Sunday, December 2, 2018

November Wrap-up

Hello! December is upon us, so it's time to wrap up November. I only managed to finish 7 books last month, with a page count of less than 3000 pages, which is a lot worse than most of the months in this year. I had a slower start to the month, with a few books that took me longer to finish than I expected. Plus I had another huge audiobook that I didn't manage to finish in time to include in this wrap up, so it will go towards the December page count. Here are the books!

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Jay Gatsby is the man who has everything. But one thing will always be out of his reach. Everybody who is anybody is seen at his glittering parties. Day and night his Long Island mansion buzzes with bright young things drinking, dancing, and debating his mysterious character. For Gatsby---young, handsome, and fabulously rich---always seems alone in the crowd, watching and waiting, though no one knows what for. Beneath the shimmering surface of his life he is hiding a secret: a silent longing that can never be fulfilled. And soon this destructive obsession will force his world to unravel.*

I was in the mood to read one of my favorite books of all time, especially because it's been years since I read it last. Even though I started it last month, casually reading a couple of chapters, I wasn't very far into it the weekend I got my wisdom teeth out, when I picked it up and flew trough it. That isn't surprising, since it's such a short book of course. This was the perfect comfort read and as usual I had a lot of fun with it. I won't get into the cliche of explaining how you notice new things in a book with every reread, but it's great sometimes to read a story that you know so well and can focus on details rather than the plot. My copy of this book is falling apart, which says a lot about how much I love it. 5 stars weren't enough, but what can you do if that is the maximum.

Agnes Grey by Anne Brontë

Agnes Grey is the touching story of a young girl who decides to enter the world as a governess, but whose bright illusions of acceptance, freedom and friendship are gradually destroyed.*

Anne Bronte is the only Brontë sister that I hadn't visited before reading this. I finished all of Charlotte's books, so now I finally moved on to this forgotten sister. I picked up her first book this month because the second one is supposed to be better so I didn't want to ruin this one by reading the better one first. Anyway, I really liked Agnes Grey. The writing is great, like with all the Brontë sisters, so I really enjoyed reading this, even though it was a really slow read for me. My edition of this book is only 168 pages long and it took me over 4 days to read. That explains my really slow start for the month. I gave Agnes Grey 3.5 stars. The only thing that made me really mad while reading this was how submissive Agnes was while everyone around her kept pushing her around. She never said anything and never complained, which is so not my way of handling things. I really hope that the main character in The Tenant of Wildfell Hall is not like that. Really excited to read that one in the next months. 

What if you could live again and again, until you got it right? 
On a cold and snowy night in 1910, Ursula Todd is born to an English banker and his wife. She dies before she can draw her first breath. On that same cold and snowy night, Ursula Todd is born, lets out a lusty wail, and embarks upon a life that will be, to say the least, unusual. For as she grows, she also dies, repeatedly, in a variety of ways, while the young century marches on towards its second cataclysmic world war. 
Does Ursula's apparently infinite number of lives give her the power to save the world from its inevitable destiny? And if she can — will she?*

A big favorite of mine, I first read this book back in 2014. Meanwhile the sequel has come out and I decided to reread this one before starting the sequel. As much as I love this book and as much as I enjoyed myself while reading it, I really took my time with it. It took me over a week to finish, which contributed to my low page count this month. But I am really glad I reread it because this is such a phenomenal book. It's brilliant historical fiction mixed with literary fiction and a touch of fantasy. That is right up my alley! I can't wait to read the sequel and hope it won't disappoint me. I gave this one 5 stars, of course. 

A Map of Days by Ransom Riggs

I finally got my hands on the fourth book in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series, which just came out. As usual with series, I won't talk about the plot of the book. This is probably the first book in another trilogy that is set in the United States, so this book was just the start of a new plot, which means it was definitely slower than the previous ones. It was still really fun and a quick read, which is what I enjoy with this series. I gave this one 4 stars and will continue the series when the next books come out. 

Also read but not pictured: 

Thad Beaumont would like to say he is innocent. He'd like to say he has nothing to do with the series of monstrous murders that keep coming closer to his home. But how can Thad disown the ultimate embodiment of evil that goes by the name he gave it-and signs its crimes with Thad's bloody fingerprints?*

This book had such an interesting premise, but the delivery wasn't the best, unfortunately. I am a huge fan of Stephen King and I usually don't understand people when they say that his books are too long, but with this one I agree. It could have been such a great book if it had been half the size. I listened to this as an audiobook and I probably would have put it down if it had been a physical book. I also found myself not wanting to listen to it and just listen to music instead, which rarely happens. Anyway, I gave this 3 stars because of the good idea and writing but I probably won't reread this ever again. 

An unforgettable and sweeping family saga from Markus Zusak, the storyteller who gave us the extraordinary bestseller THE BOOK THIEF, lauded by the New York Times as "the kind of book that can be lifechanging." The breathtaking story of five brothers who bring each other up in a world run by their own rules. As the Dunbar boys love and fight and learn to reckon with the adult world, they discover the moving secret behind their father's disappearance. At the center of the Dunbar family is Clay, a boy who will build a bridge-for his family, for his past, for greatness, for his sins, for a miracle. The question is, how far is Clay willing to go? And how much can he overcome? Written in powerfully inventive language and bursting with heart, BRIDGE OF CLAY is signature Zusak.*

The second audiobook I finished this month was another brand new release. This book was highly anticipated and it ended up being a disappointment for many people. Not for me though. The story is beautiful and the writing is even more so. I think the biggest mistake they make with Zusak's books is marketing them as YA. I remember that when I read The Book Thief  I didn't have any idea that it was YA and was surprised it was considered as such. Same with this one. Though the subject might be YA, the writing is very literary fiction. The only issue I had with this book was that I often got confused by the time jumps. This would probably be solved by reading it as a physical book instead of listening to it. The audiobook narrated by the author was really great though. I loved the accent and felt it gave a lot of authenticity to the story. I gave this one 4 stars. 

The Carls just appeared. Coming home from work at three a.m., twenty-three-year-old April May stumbles across a giant sculpture. Delighted by its appearance and craftsmanship--like a ten-foot-tall Transformer wearing a suit of samurai armor--April and her friend Andy make a video with it, which Andy uploads to YouTube. The next day April wakes up to a viral video and a new life. News quickly spreads that there are Carls in dozens of cities around the world--everywhere from Beijing to Buenos Aires--and April, as their first documentarian, finds herself at the center of an intense international media spotlight. *

Finally, my only ebook of the month. Another 2018 release, one I really wanted to love and vote in the Goodreads awards, but didn't really enjoy. It's probably my fault, because I know I don't like contemporary as a genre, but I got fooled by the science fiction tag of this book. I will say that there is as little sci-fi as possible in this book. It's a contemporary about social media and other things I don't care about. So I got really bored, even though this is a quick read. I love John Green's writing and his books are contemporary too, but they have something extra that makes me love them. His brother's writing is good too, but not my cup of tea. I initially gave this 3 stars, but reconsidered and lowered it to 2. Also this is a series and I will not be continuing it because I really don't care what happens next. 

So that's it for November. Not such a great reading month. Hopefully December will be better! 

*Source: Goodreads

Thursday, November 1, 2018

October Wrap-up

Hello! November is here, which means it's time to see what I read in October. Last month was a weird reading month for me, especially at the beginning. I wouldn't say that I was in a slump, because I did read, just not as much as I usually do. I really wanted to read some gothic and some classic novels this month, but I just wasn't in the mood. It probably had something to do with the almost summer weather we had for most of the month. In the end, I finished 10 books, which is pretty good, and I read almost 4000 pages, with a few lighter reads that definitely helped with the final page count. So let's get to the books!

The Librarian of Auschwitz by Antonio G. Iturbe

Based on the experience of real-life Auschwitz prisoner Dita Kraus, this is the incredible story of a girl who risked her life to keep the magic of books alive during the Holocaust.
Fourteen-year-old Dita is one of the many imprisoned by the Nazis at Auschwitz. Taken, along with her mother and father, from the Terezín ghetto in Prague, Dita is adjusting to the constant terror that is life in the camp. When Jewish leader Freddy Hirsch asks Dita to take charge of the eight precious volumes the prisoners have managed to sneak past the guards, she agrees. And so Dita becomes the librarian of Auschwitz. *

The first book I finished this month didn't leave a very good impression. I got it as a physical book, translated to Romanian, but really struggled with reading that edition. The book was written in Spanish, so both the Romanian and the English versions are translations, so I'm not sure if my issues were just because of bad translations, or the book is actually badly written. The Romanian one I just couldn't get into, but I really wanted to read the story, so I switched to the English audiobook. That one was a little better and the audiobook made it easier to get through, but I still didn't like it too much. The story is interesting and beautiful, but unfortunately the form it is delivered in didn't do it for me. I expected another Book Thief and I was disappointed. I ended up giving it 3 stars because of the heartbreaking story. 

In 1810, a sister and brother uncover the fossilized skull of an unknown animal in the cliffs on the south coast of England. With its long snout and prominent teeth, it might be a crocodile – except that it has a huge, bulbous eye.
Remarkable Creatures is the story of Mary Anning, who has a talent for finding fossils, and whose discovery of ancient marine reptiles such as that ichthyosaur shakes the scientific community and leads to new ways of thinking about the creation of the world.*

Tracy Chevalier is an author whose books I always enjoy. I read most of her books and after finishing this one I only have one of her adult books left to read. I love how she takes a less known event or time period and creates a story around characters that existed in real life. I had no idea about women discovering fossils in the 19th century. It was definitely interesting to read about the struggle of these women against prejudice and misogyny. As all her books, this is also written from two perspectives, which I love. Although I enjoyed it, the book was a bit boring at times and took me quite a long time to finish for such a short book, so I gave it 3 stars. 

This is a collection of horror short stories and was my first spooky read of the month. These short stories are more in the novella range because most of them are over 100 pages, which gives you time to get attached to the characters and to really live the story. The collection features 1922, which was made into a movie recently, and 3 others (plus my edition had a bonus short story that later got published in another collection). I loved all of them and was really creeped out for most of the time I read them, even though they didn't seem that scary in the end. I think my favorite from the bunch was Fair Extension, although the others were almost equally good. I gave this 5 stars and can't wait to read more short stories by King. 

Hollow City and Library of Souls by Ransom Riggs

This month I read the 2nd and 3rd books in the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series. Even though I read the first book over two years ago, I recently rewatched the movie, so the story was fresh in my mind. I won't give a lot of details about the books, since I don't want to give spoilers for the first book, but I will say that I enjoyed these a lot. They were just what I needed in terms of spooky reads that were also fun. The mix of historical fiction and fantasy is just up my alley, the writing is great and I love the characters. The 4th book in the series just came out and I can't wait to get it and read it. I gave both of these 4 stars. Really enjoyable! 

The Drawing of the Three by Stephen King 

This second volume in the epic series 'The Dark Tower' both stands alone and continues the adventures of Roland of Gilead. He has mysteriously stepped through the doorway in time to 1980s America, where he meets Eddie Dean and Odetta Holmes.*

I finally read the second book in The Dark Tower series! It took me over two years to pick this up because even though everyone says that the series picks up after the first book, I was still nervous. But in the end of course that everyone was right, I loved this! It took me some time to get into it, but I think that was because of my mood. However, once I got in the right place, I couldn't put it down. I didn't expect such a mix of historical settings with the fantasy one. I always enjoy that, especially if the writing is as great as it was in this book. This and the other King book that I read this month got me really excited about his works, so excited that I got 5 new King books that I can't wait to read. I gave this 5 stars and I won't wait another two years to continue the series. 

Not in the picture, but also read: 

Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.*

This month I continued my journey into Gaiman's books with this whimsical little number. Of course I had to listen to it on audio because it was narrated by the author himself. Beside the obvious delightfulness of the narration, I enjoyed this story, although I sometimes felt confused. You really need to pay attention because this book mixes magic with reality in a really unique way. I love magical realism, so this was right up my alley. I will say that it could have been a bit shorter because it seemed to drag a bit at times, so I gave 3.5 stars to my 4th Gaiman book and can't wait to continue my journey.

A girl named Rose is riding her new bike near home in Deadwood, South Dakota, when she falls through the earth. She wakes up at the bottom of a square-shaped hole, its walls glowing with intricate carvings. But the firemen who come to save her peer down upon something even stranger: a little girl in the palm of a giant metal hand.
Seventeen years later, the mystery of the bizarre artifact remains unsolved - the object's origins, architects, and purpose unknown.*

This is the first book in a science fiction trilogy that everyone was reading and raving about recently. Given that it's written in the form of interviews and transcripts, I listened to it as an audiobook, with a full cast and sound effects. The audiobook is more like a play actually and it's really well done, which explains why everyone enjoyed it so much. The concept of this story is quite interesting, but I don't think the way it is delivered is for me. I did enjoy it as it's really fast paced and full of twists, but I just didn't find it great. I don't even feel the urge to pick up the next book in the series, which says a lot about how much I got into the story. I gave it 3 generous stars and I'm not sure I will be continuing the series.

Monstress, Vol. 1: Awakening by Marjorie M. Liu and  Sana Takeda

Set in an alternate matriarchal 1900's Asia, in a richly imagined world of art deco-inflected steampunk, MONSTRESS tells the story of a teenage girl who is struggling to survive the trauma of war, and who shares a mysterious psychic link with a monster of tremendous power, a connection that will transform them both.*

I picked this up on a whim because it definitely wasn't on my list of graphic novels I want to read, I have no idea why. This was definitely something for me. Steampunk, art deco, fantasy, what more can I ask for? It was also a great pick for October, since it's as scary as it can get with a graphic novel. The art in this is amazing, but the story is even more so. I can't wait to pick up volume 2. I read this as an ebook and gave it 5 out of 5 stars! 

The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around—and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance or lose his dream forever.*

Finally, another highly rated and hyped up book. It seems that this month I read more YA than I usually do, but I mostly enjoyed it. This book is definitely something else when it comes to YA books. It is beautifully written, with good world building and the main characters are quite complex. The second half of the book was a bit more boring, with some romance, but since I listened to it on audio, I got through it quite easily. I can see why some people didn't manage to finish this, because it's definitely slow paced. I will, however, continue the series because I'm curious to see what happens and I understand that the second book is a lot more fast paced. I gave this one 4 stars, which is quite good in my book. 

That's it for October. Hope November will go a bit better in terms of reading. 

*Source: Goodreads

Sunday, September 30, 2018

September Wrap-up

Hello! September is over and it's time to see what I read. This month I only read a total of 8 books, a lot less compared to the last 6 months. However, I read some really massive books this month, so the number of pages was still pretty similar to the last months. I'm not feeling pressured by the Goodreads goal at all, so I can finally pick up some chunkier reads and no longer have to worry about the number of books I have finished at the end of the month. That is great because I find that I tend to enjoy bigger books more than shorter reads. Next month I'm going to focus on some creepier reads since it's October and I'm also looking forward to dive into some autumnal reads. But until then, let's see what I read in September!

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. 
Here is patriarch Esteban, whose wild desires and political machinations are tempered only by his love for his ethereal wife, Clara, a woman touched by an otherworldly hand. Their daughter, Blanca, whose forbidden love for a man Esteban has deemed unworthy infuriates her father, yet will produce his greatest joy: his granddaughter Alba, a beautiful, ambitious girl who will lead the family and their country into a revolutionary future.
The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.*

Since I read the second book in this series last month, I wanted to give this one a reread. Isabel Allende's most famous book, published way before the two prequels, is the only one in the series that's also magical realism. The other ones are historical fiction and even though I liked them and gave them 4 stars, they do not compare with this masterpiece. I read it years ago, because of the obsession with magical realism that I had back then and loved it just as much this time as I did the first time. Beside Isabel Allende's gorgeous writing, which is present in all her books, the characters in this book are so real and so lovable, their stories integrate so well in the history of Chile, that the result is one of the best books of the 20th century. I also love that the author doesn't give names to the political personalities and doesn't accurately place the events. It gives you the feeling that this could be any Latin American country and that these events could take place anywhere in the world. I'm glad I gave this a reread and I will surely do it again every 10 years or so. 5 stars, of course! 

This year I decided to read more Romanian books and I'm totally failing because this is only the 3rd one I have finished. This book wasn't translated in English yet, but the title would translate to "Soldiers: A Ferentari story". I picked this one up because it was the first Romanian LGBT book I have heard about and I was really curious to read something like that. If I could describe this book in one word it would be raw. The language is raw, the characters are too, but in the end the story doesn't bring much. There's no message to the story and no conclusion. Actually, if you really analyze it, nothing much happens to these characters. I enjoyed reading the first part but I ended up getting bored by the same "borrowing money and spending it going out and getting beer" routine. It felt like the narrator was on a race of getting broke and then spending more money and getting more broke. This is a book that got many 5 star and 1-2 star reviews, which shows how hard it is to grasp. I definitely didn't hate it but I didn't love it either, so it was a 3 star read for me.

Sleeping Beauties by Stephen King and Owen King

In a future so real and near it might be now, something happens when women go to sleep; they become shrouded in a cocoon-like gauze. If they are awakened, if the gauze wrapping their bodies is disturbed or violated, the women become feral and spectacularly violent; and while they sleep they go to another place. The men of our world are abandoned, left to their increasingly primal devices. One woman, however, the mysterious Evie, is immune to the blessing or curse of the sleeping disease. Is Evie a medical anomaly to be studied, or is she a demon who must be slain?*

I've had this beast on my shelf for a while now, ever since it came out in paperback, so it was time for me to read it. I'm a big fan of King's post apocalyptic or dystopian type novels, so I was excited when this came out. As usual, I enjoyed the writing (didn't really see his son's contribution to that, sorry), the characters and the setting. That being said, I didn't fly through this. It took me about 2 weeks to read, but after all it is a 700 page mass market paperback with tiny font and I am a slow reader. I also feel like some points in the plot weren't quite explained and ended up being totally random. I did like this book but not as much as I did with other King books, so I ended up giving it 4 stars. 

Iran Awakening: A Memoir of Revolution and Hope by Shirin Ebadi

The moving, inspiring memoir of one of the great women of our times, Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize and advocate for the oppressed, whose spirit has remained strong in the face of political persecution and despite the challenges she has faced raising a family while pursuing her work. *

My adventure with non-fiction continues with my favorite type, a memoir. I always struggle with non-fiction books and need to read them over longer periods of time. This time it took me about a month because I read a chapter of this every now and then, then about half way took a long break and picked it up again last week when I decided to just finish it already. The first part of the book talks about the Iranian revolution and Ebadi's youth, while in the second half she recounts events that happened after the Iranian Republic got established. I actually liked the second half more and found it very interesting, which made it easier for me to finish this book. This is definitely great if you know nothing about Iran, or mostly nothing like I did. Definitely informative although the writing isn't the best at times. She did get help with the editing and organizing of the manuscript but it still felt off at times. I ended up giving this books 4 stars and I'm excited to be moving on to another memoir soon. 

I did it! I finished this huge huge book. This is the second book in The Kingkiller Chronicle and one I've been postponing for a long time. I didn't feel particularly rushed to read it because there still isn't a publishing date for the third book, but I was in the mood this summer so I reread the first book in preparation for this one. I enjoyed the audiobook narrated by Nick Podehl so much that I decided to listen to the second one as well. It did definitely help me get through a 1000 page book, I will say that. I won't go into plot elements because I don't want to spoil the first book, but I will say that this continues to be a character driven story. A lot of stuff happens in the book, but the emphasis is still on Kvothe's coming of age and education. There were some parts in the book that felt a bit long, but I hope they will serve a purpose in the end. I loved listening to this and gave it 5 out of five stars because it truly deserves it.

Not pictured but also read:

This is the second book in the Arc of a Scythe series that I started reading back in June. Again, since it's the second book in a series, it's really hard to talk about without giving any spoilers about the plot in the first book. I enjoyed this about as much as I did with the first one, although to me it didn't have as many mind blowing moments. There is definitely more action in the second book, but there is also more world building, which I always love. What I especially loved about this second book was the fact that the Thunderhead spoke directly to the reader. This ended on a cliffhanger and I will definitely continue the series, but I'm not as eager to get the third book as other people are. I guess that's a good thing, because the next book (and probably the last one) will probably be out in 2019, although there's no official date yet. I listened to the audiobook of this one and gave it 4 stars. 

Rise of the Horde by Christie Golden

Long ago, on the idyllic world of Draenor, the noble orc clans lived in relative peace with their enigmatic neighbors, the draenei. But the nefarious agents of the Burning Legion had other plans for both of the unsuspecting races. The demon-lord Kil'jaeden set in motion a dark chain of events that would succeed not only in eradicating the draenei, but forging the orc clans into an single, unstoppable juggernaut of hatred and destruction.*

This month I picked up my first World of Warcraft book. I have never played the game before until recently, but I became curious about the lore. There are a lot of books in the series, written by multiple authors and I will probably slowly make my way through them. A list I found online placed this as the first that should be read (after the Chronicle books that only contain short stories). It recounts the events that took place before what is shown in the movie, so it was totally new information for me. The story is great and I was pleasantly surprised by the beautiful writing. The only thing I didn't like about this book is the slow pacing it had sometimes. I read this as an ebook and gave it 3.5 stars. 

Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik

Miryem is the daughter and granddaughter of moneylenders... but her father isn't a very good one. Free to lend and reluctant to collect, he has loaned out most of his wife's dowry and left the family on the edge of poverty--until Miryem steps in. Hardening her heart against her fellow villagers' pleas, she sets out to collect what is owed--and finds herself more than up to the task. When her grandfather loans her a pouch of silver pennies, she brings it back full of gold.*

After reading and enjoying Wildwood Dancing a couple of months ago, I was really curious to read this Rumpelstiltskin retelling that just came out. I initially got the audiobook for this one but since it is told from multiple perspectives, I got confused and couldn't keep up with who was talking so I returned the audiobook and switched to the ebook. This happened in August and I actually enjoyed the first hundred pages or so, but then I got bored, not sure if it was a question of mood or it was the book. After that I kept picking it up and getting bored after less than a few pages. Finally, this week I decided to force myself to finish it and I managed to accomplish that on the very last day of the month. All in all, this wasn't a great book for me. It's maybe a case of "it's not you, it's me". The writing is absolutely beautiful, the story is good too, but the pacing is very slow in this book. I also had issues with the multiple perspectives in the book. There is no difference between the voices of these characters and nothing tells you who is narrating, so you have to figure it out from context. That's the reason I was totally confused when I listened to the audiobook. It starts with two perspectives, but then other ones keep getting added, which leads to total madness towards the middle of the book. It's such a shame because I really wanted to love this book. I ended up giving it 3 stars, because the book is good, even though it's not for me. I do want to try some more of this author's books in the future though because I really enjoyed the writing. 

That is it for September. Hope everyone had a great reading month! 

*Source: Goodreads

Friday, August 31, 2018

August Wrap-up

Hello! Where did August go? I had a good reading month, with the BookTubeAThon and everything, managing to finish 15 books, which is this year's record. However, in terms of pages, I didn't read more compared to the last months, because some of the BookTubeAThon books were really short. This month I fell in a historical fiction hole that I still haven't gotten out of. Technically, I read more pages because I have started some books that I haven't finished, either because I'm not in the mood for them or because I didn't have time. So here are the books I managed to finished after the BookTubeAThon ended.

The studio lot looks like 'thirty acres of fairyland' the night that a mysterious woman stands and smiles at Monroe Stahr, the last of the great Hollywood princes. Enchanted by one another, they begin a passionate but hopeless love affair, starting with a fast-moving seduction as slick as a scene from one of Stahr's pictures. The romance unfolds, frame by frame, watched by Cecilia, a thoroughly modern girl who has taken her lessons in sentiment and cynicism from all the movies she has seen. Her buoyant humour and satirical eye perfectly complement Fitzgerald's panorama of Hollywood at its most lavish and bewitching.*

F. Scott Fitzgerald is one of my absolute favorite writers and this was the only one of his novels that I hadn't read. I picked it up in June but wasn't in the right mindset for it, so I put it on pause and then picked it up again after the BookTubeAThon and finished it in a couple of days. Although this is an unfinished book, I loved it a lot and couldn't put it down. Fitzgerald's writing is just magical and I can't help but be in awe of every sentence. My edition of this book also contains his notes about the book, including plans for changes and the ending that he never got to write. It was so interesting to get into his writing process, something we never get to see from an author. Now I can finally watch the TV adaptation of this book. I gave it 5 stars and will surely reread it in the future. 

The Shape of the Ruins is a masterly story of conspiracy, political obsession, and literary investigation. When a man is arrested at a museum for attempting to steal the bullet-ridden suit of a murdered Colombian politician, few notice. But soon this thwarted theft takes on greater meaning as it becomes a thread in a widening web of popular fixations with conspiracy theories, assassinations, and historical secrets; and it haunts those who feel that only they know the real truth behind these killings.
This novel explores the darkest moments of a country's past and brings to life the ways in which past violence shapes our present lives. A compulsive read, beautiful and profound, eerily relevant to our times and deeply personal, The Shape of the Ruins is a tour-de-force story by a master at uncovering the incisive wounds of our memories.*

Now let's talk about my favorite book of the month and one of the best that I read this year. I don't remember how I found out about this author, but I knew that I wanted to read this book even before the Romanian translation came out this year. I didn't know a lot about the plot and still I felt I had to read this book. It took me another few months from the moment I got it until I felt in the right mood for it but here we are. This book takes historical fiction to a whole new level. First, it's beautifully written, then there's mystery and suspense, but also so much soul. This book made me quit the other books I was reading and devote my time to it entirely. I'm not even that interested in Colombian history, but this book made me care so much. The Romanian translation by Marin Mălaicu‑Hondrari was also brilliant. This was a 5 star read for me and I will recommend this book to many people in the future.

In the city of Bogotá, Antonio Yammara reads an article about a hippo that had escaped from a derelict zoo once owned by legendary Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. The article transports Antonio back to when the war between Escobar’s Medellín cartel and government forces played out violently in Colombia’s streets and in the skies above.
Back then, Antonio witnessed a friend’s murder, an event that haunts him still. As he investigates, he discovers the many ways in which his own life and his friend’s family have been shaped by his country’s recent violent past. His journey leads him all the way back to the 1960s and a world on the brink of change: a time before narco-trafficking trapped a whole generation in a living nightmare.*

As soon as I finished The Shape of the Ruins, I had to get into this one. This was actually on my "to read" list for a longer while, but since it was published a few years ago, I had to order it online. I loved this, although it wasn't as good as The Shape of the Ruins, just because it felt unfinished. It has the same great writing (with the same amazing translator), strong historical setting and good story, but it felt like it should have been longer. Most of the novel felt like and introduction to something and I would have loved for the story to unfold further. That being said, I still gave this book 4 stars and now have a new favorite author to add to the list. I'm really excited to see what he comes up whit next. 

After her mother dies in childbirth, Aurora del Valle is raised by her imposing grandmother, but despite growing up in a rich and privileged environment, Aurora is unhappy. Haunted by terrible nightmares and the inexplicable abscence of many of her childhood memories, and finding herself alone at the end of a love affair, she decides to travel to Chile to discover what it was, exactly, all those years ago, that had such a devastating effect on her young life.*

Next, I decided to continue my historical fiction binge with another South American writer. This novel is the second in the saga of the Del Valle family, the first book being Daughter of Fortune, which I read last year, and the third book being the famous The House of the Spirits, which I read many years ago and plan to reread soon. What I don't understand about the first two books is why Allende made them just historical fiction. The third book, that she actually wrote first (in 1982) was also magical realism and was so much better. Out of the three in the series, Portrait in Sepia was my least favorite, although I still enjoyed it a lot. Allende's writing is always gorgeous and her characters are so full of magic, that she creates an atmosphere that is so typical to her novels. I really love how immersed I feel every time I read on of her novels. I gave this particular one 4 stars. 

Paris, 1490.  A shrewd French nobleman commissions six lavish tapestries celebrating his rising status at Court. He hires the charismatic, arrogant, sublimely talented Nicolas des Innocents to design them. Nicolas creates havoc among the women in the house—mother and daughter, servant, and lady-in-waiting—before taking his designs north to the Brussels workshop where the tapestries are to be woven. There, master weaver Georges de la Chapelle risks everything he has to finish the tapestries—his finest, most intricate work—on time for his exacting French client. The results change all their lives—lives that have been captured in the tapestries, for those who know where to look.*

Tracy Chevalier is my go to author for quick historical fiction reads. I read most of her novels, but there are still a couple I had left, this particular one being one of them. I like her novels because she takes inspiration from historical elements and then speculates on the story behind the known facts. The writing is light and enjoyable, plus they are written in first person, usually from multiple perspectives, which I love. I love the medieval setting in this one and the artsy theme. This was a quick read and I gave it 4 stars.

Here are the audiobooks I listened to this month:

Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli

When it comes to drumming, Leah Burke is usually on beat—but real life isn’t always so rhythmic.
She’s an anomaly in her friend group: the only child of a young, single mom, and her life is decidedly less privileged. She loves to draw but is too self-conscious to show it. And even though her mom knows she’s bisexual, she hasn’t mustered the courage to tell her friends—not even her openly gay BFF, Simon.*

One of the most hyped YA releases of the year, this is the sequel or rather the companion novel to Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, which I listened to and quite enjoyed back in April. I picked this up as an audiobook as well, and I wasn't a big fan of the narration but listening to it helped me get over the boring parts. Many people loved this book but there are many that also gave it 2 and 3 stars, meaning that they thought it was just okay. Unfortunately, it was a 3 star read for me too. That doesn't mean it was bad or I didn't enjoy it, but compared to the first book it was just an average YA contemporary. I wasn't a fan of the character of Leah, for most of the book she was just complaining and hurting other people, especially her mother. The romance in the book didn't feel real to me, I just didn't care, which is so different from the feelings Simon's story gave me. This was  quick listen and I enjoyed myself, so all in all I'm not sorry I read it.

Neil Gaiman has long been inspired by ancient mythology in creating the fantastical realms of his fiction. Now he turns his attention back to the source, presenting a bravura rendition of the great northern tales. In Norse Mythology, Gaiman fashions primeval stories into a novelistic arc that begins with the genesis of the legendary nine worlds; delves into the exploits of the deities, dwarves, and giants; and culminates in Ragnarok, the twilight of the gods and the rebirth of a new time and people. Gaiman stays true to the myths while vividly reincarnating Odin, the highest of the high, wise, daring, and cunning; Thor, Odin’s son, incredibly strong yet not the wisest of gods; and Loki, the son of giants, a trickster and unsurpassable manipulator. From Gaiman’s deft and witty prose emerges the gods with their fiercely competitive natures, their susceptibility to being duped and to dupe others, and their tendency to let passion ignite their actions, making these long-ago myths breathe pungent life again.*

I discovered Neil Gaiman's books, but specifically his self-narrated audiobooks, this spring. While I did watch the American Gods TV show without reading the book, I knew nothing about Norse mythology, so I thought this would be a fun read. Of course I listened to the audiobook, since Gaiman's voice is so soothing and his narrations are beautiful. These stories were so much fun! There were a few in there that weren't that interesting, but most of them were great and I enjoyed myself a lot. Not much to say other than that because I don't want to give any spoilers, but I ended up giving the book 4 stars and I'm excited to read more from this author.

Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life. But when she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now?
Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.
Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds through the decades—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.*

Ok, so I caved and read, or rather listened to, this very popular book. First off, I must say that I was tricked into reading a chick lit romance book by thinking it was historical fiction. Yes, the setting is historical, but there's very little emphasis on the historical setting and very much on the plot and characters, while the writing is pretty bad. I'm sure that this character was good looking, but I don't need to hear about her breasts every 2 minutes. I was also confused by the narration of the audiobook because the voice of Evelyn telling her life story and the one talking to Monique were narrated by two different people. I get the point of multiple narrators for different characters but not this. Of course the strongest point of this book is the plot that keeps you entertained and interested through 400 pages of bad writing and cringy phrases. I know that many people cried at the end of the book but I didn't feel that sad, probably because I didn't empathize with any of the characters, especially Evelyn. I ended up giving it 3 stars, because I enjoyed myself while listening to it, but I still don't get why this book is so highly rated on Goodreads.

The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver

The Poisonwood Bible is a story told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce, evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959. They carry with them everything they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it -- from garden seeds to Scripture -- is calamitously transformed on African soil. What follows is a suspenseful epic of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa.*

The last book I finished this month is another historical fiction. I listened to this big novel as an audiobook and I have mixed feelings about it. This is one of those books that people either love or hate (lots of 1 star and 5 star reviews on Goodreads), but for me it was somewhere in between. I feel like many of the arguments people have against this book come from identifying the characters' ideas as the author's opinions. Yes, the characters often sound preachy and it's annoying sometimes because the book is so long, but that makes them sound real in the end. The story dragged though sometimes, and the book probably could have been  shorter. I would have probably struggled with it if I had read it as a physical book. For that I only gave it 3.5 stars, yet I can't help but admire this author's hard work because this is a solid piece of historical fiction. 

That is it for August. Hope September will be just as good, if not better! 

*Source: Goodreads

Thursday, August 9, 2018

BookTubeAThon Wrap-Up

Hi! So this is a story about me reading 7 books in 7 days and hating it. Well, not exactly hating it but not enjoying myself very much because of the pressure. This was my first attempt ever at a readathon. It was because everyone was posting their BookTubeAThon tbr videos and I wanted to give it a try. Last week I realized that readathons are not for me, because of multiple reasons. First off, I am a slow reader. I've seen people on YouTube fly through hundreds of pages while I sometimes only manage to read 30 pages in an hour. I read faster in Romanian but not by much. Then, in order to finish 7 books in 7 days you need to read shorter and easier books. For me that often means YA, which is a hit or miss. Yes, there are short books for adults too, but they are either literary fiction, which is not really binge-able or chick lit, which I don't like. Finally, I'm not one to binge books. I'd rather read constantly every day, usually in the morning if I have time, a bit here and there during the day and then at night before bed. Reading for hours on end doesn't happen to me very often. So in conclusion this readathon wasn't that fun for me. I ended up reading 1726 pages, which is more than I would normally read in a week, but some of the books I finished weren't great reads. My average rating for these books was 3.6, which is lower than my average for this year (3.8). Oh well, maybe I was just out of luck while choosing my tbr. Most of my books were ebooks or audiobooks, because my physical books were too long and didn't fit any challenges. So there's not much to show in the picture but anyway, here are the books.

This One Summer by Mariko Tamaki,  Jillian Tamaki (Illustrator)

Every summer, Rose goes with her mom and dad to a lake house in Awago Beach. It's their getaway, their refuge. Rosie's friend Windy is always there, too, like the little sister she never had. But this summer is different. Rose's mom and dad won't stop fighting, and when Rose and Windy seek a distraction from the drama, they find themselves with a whole new set of problems. It's a summer of secrets and sorrow and growing up, and it's a good thing Rose and Windy have each other.*

This was the book decided by the coin toss. The options were both graphic novels, both ebooks, both around 300 pages, which looked like a quick read. I actually cheated and started this on Sunday night, just because I didn't have anything to read in bed. As expected, I finished this on Monday because I just flew trough it. I wouldn't say that I was disappointed by this because I got to look at beautiful art, but the story didn't do much for me. It tried to touch on some important themes but didn't quite deliver. I wouldn't say it was bad, just nothing special. The art though, was amazing. So it's totally worth it. I ended up giving it 3.5 stars as an average between 5 stars for the art and 2 stars for the story. 

The Chrysalids by John Wyndham

David Storm's father doesn't approve of Angus Morton's unusually large horses, calling them blasphemies against nature. Little does he realise that his own son, and his son's cousin Rosalind and their friends, have their own secret aberration which would label them as mutants. But as David and Rosalind grow older it becomes more difficult to conceal their differences from the village elders. Soon they face a choice: wait for eventual discovery, or flee to the terrifying and mutable Badlands.....
The Chrysalids is a post-nuclear apocalypse story of genetic mutation in a devastated world and explores the lengths the intolerant will go to to keep themselves pure.*

Next up, I picked up this classic work of science fiction, which counted both for the beautiful spine and the green on the cover challenge. I actually wanted to pick another book with a beautiful spine, but it was almost 500 pages long and there was no way for me to finish that so quickly. Although this book seems fairly short (200 pages), it took me some time to get through since it was written in 1955 and the writing is quite literary. It also took some time for me to get into it, which made it impossible for me to finish it in a day. In the end I quite loved this. The only thing I didn't love about it is that it's so short, so a lot of things are left unexplained. That's why I only gave it 4 stars but I'm curious to read some more books from this author now. 

On Writing begins with a mesmerizing account of King's childhood and his early focus on writing to tell a story. A series of vivid memories from adolescence, college, and the struggling years that led up to his first novel, Carrie, offer a fresh and often funny perspective on the formation of a writer. 
King then turns to the tools of his trade, examining crucial aspects of the wriiter's art and life, offering practical and inspiring advice on everything from plot and character development to work habits and rejection.

This was my book about something I want to do (writing, very original) and also my audiobook for most of the week. It was my first audiobook read by Stephen King himself and while I must admit that he isn't very good at it, I still enjoyed listening to him tell the story. This is non-fiction but it's a memoir, so it reads more like fiction, plus the writing advice part is really well made and keeps you interested every second. I liked this so much that I definitely want to own a physical copy and maybe annotate it some day. I finished it on the fourth day of the readathon and gave it 5 stars!

Binti by Nnedi Okorafor

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.*

This short novella was supposed to be the book I read while wearing a hat the whole time, but I ended up skipping the hat altogether. Honestly, I found the challenge quite stupid and unnecessary, plus why would I put on a hat to read a book on my couch? This has been on my radar for a long time, especially because it won both the Hugo and the Nebula awards in 2016, and it seemed to be the perfect short thing for a readathon. I ended up listening to the audiobook because it was available on Scribd and I'm so glad I did. The narration brought some authenticity to the story, something the voice in my head wouldn't do. I really loved the concept of an African inspired science fiction story. I'm not a big fan of short stories in general because I feel you can't really get close to the characters in such a short time, but this novella really packs a punch, both with tons of action and characterization of Binti. Of course the first person narration helps a lot. I'm really curious to read the next one in the series. I gave this 4 stars. 

Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.*

And then there's the book that almost got me in a reading slump. The thing with readathons is, if you have a specific goal you can't really dnf books, because you invest so much time in them and then you have nothing to show for that lost time. I picked this as my book to movie adaptation, even though the movie hasn't come out yet so I have yet to see it. Many people have raved about this book, even booktubers I trust have found it ok, and the trailer for the movie seemed fun and cute. But boy, was this book boring! The premise of the letters is something short that takes place in the beginning and frankly doesn't affect the life of the main character the way I thought it would. Instead the whole book is just the whining of a spoiled and immature teenager about what boy she likes more. This book is quite long and it was painful for me to finish it, the only way I managed that was by picking up the audiobook about half way and forcing myself to listen to as much as possible until it was over. I gave it 2 stars and will most certainly not be continuing the series. Let's just hope that the movie is a bit better.

The day after they moved in, Coraline went exploring....
In Coraline's family's new flat are twenty-one windows and fourteen doors. Thirteen of the doors open and close. 
The fourteenth is locked, and on the other side is only a brick wall, until the day Coraline unlocks the door to find a passage to another flat in another house just like her own. 
Only it's different. *

Finally, the last two books I read that didn't complete any particular challenge except for the challenge of reading 7 books in 7 days. I've been into Neil Gaiman books lately and I was curious to pick up this middle grade that is so famous and that everybody loves. This book is considered very creepy, especially by adults, but for me the creep factor wasn't that high. Maybe it's because I've read some true horror in my life, but this didn't impress me at all. I read it as an ebook on my phone while reading other books as well and didn't feel the urge to finish it if it wasn't for the readathon. I don't think it was bad at all, just not as amazing as I was expecting, so I had to rate it 3 stars because that's just how I felt about it.

A. J. Fikry’s life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island--from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who’s always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.’s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It’s a small package, but large in weight. It’s that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. *

The last book of the BookTubeAThon is also the one that took me out of the slump if I was in one. Finally a book about books that I really enjoyed! This was everything that Mr. Penumbra should have been and I literally couldn't put it down. I read it in around a day so I managed to finish my 7th book in time to complete the final challenge. Not only is this book great for people who love books, but it's cute and heartwarming, a real feel-good novel. I had a few issues with the writing so I only gave it 4 stars, but I really enjoyed it. This was also an ebook that I read on my Kindle.

Wow this was a long post to write! Hopefully the rest of August will be a good reading month!

*Source: Goodreads

Tuesday, July 31, 2018

July Wrap-up

Hello! July is finally over and I have to talk about what I read. This month I focused on bigger books, so I didn't do a mid-month wrap-up because I only had finished a couple of books back then. I did manage to finish 10 books this month, but there will only be 9 in this wrap-up because the 10th one is part of the Booktubeathon that I'm attempting this week and there will be a different post for those books. This post will be extremely long so let's get into the books!

Cathedral of the Sea by Ildefonso Falcones

Cathedral of the Sea follows the fortunes of the Estanyol family, from their peasant roots to a son, Arnau, who flees the land only to realize spectacular wealth and devastating problems.
During Arnau's lifetime Barcelona becomes a city of light and darkness, dominated by the construction of the city's great pride -- the cathedral of Santa Maria del Mar -- and by its shame, the deadly Inquisition.*

I found this book from a "books about Barcelona" list after finishing my beloved The Cemetery of Forgotten Books series. This book is nothing similar, but it is set in Barcelona, which is amazing. It takes place in the Middle Ages and follows the story of Arnau Estanyol, from before his birth and throughout his adventurous life. It is definitely a saga and even though my copy only has 570 pages, it is a massive book that took me ages to finish. I enjoyed this a lot, don't get me wrong, but the language it is written in is quite archaic and there is lots of history in it, which makes it kind of hard to go through for someone who doesn't know anything about medieval Spain. Despite reading this in my native language, it was the first time in many years when I had to look up Romanian words in the dictionary. The story is beautiful but it isn't lighthearted at all. This book contains rape, misogyny, violence and antisemitism, just to name a few. So it's more on the serious side of historical fiction. There are some faults to this book but I admire Falcones a lot for writing such an intricate and well researched work, so I gave it 4.5 stars. 

The critically acclaimed debut novel from Stephen Chbosky, Perks follows observant “wallflower” Charlie as he charts a course through the strange world between adolescence and adulthood. First dates, family drama, and new friends. Sex, drugs, and The Rocky Horror Picture Show. Devastating loss, young love, and life on the fringes. Caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it, Charlie must learn to navigate those wild and poignant roller-coaster days known as growing up.*

After finishing Cathedral of the Sea, I needed some light YA to cleanse my palate, so I picked up a "classic" YA contemporary that has been on my tbr for ages. I don't have much to say about this book, since for me it was an average read. I know many people love it and I can see why. I would probably have liked it more if I was a teenager myself. There are many themes in this book, but none of them is visited in depth, so I feel that the author tried to do too much with it and didn't achieve anything in the end. I ended up giving it 3 stars, although now I think I was a bit too generous. Maybe 2.5 would be a more accurate rating. 

The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle by Stuart Turton

At a gala party thrown by her parents, Evelyn Hardcastle will be killed--again. She's been murdered hundreds of times, and each day, Aiden Bishop is too late to save her. Doomed to repeat the same day over and over, Aiden's only escape is to solve Evelyn Hardcastle's murder and conquer the shadows of an enemy he struggles to even comprehend--but nothing and no one are quite what they seem.*

This book has been all over the internet lately and I gave in to the hype. I usually don't read mystery thrillers, but this has a historical setting and an interesting premise, so it looked like something I would like. And yes, I liked it a lot! I feel like you can't talk too much about this book without giving stuff away, and it is better to go into it without knowing too much about it. To me the ending was totally unpredictable, which I feel is good for this type of books. It felt a bit confusing at times, so I gave it 4.5 stars, but I rounded it up to 5 on Goodreads, because this debut author deserves it. 

High in the Transylvanian woods, at the castle Piscul Draculi, live five daughters and their doting father. It's an idyllic life for Jena, the second eldest, who spends her time exploring the mysterious forest with her constant companion, a most unusual frog. But best by far is the castle's hidden portal, known only to the sisters. Every Full Moon, they alone can pass through it into the enchanted world of the Other Kingdom. There they dance through the night with the fey creatures of this magical realm.*

So, an Australian author wrote a book inspired by Romanian myths and fairy tales and I totally loved it! This book had everything I wanted from Războiul solomonarilor, even though it wasn't heroic fantasy but more of a historical/fairy tale type of fantasy. Even though this is YA, it is truly well written and totally charming, a book that you can totally immerse yourself in. It does have a few faults and that is the reason I gave it 4 stars. This book has really strong female characters but I felt like the male characters could have been more complex. As with all YA fantasy, there are a few tropes in this book, but I didn't mind too much. I think that if you read this book without prejudice and let it take you away you will have a great time.

This is the riveting first-person narrative of Kvothe, a young man who grows to be one of the most notorious magicians his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime-riddled city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard.*

This was a month long enjoyment and a mammoth of a book. This was a reread as I want to pick up the second book in the series, which I haven't read. I decided this was perfect to reread as an audiobook and I was totally right. I started it at the beginning of the month, then took a long break half way to listen to The Poppy War, then listened to the second half. It seemed that back in 2016 I was a little stingy with my ratings, because I only gave this 4 stars, but now changed my rating to a 5. This book is amazing and so enjoyable to listen to, especially in the Nick Podehl version of the audiobook. I was going to read the second one physically but now I'm not sure, because this was such an amazing audiobook. Patrick Rothfuss' writing is beautiful and listening to it is very relaxing. This is definitely a must if you are into fantasy and you might like it even if fantasy is not your genre. So amazing!

Not pictured, but also finished:

I'll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman's Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara

The haunting true story of the elusive serial rapist turned murderer who terrorized California during the 70s and 80s, and of the gifted journalist who died tragically while investigating the case—which was solved in April 2018.*

True crime is a genre I haven't tried out yet, but this book intrigued me. I must admit that I was drawn in by the hype, but I also was intrigued by the resolution of this case and I wanted to read the book before looking up who the actual killer is. I usually struggle with non fiction, but this was a delight to read. Michelle McNamara was a great writer and this reads like fiction most of the time. It is also a bit like a memoir as she talks about her life and the time she dedicated to solving this case. It is also very sad that she died before this was solved, but she was confident that it would get solved in the end. I'm not sure if this is a genre for me, but this book was so good. I read it as an ebook and gave it 4.5 stars, rounded to 5 on Goodreads.

When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.*

It seems like this month was all about new hyped books. I tried a chapter from this book on my Kindle and immediately had to continue. I had some Audible credits so I decided to get the audiobook and I didn't quite like the narrator, but I loved the book. It begins as a classical coming of age story, but then turns into something mind blowing. The Asian inspired setting really brings something to this story. It also reads like a YA most of the time but contains some violent scenes that make it an adult book. I can't wait for the second book in this series to come out. I gave this 5 shiny stars!

A tour-de-force by rising indy comics star Gene Yang, American Born Chinese tells the story of three apparently unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he's the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny's life with his yearly visits.*

I found this graphic novel on Scribd and read it on my phone during off-times at work. It was a quick and entertaining read, with an interesting twist at the end. I didn't find the art amazing but it wasn't bad. The story on the other hand I quite enjoyed. I found it quite compelling for a YA graphic novel, so I ended up giving it 4 stars. I think this is better if you go in it without knowing much about the story so I won't give anything away.

Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan

The Great Recession has shuffled Clay Jannon away from life as a San Francisco web-design drone and into the aisles of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, but after a few days on the job, Clay discovers that the store is more curious than either its name or its gnomic owner might suggest. The customers are few, and they never seem to buy anything; instead, they "check out" large, obscure volumes from strange corners of the store. Suspicious, Clay engineers an analysis of the clientele's behavior, seeking help from his variously talented friends, but when they bring their findings to Mr. Penumbra, they discover the bookstore's secrets extend far beyond its walls.*

This book was the oldest one on my "want to read" list on Goodreads and it was on there for almost 6 years so it was high time I gave it a try. This is featured as as a "book about books" and I guess it is, only it doesn't feature anything but made up books so nothing I can relate to. It also features a mystery and lots of technology that seemed more or less accurate, although I don't have enough knowledge to know if it was. I didn't care too much for the writing, which made me struggle with the first half of the book. Even though this is slightly under 300 pages, it seemed to go by so slow at times. The ending, or should I say the resolution of the mystery, was quite cool, so I ended up giving this ebook 3 stars but I'm not sure this was worth it.

This is it for July! Hope August will be a great reading month!

*Source: Goodreads

Sunday, July 1, 2018

June Final Wrap-up

Hello! It is the first day of July, which means it's time to wrap up another month. I managed to finish a couple more books this week, bringing my total for June to 12 books. I did however read more pages than in May, due to the fact that I read a book of almost 900 pages and 4 books of over 400 pages. What I realized is that I often shy away from bigger books because I'm afraid that they are going to take a longer time, lowering my monthly total. But now that I have surpassed my original goal of 50 books (I already finished 65 books this year), I decided to read more of what I want and less of what I feel like I "should" read. I also want to favour bigger books instead of shorter ones that might look like quick reads but then end up being bad. Judging by this month's ratings, my 2 star and 3 star reads have been these short books that I picked up as quick reads. So I'm going to try to get away from the pressure of finishing over 10 books next month. Meanwhile, here's what I read in the second half of June.

Awakenings by Oliver Sacks

Awakenings--which inspired the major motion picture--is the remarkable story of a group of patients who contracted sleeping-sickness during the great epidemic just after World War I. Frozen for decades in a trance-like state, these men and women were given up as hopeless until 1969, when Dr. Oliver Sacks gave them the then-new drug L-DOPA, which had an astonishing, explosive, "awakening" effect. Dr. Sacks recounts the moving case histories of his patients, their lives, and the extraordinary transformations which went with their reintroduction to a changed world.*

Oh, nonfiction! The bane of my existence. I have always been fascinated by neurology, and even though I didn't end up choosing it as a specialty, I continue to be fascinated by this subject. I loved Oliver Sacks'  The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat short story collection and I wanted more from him. That being said, I started this book almost 3 years ago and only now managed to finish it. I struggle with nonfiction, as I mentioned before. In this one I got stuck in the case report part. Basically, it was a brief account of each patient's life story and then their history before and after the L-DOPA treatment. I found this part quite repetitive, which made it hard for me to pick it up and read more than 2 pages. Finally, what saved me was the audiobook. I was only about 30% into the book when I switched to the audiobook and managed to listen to it through the end. Although I didn't remember much from the first part of the book because it's been ages since I read it, I quite enjoyed listening to the rest of it. I'm not sure I learned much information from this book, but I'm happy I read it. Now I'm curious to watch the movie as well as the documentary that goes with this book, if I can find it. I gave this book 4 stars.

How to Stop Time by Matt Haig

Tom Hazard has a dangerous secret. He may look like an ordinary 41-year-old, but owing to a rare condition, he's been alive for centuries. Tom has lived history--performing with Shakespeare, exploring the high seas with Captain Cook, and sharing cocktails with Fitzgerald. Now, he just wants an ordinary life.*

First off, let me just say that this book was a big disappointment for me. I love books about time traveling and immortality, so I was very excited to pick this one up. The premise of the book is great and there are some great ideas in it, but there was so much I didn't like about it. The writing was really strange, with the story being told in a really simple way, but then with lots of motivational and uplifting quotes. Another problem I had was with the historical parts which were really poorly described. I just couldn't feel like I was there at all, which is sad because that's the main reason I like historical fiction. Then there was the issue of the characters, most of them so underdeveloped. Finally, some of the events in the book felt a bit forced and illogical, but I won't get into that because I don't want to give any spoilers here. All in all, this book was average at best, so I gave it 2.5 stars, which is exactly half of the maximum rating.

As usual, multiple books have been ebooks or audiobooks, so no picture. Here they are:

Twenty-seven-year old Anne Elliot is Austen's most adult heroine. Eight years before the story proper begins, she is happily betrothed to a naval officer, Frederick Wentworth, but she precipitously breaks off the engagement when persuaded by her friend Lady Russell that such a match is unworthy. The breakup produces in Anne a deep and long-lasting regret. When later Wentworth returns from sea a rich and successful captain, he finds Anne's family on the brink of financial ruin and his own sister a tenant in Kellynch Hall, the Elliot estate. All the tension of the novel revolves around one question: Will Anne and Wentworth be reunited in their love?*

This month I continued my Jane Austen series with her last novel, which is also considered her best one by many people. To me it was the least favorite from what I read from her. The story was uninteresting, the characters were uninteresting, this book just felt boring and less than average. I considered dnf-ing it a few times but decided to power through it at 1.2x speed, since it is pretty short and the audiobook was quite nice. That being said, I think I'm done with Jane Austen, at least for this year. I will accept that this is an author I'm not a fan of and move on. I've read 4 of her books and only enjoyed one (Pride and Prejudice), her most famous book and I must admit that there is a reason for it to be so famous. But all her other books have not been for me. I gave Persuasion 2 unimpressed stars.

This is the sixth book in The Witcher series, an adult fantasy series that is famous for inspiring the PC games with the same name. I didn't include the synopsis for this book because I think it would spoil too much of the first books, but I will say that this series should be better known in the book world. It is beautifully inspired by Polish folklore and is something different from what I've read before. This book was a bit slower paced than the previous ones and felt more like a bridge between the first books and the next ones, where I feel like a lot is gonna be revealed. I quite enjoyed the read and was happy to be back with these characters cause it's been a while since I read the previous book. I will definitely not be waiting so long before picking up the next book. I read this as an ebook because my physical copy was borrowed by some friends and gave it 4 stars.

The Humans by Matt Haig

Our hero, Professor Andrew Martin, is dead before the book even begins. As it turns out, though, he wasn’t a very nice man--as the alien imposter who now occupies his body discovers. Sent to Earth to destroy evidence that Andrew had solved a major mathematical problem, the alien soon finds himself learning more about the professor, his family, and “the humans” than he ever expected. When he begins to fall for his own wife and son--who have no idea he’s not the real Andrew--the alien must choose between completing his mission and returning home or finding a new home right here on Earth. *

Another Matt Haig book that wasn't quite what I expected. Granted that after reading How to Stop Time, I wasn't that excited anymore. I still wanted to give it a chance, since a lot of people found it extremely funny. For me, it was moderately funny at best. Most of the jokes were cliches, and so were the characters. The first couple of hours of the audiobook made me roll my eyes many times. After that, it was acceptable. In the end it was ok, I gave it 3 stars on Goodreads, but I guess it was more of a 2.5*, like the other Matt Haig book. In conclusion, his books seem average to me and I probably won't pick up any of his other books. I only had these two on my tbr anyway, so no hard feelings.

January 1946: London is emerging from the shadow of the Second World War, and writer Juliet Ashton is looking for her next book subject. Who could imagine that she would find it in a letter from a man she’s never met, a native of the island of Guernsey, who has come across her name written inside a book by Charles Lamb…. 
As Juliet and her new correspondent exchange letters, Juliet is drawn into the world of this man and his friends—and what a wonderfully eccentric world it is. The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society—born as a spur-of-the-moment alibi when its members were discovered breaking curfew by the Germans occupying their island—boasts a charming, funny, deeply human cast of characters, from pig farmers to phrenologists, literature lovers all. *

This was another quick read that I squeezed in on the very last days of the month. One of those "books about books" that seemed cute and fluffy. And that's what it was. The story isn't particularly believable and the letters didn't seem like they were written by British people in the 40's, but if you take this book for what it is you won't be disappointed. That's what I did and I enjoyed it. It's historical fiction bordering on romance. It did teach me about the German occupation of the Channel Islands during WW2, a subject I had no idea about. And that's why I read historical fiction, to go to places and find out about events I didn't know much about. Pick this up if you are in the mood for something light and enjoyable, with a touch of history. I read it as an ebook and gave it 3 stars.

That's it for June. Hope July will be a great month! 

*Source: Goodreads