Witchathon 2019 TBR Announcement

For those of you who have been following, you might know that I participated in my very first readathons last month when I entered in House Battles and Mythothon.

I admit that I went a little overboard and read like a madwoman because I became obsessed with the idea of reading at least 300 pages per day. Almost any free time I had outside of work was dedicated to trying to read as much as possible. As a result, I read a whopping 26 books and also destroyed basically any reading motivation I had.

I decided that–if I want to stay sane and keep my love of reading–I should probably take a break from readathons, especially the ones that give you points per page. While looking for “low-cost” readathons in October, I found Witchathon and it was basically exactly what I (and my partner) needed. It’s only a week long, has no point system, and has super cool prompts.

Here are the reading prompts for Witchathon:

  • A book that features your heritage
  • A book that features communing with the dead
  • A book that promises to be dark & twisted.
  • A book that involves a pantheon of deities
  • A book that has fire on the cover
  • The group pick: Gideon the Ninth

Ready for my TBR?

A picture of my current TBR for Witchathon

The books I’m reading are:

  • The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan (fire on the cover/pantheon of deities)
  • Gideon the Ninth (group book/communing with the dead)
  • The Whisper Man by Alex North (dark and twisted)
  • Binti by Nnedi Okorafor (heritage)

If you’re interested in participating in Witchaton, you can find more info here: https://twitter.com/WitchAThon

Book Review: Carry On by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Not as likable as Fangirl, but still an entertaining and light-hearted read.

Book CWs

  • Paranormal Creatures
  • Character Death
  • Violence
  • Racism (ish)
  • Murder
  • Abuse
  • Bullying

Premise

Simon Snow is known as the highly-prophesied Chosen One in the wizarding world. Unfortunately, he is–and always has been–an extremely incompetent wizard, a fact that his roommate (and nemesis) Baz never fails to remind him of. His spells rarely ever work and if it weren’t for the help of his best friend, Penelope, and his pure dumb luck, he probably wouldn’t have made it this far.

It is Simon’s final year at the Watford School of Magicks and Baz is no where to be found. Paranoid that Baz is simply lurking in the shadows waiting for his final attack, Simon soon becomes obsessed with finding him. In fact, it is 100% his main focus.

Except magic is being destroyed all around the world by a monster wearing Simon’s face so maybe that’s where Simon’s priorities should lie. Magic is more important to Simon than Baz. Isn’t it?

Review (No Spoilers)

My partner had described this book to me as a Harry Potter parody (which is why I was interested in reading it) and that’s kind of exactly what it was. Simon is a complete doofus and the spells are sayings like “you can’t touch this” and “ix-nay on the atford-Way” so the book can be freaking hilarious at times.

The romance really had me going so it’s unfortunate that it begins over halfway through the book–and it’s a pretty big book. I would have much rather had more romance and less buildup but that’s just because I love me some lovin’.

Once you get past the couples and comedy, the plot is actually really tragic. A lot more tragic than I ever thought it would be and a lot more tragic than I think I was mentally prepared for. I am extremely glad that I read Carry On before Fangirl because it allowed me to feel the shock and horror of certain plot twists that would have otherwise been spoiled. I highly recommend taking my route if you want this same experience.

I’d say that the reason this book lost a star was because certain chapters (specifically the Lucy chapters) seemed kind of pointless and unnecessarily confusing. I also am super ambivalent about the ending. I feel like I was disappointed and happy at the same time. You might even say that I was both disappointed and appointed.

Book Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A rollercoaster of a book that had me going back and forth between loving and hating it.

Book CWs

  • Character Death/Murder
  • Gore
  • Paranormal Creatures
  • Not sure the word for it but there are times when you don’t know what is real and what is not

Premise

The Duke of Highmoor has watched over the People of Salt for decades but after tragedy repeatedly strikes his bloodline, the town beings to worry that his family is cursed.

Four of the duke’s daughters have suffered tragic unsuspected deaths and Annaleigh, one of the oldest of those remaining, is the only one who suspects that something evil may be working its way through her loved ones.

One night, Annaleigh and her sisters discover a magical portal that takes them to extravagant balls where they can let go of their grief and dance the night away. But after Annaleigh begins having increasingly disturbing visions of her dead sisters, she starts to wonder if everyone is really who they say they are.

Review (No Spoilers)

Once again, this is a book I read because of House Battles (it was the Ravenclaw book). I had seen it around book twitter and bookstagram but I had no idea that it was a retelling until I read the blurb on the back. To be fair, I hadn’t even heard of the 12 Dancing Princesses before–I read the synopsis on Wikipedia. It’s a pretty jacked up story.

I didn’t like this book as much as I thought I would–though I mostly thought I would like it because the cover is gorgeous.

When I first started reading, I was almost completely bored. I was also kind of annoyed because I felt that the author was using unnecessarily complicated words to be fancy. Mix having to look up words with being bored and you get a grumpy Jenny.

I trudged through the beginning because I rarely ever DNF a book (and because I wanted the points for House Battles) and luckily I was rewarded! As soon as the ghostly visions started happening, I was in awe. The details were absolutely amazing and I found myself terrified–in a good way.

As the plot began to thicken, my excitement just kept growing and growing. I was even convinced that it would end up being a 4.5/5 star read. But once it got to the climax where everything was explained, I was super underwhelmed. I felt as if it was a huge copout!

This book had so much potential for me but the ending effectively killed it. It almost hurts to rate it 3 stars.

Book Review: The Kingdom by Jess Rothenberg

Rating: 4.5/5

A surprisingly thrilling read that I finished within a day.

Book CWs

  • Rape
  • Murder
  • Character death
  • Abuse
  • Manipulation
  • Animal death
  • Animal cruelty

Premise

The Kingdom is a fantasy theme park that offers its guest their own happily ever after. As part of the experience, The Kingdom “employs” seven android princesses known as the Fantasists designed specifically to make people as happy as possible.

When a new (human) employee named Owen shows up at the park, Ana, one of the Fantasists, begins to feel things androids aren’t supposed to feel. Things like love.

Being one of the oldest Fantasists, Ana knows that she must keep her mouth shut or risk being destroyed and replaced. But when Owen is suddenly murdered and with all evidence pointing to Ana, she may have no choice.

Review (No Spoilers)

Honestly, I don’t remember why I picked up this book. My partner tells me that it was during the Barnes & Noble #bookhaul so I must have read the flap and liked it. I mean, a book about princess androids and murder sounds pretty darn interesting, doesn’t it?

The books timeline jumps between Ana working at the park as a Fantasist and Ana on trial for Owen’s murder. The pre-murder chapters count down to the trial which really worked for me in creating suspense. There were also several sketchy things happening even before Owen’s murder that made this book a lot more thrilling than I thought it would be. If I were an audio book narrator, I feel like I’d be tempted to say “dun dun dunnn” at the end of several chapters.

One thing that I thought was weird about Ana was that she was pretty bad at putting things together. It took her a lot longer than it took me to understand what was happening but I can blame that on the fact that she was probably programmed to be naive. I think the ending had a lot more potential but I still very much enjoyed the story.

Book Review: Leah on the Offbeat by Becky Albertalli (Creekwood #2)

Rating: 3 out of 5.

I really wanted to like this book but I couldn’t stand Leah as a character.

Book CWs

  • Homophobia
  • Biphobia (in particular, there is a horrible rant in the book where a character is yelled at for not being “bisexual enough”)
  • Fatphobia

Premise

Leah Burke is one of Simon Spier’s best friends but even after Simon was outed as gay, she hasn’t been able to tell him (or anyone else other than her mom) that she is bisexual.

As a senior in high school, Leah knows that her life is on the brink of change but has no idea how to handle it. As she struggles to find out who she is, she finds herself losing old friends, making new friends, and–perhaps even–falling in love.

Review (No Spoilers)

I have a bad memory. To combat this, I try to create a blog draft as soon as a finish a book to scribble ideas of what I want to remember to write about in my review.

Leah is annoying AF

The only note past-me wrote to present-me.

So, that’s what I have to work from.

My partner and I read Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda together (review here) and I completely fell in love with that story. Honestly, I only bought Leah on the Offbeat because I wanted to follow Simon more and it was the closest thing I had to a sequel.

Honestly, I was hesitant on reading the book because I never liked Leah’s character in Simon’s story. She seemed to provide almost nothing but negativity. When I finally picked Leah on the Offbeat up, I had hoped that it would give me more insight into her character. Unfortunately, I ended up just hating her more and more. I hated her so much that I didn’t even want her to get her happy ending because I felt she didn’t deserve it.

I suppose that since I’m going on and on about how much I hate Leah, it would only seem fitting that I would give this book a 1 or 2 star rating. And I probably would have, except for the fact that this book was still kind of enjoyable.

There were a few times where I thought “you know, maybe I can like Leah” and I cherished those moments, even if they didn’t last long. There were also many parts where I laughed out loud and I always appreciate a book that can do that to me.

I think what I liked most about the book, though, was the side characters. Their stories were–to me–100% better than Leah’s. Give me an entire book about Leah’s mom, Garrett, Bram, Abby, or–what the heck–even Taylor and I will read that so hard. I think having a hatable MC allowed me to appreciate everyone else just that much more.

I will admit that I think Leah did grow as a person, but only very minimally. She was in denial about her flaws the entire book and I really wish that she would have come to that realization by the end. If she had, I might have given this book 4 or 5 stars.

Book Review: With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo

Rating: 4.5/5 (More like 4.75)

A book that I pretty much bought for the cover but was happily surprised with how much I loved it.

Book CWs

  • Parent Abandonment
  • Character Death
  • Racism

Premise

Emoni Santiago is a single mother supporting her daughter and her abuela, all while trying to graduate from high school. With all of the stress that comes with her everyday life, Emoni often finds solace in the one activity that she has always loved: cooking.

At the start of her senior year, her high school begins offering a brand new culinary class–an opportunity too sweet to pass up. There is even a class trip to Spain!

But when Emoni’s talent is undermined by her inability to follow directions and when she realize just how much going to Spain will cost, she is forced to reevaluate how far her talent and passion can take her.

Review (No Spoilers)

I bought With The Fire on High because it was the Gryffindor book for House Battles and I thought the cover looked absolutely amazing. Seriously, I love everything about the cover.

I’m actually very thankful that House Battles chose this book because although I admired it at Barnes & Noble every so often, I don’t think I would have ever bought it on my own. I remember once I stopped to read the flap and all I thought was that the book seemed to be about nothing at all, which meant it was definitely not worth spending money on.

I was wrong.

This book was wonderful.

Admittedly, the book is about very little. But it’s the characters that make the story worthwhile. Emoni was the strong black female protagonist that I didn’t even know I needed. Not once did she ever regret begin a teen mother or place any type of blame on her daughter. She took almost all of her challenges head on and didn’t let anyone tell her she wasn’t good enough.

Malachai (the new hot dude in town), on the other hand, was basically the biggest cinnamon roll ever and I still feel like I, as a reader, didn’t deserve him. He was honestly perfect.

The character development in this book was so so good. I watched several characters (both main and side) learn from their mistakes and actually grow. My only qualm was that two or three characters seemed to be let off easy in the end, when in my opinion, they should have been told off. If you’ve read this book, I am happy to rant to you about it.

Overall, I definitely recommend this book. The chapters are really short and it’s fast paced so you can easily finish it in a day if you wanted to.

P.S. I can’t be the only one who misread Acevedo as Avocado, right?

Book Review: Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell

Rating: 4.5/5

I liked pretty much everything about this book except for one specific thing.

Book CWs

  • Parent Abandonment
  • Cheating
  • Exploitation
  • Anxiety
  • Eating Disorders

Note: If you’re looking to read Carry On, I suggest reading that first as Fangirl has spoilers for it throughout the book.

Premise

Cath and her twin sister Wren have been Simon Snow fans for basically their entire lives. Together they’ve written tons of fan fiction online and gained a surprisingly large amount of fans.

But when the two of them start college, Cath suddenly finds herself abandoned by Wren. Not only does Wren not want to be Cath’s roommate, she also seems to want as little to do with Cath as possible.

Now alone, Cath finds herself struggling to keep up with her studies while trying to finish her last fan fiction piece, Carry On. Add that to the fact that her roommate is a extreme grump whose boyfriend is always around, her dad is home alone for the first time and has stopped eating real food, and her new fiction writing professor has labeled fan fiction as straight up plagiarism.

With no one to turn to for help, can Cath make it on her own?

Review (No Spoilers)

This book. My god, this book.

The characters in this book were amazingly written. I fell so hard for Cath and her problems as she was basically the written version of myself (minus the fan fiction). I loved her with all of my heart.

The side characters were just as good. I have read countless stories where characters do sucky things and are never really forced to reflect on their actions. But with this book I was very satisfied with the way every arc was nicely tied up. Relationships that I thought should have mended were mended while toxic relationships were effectively cut off. I watched as each individual character grew from what they did (or didn’t do) and it was wonderful.

The romance in this book was like top shelf for me. Trust me when I say that I was living for it. And having read Carry On prior to read this, I actually enjoyed the Simon excerpts a lot. I wish it were an actual book series so that I could read it in its entirety (yeah yeah I know Harry Potter exists).

At this point you’re probably wondering what the one thing I didn’t like was. Unfortunately, it’s a spoiler (sorry!). I will say that involved making a character do something that in my opinion was completely not in line with who that character was at all in order to create conflict. And since that character happened to be my favorite character at the time, I was pissed. My partner read this book before I did and actually warned me before I got to the part where it happens because he knew it would be upsetting. Needless to say, I was still upset.

If I could, I would just scratch out that part of the book and pretend it never happened. I actually might.

The was really the only low part of me reading this book. Everything else was basically as perfect as could be. I mean, aside from the fact that the MCs legal name is Cather and who tf names their child Cather? The name Cath would have literally been just as acceptable for all intents and purposes.

Audio Book Review: The Madness Underneath by Maureen Johnson

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Not as good as its predecessor but still an amazing story and narrator.

Book CWs

  • Character death
  • Murder
  • Suicide
  • Occult
  • Kidnapping

Premise

Aurora (Rory) Deveaux was attacked by a Jack The Ripper copycat and survived. Unable to actually explain what happened to her and removed from school, Rory finds herself feeling overwhelmingly lonely. But something amazing happens: Rory’s therapist convinces her parents to let her return to Wexford, where she is welcomed back with open arms.

Everything seems to be going exactly as Rory had wanted, well, except for:

  1. She has become a human terminus and is now the Shades only weapon.
  2. Her friends are becoming more and more distant as her lies begin to pile up.
  3. She is failing all of her classes.
  4. People around the city are suddenly dropping dead.

Review (No Spoilers)

If you’ve read my review for the previous book in the series then you already know that I love Nicola Barber. She does a good job with pauses, intonation, and accents and make you really feel like you’re in the story. Unfortunately, because I was so obsessed with her narration of The Name of the Star, I was quite annoyed when I discovered that she changed some of her voices.

I imagine that some of these were made on purpose after getting feedback on her work and I am grateful for her aiming to get better. There were, however, some changes that seemed to just be from her forgetting what the character sounded like.

For example, there is a character who has an accent where words like “anything” come out as “anyfink”. Nicola kept this in mind every time she voiced the character in The Name of the Star but for some reason in The Madness Underneath, the character suddenly says “anything”, well, exactly like “anything”. Some other characters had slight voice changes but nothing stood out to me as much as that change.

The actually story in The Madness Underneath is pretty different from its predecessor but still very interesting. Instead of revolving around a murderer terrorizing London, the main focus is on Rory and how she’s trying to overcome her trauma. I would say that it’s less scary and more of a psychological thriller type of book.

The characters in the book are pretty darn lovable. Surprisingly, I’d say my least favorite character right now is actually Rory because she is really good at unnecessarily pushing people away and I want to hold on to the wonderful side characters as much as possible.

I am 100% going to download the audiobook for The Shadow Cabinet (book #3 in the series). I just have to set up my audible account first. Stay tuned for that audiobook review!

Book Review: This is Where it Ends by Marieke Nijkamp

Rating: 3 out of 5.

An extremely tragic story that I kind of wish I never read.

Book CWs

  • Character Death
  • Mass Shooting
  • Suicide
  • Rape
  • Homophobia
  • Abuse

Premise

At the beginning of the semester, the principal of Opportunity High School gives the same welcome speech. Every year the speech finishes exactly at 10:00 and the students file out of the auditorium to go to their classes.

Only, when the students try to leave the auditorium this year, the doors won’t open. It only takes a few minutes before the shooting begins.

Review (No Spoilers)

I’m going to start this review by saying do not read this book if you are easily triggered by violence. I was a complete mess by page 90 and I honestly didn’t even want to finish the book. If I were more prone to DNFing books, I probably would have stopped right there. There are even times where it felt like the author purposefully upped some of the tragedy to elicit stronger emotional reactions from the readers.

The book is told through the POVs of 4 different characters: two who are outside the auditorium and two who are inside. There were two characters that I kept on confusing for each other despite the fact that one of them was inside and one of them was outside. I feel like this was the fault of there being too many names introduced at once in the beginning of the book. Once you get to the heart of the story, the characters sort themselves out a bit.

Every so often there is a flashback to give background information on who these characters are. As much as I appreciated the attempt to provide more detail, I found these flashbacks incredibly annoying. Every time I noticed the font changing to italics I was internally rolling my eyes. It reminded me of when TV shows have those filler episodes where you’re just like GET ON WITH THE STORY FOR CRYING OUT LOUD. I didn’t feel like they added enough given how frequent they were.

Speaking of not adding enough, there are also inclusions of tweets, text messages, and posts that I felt was completely unnecessary. The characters that kept repeatedly showing up in tweets and posts were forgettable and I didn’t feel connected to them at all. I would have much rather had those taken out and replaced with more interactions between the MCs and their stories.

Aside from those distractions, the story wasn’t all that bad. I think the idea was there but that it was a simple case of the author trying to do too much. I probably wouldn’t read it again simply because of how triggering it was for me, but I wouldn’t actually tell anyone not to. I really think it’s important for people to know just how terrible shootings are and this book does a really good job at showing that.

Book Review: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Rating: 5 out of 5.

The ultimate feel-good book. A perfect read for anyone who is just looking to have a good time.

Book CWs

  • Homophobia
  • Racism
  • Sexual Harassment
  • Sex scenes

Premise

Alex Claremont-Diaz is the First Son of the United States under his presidential mother. He is handsome, smart, relatable, and though he despises Prince Henry of Wales, he never lets the public see this side of him.

Well, he had never let the public see that side of him until he got drunk and made a terribly embarrassing public display of himself at a royal wedding.

Desperate to turn this PR nightmare around, both the US and British governments form a truce between the two: from now on, they are to be best friends as publicly as possible.

But when these two rivals finally begin spending time together, they discover that maybe their deep hatred towards each other has always been something more. Something intimate.

Review (No Spoilers)

I don’t think words can really describe how much I loved this book. I had just finished reading “This is Where it Ends” (a book about a high school shooting) and was basically ruined emotionally. I picked up Red, White & Royal Blue in the hopes that it would make me happy again. And that’s exactly what it did.

This book is hilarious, super freaking cute, and the characters are so endearing that you want to just give them all giant bear hugs. I loved both MCs and almost all of the main side characters–which is pretty rare for me.

Since it is classified as “romance” I was expecting a bunch of hot and heavy sex scenes (and I don’t enjoy reading these) so I was very happy to discover that the sex scenes included aren’t actually very explicit. They’re written so that you can understand the intimacy felt without having to actually read every single detail.

Another thing that I appreciated was that the book never “played up” drama. Anytime there was a conflict occurring in the plot, it was resolved very quickly in a way that was extremely satisfying for me. It was like the book was specifically made to protect my heart from any emotional turmoil.

I think my absolute favorite thing about this book was that Alex’s family is a complete gem. It was so incredibly nice to see a book that seemed dedicated to giving an example of a healthy and supportive family. I have read so many books where the MC is (basically) emotionally abused by their siblings and/or parents and it’s so frustrating to have to experience this over and over again.

So yeah. That is. That’s the review. I have nothing bad to say about this book. I love it so so much. Everyone please read it.