Quickie Book Reviews! My January Reading

Hello, friends! I’ve been super busy lately and unable to to post full reviews as much, but I thought I’d post some super short and sweet mini reviews of some of the books I finished but hadn’t reviewed yet in January. So, let’s jump into it!

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Down Among the Sticks and Bones
(Wayward Children #2)
by Seanan McGuire

4/5 stars

I didn’t love this as much as the first book, but it was still 100% worth reading! It follows the stories of twin sisters Jack and Jill (whose parents never should have been allowed to name their own children) who readers will remember from book one of this series. this book delves into their backstory, so it technically takes place before book one, and can be read on its own. This has a very dark Alice in Wonderland vibe.

44323551. sy475 Unspeakable Things
by Jess Lourey

2/5 stars

I love true crime and this was loosely based on a real case, so I went into it with high hopes. But the only way I can think to describe this book is “needlessly dark.” The main conflict in the book has to do with young boys being kidnapped and sexually assaulted, so clearly I expected it to be dark. But there really isn’t a moment of light or hope in this book. The main character is a young girl whose father is such a creep that the reader is clearly meant to see him as a major suspect. All in all, this was just drudging and slow and I was just glad when it was over.

20893528Little Women
by Louisa May Alcott

3/5 stars

I know this is a classic and some of you are probably ready to exit out of this post right now over my 3 star rating. And if you loved this book, I’m really happy for you. I wish I had read this when I was a little girl as so many people did; I never got around to it as a kid because I was thoroughly entrenched in my sci-fi/fantasy phase. Reading it for the first time as an adult, I had a hard time looking past how terribly dated a lot of it felt. The two words that kept coming to mind over and over were “aggressively wholesome.” Like, this book wants to smack you over the head with a brick of wholesomeness. That being said, this was one of the few times I’ve loved a movie adaptation more than the book. If you haven’t seen the Greta Gerwig adaptation yet, you are seriously depriving yourself.

28919058. sy475 Autoboyography
by Christina Lauren

5/5 stars

I loved this book from start to finish. It’s a YA romance with a bisexual teen boy as the protagonist; he’s struggling after his parents move to a highly conservative, Mormon area for his mother’s work. He ends up falling for the son of the local preacher. This obviously makes things complicated. I loved this book’s exploration of being closeted, especially since this was a huge change for the protagonist, who’d been open about his identity in the very liberal city where he grew up. (Note to other authors: “coming out” is not a singular moment. It’s a continual thing and sometimes life prompts people to take steps back into that closet for their own safety and well-being.) Watching Tanner adjust to life in the closet when he already had that basis for comparison made it more emotionally compelling. He knows exactly what he’s missing out on. And the romance was so sweet and well done!

34313931A Woman is No Man
by Etaf Rum

4/5 stars

This book explores three generations of Palestinian women living in the US. Fareeda, whose brusque demeanor comes from a traumatic background, came to the US as an adult and doesn’t seem to have adjusted to living in another culture. Isra moves into the household from Palestine to marry Fareeda’s son, who is older and practically a stranger to her. She struggles to gain Fareeda’s approval and has a difficult time meshing with everyone in the household, through no fault of her own. Finally, Deya, Isra’s daughter, has grown up in the US, but has been highly controlled and sheltered by her Palestinian family. She’s entering adulthood and wanting to shake off that control, but also feels like an outsider in the country who sees a girl with brown skin and a head covering and thinks “foreign.” The cultural aspects of this story were really engaging, but the dark family secrets take also take up a lot of the narrative, adding an element of mystery to the book.

43262893. sy475 The Wives
by Tarryn Fisher

2/5 stars

Spoiler warning for this one, because, lord, I have to talk about this. I’m so tired of mental illness as a plot twist. I just write a blog post about this issue a few weeks ago; funnily enough it was about an entirely different book, and then I stumbled across this one. The big plot twist in this book is that the main character is delusional, and a huge chunk of what she relays to the reader didn’t happen. I’m not opposed to unreliable narrators, but the way it was done here felt so cheap and cliche. The synopsis on GoodReads calls this “one of the most twisted, shocking thrillers you’ll ever read.” I’m sorry, but “Surprise, the protagonist was crazy and half of this shit didn’t actually happen!” is not revolutionary or shocking.

43798285The Institute
by Stephen King

4/5 stars

Stephen King is such a hit and miss author for me, so I was wary going into this book, but it was such a fun read. Despite being a rather dark story, it has a little bit of a YA vibe to it at times, and I don’t mean that in a derrogatory way. It’s a dark story and there’s a lot at stake, but it feels like an adventure. The main character is a freakishly smart young boy named Luke. I think we’ve all read a lot of badly written precocious children that are basically mini adults, but Luke always felt like a kid to me, and I was so invested in seeing him make it through this horror story.

Thank you for reading! I’m going to try to make an effort to get back to posting super regularly again!
Do you have any thoughts on the books featured in this post? Let’s discuss in the comments!

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Audio Book Popularity on the Rise… but Print Still Reigns Supreme

The Pew Research Center has published the results of a survey on the reading habits of Americans, revealing some interesting trends. The percentage of Americans who listen to audio books, for example, has nearly doubled since 2011. Print books continue to be more popular than e-books or audiobooks

Given the relative expense of audio books vs. print books, it would be interesting to know if their increased popularity corresponds with increased awareness of their availability through resources like the Overdrive and Libby through the public library system. (Using a new release as an example, Ribbons of Scarlet runs $26.99 for a hardcover copy or $13.42 for a paperback, compared to $29.94 for an Audible copy without a membership.)

Still, print books remain the most popular choice, with 37% of survey respondents saying they read print books exclusively.

37% say they only read print books

Finally, Pew found that those with a college education were the category most likely to read, regardless of the specific format chosen. What’s interesting, however, is that those in the youngest demographic surveyed (18-29) were more likely to have read a book in the past year than any other age group… despite the tendency of some in the older generation to mourn the death of literacy due to the emergence of smart phones. Perhaps such concerns are premature.

College graduates especially likely to read books in a variety of formats

Overall, I think this last graphic is the most important in a lot of ways. When you examine various categories, it becomes clear that accessibility may be a running theme when it comes to how likely any given American is to pick up a book. Higher income means more expendable income to spend on books, and we see higher rates of reading in those with higher income. A college education is correlated with a higher income. Those living in urban or suburban areas will generally have a library closer to home than those in rural areas; we see lower rates of reading in rural areas.

We see a decline in ages 65+, and I think this can also be related to accessibility in some ways; this age group is more likely to experience mobility problems and other health issues, making a trip to a book store or a library low on the list of priorities for a lot of people. Vision and hearing problems are also more common with age, creating difficulty reading standard print size or hearing an audio book.

Read more on these stats from the Pew Research Center here!

What are your thoughts on these figures? What is your favorite way to read? Please feel free to discuss in the comments! 

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The “Pancake” Book Tag

The Paperback Piano tagged me to participate in this tag!

Here are the rules for the tag:

  • Link back to the original creator in your post.
  • Feel free to use any of my pancake graphics in your post, or create your own!
  • Tag 5 other people at the end of your post, and let them know you’ve tagged them.

So let’s just jump into this! 🙂 pancake-book-tag-1.png

“Two weeks later, I wore a coat to school for the first time that year. Fall had made its presence known in the form of wet, earthy smells and shivering tree limbs shedding leaves in various shades of exotic cat. I walked to school that morning, listening to the crisp sounds that punctuated each one of my footfalls and the honks of geese flying overhead. I found it strange that there could be so much beauty in the death of all these living things. Maybe it was only beautiful because we knew they would be resurrected next spring. I don’t think I would enjoy fall quite as much if I knew there was an eternal winter to follow.” 

Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, by Ruth Emmie Lang

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7235533Shallan Davar from the Stormlight Archive books, by Brandon Sanderson.

“You have quite the clever tongue on you!”
“I’ve never actually had someone’s tongue on me,” Shallan said, turning a page and not looking up, “clever or not. I’d hazard to consider it an unpleasant experience.”
“It ain’t so bad,” Gaz said.” 

“The only time you seem honest is when you’re insulting someone!”
“The only honest things I can say to you are insults.” 

Shallan is a treasure and she’s truly at her best when she is bickering with someone.

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“It does not do to dwell on dreams and forget to live.” 

The Harry Potter books are the ultimate comfort read for me. The Sorcerer’s Stone was the first book I remember absolutely falling head over heels in love with, and to this day it gives me the warm and fuzzies.

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“People think that intimacy is about sex. But intimacy is about truth. When you realize you can tell someone your truth, when you can show yourself to them, when you stand in front of them bare and their response is ‘you’re safe with me’- that’s intimacy.” 

The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugoby Taylor Jenkins Reid hit me so hard. I stayed up way too late to finish reading it the first time, and I cried like a baby when it was over. Evelyn felt so real to me and I was so emotionally invested in the story that it felt really hard to move on to another book after that.

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The Editorby Steven Rowley. I have to admit that I felt kind of lukewarm towards Rowley’s first novel, Lily and the Octopus, but this one was a treasure. The perfect blend of emotion and humor, it was just so cozy.

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Eleanor Oliphant! (Excuse the cameo from my chubby Wendy, but I’ve just realized I’ve never taken a “proper” bookstagram photo of this book.) If it hadn’t been for all the hype around this book, I would have dropped it like two chapters in. I’m so glad I didn’t. Eleanor wormed her way into my heart in a big way.

“If someone asks you how you are, you are meant to say FINE. You are not meant to say that you cried yourself to sleep last night because you hadn’t spoken to another person for two consecutive days. FINE is what you say.” 

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Not a lot of books surprise me, but The Silent Patient probably had my favorite twist of all time!

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“I used to think soul mates were two of the same. I used to think I was supposed to look for somebody that was like me. I don’t believe in soul mates anymore and I’m not looking for anything. But if I did believe in them, I’d believe your soul mate was somebody who had all the things you didn’t, that needed all the things you had. Not somebody who’s suffering from the same stuff you are.” 

I’m not big on romances in general, but I will say that the relationship between Daisy and Billy in Daisy Jones & The Six was a lot of fun.

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Okay, to be fair, I know the author didn’t intend for me to like the protagonist of Lookerbut it was seriously insufferable being in her head. The POV character has been recently left by her husband after a long struggle with infertility and she has become obsessed with an actress who lives in her neighborhood. She’s… all kinds of awful.

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The Gilded Wolves, by Roshani Chokshi! This book has a fairly large cast of major characters, and there’s diversity in terms of race, sexuality, and more. Also, it has a super fun heist story and a magic system. This book made my heart happy in all sorts of ways.

I know I’m supposed to tag other people to participate, but I always feel like people will feel pressured even if they don’t want to post it. 🤷 If anyone wants to participate, feel free to join in! 🙂

 

March Wrap-Up and April TBR

Welcome to another monthly wrap-up and TBR post!

March was a great reading month for me! Check out this stack I finished!

And a few more that are missing from the photo:

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Some of my favorites this month were:
American Princess, by Stephanie Marie Thornton
Daisy Jones & The Six, by Taylor Jenkins Reid
The Huntress, by Kate Quinn
Beasts of Extraordinary Circumstance, by Ruth Emmie Lang

Let’s jump into all the reviews that went up in March!

I also posted some other content you may have missed this month.

Here is my discussion on the ethical consumption of media. What do you do when you have problems with an author’s personal beliefs or actions? Does it impact your likelihood to purchase their work? This was prompted by an exposé about A. J. Finn, author of The Woman in the Window, outlining a long history of alleged dishonesty.

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I also shared my list of inspirational women in honor of International Women’s Day.

And now on to April…

Here are some of the NetGalley ARCs I’m hoping to finish this month:

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Middlegame, by Seanan McGuire
Lost Roses, by Martha Hall Kelly
The Farm, by Joanne Ramos
The Invited, by Jennifer McMahon

And some of my physical ARCs:

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The Unlikely Adventures of the Shergill Sisters, by Balli Kaur Jaswal
Consent: A Memoir of Unwanted Attention, by Donna Freitas
Whisper Network, by Chandler Baker
They All Fall Down, by Rachel Howzell Hall

(All advance reader copies pictured on my TBR were provided by the publishers at no cost to me in exchange for a review.) 

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading! What was your favorite book that you read in March? Are there any new releases you’re anticipating in April? Share in the comments!

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When Good Authors are Terrible People – On A. J. Finn, Orson Scott Card, and Responsible Consumption of Media

An article in The New Yorker detailing the dubious reputation of popular writer within the publishing world has been making waves recently. “A Suspense Novelist’s Trail of Deceptions” is a lengthy read, detailing the long and complicated personal history of Dan Mallory, pen name A. J. Finn, author of the breakout bestseller The Woman in the Window, which came out last year.

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The main accusations stem around habitual dishonesty regarding health problems for himself as well as family members, with Mallory allegedly going so far as to lie about the death of a parent from cancer. Often this was done to garner sympathy and give Mallory an edge over other students, or, later, coworkers, to get time off work, and generally manipulate those around him. When he was thrust into the spotlight in the aftermath of his novel’s success, Mallory’s embellishments turned to his past accomplishments.

He said that, while he was working at an imprint of the publisher Little, Brown, in London, between 2009 and 2012, “The Cuckoo’s Calling,” a thriller submitted pseudonymously by J. K. Rowling, had been published on his recommendation. He said that he had taught at Oxford University, where he had received a doctorate. “You got a problem with that?” he added, to laughter.

Mallory doesn’t have a doctorate from Oxford. Although he may have read Rowling’s manuscript, it was not published on his recommendation. (And he never “worked with” Tina Fey at Little, Brown, as an official biography of Mallory claimed; a representative for Fey recently said that “he was not an editor in any capacity on Tina’s book.”)

The book blogging community, which had previously been gaga over The Woman in the Window, reacted with horror. Dan Mallory is the latest high-profile example, but readers (and consumers of all types of media) have long been grappling with the implications of the moral shortcomings of artists. With the advent of the internet and particularly social media, these issues are brought to forefront more and more often. From Ender’s Game author Orson Scott Card’s rampant homophobia to allegations of sexual misconduct by Maze Runner author James Dashner, the age old question is this: can we separate the artist from the art? 

Put another way: Is consumption complicity? By making the choice to purchase, discuss, or even promote an artist’s work, are we, in some small measure, aligning ourselves with their behavior?

This all comes down to a matter of opinion, and for me, the answer is: “It depends… on a number of factors.”

1. Is the artist still alive?

This can be one of the biggest swaying factors for me. If the artist is no longer around to benefit from their fame and influence, the lines get a lot fuzzier in terms of moral failings I can dismiss long enough to read a book. The further you go back in history, the more this can become almost a necessity. If I’m reading the work of someone who died in 1925, odds are they held a lot of moral positions I don’t agree with. Values have (thankfully) changed a lot since then.

This doesn’t mean, however, that I feel I have license to shut my brain off while enjoying an older novel. As with any media, it’s important to think critically about implicit messages in the narrative.

2. Are you paying for their work?

Say the artist is still alive and kicking and I don’t feel comfortable giving them my hard-earned money. No, I’m not about to advocate for piracy. (You do you, though.) If I’m on the fence about an author morally, I may feel less qualms about borrowing the book from a library or a friend who already purchased it, or purchasing it second hand. If it’s a movie, maybe I’ll watch if it happens to be on TV, but I’m not going to run out to the theater or pay to stream it. Things that minimize how much money you’re putting in their pocket are going to change the equation.

3. Are you consuming media as a private consumer or an “influencer?”

Even if you’re not buying the work yourself, could you be influencing other people to do so? Maybe you got the book from the library, but then you posted a picture of it and gushed about how amazing it was to your 10,000 Instagram followers. I don’t have a huge audience, but I do try to be mindful of what I put out there if I’m aware of an issue with an artist.

4. Are the artist’s biases relevant to the work in question?

To me, this is equally important to the issue of whether or not they’re benefiting from my consumption of their work. I could find an abandoned copy of a book laying on the sidewalk, but if it was a novel with themes of love and acceptance written by someone who’d been outed for using racial slurs… I’m not going to read that. Compare that to visiting an art museum to view still life artwork by a long-dead artist whose attitudes about other races and women probably didn’t bear much of an impact on that painting of flowers in a vase.

I want to know what you think.

These are my opinions, but I think these things come down to a personal choice. What factors in relation to an author impact whether or not you’re willing to read their work? Are there authors you’ll pick up at the library but don’t want to support financially? Or do you choose what to read totally independently from your feelings about the author as a person? Let’s discuss!

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It’s International Women’s Day!

Happy International Women’s Day, bookworms!

International Women’s Day is a day devoted to the women who have fought for women’s rights throughout history. In celebration of the holiday, I wanted to dedicate today’s post to some women who inspire me.

So let’s get right into it! In no particular order….

Malala Yousafzai

Malala’s fight for girls’ education worldwide speaks for itself. She almost paid the ultimate price for her activism, and it only made her more intent on achieving her goals. She said it best herself: “Extremists have shown what frightens them most: a girl with a book.” If you haven’t read her memoir, I Am MalalaI highly recommend you check it out, even if you’re not really a memoir person.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

AOC made history as the youngest woman ever elected to congress, and her status as a newcomer has never made her hesitate to speak out in her new role. She went from bartender to congresswoman with a largely grassroots campaign and has since been a thorn in the side of government officials who are bought and paid for by large corporations. Here’s hoping she has a long political career ahead of her.

Katherine Johnson

After the release of Hidden Figures, Katherine Johnson probably needs no introduction. Johnson worked for NASA and was instrumental in the development of successful space travel. She did all this while dealing with marginalization as a black woman entering a largely white male dominated work force in the 1950’s.

Hedy Lamarr

Hedy Lamarr is best known as an actress, but in recent years efforts have been made to bring to light the work she did in developing spread spectrum technology.  She did this in hopes of contributing to the US war effort in WWII, as it would provide a means of sending “unjammable” signals to missiles. The US government, unfortunately,  was not interested in her work… until the patent rant out, that is. Today, Lammar’s work provides the basis for a huge variety of wireless communication, from Wi-Fi to GPS and Bluetooth.

Roxane Gay

Roxane Gay is a feminist writer who has been remarkably candid about her experience as a rape victim and body issues. If you’re not familiar with her work, I highly recommend her collection of essays, Bad Feminist, and her memoir, Hunger. (Gay has also written a bit of fiction, but admittedly I’m much more familiar with her nonfiction.)

Carrie Fisher

Carrie Fisher is obviously best known for her role as Princess Leia General Leia Organa, but that’s not why I love her. Fisher spent a great deal of her life speaking candidly about her struggles with mental health. The role such a high profile celebrity can have in reducing stigma around such issues is so important. No one is obligated to feel comfortable speaking about such struggles publicly, but I can’t say enough about how much it means to me that there have been people like Carrie who did.

J K Rowling

I’ll be honest and say I have some mixed feelings about this entry, given that Rowling has disappointed me a lot in recent years (and not just because Fantastic Beasts 2 was kind of a travesty) but if I’m being honest, J K Rowling’s influence on my childhood can’t be overstated. I was fully on board the Harry Potter bandwagon the moment the first book came out, and those stories are still near and dear to my heart. Hermione Granger helped me, an awkward, bookish little outcast, to feel like maybe there was nothing wrong with being me, and the underlying messages in the HP books about love and social justice are forever ingrained in my heart.

Thank you so much for reading! What women have inspired you? Let me know in the comments!

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