Wrap Up – September ’20

Ok, so this wasn’t the best reading month for me. By that I mean, I read 10 books. Yeah, it’s not great. I was in sort of a reading slump. Partially because I read some really bad books, partially because I read some really long books and definitely because I read books that were bad and long. Which really is just the worst combination. I also reread three books. I am a bit of a rereader, but rereading three books in like two weeks is a bit much, even for me.

Anyway, here are all the books I read in September!

(all summaries and covers courtesy of goodreads)

1. Unstrung by Neal Shusterman

How did Lev Calder move from an unwillingly escaped Tithe to a clapper?

In this new ebook original short story, author Neal Shusterman opens a window on Lev’s adventures between the time he left CyFi and when he showed up at the Graveyard.

Lev’s experiences on a Hi-Rez, an extraordinarily wealthy Native American Reservation introduce him to a teen with remarkable musical talent… and whose gifts are destined to end up in the hands of another. And it is this teen’s heart-breaking story that inspired Lev to choose the clapper’s path.

Pulling elements from Neal Shusterman’s critically acclaimed Unwind and giving hints about what is to come in the long-awaited sequel, UnWholly, this short story is a must for fans of the series.

0.5 out of 5 stars

Okay, I’m going to be completely honest. I shouldn’t have read this book. Unstrung is the short story based on the book Unwind which, I’ll be very clear, I did not like. I gave it 1 star. Anyone who wants to come for me for reading a short story based on a book that I kinda hated, I don’t blame you. But I had a little time to kill, I had my kindle, and this was the only thing I hadn’t read. So I read it and put it out of my mind immediately. It was completely forgettable and I didn’t care and shockingly, I still don’t.

*****

2. Siege and Storm by Leigh Bardugo

Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her—or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm. 

2 out of 5 stars

The only thing I can appreciate about this series is how much Leigh Bardugo improved as a writer. I still find it hard to believe that this is the same woman that wrote Six of Crows and Ninth House. The only good thing that came out of this is Nikolai who I’m definitely intrigued by. That’s a big reason why I’m finishing the trilogy, I really want to get to King of Scars. Anyway, I am not looking forward to reading Ruin and Rising so King of Scars better be worth it. Basically, we had a lot more of Alina being vanilla and Mal being vanilla but Nikolai came all nice and chocolate which I quite appreciated. The *climax* scenes weren’t super well written so when I was supposed to be really into the book, I was honestly just kind of bored.

*****

3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tart

It begins with a boy. Theo Decker, a thirteen-year-old New Yorker, miraculously survives an accident that kills his mother. Abandoned by his father, Theo is taken in by the family of a wealthy friend. Bewildered by his strange new home on Park Avenue, disturbed by schoolmates who don’t know how to talk to him, and tormented above all by his unbearable longing for his mother, he clings to one thing that reminds him of her: a small, mysteriously captivating painting that ultimately draws Theo into the underworld of art.

As an adult, Theo moves silkily between the drawing rooms of the rich and the dusty labyrinth of an antiques store where he works. He is alienated and in love-and at the center of a narrowing, ever more dangerous circle.

The Goldfinch combines vivid characters, mesmerizing language, and suspense, while plumbing with a philosopher’s calm the deepest mysteries of love, identity, and art. It is an old-fashioned story of loss and obsession, survival and self-invention, and the ruthless machinations of fate. 

4 out of 5 stars

The Goldfinch marks the start of my exploration of Tart’s books and heavier adult literary fiction. I am beyond excited for both of those prospects. I have a lot of the same complaints that most people do. Namely with the pacing. Honestly this book had the highest of highs where every word that Tart found in herself to us was perfect. But it also had the lowest of lows where I had to drag myself through the chapters for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. The rating anyone give’s the book just depends on if they’re willing to put its flaws aside, and it has many. Or, more accurately, many of the same problems with pacing. This book could definitely be shorter. There were brilliant parts interwoven throughout the book but even if for some reason you find the beginning and middle to be grade A crap (I did not), the end makes it all worth it. I’m planning to do a whole post reviewing this because I have… a lot of thoughts.

*****

4. Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas

Everyone Celaena Sardothien loves has been taken from her. But she’s at last returned to the empire—for vengeance, to rescue her once-glorious kingdom, and to confront the shadows of her past…

She has embraced her identity as Aelin Galathynius, Queen of Terrasen. But before she can reclaim her throne, she must fight.

She will fight for her cousin, a warrior prepared to die for her. She will fight for her friend, a young man trapped in an unspeakable prison. And she will fight for her people, enslaved to a brutal king and awaiting their lost queen’s triumphant return.

The fourth volume in the New York Times bestselling series continues Celaena’s epic journey and builds to a passionate, agonizing crescendo that might just shatter her world.

2 out of 5 stars

If it wasn’t for the ridiculous promise that I made to myself and my best friend that I would finish this series, I would have given up around the fiftieth time Aelin called Rowan ‘my fae prince’. Speaking of Rowan, he’s just this granite boulder who Aelin occasionally calls out for his ‘territorial fae bullshit’. Honestly this books has been completely washed from my memory after I spent AGES reading it. Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll make it through the 1000 page monstrosity that is Kingdom of Ash. If you hear my dying screams, I’m probably in the middle of one of the godforsaken cringe sex scenes that I’ve read so much about.

*****

5. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

This is a world divided by blood—red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power. Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance—Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart.

2 out of 5 stars

Ok, so I gave this two stars but it was a fun, trashy YA fantasy, enjoyable read that I just needed after hundreds of pages of Aelin taking herself too seriously. The plot twist genuinely kind of surprised me (though I definitely should have seen it coming) and I quite enjoyed. However, it was definitely filled with generic, cliche tropes and I couldn’t objectively rate it any higher. Also, the main character was annoying as hell and I’ve heard that she gets better. But like she was supposed to be a character that we sympathise with and care about? And like I’m not going to read three more books for me to start sympathising with her.

*****

6. The Assassin’s Blade by Sarah J. Maas

Celaena Sardothien is Adarlan’s most feared assassin. As part of the Assassin’s Guild, her allegiance is to her master, Arobynn Hamel, yet Celaena listens to no one and trusts only her fellow killer-for-hire, Sam. In these action-packed novellas – together in one edition for the first time – Celaena embarks on five daring missions. They take her from remote islands to hostile deserts, where she fights to liberate slaves and seeks to avenge the tyrannous. But she is acting against Arobynn’s orders and could suffer an unimaginable punishment for such treachery. Will Celaena ever be truly free? Explore the dark underworld of this kick-ass heroine to find out.

1 out of 5 stars

Maybe you think I’m crazy for reading the prequel of a series that I’m struggling through, but I have an excuse! A few, actually. I started reading this ages ago when I bought Throne of Glass and then realised that the series had a sequel. I just downloaded TAB on my phone which I rarely do because I honestly just struggle reading on my phone. I’ve just been picking this up whenever I’m bored and have my phone with me and it’s finally over! I just wrote like 5 lines without any review in it. It was super boring and I really didn’t like it! Ok, great, moving on to things I care about.

*****

7. Educated by Tara Westover

Tara Westover was 17 the first time she set foot in a classroom. Born to survivalists in the mountains of Idaho, she prepared for the end of the world by stockpiling home-canned peaches and sleeping with her “head-for-the-hills bag”. In the summer she stewed herbs for her mother, a midwife and healer, and in the winter she salvaged in her father’s junkyard.

Her father forbade hospitals, so Tara never saw a doctor or nurse. Gashes and concussions, even burns from explosions, were all treated at home with herbalism. The family was so isolated from mainstream society that there was no one to ensure the children received an education and no one to intervene when one of Tara’s older brothers became violent.

Then, lacking any formal education, Tara began to educate herself. She taught herself enough mathematics and grammar to be admitted to Brigham Young University, where she studied history, learning for the first time about important world events like the Holocaust and the civil rights movement. Her quest for knowledge transformed her, taking her over oceans and across continents, to Harvard and to Cambridge. Only then would she wonder if she’d traveled too far, if there was still a way home.

Educated is an account of the struggle for self-invention. It is a tale of fierce family loyalty and of the grief that comes with severing the closest of ties. With the acute insight that distinguishes all great writers, Westover has crafted a universal coming-of-age story that gets to the heart of what an education is and what it offers: the perspective to see one’s life through new eyes and the will to change it.

4.5 out of 5 stars

Honestly, Educated was one of my two saving graces this month. It was the oasis in the desert of just really bad YA. I couldn’t tell you why I docked half a star but I think it was just a personal thing. It was brilliant it just wasn’t *a full five star*. And yes, I’m well aware that doesn’t make any sense. This just makes me want to read more memoirs and I already have a few plans that I’m super excited about. This was such a touching story. I loved the perspective of how the education aspect has completely changed her life and kind of gave her an out. I was honestly afraid that that part would be preachy but it absolutely wasn’t. The trauma was heartbreaking to read but it was almost like Westover was looking the reader in the eye, daring us to feel sorry for her. Fully, fully recommend. (Also, I’m well aware that everyone’s read this but if you haven’t, this is the sign you need to read it.)

*****

8. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo by Taylor Jenkins Reid

Aging and reclusive Hollywood movie icon Evelyn Hugo is finally ready to tell the truth about her glamorous and scandalous life.

When she chooses unknown magazine reporter Monique Grant for the job, no one in the journalism community is more astounded than Monique herself. Why her? Why now? Monique is not exactly on top of the world. Her husband, David, has left her, and her career has stagnated. Regardless of why Evelyn has chosen her to write her biography, Monique is determined to use this opportunity to jumpstart her career.

Summoned to Evelyn’s Upper East Side apartment, Monique listens as Evelyn unfurls her story: from making her way to Los Angeles in the 1950s to her decision to leave show business in the late 80s, and, of course, the seven husbands along the way. As Evelyn’s life unfolds—revealing a ruthless ambition, an unexpected friendship, and a great forbidden love—Monique begins to feel a very a real connection to the actress. But as Evelyn’s story catches up with the present, it becomes clear that her life intersects with Monique’s own in tragic and irreversible ways.

4 out of 5 stars

This was a reread and all I have to say about this book is that it has the hype that it does for a good fricking reason. The characters were so real and amazing, the connection between Evelyn and Monique was truly unexpected and the themes and messages were honestly just brilliant and so complex. Read it, read it, read it (if you haven’t yet, of course).

*****

9. Cinderella by Jenni James

A girl with a secret and a prince on a mission

When Prince Anthony spies Eleanoria Woodston outside her family home dressed as a servant, he knows something is amiss. Pretending to be John, his cousin’s outrider, he decides to take matters into his own hands and figure out why Ella hasn’t been seen at court. And more importantly why the daughter of one of the wealthiest families in the kingdom dresses like a pauper.

Ella has had her own bout of trials, including losing her beloved father and facing the wrath and jealousy of her stepmother and stepsisters. Becoming a servant doesn’t seem all that bad until the handsome John comes into her life, now he appears to be upsetting everything. Never before has she been so unsettled. Just his presence is making her dream of a life beyond this one.

When John invites Ella to the ball and she grudgingly accepts, he wonders if he’s truly losing his mind. How would he ever pull off pretending to be John while obviously hosting the ball as Anthony? Especially when the stubborn girl has made it quite obvious she would never attend a ball with a snobbish prince.

2 out of 5 stars

This was a childhood favourite that I just reread because it was on my kindle and… I wanted to? I don’t know I clicked, I did the reading thing and it was ok. Honestly, maybe I should just stop rereading childhood favourites because I almost always hate them and the Mulan life action movie has done enough to ruin my childhood.

*****

10. Sleepwalking by Meg Wolitzer

Published when she was only twenty-three and written while she was a student at Brown, Sleepwalking marks the beginning of Meg Wolitzer’s acclaimed career.  Filled with her usual wisdom, compassion and insight, Sleepwalking tells the story of the three notorious “death girls,” so called on the Swarthmore campus because they dress in black and are each absorbed in the work and suicide of a different poet: Sylvia Plath, Anne Sexton, and Wolitzer’s creation Lucy Asher, a gifted writer who drowned herself at twenty-four.  At night the death girls gather in a candlelit room to read their heroines’ work aloud.

But an affair with Julian, an upperclassman, pushes sensitive , struggling Claire Danziger—she of the Lucy Asher obsession-–to consider to what degree her “death girl” identity is really who she is.  As she grapples with her feelings for Julian, her own understanding of herself and her past begins to shift uncomfortably and even disturbingly. Finally, Claire takes drastic measures to confront the facts about herself that she has been avoiding for years. 

5 out of 5 stars

This was… so good??? Honestly, I don’t know how to explain why I love this so much. The dark academia vibes were just immaculate, the character exploration was fascinating. I don’t quite know how to describe it, but while reading it I almost felt like I was sort of in a trance. So while setting the table and eating dinner my mind was just on Lucy Asher and Claire and the Asher family. If you don’t love this… I mean I would understand because I don’t think it’s for everyone but… please don’t tell me. I don’t want to have to fight you.

*****

Anyway, those were the books. We had a few wins, we had a lot of duds and we had some mediocre picks. This month wasn’t wonderful but I have high hopes for next month because it’s SPOOKY SEASON Y’ALL.

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