July 2019 Wrap Up || Middle Grade Magic, Koreadathon, DNDReadathon, Medieval-A-Thon [CC]


Hello everybody, my name is Cara, and
today I’m here with my July Wrap Up. The first book I finished was Thirst by Mary
Oliver. This is a collection of poems that primarily focuses on I would say
three different kinds of poems or three different topics: one of them is nature,
one of them is the grief that Mary Oliver felt after her partner of many
years passed away, and the other is on Mary Oliver’s spiritual connection to
the earth and to nature and growing things. And I really loved this, I always
love Mary Oliver’s poetry. There were a few poems at the very beginning, like I
wasn’t quite sure how I was going to feel about this collection compared to
some of her other ones because some of her nature poems…there were a couple at
the beginning that felt a little bit repetitive, [but] there were quite a few poems
later on that really really spoke to me or that really…I really loved and I felt
like were really emotional and beautifully told and I gave this
collection 5 stars. Next I finished Wicked Fox by Kat Cho. This
is the first book in the Gumiho series and this is an ownvoices Korean urban
fantasy that focuses on gumiho, and those are Korean fox spirits and Miyoung is
one of those fox spirits and she survives by feeding on the souls of evil
men, and then one day something happens that makes Miyoung question what she
knows about herself and her family. She crosses paths with a human boy named Jihoon and this is kind of the story from there.
So I really loved the setting, this is set in Seoul in South Korea and I’ve
never read something set there before, and you really got the sense of what the
city was like, what the setting and the culture was like. There were a couple of
side characters I really liked as well, and I also liked some of the aspects
of the ending of this book, even though some of it was a little bit
anticlimactic. The plot overall I wasn’t as much of a fan of; I did like that some
of the twists and turns the story took actually surprised me. Honestly my
biggest problem with this book [was] the cast of characters: they felt kind of
flat, actually, aside from those couple of side characters that I really liked, most
of whom we didn’t see for most of the book, I just felt like there–they didn’t
have a lot of personality? The instalove in this book was also pretty strong, and
this is something I never thought I would say but I almost found myself
wishing for a love triangle because there was one side character that I
actually think Miyoung had better chemistry with or more interesting
interactions [with] than her actual love interest…even though he was really sweet
and I liked him, it was like seeing them together just really did nothing for me.
I do know that Kat Cho has stated she took a lot of inspiration from kdramas
and that’s kind of how she wanted to structure her plot and kind of that kind
of story she wanted to tell, and I do think this book would make a fantastic
kdrama, as a novel though, it kind of left me a little disappointed and I gave
Wicked Fox 3 stars. Next I finished Quintana of Charyn by
Melina Marchetta, this is the third and final book in the Lumatere Chronicles. This book is about some of the kingdoms that we have already met, Lumatere is
obviously the central one that we follow, but we also see their interactions with
other kingdoms and other people from other countries and how–how their
opinions on them have to change, like this book really focuses on that a lot;
we started seeing that in book 2 but we really see that explored more here and
we’re following a couple different storylines in this book and kind of the
ultimate–ultimate goal or the overarching plot is about Lumatere and
the kingdoms that are threatening it and like whether or not they will go to war
with these kingdoms, but it’s really a story about individual people and
individual choices, and I think that’s one of the reasons I love it so much. One
thing that really impresses me about this series is how you get this sense of
these hundreds and hundreds of years of history, even from book 1, and it makes
you care a lot more, obviously, because you–you believe it, you believe these
characters’ interactions and you believe how much they love their homeland and
like the–the deep-seated prejudices or incorrect beliefs that they have about
other countries, you actually see why those happen, and you–you really want
them to fight those and to give people a chance no matter where they come from.
The world-building is once again fantastic, the characters are so rich and
detailed and multi-layered. This was a pretty emotional series finale which is
one of the reasons I was putting it off for so long but I’m so glad I finally
read it. The only reason I gave it 4.5 stars instead of the full 5 stars is
because there were a couple of points where the plot lagged a little bit where
we were sort of waiting for different plot lines to meet up with each other; I
wish that would have happened a little faster but other than that this was
fantastic and I highly recommend the series. Next I finished The Princess
and the Goblin by George MacDonald. This was a book that my friend Giselle picked for me to
read as part of our five-star TBR exchange, and I had actually read
this a really really long time ago when I was little and I hated it, and Giselle
had the exact same experience and then she reread it recently as an adult and
really enjoyed it so that’s why she thought I might enjoy it. And we follow
Princess Irene and she lives on a mountain and there are goblins under
this mountain that everybody in the surrounding area is really afraid of and
they want to protect her from the goblins because the goblins kind of have
a history of like stealing I think the royal family? or just like especially
antagonizing the royal family, so they’re obviously very concerned with keeping
Irene safe, she’s a little girl in this story. One of the other characters, Curdie,
he hears about a plot that could risk Irene’s life, something that the goblins
underground are planning and so the rest of the book
is them sort of figuring out how to stop this. I liked this so much better the
second time! I think when I was really little I must have just not liked
fantasy parodies or like self-aware kind of fantasy stories because I hated The
Princess Bride the first time I saw it too and now it’s one of my favorite
movies! So I’m wondering if that kind of
happened with this one because the writing style is very like self-aware
and humorous and like doesn’t take itself too seriously as a fantasy story
while still being very charming and very much like a classic fairy tale. I liked
how some of the plotting of this book really took me by surprise, and I don’t
know if part of that is that we now have very different fantasy tropes and when
George MacDonald was writing this, the tropes would have been like–like a
completely different set of expectations, you know, or if he’s just like a very um
like “keeps you on your toes” kind of writer. I ended up giving this book 4
stars and honestly I think one of the reasons I didn’t like it as a kid that I
still kind of feel now is because so much of this book takes place
underground or in caves or in mines and I really didn’t enjoy that. I’m really
claustrophobic and to read an entire book where basically half of it takes
place underground and it’s very convincingly described as being like
underground and afraid of getting trapped there and everything, that wasn’t
super fun for me, but overall I really really enjoyed this and I’m so glad I
reread it this time. Next I finished A Sprinkle of Spirits by Anna Meriano. This
is the second book in the Love Sugar Magic series and this is a–I guess it’s
kind of technically an urban fantasy series? but it’s like a small town urban
fantasy I think, and we follow our main character Leonora and this is an ownvoices Mexican-American story and her and her family are all cooking
witches and specifically they get their magic from baking and sort of associated
talents with that. And I loved this one so much; I loved it even more than the
first book. We really see a lot more of Leonora’s family relationships and that
was one of my favorite things from the first book, and I think in this book we
see them expanded even more, we see Leonora’s friendships a little bit more
and I really enjoyed that and how complex those ended up being, and I also
really enjoyed the kind of expansion of the magic system in this world as well. I
think this book had a lot of really beautiful things to say about family and
about love and grief and moving on and how the people you love don’t really
leave us and I just thought this was really really beautiful, some really
emotional scenes that I did not necessarily expect going into this, and I
ended up giving it 5 stars. Next I finished The Prodigal Tongue: The Love-Hate Relationship Between American and British English by Lynne Murphy, and this
was another book that Giselle had picked out for me to read, and I loved this. This
is a nonfiction book about, as it says, the relationship between American and
British English and I just thought this was so brilliant and so interesting. One
of the main things it does is it addresses the stereotypes of American
and British English using actual facts and really exploring some of these
assumptions that we have about each other’s accent and whether or not those
are actually backed up at all by historical fact. Lynne Murphy is definitely
qualified to do this, she’s–she’s American but she’s been living in the UK
I think for like 20 years now or something, maybe more, and she’s a
linguist and I think she like teaches in the Language Department [at University of Sussex] but she definitely like knows her stuff, she has a lot of experience with it and she’s
also in a really interesting position of being–like having kind of both sides of
it, you know, American and British English. I also really enjoyed the variety of
sources she uses, she uses obviously a lot of like scholarly texts and articles and
things like that but she also pulls in a couple of more like popular culture
things; which apparently some people on Goodreads really hated, they thought that
it like threw the rest of her research into question because she was using
sources that like didn’t, I don’t know, like weren’t like intelligent enough. And
I don’t know, I kind of liked the mix that she had, I think it’s important to
look at the kind of cultural framework for the language or the culture that
you’re studying, like *laughs* for example if you were writing a book about American
language or culture, if you included something from like BuzzFeed let’s
say, like no, it’s not like a scholarly text, but seeing what popular news sites,
like what kind of language they’re using and like what kind of like community
interactions they’ve had and like polls that people have answered, like no it’s
not going to be the same as like using an encyclopedia but it does give you a
really interesting snapshot of how a certain group of people is feeling about
language or what kind of language they’re using, and I think she used that
really well and she didn’t–she didn’t try and make the data say something it
didn’t And this book was just so funny and so enjoyable to read, like this is
another one where I was laughing out loud at passages and I never thought a
book on linguistics could make me do that.
So many interesting little tidbits, like if you’re somebody who likes weird facts
I think you might really enjoy this book. I think honestly if you–if you have any
interest or knowledge of the English language, I think especially if you’re an
American or a British reader you might get a lot out of this, but I think
just if you speak or are interested in or know any
amount of English language or culture or history, you might be interested in this,
because she also talks about things like imperialism and how that affects
language and she just–she covers so much without it feeling like too much, and in
a style that felt really interesting and really easy to follow: there was never
any time where I was lost but she also didn’t talk down to her audience, I think
she balanced that really well. And from reviews that I read it seems like one of
the only complaints people had, or one of the main complaints, was that she was too
positive on the side of American English compared to British English, and I mean,
you could argue like ‘okay, well she’s an American by birth, so maybe she’s a
little biased in favor of American English,’ but I actually think it kind of
makes sense because she’s addressing a lot of the stereotypes that we have
about each other’s accents or word usage and the fact is that a lot of the
stereotypes about American English are negative and a lot of the stereotypes
about British English are positive– across the board, there’s obviously
exceptions but overall that’s true–so if she’s saying these stereotypes are not
really based in fact, of course you’re gonna end up with a conclusion that
makes American English sound better than it was before she started talking about
it. I think everything I have already said adds up to a five-star book and
objectively I think this book is 5 stars, but even on top of that as more of
a personal enjoyment kind of thing, reading this book made me feel less
ashamed of my accent and the way that I talk and the fact that I use like, and
that was really nice, because like when I was abroad I felt super self-conscious
about my American accent because I kind of knew all these negative
stereotypes that we had about the way that Americans speak and everything, so I
don’t know, like that was just kind of a nice plus is like it made me really
appreciate the way that I talk and the fact that it’s not a bad thing? And just
overall it made me really appreciate the beauty of how much variety we have in
different languages and different accents and different vocabularies and
things like that; she uses some examples from other languages that I really
really enjoyed as well, and yeah, this book was just amazing. Next I finished
Frogkisser! by Garth Nix and this is a Princess and the Frog retelling, or the
Frog Prince I think is what it’s actually called…sort of. But it’s more of
a like fractured fairy tale kind of thing, it’s like loosely inspired by [The Frog Prince]
and we follow Princess Anya and she sort of sets off on a quest to try and turn a
frog back into a person and then she kind of gets caught up in more–more
political things that are happening with her country and trying to take down an
evil sorcerer who has taken over her kingdom and lots of
hijinks ensue. I just felt pretty mediocre about this one and this is one
of those books where it’s hard for me to point to exactly what I didn’t like or
what I thought was done badly because this–like on paper, this looks like a
book I should have loved. I kind of liked Anya herself overall, she was enjoyable.
I really liked the writing style…most of the time. I think sometimes the
self-aware fairy tale humor could go way overboard. I really liked the characters
of the Royal dogs and I really liked the way this book handled the exploration of
civil rights and how that worked in Anya’s kingdom or democracy or const–
constitutional monarchy? like it’s not super clear [what it is.] But unfortunately I just
didn’t enjoy this book very much. I mentioned the writing and how that got
to be too much sometimes. I thought the plot overall was just kind of boring,
like it just dragged a little bit. I didn’t feel like the characters
themselves were anything special outside of like the couple that I mentioned, I
didn’t like how much traveling there was in this book–a lot of it felt super
repetitive with like just being an extended quest to find objects or people.
I really didn’t like some things about the ending and how a somewhat important
supporting character was just like completely written out in a way that we
were supposed to be okay with and I was really not okay with it. And yeah, just…
this book was not any fun and it sounds like it should have been a lot of fun
and that made me sad and I ended up giving Frogkisser! 3 stars. Next I
finished Maresi Red Mantle by Maria Turtschaninoff. This is the third and
at the moment final book in the Red Abbey Chronicles, one of my favorite
ongoing series, and rest assured that if this does end up being the third book in
the series, like the final book, it is a satisfying conclusion. The translation
was done by A.A. Prime and I think this book was originally written in Swedish.
We follow our main character Maresi who was the main character in the
first book as well. After learning all of these skills at the Red Abbey she has
decided to return to her home village and use this knowledge to bring–to
build a school for girls and this is kind of a collection of letters from her
to people who are [all] at the Abbey and she’s writing to several
different people and so through those letters we really–we see how things go
for her, and I just loved this so much. First off, the letters, like the
epistolary style, I was not sure about that choice at the very beginning
but I ended up loving it, it’s really amazing how clear of an idea you get about this setting and these characters [through her letters.] I don’t feel like the letters keep you at
a distance from what’s happening at all which can sometimes happen,
I think that was an excellent choice for this story. I loved Maresi as a character,
I loved so many of the other characters we met including one at the end that I
did not expect to like at all and they ended up being like a stand out for me.
There is a hint of romance in this book and I think that was also developed
really really beautifully, and it’s just–it’s just such a like healthy relationship too,
it was just really lovely to see that, and I really really loved getting to
know Maresi’s family more, specifically her older sister and her
mother. I just loved that, I loved seeing how Maresi had this idea of like who
they were or what like “kind” of women they were and how that wasn’t true, you
know like she wasn’t allowing them to be as complex and wonderful as they are,
because despite Maresi being a great main character, she does have things to
learn still, she does still have to grow. And I just love this series’ overall
message or feeling about–about feminism first of all, but also of there being so
many different ways to be feminist, to be a strong woman and to be an important
woman and to feel fulfilled and happy in your life, there’s not one right way to
do that. [More] things that are just so important and that I think were handled
with so much compassion and depth: things like religious tolerance and not judging
people before you really know them and giving people the ability to be more
complex than you thought they were and the idea that I mentioned for A Sprinkle of Spirits, this idea that like about grief and how much we love people and how that
matters. Like our–our memories of them are important, and it keeps them with us,
and I just think that was so beautiful the way that was done. There were a
couple of scenes in this book that just brought tears to my eyes they were so
beautiful, and I really really loved the ending as well: I wasn’t sure at first
how things were going to turn out but I can’t imagine a better last chapter to
end this book and to end this part of the story. And I gave Maresi Red Mantle
5 stars. Next I finished Where the Mountain Meets the Moon by Grace Lin and
this was a buddy read with my lovely friend Kelly from Cozy Reader Kelly. And
I have to show off the gorgeous illustrations of this book because I
always do that with Grace Lin’s books *shows art* but this is an ownvoices Chinese
folklore-inspired story. We follow our main character Minli, so she sets out to ask
the Old Man on the Mountain how she can help her family because they are very
very poor. I did end up really enjoying this, um, I didn’t like it quite as much
as Grace Lin’s other book that I’ve read. I did really like the folklore that is
incorporated into this book and I was so impressed by the ending of this one and
how Grace Lin wove in all of these threads from the
story that I didn’t expect her to, even though the same thing happened with the
other book I’ve read from her, I was still so astonished and impressed with
how full circle everything felt at the end. I really liked the themes of family
and I also really liked the dragon character that she meets along the way,
he was one of my favorite characters honestly, I just loved him so much. I
think this book had a lot of really good messages, the start of it was a little
bit slow and like I said I didn’t like it quite as much as Grace Lin’s other
book but I do think it’s a really really lovely middle grade book and I gave it
4 stars. Next I finished I Believe in A Thing Called Love by Maurene Goo, and
we follow our main character Desi and she is top of her class, the best at her
school at everything except for romance. She is a disaster when it comes to
dating or talking to boys or anything like that so she decides that she’s
going to make a plan; she decides that she’s going to take all of her cues from
kdramas, the Korean dramas that her father loves and always watches. So this
book was a wild ride. Because you know going in the premise is like a little
bit off the wall and I was okay with that, I was ready for that, ultimately
though I don’t think this book really worked. So I’ll start out with the things
that I really liked: I did like the way that kdramas were incorporated into
this book, I really like kdramas and I just think that was a really fun
element, although I will say like Desi… even after she starts watching and
liking kdramas she was like weirdly condescending about it? so that was like
not as fun. But I also really loved Desi’s relationship with her dad. Her
dad is just like the sweetest most wonderful person and I really loved
seeing all of their scenes together; [they] were like a highlight of the book for me. And
I also liked some of the dialogue of this book, like even with the love
interest who was not my favorite character there were still some really
cute exchanges. Oh I also liked that Desi was popular and like she wasn’t–
she wasn’t like the bitchy mean girl. Okay, so now all of the things that
I did not like about this book, um…her love interest Luca? I–I hated him. Like he
started out just being like really flat and like a noncharacter almost, like I
started out just being bored by him but by the end of this book I actively
hated him. He was like classic broody bad boy for like no reason and I just
hated that; he treated his family like crap,
even after like–even after learning things that should have made him think
of them in a different light he just like refused to, and I get that like he’s
young but the way–like the selfishness that he displayed and like his
whole behavior and manner and just the way he treated other people, I’m like this–
this can’t all be excused by you being a young teenager! The romance
made no sense, like Desi literally only decides that Luca is going to be like
her target for this weird plan she has, only decides that because he’s hot and
he was there. This book’s approach to romance is also
like super problematic because like Desi put Luca and other people in some
horribly dangerous situations all for the sake of following this like kdrama
list, and I just didn’t like that. Like there’s–there’s a difference between
doing some kind of out there things and actively putting people’s lives in
danger, which is what Desi did, and also! she wanted to be a doctor, so I’m like,
you’d think she’d be a little more cognizant of that but she was not. And now
I’m gonna get into some spoilers so if you really want to read this book skip
this part but Desi doesn’t learn anything. She is in fact rewarded for all
of her horrible behavior because like she keeps doing the bad things that she
was doing and she ends up with Luca in the end so it’s like ‘it’s okay, you did
it for love!’ and I’m like no! not really! And another thing I hated is that Desi gives up her dream for the sake of Luca. Like she wants to go to Stanford,
this has been her dream for so long and she just gives it up because of Luca and
to his somewhat credit, I mean she didn’t tell him this was happening, but she made
that decision and it’s portrayed as being a good thing because it’s like ‘oh,
well she realized that she didn’t actually want to go to Stanford, she
loved the idea of Stanford more than she actually wanted to go there’ and I’m like
that’s fine, it’s totally cool for you to change your mind about what you want to
do, I think that’s actually really important and healthy to show that in
books, but don’t do it because of a boy!!! Like I just, I don’t understand this book
and despite the like cute things that I liked about it I could only give it a 2.5 stars. Next I finished The Turnaway Girls by
Hayley Chewins and this is a book about our main character Delphinia? *checks*
Delphernia. And she lives in a society where the girls only exist to facilitate
the music of men, and it’s kind of complicated how that works but that’s–
that’s like the gist of it, and Delphernia wants to sing herself, like she wants
more than this, she wants to actually use her voice and that’s basically the story
is her pursuing that, she is rebelling against
these restrictions placed on her. And I do think the concept of this book was
really good, the execution though I really really didn’t like. So besides the
concept I like the way that queer identity is kind of incorporated into
this book and how we see how that functions in this very restrictive world,
I think that was very thoughtful. And I kind of liked some aspects of the ending;
that was actually what originally made me rate this book a little higher but
after thinking about it I still don’t think it was enough to completely redeem
the rest of the book. One of the main issues I had with this book was the
writing style. I hated it. I know a lot of people really enjoyed it which I totally
understand, it’s very poetic and flowery and it uses all of these
metaphors and everything…I found it pretty obnoxious. Like the book would use
metaphors and descriptions that didn’t make sense or were like unpleasant but
they weren’t supposed to be? Like there’s one part where I’m pretty sure Delphernia like compared her tongue to like a dead sea slug or something like that?
and like we weren’t supposed to be grossed out by it *laughs*, this was supposed to
be like a really beautiful like emotional and evocative kind of
description of her feelings I guess, and it was just like that kind of thing like
over and over and over again. There were like one or two lines that I really
liked in this book that I think were really lovely but the rest of it was
just overwrought and confusing, and…like that’s the thing, is it wasn’t just ‘I
didn’t like the writing style,’ it also made it really confusing to follow what
was going on. I was like 30 or 40 pages in before I realised that something I
had taken to be more like fancy words was actually a literal description of
something that was happening because there was no–there was no indication
that it WAS a description of what was happening. All of this writing sounded
the same. I also didn’t like Delphernia as a main character. Like I didn’t
dislike her but she had absolutely no personality, she just felt like a vehicle
for the story to happen, and which would have maybe been okay except that I don’t
think the story was strong enough to support her either, like there was no
aspect of this I think was strong enough to carry the book. I thought the setting
was pretty flat, like considering how overly descriptive the writing was I
really had very little idea of what this world looked like or functioned like
outside of this very restricted topic or area, which in a way makes sense because
Delphernia’s life has been very restricted but even when she goes to new
places I didn’t feel like I really understood what they were or how they
worked or what they looked like even. And the plot
of this book also felt super random, like characters would just like pop up and
disappear. I also didn’t like how music was used in this book which was a huge
disappointment, I was really looking forward to seeing how that was um
described or incorporated into this book and I just, I didn’t like it! because for
a book where so much of the–the emotional connection depends on music
and like this is Delphernia’s…her voice and her singing kind of represents
her freedom and her personality but then this book had like no feeling of the
magic of music. Like I didn’t get any sense of beauty or wonder or anything
from it and like to have–to have a book where music is so important and then for
it to not feel important at all I just thought was really disappointing, um, I
ended up giving The Turnaway Girls 2.5 stars. Next I finished Midsummer’s Mayhem by Rajani LaRocca. This is a[n ownvoices Indian-American] Midsummer Night’s Dream retelling, our main
character is Mimi and she loves to bake and she sort of gets mixed up in this
baking contest and then magical unexplained things start happening and
basically she has to face the fact that there might be a little more to her
baking than initially appeared. Surprising nobody, I absolutely adored
this book. *laughs* Shakespeare plus baking magic… just so many things about this were like
a perfect recipe for a Cara book. I loved Mimi as a character and her
complicated relationships with her family and how her baking and kind of
the magic of this book also sort of brought those into sharper focus. Like
her insecurities and her dreams and her feelings, how those all affected her
relationships with her family or vice versa.
I loved the baking magic itself, there’s a couple recipes at the back of this
book that I’m so excited to try, I don’t bake much but this book and Love Sugar Magic might convince me. I loved the Shakespeare elements of the story. I liked
the friendships in this book and the like things it says about friendships
and about meeting new people. I had so much fun with this, if I wanted to be
really picky I could say that there were some elements of the writing I think
could have been a little smoother or like there were–there were like one or
two moments where the characters maybe should have figured something out a
little bit quicker but those are really minor complaints compared to how much I
loved this book so I ended up giving it 5 stars anyway, because this is a 5
star book for me, I just can’t say anything different!
Next I finished Unequal Affections by Lara S. Ormiston. So this is a Pride and
Prejudice retelling. By the way this whole like summary and review of this
book will contain spoilers for Pride and Prejudice, I will put a timestamp down below if you want to skip this but if you have
managed to go through life not spoiled for Pride and Prejudice, I don’t want to
take that away from you. This is kind of a what if of Pride and Prejudice where we
follow the consequences if instead of turning down Darcy the first time he
asked Lizzy to marry him, if she said yes to him instead, so in this book that’s
what happens and they become engaged and the rest of the book is about that and
kind of other characters’ reactions to that and how these two people are going
to navigate this relationship when their affections are unequal. *gestures to title* Darcy knows from the beginning that Lizzy doesn’t love him; of course he is arrogantly assuming that
she’s going to fall in love with him pretty quick, but he knows her feelings,
she’s very upfront about that with him and he is like desperately in love with
her and that’s kind of one of the main sources of conflict for this book. And
the reasons that Lizzy accept[s] him are explained, I think they were very
convincing actually, I think that made a lot of sense for Lizzy’s character. I
think writing and characterization-wise this is one of the best classic
retellings or re-imaginings I have ever read, like specifically for like Jane
Austen or like that kind of era. I think the writing really captured that period. The characterization was fantastic apart
from a couple of like nitpicky things at the very beginning of the book, like the
fact that Darcy is a little more romantically demonstrative than I would
maybe expect him to be and that for some reason at the very beginning of this
book I think Lizzy blushes like every other page and I don’t remember that
happening [in P&P] but those things are very minor and they kind of like go away as
the book goes on. I love that we got to see development for characters from the
novel that we didn’t spend a lot of time with um like Lizzie’s family included.
And it was so interesting and fun and sometimes stressful to–to see how the
rest of their acquaintances reacted to this engagement, because that’s one
thing, like you don’t really see in the original novel exactly how everyone
reacts, like you hear about some of it but to see–to see Lizzy and Darcy like
announce their engagement to people was really interesting. And I loved the
development of our two main characters because they still have a lot of growing
to do and I like the way that even though their path to where they end up
is a little different, we still are seeing them get to know each other
better and to respect each other and love each other. I think the author
did a really good job of having that be a comparable sort of journey to the
original novel. The main problem I had was there was this one thing about their
engagement that I think one of the characters didn’t really think through
the implications of until very late on in the book, and when
that did happen it was addressed I think satisfactorily, so that kind of
alleviated some of my worries about that, but that did make it hard to fall in
love with the romance as much as I would have normally because the whole time
this is happening in the back of my head I’m like ‘But what about this really big
thing? like can we talk about it, you can’t just like not acknowledge that!’ So
I like the way that was eventually handled, I would have wanted that to be
handled a little earlier and a little more explicitly, but I did still give this
book 4 stars. Next I finished The Dragonet Prophecy by Tui T. Sutherland.
This is the first book in the Realms… Realms of Fire? Wings of Fire? series, I
don’t remember. This group of I think five dragonets has been kept secret as
part of a rebellion to overthrow one of the dragon rulers or to like fight
for a particular dragon to end up on the throne. There’s a lot of like kind of
confusing team-ups between all of these different dragons, like there’s like
these–there’s several pages of explaining to you what kind of dragon is
which and who’s in charge and I think…it was still confusing! *laughs* I feel like the
overall plot was just boring in a lot of places in addition to being unexpectedly
gory in a way that like I don’t think was addressed. And like this is a middle
grade or children’s series and I’m not saying like kids books can’t have
violence in them because obviously they can, but the way that it was done in this
book made me uncomfortable because the way that it contrasted with the tone of
the rest of the book that was like very very young feeling, and then it’s like ‘oh,
well a dragon just got all of his limbs ripped off in excruciating detail!’ and
I’m like, “What?!” I also didn’t like the fact that humans still existed in this
world. I thought it was gonna be like everyone’s a dragon. [But] every once in a
while there would be humans involved, I just didn’t like it. I didn’t like the
way humans were used here. Also I really hated the ending of this book, um like
the very very end there’s like an epilogue or something that has one of my
least favorite tropes probably ever? and I just feel like that was a cheap ploy.
The only thing I did really like about this book is I was surprisingly attached
to some of the characters. Like I did actually care about the dragonets. Like
I kind of went back and forth on which ones were my favorite,
I basically liked all of them actually. But I don’t think I enjoyed this enough
to continue to the next book and I gave The Dragonet Prophecy 2 stars. Next
I finished Vinegar Girl by Anne Tyler. This is a modern Taming of the Shrew
retelling and our main character is..not Kat *checks* Kate Battista.
And her father is like working on this disease research or something and his
assistant is from Russia and he’s there on like a work visa but then his work
visa expires and the marriage plot of Taming of the Shrew happens because he
decides he’s gonna try and convince his daughter Kate to marry his assistant
Pyotr, I think is his name, so that he can get a green card and it’s just gonna
be like a marriage of convenience trope and blah blah blah. I did not like this book at all,
um, the one thing I can say for it is that it was quick to read and for that
reason sometimes it was very engaging; like there was a part of me that did
care about seeing if Kate and Pyotr would actually get together for real and
like seeing if their relationship would develop, so like I was kind of invested in
this book but everything else about it I did not like. So I didn’t like how a lot
of the sexism in this book was not challenged, I didn’t feel anything for
the romance between Kate and Pyotr…like nothing at all, to the point where like
he was introduced for the first time and I’m like ‘this can’t be the guy she’s
gonna end up with, right?’ like there was no chemistry there whatsoever, no
development to their relationship. The characters themselves also I don’t think
were very well-drawn or well-developed at all, they felt very flat. There was a lot
of stereotyping too, not just of Pyotr and like his culture and language and
accent and everything, but even for like side characters that weren’t that important
there were some things said that were like stereotypical, borderline racist? I
also really really hated Kate’s dad and her–she has a sister too, what’s her
name? I can’t remember. *checks* Bunny. So yeah, Kate and Bunny’s dad was a
terrible human being, I hated him and like I didn’t like the fact that the
death of their mother is just like completely brushed over and excused?
Because like we basically hear that he– he like emotionally neglected her,
possibly even emotionally abused her, like their mother was so so miserable
and it’s–it’s heartbreaking and scary to hear about how miserable she was until her premature death and it’s just completely glossed over! And I think it’s
pretty clear from the way things were written that their mother had postpartum
depression and that phrase was never used, and I’m like okay, well he’s a
doctor, like he should know this. But even if we accept that he–he works in a
different area [of medicine], he wouldn’t be expected to know that, I still don’t think it was
handled in an–in a compassionate way. Her dad is selfish and awful and he
takes advantage of people, he–he doesn’t care about
anyone and he’s set up as being this like charmingly absent[-minded] professor and I–I
didn’t like it. Did not fly with me. Finally the nail in the coffin for this
book was the ending. So the monologue that ends Taming of the Shrew has been
baffling directors for many years at this point and this book just decided to
play it straight and it absolutely did not work. I think I understand where the
author was coming from about like men having like a lot of–a lot of emotional
restrictions that maybe women don’t have typically? but the way it was said was
just completely misogynistic and the way that ended, I–I hated it and I didn’t like–
like it was not challenged at all. And I didn’t like the epilogue, I just didn’t
like anything about the way this book ended. The plotting was also like super
random and all over the place, there were like a couple of scenes I think were
really well done and some of the writing I think was–was good or interesting, like
I mentioned that I was kind of engaged for some of the book in spite of myself
almost, but with all the things about it that I hated I still gave Vinegar Girl
2 stars. Next I finished Heartless by Marissa Meyer. This is a retelling–an
origin story for the Queen of Hearts and we follow our main character Cath or
Catherine and all she wants to do to make her happy is to open a bakery but
she’s highborn and her parents have all these expectations of her about how
she’s going to marry the King. Before long she meets Jest who’s the court
jester and they hit it off, they become involved, and this is a story about their
relationship and about a lot of other things going wrong in Hearts at the same
time and ultimately about Catherine and her decisions and if she’s going to
choose what makes her happy or what people expect of her and how all of those
things play out. And I have heard like wildly mixed reviews of this book,
mostly negative, but I really really enjoyed this. I think Marissa Meyer
excels at inevitability. We’re reading this book, and we know that Catherine
becomes the Queen of Hearts, like we know that who the Queen of Hearts is from the
original Alice in Wonderland, she’s like not a nice person! So we know–we have
some inkling of what’s going to happen along the way but you still…like you
still feel like you don’t know what’s going to happen? I felt the same way
with Fairest, Marissa Meyer’s origin story for Levana.
I was so impressed with how she can build a believable backstory for a villain,
and even though you know where they end up, you’re still hoping they don’t. I
really really loved the relationship between Jest and Catherine, like Jest
himself I just loved him, he was a great
character. And I really like the writing of this book and the setting; Marissa Meyer’s
writing style just really works for me personally and in this book I really
liked how it sort of mirrored the whimsy and strangeness of Wonderland or of
Hearts: the way that characters would talk to each other, the way certain
things were described, the way things weren’t always explained the way you
would normally expect them to be…I really liked that. I can see it not
working for some people but for me it felt very in-line with the style of this
book. I also really loved the ending of this book, like that very very last scene,
it was just *demonstrates* chef’s kiss, beautiful, I loved it, very satisfying to me [in a vengeful kind of way.] And I also, I really appreciate how the King of Hearts
in this book…like he’s not a bad guy. Like you shouldn’t hate him, but I hated
him so much. It was great! *laughs* I had a great time reading this book. The only thing I
will say is that in spite of the character arcs that were really I think
well-handled, there were a couple places where it felt a little more frustrating
or less believable to me than others but other than that I really really loved
this book, I see why a lot of people don’t but it really worked for me and I
gave Heartless 4 stars. Next I finished Trail of Lightning by Rebecca
Roanhorse. This is a Navajo-inspired urban fantasy / post apocalyptic /
paranormal book and we follow our main character Maggie, she’s a monster hunter
and in this world after this big disaster or multiple natural disasters
maybe, the Navajo Nation has sealed itself off from the rest of the world
and their–their like gods and monsters and like folklore beings and
everything are roaming free and sometimes causing trouble. So we follow
Maggie and her companion Kai as they go on a journey to try and figure out like
what is happening, like who is creating these–this certain kind of like really
bad monster that has shown up. I really really loved the folklore, like the
Navajo folklore and myths and stories and characters from those stories and
how those were worked into this book, and I also loved Kai, the like male lead
of this book. He was just so sweet and funny and charming and I just, I loved
him. Honestly I think he could do better than Maggie! but he was a great
character. There are a couple of the side characters that I also liked, I thought
were really interesting and well-developed and very complex and there were a couple
of things about the ending that I did really like but overall I kind of ended
up feeling sort of middle-of-the-road about this book. A big part of that was
Maggie herself. She just felt like such a bland character to me. She felt like a
very generic urban fantasy female lead who’s like tough as nails and she drinks
her coffee black and like she–she wears a leather jacket and while the Navajo
elements obviously make this a very a different kind of book from those, I
think that Maggie herself didn’t stand out too much. I also wasn’t a huge fan of
her backstory? I don’t know if that is also something that’s kind of
stereotypical for urban fantasy heroines ’cause I haven’t read as much of urban
fantasy as some other genres, but it was just like tragedy after tragedy for
seemingly no reason. Like I think there were other ways that we could have
developed Maggie’s character without giving her all of these terrible things
in her past. Like some of them were like horrifying and I was like ‘why…like why
did it have to be this bad?’ *laughs* I mentioned that I liked the very very end of this
book, like there’s a–there’s like this one scene at the end I like that we
ended there, but before that like the big like reveal or where you’re finally
figuring everything out, I was really disappointed in it because it was one of
those cases where the reveal makes the entire book actually less interesting
and less complex. So overall I gave Trail of Lightning 3 stars. And finally, the
last book I finished in July was The Steps Up the Chimney by William Corlett.
This is the first book in the Magician’s House series and this was actually a
gift from my lovely friend Claudia from Spinster’s Library, so thank you so much
Claudia, it’s one of her favorite series, and I really really enjoyed this. So we
follow three siblings William, Mary and Alice as they are sent to live with their
uncle and his girlfriend for Christmas[/winter] break and they live in this old
crumbling house that is very mysterious and of course they start uncovering
strange things about this house and about possible like magic and they meet
a mysterious man who may or may not be a magician. And I had a lot of fun reading
this. I really like the children themselves, I think they were really well
developed. I do think that maybe the author went a little too far in the
whole like ‘Oh young girls get crushes on everybody, right?’ Like sometimes that got
a little much, but overall I really liked the children and their relationship with
each other felt very believable, very like loving but also irritating each
other *laughs*, and I really like how subtle some of the characterization for them was,
because it was the kind of writing where halfway through the book you’d be told a
characteristic or a trait about one of the characters and you would remember
seeing them express that trait before you were informed of it, if that makes
sense? It just made them feel like more natural characters and I really enjoyed
that. I liked the little bits of feminism that we got in this book, I
loved the like almost like creepy atmosphere of this book, um, like it was
actually very chilling in some places and I really enjoyed that and there were
also a few scenes having to do with animals that I thought were just so
beautifully described and so atmospheric and like those were some of my favorite
scenes in the book, I just loved those. The only things about this book that I
didn’t love…I’m not wild about the kind of larger plot they’re setting up,
like this whole like saving-the-world thing, I’m not completely sold on that.
And their like mentor-type character is also not my favorite at this point.
But overall I really enjoyed this book and I gave it 3.75
stars. Okay everybody! So those are all of the books I read in July. Thank you guys
so much for watching, I will see you soon with another video, and I hope you
love the next book you read. Bye!

13 Replies to “July 2019 Wrap Up || Middle Grade Magic, Koreadathon, DNDReadathon, Medieval-A-Thon [CC]”

  1. I say this for every wrap up, but I am always seriously impressed (and jealous) of how much you can read in a month!

  2. Oooh The Prodigal Tongue sounds so interesting! Trial of Lightning has been on my GR TBR for ages, I need to get to it. You had such a great reading month!

  3. Yes, absolutely! Pop culture IS culture in a state of flux, so using pop culture references might actually strengthen that writer's arguments. Scholarly articles are all well and good, but usually retrospective. Living examples also exist. It's wonderful that the author struck such a good balance between academia and more accessible examples.

    Wow. 🙄The ONE TIME someone says something remotely non-negative about American English, she gets shut down? South African English is a hot mess, mixing from both influences. Your Cali accent is lovely, Cara. Seriously. I think it's sad when some accents get associated as being "low brow" for example Southern American accents are often associated with a person being uneducated. Or a Northern England accent is thought of in the same way. And American accents in general are seen as inherently less intellectual than British accents. But the American could be much more insightful than their British counterpart: it's just that the accent gets a bad reputation.

    I just think of accents as being like well worn shoes, showing where the person has walked throughout their life. I hope that when in my company at least, nobody should ever feel ashamed of their accent. Accents are beautiful. They tell stories. (In short, you have a lovely accent and should shout it loud and proud. ❤️)

  4. I am so glad you liked Heartless! I agree Marissa Meyer captures the whimsy and logic (or illogic) of the OG Wonderland perfectly; everything recognizable but then it is twisted enough to be unique and yet still in keeping with the wonderland aesthetic. And yes, even though, in my head I knew it was impossible, my heart was rooting for a different outcome the entire time and I was still wrecked at the end! I wish more readers appreciated what she did with this story.

  5. Heartless was so good.

    Okay, what was the part that in Unequal Affections that you thought should have been brought up earlier, I'm curious. I really like it, though I wish they had stick a little closer to the book in regards to Lydia. She's such a spoiled brat.

  6. You know I love Jest! I’m so glad you liked Heartless 🙂 I totally agree that Marissa Meyer writes really good villain origin stories where you know how it’s going to end but still hope it could be different. Fairest was my favorite book in the Lunar Chronicles for that reason.
    I read Trail of Lightning a while ago but I remember having very similar feelings. But I really loved how the Navajo elements were woven in and the story did intrigue me enough that I want to give the second book a try.

  7. I had the same experience with Princess Bride – I was so young when I first saw it I didn't know what a spoof was – I thought it was just that stupid. Now I like it a lot.
    A dead sea slug in your mouth?! What?!

  8. What an excellent wrap up. Once again you have read such beautiful books! Feeding off the souls of evil men? Sounds like a public service! 😃 I'm glad to hear that you enjoyed your reread about the princess and the goblin. 👍

  9. I like the Princess Bride! It kinda grows on you! LOL! Trail of Lightning sounds pretty cool! Nice wrap up! Cheers Cara!

  10. Looks like you read some really great middle grade. (Except Wings of Fire, which is good to know since I see it around a lot).
    The Pride and Prejudice retelling sounds really good. I need to reread P & P, but I’ll keep that in mind to check out afterwards.

  11. I LOVE kdramas. If I find a kdrama i really like, i wont read until I've watched all the episodes lol. When I read the synopsis of the Wicked Fox, I got the sense it would be like a kdrama 😊. I really want to read it sometime.
    Ahhhh I've been on the fence on reading Heartless. I've heard both good and bad rwviews…and I'm just torn lol. -Lori

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *