Monday, September 11, 2017

August Reads // The Month I Fangirled So Hard

Happy Monday Friends! I hope that you had a great weekend! 

I am so excited because I READ AND READ AND READ IN AUGUST. The last few of these I read over Labor Day weekend, so I'm just putting them in here as well.) Woohoo!

Two "quick" notes on reading: 

1) I read for enjoyment. Not to say that I don't read to explore, learn, grown, etc. etc. but I primarily read for enjoyment. I shouldn't have to tell y'all this... because I'm usually reading YA, fantasy, etc. genres that many people make fun of. It's cool. You don't need to like it at all, but I certainly do. I think everyone should read what they like! If they want to explore things they don't like, that's cool too. But lets not book shame each other! :) So go ahead and tell us about your Nick Sparks, your Kardashian bio, your torture-y crime drama, or smutty romance novel. I'm not going to judge your reading habits and interests. You do you, boo. 

2) I've noticed lately that there is a LOT LOT LOT of book hate on Sarah J. Maas and her books (and others in the genre). I've read up on some of it, and I get where some of the concerns are coming from, I don't expect everyone to love it, I don't expect everyone to be happy with changes she makes based on her reader's feedback, I want to see more diversity in books and in authors too, but you guys, let's be nice! No one who reads a book thinks it is perfect, or if they do, it is very rare, so take it with a grain of salt, always! Anyone interested in having a discussion on diversity in fiction/fantasy/sci-fi? I'd love to know what y'all think, KC and I talked and talked over our lunch today about it. But again, as long as we are being respectful. (silly that I have to say this 5 times, right?)

Those two things being said, if you'd like to share your opinions on SJM's books, or any other books, or issues related to representation, etc. Please feel free. But please be nice and constructive about it. Let's not berate one another. Ok?

Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy YA fiction and coming of age stories. Especially if you have a penchant for anything "nerdy". Even if you don't, I think this book will be enjoyable.

This book follows Cath as she begins her post-high school life. She and her twin sister, her and Wren have always stuck together, and they are not going to be roommates at college. Cath has to figure out how to navigate college alone. New roommates, new roommates' boyfriends, new classes, and how to keep up with her old life. She's worried about her dad all alone, and she's got to keep up with her fanfiction. She's got thousands of followers hanging on her every word. She escapes into her fanfiction world, but she has to find the cut off point. When is it more important to take a risk in real life vs. in the world you're writing?

I thought that this book was really cute and fun to read. I really enjoyed Cath and the other characters as well. I feel like a lot of what she goes through is pretty normal for college, and relateable to read. I didn't expect to enjoy the fanfiction part, but I really did. I definitely shipped those characters (Simon and Baz), and I really want to read Carry On (Rowell's book related to their story). I liked that this book wasn't all fanfiction, it wasn't all fun, it wasn't all drama either. It was a nice mix of all of it. 

I only have a few complaints: 1) the ending felt rushed. The last few chapters were a blur... skipping from one scene to the next. And then it just... ended. I wanted more of a resolution! 2) Levi is not a very realistic character to me. He's adorable. Don't get me wrong.. .but I basically grew up in the same world as Levi. Tiny town, middle of the Midwest, Ag. is king. I went to school with a million kids who lived on a farm. Obviously, I don't know everything about everyone, for sure. But most of the boys that I knew who fell into this category would never ever ever be so open minded (at least at this age!), they wouldn't act so bohemian, they wouldn't get into fanfiction about two male characters and their romantic relationship, they wouldn't likely even give Cath the time of day (because she's too "quirky" or "weird"). They likely wouldn't go to college unless they needed to, and if they did, they certainly wouldn't live in a house with tons of roommates, incense, and work at Starbucks to pay tuition. I realize that there has to be SOMEONE out there like this... but based on where I grew up, and the boys I knew who sort of fit the life that Levi had.... none of them that I know are like him. I guess that's just a mini rant.. because it's too bad that he doesn't seem realistic to me. But he doesn't. Not sure if any of that makes sense. But I wanted to type it down. LOL I'm also guessing that most of you won't feel this way, it's very specific to where I grew up, lol!

Anyhow, bottom line, it's super cute. Go read it!

30 points - Erin's 7.0

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

2.5 - 3 Stars - I recommend this book if you enjoy contemporary fiction, with a secret society, solve the code, kind of vibe to it. It is very light hearted.

This book follows Clay, a young man in need of a job. The recession has hit, and he finally finds a new place of employment: Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore. He quickly notices that this is not just any bookstore. There a frantic customers who request books from the "way back list", and check them out with special member cards. Clay investigates what's going on in the bookstore with his muti-talented friends. What is Mr. Penumbra up to?

I had a hard time getting into this book. I liked the setting and quirky characters, which made it quick enough to read... but all of the tech-related descriptions really through off the flow of the book for me. I'm not a techy person. Normally a book with codes and secret societies might be just a little bit serious or dark. This book is neither, which made the mystery seem a bit unimportant. I didn't find myself caring what the society was up to. I also didn't love the fact that most of the early on pieces of the puzzle are solved by using power technology. I'd rather read about clever people who know clever things and solve clever puzzles. Not because they have access to Google's super computers. So, toward the end, it got a bit more interesting to me. There was a bit less of the technology, but it took too long for me to fully appreciate it. I did enjoy the characters through the end, and things related to the bookstore itself. By the time I got to the end of the book, I wasn't invested in the mystery, and then when everything was revealed, it felt anticlimactic. I think I'm in the minority on this one, but it just wasn't my jam. I would rather have read about Clay and the quirky people he observes in the bookstore. 

10 points - Erin's 7.0

The Little Book of Hygge by Miek Wiking

5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy learning about other cultures, happiness, and practical ways to add that culture and methods of happiness to your own life. 

This little non-fiction book covers the increasingly popular topic of hygge (pronounced HOOGA). Hygge is best translated into one English word as the concept of "coziness" or "hominess". Miek Wiking is the CEO of the Happinesss Institute in Denmark, where Danes are consistently ranked the happiest nation in the world. Wiking gathers his knowledge of happiness, hygge, and Danish traditions to help others around the world add a little hygge to their own lives.

I'd been wanting to read this book for so long, I find the concept of hygge really interesting. The people of Denmark deal with dark, cold winters and superhigh taxes, but are still the happiest in the world?! Fascinating. Reading this book, I felt like I got a peek into hygge and some practical ideas to channel a little hygge in my own home. I enjoyed the conversational writing style, the humor, and the different ways he explained hygge. From giving examples of times in his own life that were hyggelig, to explaining things you can do and try to make your own life more hyggelig, even down to including recipes, crafts, and activities to try on your own. While this book was covered many areas of hygge, I always like as many actionable ideas as possible. So I will probably continue reading about hygge. There are so many books anymore! Anyhow, I really enjoyed this intro to hygge, and I can't wait to try out the ideas and make our home more cozy!

Confession: I HAVE NEVER, EVER, EVER, EVER FANGIRLED OVER ANYTHING SO HARD AS THIS SERIES. Outlander (remember this post?) was pretty darn close... and might tie this once I read more of the books... 

A Court of Thorns & Roses by Sarah J. Maas *re-read*

5 Stars - I HIGHLY recommend if you enjoy fantasy, action/adventure, and a bit (lot?) of romance.

This book follows Feyre (Fay Ruh), the main provider for her family. When she kills a wolf in the forest one day, she does not know that a price must be paid. When someone comes to claim her, she must learn to survive in a different world, with different dangers. (I don't like to give the plot away too much on this one!)

This is my first ever re-read on my blog. Probably also just in general (in the recent past), I'm not one to re-read. However, I recommended this book to SO many friends, let them borrow it, etc. that they have now all read the whole trilogy... and want to talk about it... and I'd only read the first one. LOL. So I started over, because I couldn't remember enough of how I felt about the characters. I NEED TO KNOW. Because I loved the first book so much, I didn't want to forget my feelings before starting in on #2 and #3. After the second read, I can say without a doubt, that this is still a 5 star, favorite book. I love it so much. It has all of the things that make reading fun for me. Intrigue, action, adventure, romance, incredible world building, and page-turning suspense. I loved this so much the second time around, and immediately started in on the second one. :) If you read this/have read this and took some issues with some of the themes... stick with it. She addresses a lot of it in the second book!

A Court of Mist & Fury by Sarah J. Maas

5 Stars - O. M. G. - I HIGHLY recommend if you enjoy fantasy, action/adventure, and romance.

Feyre's story continues in the second volume of this triology. No spoilers from me. 

I HAVE SO MANY FEELINGS. This book was hella intense in SO MANY WAYS. I wasn't shocked until the very very end, but I was definitely interested. There is more great world building, some excellent character development (new and old), really cool settings, steamy romance that puts the first book to shame (TO SHAME!), and lots of magic/fighting/battles/adventures, etc. etc. While this book is extremely long (690-some pages) I read almost all of it in one day. I kid you not. SO GOOD.

30 Points - Erin's 7.0

A Court of Wings & Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

4.5 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy, action/adventure, and romance. And if you've read the rest of the series.

Feyre's story continues in the third/final volume of this triology. No spoilers from me. 

Again, I have a lot of feelings. Keep in mind... I had been reading for 6... or so days, straight-ish. Obviously I went to work guys... The second book was SO good, that it almost doomed this one. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad by any means. But you know how Return of the King is no one's favorite LOTR? This one likely won't be anyone's favorite of Court. Just because last installment means wrapping things up, means battles and strategy, means... all that junk. Which is totally interesting, but not quite as much fun as the middle. Everyone likes The Two Towers better, and you know it. All that being said, this is a great last book to the series, I like how things wrapped up, I had some OMG moments, some teary ones, etc. This book is less steamy than the others, but you know, war. LOL. Overall I HIGHLY recommend this series if you enjoy fantasy!

++if anyone wants to read spoiler-y or full thoughts on these books, just shoot me an email. I don't want to spoil anything for anyone.++

+++I definitely bought the coloring book, because I am just TRASH for this series.+++

East by Edith Pattou

4 stars - I recommend if you enjoy epic adventure novels (think long spans of time and space), as well as fantasy elements. 

This book follows Rose, who was born facing North, by her mother's superstitions that predestines her to be wild and always seeking adventure. Fearing that life for her, she lies, and says she was born facing East, meaning she will be level headed and happy at home. However, Roses's destiny will be that of a North child, and everything sets into motion one day when a white bear comes to take her away from her home. Rose must leave with the white bear, figure out his curse, and then journey to the ends of the earth to save him.

I didn't know what to expect from this one, but I really enjoyed it. It was different from most fantasy that I read, in that it was much more-so adventure based than fantasy element based. I loved that Rose goes on a journey across Europe to save the white bear. Think, Stardust or LOTR (long treks, lots of interactions with different people, etc.) I love how much research Pattou put into the cultures of the people Rose interacts with, as well as specific methods behind things mentioned in the book. I felt like I learned so much about all kinds of interesting topics like: early navigation tools, Inuit culture and customs, sailing, weaving, etc. etc. It was really fascinating. I thought that this book was also fun in the way that it was written. I loved the vivid descriptions of the landscapes, etc. I also enjoyed that this was written in alternating perspectives by chapter, but that it was still chronological. I did find that I wasn't quite as connected to Rose and the White Bear as I could have been... possibly because of the alternating perspectives? I found the very end to be a bit anticlimactic.. (I won't spoil it) ...but overall I really loved this story! I know several of you are reading this for Erin's challenge, so I will be super interested to see what you thought!

20 points - Erin's 7.0

A Man Called Ove by Fredrick Backman

4 stars - I recommend this one if you enjoy humorous comparisons, grumpy characters, and things that will tug at your heart strings.

This book follows an "old" man called Ove. He's got an opinion on just about everything and everyone, and he's not afraid to share it. His neighbors are idiots, Japanese cars are for idiots, and no one knows how to do anything, anymore. As the story unfolds you'll learn about Ove's past, and watch his character develop.

This book... gosh this book got me. I have a hard time with anything involving the elderly. I just get SO sad. I think it's probably because my grandpa passed away quite young due to Alzheimer's. I can't watch Up. NEVER EVER EVER again, I just never stopped crying. You get the idea. So even though Ove is not very old, only 59, it took me a while to get through this one. It just hurt a lot to read. All of that being said, it's not all sad, and it's not even mostly sad... this is just a personal issue that I struggle with. I thought Backman's writing was stunning and hilarious. I particularly enjoyed his comparisons. I liked how the pieces of the story and the characters intertwined as the book went on. Like I said above, this will really tug at your heart strings.

The Falconer by Elizabeth May

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy, adventure, steampunk, and strong female characters.

Aileana Kameron is the most eligible lady in Edinburgh. After her mourning of her mother's death comes to a close, she is sent back out into society to find a husband. However, hunting faeries makes it quite difficult to concentrate on polite conversation and dancing with her many suitors. By night, Aileana slays faeries with the help of Kiaran McKay, practice to one day avenge her mother's death. What he doesn't know... is that she's been dangerously hunting them alone as well. What she doesn't know... is that she's a part of something much bigger than her own quest for revenge.

I didn't know what to expect with this one, but I found it really quite delightful. I thought that the setting was really interesting, and the steam punk elements were really fun. I've only read one other steampunk book, so I say that as an outsider. I love, love, loved that Aileana is an inventor, and that she designed and invented things with her mother. I think that's so interesting and fun. I loved that this was action packed, and there was a bit of romance, but not too much. I particularly enjoyed the various scenes where she battled alongside Kiaran or Gavin. I liked that we get a taste of the larger "world" this story is set in, without losing the current setting. 

The Vanishing Throne by Elizabeth May

3.75 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy, adventure, and strong female characters, and if you've read the first book.

Aileana's adventure against evil continues. (I don't want to spoil anything!)

While I enjoyed this book and the continuation of Aileana's story, I was initially thrown off, and overall a little bummed to lose the setting of the first book. I won't spoil anything for you guys, but I missed the dichotomy of her character's life, and I really really missed her inventions, tinkering, and the bits of steampunk woven into the first book. I also felt like when the setting changed... the world went from being the size of a pond (with potential to unfold) to the size of the Pacific. It was just a bit jarring since I read them one after the next. All that being said, I did enjoy this book, and I found parts of it to be really satisfying. I enjoyed some of the new characters that were introduced, and learning more about the larger world the story is set in. Overall this book had a more dystopian vibe than the other one.

The Fallen Kingdom by Elizabeth May*

4 Stars - I recommend if you enjoy fantasy, adventure, and strong female characters, and you've read the other books.

Aileana's battle against evil continues. (I don't want to spoil anything!)

I wasn't sure how the last book would go after such a big change between books 1 and 2, but I thought that this was an extremely satisfying conclusion to the series. I thought that the plot was strong, the adventure was interesting, and that the resolution was clean and satisfying. I thought that the explanation of the world, the character's back stories, and the end goal was a lot clearer than the second book. I still really missed the element of invention and steampunk that were featured in the first book... but I did like this one quite a bit better than the 2nd. I like how this series continued to show strong female characters, and their struggles. Interestingly enough, this volume of the book had a much more horror-y vibe to it.

Currently Reading:

A Fork in the Road edited by James Oseland
In Cold Blood by Truman Capote
Be Your Own Fairytale: Working with Storytelling for Positive Life Change by Alison Davies*

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll

Books on Deck:

I've been reading loads of fantasy, (and also ACoMaF just ruined things by being so good..) so I am hoping to take a bit of a break from it, and read some contemporary, thrillers, etc. before I dive back in!

Everything to finish Erin's Challenge:

Shotgun Love Songs by Nikolas Butler
Looking for Alaska by John Green

and then... :

Love, Rosie by Cecelia Ahern
The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins - I know... latest to the party.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis
The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows
Tell Me Where it Hurts by J.R. Rogue - poetry!
Emma in the Night by Wendy Walker*
Lilac Girls by Martha Hall Kelly*
The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender by Leslye Walton
Truthwitch & WindWitch by Susan Dennard

Erin's 7.0 Point Total: 135 - just 3 books to go! WOOHOO!

Linking up with Jana and Steph for Show Us Your Books tomorrow. :) 

What have you been reading? What do you hope to read this month?! 

Let's be friends on Goodreads!



* Asterisks denote titles that I was given advance access to by Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. These reviews are my own opinion, and based on the edition of the book I was given at the time. Thank you Netgalley!

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