April Reading Challenge

I am really late posting my April Reading Challenge, but I have been working on it!

March was probably my least successful reading challenge to date. I really liked The Thief, but I didn’t love either of the other books I read. I may have went too broad with the “read 3 fantasy books” idea, so I’ve decided to narrow it down a little more this month. My April Reading Challenge will be to:

Read 3 award-winning books

The three books I’ve chosen are:

  1. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead
  2. Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Aliré Saenz
  3. Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson

My first book, The Underground Railroad, was published in 2016 and won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book award for fiction. It was also one of Oprah’s book club reads and it won the Goodreads choice awards in historical fiction. The Underground Railroad looks at slavery in the early 1800’s, prior to the civil war, and re-imagines the underground railroad as an actual underground railroad, instead of just the network of secret routes and safe houses that it was in reality. It tells the story of Cora, a young girl who tries to escape the cotton plantation in the south where she’s spent her entire life.

The second book I selected was Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe. I like including young adult books to capture a wide variety of experiences and this one has won a litany of awards. It won the Lambda Literary Award and the Stonewall Book Award for LGBT fiction, the Pura Belpré Narrative medal for Latino fiction, and the Amelia Elizabeth Walden Award honour and the Michael L. Printz Award honour. I don’t know a whole lot about the plot of this book, except that it focuses on the friendship that develops between two boys, Aristotle and Dante, and has LGBTQIA+ themes. I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from vloggers I follow, so I’m excited to read it!

The last book on my list is Brown Girl Dreaming, which I bought a copy of a while ago and have been meaning to get to. I have no excuse as this is a middle grade novel written in prose, so I’m expecting it to a pretty quick read. Brown Girl Dreaming won the John Newberry Medal, the National Book Award for Young Adult Literature, and the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature. It tells the story of a young girl growing up in the Jim Crow era in South Carolina.

I will admit that I’ve been working on The Underground Railroad for the last week and that I haven’t gotten very far because it has a pretty slow start, but it is finally starting to pick up and I am optimistic.

I am going to have to do some serious reading to fit these all in (plus my book club’s selection) over the next 2 weeks because I am going on vacation towards the end of April to Vietnam for 3 weeks! You likely won’t hear a lot from me during this time, but I’m really looking forward to doing some travel and I’m sure I’ll knock out a book or two on the planes, trains, and beach.

 

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March Summary

I struggled a bit at the end of March to finish my Monthly Challenge, but overall it ended up being my most successful reading month! I read 3 Fantasy Novels for my monthly challenge, a few advanced reader copies of books from Netgalley, and several audiobooks. Here’s my March Summary:

Books read: 13
Pages read: 4,425
Main genres: Fiction, Fantasy
Favourite (new) book: I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Favourite re-read: Beartown

I started off the month with a few ARC’s, which are early copies of books that publishers share with a limited number of readers to provide early feedback before the books are released. I’ve been getting more ARC’s from Netgalley since I started my blog and I’ve been starting to build some relationships with publishers, which has been a lot of fun for me!

The two ARC’s I read this month were The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore (which came out in early March) and Us Against You (which comes out in June). The Lost Girls of Camp Forevermore was a short read about several girls that get lost in the woods at a summer camp when they were 12 and how it affects them later in life, which I really enjoyed. Us Against You is the sequel to Beartown, which was my favourite book of 2017, so of course I had to re-read Beartown this month as well. I loved Beartown just as much the second time around, but sadly I didn’t love Us Against You as much. I wrote a pretty in depth review about it and I did still really like it, it just couldn’t hold up to the masterpiece that is Beartown. But I’d still recommend reading it and I’m hoping for a third book!

Next I read 2 of books for my monthly challenge, The Thief and This Savage Song. I really liked The Thief, which is a fast read, and I’m excited to read further into the series, but I didn’t really like This Savage Song very much. I have it 3 stars, but as time passes I’m starting to like it less and less and I think it might be more of a 2.5 star read. I can’t quite pinpoint what I didn’t like about it, I just never really got into it and I didn’t think it was that engaging.

I had great success with Audiobooks this month though! I haven’t listened to any audiobooks since November (probably because I stopped running and I recently started again), but I got back into them this month. I was bored with the one I was listening to and I was never motivated to listen to it, so I decided to ditch it and start fresh, which was a great idea because I finished Before We Were Yours this month and absolutely flew through I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter and The Authentics.

Before We Were Yours was an interesting historical read about the birth of adoption in Tennessee, but I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter totally blew me away! I didn’t really expect that much from it because I’d read the main character was pretty unlikeable, but I loved the audiobook narrator for this one and I thought the main character was just so well portrayed. I picked my last audiobook, The Authentics, because it had the same narrator and similar themes to I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, but while I liked it, it definitely wasn’t as strong a book.

My Book Club’s book of the month was The Child Finder by Rene Denfeld. I gave it the highest rating of the group with a 7 out of 10, but the general consensus of the group was that we liked it, but didn’t love it. It has a fantastic setting and atmosphere, but the mystery plot leaves a little to be desired. I also read The Marrow Thieves this month in an attempt to read another of the Canada Reads shortlist before the debates. The other book I read from the Shortlist was The Boat People, and while I gave them both 4 stars, I liked The Marrow Thieves more. I thought the writing and story were both great and incredibly moving.

I snuck in a poetry reading this month as well and read Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur. This is her debut novel, but I read her other book, The Sun and Her Flowers, last year and really liked it. I didn’t like Milk and Honey quite as much, but it was still a nice, fast read.

Finally, I thought my last book of the month was going to be my final challenge book, The Fifth Season, because it was taking me forever to get through, but I managed to cram in a reading of Avenged over the Easter weekend (the sequel to Ruined). I didn’t love The Fifth Season as much as I was hoping because it was a pretty heavy read and it took me a while to get into, but I’m optimistic about the rest of the series. Avenged was almost as much fun as Ruined, which I loved. I know the Ruined series is not even on the same level as the Fifth Season, which is quality fantasy writing and world building, but I can’t help but love it because it’s just so fast-paced and fun!

The Fifth Season

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐
Author: NK Jemisin
Genres: Fantasy
Pub Date: Aug. 2015 (read Mar. 2018)

I’ve only heard good things about this series and I’ve been dying to read it for ages, but this was quite different than all the other fantasy I read and I really struggled to get into it.

I definitely liked the story, but it took me a while to get into it and it wasn’t until the first “twist” of the story that I started to understand how clever this was. I’ll be honest, I mostly read YA fantasy, which is why I think I initially struggled with this.

The Fifth Season supposedly tells the story of how the world ends for the last time. This world has been through many seasons that have threatened the existence of humans, but they have always managed to survive. The book starts off with a huge earthquake that destroys the major city of the continent, Yumenes, and with a mother fleeing her community after the death of her son. We follow the perspectives of 3 women as we learn about the intricacies of this world.

The continent is largely dictated by earthquakes. There are many fault lines and the ground is never stable. The communities are used to frequent shaking of the earth and many communities struggle to survive beyond a few seasons in this hostile world. There is one thing that can stabilize the earth and prevent earthquakes, the Orogenes, who can communicate with the earthquake and quell and create shakes. They can be extremely dangerous if not trained, so there is another group called Guardians, who seek out orogenes and bring them to the Fulcrum in Yumenes to be trained. Our three main characters are all orogenes. Essun has just lost her son after the great shake in Yumenes, Syenite is completing a mission on behalf of the Fulcrum, and Damaya has just been discovered in her community by a Guardian.

It’s a hard book to get into because there’s a lot to learn about this new world and it’s hard to keep up with the constantly changing perspectives. I also found the timeline a little confusing and had a hard time with Essun’s perspective because it’s written in 2nd person POV. But I did start to get into it after about the half way mark and I think the next two novels will be easier now that I understand the baseline of the story. Like I said, this book is quite clever and the writing is good.

I’m not sure when I’ll get to the next book, but I probably will try to do it soon because I’m worried about forgetting what happened in this book and I don’t want a steep learning curve again! Hoping the next one will be a 4 star read for me.

This Savage Song

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐
Author: Victoria Schwab
Genres: Fantasy, Science Fiction
Read: Mar. 2018

This Savage Song is the second book in my March Challenge to read 3 fantasy novels and the first book that has disappointed me this year as part of my monthly challenges.

I had mixed feelings about Schwab’s Darker Shade of Magic series because while I did like it and thought she had some really great characters, I never really felt that engaged while I was reading it. But afterwards, even though I hadn’t totally loved the series, I just couldn’t stop thinking about it and think fondly of Kell, Lila, Rhy, and the whole London gang.

I don’t know if that will be the case with this series as well. Again, I liked the characters and I did fly through reading this, but I was never super into the story. Maybe I just don’t love Schwab’s writing style? I honestly don’t know. This is another beloved series, but despite all the monsters and the high stakes, I just never got into it.

This Savage Song is an urban fantasy that I pictured as being set in America, but now I can’t actually remember if it was or not. Either way, it’s a kind of post apocalyptic world where monsters have risen up out of the darkness and the country has been divided into 6 different realms, all separated by the lawless “waste”. Verity is one of those realms and Verity City is fractured in two between Harker and Henry Flynn (North City and South City). Harker has made some kind of deal with the monsters whereby they won’t harm anyone who pays to be under his protection. On the other side, Henry’s Flynn Task Force is trying to rid the city of evil.

Kate Harker has been kicked out of boarding school after boarding school and her father has finally allowed her to return to V-City. However, the truce between North City and South City is fracturing, so Henry sends his adopted son, August, undercover into North City to get close to Kate and see if they can use her to their benefit. Kate and August become close, everything goes to hell, and suddenly they find themselves fighting for their lives across Verity City.

The book did have an interesting ending and there’s only 1 more book in this series, so I would like to read it, but I think it’s going to fall pretty far down on my list as there are a lot of other books I’d rather prioritize. I did still like the book, I just didn’t really see anything that special about it. Oh well.

The Thief

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Author: Megan Whalen Turner
Genres: Fantasy
Read: Mar. 2018

The Thief was the first book in my March Challenge to read 3 fantasy novels. It’s been on my TBR since Thick as Thieves came out last year and I heard that the series has gotten really good reviews. I’ve heard that the second book, The Queen of Attolia, is really the star of the series, so I wasn’t sure if The Thief would be that great, but I still really enjoyed it!

It’s a short book and it has a fairly simple plot, but it was a lot of fun! Gen claims to be able to steal anything, but he finds himself trapped in the King’s prison at the start of this novel. He’s very weak from being confined to the prison, with painful wounds on his ankles and wrists from the chains. But he’s offered a chance to get out of the prison when the King’s Magus appears to take him on a quest to steal an item for the King of Sounis. If Gen is successful, he’ll be granted immunity and allowed to walk free, the only catch is that he’s not told where they’re going or what they’re going to steal.

Gen sets off on a journey with the Magus, his 2 apprentices, and a solider, Pol, to steal an item of great value to the 3 kingdoms: Sounis, Eddis, and Attolia. This item will give Sounis a political advantage against their enemies. Gen isn’t interested in the journey or the task at hand, but he does want freedom, so he agrees to aid the Magus in his task.

I thought Gen was a fantastic character. He’s a bit full of himself and a bit dim-witted – he got thrown into prison because he spent too much time bragging in a wineshop about what a good thief he is. He’s got a dry sense of humour and his only real joys seem to come from eating and sleeping. He may be along for the journey, but he’s not going to make it easy on his captors. He knows that he has no real power, but he also knows that they need him, so he takes the opportunity to mess with them a little bit since they don’t want to see him harmed before he can steal for them.

It is a bit of a slow moving plot – there’s a lot of journeying and not a whole lot of action until the second half of the book, but I enjoyed the writing and the characterization. But the ending is what really made this a great book. The plot seems simple, but it’s the first of 5 books, so you know this book has to be setting up the rest of the story, and it is, but Turner puts in a great twist at the end to really give this book a meaningful start to the story.

It reminded me a little of Howl’s Moving Castle, one of my favourite middle grade books, in that a lot of seemingly random, unimportant stuff happens and it’s not until the end that you realize that all those incidents and conversations actually do mean something and that this book was actually a lot more complex and clever than you realized. You have a great epiphany at the end and everything comes together so well that you can’t help but be impressed with the structure and writing!

So definitely a great start to a new series, I’m just lamenting that I can’t jump right into the next book!