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July Reading Wrap-Up

It felt like a slow month, but I caught some sun and read some big books so I think the fact that I didn’t come close to finishing out my TBR for the month is completely acceptable. I really liked everything I read this last month–there’s nothing rated below 4 stars, so I think the enjoyableness of my reading also makes up for the fact that I didn’t accomplish as much of it as I’d hoped. Here’s what I read in July –>

  1. A Million Junes by Emily Henry. 5 out of 5 stars.amillionjunes I started this magical realism YA adventure at the end of June, but powered through the last 2/3 of it on the first day of July because I just couldn’t put it down. There are so many categories this book fits in, but I should also mention that it’s a sort of Romeo-and-Juliet retelling. It made me laugh, it (almost) made me cry, and I will definitely be reading more of Henry’s books in the future. It was a tough choice, but I think I can officially name this one my favorite book of the month.
  2. A List of Cages by Robin Roe. 4 out of 5 stars. This hard-hitting contemporary YA alistofcagesnovel has been on my radar since January and I don’t really know why I decided July was the time to read it, but I did. It’s one of those fiction books that also teaches something about the real world. Reading this one was a lot like watching a car crash–grisly and a bit frightening, but I couldn’t look away. It was a quick but powerful read, although I liked one of the two main characters significantly more than the other.
  3. A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman. 4 out of 5 stars. Summer is a great time for a book full ofamancalledove laughs, and I definitely found this contemporary adult novel amusing. I read this one partially outdoors in the sun, and it was a great story for that, with some powerful messages about love and life under a whole lot of humor. I had been debating for a long time whether or not I should buy this book, but then I found it front and center on the “new books” shelf at my library so I picked it up immediately and I’m glad I did–I don’t think I would want to reread it, but I might be picking up other books by this author in the future.
  4. The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. 4 out of 5 stars. I had been wanting to pick upthehateugive2this new YA contemporary since it first released in May, because the great reviews were already rolling in well before its publication. This was the first of the lengthier books I read this month, but the pages practically turned themselves, it was so captivating. I debated for a while between 4 and 5 stars, but in the end I settled for the lower option because while it’s a beautiful (and highly recommended) book, it didn’t surprise me the way I want my favorite 5 star reads to do. I got exactly what I expected from it.
  5. Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys. 4 out betweenshadesofgrayof 5 stars. Here’s the YA book you guys helped me choose from a selection of historical fiction choices I was considering for July. This is another case of an important story that gave me what I expected but didn’t surprise me. Sepetys writes beautifully, and there were some elements of this one I liked more than in her related novel, Salt to the Sea, but in the end I think I preferred that book to this one. I’m glad I’ve read them both now, though.
  6. A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. 5 out of 5 stars. This adult high fantasy novel was a reread for gameofthronesme, but the rest of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series won’t be. Even though I already knew what to expect from my first read four years ago, this book still impressed me and I can’t wait to continue with A Clash of Kings in August. I’ve also watched the entire first season of the TV show now, and I love that as well. Politics are not always headache-inducing, as this book reminded me. It was my longest read of the month at 807 pages, but well worth the time.
  7. Clockwork Princess by Cassandra Clare. 4 out clockworkprincessof 5 stars. Here’s one book I’m glad to cross of my TBR because it also means the end of a hefty trilogy. This was another long book, at 568 pages, but I liked it significantly more than the first two books in this trilogy. I’m glad to finally be seeing some progress in my Cassandra Clare reading goal for the year, and hopefully next month I’ll get to announce that I’ve also reached the end of the Mortal Instruments series. But for now, I’ve got an eye out for the spin-off trilogy starring these characters which starts hitting shelves in 2018. This one was a YA urban fantasy/steampunk/historical novel featuring Cassandra Clare’s signature Shadowhunters.

And an honorable mention: Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson. I’m still in the middle of this one, because I’m developing this bad habit of picking up my classic of the month as my last book of the month, with less time to read it than I actually need to finish. But I like pirates and I like classics and the copy that I own is full of annotations and illustrations that are keeping me fully engaged in the story, so I should be finishing soon. Tonight, I’m hoping. I’ll post my review of this one in August’s wrap-up, because that’s where I post my reviews of classics. Not having finished this book by the end of the month is the only thing I really feel bad about in regards to my monthly TBR, but I am really enjoying the read and will probably also rate this one highly, so keep an eye out for that next month.

All I can do is try harder next time, because July is officially over, and a new month is upon us.

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

June Wrap-Up

It’s been a weird reading month. I didn’t exactly stick to my June TBR, which is unusual for me. I feel bad about having skipped some of the books I meant to read because they were all high priorities for me in June, but even though I read some extra books that were not on my June TBR they were related to my original goals. So I don’t feel guilty about what I’ve neglected as much as I feel sad that there weren’t about 10 extra days in June for me to read everything I wanted to get to this month. But, in the end, I really didn’t do too badly.

The picture on the right is what junetbrI meant to read in June:

What I didn’t read:

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo and
  • Vicious by V. E. Schwab have both been pushed back to my July TBR.
  • I was hoping to read the entirety of Kafka’s Metamorphosis and Other Stories, which didn’t happen, but I am glad that I at least read the one I most meant to (plus a couple extra pieces) and I do intend to get back to the rest of the content of the book at some point this year.
  • Erin Morgenstern’s The Night Circus was one of three books that received a tied winning vote from my first ever Choose My Next Read interactive post, and while I feel badly about not getting around to a book that I gave my readers the chance to choose, I did read the other 2 of 3 voted books and put The Night Circus back on my October TBR, where it came from. I will get to it then, if not sooner.
  • And finally, I didn’t read the exact Book of the Month Club book pictured there, but technically I did plan that I would read a BOTM book, not that specific one. So I didn’t read Scaachi Koul’s One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter (yet), but I did read 2 and 1/2 other BOTM books, so I’m still counting that a success and I will also get to this one eventually.

Thanks for sticking with me. Now for what I actually read this month. As usual, you can follow the links of the titles to my complete reviews with more info about the books and my thoughts while reading them. Pictures and links for the reviews that haven’t been completed yet will be updated shortly. Here’s what I read:

  1. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. 4 out of 5 stars. adiscoveryofwitchesI had this one from the library so I made it my first read of the month, which was somewhat unfortunate because it’s the one that threw me off of my TBR. It was a total guilty pleasure and not at all what I was expecting when I picked this off the library shelf after reading one short blurb about magic and a lost book. So I read this one, loved it but kind of hated myself for loving it, and immediately picked up the next volume in the All Souls trilogy.
  2. Shadow of Night by Deborah Harkness. shadowofnight3 out of 5 stars. Here’s the second All Souls book, which was another guilty pleasure and not even as good as the first book in my opinion, but I was still hooked. This trilogy is full of nearly-600-page books, so straying from my TBR to read all three took a good chunk of reading time out of my month. This one was even more problematic than book one, but it had some interesting new elements as well and I was already committed to reading the entire series at once instead of taking breaks between books to savor it like I usually do. All Souls was such a guilty pleasure series that I didn’t even care about giving myself a chance to savor it, I just had to devour the whole thing at once and I’m almost to the point where I want to pretend it didn’t happen at all.
  3. White Fur by Jardine Libaire. 3 out of 5 stars. This is one of the June selections whitefurfrom Book of the Month Club. I was greedy this month and ordered three new books in my June box. Since I had already added 1000+ extra pages to my June TBR with the All Souls trilogy, I kind of wanted to just put my entire June TBR behind me and read all three of my new BOTM books, as well. But before that happened, I started simple with White Fur, which was allowable based on my TBR plan (one BOTM book). I didn’t love it as much as I expected, but I did enjoy reading it. It’s definitely the most unique love story I’ve ever encountered, and I’m glad to have it on my shelf.
  4. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness. thebookoflife4 out of 5 stars. And we’re back to the All Souls trilogy. This third book was the best of them all, and I flew through it in about two days. I wasn’t as ashamed of loving this one, but as soon as I finished I reviewed it immediately and sent it back to the library and was glad to have the whole series behind me to get back to my original TBR.
  5. Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige. 3 out of 5 stars. This dorothymustdiewas one of the books that tied for a winning vote from my first Choose My Next Read interactive post. I really liked reading a book that I knew someone specifically wanted to see a review for, but unfortunately that was one of the only things I liked about this book. The plot had so much potential–enough potential that I will also be reading book two of this series, though the writing style was definitely not for me.
  6. The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen. thequeenofthetearling5 out of 5 stars. Here is another book that won a Choose My Next Read vote, and even though I was getting a little tired of reading so much fantasy by the time I picked it up, I ended up loving everything about this one. I was tempted to follow my All Souls path with this trilogy and just marathon all the books, but this is one series I do want to savor. Still, I plan to pick up book two in this trilogy in July because I have to see where this story is going.
  7. The Sisters Chase by Sarah Healy. 5 out of 5 stars. This was one of my June BOTM thesisterschaseselections, and it was one of those books that BOTM members are lucky enough to receive before the book’s actual publication date, which made it all the more exciting for me. I’m glad I made time for this one within the month because it’s a phenomenal story and I’m still over here crying about it. There are good things, too, mixed in with the tragedy, so it was just an all-around great, emotional read. It’s my favorite book from June.
  8. City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare. 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve been sporadically reading Shadowhunter books all year, and now I’m done with the fifth book in the Mortal Instruments series and I can hardly wait to read the final volume. This one was both better than expected and also a little frustrating because some of the relationship problems in this one feel like variations of the same relationship problems Clare has been using since book one. Either way, I had a good time reading this one and I’m planning to continue in July. Full review will be up tomorrow.
  9. “Metamorphosis” by Franz Kafka. 4 out of 5 stars. This was my classic of the month. It’s a short story rather than an entire book, although this story came from a volume of Kafka’s collected short works and I was hoping to read the whole thing. I’ve only read a few of the stories so far, but I do plan to revisit this volume later in the year and probably read all the content a little at a time. “Metamorphosis” itself, though, is pretty memorable. I already knew going in that it was about a hard-working man waking up one morning as a cockroach, which renders him unable to return to work and thus take care of his family. If you read for plot, you hardly need to read the rest of the story once you know that. The main focus of the piece is character development–or character revelation, more specifically. The man’s family have some pretty interesting reactions to his turning into a cockroach. I never thought I would find myself sympathizing with a giant bug, but more than anything I wished the man/cockroach had not let his family take advantage of him. To the very end, the man wants the best for his parents and sister, but he is not looking out for himself. Perhaps it’s the wrong moral to take away from this story, but “Metamorphosis” seemed to me a reminder that while benevolence is commendable, one must also make sure oneself is getting what is needed to go on–or all those good intentions will be for naught when you’re no longer capable of carrying them out. Overall, I did enjoy the story. I find Kafka’s writing a little odd but easily readable, creepy but entertainingly so. I’m glad I read this story, and I do want to read more Kafka in the future.

And an honorable mention. By the end of the month I had started but not finished reading:

  • A Million Junes by Emily Henry. This was the third and final book I received from BOTM in June, and I’m glad I had time at least to start it within the month, considering its title. Also, I’ve gotten into the habit of adding “extras” to my box after selecting my book of the month, and this is the first time since…February, I think, that I’ve actually managed to read all the books in my box before the next month’s books have arrived, which I’m proud of. This one is a YA magical realism story with some romance and an exploration of grief. There’s a great father/daughter relationship, a little not-too-spooky ghost presence, intense family history, and possibly the most entertaining flirting I’ve ever read.

So there you have it: my reading achievements of the month of June. 8 full novels completed, plus part of a 9th, plus a short story. I felt like I was reading nonstop this month so I kind of expected higher numbers than that, but some of the books I read were long. In any case, I’ve already started my July reading and I intend to accomplish even more. We’ll see what happens. I did mostly enjoy what I read in June, and that’s what counts more than any numbers do, so I hope to continue that trend in July as well.

What was your favorite June read?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

May Wrap-Up

At the end of each month I reflect back on what I’ve read and put all the links for my reviews from the month together so you can look back at anything interesting you missed. This month, I had an overly ambitious TBR list of 11 books, and rather to my surprise, I managed to read 10 of them. These are the books I read in May:

  1. Talking as Fast as I Can: From Gilmore Girls to Gilmore Girls and FullSizeRender (19)Everything in Between by Lauren Graham. 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve been wanting a little extra Gilmore Girls in my life since the four new episodes were released in November, and I also needed a memoir for my 2017 reading challenge. Although there wasn’t as much insider info on GGs as I’d hoped, I was pleasantly surprised by how generally encouraging and entertaining I found this book to be.
  2. The Magician’s Land by Lev Grossman. 4themagician'sland out of 5 stars. I loved C. S. Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia as a kid, and as an adult I enjoyed this Narnia-esque trilogy just as much. This final book was a magical mishmash with great concluding story arcs, and following these characters on their Fillorian adventures has been one of the highlights of the year, reading-wise. Alas, I still like book two better than this final volume, but book three did not disappoint.
  3. My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows. 4 out of 5 myladyjanestars. I had heard that this book was funny, but I only laughed once. That said, the premise itself is absolutely comical, and the characters even more interesting than their historical counterparts. Even though each book in this set will feature a different cast and setting, I can’t wait to see what will happen with the other Janes.
  4. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty. 3 out of 5 stars. biglittleliesWhile I appreciated the writing style–I still can’t believe I was so drawn in to the politics of kindergarten parents–I did not like the way this mystery played out in the end. There were enough things I liked about the book though to make me interested in trying again with another story by the same author.
  5. A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas. 4 out of 5 stars. acourtofwingsandruinI had been waiting for this one for what seemed like forever, although it was probably nothing compared to the wait readers experienced if they read ACOMAF closer to its release date. When my copy finally arrived, I started reading immediately and basically didn’t look up until I reached the end of the book. While ACOMAF remains my favorite in the series (so far), I did appreciate the way things wrapped up for Feyre here and I’m hoping that the loose ends with several other characters will be addressed in the upcoming related volumes.
  6. Into the Water by Paula Hawkins. 4 out of intothewater5 stars. The important thing with this one is not to go into it expecting the next Girl on the Train. I found this new Hawkins book to be completely different than her previous release, and personally, I liked the switch because both styles appeal to me. This one’s more slow and unrelenting than fast and frantic, but the style fit well with its subject matter and the characters were well-crafted enough to keep me going even though most all of them were unlikable. I’m eager to see where Hawkins will go next.
  7. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare. 4 out of 5 stars. This one fell into the trap clockworkprinceof middle-book syndrome: very little plot advancement happened while all the characters were being moved around the board and their emotions poked and prodded to set up for the final book in this trilogy. Even so, I enjoyed it more than the first book in this series and I’m looking forward to reading the last one. I’m invested in the fates of most of these characters (some more than others), and I think it’s interesting that so much can have happened in a prequel series–how will it end,  and how will it relate back to the Mortal Instruments?
  8. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. 5 out of 5 stars. tokillamockingbirdEvery month when it comes time to start my designated classic, I drag my mental feet because I’m rarely in the mood for it until I’m in the middle of it. Even knowing I loved this book the last time I read it (6 years ago?), I was hesitant. I shouldn’t have worried, though. Within a few chapters I was enamored with these characters and their story all over again. I like how every little thread in this book has a moral of some sort, but they’re presented as new ideas to children rather than the sort of painful moralizing that assumes the ideas are entirely new to the more experienced reader (as though he/she has never heard of racial equality or aid for the poor, etc.). I like the way Boo Radley is handled at the end of the tale, the brief conclusion to his role in the story that would have been ruined with anything more outspoken. I especially love Scout’s role as a literal ham in the town pageant. In fact, the only thing I didn’t like about this book is that despite its nudges toward equality between races and social classes, there is still a line drawn between men and women. It’s subtle, perhaps, but it’s there. The line is especially notable when Scout realizes she can’t be a juror because she’s a woman; Atticus jokes that women would make horrible jurors because they’d always be interrupting to ask questions, and Scout just kind of agrees and laughs it off, settling into the restrictions of her gender. I realize this book takes place in the 1930’s (and I just looked it up–women did not have the rights to serve on juries in all fifty states until 1973), but Scout is a child young enough to dream impossible dreams, and she seems like exactly the sort of overall-wearing, fist-fighting, book-loving child to put up a fuss about being told she can’t do something because she’s a girl. There were other little comments and circumstances that hit me the same way, with the sense that gender equality in many regards was still a far-off and even unwelcome prospect, and that bothered me more than anything else in this book. Other inequalities, at least, were addressed as such. On the whole though, I liked the perfect balance of danger and safety, wins and losses, childhood games and significant laws that filled the rest of the book. It’s a strong favorite.
  9. The Girl Before by JP Delaney. 4 out of 5 stars. Although not as terrifying as I thegirlbeforegenerally prefer my thrillers to be, I found in this book exactly the sort of mystery/thriller I was looking for this month. Even the characters who turned out to be harmless were disturbing, and there’s something about the idea of a house that learns your life and tries to give input and make changes for you that is supremely disturbing. Also, I absolutely loved the way this novel is structured–the format fits the content exactly, and I’m the sort of reader who can appreciate that sort of thing as much as an engaging plot.
  10. Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. 4 out gosetawatchmanof 5 stars. I had so many different frames of mind while reading this–for the first hundred pages or so I was hardly invested at all, and then I was so shocked by the sudden change around page 100 that I had to take a break to figure out how to go on with my life, and then by the end I was sad about what had happened and sad that it was over. That was all pretty vague, but I don’t want to give any spoilers here. Full review coming soon, because this book is packed full of big surprises. Some of them were fairly upsetting, but so believable that I have a lot of respect for some of the techniques in this book, too.

Honorable mention: I spent an entire day in May skim-reading A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas after I finished reading acourtofmistandfuryACOWAR; since I didn’t read every word on every page, I’m not counting this as a full reread, but I did dedicate a significant number of hours and I read probably 3/4 of the book in total, so I thought it deserved a nod of acknowledgment, at least. Again, on my second time through it, it felt like just as much of a guilty pleasure read. My favorite part of this book is the extreme character development–several of the characters turn completely around from where we left them at the end of ACOTAR, which I appreciate. Character-driven books are the best, and I think the fact that we focus more on character than plot in this volume is what makes it stand out as the best of the trilogy. The reread didn’t really change my opinions on it in any way.

We’ve reached the end of the list. I’m pretty impressed with myself for having read so much this month, especially since several of these books were fairly long. I wish I would have also had time for A Darker Shade of Magic by V. E. Schwab, the only book on my TBR for the month that I didn’t fit into these past 31 days, but I knew I might not get through eleven books this month. If every month were this productive regarding my reading, I’d be thrilled.

April Wrap-Up

As usual, I’m going to wrap up my monthly reading by listing the books I finished reading in April, and mentioning briefly how I felt about them. I’ll give extra time to the classics, because I don’t post full reviews of them elsewhere… but I’m happy to talk more about them in the comments if you have any particular questions about them! Otherwise, each of the titles should be linked to its corresponding review if it’s already been posted, and if it hasn’t been, I’ll come back to link it as soon as the remaining reviews from the end of the month are up. And without further ado, here’s what I read in April 2017:

  1. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte5 out of 5 stars. This was my March classic of the month, but I didn’t leave myself enough time at the end of the month to finish it and thus it carried over here. My thoughts: I loved it! This is definitely one of my favorite classics now. Some specifics: the second of the three sections is by far my favorite. The first one is interesting, but I started flying through the book once I hit part two with Mr. Rochester, who is a supremely interesting male lead. The fact that both of the main characters are frequently described as plain or distinctly less than beautiful made me appreciate their interest in each other all the more. I love that Jane holds on to her principles, even though the third part of the book, when she’s holding to them so firmly that happiness seems lost, is my least favorite part of the book. I felt then that the reader was being introduced to a whole new cast of characters that didn’t matter as much so close to the end. Even without any spoilers, I knew Mr. Rochester had to come back into the story at some point for better or for worse, and his absence in section three was really quite frustrating. It seemed like someone had hit pause on the plot. But, in the end, I think the third part shows another side to Jane’s character that makes the ending that much more rewarding. The end pleased me most of all–there was collateral damage, which I like to see (it feels more realistic than a tidy happy ending), but the story was strong enough that when Jane got what she wanted she could be happy with it instead of greedy for more or sulky about what was lost. I also particularly enjoyed the little direct addresses to the reader woven into the text. This is a book that acknowledges its existence as a book, which I found to be pretty cool.
  2. Norse Mythology by Neil Gaiman. 5 out of 5 stars. All IFullSizeRender (8) knew about this one going in was that it revolved around Norse myths and was divided into bite-sized pieces. Once I picked it up, I couldn’t put it down. I learned a lot about Norse mythology here, and I had a good time doing it. This book reignited my interest in Gaiman’s stories and writing. I’m looking forward to reading more of his books in the future.
  3. Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon. 4 out of 5 stars. I read this contemporary FullSizeRender (9)YA book because I enjoyed Yoon’s other book, and I knew this one was going to be released as a movie sometime coming up (later this month, maybe?). While I would say that I liked this one better than The Sun is Also a Star (Yoon’s other book), I would also say that I’m oddly less excited about the movie now that I’ve read Everything, Everything. Maybe it’ll surprise me. I had a good reading experience with this one, and I loved the illustrations integrated into the story, but it didn’t strike me as the kind of story I wanted to experience over and over again.
  4. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson. 4 out FullSizeRender (10)of 5 stars. Here’s another YA contemporary; this one was far down my TBR, but a friend’s recommendation boosted my interest. Again, I had some mixed thoughts. The overall experience of reading this one was good, and I liked the writing style and the messages the story had to share, but I could barely stand one of the two main characters. I think I want to give another of Nelson’s books a try, because I liked some things about this book as much as I disliked others, but I could use a break from the genre.
  5. The Magician King by Lev Grossman. 5 out of 5 stars. I cannot wait to read the FullSizeRender (11)final book of this trilogy. The setbacks of the first book? Absolutely gone here. I remember the first one taking me a while to read even though I was enjoying the story, but this one took practically no time at all because I was so completely immersed. The story of this one was better, the jumps between characters and chronologies were apt, the plot twists were exciting and heart-breaking and left me with so many guesses about where the series is going next. I will be picking up book three in May for sure, probably within the week. This volume has been one of my favorite books of the year so far, and I will definitely be recommending this trilogy heavily. Be prepared. 😉
  6. Marlena by Julie Buntin. 5 out of 5 stars. FullSizeRender (12)This was my Book of the Month Club pick from March, but I forgot to leave a space for it in my TBR. It was a rather tragic choice to be reading around my birthday, but I loved this beautiful, painful story and I’m so glad I read it, even if I was a month late about it. The only thing that would have tipped this book past a 5-star rating to a 5-star rating plus an addition to my favorite books of the year list would have been a plot as deep and impressive as the emotion running through the book.
  7. City of Fallen Angels by Cassandra Clare. 4 out of 5 stars. I put this one off in FullSizeRender (13)March because I had a surprisingly disheartening experience with the previous book in publication order, Clockwork Angel. However, after a short recess from Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter world, I jumped back into this one at long last and remembered all the things I appreciate about her world and characters. While I didn’t like this book quite as much as the first three Mortal Instruments books (City of Fallen Angels is book 4 in that series), I did like it better than Clockwork Angel (book one of the Infernal Devices trilogy), and it made me excited to continue on with the Shadowhunter books again. I will be reading the next book in May.
  8. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens). 3 out of 5 stars. This was my classic of the month for April. I liked… parts of it. I didn’t enjoy it quite as much as I did The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn a couple years ago, and Huck was one of my favorite characters again here. I did like much of the last half of the book, but the first part felt like each chapter was its own separate episode that could more or less have stood alone–that made it hard for me to get into the flow of the story for a long time. I also had some difficulty really envisioning the children in the story because something seemed odd to me about their ages. I think Tom is supposed to be 11 or 12, which is the age of my brother, and yet he never quite seemed to do what I expected for his age. I had difficulty matching his clear intelligence in his adventures with the fact that he could not do well in school. For someone so very inventive, he also made obvious mistakes–like neglecting to mark his path while exploring the cave, even after he started out doing so. But I did appreciate the glimpse into bygone days, and the atmosphere of the tale fit right in with what I remember of visiting Mark Twain’s childhood home several years ago. I’m glad to have finally read both Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer now. Plus, this one really put me in the mood for To Kill a Mockingbird, which is my classic for May.
  9. The Perfect Stranger by Megan Miranda. 4 out FullSizeRender (14)of 5 stars. I picked up this one as soon as it was published because I found Megan Miranda’s other adult thriller, All the Missing Girls, so intriguing. Although I still prefer that first book to The Perfect Stranger, and was disappointed that the two didn’t have more in common, this one hooked me and I had to stay up  late into the night with a pressing need to find out how it would turn out. It interested me enough that I would read another Megan Miranda thriller if there’s ever another one in the works.
  10. Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo. 5 out of 5 stars. After Siege and Storm (book FullSizeRender (18)two of the Grisha trilogy) disappointed me a bit, I wasn’t sure what to expect from this one (book three). Luckily, although I did predict a couple of the main plot twists here, there were also some great surprises and just enough tragedy at the end to turn my opinion back around. I would still say the first book in this series, Shadow and Bone, was my favorite of the three, but mostly I’m looking forward to reading Leigh Bardugo’s other books that are set in the same world, because I suspect those will be even better.
  11. Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys. 4 out of 5 stars. FullSizeRender (17)I was especially eager to read this book because naval catastrophes fascinate me. I don’t know if I died in a shipwreck in a previous life or what, but thinking about people who’ve died when a boat sinks in the ocean tears me apart in a way that nothing else does. There’s also something particularly hard-hitting for me about fiction based in reality, so now that I’ve read one historical fiction book I’ll probably have to pick up another. I’ll definitely be reading Sepetys’ Between Shades of Gray soon.

And that’s a wrap.

I’m proud of this list. March’s wrap-up left me a little disheartened, but in April I caught up with the books I didn’t finish from March, and I completed the TBR I set for April, and I read an extra book that I had originally planned to add to my May TBR. I’m hoping this is a sign of more good reading days to come, because my May TBR looks intense. All in all, I really liked the books I read this month; there are some high ratings in this list, and even the lower ones weren’t exactly dislikes. I hope that’s a trend, and that my May wrap-up will look a lot like this one.

What did you read in April?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

March Wrap-Up

March has been a mixed bag of a reading month. I had big plans, and I didn’t quite meet them. I’m a little disappointed in myself because this is the first month of 2017 so far that I haven’t met my TBR goal. Not only did I not read the number of books I was planning for, but some of the books I did read were not in the plan at all. I wish I would have read more, and there’s a surprising number of 3 star books on this list, which is also unfortunate (2 is the lowest I’ve ever rated a book so far, and that’s rare. 3 star books are generally books I didn’t like much beyond the fact that they were books and I like reading books better than I like not reading books).  But hey, some months are like that. I’m still above my reading quantity from last year at this time, so even though I didn’t quite meet my goal this month I’m still doing all right. Here’s what I did manage to read in March:

  1. Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare. 3 out of 5 stars. I got off to a bad start this month by beginning with a book I meantclockworkangel to finish in February that not only took much longer than I wanted but was much less fun to read this year than I remember it being in the past. With as much as I’ve been enjoying Clare’s books this year and as much as I recall enjoying this particular series when I read it the first time, I was disappointed to have so many issues with Clockwork Angel this time around. I am still interested in reading the rest of Clare’s books in my 2017 Shadowhunter marathon, though, and I’m eager to check out the rest of this series in particular because I have high hopes for its improvement as the plot continues.
  2. Before the Fall by Noah Hawley. 3 out of beforethefall5 stars. I thought this one would be more thrilling, but in actuality it wasn’t even especially mysterious. This novel about a private plane crashing into the Atlantic is more a study of human nature and the lives affected by tragedy than a search for answers that’ll boggle the mind. Although beautifully written, the focus of the story felt oddly out of place.
  3. Caraval by Stephanie Garber. 3 out of 5 stars. The YA community has been caravalabsolutely raving about this book lately, but again I was a little let down. The dark and glittering atmosphere was fun and mysterious, but really it only helped hide some flaws in plot and character that detracted from the overall story for me. I’m interested enough in a few of the characters to see where the sequel will take this story, but it’ll have to do a few things a lot better to receive a better rating than this first one managed from me.
  4. The Magicians by Lev Grossman. 4 out of 5 stars. FullSizeRender (1)This one was nearly a 5 star book for me, but there were a few slow parts in the middle that pulled me out of the story a bit. Even so, I loved the way everything in this book connected and the unique world of magic weaved into the story, and I’ll definitely be checking out the next book in this series early this upcoming month. I’m hooked on these characters and so curious about how everything will play out. I immediately watched the first season of the corresponding TV show after finishing the book, and I loved that too.
  5. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven. 5 out of 5 stars. Here’s one I really loved. FullSizeRender (3)This one will probably even make it onto my favorite reads of the year list because of its powerful and impactful messages. It’s one of those YA books that people of all ages should read because its about so much more than entertainment and its scope is much larger than confusing teenage years. Even though the end of the story was incredibly sad, I do not regret a single minute I spent reading this book and highly recommend it, to everyone. Enter with caution, though; this one deals closely with suicide and other deaths, and will prey on your emotions.
  6. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo. 3 out of FullSizeRender (4)5 stars. Unfortunately, even though I love the Grishaverse so far, I did not enjoy this sequel as much as the first book in this trilogy. This one did not seem nearly as daring and surprising as Shadow and Bone, although I am glad I read it anyway and am still excited to be finishing this trilogy next month with Ruin and Rising. I can’t wait to see where this story will end, especially after the epilogue of this second volume which was really my favorite part of the entire book.
  7. History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund. 4 out of 5 stars. This book is a beautiful FullSizeRender (7)portrait both of a unique place–northern Minnesota–and of the dangers and responsibilities of growing up before one is ready. Although I’m more familiar with southern Minnesota where the atmosphere is a bit different than what’s described in this book, I loved reading about one of the states that’s so often overlooked in American literature, especially one so close to home. The voice of this story is beautiful and absolutely does both the location and the tragic story matter justice.

Honorary Mention: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. This was my classic of the month for March, but I underestimated its size. I’m really enjoying it and will be finishing it soon, but I was only about halfway through at the end of March. My review for this book will go up in my April reading wrap-up, but I wanted to mention it here since I have finished a good portion and I was supposed to finish it in March. I’ve been marking some great quotes and making note of several interesting writing techniques, so I might end up doing some sort of post on this book soon even though I don’t normally post full reviews of classics. In any case, more of my thoughts on Jane Eyre will be forthcoming.

March is really just a blah month for me in general, usually. I’m tired of winter but spring hasn’t quite arrived, and it’s a long month without anything really notable going on. It’s just a lot of empty days in between more exciting things. It might have been a better reading month if I hadn’t picked so many long and underimpressive books to read during it, but I made it through and I didn’t really do so horribly. And now it’s time to move on. April is my birthday month, and the weather should start improving, and I’m excited about my new TBR, so I’m confident that things will start looking up.

How do you go about turning things around after a reading slump, or just a bad month in general?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

February Reading Wrap-up

Not a bad reading month. Not a bad reading month at all. I hit a tiny 3-day reading slump in February, but I conquered it and persevered. These are the books I read in February:

(For more of more in-depth thoughts and info on what each book is about, click the title and it’ll take you to a full review if I’ve written one.)

  1. We Should All Be Feminists by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.weshouldallbefeminists 4 out of 5 stars. I really liked this essay, but nothing about it really surprised me. Nevertheless, it was fantastic to see feminism described not as a movement for empowering women, but as an effort to make all humans equal with an emphasis on the fact that gender discrimination is an obstacle in that regard. With a definition like that, we should all be feminists.
  2. The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon. 4 out of 5 stars. I wanted to read Yoon’s thesunisalsoastarEverything, Everything early this year, and somehow ended up checking her newer release out of the library instead. This one takes place mainly over the course of one eventful day for two teens in New York City, and certainly makes an impact. This is a great YA book that promotes equality and diversity, but it’s also a warm love story. It wasn’t my favorite YA book of all time, but it did encourage me to resume my quest for Yoon’s other book.
  3. Landline by Rainbow Rowell. 4 out of 5 stars. Mylandline introduction to Rowell’s books was relatively recent, but I’m steadily making my way through them. This has been my third Rowell novel now, and although it wasn’t what I expected (I didn’t know the phone was going to be magical when I set out to read this one), I did love the characters and their story. This will not be my last Rowell read, that’s for certain.
  4. I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh. 4 out of 5 stars. Speaking of books that did not turn iletyougoout as expected, this one takes the cake. For over 100 pages I was in doubt over whether this book was actually truly supposed to be a thriller, and then once everything was laid out the plot twists just kept on coming until I could hardly believe I’d ever doubted. This is the kind of book that you want to start over again as soon as you reach the end, and I’ll definitely be picking up Mackintosh’s newest release soon.
  5. City of Glass by Cassandra Clare. 5 out of 5 stars. I think I had even more fun rereading the first three mortalinstruments1-3books of the Mortal Instruments series with half-memories of events than I did the first time as a young teen. These books are absolutely addicting, though I’m not sure I’ll be rating as high as I move on into the series with the books I haven’t read previously. I’m a little nervous about those three books that were added on to the original trilogy, but I had so much fun reliving these first books that I’ll definitely be continuing on next month. I hope Clary undergoes some character development moving forward, but I like everyone else enough that I’m excited to see where the series will go.
  6. Persuasion by Jane Austen. 5 out of 5 stars. This book was my designated classic of the month, and I absolutely loved it. I started reading a couple of chapters last year around this same time, but I just wasn’t in the mood for it then and put it off. This month, though, I started over and made it all the way through without any difficulty because an Austen romance was exactly the sort I wanted to be reading this February. I’m surprisingly unfamiliar with Austen’s plots, having only read one other of her books so far (Northanger Abbey) and seen one of the movies (Sense and Sebsibility), but I have a couple others on my shelf (Pride and Prejudice and Emma) and I’m looking forward to delving into them. I knew this one would be a romance, but it was written so well that I did have some doubts about which of the characters were going to end up falling in love at a couple of points, which I appreciated. There were certainly a few events in here I did not see coming, and the tension toward the end was wonderfully handled. Some of the characters are (intentionally) insufferable, but that only added to the real-feel of the novel and the attraction of the other characters. I’ll absolutely be reading more Austen within the year, though I’ve got a few other classics to fill my months before she comes back up on the roster. Anyway, don’t be surprised if this one turns up on a favorites list of mine later this year…
  7. Saint Anything by Sarah Dessen. 4 out 5 stars. A Sarah Dessen romance was also saintanythingexactly what I was in the mood for this February, and though this one got off to a rocky start for me, I ended up having a hard time putting it down a couple of chapters later. I like the way Dessen addresses teen problems and emotions–in this one, the dangers of an uncommunicative family, and the repercussions one person’s actions can have on everyone around them. There’s also so much good food in this one that it leaves the mouth watering.
  8. Wink Poppy Midnight by April Genevieve Tucholke. winkpoppymidnight3 out of 5 stars. I wanted to love this one. I thought it would be short and quirky and fun, but ultimately I thought it strange. I did appreciate the message, though it was given more through atmosphere and emotion than plot, and I don’t regret reading it, but it wasn’t exactly the book for me. Still, it was a quick and easy read that I thoroughly enjoyed at some points, so if you’re the type of reader who likes books that arent’ too plotty, give this one a chance. And if you don’t read it, at least check out it’s beautiful cover.
  9. Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo. 5 out of 5 stars. I could have read another shadowandboneCassandra Clare book this month, since reading her 10 (soon to be 11) shadowhunter books was a big 2017 goal of mine. Picking up the next shadowhunter book might have been the wiser choice. But The Grishaverse is another 2017 goal of mine, and I was just too excited about getting started on Bardugo’s books to make the smart choice and finish one big series at a time. I’m glad I picked Shadow and Bone up this month, because I’m already hooked and looking forward to my next Grisha read. Similar to my issues with Clary in Cassandra Clare’s books, though, Alina of Leigh Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy has her flaws. I’m hoping the next two books in this series will help improve her character, but even if not I’m enough in love with the world and everyone else in it that I’ll definitely be continuing. This was a highlight of the month for me.
  10. Behind Her Eyes by Sarah Pinborough. 5 out of 5 stars.behindhereyes Not only did I want to read this book within the month because I’m trying to keep up with my monthly Book of the Month Club selections, but I Let You Go gave me a massive need to read more thrillers. Once I’d finished reading my planned TBR for the month, I jumped immediately to this BOTM thriller for February because I’d heard it was supposed to have an amazing ending that no one would ever see coming. I hit a mini reading slump just as I was getting into this one (it had nothing to do with this book, though), but I did find the characters and the layout of this story intriguing. It took a few chapters to get into the hang of things, but this book seemed particularly thriller-esque right from the start.

Honorable mention:

  1. I’m currently reading Cassandra Clare’s Clockwork Angel. The only reason I’m mentioning this book here rather than just waiting for my March wrap-up is that I’m reading Cassandra Clare’s books in publication order. I meant to finish this one in February, but it didn’t quite happen. However, I only included the book after this one in my March TBR, and I didn’t want Clockwork Angel to go without recognition, so here it is.

All in all, it was a decent reading month. I had way too many extras in mind, so I feel like I failed for getting to so few of them, but I shouldn’t feel that way. 10 books in a short month is a great reading achievement for me, even if it is a little behind where I was at in January. Last year at this time I was only averaging about 4-5 books per month, so having doubled that (and crossed everything off my official TBR for the month) is an accomplishment. I didn’t love everything I read this month, but there was nothing I regret spending my reading time on either, so also a decent reading month in terms of content. I’m crossing my fingers hoping to be as successful with my goals in March, as well!

Have you read any of these books? What did you think?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

January Reading Wrap-up

I’m SO proud of my reading this month. Not only did I read a ton, but I cleared out all of my borrowed books for the first time since…September? I have no overdue library books. I am ready to return every book my friends or family lent as soon as I see them. I feel so much less overwhelmed, even with so many more books on my TBR, just to have worked through my backlog of borrowed books. Now if I can keep my library hauls to a reasonable level, I can make some real progress on my bookshelf. I have no idea how I would possibly be able to keep up with reading this amount, but it’s been a great start to the year and I hope that even if I won’t be reading quite this many books each month, at least I should be able to avoid falling behind.

  1. All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders. 3 out of 5 stars. I had high hopes for this magical realism book, and while it wasn’t a bad story, per se, it didn’t impress me, either. It fell a little flat of the exciting read I had in mind for my first book of 2017, but it was definitely magical, in the technical sense. It’s definitely the right book for someone, just not for me. Well, onward and upward, right?
  2. Hag-Seed by Margaret Atwood. 5 out of 5 stars. I didn’t like Shakespeare’s The Tempest when I had to read it for school, but I think that had more to do with the fact that although the class was assigned to read the play in two days, we then picked over it for a month afterward. I knew I loved Atwood’s writing, though, so I had to give this book a chance, and I was so glad that I did. This book is more what I had had in mind for an exciting start to the new reading year, so I was glad to have it at least in the second slot. I’m even considering rereading The Tempest now that I’ve seen it portrayed in such a positive light.
  3. The Raven King by Maggie Stiefvater. 5 out of 5 stars. I’m sad that I don’t have any further books in this series to look forward to, but the Raven Cycle was so much fun every step of the way. I absolutely could not stop with this one, and beyond the great characters and narration, there’s just something so satisfyingly pleasant about finishing a series; although I wanted to wrap this one up in December, it put me in a great mood in early January and motivated me to keep going and find the next great thing. I will miss this world, but seeing how it all turned out for the raven boys has been immensely rewarding.
  4. Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell. 5 out of 5 stars. YA romance is not my thing, but this book was a wonderful read. I found the characters so unique and their situations so important that even though I expected Eleanor and Park to fall in love, I was entirely hooked on finding out why and how and what would happen. This book has definitely sparked my interest in picking up another Rowell book in the future, and in fact I have found and added Landline to my February TBR.
  5. Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton. 4 out of 5 stars. My mom recommended this short novel to me from her high school English days, and it seemed like a great start to my year of classics. Other than a wintery landscape that the cover gave away, and the fact that this author was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize (although not for this piece), I knew nothing about the story going in. This book takes place around the turn of the 20th century, which is a time period I enjoy reading about, and is full of romance, tragedy, and a struggle for money. We’re introduced to the end of the story first, so we start with the main character’s poverty and tragedy, and then are thrust into the romance that caused the worst of his problems. I find a good tragic romance very appealing, and I liked this one enough to read the whole book in one sitting. I found the use of the narrator to discover the story years later a bit clunky and unnecessary, but otherwise there was nothing I disliked about this book, and I’m glad to have read it. This is a good read for fans of Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, or Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. I don’t write separate reviews for the classics I read, but if you have any questions, feel free to ask them below!
  6. Vows by LaVyrle Spencer. 3 out of 5 stars. This one was lent and also recommended to me by mom a few months ago, and while it isn’t my usual type, I decided to pick it up this month and give it a go. It’s so far off the radar these days that I’m not going to write a separate review for this one, either, but I’ll answer any questions you want to ask! I found the plot rather predictable, but the characters were not stereotypical and the setting is late 1800’s, which, again, I tend to enjoy. There are definitely some emotional parts in this book–both sad and exciting, which kept me engaged in the story even in the predictable spots. If you’re looking for a good romance read for February and like a historical setting with your love stories, this might be a good choice.
  7. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn. 4 out of 5 stars. As far as thrillers go, Gillian Flynn is one of my favorite authors. I was so intrigued by this short story thriller, and so pleased to find it as a bonus in my first Book of the Month Club box. It’s creepy and mysterious and it begs to be read twice.
  8. City of Bones by Cassandra Clare. 5 out of 5 stars. I’ve really been in the mood to check out Lady Midnight lately, the first book in Cassandra Clare’s newest series, but Shadowhunter fans near and far know that publication order is the way to go with Clare’s books, and I had only read the beginnings of her earlier sets, which I no longer remembered clearly. So I decided to start from the beginning and read all of Cassandra Clare’s books in publication order–this is the first. I remember loving this book in my first read in 2010, but I think I loved it even more this second time with a few recalled details in the back of my mind. I started this one thinking the goal was just to get to the books I hadn’t read yet, but this one hooked me again. I couldn’t put it down, and raced through it so that I could also pick up:
  9. City of Ashes by Cassandra Clare. 5 out of 5 stars. I originally gave this book 4 stars when I read it in 2010, but I upped my rating this time around because I was an angsty teenager then who was upset about the way the love triangle was turning out for Clary. This time around, knowing what I know about the third book and the resolution of the love triangle, I was able to appreciate the rest of the story instead of getting caught up in the angsty emotions, and that made everything more amusing. Also, how did I not notice how awesome Simon is the first time around? This is really a great sequel, and I have a ton of anticipation for my upcoming reread of the third book in this series in February.
  10. Dark Matter by Blake Crouch. 5 out of 5 stars. Actually, can I give it 6? This is definitely not a book for everyone, but it’s definitely the perfect book for me. It’s science fictional, and full of mind-bending suggestions about multiple realities and questions of identity and what life would be like it we’d taken all those paths we skipped but wonder about at night. This book takes a lot of focus, and a lot of interest in intangible concepts, but if “science fiction thriller” sounds good to you in any way, do not miss this book. I’m not especially interested in science myself, but this is now one of my all-time favorite books. It will certainly appear on my list of 2017 favorites, eleven months from now. I cannot express how much I loved every page of Dark Matter.
  11. Flight  by Sherman Alexie. 4 out of 5 stars. This was originally on my TBR for February after I loved The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian in December, but after I finished my January TBR I picked this one up early. It was short and (bitter)sweet, and only took me one sitting. I didn’t like it quite as much as Absolutely True Diary, but I did appreciate the messages it had to share, and I was completely caught up in the unique way the narrator got there. I’ll probably pick up more Alexie works at some point, because this one did convince me that I like the author’s writing more than I had thought after reading a couple of his short stories.
  12. Lucky You by Erika Carter. 4 out of 5 stars. I also found myself too excited to wait until February for my first Book of the Month Club pick, and am definitely satisfied with my experience so far with that subscription box. This book is an early release exclusive for BOTM members until March, and the story had some parallels to my own life as a struggling twenty-something. That said, the most entertaining part of this story was how unlikable and ridiculous the main characters were, and yet how compelling because they seemed so real and so like people you might come across in small town life.
  13. Faithful by Alice Hoffman. 4 out of 5 stars. This was an impulse grab on a mid-month library trip, but I have no regrets. I hadn’t read anything by Alice Hoffman before, and I do like a nice depressing story every now and then, so I couldn’t pass by this one on the new arrivals shelf at my library. The main character is so downhearted about everything, and yet she makes some great choices, adopts some great dogs, and keeps searching for her place in the grand scheme of things. This story tugs at the heart strings, but it also shares some hopeful messages about no one being as alone as they think they are, and the possibilities for even the worst situations imaginable to turn into something good. As my first unplanned read of the year, it hit the mark dead center.
  14. The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis. 5 out of 5 stars. This one has sharp edges, but it’s also the kind of book that makes me want to be a sharp edge myself. There were a couple of things that bugged me, but they only stood out because there were so many things that this book did right. I’m glad I bought this one, and I’m glad I found time to read it this month. I have a feeling this is going to be one of the stories that sticks with me most this year. All three main characters are flawed but wonderfully crafted, and really drive the anti-rape messages of this book home. Sometimes people mess up. But sometimes it’s a lot worse than just messing up, and this book helps readers spot the difference.

There they are, all of my January reads. I still can’t quite believe I managed so many. Some of these were pretty short, I suppose, and YA novels always go pretty fast for me. Also it’s January so I’d rather be inside reading than braving the weather to go for a run. I did do that a few times, but mostly I formed a good habit of reading for a few hours at night, and there are simply a lot of nights in January. It’s the month that never ends. Now that February has arrived, however, I’m hoping to keep my good reading streak going as long as the weather hasn’t improved yet, and I’ve got some great books in mind for the shortest month of the year! (If you missed my TBR post and want to see what’s on the agenda, check it out here!)

Have you read any of these books? I’d love to hear your thoughts, and anything you enjoyed reading in January!

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant