September was Holly Black month | September Wrap-Up & TBR Update

My reading mood continues (thankfully) I feel like I’ve just been reading really good books lately and I’ve been excited to read. Audio books have also been super helpful in increasing my reading productivity though my podcasts have been suffering a little bit.

monthly tbr

Also read/reading:

Books finished this month: 11 plus 1 novella and 1 DNF
Books currently reading:
2

Overall TBR:

TBR at the beginning of the year = 383
TBR at the beginning of September = 412
Books added to TBR = 2
Books read/deleted from TBR = 72
Total on TBR now = 342

How did your reading go this month?

Based off of Clue, but somehow not as fun | In the Hall with the Knife by Diana Peterfreund [ARC]

A few students are left behind at Blackbrook Academy tying up a few loose ends. This wouldn’t ordinarily be a problem, but when a harsh winter storm hits, they’re left stranded in one of the school’s dorm houses and have no choice but to bunk down for the night. When they wake up the next morning, they find that Headmaster Boddy has been stabbed! Was it suicide? A looter? Or someone in the house?

TL;DR – The mystery itself wasn’t super compelling and in the end it came out feeling half-baked.

I requested this book for two reasons: 1) I like Clue and 2) I’ve really enjoyed some of Diana Peterfreund’s other books (the Jane Austen retellings). Unfortunately, this book fell extremely flat for me. First of all, I couldn’t figure out what this collection of students was doing on campus? Why wasn’t anyone else there? This may have been explained and I just missed it, but that question was hanging over the entire book for me.

Another problem was that I didn’t feel a connection to any of the characters. They all had these backstories, but none of them got enough screen time to get fleshed out. Instead, tragedies were hinted at (repeatedly) but never explained. This just ended up making me annoyed with all of the characters for not explaining themselves. There were also two random characters that were completely unnecessary? I guess this is supposed to be the first book in a series, so maybe they’ll come into play in later books. But honestly, this book does not make me want to pick up the rest of the series. If I had to pick a favorite character I guess I would say Orchid? She was the least annoying.

And then we come to the “mystery”. It felt extremely light. A murder occurred IN THE HOUSE that all of these students were sleeping in and I felt like there should’ve been a more…horrific tone to the book perhaps? But that just wasn’t there. I didn’t find the mystery compelling at all and wasn’t super invested in figuring out who the killer was. Too many of the characters were like, “Well, I know it’s not ME”. With the actual game of Clue it very well COULD be you, so that may have been something interesting to play with (sleepwalking? bad reaction to sleeping pills?). Unfortunately, what we actually get is an unsatisfying, half-baked solution tacked on at the end.

Overall, I felt like this just wasn’t a great book. I didn’t feel like it was written very clearly. I thought it did fairly well as a Clue tribute, but it even had some room to lean into that a little more too. In the end, I think they should have more firmly chosen what direction to take this book in (Clue tribute or murder mystery) without trying to do both. That may seem contradictory…but that’s how I feel.

Overall Rating: 2
Language: None
Violence: Moderate
Smoking/Drinking: None
Sexual Content: None

Note: I received a copy of this book free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

In which I read three books for one book club | Liane Moriarty Mini-Reviews

Nine Perfect Strangers

This was the first book that I read by Liane Moriarty and was originally supposed to be THE book for book club. However, the hosts decided they didn’t LOVE this one, so they opened up the discussion to any of her books. I thought this one was really interesting as it made me consider the assumptions that I hold about other people. All of the characters make huge assumptions about everyone else at the retreat and it just makes you think about how you interact with others. The ending was pretty weird and as I was reading I was just kind of like, “….what….?” For that reason, I’m glad that I read this one first. If I’d read one of her other books before this one, I think I would have been disappointed. 3.5/5

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

Big Little Lies

As soon as I started Big Little Lies, I could tell a night and day difference between this and Nine Perfect Strangers. It immediately sucked me into the story and I was so invested. In this book, I really came to appreciate the way Moriarty writes. It’s super casual, fun, and easy to read. Some writers have a way of writing that allows you to read their books super fast–that was how I felt about Moriarty’s writing. Especially in this book, I literally felt like I COULD NOT READ FAST ENOUGH. The story is interesting and the little interview snippets keep you anticipating what’s to come. I had a prediction for the “mystery” but was wrong. So wrong. 4/5

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

 

Truly Madly Guilty

I didn’t like this one quite as much as the first two. I had a hard time getting into the story (perhaps that’s because I’d read two of her other books shortly before this one). I did think the characters were pretty interesting, but I didn’t find myself sympathizing with them like I did with the Big Little Lies characters. However, I thought the atmosphere in this one was the best. The rain creates this really heavy and uneasy atmosphere–you can’t get comfortable. Something I noticed especially in this one is that Moriarty is really good at toying with her readers. She knows what assumptions we’re going to make with the plot and she teases us relentlessly. The ending just about killed me, but with that being said it felt like this book was about 100 pages too long. 3/5

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

10 books to read before the end of the year

I set my reading goal at the beginning of the year to be 70 books. As of right now, I have surpassed that number beyond my wildest dreams. I reset my goal for 100, but I’m currently sitting at 90 and I think I’ll easily be able to hit that new number. However, I’m going to make another goal to at least read these 10 books before the end of the year:

Legendary by Stephanie Garber – Sitting on my shelf…mocking me. I will get to it this year!

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

The Book Thief by Markus Zusak – This was on my year TBR so I better finish it before the end of the year!

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

Talking to Strangers by Malcolm Gladwell – Just got this one from B&N. I’ve loved all of Gladwell’s books so I’m especially excited for this one!

Order: Hardcover | eBook

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern – Preordered! So pumped. I LOVED The Night Circus and this book just sounds AMAZING. I never preorder (because $$$) but I made an exception with this one (and I had a gift card).

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

Bad Omens by Neil Gaiman & Terry Pratchett – I’m hoping to get to this one next month! I’ve got it on my Kindle ready to go.

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

Queen of Nothing by Holly Black – I read a ton of Holly Black when I was in junior high and I’ve reinstated my status of Holly Black trash recently (see below). No one does faeries better!

Preorder: Hardcover | eBook

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black – **Shrugs**

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The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater – I started this one so long ago and haven’t gotten around to finishing it. I want to finish it before the end of the year!

Order: Hardcover | Paperback | eBook

The Umbrella Academy vol 3: Hotel Oblivion by Gerard Way – SO PUMPED FOR THIS.

Preorder: Paperback | eBook

Runaways vol 4: But You Can’t Hide by Rainbow Rowell – I recently got back into Runaways. I read the originals way back when they came out and I’ve been pretty happy with this reboot. The Hulu show is trash though.

Preorder: Paperback

What are some books you’re hoping to read before the end of the year?

19 Best Book Deals for 9/21/19: Fat Girl Walking, Reaper Man, Strange the Dreamer, and more

As of this posting, all of these deals are active, but I don’t know for how long!
Less than $1

The Accidental Life Swap by Jennifer Joyce

Less than $2

Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister by Gregory Maguire

Fat Girl Walking by Brittany Gibbons

Tales of Two Americas: Stories of Inequality in a Divided Nation by John Freeman

The Noble Servant by Melanie Dickerson

Revolution Sunday by Wendy Guerra

Reaper Man by Terry Pratchett

The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer

Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh

Bibliophile: An Illustrated Miscellany by Jane Mount

Talon by Julie Kagawa

Less than $3

Chaos by Patricia Cornwell

A Train in Winter by Caroline Moorehead

The Autobiography of Eleanor Roosevelt by Eleanor Roosevelt

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

Loving vs. Virginia by Patricia Hruby Powell

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor


Recommended from this post:

Non-fiction in the summer | Mini-Reviews

mini-reviews

StiffStiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers by Mary Roach

Stiff is one of those book that you’re always hearing about. It was inevitable that I’d eventually read it. With that being said, I was a little disappointed. I’ve read some really good narrative non-fiction over the last few years. While this was good, it wasn’t as entertaining or easy to read as some of the other non-fiction books I’ve read. Roach definitely has a sense of humor that comes through in the book, but she uses a lot of big words. Overall, this book has more of an academic feel than I was hoping for. With that being said, I still thought this book was really interesting. I learned so many things about what happens after you die and I feel more than ever that I want to be an organ donor one day. This book is not for those with a weak stomach as she goes into plenty of detail. Lastly, this book was published a while ago (back in 2003) and I’d love to read an update or something. In the book she talks about the future of the funeral business and options other than a ground burial, but I feel like I personally haven’t heard about any recent developments. 3/5

Purchase: Hardback | Paperback | eBook

The Big Year: A Tale of Man, Nature, and Fowl Obsession by Mark Obmascik

The Big Year

I loved this book! My husband and I watched the movie a few years ago (starring Jack Black, Owen Wilson, and Steve Martin–link to trailer below) and then he read the book it was based off of and highly recommended it. I finally got around to reading it this month and just fell completely in love with the idea of birding. I know literally nothing about birds but this book made me want to do a big year. Just reading about the preparation leading up to the three big years was really exciting for me! And then the author does a really good job of keeping the suspense up throughout the big year as well. This book was just great. Even if you know nothing about birds, like me, I’d highly recommend this book. 5/5

Purchase: Hardback | Paperback | eBook

Movie: Trailer | Rent

Wait…is this Grisha fan-fiction? | King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

King of ScarsIt’s been a few years since the Darkling was defeated and Nikolai’s still trying to figure out how to keep Ravka afloat. This task is made much harder by the fact that Nikolai seems to turn into a monster most nights. A literal monster. He’s desperate for a solution and when a Darkling-loving monk turns up with a possible answer, Nikolai has no choice but to listen to what he has to say.

TL;DR – So much of this reads as Grisha fan-fiction. There were definitely parts that I liked, but a lot that I didn’t as well.

Purchase: Hardcover | Paperback (preorder) | eBook

It took me so long to finally read this book. I think I was just a little scared maybe. I really loved Nikolai from the original trilogy and I didn’t know how this was going to go. Starting off, I felt like I needed some kind of recap for the Grisha trilogy. I literally could not remember a single thing about Zoya. This book leans heavily on the assumption that everyone who picks it up has read Bardugo’s previous series’ which isn’t necessarily going to be the case. So yeah, I think it would have been wise to include at least a recap for the trilogy for those who don’t remember what happened in the original series or for those who never read it in the first place.

The narration mostly rotates between Nikolai, Zoya, and Nina but Nina is over in Fjerda so she’s got a different storyline than the other two. Honestly, I didn’t love Nina in the Six of Crows duology and this book possibly makes me like her even less. Her storyline was not compelling to me at all and I don’t see how it ties in with Nikolai’s main storyline. Honestly, it kind of felt forced as a way for Bardugo to bring her two series’ together (and every time Nina made some name-drop-y reference to the Ketterdam crew, I cringed). And then there’s the whole Nina/Hanne relationship that’s obviously coming and that started approximately five seconds after Nina buried Matthias’ body. I’m sorry, is this fan-fiction? Did someone write some f/f Nina fan-fiction and it accidentally got published as part of this book? I’m not trying to knock fan-fiction at all, I’m just trying to convey that this aspect had an inauthentic feel to me.

My other issue with Nina is that she’s selfless in this really selfish way. She doesn’t trust that people will help her if she gives them all of the information or tells them her whole plan. Nina puts people in tough situations and sometimes even in danger because she has her own agenda regardless of the consequences. She’s just not a team player and was a really frustrating character for me to read.

Nikolai, on the other hand, continues to be his most charming and lovable self. I appreciated getting to see some of his and Zoya’s respective backgrounds. I thought his storyline was a lot more interesting. His quest to find a cure was really interesting but I would have also liked a little more of “the bachelor” stuff to be thrown in–we didn’t actually get much of that. I really liked Isaak as a character and wished he’d been a narrator from the beginning. He deserved more than what he got and that’s all I’ll say about that.

And the ending…I think you’d be hard-pressed to find someone who DOESN’T have a strong opinion on the ending. Without being too spoiler-y, I’ll just say that once again, this reads like fan-fiction. That was a fan-fiction ending and I hate it.

Overall, I liked most of this book. I didn’t like Nina’s storyline or the ending, but everything else was great! I like the way that Bardugo seems to be expanding on the powers of the Grisha and I like the interesting political climate. I just think she’s spending too much time on things that aren’t relevant or wholly original instead of developing these interesting facets of her story.

Overall Rating: 4
Language: Mild
Violence: Heavy
Smoking/Drinking: Mild
Sexual Content: None