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Sept. Reading Wrap-up

This felt like a slow month for me. The numbers actually look pretty average, but for some reason I felt like I was crawling through my TBR this month and just didn’t have any posts to upload. I may have been in a small slump. I think October will be very different, because I’ve been looking forward to some of those spooky reads for months, but before I get started with those, here’s a look at how I spent my reading time in September:

  1. City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare. cityofheavenlyfire4 out of 5 stars. I started this one at the end of August, but even though I felt like I was making good progress every day, and even though this was one of my favorites in the whole series, it just went on and on forever. It was a great end to the Mortal Instruments though, and it made me more eager to carry on with my Shadowhunter marathon despite its size, so even though it may have been the beginning of my little slump (series ends occasionally do that to me), I’m calling this one a success.
  2. Because You Love to Hate Me ed. by Ameriie. 3 out of 5 stars. This collection of becauseyoulovetohatemeshort stories is a pretty new release, and I got what I wanted from it, so it’s another success for me. Although I didn’t like all of the stories, this collaboration was a great way to sample some YA authors I haven’t gotten around to reading from yet, and seeing all the different writing styles did help me decide who I did or did not want to read more from. My favorite was the V. E. Schwab story, closely followed by Soman Chainani’s story.
  3. The Blinds by Adam Sternbergh. 4 out theblindsof 5 stars. I feel a little bad about my Book of the Month subscription because I love it and I’m always so excited about the selections, but I keep falling farther behind with my monthly choices. This one’s from August, which isn’t too far back, although at the time I read it I was receiving three more for September that I knew I wouldn’t have time to read all of within the month. Anyway, this was a highly intriguing read that seemed perfect for end-of-summer reading: a little creepy and weird to start out fall, but still full of summer heat and the plot’s intriguing but not too heavy. I’m surprised I haven’t seen this one around more because I thought it was really unique and well done.
  4. Twilight by Stephenie Meyer. I can’t rate this one, and I dedicated a whole post twilightthis month to talking about why that is and more generally, why I reread it in the first place. I’ve been reading this book one chapter per day, only on days when I felt like picking up a chapter, over the course of several months. My opinions of this book, and of what I’m looking for when I read, have changed a lot since my first time through this book, and seeing those changes was probably the primary source of enjoyment for me in picking up this book again this year.
  5. The Bane Chronicles by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, and Maureen Johnson. 3 out of 5 stars. Finishing The thebanechroniclesMortal Instruments with City of Heavenly Fire earlier this month put me in a great frame of mind for wanting to continue on my Shadowhunter quest. I was a little wary about this one with the additional authors, but Cassandra Clare’s writing style was still apparent, and truthfully, I think the change in medium and message was another help in refreshing my interest for continuing with the Shadowhunter books. There were  a couple of stories that I really liked, but mostly I was just enjoying the overall sense of Downworld that this book provides, and the glimpses into secondary characters from TMI and TID.
  6. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. 5 out of 5 stars. Though I found this the most predictable of the Austen novels I have read thus far, I did not predict becoming so immediately and wholeheartedly engrossed in this story. I was dragging my feet a little about finally starting prideandprejudicePride and Prejudice because I was afraid it would start slowly, like the other Austen novels I’ve read. But the very first conversation in the book amused me, and by the time Mr. Darcy was complaining about the tolerable women at the novel’s first dance, I was entirely hooked. It took me a long time to actually like Mr. Darcy, but from his very first appearance he intrigued me enough that I liked reading about him. He reminded me of Bronte’s Mr. Rochester. I think Persuasion is still my favorite Austen novel so far, mostly because the ending of Pride and Prejudice didn’t particularly surprise or impress me the way that Persuasion did, but P&P is a close second. I absolutely loved Mr. Bennet’s character, which routinely made me chuckle to myself, but Mr. Collins actually made me laugh out loud on two occasions. The whole cast was highly entertaining, and after about the fifth chapter I could not put the book down to sleep at night because I had to know how it would all tie together. For a long time I was skeptical about Mr. Darcy’s love, because it seemed he’d had so little contact with the woman in question that I couldn’t quite believe he was truly in love with her for more than her looks, but by his concluding explanations I was on board. I will definitely be reading more Austen in the future, I have already watched a film adaptation of this one, and immediately after finishing P&P I jumped straight into:
  7. Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. 5 out of 5 stars. This is a modern retelling of Austen’s classic (P&P)eligible, and especially with the plot of P&P so fresh in my mind I was curious about how it would all play out in a more familiar setting. I may have loved this one even more than the original, but it’s hard to tell. I definitely think reading P&P right before Eligible heightened my enjoyment of it. P&P is meant to be funny at times, and I was worried that expecting those same funny moments would take some of the humor out of Eligible, but if anything I found it even more amusing when I already knew which characters were going to be ridiculous. I’m really interested in checking out more of the Austen Project series for more retellings, althought I’ve heard Eligible is by far the best of them. (Has anyone read the others? Are they worth reading?)
  8. Lies She Told by Cate Holahan. 2 out of 5 stars. Here is my biggest liesshetolddisappointment of the month. Toward the end of the month I was getting excited about spooky reads for October and wanted something suspenseful to satisfy my mood, but that’s not what I got from Lies She Told. I can’t even say that it was a bad book, but I was bored through most of it because I was able to guess all but one detail before it happened. The premise about the narrator’s reality starting to blend with the fictional thriller she’s writing was so exciting, but nothing inside the book impressed me as much as its synopsis. If you’re good at predicting where mysteries are going, maybe skip this one.

And that’s a wrap. Eight books in a month isn’t too bad for me, especially considering a couple of them (ahem, Cassandra Clare) were rather long. There were only 6 books on my TBR for the month, 5 of which I finished (I’m currently reading the sixth, George R. R. Martin’s A Storm of Swords), so I feel really good about my TBR progress for the first time in a while. I felt like I wasn’t reading as much as usual, but fall is a busy time of year and I think I did well with the changes in my schedule. I have no idea what my October wrap-up will look like because I’m planning for the month very differently than I did for September, but here’s to hoping for plenty of great spooky books in the near future.

What did you read in September? Have you read any of the books that I finished this month (and what did you think of them)?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

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August Reading Wrap-Up

I had a reasonable August TBR for about a week. But I’m never really reasonable about how many books I want to read, so the second week in August I added six more books and doomed myself to fail again at reading everything I wanted to this month.  Nevertheless, I’m happy with my progress (especially with a really long novel included!) and I did stick to my (extended) TBR. It was a great reading month for me. 🙂 Here’s what I read in August:

(As always, you can find more information about these books in my full reviews by following the links through the titles. Classics are only reviewed in these wrap-ups, so the paragraphs for those are longer here, and there is no link to a complete review, but I would be happy to discuss them further in the comments!)

  1. The Annotated Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson and Simon Barker-Benfield. 4 out of 5 stars. This book was my classic of the month for July, but I treasureislandfinished it in early August. I had a lot of fun with this one, but I think I would’ve had a very different reaction to it if I had read a copy without the extensive annotations and illustrations. In my experience, there are two types of annotations: the notes that explain words and phrases to help the reader comprehend the events of the story, and the notes that go into depth about details behind the story. These latter notes are nonessential to the story, but they provide context that’s interesting if not exactly helpful. This copy of Treasure Island used both sets, and made no effort to distinguish between them, which meant both that I was spared having to look up or gloss over technical sea terms I was unfamiliar with, but also that I was bogged down with more facts about naval life in the 1700s than I wanted to be while in the middle of a story. The introduction to this book was especially rife with background details, and I couldn’t get through it at all before starting the book proper, but after finishing the novel I went back to the introduction and was much more interested in picking out sections that pertained to my favorite parts of the story. So I was glad to have the choice of the additional information, but I wish it had been categorized a little differently so that I could read the story and the notes that were necessary to understanding it, and then peruse the extra information later, after the novel had piqued my interest. I think I would’ve read this book faster and not gotten so tired while reading it if I hadn’t tried reading all the annotations. But the story itself was a great journey. I find pirates so intriguing, and yet I know so little of them beyond modern stereotypes, so it was fascinating to see them in action. The plot twists were wonderful and truly tense at times, the characters colorful and often unpredictable, and the writing easy to follow. I love the beautiful edition that I read, although it was maybe not the best choice for an introduction to Robert Louis Stevenson. Nevertheless, I will be reading more of his works in the future.
  2. The Lying Game by Ruth Ware. 3 out of 5 stars. thelyinggameI was really surprised that I didn’t love this one, because I loved Ware’s previous two books so much more than I expected. This one was very different than the first two, which isn’t bad in itself, but I didn’t think it was as well done as Ware’s other books. And yet, even though I was a bit disappointed with it, I still love her writing and will absolutely be reading Ware’s next book. It wasn’t what I was looking for, but I still enjoyed reading it.
  3. Final Girls by Riley Sager. 5 out of 5 stars. And this book surprised me with how final girlsmuch I ended up loving it. At first it seemed a little predictable and cheesy, like one of those old slasher films that are only scary when someone jumps out of a corner with a knife, but the killer really surprised me and the writing was addictive. It was so easy and quick to read, I finished this book in one day, and once it found its footing the twists were great. This is more like what I expected from Ruth Ware, so I was glad I read these back to back and still got my thriller fix.
  4. Stardust by Neil Gaiman. 3 out of 5 stars. stardustI did like this one, and was especially appreciative of the way it ended, but the episodic nature of the story made it drag a bit for me and I couldn’t rate it higher after having been so happy to have reached the end. Nevertheless, I did like many of the characters and their wacky details, and I still intend to read more of Gaiman’s books in the future. I’m glad I read this one, but I don’t think it will ever be counted among my favorites of Gaiman’s books. I do think it will appeal more to readers of adventure stories than it did to me this month, though.
  5. Murder on the Orient Express by Agatha Christie. 4 out of 5 stars. This has been murderontheorientexpressmy favorite Christie novel to date, and I can’t wait for the November release of the new movie adaptation. This was a Christie novel that made me want to read more Christie novels, and the ending was superb– frightening and funny at the same time. I’m not entirely sure, but I think this was my first Hercule Poirot read– I believe I’ve only read Christie’s stand-alone mysteries before this one, and I think I’ll have to change that habit after having enjoyed this one so thoroughly. Luckily, I don’t think the Poirot series needs to be read in any particular order. I must have more!
  6. A Clash of Kings by George R. R. Martin. aclashofkings4 out of 5 stars. I love Martin’s Song of Ice and Fire world. In many ways, this sequel seemed exactly the same as the first book– compelling, character-driven, slightly magical, detail-oriented, etc. But it dragged a little more than the first book did for me. There are still great twists and the pacing does speed up at times, but I enjoyed reading book one more than book two. (Although I did like season two of the TV show better than season one.) I just didn’t care as much about the semantics of the politics in King’s Landing when so much else was going on elsewhere. Nevertheless, I’m eagerly anticipating picking up book three soon and continuing through the story.
  7. Midnight at the Electric by Jodi Lynn Anderson. 3 out of 5 stars. Here’s an midnightattheelectricauthor I loved back when I was reading almost exclusively YA– back when I was actually in the typical Young Adult age range. Picking up a new book from an old favorite author is a nod I like to make every now and then to my younger self, and that’s what this book was for me. It didn’t impress me as much as I’d hoped (YA rarely does these days), but this was an enjoyable read that piqued my interest in certain animals and areas of history that appear in the novel, which is generally a marker of a successful book, in my opinion.
  8. Exit West by Mohsin Hamid. 4 out of 5 stars. exitwestI’ve had this one on my radar for months, but was newly inspired to pick it up when I saw it on the Man Booker Prize longlist. There are more books I want to read from that list, but this one stood out to me– a magical realism story of love between a couple fleeing their war-torn country. It was everything I expected, and opened up whole avenues of thought that I haven’t touched on in too long. After reading this, I’m pretty excited about picking up more longlisters that I’d been putting off this year.
  9. Fierce Kingdom by Gin Phillips. 4 out of 5 stars. A Book of the Month selection fiercekingdomfrom August (yay! I read it within the month!) about a gunman loose at a zoo. The most intriguing aspect of this book was the fact that it takes place in just over 3 hours on a single evening. Once I started reading, I added to that intrigue the fact that very little happens, and yet it is a consistently engaging book. This is a psychological thriller for a certain sort of reader, and I am that sort. I was hooked from page one, and finished the book in just over 24 hours, without really trying.
  10. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien. 4 out of 5 stars. thehobbitI was supposed to read Dumas’ The Count of Monte Cristo this month as my classic, but I swapped it for The Hobbit instead, and I’m glad I did. Some of the description dragged a bit for me, but I enjoyed the plot and the way all the characters and details wove together in the end. I’m really glad I decided to read this in the midst of Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series, because there are definitely some interesting points of comparison between the two, though nothing plot-wise that makes them feel like the same story retold. This is the sort of story I was hoping for when I picked up Gaiman’s Stardust, and there are similarities there as well, but I think I appreciated The Hobbit more this month for having read it with those other fantasy books in fresh in mind. I found Gandalf especially intriguing, and loved the narration style. This is not a book I would recommend racing through quickly, but I would definitely recommend picking it up if you’re at all interested in the fantasy genre.

I can hardly believe that I finished reading 10 books this month, especially with A Clash of Kings in the mix, at 969 pages. There were also some shorter books this month, so maybe that helped balance the numbers. In any case, I’m happy with where I stand right now, even though there are two books on my TBR for the month that I didn’t get around to. One of them was City of Heavenly Fire, which I’m reading now, and the other was The Invasion of the Tearling, which I still hope to read soon, after I’ve had a little break from fantasy. But a good reading month like this puts me in a great reading mood going forward, so hopefully I’ll have more good months coming up.

What did you read in August? Have you read any of these books (even if not in August)? What did you think?

Sincerely,

The Literary Elephant

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