5 Hyped Books That Fell Flat For Me

One of the best things about being on the Internet is that it is so much easier to get book recommendations from a lot of different sources and people. I love when the book community comes together in their love of one book in particular, because it feels more like a shared experience.

Except

Sometimes that book that everyone is raving about just doesn’t work for me. I’ve read the Book du Jour and wondered why it seems like I’m the only one who didn’t enjoy it. Then I jump on the petty-wagon and seek out 1- and 2-star reviews to find my people and wallow in shared community.

Here are a couple from the past few years that just didn’t do it for me.

Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys

I know that this is supposed to be the classic feminist book that riffs on the Wife in the Attic trope from Jane Eyre. I know that Jane Eyre was problematic and Mr. Rochester is supposed to be the worst. I know. But I loved Jane Eyre, and I liked how the romance between Jane and Mr. Rochester progressed up until the whole wife reveal. Bronte definitely made some…choices…in the last half of that book. I didn’t find Wide Sargasso Sea particularly interesting or ground-breaking. I didn’t really enjoy the writing style, either. I was mostly just very underwhelmed by this book. I can see its merit as a book, but just didn’t enjoy it. Mostly, I was just bored.

Luna: New Moon by Ian McDonald

I really, really, really, did not enjoy this book. I’ve seen so many positive reviews of it, but it didn’t do it for me at all. The idea of 5 families controlling the moon, like a network of moon mafia families, was such an interesting idea to me. The concept was A+ but the execution was an F for me. The writing was not great and the story was just kind of okay. I pushed through because there was a aromantic character that I wanted to follow, but then smack in the middle of this book was a very voyeuristic sex scene with that character that felt so slimy and gross to me. I have never skipped forward in an audiobook before, but I did for this one. That scene took a book I was mostly meh about and plummeted it down the crap shoot.

Fever Dream by Samanta Schweblin

I don’t remember much about this book, but even when reading it I had very little idea of what it was about. It’s one of those atmospheric books that is written to where the reader is supposed to infer what’s going on. So many people love this book and talk about how beautifully it’s written, but it flew so far above my head that I just didn’t connect with it at all.

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I might get kicked off the Internet for this one. When this book came out, it was praised up, down, and sideways. Everyone was reading this book and everyone was gushing about it. And yeah, it was a good book, but the hype had me expecting so much more than what I got. It had an interesting premise and was well-written, but beyond that it was just…okay.

The Witcher series by Andrzej Sapkowski

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but for this series to be so popular it is not all that well-written. Actually, that might not be true – it might just be the translation that falls flat. The characters are amazing and I loved getting to know them. The story was meh – the concept of the conjunction of the spheres is super interesting, and the integration of the pogroms against the elves and other magical creatures gives it a very Polish twist. The plot with Ciri and the prophecy was…uh, interesting? Also a little gross. Especially when it comes to the men she deals with along the way. ESPECIALLY when dealing with Emperor Emyr. I was so grossed out when that came up in the last book. Also the ending of the last book was so out of nowhere. There are parts of this series that I liked, but when taken overall it just was fine. Just okay. Could have been so much better.

Do you agree with any of these? Let me know in the comments. Do you disagree with me? Roast me in the comments! All opinions accepted 🙂

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The Best Books I Read in 2020

Whew, 2021 is off to an…interesting start. I hope you are all keeping safe wherever you are. I’ve spent the last several days doomscrolling on Twitter and falling behind in my WOT challenge (already failing…typical me TBH).

Let’s all look away from the garbage fire that is the news, and explore which books I loved this year.

I rated 28 books on Goodreads as 5 stars, which is way more than I was expecting when I pulled up my stats. Looking back at those books, there are a couple that stand out above the others.

No one will be surprised that 6 of those books were by Lois McMaster Bujold. What surprised me about this was that I marked all 4 books in the Sharing Knife series as 5 stars, and thinking back, yeah all of them deserved that rating. When do we ever encounter a series where all the books are perfect? I loved that series so much, and it is now one of my favorite series of all time.

Sarah Hogle’s You Deserve Each Other still sits very high on the best books I read last year. The jived very well with the humor, and the story was so compelling. The dual POV was used to such an amazing effect, and it continually messed with my head. Since both of the characters start out as incredibly bitter to one another, and blaming each other for not supporting the other, each time the POV changed it made my brain record-scratch. I would be on her side, then on his, then back to hers – until they finally started to come back together, communicate, and put effort into supporting each other. A superb romance.

Rivers Solomon’s The Deep was probably the most lyrical book I read last year. The audiobook was so well done – read by Daveed Diggs, who was such a great choice. I don’t know if I would have enjoyed it quite as much if I had read it in print. There was just something special about listening to this book.

Ace: What Asexuality Reveals About Desire, Society, and the Meaning of Sex by Angela Chen made my top books because it resonated with me more than any other book about asexuality ever has. I was not expecting to connect with this book so much. The first chapter made me tear up on my drive to work, just because it spoke so closely to my own experience with being asexual. If there was anything that could cement the principle that everyone deserves to see themselves in books, it was this book for me. It’s one thing to know it intellectually, but another to experience the emotional connection first-hand.

2020 was the year that I finally finished Eloquent Rage by Brittany Cooper. I started this book when it first came out in 2018, but it was while I was in a major slump. I put it aside, until the audiobook went on sale this past summer. I am so glad I picked up the audio! I think this book should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves a feminist. This is one of the most compelling books on intersectional feminism I have read.

It’s nice to look back and find good things from 2020. What books did you love last year? Let me know in the comments!

Wheel of Time Reading Challenge 2021

Anyone who has been reading this blog for any length of time has probably figured out that I am habitually awful at completing challenges or sticking to a TBR. Which is why it may surprise you that I have decided in 2021 to read the rest of the Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan.

I’m not going to reread The Eye of the World for this – I read it in 2019 and I feel like if I get confused I can figure it out via context clues and wiki summaries. That leaves the remaining 14 books in the series to complete – a whopping 11,149 pages.

That is a little intimidating, I’m not going to lie.

One of my goals over the last couple years has been to catch up on some classic fantasy and scifi series. I have read all of Lois McMaster Bujold’s Vorkosigan series, all of the Witcher except for Season of Storms, and now I’m about to start on the last book of the Realm of the Elderlings series from Robin Hobb. I have had a lot of fun researching more obscure older fantasy series like Elizabeth Lim’s Watchtower or J V Jones’ Book of Words series. I decided that since Wheel of Time has such a huge following in the fantasy community, and that there is an adaptation in the works, that I would dedicate myself to finishing it in 2021.

At first, I was like there is no way I can finish Wheel of Time this year. All the books are enormous, and I hear there’s a stretch of 3-4 books where basically nothing happens (“the slog”). But, while crunching numbers, I figured that if I read a minimum of 31 pages per day I could finish this series in 365 days. 31 pages is doable. It leaves me space to read other books, it isn’t a huge commitment, and if I fall asleep and don’t complete my daily allotment I can catch up the next day pretty easily (as long as I don’t try to catch up too many days at a time).

I’m writing this post in January 3rd, and at the moment I am on page 102 of The Great Hunt (book 2). I read 44 pages the first day, fell asleep after 9 pages the second day, then caught up on day 3. It’s early yet, but I’m doing okay so far. I’m hoping that if I keep at it for enough days in a row, I can make it into a habit. Wake up early, read a little WOT. Get in bed, read a little WOT.

Feel free to join in! Even if you’re starting from the beginning of book 1, that only adds 2 pages per day to complete the entire 15 book series in a year. Or, if you’ve already read the series, let me know what you thought of it in the comments. I’d love to know if you liked it, hated it, got bored halfway through book 6, whatever.

The Worst Books I Read in 2020

2020 is now over, and we can start to look forward to a better year in 2021! There’s a lot of work to do to get us there, but something about shedding the stigma of 2020 makes me more hopeful than ever.

One of the things that I would like to do is leave some of the worst books I’ve read behind me. Here are the top 5 worst books I read in 2020.

The number one worst book I read in 2020 is the only book that I gave 1 star on Goodreads. That book was Whiteout by Cambria Hebert. I honestly don’t really remember what this book was even about, and my review on GR is literally only the word “No.” If I remember right, it was short and neither of the characters had any sort of personality. I saw someone on GR describe this as “too short to really enjoy” and I think that is a good way to put it.

The second worst book I read in 2020 feels a little controversial, since so many people loved this book. I absolutely hated The Blacksmith Queen by G A Aiken. I gave this book 2 stars because I could see where other people would enjoy this book, but the voice of the heroine grated on my nerves. I don’t mind a foul-mouthed, sweary heroine (I, too, am a sweary lady) but something about her just made me grind my teeth. She wasn’t nice to anyone around her, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would like her much less become her love interest. Sorry to anyone who loved this book, but it just pushed my buttons in all the wrong ways.

Another book I didn’t care for in 2020 was Dear Mr. Black by Shanora Williams. This is a forbidden romance between a girl and the father of her best friend. Chloe is 12 when she meets her friend’s father, and she has an instant crush on him. They don’t sleep together until Chloe is in college, and every time before that is perfectly innocent. This is a forbidden romance, not a horror novel, so Mr. Black has no feelings about Chloe until she is grown. I like taboo romances when they are done well, and this book was okay but ultimately did not work for me. The pining on Chloe’s part came off as a little weird, and then when they did get together it just didn’t have much romantic chemistry. I need feels with my romance, not just straight boning. It didn’t even end with an HEA! Apparently, it’s a duet, but I just don’t care enough to pick up book 2.

I wrote a long review about how I didn’t like The Making of a Marquess by Lynne Connolly earlier this year, and I stand by my ranty review. I thought it sounded like a premise I could really get into, but the execution was so convoluted and unnecessary that it just left me frustrated. I think this might have been one of the biggest disappointments of 2020 for me. So much potential with so little reward.

And finally, the last book on this list is The Sea Witch by Katee Robert. This will also probably scandalize some folks. Katee Robert is one of the most popular and most prolific romance novelists out there, and is a great follow on Twitter. I have liked books she’s written in the past, so I wanted to give this series a go. The earlier books in the series were less interesting to me, but a retelling of the Little Mermaid with an Ursula/Eric/Ariel triad was an interesting concept to me. I enjoyed the writing and the characters, but honestly the situation these characters find themselves in felt very contrived. I didn’t really like the way the characters constantly misunderstood one another. This is one of those books that could have been cleared up in 50 pages if they were just honest with one another and actually talked about their feelings.

I am happy to leave these 5 books back in 2020, and will gladly throw myself into the 5 star reads coming my way in 2021! Did you read any duds in 2020? Let me know in the comments!

So You Wanna Read Some Short Spooky Books This Halloween…

There are some amazing, short spooky books out there. Here are a couple that you could curl up and read on Halloween to get you in that spooky mood.

I think one of the most common recommendations that I have seen for short horror novels has been Horrorstör by Grady Hendrix. I have been putting off reading this book forever, mainly because I see it recommended so much (I’m that kind of person, I guess). It went on sale recently, so I picked it up and okay — it is just as good as people say it is. It has a zany wit that keeps it light, even when there is some truly disturbing stuff going on. I loved the commentary on retail corporate culture, as well as the creepy vibes.

If you’re looking for something a little more sci fi to go with your horror, try John Scalzi’s The God Engines. It takes a chapter or two to get into the world, but the dark, eerie atmosphere pays off. It’s hard to describe the plot without spoiling it, but it involves harnessing gods to power space ships, and fights between the gods with humans caught in between. The cover very much embodies the vibe this book gives off.

For a more historical horror bent, check out Mayhem and Murder by Sarah Pinborough. I’ve talked about this duet before – it involves the torso murders that took place at roughly the same time as the Jack the Ripper murders. The first book, Mayhem, has a much more mystery-focused feeling to it, but the second book, Murder, really takes a supernatural turn. Both books have the horrifying feeling of “something very wrong is going on here” that I enjoy in horror novels.

Are you wanting to go with a more classic horror novel? Try out The Bad Seed by William March. It will make you never want to have children, just in case they turn evil. There is also a movie adaptation of this book, but I could never make myself watch it. The little girl creeped me out enough in print, I don’t need her to do it on film as well.

I hope everyone has a safe and frightening Halloween! I hope you get all the half priced candy you want on November 1st.

Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts by Nancy Campbell Allen

Book cover with man and woman wearing Victorian steampunk style clothes with text reading: Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts, A Steampunk Cinderella.

Title: Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts
Author: Nancy Campbell Allen
Genre: Steampunk romance
Publication date: October 6, 2020

Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts is a rollicking steampunk romance that follows Emmeline Castle O’Shea, a Shifter rights activist, as she gears up for the biggest moment of her life: giving the keynote speech at an international conference that will determine the fate of the supernatural population across the world. When she receives a letter threatening her life, who else can she turn to other than Detective Inspector Oliver Reed, the biggest thorn in her side — and maybe her best protector.

Every page is an adventure, and while the plot gets a little convoluted toward the end, the well-drawn cast of characters kept my attention. I read pretty much this whole book in one sitting, and I do not regret it. The romance between Oliver and Emme goes from enemies to lovers a little fast, but I don’t think it detracts from the overall story. It took a little while for me to get a handle on the steampunk technology (I haven’t read a lot in this genre) but after a chapter or two is became easier to keep up with.

Fans of Gail Carriger will enjoy this book, as the world is pretty similar — vampires, shifters, steampunk technology, and so on — but without Carriger’s signature zany humor. I must confess, I tried to read the Parasol Protectorate series several years ago and the tone of the narration kept kicking me out of the story. I did not have that issue with Brass Carriages and Glass Hearts.

Overall rating: 3.75 stars

Received in exchange for an honest review from Netgalley.

September 2020 Wrap Up

September was not my best month. I managed to finish 18 books, but a lot of them were novelettes. I found it a lot easier to read short books this month than longer books.

My biggest goal this month was to read the Liveship Traders trilogy by Robin Hobb. I finished the last 60 pages of Ship of Destiny this morning. When I first started to trilogy, I wasn’t enjoying it as much as I did the Farseer trilogy, but by the end of the last book I was much more invested in the new set of characters.

My second goal for September was to complete the Space Opera September readathon, which I almost completed. I managed to finish the first 3 prompts (technically 4 – I chose to complete prompt 2B as well) but did not complete prompt 4: a book over 500 pages. I read about half of a 600 page book, but ultimately gave up. That book was a bindup of the first 3 books in the Chanur Saga. I finished Pride of Chanur and half of Chanur’s Venture.

To complete the first 3 prompts, I read Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik, Pride of Chanur by CJ Cherryh (I was determined to use it for something!!), Essex Colony by Lia Cooper, and The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett. Not a bad group of space operas, though I am still disappointed that I didn’t finish that last book.

Most everything else I read were romance novels. I went through periods where I never picked up a single book, but then would absolutely inhale several romances in a row. I won’t list them all out here – most of them were just okay, nothing really jumped out as particularly special overall.

I’d put the general feeling for the month down as “meh.”

I hope your reading month was more exciting than mine, and that you and yours are keeping safe and healthy.

Better Than People by Roan Parrish

Spoiler alert: I absolutely loved this book.

Better Than People is the story of Simon, who loves animals but cannot have pets of his own, and Jack, who has a whole menagerie in his house. Jack is injured and unable to take his pets for their walks (and can’t really do much else besides) so he signs up for a petsharing app. He enlists Simon to walk his pets for him, and thus begins their relationship.

I absolutely adored watching the romance unfurl between Jack and Simon. Jack is a loner who is often very gruff with people, and Simon suffers from extreme social anxiety, to the point that he is often mute around anyone who is not his grandmother. Speaking of Simon’s grandmother, she is an absolute riot and has some of the best lines in the book. The secondary characters in Better Than People are all really well fleshed out, which is something I love to see in romance novels.

This book would be perfect for fans of Cole McCade’s Over and Over Again or Parrish’s earlier book, The Remaking of Corbin Wale.

Weekend Reads for Sept 11-13

It’s the weekend once again! I have to work on Saturday (boo) but I plan to read as much as possible (yay)

I’ve been plucking away at The Sea Witch by Katee Robert for a couple days now and it’s pretty interesting so far. It’s a dark romance about characters from the Little Mermaid but set in the real world. It is part of Katee Robert’s series that weaves together a bunch of Disney movies and characters into a dark, modern romance series. I haven’t read the first 3 books but there’s a BDSM club?? I’m a little lost, honestly, but I think I might be getting a handle on the book as it goes. I might go back eventually and read the first 3, but that will depend on how much I enjoy this one. I’m not usually one for BDSM stories, but I couldn’t resist what is essentially an Ariel/Eric/Ursula menage story (but they’re called Zurielle/Alaric/Ursa for copyright reasons).

I’m also still working on my Space Opera September TBR. I’ve finished The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett and Aurora Blazing by Jessie Mihalik. I might be picking up a novella next, or I might jump into The Down Home Zombie Blues by Linnea Sinclair for the over-500-pages challenge.

What do you plan to read this weekend? I hope everyone is staying masked and safe out there!

🚀🚀 Space Opera September 2020 TBR 🚀🚀

I am so excited to participate in this readathon again! Last year was a blast, and it gave me an excuse to binge read space operas all month long. Please check out Thomas’ announcement video over on the SFF180 YouTube channel, as well as the original video from last year. There is a GoodReads group as well.

I have so many books stocked up for this readathon! Ever since Thomas announced that he would be repeating the readathon this year, I have been hoarding space operas. I’ve got a couple options for each prompt, so I probably won’t get to all the books mentioned here in September, but I plan to make a big dent in them.

Prompt #1: Read a space opera novella.

For this prompt, I have Exit Strategy by Martha Wells, Sisters of the Vast Black by Lina Rather, and Essex Colony by Lia Cooper to choose from. I’ve been meaning to read the last couple Murderbot books for forever, so that’s in the lead for now. I am very interested in Essex Colony, primarily because of the “ravening wolf-beast” in the book description.

Prompt #2a: Read two space operas by women.

A lot of the space operas I am interested in are by women, and some of the authors I own books by (in some cases, several books by) are Catherine Asaro, Linnea Sinclair, Jessie Mihalik, Martha Wells, and Kate Elliot. I own all of Sinclair’s books, and all of Asaro’s Skolian Empire books. I think I’ve got most of Mihalik’s books as well. Now would be a good time to dive into their books.

Prompt #2b: Read a space opera by a diverse author featuring a diverse protagonist and/or major characters.

I have been saving Salvaged by Madeleine Roux and Ardulum: Second Don by J.S. Fields for this prompt. I read Ardulum: First Don for last year’s SOS, so I am torn on whether to read the sequel, or to pick up something completely new.

Prompt #3: Read a space opera published before you were born.

This prompt was the hardest for me. I had to do some research on the best books from pre-1988, and so many of the ones listed are ones that I am not particularly interested in. I did find The Big Jump by Leigh Brackett, who wrote the first draft of the screenplay for Empire Strikes Back. I also thought about reading something in the Foundation series by Asimov, but I’m not super feeling it right now.

Prompt #4: Read a space opera 500 pages or longer.

Kate Elliot’s Unconquerable Sun has been recommended to me a lot recently, and it’s over 500 pages. If not this one, I have one more Linnea Sinclair book left to read that is just over 500 pages long (The Down Home Zombie Blues) and I really enjoyed Games of Command by her.

That is probably the messiest TBR ever posted on a blog, but there are just so many great space operas out there that I want to read. Let me know in the comments if you plan to participate this year and what you want to read if you are!