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read: the poppy war by r.f. kuang

Another book that I’m grateful to Sword & Laser for bringing my way!

The Poppy War (The Poppy War, #1)

Rin is an orphan who manages to ace a test that grants her admission to the prestigious military academy, Sinegard. Her background leads to conflict with her privileged classmates but she manages to tap into a part of herself to bring about immense power. When war begins again, she is thrown into battle with her new skills.

Ugh, this is a terrible synopsis but this book is amazing! I loved every single word! Immediately, I was taken with the world and especially Rin. She is the perfect character. I realized that the two books I’m currently reading have angry, snarky young women who are only trying to find power within themselves despite their circumstances and I am so here for that.

For a book that deals with war and such, it is surprisingly hilarious. Again, mostly from Rin, but the humor in this book really elevates it in my eyes. And the fantasy elements felt grounded and real and kind of learning about another culture in regard to these elements was incredible.

There were a few moments that reminded me of Mulan, especially when she teams up with Altan. Guh, Altan. And Kitay. And Nezha. God, I loved these babies so much. I cannot recommend this book more and I’m hearing the sequel is even better. Read this book!

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read: this is how it always is by laurie frankel

This Is How It Always Is

I somehow missed when this was a Reese Witherspoon Book Club pick (but it’s rare that I get to read those anyway…) but the PopSugar Reading Challenge selected it for May. It was cheap enough at Target so I bought it. (Side note: I really need more stability so I can get a library card. I miss the library)

This is a story about a family. Rosie and Penn met in college and instantly fell in love. They have five boys and have a pretty nice life but then, their youngest son Claude announces he wants to be a girl when he grows up. They are thrown but try their hardest to give their child the life she wants.

I really liked this book. It reminded me a bit of This is Us as it is not always told in a linear fashion and the family aspect is very strong. But the overall message was so important and it’s definitely something to read for Pride Month. The strongest parts were the first two; telling Rosie and Penn’s love story as well as their family life. All of the boys are so different and I loved reading about them. And how they reacted to the change in their family dynamic.

It is such a modern story too. She never flinches from hard conversations and the constant push and pull from both Rosie and Penn about Claude, or his chosen name, Poppy, was insightful. Claude/Poppy was the lead character and a lot broke my heart regarding the story arc. While it ended quite beautifully, the final part was not the best. It took Rosie and Claude away from the family and though it ended up working, I missed the presence of Penn and the other boys. It was a bit of a radical departure and I couldn’t see where it was going. But that was pretty much my only complaint. It was such a well-written story and it genuinely moved me.

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read: daisy jones & the six by taylor jenkins reid

It’s hard to imagine any other book right now that is so hyped. It was part of two book clubs I follow! It’s honestly everywhere I look and I broke down to buy a copy. This is extremely unusual for me.

Daisy Jones & The Six

One of the hottest bands in the ’70s was Daisy Jones & The Six. They split up after their most successful album and it’s finally time to find out what happened. Told in an interview format, the band members discuss how they formed, their lives in the band, and why they broke up.

Fun fact about me: my parents didn’t want me and my sisters watching MTV when we were younger. They blocked the channel and it took until the late ’90s for my older sister to crack the code. This led to us watching a lot of VH1. I think this explains my love of ’80s music and some of my other musical tastes. And one of VH1’s best shows as I was growing up was Behind the Music. I don’t remember how many of these I watched but I definitely saw the Fleetwood Mac episode multiple times around the release of “The Dance”.

That’s what this book reminded me of, an episode of Behind the Music. And it was perfect. There are definitely similarities between this fictional band and the absolute craziness of Fleetwood Mac (seriously, read how “The Chain” was actually recorded). It had all the hallmarks of pretty much every band in the ’70s: sex, drugs, alcohol. But the characters felt so real.

Daisy Jones was a fantastic character as she dealt with her addictions and crazy love life. I was always sympathetic to what she was going through and that really helped sell this whole thing. Billy Dunne, on the other hand…he was harder. I understood where he was coming from but man, what an asshole! I also loved the less popular members of the band, especially keyboardist Karen. All the side stories from those members were always as interesting as whatever Daisy was up to. And the differences in opinion to the events that were unfolding!

It’s an incredible book. I definitely want to read more of Reid’s work (The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo was already on my list). But most of all, I wish the songs she wrote were real. They were gorgeous and the way they explained the recording process of the songs, they really do sound like they could have been massive hits. I will probably never get over this book.

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read: where’d you go, bernadette by maria semple

One of the many book clubs I follow picked this book for March to coincide with the film adaptation’s release. The movie was pushed back until August. *shrugs* Still, the trailer was interesting and I’m kind of reversing my usual by reading a book BEFORE seeing the movie! What a concept!

Where'd You Go, Bernadette

Told through letters, documents, and articles, it follows Bee Branch, an intelligent girl who is trying to figure out what happened to her mother, Bernadette Fox. As the family prepares to travel to Antarctica, Bernadette seems to become unhinged and it seems to cause problems with everyone around her.

Overall, I did not love the book. I absolutely adored how it was told and the mystery involving Bernadette’s disappearance was fun but the characters were all awful! Except Bee. Bee was pretty cool but she wasn’t the focus. Audrey was pretty unhinged, Bernadette was pretentious and terrible (except to Bee and some of it made sense after a while), and don’t get me started on Elgin. I thought it wrapped up pretty well though I do not know how the movie is going to play out as it jumps timelines and such. The cast should make it worthwhile.

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read: ka: dar oakley in the ruin of ymr by john crowley

The December pick for Sword & Laser.

Ka: Dar Oakley in the Ruin of Ymr

A normal summary won’t work for this book so here’s the gist. It’s about a crow named Dar Oakley and his life and death. He also encounters humans and helps them in their lives.

As I can’t properly summarize it, it’s a little hard to critique. Off the bat, the writing is phenomenal. I definitely want to read another of Crowley’s books. It made me forget that I was reading about a crow. So, the writing was great but the overall story was okay. I felt like I had read a story like this before which was weird. It was split into different sections and I actually really enjoyed the third part. It’s a strange book that I probably never would have picked up on my own.

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read: mirage by somaiya daud

The OwlCrate book from September’s box.

Mirage (Mirage, #1)

Amani is an 18-year-old girl, living on a farm planet in a system ruled by a brutal race called the Vatheks. During a ceremony on her planet, she is kidnapped and brought to the royal palace where it turns out she has the same face as the not-so-beloved princess, Maram. She is trained to be Maram’s body double while also trying to maintain her beliefs.

While not perfect, I did enjoy this book. It had a Star Wars kind of feel with the different planets and droids as well as the whole body double situation which was highly reminiscent of Padme, but she was never as cruel as Maram. Daud created a very interesting world but the more YA I read, they kind of start blending together a bit. Still, I loved Amani and her budding relationship with Idris, Maram’s betrothed. I liked Amani learning so much about everything and then even the softening of Maram. If I had any real complaint, it’s that not much happens. There’s very little action in the book but I figure the next two will change in that respect. Excited to see what comes next.

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read: lovecraft country by matt ruff

Sword & Laser’s book club pick for October.

Lovecraft Country (novel).jpgIn 1954, a young man named Atticus Turner is looking for his father, Montrose, who went missing. Along with his Uncle George and friend Letitia, they wind up in New England and encounter the Braithwaite family. Things turn very creepy from that point on.

I was very into this book even though some of the stories weren’t as interesting. The first part of the book gave me serious Get Out vibes and stayed with me the whole time. Except that there are both actual monsters along with people acting like monsters. And let’s be real, the racism in this book is what is truly horrifying. Ruff did an incredible job of blending real and fantasy. I don’t want to say too much because it is a great book especially to read during Halloween season.

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read: jade city by fonda lee

(Due to some life changes, I likely won’t be able to read more than one book club pick a month anymore. Sucks but I’ll now do more book reviews…)

Jade City (The Green Bone Saga, #1)This was Sword & Laser’s pick for August.

An urban fantasy novel taking place on the island of Kekon, jade is a hot commodity that helps people enhance abilities and protect their island. One family, the Kauls, is thrown into a new war involving a drug that lets anyone use the powers of jade.

Honestly, my description sucks. I don’t know how to accurately tell you what the book is about. However, it is amazing. I hated that it took me so long to get through it (it’s almost 500 pages) because I was so interested in what was happening and the characters were all great.

It’s like an Asian mob book. Which is so interesting and why I really want someone to make this into a movie or TV show. So much happens and yet I was never confused. Lee is an incredible writer and I am dying to get the next book. Please come out soon!

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read: july’s book club picks

Mortal Engines (The Hungry City Chronicles, #1)Sword & Laser: This month, they picked Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve. I hadn’t heard of this book prior to the movie trailer for the adaptation coming out in December. The trailer was interesting enough for me to at least check out the book before maybe seeing it so I was pleased that S&L decided it should be read.

If you’ve seen the trailer, you know that London and other cities have become moving “Traction Cities” which means they can move around freely and conquer smaller cities. A young historian named Tom becomes involved in a vengenance mission by a girl named Hester Shaw who lost her parents and was disfigured by a notable explorer. The two have to work together to save the rest of the world.

I really enjoyed it! It’s nothing groundbreaking and surprisingly, it’s a YA series (lots of discussion in the group about that fact) but a very quick read and pretty fun. I liked a lot of the characters and appreciated the fact that the females were well-written and kind of saved the day more than the males. I still don’t know if I’ll see the movie in theatres but reading the book definitely tipped the scales for it more than I expected.

From Twinkle, with LoveOwlCrate Book Club: June’s box was Summer Lovin’ and I actually knew that this would be the book from the description! I adored Sandhya Menon’s first novel, When Dimple Met Rishi so I was extra excited about this one.

Twinkle Mehra is an aspiring filmmaker who has lost her best friend and hates her “groundling” status at school. When another student, Sahil Roy, encourages her to make a movie for a school event, her life changes in many ways.

Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this as much as I wanted to (or as much as Dimple). Mostly, it felt very young. Like there were times it reminded me of The Princess Diaries (which I never finished…got up to book 6 and felt like I outgrew them, but I do want to finish them anyway!) Her issues with Maddie, her former best friend, were relatable but also, she needed to stop focusing on it so much. Friendships change, it sucks but it happens. And her obsession with Sahil’s popular twin brother, Neil, was frustrating especially when Sahil was right there! But I also had issues with him! There were times he became an insufferable male film geek that reminded me of one of my friends and it didn’t mesh with the feminist story Menon was trying to tell.

What I liked was Twinkle’s ambition to be director and her letters to other female directors. That was a nice touch but not enough to shield the books from all its flaws.



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read: june’s book club picks

Image result for circeSword & Laser: Madeline Miller’s Circe was chosen via poll (but I missed it!). I had heard about this book and really enjoy Greek mythology so picking it up was no problem. What I liked about it was how accessible it made the Greek myths. I have read “The Iliad” and “The Odyssey” but because of the translations from ancient Greek, I struggled a lot. Here, we had familiar characters and retellings of the classic tales and I liked it a lot. I never really thought that much about Circe before and she really is a tragic character. It was interesting to see just how crucial she was in these stories.

Image result for the hate u giveOur Shared Shelf: I got a very late start to this one but really didn’t want to have only one book in the post and I had heard such wonderful things about it (plus the movie is coming out soon). There was a poll for the May/June pick and one of the winners was The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas! It is the story of a sixteen-year-old girl named Starr Carter who witnesses the murder of her friend by a white cop. It deals with the aftermath and struggles of this event and how Starr tries to merge her different lives. I really think this book should be required reading for these times. It is heartbreaking and powerful. I almost cried a few times. Starr was such a real character. Actually, everyone was. I adored her family life and how strong that unit was. I loved (most of) her friends and boyfriend. If I had one complaint, it was would be that some of the gang stuff felt forced but even that was compelling and probably real for many communities. It was especially interesting to read after Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race. This is why I’m part of so many different book clubs: I love being able to discover books I know I never would pick up otherwise. I mean, The Hate U Give has had a crazy streak on the NYT Bestsellers list and I purchased a copy a few months ago but the book club gave me the push to read it sooner. And you should definitely do so too before the movie comes out.