Tag Archives: wrap-up

Wrap-Up 2.18

Another month gone, and what have I been up to?


  • February was a short month, and I ended up reading a handful of short books to match. I was just in a short-book mood, I guess. Sometimes it’s nice to be in the middle of an epic series, and sometimes it’s nice to just sit down with a plate of cheese and crackers and have the whole novel finished by the time you’re done nibbling on your lunch. This month I had some of both lengths, but I don’t anticipate reading this many short books in the upcoming months, so I’m calling it a trend.

Book-to-film Adaptations:

  • This month I finished watching the TV series Big Little Lies for the first time. I read the novel in May 2017, and rated it 3 stars. Watching this series definitely made me appreciate the story more, perhaps because the film seemed more focused on the characters than the mystery, which was a more compelling tactic, in my opinion. The violence in the TV series seemed more shocking to me than it did in the book, but I think that stems from the difference in reading about it happening to fictional people and seeing a visual representation of it acted out by real people. The mystery portion of the film seemed flimsy at best, with the excessive gossipy interviews and the actual murder so glossed over and “artsy” at the end, so I’m glad I experienced this story in both formats, since they played to such different strengths.
  • I also watched the movie Room for the first time. I read the novel in June 2016, and rated it 4 stars. The film gave me a much stronger sense of Jack’s mother right from the beginning; the book begins with narration from 5 year-old Jack, which gives a unique perspective to a terrible situation, but in the film (obviously) the viewer sees the room and the mother with his/her own eyes, forcing the narration to take a different approach than the novel. Nevertheless, though both mediums have their merits, I don’t think anything vital is missing from either, and watching the movie felt a lot like rereading the book likely would have.
  • Lastly, I re-watched the movie of The Perks of Being a Wallflower in February. I read the novel in January 2013, and rated it 5 stars. I watched the film immediately after. I haven’t watched it since, until last week. The plots are very similar between the two, although the two mediums have their own personalities and styles that makes both of them equally enjoyable to me. I love Emma Watson’s acting. I love this story in general, but I think it’s one that I could get tired of if I see/read it too many times. It needs a bit of shock value to hit the emotions properly, which it definitely did for me this time.

Books I finished reading:

  1. Iron Gold by Pierce Brown. 5 stars.irongold It took me a while to read this one, but only because Pierce Brown’s books speak to my soul and I want to savor them and also not have a heart attack from reading all the intensity at once. I cannot wait until the next book is released in September, so I’ll probably be doing some Red Rising Saga rereading this year. In this latest edition to the series, Brown’s characters are as strong as ever, though some of them are moving in some new and intriguing directions. Iron Gold felt like a set-up book for what’s coming next, but even though it covers a lot of building ground it’s not lacking in plot.
  2. Night by Elie Wiesel. 5 stars. nightA short nonfiction book about the Holocaust should’ve seemed a world away from a futuristic space drama, but with Iron Gold so focused on war, Night felt like a pretty decent follow-up for it. I think it’s important to dig out the grains of truth in fiction, but it’s equally important to remember the real stories. This is a powerful book narrated by a Jewish WWII survivor and it’s probably the best book about that time period that I’ve ever read.
  3. Dear Ijeawele, or A Feminist Manifesto in Fifteen Suggestions by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. 5 stars. dearijeaweleLast year I read Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists, and while I loved it, very little of it surprised me. This one felt more practical, more proactive. I don’t have any children at this point in my life, but there are some great reminders in here about which lessons children learn from this world are worth remembering, and which should be uprooted before they even take hold. This one was more inspiring to me, and I liked that it felt more personal, as a letter to a real person. And now that I’ve read Adichie’s shortest works, I’m definitely ready to move on something longer, like her novel Americanah.
  4. Saga: Volume 7 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. 4 stars. This wasn’t my favorite Saga volume, but it did have some good features, including a punch at the end that I’m glad I waited to read until I also had my hands on:
  5. Saga: Volume 8 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. 5 stars.sagavolumessevenandeight I’m caught up on this series now! Luckily the end of this one wasn’t so cliff-hanger-y; I’m going to miss these characters while I’m waiting for Volume 9. This one actually ended up being one of my favorite volumes of the set, though it’s definitely more focused on the relationships than the Landfall/Wreath war most of the time. Some cool seeds were sown for new enemies/alliances coming up though, so I’m still pretty interested in where this is all going and I’ll definitely be reading more as future volumes are released. I might even pick up some other comics while I’m waiting.
  6. Emma by Jane Austen. 4 stars. emmaThis is the first Jane Austen book that really impressed me with its formatting; so much of the strength of this story depends on the use of its dialogue and the personality traits that are displayed more through what’s not said than what is. The romances are lovely, of course, but predictable. It’s the character development evident through much of the dialogue that kept me reading this one, and I found it a perfect Valentine’s read because of the love stories but also because of the tragedies that result from Emma’s attempts at match-making (I’m a little cynical, I like to commemorate the day of love with some serious consequences to meddling with love. Last year I read Jane Eyre).
  7. Gwendy’s Button Box by Stephen King and Richard Chizmar. gwendy'sbuttonbox3 stars. I liked the idea behind this one, and the writing itself was fine, but somehow this one failed to make much of an impression– good or bad. I had no trouble finishing this short book quickly and I enjoyed its oddities, but I’m glad it wasn’t any longer and I was fully ready to get back to full length novels after this novella. I’m still looking forward to reading more from Stephen King, but I don’t think this one will stick with me very long and I’m not sad about it. His writing is superb, but his longer works do it better justice.
  8. Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo. crookedkingdom5 stars. I’m ashamed that it took me four months to get around to reading this one after Six of Crows, even knowing I loved that first book and would probably enjoy the end of this duology just as much as the beginning. It was a fun ride, but I actually didn’t love this one as much as Six of Crows. Book 2 operated the same ways as Book 1, so its surprises were less surprising. But it still has some great messages, some fun twists up its sleeve (we can call a dust jacket a sleeve, right?), and some of the best characters ever to appear in YA fantasy. I’m so glad I finally got around to this one and I desperately hope Inej makes future appearances in Bardugo’s Grishaverse because she’s my fave.
  9. The Philosopher’s Flight by Tom Miller. thephilosopher'sflight4 stars. I’m proud of myself again, for reading my Book of the Month selection within the month I received it. 🙂 I’m actually in the middle of a second BOTM book that’s backlogged from last year, but I did at least finish my February selection, so I’ve achieved the bare minimum by not falling farther behind. And this was a good one! It’s probably the weirdest book I’ve read all year, but I liked it. It was a fun experience. It was unusual, and that’s my goal for the year– to read books that are unusual to me. And also to catch up on my BOTM books, but there’s still time. I’m going to be picking up some of BOTM’s other February selections in upcoming weeks, as well, but this one was an unexpectedly good start.

Some stats:

  • Avg. rating this month: 4.4 . . . (wow, that’s high!)
  • Books hauled this month: 3 . . . (I met my goal!)
  • Owned books that I read for the first time this month: 4 . . . (I reduced my TBR bookshelf!)
  • Total books read in 2018 = 18 . . . (I’m ahead of schedule for my goal of 90 books!)

All in all, this was a good month. February didn’t drag on like January, I read more books that I thought I would get through (although some of them were short), and I mostly loved what I read. I’m excited to see what next month will bring! Did you notice I’m making some changes to my usual wrap-up structure? Let me know in the comments what you like to see in my monthly wrap-ups, so I know whether to keep things like the “trending” section, my thoughts on film adaptations from the month, and my overall stats. Is there anything more you would like to see?

Have you read any of these books? What was your favorite book from your February reading?


The Literary Elephant


Wrap-Up 1.18

It’s a new month! (Finally!)

January has been a month of change, including some firsts, like my first buddy read. Another trend: I’ve been reading multiple books at the same time more than usual again. I’m also switching to a new TBR system this year, which means no more monthly to-read lists, but I will still be wrapping up at the end of every month (like so). I’m giving myself more room to read what I feel like when I feel like it in 2018, and to read outside of my normal comfort zone, so I’ll be noting more reading trends like these as the year progresses. You can follow the links to the corresponding posts if you missed them.

And now for the main attraction, the books I finished reading in January:

  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead.theundergroundrailroad 4 stars. This one fell between years for me, more or less. I read the bulk of it at the end of 2017 but finished it in the first hours of 2018. I counted it as the last book for my 2017 reading challenge (I was feeling generous that day, it was the first day of a new year), but I will count it as “read” in 2018, since that is technically when i finished it, and also because it didn’t get to appear in my 2017 wrap-ups. It’s a powerful story with a twist on the historical aspect (a literal underground train), and the prose is consistently thought-provoking and fresh. A wonderful end/start to the year(s).
  2. The Glass Castle by Jeannette Walls. theglasscastle5 stars. I hardly ever read memoirs, but I want to change that, especially after my experience with this one. For the first 2/3 of the book, it was just a wacky read about an unusual family and I was thinking it would end up being a 4-star book, but then in the end it got more empowering and exciting and emotional and encouraging and I loved it. I know I’ll be thinking about this one for a long time, about how a person who comes from nothing can make their biggest dreams come true, and can find something to appreciate even in the most grueling conditions. I’m definitely going to be picking up more memoirs this year, thanks to The Glass Castle.
  3. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman. eleanoroliphantiscompletelyfine4 stars. Literary fiction can be done very well, or it can be very boring. I knew right away that this one would not bore me for one single page, and that assumption proved to be correct. I’ve never come across a protagonist quite like Eleanor, and I’m certainly going to miss her now that I’ve finished the book. She’s unique and definitely nutty, but also inspiring. Which is a good thing, because the plot is pretty obvious, but Eleanor is more than up to the task of carrying the reader all the way through.
  4. Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover. 2 stars. uglyloveI’m resolving not to even try with guilty pleasures anymore. They’re more guilt than pleasure these days, and they don’t fit my 2018 goal to read books that will make me think about the world and broaden my horizons. I was already having these thoughts before I started reading this one, and if it hadn’t been a library book (I feel bad not reading them before returning them) I probably wouldn’t have even bothered. That’s probably partially what made this a less-than-stellar reading experience for me, but if you want more details on the things that went wrong with Ugly Love, follow the link to my rant. (I mean review. Sorry.)
  5. Lady Midnight by Cassandra Clare.ladymidnight 4 stars. I intended to read all of Cassandra Clare’s published books in 2017, but I didn’t quite make it to the Dark Artifices trilogy. I picked this one up before the details from the eleven Clare books I did read last year could slip out of my mind; I picked it up to cross it off my list without really expecting much from it, and through most of the book it was a 3-star read, just another Shadowhunter novel that had some good parts but really could have stood to lose a couple hundred pages… But the end really pulled me in and prompted me to immediately pick up:
  6. Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. 4 stars. lordofshadowsThis one was a more consistent 4 stars for me than Lady Midnight. The twists were scattered so that I was more interested throughout the story rather than just at the end– but the end was still a big catalyst moment that made sure I’m invested in this trilogy enough to pick up the last book. This is probably kind of morbid, but I’m really looking forward to some of the darker aspects I predict coming up in book three: loves lost, dangers fatally realized, elemental character shifts. I’m reading for that final moment of triumph for the Blackthorns, but also for the hurt they’re going through. Rip my heart out, Clare. Just sew it back up again at the end, please.
  7. It by Stephen King. 5 stars.it I spent 4 weeks buddy reading this book in the midst of reading all the other books on this list, and I loved both the experience of reading with my buddy and just of reading this book in general. I wish I had spent my childhood in the Losers Club. This one wasn’t as scary as I suspected it might be, but it was delightfully creepy in places and also very reflective of growing up, facing one’s fears, and withstanding adversity. It could be a contender for my new favorite King novel, and it’s definitely inspiring me to pick up more of King’s books, even if they are long.
  8. Hawksong by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes. 4 stars. hawksong&snakecharmThis book has been one of my favorites since the first time I read it at 12 years old. It’s outlasted a lot of other books that have been pushed off my favorites list by new arrivals, and I reread it almost every year. It’s short, it’s sweet, it’s simple. I love the unique world, the understated love story, the themes of peace and sacrifice, and so much more. I finally (after 10+ years) lowered my rating to 4 stars because I don’t see it quite the same way I did when I was younger, but I have no idea what I might rate this book if I were reading it for the first time today. Every time I reread Hawksong it renews my passion for reading and I’m always surprised it never ended up being more popular. It deserves the love, and it will probably always be one of my faves.
  9. As Bright as Heaven by Susan Meissner. 3 stars. asbrightasheavenThis was my January Book of the Month selection, and it was actually not one of the first selections that caught my eye, but I wanted to branch out a bit this year. I should’ve gone with my first instinct though because this one disappointed me. I did find the parts about the Spanish Influenza very interesting, but I had some other complaints. Full review coming soon. In the end, I am mostly just glad to have finished it within the month; maybe because I disliked parts of it, I found it easy to read quickly, so now I’m ready to read my February selection, which I’m already thrilled about.

I am proud of this list. Most of the books I read in January were 4-star books or higher for me, and considering It was over 1,000 pages by itself, I also read a high page count. I’m going for quality over quantity this year, but I wouldn’t mind continuing this trend of quality and quantity. Last year I averaged about 9 books per month, and it seems that I’m on track so far to continue that average. I haven’t actually made much progress in my first TBR of the year so far (one of five books), but with my new system I had a chance to keep up with my library books and my buddy read as well, and my TBR books are next up in my mental reading roster.

What books did you pick up in January? Have you read any of these books?


The Literary Elephant

2017 Reading Review, and 2018 Goals

Curious about my reading stats? Here’s how I did in 2017:

My reading goal for the year was to surpass the number of books I read in 2016– 73 books. I met that goal in August and kept right on going, to reach a total number of 112 books read in 2017 (153% of my goal). That’s an average of 9 books per month. With those 112 books, I read 42,130 pages, for an average book length of 376 pages.

I had been planning to then set a goal of 112 books for 2018, but since this is a trend I’m probably not going to be able to continue indefinitely, I’ve decided to challenge myself in other ways for 2018 and set my goal at 90 books for 2018. I’m hoping that I’ll surpass that number and keep going again, but I don’t want to find myself reading a bunch of short/easy books just to meet a high goal, so I’m going to leave the bar a little lower than I think I’ll realistically achieve and put the challenge in the content I’m reading instead of the number. 2018 is going to be about quality over quantity for me.

But before I look too far ahead, here are some more stats for my 2017 reading:

YA- 38 books (34%)     NA- 10 books (9%)     Adult- 64 books (57%)

Fantasy- 34 books (30%)     Mystery/Thriller- 16 books (14%)     Classic- 15 books (13%)     Fiction/Lit Fic- 13 books (12%)     Contemporary- 11 books (10%)     Romance- 10 books (9%)     Historical Fiction- 3 books (3%)     Non-fiction- 3 books (3%)     Paranormal/Magical Realism- 3 books (3%)     Short Stories/Anthology- 3 books (3%)

Hardcover- 65 books (58%)     Paperback- 42 books (38%)     Ebook- 5 books (4%)

New to me- 107 books (96%)     Started over- 3 books (3%)     Reread- 2 books (1%)

2017 releases- 27 books (24%)     2016 releases- 15 books (13%)     Older publications- 70 (63%)

12 books that I read this year made it to my Favorite Reads of 2017 list.

I also completed a 50-book Reading Challenge in 2017.

I established a book-acquiring goal a few months into the year (March) of adding only 5 books per month or less to my shelves. Sadly, I achieved this goal only three times in ten months, although twice more I was close, at 6 books. I’m planning to lower this goal to 3 new books per month in 2018 and work harder at eliminating unread books from my shelves.

Here’s a look at all the new books I acquired in 2017:

janbooks febbooks1 febbooks2 FullSizeRender (6) FullSizeRender (16) maybooks  junebookhaul julybookhaul augustbookhaul septemberbookhaul octoberbookhaul novemberbookhaul decemberbookhaul

I acquired 119 books in total in 2017. Of this number, I’ve read 46 books. That number (39%) is much lower than I would like, but actually higher than I expected while looking through these haul photos. I’m intending to read a lot more of these in 2018.

Of my 112 books this year, I read:

Bought in 2017: 38 books (34%)     Older titles from my own shelves: 28 books (25%)     Borrowed [from library or friends]: 46 books (41%)

[some of my newly acquired books I’m counting as read even though I what I read was a borrowed copy prior to owning my own, if you’re wondering why the numbers don’t add up.]

Another 2017 goal I set was to read one classic per month. These are the 12 classics I picked out last December to read throughout the year:


Of these, I’ve read 10 and 1/3 (The Iliad is the 1/3) of the stories I designated for 2017. But I did make some changes to this list as the year progressed and picked up a few extras, so I did end up reading 15 classics in 2017 (125% of my goal). I’m kind of bummed that I didn’t get around to Dracula or The Count of Monte Cristo, but I am definitely satisfied with the number and titles I did read. I’m setting the same 12-book classics goal in 2018, and I’m planning to structure it the same way: choosing 12 books at the beginning of the year (post to come soon), designating a month for each, and sticking to that list as much as I can throughout the year.

I also want to talk about my first year with a subscription box– Book of the Month Club. I love that BOTM offers a five-book selection that I get to chose from each month, as well as plenty of great extras. The selections are almost always brand new releases (and some early releases), which is awesome. And I also love the online account that goes with the box– where I can log the BOTM books I’ve finished on my virtual bookshelf, review them, sort them by how much I enjoyed them, and see what other readers thought. It’s been a lot of fun. But the downside… it’s been so much fun selecting new BOTM books that I’ve been acquiring more of them than I’ve been able to keep up with reading. I am staying with BOTM for another year. But I’m adding a goal for myself in 2018: to catch up with the books I’ve already received from them, and to stay caught up. By the end of 2018, I want no unread BOTM books on my shelves. For this reason, I’m implementing a goal of choosing only one book per month (instead of the maximum option of three) at least until I’m caught up, when I’ll reconsider how many BOTM books I’ll be able to keep up with per month. I’ve made one exception: in addition to my one new selection in January, I also added 2017’s Book of the Year as an extra to my box. But that’s a one-time-per-year thing, and I did force myself to choose only one new selection for January. Here’s a look at all the books I chose through BOTM throughout the past year:


I selected 21 books from BOTM in 2017. I’ve read only 11 BOTM books so far. [This is my most shameful statistic.]

To see more (and more specific) goals you can also check out my 2018 reading challenge, which I self-created.

And in conclusion: I’m happy with the number of books that I read, the variety of genres (though I want to read less fantasy and romance next year), the balance of adult/YA/NA books, the number of borrowed and owned books I read, the amount of new releases and the completion of my reading challenge. But in 2018 I want to pick up more books outside of my norm, fewer guilty pleasures and more books that I think will surprise me. More of the BOTM books I’ve been putting off even though I’m excited for them. More books that I can learn from, rather than just reading for entertainment purposes. I want to broaden my horizons. My biggest goal though is just to buy fewer books until I’m more caught up. Acquiring so many more books than I’m actually reading is a new trend that I don’t like.

What did you read in 2017? Are there any more stats you’d like to see from me?


The Literary Elephant


December Reading Wrap-up

I had big plans for December, and even though many of them went unrealized, I think I did prioritize well so that even now I’m happy with the reading I accomplished this month, despite the books I didn’t get around to. I focused my December reading on the final titles I needed to cross off on my 2017 reading challenge, which gave me an interesting range of genres and plots and constantly surprised me. Here’s a look at the books I conquered in December:

  1. The Alienist by Caleb Carr. 3 out of 5 stars.thealienist I came across this book first through Book of the Month Club, and it intrigued me then, but seeing that it also came out in the year I was born, thus fulfilling a tricky slot in my reading challenge, I knew I had to read it. I put it off until December, but I’m glad I finally read it. Unfortunately, even though the plot was everything I expected from the intriguing premise (a murder spree of child prostitutes in Gilded Age New York, solved by Theodore Roosevelt’s team of an early behavioral psychologist, a seasoned reporter for the Times, the first female secretary of the NYPD, and various ex-criminals), the writing style dragged a bit for me. I wasn’t as impressed as I hoped to be.
  2. The Wonder by Emma Donoghue. 4 out of 5 stars. I was wary going into this one thewonderbecause of Room. I enjoyed Donoghue’s Room (although I still haven’t seen the film) but for some reason I had a hard time envisioning Donoghue’s storytelling working so effectively across such different subjects, and while I respected Room I didn’t want to read another version of it. Luckily, The Wonder proved to me that Donoghue has a great range. I was pulled into this story and these characters so much more strongly than I expected, and I closed the book more than willing to pick up another book by this author in the future. This is one of those novels that’s a delight to read even if you don’t think you have any interest in its Irish setting, in Catholic miracles, in fasting, or in nursing. If you like to learn obscure things from books that know their stuff, let me gently nudge you toward The Wonder.
  3. The Color Purple by Alice Walker. 5 out of 5 stars. thecolorpurpleThis book wins the award for my most surprising (in a good way) book of the month. It came from the very bottom of my Goodreads TBR list, which means by the time I picked it up this month I didn’t remember what it was about, or even why I had added it to my TBR in the first place. If it hadn’t won a Pulitzer Prize, those facts alone probably would’ve assured its removal from my TBR list over the years as my interest faded. But before I’d even reached page numbers in the double digits, I fell in love with this story. I’m so glad my reading challenge pushed me to pick it up this year. Even though it’s a classic and a prize-winner (which generally take a bit longer to parse and ponder), I read it so quickly and easily, and I was sad to reach the end. There’s some heavy subject matter and it’s not a book to be taken lightly, but it’s a powerful and empowering read, one of my favorites this year.
  4. Macbeth by William Shakespeare. 3 out of 5 stars. I thought Macbeth would be… macbethcrazier. More intense. More magical. It felt too brief and condensed, maybe, for all those hopes to be properly realized. There is craziness and murder and magic, of course, but for some reason none of it resonated with me like I expect a good book to do. I like the Shakespeare plays I’ve read for the most part, but generally I have higher expectations for them than end up being fulfilled, and Macbeth was no exception to that rule. But I’ll keep trying.
  5. A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 4 out of 5 stars. charlesdickensThis is a story I was already familiar with, though I’ve never actually read the classic text. For that matter, I’ve read very few Christmas stories, at the end of December or otherwise. It was a novel experience, and even though I did have a clear idea of most of the plot, I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it a lot. I especially liked Dickens’s narration style, and the humor that came through it, and I’m eager to find out what I’ll think of some of his other works. And maybe I’ll have to find something Christmas-y to read at the end of December as a rule, because it definitely boosted my holiday spirit to be reading something so seasonally appropriate.
  6. Some Luck by Jane Smiley. 4 out of 5 stars. Another surprise. I expected a book someluckabout farm life in early-to-mid 1900’s Iowa to be a bit dull at best, but again found myself more captivated than I could ever have guessed. This is the first book in a trilogy about cultural history (through fiction) in my home state, and I must go on to read the sequels. There’s so little plot, but the main family is constantly interesting and I have the somewhat unique pleasure of comparing my own personal experiences with some of the details of this saga. It’s so great to find a book with a relatively tiny target audience that I actually fit into.
  7. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead. 4 out of 5 stars. My second Pulitzer Prize winner of the month! I only needed one for my reading challenge, but since The Color Purple was filling another category and I didn’t want to double up, I reached for a second. I actually received this one for Christmas, and then I was so busy by the end of the month that it was a struggle to fit it in. Technically, I did read the last few pages on the 1st of January, but I was so close to the end, and I want to start January fresh, so I’m counting it. It didn’t impress me quite as much as The Color Purple did, but I marked a lot of lines that sounded absolutely beautiful and/or really made me think. This is  fascinating subject with an equally fascinating twist, and it’s going to stick with me. Full review to come.

Honorable mention: I’m a third of the way through Homer’s The Iliad. The fall of Troy is such an intriguing story, but I don’t love the translation I’m reading. It keeps making me sleepy. I do want to finish this book in the near future, and I’ll stick with the edition I own; I’m hoping that things will be picking up now and the interesting plot will help propel me through the rest of the book at a faster pace. But also I’m picking up some new things already as January begins, so I can’t say for sure when exactly I’m expecting to reach the end of The Iliad. I do like it. But I need a breather.

Seven books, plus a little extra. Not a record, especially since several of these were short, but I stuck with my Reading Challenge (final update imminent), I was inspired to set some different reading goals for 2018 than I had previously planned, and I had fun picking up some things that I wouldn’t normally have reached for. My reading this month gave me a chance to broaden my reading horizons, and to consider how I wanted to broaden them further in 2018. So regardless of numbers, SUCCESS.

Yearly wrap-ups and 2018 changes to be posted soon.

What did you read to wrap up the year?


The Literary Elephant

November Reading Wrap-Up

November was way too busy for me to read everything I wanted to. And, as seems to be increasingly the usual case, I’m too easily tempted to swap my actual TBR books with other things, so I didn’t even come close to finishing with my November TBR. But I did read some interesting books this month, and I’m eager to share my thoughts on them. Here are the books I finished in November:

  1. The Silence of the Lambs by Thomas Harris. 5 out of 5 stars. I was reading this thesilenceofthelambsone for Halloween, but I finished it early in November. I absolutely loved this book, as far as one can “love” a book of horrifying crimes. Hannibal Lecter is the perfect villain. It’s the quintessential detective novel, complete with crazy madmen and voracious detectives, with all the right clues hidden in plain sight and an intriguing psychological level under the plot twists. I must read more Thomas Harris.
  2. Twisted Palace by Erin Watt. 4 out of 5 stars. I was a little wary about trying to get back into the Royals series after royalsseriesthe disappointment of Broken Prince (book two), especially since this wasn’t anything but a guilty pleasure to begin with. But I figured I might as well get to the third book while I still remembered the plot from the first two, so I started it anyway. And I was pleasantly surprised! I’m still not calling this series anything but a guilty pleasure, but whatever it was for me, this was the best book of the series so far. It had the same unexpected details that I appreciated in the first book, but the plot was bigger than the predictable romance that started this whole thing. Twisted Palace reminded me a lot of The OC. There’s a murder mystery on top of the romance, and the answer is actually not immediately obvious, and the obnoxiously rich teens caught in the middle of it are actually forced to enter the real world of consequences, which is a nice change. This was a perfect distraction for me during a busy work week, and I’m glad I didn’t let Broken Prince hold me back from finishing this “trilogy.” (It’s a longer series, but the first three books go together.)
  3. Tarnished Crown by Erin Watt. 2 out of 5 stars. This one is actually a novella, the next book in the Royals series and the first story that follows different characters than books 1-3. I found the complete text online and decided to check it out before considering buying any more of these. It was a good choice, because this one was predictable and all over the place and discouraged me from wanting to read any further in the series. You know those books that have great sentences throughout about equality and acceptance and it seems obvious that the writer is trying to show that their characters are good, inclusive people: the strong, independent women and the generous, supportive men? But then outside of those sprinkled-in sentences there are major plot points that show otherwise, like the guy is actually stalking his love interest, and she is waiting for love to “fix” her. That happens in Watt’s books. You want to like the characters because of the things they say and think, but their actions just don’t match up and you realize that the author is trying to be a people-pleaser without actually fitting the plot to the standards they want their characters to uphold, and everything just falls apart. That’s especially apparent in this book, as it was in Broken Prince. “I will do literally anything you want,” they say, except leave you alone when that’s all you’re repeatedly asking for. I’m going to go back to pretending this series ends with Twisted Palace.
  4. The Lover by Marguerite Duras. 3 out of 5 stars. I read part of this book once for a college class, but never got around theloverto finishing it. This time around, I started over and made it all the way through. The writing is beautiful, a sort of melancholy sweetness mixed with tragedy, and that’s the driving force through the novel. As much as I enjoyed that, however, the lack of plot made this a slower read for me than it should have been at just over 100 pages. I’ll probably read it again someday, but in the meantime I think I’ll get a lot more enjoyment out of perusing the quotes I marked than combing through the book as a whole.
  5. The Truth About Forever by Sarah Dessen. 5 out of 5 stars. I was eleven or thetruthaboutforevertwelve when I read this book for the first time, and it immediately became one of my all-time favorites. My 2017 reading challenge gave me an extra excuse to revisit it, and I’m so glad it did. I’m sure my continued enjoyment of this book is part nostalgia, but it really is a great YA contemporary, and still one of my favorite Dessen novels. It’s inspired me to make a habit of revisiting old book loves in November, the month for being thankful.
  6. The Good Daughter by Karin Slaughter. 3 out of 5 stars. This one I jumped into without knowing much about what to expect.thegooddaughter I knew it would be some sort of crime/mystery novel, and it was, but I was surprised at how character-driven the story was. It was certainly a slow-paced book after the initial crimes, which isn’t a bad thing, but I didn’t expect such heavy contemplation about humanity from a novel about a family of lawyers and their tragic past. It was very thought-provoking, which made up for the sparse plotting. I’ll be interested to see what other Slaughter novels will include.
  7. The Bone Season by Samantha Shannon. 3 out of 5 stars. I had no idea what to theboneseasonexpect from this one, and it took very few pages to realize that there was no possible way to “expect” what was coming in The Bone Season. I loved how unpredictable this book was, and how the game was constantly changing. In a fantasy world, no less, which means that it’s a novel packed full of pure creation. It’s a lot to keep up with. But as much fun as I had with the plot, I still had a tough time getting through this one because I disliked most of the characters. Some of them I liked following even while I disliked them, if that makes sense, so I am planning to continue the series. I’ll reassess after the next book.
  8. Saga: Book Two by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. 5 out of 5 stars. I was planning to read another book for my sagabooktworeading challenge at the end of November and save this one for later in December, but it came in to my library and I just couldn’t wait. I had just as much fun with these volumes (4-6) as I did with Book One (volumes 1-3), and I wish Book Three wasn’t such a long ways away. I’ll have to check out the individual volumes now as they come out, because I need to keep some of Alana and Marko and Hazel and their galactic adventures in my life.

I had 9 books on my TBR for November, and I’m sad to say there are 3 from that list that I haven’t even started yet (they’ve all been carried over to December’s TBR), plus one that I’m currently reading. But I’m happy with my 8 books this month. For as busy as I was, 8 books feels like a great number, even though some of them were short/rereads/full of pictures. That’s just the kind of reading month I needed. But I have much bigger plans for December. 🙂

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


The Literary Elephant

October Reading Wrap-Up

This has been a crazy month. I knew it would be, and I made it worse by setting a 22-book TBR for October. Of those 22 books, I read only 5 full books (and starting 2 others), although I read 13 books overall. It really wasn’t a bad reading month, although there were so many more things I wish I would’ve had time to read this month. I probably say that (or at least think it) every month, but I feel it especially in October because it’s one of the few months that I read specific types of books, so some of the things I didn’t end up reading are books I’ve been looking forward to reading in October practically since this time last year. But there’s always next year, I suppose. If I’m still alive (and I intend to be), I’ll still be reading. Here’s what I did finish this month:

  1. The Deal by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. Followed by:
  2. The Mistake by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. And:
  3. The Score by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. And then also…
  4. The Goal by Elle Kennedy. 3 out of 5 stars. These are the four novels in Kennedy’s NA romance Off-Campus series. It’s a cheesy, predictable set of books about four college hockey player roommates and the girls they fall in love with. There are a lot of sex scenes. The covers feature men’s abs. I’m kind of ashamed about having read all of these, and I don’t want to review them more fully. I was stressed and I wanted a guilty pleasure read, and it didn’t seem fair to spend whole posts complaining about the problems of these books when I knew three chapters into the first one exactly what these were. I liked them (somewhat) anyway, I’m not recommending them, I’m glad they’re behind me. For anyone who’s read these and is curious: I thought the guy in the first book was an asshole throughout the entire book, the non-hockey player guy in book two seemed like a better match for the heroine, the third book was my favorite, and I liked book four’s characters best but it had the worst plot (half of it is revealed at the end of book three, and the other half is obvious basically from page one). The best thing I got out of this series is a discussion post I wrote earlier this month about the Goodreads rating system. And now I’m moving on.
  5. On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft by Stephen King. 5 out of 5 stars. I don’t read onwritinga lot of nonfiction, but this is one of the best nonfiction books I’ve ever read. It’s targeted mostly toward beginning writers, but there’s some great advice and impressive story-telling in here for all sorts of readers. I was not intending to pick this one up right away after I ordered it, but I did and I loved every minute I spent reading it. I have never marked so many great quotes in any book before this one, and it’s going to have a place of pride on my shelf for the rest of eternity. Stephen King is a master writer, and even outside of his usual horror/science fiction genre, it shows. Highly recommend, especially if you’re an aspiring writer or Stephen King fan.
  6. The Haunting of Hill House by Shirley Jackson. thehauntingofhillhouse4 out of 5 stars. A classic haunted house tale, as the title suggests. This one was short and spooky, exactly what I was looking for in an intelligent Halloween-type read. I loved seeing the main character’s mind unraveling as the strange occurrences in the house increased. It reminded me a lot of The Bell Jar, and a bit of Ethan Frome. I’m counting this as my classic of the month because it’s the only one out of the three classics I wanted to read this month that I actually got around to finishing.
  7. Tales from the Shadowhunter Academy by Cassandra Clare, Sarah Rees Brennan, Maureen Johnson, and Robin Wasserman. 3 out of 5 stars. This was talesfromtheshadowhunteracademythe next stop on my 2017 Shadowhunter marathon, and after hearing from so many sources that this one was better than The Bane Chronicles I had high hopes. Unfortunately, I didn’t like this one more than The Bane Chronicles. It had no 5-star stories for me. But it did cover some interesting events after the conclusion of The Mortal Instruments series, so I’m glad I read it, and I’m really excited to be going on to The Dark Artifices next.
  8. Paper Princess by Erin Watt. 4 out of 5 stars. Erin Watt is actually an author duo, and half of the duo is Elle Kennedy (see 1-4 above). Apparently I’ve had a weakness this month for NA romance novels and I’m still kind of ashamed about it but what can you do. I was interested in this series (the Royals series) before I’d ever heard of the Off-Campus series, and the premise of this one sounded better. Accidentally reading all four of the Off-Campus books earlier this month made me more curious about checking out this one, and although there were definite similarities I liked this one a lot more. The characters were generally less annoying and problematic and more things happened that I wasn’t expecting. Some of the actual romance plot is still really predictable, but I cared more about the characters and the surprises in their lives, especially with the secondary characters. I would definitely recommend this one over of the Off-Campus series, and I wish I had just skipped those and gone straight to Paper Princess. It’s like Gossip Girl, but grittier and on a smaller, less overly-dramatic scale. It is technically YA, but… it’s more sexual than any YA I’ve ever encountered. Even the non-sex parts and the background details are described in surprisingly sex-related ways. I would probably put it into an NA category myself, because it’s not so much a coming-of-age sort of story as a figuring-out-life-by-reasonably-mature-individuals story, even though the main character is 17 and in high school.
  9. Broken Prince by Erin Watt. 2 out of 5 stars. I sped through Paper Princess in one day, and even though I thought it was kind of trashy I ordered the next two books in the series. Work has been pretty stressful this month, and this series gave me something really easy to read in 5-minute increments at 4 in the morning (I have a weird job, don’t ask). So those are the conditions in which I read most of this second book in the Royals series, and it was exactly what I needed at the time even though it seemed a lot more problematic than the first book (it encourages solving problems with violence, and the male love interest is uber possessive and controlling and doesn’t take no for an answer. Even when it’s not about sex, that’s not a healthy relationship.) This one was also a lot more predictable than book one and had more cringe-worthy dialogue. I’m only talking about these so much here because I didn’t think they were worth a full review, but I wanted to explain a bit about why I read them and what I liked/disliked about them. If you want to know more, meet me in the comments section.
  10. Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo. 5 out of 5 stars. sixofcrowsThis one was definitely a highlight of my reading year. I can’t believe I put it off for so long, because it’s absolutely a fantastic book, and I can hardly wait to delve into the sequel, Crooked Kingdom (I must found out what happens to Inej. She’s my fave). I started this one because I was excited to read The Language of Thorns, so I hope to be reading that in November, as well, even though it’s not in my official TBR.
  11. The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman. 4 out of 5 stars. I’ve been theoceanattheendofthelanesporadically picking up Gaiman books this year, and this one seemed perfect for October. Indeed, it was very Halloween-y. Fantasy enough to be unpredictable and fun, but realistic enough that I was left wondering about the monsters in my own life. I loved the mix of adulthood/childhood morals and the reminiscences this book invokes, and somehow the use of a child narrator made the novel even creepier. It didn’t give me weird dreams, but definitely some weird thoughts while I was reading.
  12. The Clockwork Dynasty by Daniel H. Wilson. theclockworkdynasty4 out of 5 stars. If you kind of expect something to be a surprising favorite, does it still count as a surprise? Robots are not my thing, but I thought this book was beautiful and thought-provoking. My opinions on robots haven’t really changed, but I was pleasantly reminded of why the writing of a story is often more important than whatever subject matter it covers. I had such a good time reading this one that I didn’t even mind the robots. I also felt like I had a greater appreciation for history after reading this one.
  13. Saga: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. 5 out of 5 stars. A stunning success. I hardly ever read graphic novels, comics, manga, etc. I like art in books, but I like words more. I just don’t feel like I’m reading when there are so many pictures. But I needed a graphic novel for my reading challenge, and the premise of this one intrigued me. I’m glad I read this edition with the first three volumes in one book, because it gave me enough of the story that I’m definitely interested in reading further (I will be checking out Saga: Book Two in the near future). I’m not rushing out now to read all the comics I can get my hands on, but I did love reading this particular story. It’s weird and blunt and whimsical and it makes some valid points. Full review imminent.

Honorable Mention: I’m currently reading Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs. It’s my Halloween read, but I’m so busy right now that I didn’t end up completely finishing it on Halloween. I’ve seen the corresponding film, but I don’t remember it very well so I keep picturing Scully from The X-Files as Clarice Starling, the main female investigator in The Silence of the Lambs. This is a superbly written book, it’s appropriately creepy for Halloween, and I’m having a wonderfully disturbing time reading it. Unless things go unexpectedly awry, it’ll get a high rating from me and a full review posted soon.

What a list. This October was a roller coaster of highs and lows in my reading life as well as my actual life. I wish I had read more things from my long and hopeful TBR, but I did read some great books this month (once I got past the cheesy NA romances). And I’m hoping November will be even better. 🙂

What spooky (or non-frightening) books did you read in October?


The Literary Elephant

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)?


The Literary Elephant