Monday, September 5, 2022

August 2022 Wrap Up

August was a blur. It feels simultaneously like it lasted forever and like it ended before it started.

I got to go up to Colorado a couple of times in August to go to a bridal shower and help throw a bachelorette weekend for a good friend of mine. We had some great times and I enjoyed spending so much time with some of my best friends. And while I was there, I got to see my parents at least and celebrate my niece's 8th birthday. We also celebrated Kevin's birthday in August and had a few fun outings, just the two of us.

My little rat Poseidon passed his third Gotcha day in August. He is my oldest rat and he is definitely starting to show his age, but he's still going! Maybe he really will live forever. Or whatever "forever" is in rat years.

Work has been nuts. My teammate has transitioned to another department (which is great for her and I think some good things will come of it) and that has been hard for me. Since I am the only other person in our department that can do her job (or parts of her job, anyway), I inherited her projects and am now leading a big, intense study coming up soon. I don't feel prepared for it and it has already been chaos (though the study doesn't technically start until October). And on that note, life might get really rough for me through the end of the year with work. I will need to be on call almost every day until the end of the year. So I want to apologize in advance for any delays you will see here. I still plan to read (audiobooks at least) and I will do my best to keep up and post. Or combine posts like I had to do a few times this year already. Though I may just re-read favorites and comfort books to get me through. Except for October of course, where I need to read all of the spooky reads! I promise work will not always consume my life...

And with that, lets do quick reviews of books I read in August.

Title: Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell
Author: Taj McCoy
Narrator: Adenrele Ojo
Synopsis: Savvy's long-term boyfriend breaks up with her, saying she never takes care of herself and her appearance. Heartbroken and bent on revenge, she starts working out, getting back to things she used to enjoy, changes her hair, and renovates her house. With the help of her friends and the handsome contractor working on her house, she finds new depths to herself and finds her way back to happiness.
Thoughts: There were some things that I really enjoyed about this book and somethings that I cared less for. I loved her friends and their relationship. I think Savvy was cool getting herself together for revenge but ended up finding contentment with herself. And while revenge was not actually the point, I still wish her ex had gotten more of a comeuppance than he did. 

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Act Cool
Author: Tobly McSmith
Narrator: Shaan Desani
Synopsis: August, a transgender teen, has run away to New York city to live with his aunt and attend a prestigious performing arts high school. He wants to be an actor and shows great promise. Until he lands a role that hits a bit too close to home. To become the actor he really wants to be, he needs to confront his own life including his parents who refuse to accept August as he is.
Thoughts: I LOVE Stay Gold by Tobly McSmith, so I had to read this book, too. And while I love Stay Gold more, this book was very good. It was often very sad and many of the characters feel very real. And you can't help but root for August. It was sweet and sad and sometimes redeeming.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Squire
Author: Tamora Pierce

Synopsis: Kel's journey continues into her squire years. As the only girl squire, she fears that she will not be chosen by a knight master. Enter Lord Raoul of the King's Own who is willing to take her on and train her up. He sees potential in her that many others do not and she grows to meet his expectations.

Thoughts: Another of these books I have read so many times it is probably ridiculous. As you can see by the battered cover of my copy. While the Kel books don't stand out as much in my mind for favorite characters, I do think they are some of the best ones Tamora Pierce has written. And I still love these books. I probably will forever.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Titles: Boyfriend Material and Husband Material
Author: Alexis Hall
Narrator: Joe Jameson
Synopsis: Luc is in need of an appropriate boyfriend to be seen in public with to save his reputation and his job. Oliver needs a boyfriend to bring to his parents' wedding anniversary. Luc and Oliver appear to dislike each other, but enter into a mutually beneficial agreement to pretend to be dating until their events are finished. But surprisingly, the relationship actually works. A couple of years later, Luc and Oliver attend a series of weddings (and one funeral) and decide to get married themselves. 
Thoughts: I loved Boyfriend Material when I read it in the past (a year or two ago?) so I had to pick up Husband Material. So I listened to Husband Material and really enjoyed it. These books crack me up and I love all of the characters so much. I had mixed feelings at the end of Husband Material. But then I went back and re-read Boyfriend Material. Then re-read Husband Material. And then Boyfriend Material again (I needed comfort books, don't judge me). They are great, hilarious books. I definitely recommend them and eagerly await any other books that may be coming down the pipeline!
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Jade Fire Gold
Author: June C. L. Tan
Narrators: Natalie Naudus and Kevin Shen

Synopsis: Ahn is a peasant girl in a poor village who sets out to save her grandmother. Meanwhile, Altan is trying to take his rightful place as emperor and needs to find the life stealer to do it. Ahn and Altan's paths cross and change when they discover that Ahn is the life stealer as well as the daughter to a high-ranking official in the court that overthrew Altan and his family. Altan meant to kill Ahn, but maybe this is a problem better solved by becoming allies.

Thoughts: This was an Owlcrate book that I alternated reading and listening to. First off, I thought it was a stand-alone book, but based on the ending, I am guessing that is not true. Aside from that, it was pretty good. Parts were interesting and it was nice to follow the characters and see the friends and enemies they made along the way. If you are interested in fantasy novels with Chinese influence, it is definitely worth a read.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Favorite book read this month: Squire or Boyfriend Material and Husband Material
Least favorite book read this month: Probably Savvy Sheldon Feels Good as Hell, but not because it was bad, just because it had my lowest rating.

I have read 55 books towards my goal of 60 books for the year. That is pretty good. I may or may not adjust the goal. Maybe I will just see how many I read and base next years goal on that.

Thanks for reading! I hope everyone is doing well and is getting ready for the spooky season! September is finally here!

Sunday, July 31, 2022

June and July 2022 Wrap Up

Sorry for the delayed post. I didn't get around to working on my June 2022 wrap up until half way though July. So I figured I might as well wait and post everything at once.

June was neat because I got to go up to Colorado and visit friends and family. I think I needed that more than I knew. It was a good trip and it was so nice to see so many of my people.

I didn't update at the end of June because I ended up working all weekend and was exhausted all week from the extra hours (including working on the fourth of July). And in between all of that I was dealing with rats being sick, vet appointments, doctors appointments for me, internet issues, and more. It was just busy and I was so tired. I hope this will be the last post that I need to combine. But you never know. I will do my best.

July was (obviously) a bit nuts at work for a while. More vet appointments and doctors/dentist appointments. We also lost the woman who was my daycare lady for many years of my life near the end of July. I think she started taking care of me when I was about 2 until I was nearly 12. She helped raise me and several of the kids in her care are still in touch. One of my best and oldest friends started daycare around the same time I did and my little brother met his two best friends there and they are still a great trio all these years later. It has been a sad week with her loss. She was such a big part of all of our lives. That has been on my mind a lot lately.

I will keep my book reviews short since it is late and two months worth of them.

Title: Playing With Myself
Author: Randy Rainbow
Narrator: Randy Rainbow
Synopsis: An autobiography/collection of memoirs by and about Randy Rainbow. 

Thoughts: I loved this book. It was great and often super funny. And one time I cried my eyes out. Listening to it being read by him made it more special. Absolutely recommend.

Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The Song of Achilles
Author: Madeline Miller
Narrator: Frazer Douglas
Synopsis: This is the story of Achilles through the eyes of Patroclus, the man who best loved Achilles and was best loved by Achilles. Despite their differences, they become unlikely friends and eventually fall in love.
Thoughts: I feel like I'm behind on this one. And, oddly enough, I am not super familiar with Achilles' story. But this book was lovely and beautiful.
Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Title: The Other Man
Author: Farhad J. Dadyburjor
Narrator: Ariyan Kassam
Synopsis: Ved is living as a closeted gay man in India where being gay is not accepted. He agrees to an arranged marriage with the seemingly perfect Disha. And he thinks that will be all until he meets Carlos and falls head over heals for him.
Thoughts: There were some things that I loved about this book and some things that I didn't like much. But I sort of love Ved's parents and Disha. Overall it was a nice read.
Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars 

Title: Born A Crime
Author: Trevor Noah
Narrator: Trevor Noah
Synopsis: Trevor was born in South Africa to a Black mother and white father. Since this was illegal, it had to be hidden for much of his life. And it gave him a whole different life experience than most people would ever experience.
Thoughts: This was a great book. I honestly know little about apartheid. His life was so different from anything I could imagine. I found it very interesting and I thought it was a great read.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: What if it's Us
Authors: Becky Albertalli and Adam Silvera
Narrators: Noah Galvin and Froy Gutierrez
Synopsis: A brief, chance meeting between Arthur and Ben leaves both of them desperate to find the other. When Arthur posts an ad at a local coffee shop, it feels like destiny that Ben found it. But Arthur is only in New York City for the summer.

Thoughts: This book was sweet and pretty cute. I think I wasn't fully satisfied with the ending mostly. Still a decent read though. Fun little meet-cute story.

Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars

Titles: Emperor Mage and The Realms of the Gods
Author: Tamora Pierce
Synopsis: Daine's adventures continue. First, she travels to Carthak with Tortall ambassadors to try and make peace with the Emperor and a goddess lends Daine the power to bring dead animals to life. Then, when she is in great danger, Daine (with Numair) is pulled into the realms of the gods by her parents. Once she recovers, she and Numair must find their way back to the mortal realms.

Thoughts: I have read these books too many times. These two were always my favorites when I was younger, but now that I am older, I actually like the first two better. But these are nostalgic, comfort reads for me and I think I will always love them.

Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Lady Killers
Author: Tori Telfer
Narrator: Sarah Mollo-Christensen
Synopsis: This book explores female serial killers in history. Women are generally seen as the victims of such crimes; society struggles when women are serial killers.
Thoughts: This book was great. My only wish was that more female serial killers were included in this book. Her exploration of the history and taking the fantasies out of the true story made it even more interesting. She also talks a lot about how female serial killers are viewed and downplayed by society.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Female Serial Killers
Author: Peter Vronsky
Narrator: Charles Constant
Synopsis: Vronsky takes a look at female serial killers and what makes them killers. He looks at many female serial killers and takes their histories and childhoods into account as well as some interesting psychological information and analysis.

Thoughts: I am not generally into serial killers, but the last book (see above) peaked my interest in female serial killers. This one looks at many more women, most much more modern than in the last book. Some of the information was very interesting and some was very disturbing (which is to be expected, I think). My only complaint is that, at times, his weird version of feminism got to me. He is occasionally very oddly harsh and opinionated in particular ways about feminist movements/thoughts/arguments. Sometimes I didn't even think he was wrong, but disliked how he brushed off other people/analysts without (in my opinion) much to stand on, seeing as he is a man.

Rating: 3 1/2 stars out of 5 stars

Title: The Hidden Lives of Tudor Women
Author: Elizabeth Norton
Narrator: Jennifer Dixon
Synopsis: This book follows the lives of women (from peasants to royalty) during the reign of the Tudors. Most historical records concern men more than women, so this is some insight into the lives of women who are so often hidden from historical records.
Thoughts: If you are into history, this is an interesting read. I enjoyed it.
 Rating: 4 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Stay Gold
Author: Tobly McSmith
Narrators: Theo Germaine and Phoebe Strole

Synopsis: Pony is a transgender boy in rural Texas and he is transferred to a new school. Since no one knows he is transgender, he is living his dream of just being one of the guys. And then he falls for the beautiful cheerleader, Georgia who likes him back. But he is afraid to tell anyone his secret, though growing closer to Georgia he knows he really should.

Thoughts: I read this book last year and loved it so much. Reading it again this year did not at all change my feelings. I adore this book. It is hard and wonderful and redeeming and magic.

Rating: 5 stars out of 5 stars

Title: Love and Other Disasters
Author: Anita Kelly
Narrator: Lindsey Dorcus
Synopsis: Dahlia loves to cook and enters as a contestant on a cooking show to win the money that would help turn her life around. Meanwhile, London, the first openly nonbinary contestant on the popular cooking show wants to pursue their dream of starting a non-profit for LBGTQ+ kids. Can Dahlia and London really compete as their feelings towards one another grow?
Thoughts: I liked the cooking show premise of this book and the characters were interesting and likable enough. It was good, overall, but I didn't love the sex scenes (as is usual for me). That aside, it was sweet and fun.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars
Title: Conventionally Yours
Author: Annabeth Albert
Narrators: Kirt Graves and Joel Froomkin

Synopsis: Conrad and Alden are rivals maybe. They both play a card game called Odyssey and have gained some notoriety online. They are invited to an Odyssey convention and competition with a grand money prize and a chance to turn professional. Each needs to win for different reasons. As they travel to the convention as reluctant travel companions, they grow closer and their perspectives start to shift.
Thoughts: I liked some of the nerdy aspects of this book and there were a ton of LBGTQ characters, which is nice to see. As usual, I did not enjoy the sex scenes, but the book was a fun read and I liked the characters' and their connections and relationship.
Rating: 3 stars out of 5 stars
Titles: First Test and Page
Author: Tamora Pierce

Synopsis: These are the first two books in the Protector of the Small quartet. The series follows Kel in her quest to become a female knight, the first known female knight in many decades. First Test follows her year as a probationary page and her adventures continue as she is accepted as a true page following the first year.
Thoughts: I have read these books many, many times. And while Alanna and Daine have always been favorite characters of mine, I really think that this series is probably the most well-written of her series. And they are still comfort reads for me. I always enjoy them.
Rating: 4 1/2 stars out of 5 stars 

Favorite books read in June and July: Playing With Myself and Stay Gold
Least favorite books read in June and July: Not sure, maybe What if it's Us, Conventionally Yours, or Love and Other Disasters. Not because they were bad, just that they got the fewest stars.

I have read 49 books towards my goal of 60. I may increase my goal since I have been doing well lately.

Thanks for reading and for your patience! I appreciate you sticking with me.

Wednesday, June 1, 2022

April and May 2022 Wrap Up

April was a crazy month. I was very stressed leading up to our trip. And I was hoping to get the April 2022 Wrap Up post up after I got back at the beginning of May, but then I was sick for a couple of weeks after we got back and just didn't have the energy to do it. And lately our internet has been awful, so that was another hurdle. So for these two months, I am doing a combined post. 

Our trip to India and Nepal was incredible! If you follow me on Instagram or Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook you have seen some of the photos. People ask me what my favorite part was and it is hard to choose. I liked Jaipur and the Taj Mahal was absolutely beautiful. Paragliding in Pokhara was a pretty unforgettable experience. It was just really great and we had a good group of people on our tour, which made it even better of course. And Kevin and I didn't even get sick of each other!

And then when I got back I was sick and working and that has been life for the most part. And I will be going to Colorado for a few days in June to see friends and family so I am really looking forward to that.

I figured with vacation I would not read many books, but I read more than I thought! Here are the books I managed to finish in April and May. Due to the number of books and doing two months, I am going to try to make them extra brief (aside from Vengeful which I typed up before I left).

Title: Vengeful
Author: V. E. Schwab
Narrator: Jeremy Arthur
Synopsis: Ever since Sydney brought Vincent back to life, Vincent has been experiencing problems with his powers and death episodes. He is desperately searching for a solution. Meanwhile, Marcella gains powers of destruction when her husband kills her. And she uses that power to gather some EO's to her and take control of the city. And Eli is locked away in the EON headquarters trying to figure out how EON can take down Marcella and Vincent.

Thoughts: I finally ended up doing a combined reading and listening to this book because I felt like I wasn't making enough progress on the physical book. This duology was intense. When I read Vicious I was surprised at how much I liked it because I would say these aren't my kind of stories. I have such mixed feelings about many of the characters. Each character is sort of good and evil in their own ways. I think I was not supposed to like Marcella, but I kind of did. I like Vincent most of the time. He is so unpredictable, sometimes he is good but sometimes he is awful. And then I hate Eli but hate Dr. Haverty even more for what he did to Eli. It is complicated and messy and much more amazing than it should be.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
Title: Ariadne
Author: Jennifer Saint
Narrator: Barrie Kreinik

Synopsis: Ariadne, famously associated with the labyrinth and the Minotaur, finally gets her own story. After falling in love with Perseus and his abandonment, her life takes a drastic turn.

Thoughts: This was neat, it was nice for Ariadne to have the spotlight and to see her story all in one place instead of in the background of the myths, which is what I am used to. If you enjoyed Circe, this is a good book for you.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Title: Sense and Sensibility
Author: Jane Austen
Narrator: Rosamund Pike

Synopsis: I hardly feel like this classic tale needs a synopsis. Briefly, this story follows two sisters as they navigate the land of romance and society.

Thoughts: I wanted more after I finished Pride and Prejudice, so I decided to pick this one up. I was a bit disappointed, I just didn't enjoy it as much as I did Pride and Prejudice. That being said, I still liked it alright and am glad I read it.

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Title: Heartstopper volumes 1 through 4
Author: Alice Oseman

Synopsis: These graphic novels follow the stories of Charlie and Nick as they become fast friends and their feelings develop into something more.

Thoughts: I had a couple of these on my Kindle, which was handy while I was traveling. These were pretty easy, enjoyable reads and definitely cute and fluffy.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Title: The Extraordinaries
Author: TJ Klune

Synopsis: Nick is obsessed with the mysterious people in his city called the Extraordinaries. Motivated by his enormous crush on Shadow Star (the Extraordinary hero of the city) Nick decides to become an Extraordinary himself. His best friend (and maybe soulmate?) Seth, seems oddly on the fence about Nick's endeavors.

Thoughts: This had been sitting on my Kindle for a while and I read it while I was in Nepal. I LOVED this book. I swore I saw the plot coming and the twist surprised me. It was funny and clever and just so great. I can't wait to read the next book (whenever it comes out).

Rating: 4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Title: When Harry Met Harry
Author: Sydney Smyth
Narrators: Teddy Hamilton and Malcolm Young

Synopsis: When Harry first met Herryy (also called Henry by his friends), they couldn't stand one another. But their paths are fated to cross over and over again. Eventually they become friends but maybe they could be more.

Thoughts: I can't even remember how/when this book crossed my radar. But I have to say, I didn't love it. The first half to three quarters of the book was actually alright, but after that I seriously lost interest and I'm not really sure why. Maybe it just felt too drawn out and overdone.

Rating: 2 1/2 out of 5 stars

Title: Pumpkin
Author: Julie Murphy
Synopsis: Waylon is not the most subtle of gay teenagers. And being a fat, fairly flamboyant guy in small town Texas has its drawbacks. Just when it feels like Waylon's life is maybe falling apart, he discovers drag and that is just the outlet he needs.
Thoughts: Another book that has been on my Kindle for a while. I enjoyed the first two books in the Dumplin' series, and it is probably no surprise that I enjoyed this one, too. Waylon is a great character to follow and it was a lovely story.
Rating: 3 1/2 to 4 out of 5 stars
Title: The Pandava Series
Author: Roshani Chokshi
Narrator: Soneela Nankani

Synopsis: Aru Shah is the reincarnation of Arjuna from the ancient Mahabharata. Aru doesn't feel much like the ancient hero though. Through a series of events, she releases the Sleeper from his prison and kicks off the next big war. Aru, along with her sisters (the other reincarnated Pandavas) and their friends, have to stop the Sleeper and end the war.

Thoughts: I had to re-read the first four books since the last book was just released and I wanted everything fresh in my memory. I love these books. I love the mythology and stories and the characters are great: funny, flawed, and heroic. It makes me want to read the Mahabharata (and maybe the Bhagvad Gita) to learn more about the stories and characters referenced throughout the series. But I definitely recommend this series.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars for each


Title: Wild Magic and Wolf-speaker
Author: Tamora Pierce

Synopsis: I'm sure I have reviewed these books before because I have read them countless times. But real quick, this series follows Daine who has lost her family and comes to Tortall. She finds that her "knack" with animals is actually wild magic. As she learns how to use her magic, Carthak is gearing up to go to war with Tortall.

Thoughts: These are comfort books for me. I'm not sure why, but I had the urge to read them. I seriously have read them more times than I could count since I discovered them in middle school. And I love Numair, so there is that, too.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars for each


Favorite book read in April/May: The Extraordinaries probably takes the cake. Also the Pandava series.
Least favorite book read this month: When Harry Met Harry

I have read 33 books towards my goal of 60. According to Goodreads, I am 9 books ahead of schedule, so that is pretty great!

I finished another series that I wanted to finish this year: the Villains duology!  I have completed most of the series I wanted to finish this year. The only other one I want to complete is the sequel to King of Scars.

Thanks for sticking with me, guys! Hopefully now that things are a bit more normal, I will get back into the blogging routine. And hopefully get up some other posts for real this time.