readathon challenge: Has pictures
  • Currently on page 61 of 224

The Graveyard Book

  • Readathon Challenge: Has Picture, Spooky word in the title
  • Currently on page 35 of 307

Spookathon Readathon Day 2

Last night I decided to start My Plain Jane as my first book for the readathon. I am really doubting I’ll be able to get to all 5 books from my tbr, BUT I realized I can easily double up the challenge prompts.

My Plain Jane will count for a book with purple on the cover (if you have the Owlcrate exclusive cover, that is…which I don’t, but I know that it exists and that it is purple, so I’m counting it), as well as a book not set in this time.

I read a whopping 8 pages before falling asleep last night, but as soon as I woke up this morning I managed to read to around page 86, and I am currently on page 118. I still don’t know if I’m going to love this book, but I do love that it is a quick and easy way to kind of revisit Jane Eyre. Kind of. In a really cheesy way. Definitely cheesy.

And now for a recap of my day in pictures:

  • Husband brought me coffee in bed, and I got right back to the book I barely started last night.

  • The Spookathon Photo Challenge prompt on Instagram was SKULL.  My son thought that this was the best book cover choice because the skull is so subtle.  In his opinion, people will like that more.  Okay, kiddo.

  • Kids and I went to the beach so they could catch Pokemon…

  • So many Pokemon!

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  • We stopped by Savers for book shopping… I mean… to drop off donations.  But I mean, we were there, soooooooooo.  We got some great books.

  • This kid could’t wait to start Dory Fantasmagory

 

  • I got a couple pages of reading in at soccer practice this evening.

  • I could watch my baby read a chapter book to himself all night.  He whisper read chapter one to himself, then had me read chapters 1 through 3 to him.  We’d recently read two other Dory Fantasmagory books that we checked out from the library and he loves them! LOVES THEM! They are pretty great, I must admit.  So we were so happy to find this at the thrift store today.


And now I am off to bed.  How many pages will I get to before my eyes give out on me tonight?  Place your bets now.

Spookathon Readathon Day 1

Hellooooo! I’m still here!

Been busy, been away, been reading…but have not been blogging.

I have been having a great time participating in the Spookathon Photo Challenge over on instagram, though. Let me just say… I WISH I had them sick bookstagram skills. But, alas, I do not.

The readathon portion of Spookathon, which is hosted by Books and Lala, started today (Oct 15) and I had every intention of participating, but so far today the only reading I’ve gotten done is listening to Hero of Ages (Mistborn #3) while getting to some housework. I’ll probably grab one of the books from my readathon tbr to crack before calling it a night, because I’d hate to fail completely straight out of the gate!

I based my TBR for the readathon on the challenges:

  1. Read a thriller
  2. Read a book with purple on the cover
  3. Read a book not set in this time period
  4. Read a book with a spook word in the title
  5. Read a book with pictures

Is any one else participating in Spookathon? Or doing any other October theme readathon?

Top Ten Tuesday: Hidden Gems

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Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly bookish meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is Top Ten Books That You Rarely Hear About.


The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson

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Once upon a time, I didn’t use Goodreads, or Youtube or blogs to find books to read. I browsed tables for featured books in stores and got emails from Barnes and Noble about up and coming releases. One such e-mail featured this book, and I was quite interested in it. Then nearly forgot about it. Such is life. Maybe a year later, a co-worker recommended this book to me and I remembered how amazing it sounded. I found it in the bargain section of Barnes and Noble and was both happy that it was a $6 hardcover, and sad that it apparently didn’t do so well to land itself there so soon (imagine my heartache years later, after falling in love with this book, to see it in the Dollar Tree).

I got it picked as the read for the book club I was in at the time and dove in.

The story starts with a man who has been in a terrible car accident. He was driving drunk and had spilled alcohol on the crotch of his pants, which accelerated the fire from the accident and focused it on this area of his anatomy. I’m pretty sure he is a porn star, and actually loses his money maker…. he is severely burned all over his entire body, but this is the injury that really stands out and shatters his sense of self.

A woman visits him in the hospital and ends up bringing him home to help him recover. As she ministers to him, she tells him all about their intense and tragic love from another lifetime. The book goes back and forth from their past life together to the present- he can’t help but think she is crazy, but is drawn to her none the less.

I LOVED THIS BOOK! My book club…. hated it.

“That would make her hundreds of years old…. it doesn’t make sense….”

IT’S A BOOK, KRISTA! LET REALITY BEND A LITTLE WOULD YA!?

I’ve actually only read this the one time, but whenever I look at it I have a swelling of emotion and fall back in love. I’m planning to re-read it this October, specifically the week of Halloween, as my wedding anniversary is 10/31, and this is one of the most intense love stories I’ve come across… even if it is incredibly dark and tragic. I always go into re-reads nervous…. what if I don’t love it anymore?

I’m reading Goodreads reviews now… apparently this was a very hyped debut release and didn’t live up to it… well I loved it, so *shrugs*

My Name is Memory by Ann Brashares

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Similarly, this book also deals with a tragic love story, and the reunion of the lovers lifetimes later.

From Goodreads:

Daniel has spent centuries falling in love with the same girl. Life after life, crossing continents and dynasties, he and Sophia (despite her changing name and form) have been drawn together-and he remembers it all. Daniel has “the memory”, the ability to recall past lives and recognize souls of those he’s previously known. It is a gift and a curse. For all the times that he and Sophia have been drawn together throughout history, they have also been torn painfully, fatally, apart. A love always too short.

I gave this 4 stars, its Goodreads average is 3.7, so I’m not too far off. I was easily able to fall into the story and become invested in the characters. I’m a sap, what can I say? A tragic love story is my kryptonite. At the same time…. I was able to put the book down for days at a time, so, take that as you will.

The ending though…. It really sets you up for the story to go on, and then it leaves you hanging. From what I understand this was intended as a trilogy but didn’t do as well as publishers wanted it to.

The Kulipari Series by Trevor Pryce

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As my kids and I watched this Netflix original series, I thought to myself: “I would read the shit out of this!” Imagine my joy when I actually paid attention to the opening credits and saw that it WAS based on a book series. We hit up the library so fast! The books, in order, are: An Army of Frogs, The Rainbow Serpent, and Amphibians’ End.

It was such a great read aloud for us. And so timely- it made current events accessible to my kids. The series focuses on the importance of access to water (Standing Rock pipeline), and touches on the treatment of refugees (45’s Muslim ban) forced from their homelands.

The illustrations are beautiful, and there are a lot of references to aboriginal mythology. I am looking forward to reading more in this world. There is a fourth book due to be released, as well as some comics we have to check out.

The Book of Speculation by Erika Swyler

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From Goodreads:

Simon Watson, a young librarian, lives alone on the Long Island Sound in his family home, a house perched on the edge of a cliff that is slowly crumbling into the sea. His parents are long dead, his mother having drowned in the water his house overlooks.

One day, Simon receives a mysterious book from an antiquarian bookseller; it has been sent to him because it is inscribed with the name Verona Bonn, Simon’s grandmother. Simon must unlock the mysteries of the book, and decode his family history, before fate deals its next deadly hand.

The Book of Speculation is Erika Swyler’s gorgeous and moving debut, a wondrous novel about the power of books, family, and magic.

This is a dual timeline story, following the character in the present as well as his grandparents (great grandparents? I don’t remember). I really enjoyed the old traveling circus element of this book, and the mystical symbolism (horseshoe crabs, man. Who knew?)

The Prince of Fenway Park by Julianna Baggott

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I saw this in the juv-fic section of the library and picked it up to read to my Red Sox obsessed kiddo. I didn’t realize how much of a fantasy book this would be. We loved it. There was a lot of Irish folklore mixed in with baseball history, and the book also dove into racism and identity. It was a really unexpected gem. The story centers around the 2004 World Series, when the Red Sox broke their 86 years long curse of the Bambino. But were the Sox actually the ones to break it? Or was it Oscar, the mixed race orphan who gets caught up in a hidden world of real curses and creatures?

Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea

I will always associate this book with the pain of a severely sprained ankle. But personal memories aside… this book was really well written and thought provoking.

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Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the United States to find work. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn’t the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village–they’ve all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men–her own “Siete Magníficos”–to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over.

The Book of Lost Things by John Connolly

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I love this dark book so much. Maybe it’s not a hidden gem, I don’t actually know. But I never hear anyone talk about it. This is another one that pre-dates my Goodreads, Booktube, and blogger days.

The writing is beautiful and haunting. It is a dark, fantasy, coming of age story embellished with grim fairy tale elements.

I also loved The Gates, by the same author, which I never hear anyone mention either.

The Atomic Weight of Love by Elizabeth J Church

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This book kept me up reading all night. I was so swept up in the realness of it. Heartwarming love story? Happy ending? No, and no.

It is the story of a highly intelligent woman (in the 60s I think) who marries an older academic and makes sacrifices for the sake of his career; constantly reevaluating what she wants and what it’s worth. There is romance and loss and betrayal and science all written together beautifully.

Maybe it was the lack of sleep, but this left me emotionally exhausted…in the best way.

A Working Theory of Love by Scott Hutchins

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Remind me of this book whenever I mention unhauling books from my shelves. I thought I would be okay letting this one go. I read it, I liked it, I needed the shelf space. But I’ve thought about it several times since saying goodbye and I wish I still had it around.

This story follows a man who is transcribing his father’s journals to be used in creating an artificial intelligence program. It’s not scifi-y or anything, but I learned a lot about the standards for evaluating AI (basically, the computer has to consider itself a real person).

I found it fascinating that by giving the computer his father’s language and some logic programming (now I’m just pulling comp sci terms out of my ass… I don’t know) he was able to relate to and connect with his father posthumously, in a better way than he ever had when his father was alive.

The Inexplicable Logic of My Life by Benjamin Alire Sáenz

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This book doesn’t get as much love as its predecessor, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. And while I do agree that Ari and Dante is the better book… this one is just as beautifully and emotionally written. This is another one that kept me up way too late. I had to wipe my tears at 1 am and force myself to put it down.

I just love the way Sáenz creates these characters that I want to wrap up in a hug and comfort. I connect with their emotions so deeply- the way they feel lost and confused and angry and sad, without necessarily knowing why. I really feel like this is YA written for adults. I can read his books from a (slightly) more stable emotional state and think… YES! I felt that. Beautiful.


Some other mentions:

  • The Museum of Extraordinary Things by Alice Hoffman
  • I Am the Messenger by Marcus Zusak
  • Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend by Matthew Dicks
  • The Paper Magician (series) by Charlie N. Holmberg

Have you read any of these? What made your list this week?