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Week 5 Reading Round-Up

This week's reading these are mislabeled books and lovely LGBTQ. My expectations were very different going into two of these reads than what I got out of them. But overall, a very successful reading week. Another 4 books - which I think is going to be closer to my norm for the rest of the year.


In this post:

My Stats


Weekly Stats:

  • 4 books;

  • 2 audiobooks, 1 ebook, 1 paperback

  • 2 debut authors, 1 backlist, 3 new releases

  • 3 ARCS, 1 Pango purchased book

  • Average Rating: 4⭐ !

Yearly Stats:

  • 27/120 books

  • Reset Book - 98/850 pages - 12% (no progress this week) - I'm not really sticking to my plan to read this between every book LOL - I'm okay with that

  • Japanese Reads - 1/12

  • Nonfiction Reads - 2/12


Here are my spoiler free reviews based on the order in which I read them. You can also find these on Goodreads and StoryGraph! I've also included potential prompts these books could fit into for the two reading challenges I'm participating in.


 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 3.68


Genre: Adult Mystery/Thriller

Format: NetGalley ARC - audiobook

Releases: February 13, 2024


Dear Publishers and Bookish Friends - Can we please have a clear definition of THRILLER? I think that would absolutely help manage expectations for readers. kthxbie


This book is marketed as a thriller. It is not. At least not in the sense of tense, on the edge of my seat, thrill-ride. I don't even think I'd call it a psychological thriller since all the characters are a bit vapid and naive. There isn't really even a traditional mystery. I get that it makes it hard to market then. But I went in expecting a thriller which makes it difficult for me to give an accurate rating.


For me, this falls under the sub-genre of rich people behaving badly. There is a LOT of classism, a LOT of horses, and a hell of a lot of tarot. In fact, every chapter begins with the explanation of a tarot card, which I did find interesting but a bit redundant.


Speaking of redundant, the first 40% of the book was very repetitive. Four Yale students on the equestrian team are friends and roommates. At the beginning, they welcome a new 5th member into their group. The story is told through the perspective of Rosie McCallister - a "poor" (she's middle class, goes to Yale, and rides horses - she just doesn't have a billion dollar trust fund like her friends - but don't tell her that because she spends the majority of the book whining about money) scholarship kid who benefited from her best friends' fathers' foundation to get into horseback riding in the first place.


The first 40ish% of the book is the girls going to practice, Annaleise (the new girl) reading tarot for them and explaining what tarot is (over and over) and Rosie whining about being poor. This is all setting up the relationship between the girls, their personalities (although 2 of them seem pretty interchangeable), and their motivations. It is a deep dive into the horse world and the ivy league collegiate competition scene. It was well-written and very character driven. Which probably wouldn't have bothered me if I wasn't expecting a thriller. Like literally nothing HAPPENS. It is a sloooow-burn set up.


When the "big bad thing" happens, there is a little bit more tension and "mystery" but the big reveal, at least to this reader, wasn't really a big reveal. The author does a good job leaving clues throughout so it wasn't a big guess. But I'm not sure the author really meant for it to be a huge big reveal. The only reason I think that is because it was marketed as a thriller, which, as I've said, it is not.


The book then jumps a few years into the future where Rosie is still dealing with the aftermath of the "big, bad thing" and trying to find her place in the world. She still comes across as very naive. I don't think she has much of a character arc throughout the book. When more bad things happen she reacts much the same way as she did in college. Then there is a ridiculously long and, in my opinion, a bit unnecessary epilogue.


Man, this all sounds like I didn't like the book. But overall, I think I did? It was well-written with some lovely turns of phrase and descriptions. The narrator was fine. Her voice was a bit immature/young-sounding which may have contributed to my assessment of Rosie as naive, but it didn't bother me in terms of quality.


If you enjoy a quiet, character-driven story about friendship, betrayal, and rich people behaving badly with a pinch of mystery/secret keeping, then this book may be for you. Just don't go into it thinking it is a thriller.


Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for allowing me to review an advanced copy of this book.


 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.5


Genre: Young Adult LGBTQ romance graphic novel

Format: Paperback - own

Released: October 1, 2018


Seriously, why did it take me so long to read this book? As soon as I finished, I immediately went on Pango and ordered the rest of the series. Hope to read them this month and then add them to my classroom library.


I also started the Netflix series and also LOVE it!


Basically, gay boy meets straight boy. Boys become best friends. Gay boy gets a crush on straight boy. Straight boy starts questioning his sexuality. It's lovely and sweet and shows family support and best friend support and positive but realistic queer issues. The only reason it lost a .5 star for me is because the drawings sometimes left a little to be desired. I would have loved a bit more detail.


Since this is a graphic novel, it was a really fast read - a little over an hour. If you haven't picked up this series yet, I highly recommend!


 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Goodreads Rating: 4.5


Genre: Hybrid - Romance, Magical Realism/Fantasy, Historical Fiction

Format: NetGalley ARC - Audiobook

Releases: February 13, 2024


I may be in the minority, but I hate surprises. I'm the girl who shakes the presents under the Christmas tree. The thought of a surprise party gives me literal hives. I read the blurb and listen to podcast summaries and read the reviews. That's not to say I don't like twists. That's different - at least in the weird wiring of my own brain.


In terms of books and publishing and marketing, I like to know whether the book I'm reading has elements of magical realism or fantasy or the paranormal. Sometimes I'm in the mood for that; sometimes I'm not. It's sets my expectations. This book has those elements. None of the reviews I read nor the blurb nor the genre listings mention this. I think it would have helped me set expectations for the book.


That being said, I did really enjoy this book! It is told in a dual timeline - Anita de Monte in the mid to late 80s and Raquel in the late 90s. We also get a few chapters from Anita's toxic husband Jack Martin which added an interesting element to the story.


I enjoyed the parallel between the two women's lives and the theme of how easy it is to fall into toxic relationships and how hard it is to get out. I did find Raquel to be a bit too naive and almost purposefully obtuse. I'd love to see her a have a bit more agency earlier in the book. Anita's anger and frustration really comes through on the audiobook version. I loved the passion the narrator brought to her character.


The supernatural aspect is explained in a brief mention of Santeria without much explanation or justification. In that case I found it a bit of a plot device instead of totally "believable." It didn't bother me as much, though, because of the spiritual aspect, Anita's fiery spirit, and the tradition of magical realism in Latinx writing.


I also expected Raquel to "discover" Anita and her work much earlier in the book because of the blurb (one of the downsides to reading the blub first - maybe I should try not reading blurbs and then I'd have no expectations? - Aaannndd, now I have hives - but I digress). She doesn't really discover her until well past the half way point.


As the title suggests, there is a hopeful ending for Anita although the antagonists get off way too easy in my opinion, which is part of the point of the book actually. Anita is a complex and flawed and not entirely innocent character, but I found myself rooting for her immensely throughout the story.


Four stars because of the surprise and a bit over the top magical elements and the fact that I had to suspend a lot of disbelief that a naive grad student who literally just heard of both artists was the one to discover the connection between them (not a spoiler since the blurb says as much).


Thank you to the publisher, NetGalley, and the author for allowing me to review an ARC of the audiobook for this book. I definitely recommend the audio. The narrators were fantastic.


 

My Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐.5

Goodreads Rating: 4.5


Genre: LGBTQ General Adult Fiction

Format: NetGalley ARC - ebook

Releases: February 6, 2024


I recommend anyone in the reviews that is saying this book is too queer to remember Ruth Bader Ginsberg's famous retort when someone asked her how many women would be enough on the Supreme Court. She said 9 - which is all of them. The interviewer scoffed and Ruth astutely pointed out that for decades it had been all male and no one thought that was weird. I found it refreshing that the majority of the characters in this novel were queer or questioning instead of their queerness being the oddity or the minority. They were not the "token" diversity characters.


The book is told by the titular queer siblings Greta and Valdin who are part Maori and part Russian. I had no idea that New Zealand had such a connection to Russia and Slovakia, so I enjoyed learning more about that part of New Zealand's history. I also appreciated the frank conversations about the Maori culture as well.


The description indicates that this is for fans of Schitts Creek and Sally Rooney's Normal People and I think that is spot on. Not a whole lot happens in this character-driven story and yet I found myself compelled by these characters to root for them and keep reading. They are flawed and diverse and complicated and their lives and family are messy and I was here for all of it.


I laughed out loud several times (especially during the siblings' tangents) and cried and highlighted the crap out of passages. It was hopeful in a way I found endearing. This is a 4.5 star book rounded up to 5 for Goodreads who STILL hasn't jumped on the half star bandwagon like the rest of the book world.


The only reason it isn't a true 4 star read is that the ending felt a bit rushed to me. Reilly brings in several other POVs that we hadn't seen earlier in the novel to reveal brand new information and quickly tie up some loose ends. She also brushes over some pretty big final points that the rest of the book was hinting at the entire time. I even went back to see if I missed something. It was a bit confusing at times. This family is also intricately and weirdly connected, so if she didn't have the character list and how they were interconnected, I would have felt a little bit lost at times. I referenced it often.


Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I can understand why it won so many awards in New Zealand. I hope it gets the praise and recognition it deserves here in the US as well. Thank you so much to NetGalley, the publisher and the author for allowing me to review an advanced copy of the ebook. I look forward to adding this to my shelves.




That's a wrap on my fifth week of reading. I'd love to know what you are reading! I have a delicious habit of distracting myself from books I own with new books. :)








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