JJ Reads

Memo Pad: October Book Wrap Up

Phew. It’s been such a busy month for me! And I cannot believe it’s almost Christmas already. I am not prepared. Somebody press pause, please!

Probably the biggest thing that happened this month is that I got diagnosed as autistic. I’ve discovered so much out about myself and I still am finding and figuring out things. So much of my life makes more sense now! This journey has been wild and I am so happy to have the certainty and confirmation of a diagnosis. The whole process was extremely nerve-racking but the actual appointment was very calm and it was actually really lovely to talk to someone who got it.

The timing of the appointment however wasn’t great. I had just one chapter left to write of #ExcitingSpaceWIP and two weeks later I still have one chapter left. Between recovering from the appointment and a load of forms that have suddenly landed on my lap, I just haven’t had the time to write the final chapter! But hopefully things will calm down soon and the plan is to get that chapter written by the end of the week. (Fingers crossed please!) Then I can give my autistic MC some closure too!

These things have meant that I’ve been a terrible blogger lately. This is just my third post this month compared to my normal 7 or 8. But more importantly I’ve been struggling to find time to read all your amazing posts. I have tried to make sure I’ve interacted and commented on posts of people who have interacted with me. But if I haven’t been around lately this is why

Reading wise I’ve had a bit of an average month to be honest. A couple of books I thought would be amazing were simply good (I’m hard to please I know, but last month had three 5* books so my expectations were high). Although a book I was expecting to only be average for me was amazing and my favourite book of the month. I did DNF one in there too.

But on to some stats on my ongoing book buying ban and attempt to get through my owned books.

Monthly stats:

Unread Owned Books at start: 59

Bought/Acquired: 0 / 2 earcs

Read: 5 (+1 DNF)

Unread Owned Books at end: 55

I couldn’t resist those two arcs, whoops. But I’m still doing really well…. Kind of. I mean that number is continually coming down so that’s a good thing. When I started this quest at the end of June I had about 75 books on my kindle. In four months that’s now down to 55 (damn those irresistible arcs!) and it looks like I’ll definitely be reaching my target of getting it below 50 before Christmas. (ready to buy more. Shhhhhh) No. But seriously I think my main goal next year will be to keep that number below 50. I’ll allow myself to buy some of the books I’m currently dreaming of but only so long as I don’t break that mark. And hopefully it will come down even more too.

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Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan *****

I was really excited about this story. The pitch instantly had me wanting to read it and the cover is gorgeous which always helps!

Wren lives in a world spilt by a caste system. She is a lowly paper caste, the bottom of society, completely human compared to the half animal castes that control her world. But when she gets forced to become a paper girl, one of a handful of girls chosen every year to be escorts to the King her world changes.

So this isn’t really a new story, a lowly peasant girl gets taken to the palace for a chance at a new life that isn’t what it seems BUT I absolutely loved the spin on it. Wren doesn’t fall in love with the King she falls in love with one of her fellow paper girls and it’s so nice to see a book with a main f/f couple. The setting is an Asian inspired fantasy world (I would say Chinese but I think it has wider influences too). I loved that the paper girls were all diverse too, they were from different cultures, had didn’t skin tones, were different shapes and sizes and all of them were described as beautiful. This book was pitched for fans of The Selection and it definitely reminded me of it, even the way the girls went from competitive and catty to each other at the start to become friends and being supportive of each other as it went on, but you do need to know this is MUCH darker. It isn’t some competition to become princess, these girls are being forced to be with the King so obvious and very important trigger warnings for rape (and also pet death, which I thought was unnecessary). Like I said, you’ll find this story familiar, it isn’t new but the twist on an old idea, the characters and the diversity is so well done. We need more stories like these. I really enjoyed reading it. The only thing I would say is I didn’t like the ending but it does set it up as the start of a series.

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Avalon by Mindee Arnett *****

I hyped this book up so much that I actually didn’t read it for about a year to try to get a handle on myself.  It’s about a crew of teenage thieves in space which, I think we can all agree, sounds amazing. And it was an exciting adventure but, like most things I hype it didn’t live up to it. My bad.

I loved the crew but something about the interactions and banter between them felt staged. I also had to roll my eyes at the romance. It’s amazing how characters in life or death situations where their friends and families lives depend on them always manage to get sidetracked. But the actual plot and setting and characters were all great. This is a fun YA scifi adventure that I would definitely recommend to people because there are just not enough of these books! But I just wanted more and I’m sad I didn’t get it.

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Simon vs the Homosapien Agenda by Becky Abertalli *****

I bought this a while ago because of the hype. I honestly don’t read happy contemporary books that much (I usually need stabby, live or die stakes) but I got suckered in.

Simon is gay but isn’t out, he goes to school, takes part in the school play and messages a boy online, who goes by the name Blue. All is fine until someone finds out and blackmails him with Blue’s emails.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this so much. It sat on my kindle for a long time but I just really felt in the mood to read a contemporary. The main issue I have with YA contemps is they normally feature a pretty high embarrassment factor and I just cannot read or watch anything embarrassing because I just absorb it so much (another really popular one at the moment is To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and there’s just no way I could read that). But this actually didn’t feature anything that embarrassing, I didn’t get that horrible cringy second hand embarrassment at any point. I’m so glad I read this one in the end. It was so cute and had a lovely ending and I loved the emails between Simon and Blue, I read the whole thing in about a day.

If anyone has any YA contemporary recommendations that don’t feature embarrassment I’d love to know about them (bonus points if it’s queer OR doesn’t feature romance as the main plot but I know I’m asking a lot there!)

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Devils Within by SF Henson *****

This is a really interesting and thought provoking contemporary dealing with heavy subject matter.

Nate has just been released from a psych hospital and is trying to adjust to life outside for the first time. After killing his father in self defence he’s finally free from the neonazi camp he was raised that his father was leader of but they aren’t going to let him leave that easily.

On the one hand I don’t know how I feel about reading anything that puts a white supremacist as a sympathetic character even if it’s a child that was raised in a cult and wanted to escape. Especially with everything that is going on every time I look at the news. On the other hand I think it’s important to realise these groups do exist. That this really happens and to make people aware of how and why these groups work at radicalising people. Quote from the authors note:

“I don’t know if I am the right person to tell this story. I’ve questioned my ability to write this book from day one. However, it’s not the job of people of colour to educate white folks on how they deserve to be treated and on what is and isn’t racist. This is a burden we’ve been putting on their backs for far too long. And, here’s the thing: there have been too many times in my life when I’ve sat silent while people around me made racist and derogatory comments. Too many times when I should have stood up, but didn’t. So I’m standing up now.”

it was a well written book that I raced through and if nothing else has got me thinking about it a lot. And I am really glad that it didn’t end in forgiveness. I’d be interested to hear what others think.

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Stealing Life by Antony Johnston *****

This is a great, fast paced science fantasy adventure that I sped through about a thief called Nicco who has to steal a magical necklace to get himself out of debt from a mob boss. I did think that some parts of the world building felt problematic in their lack of depth and Nicco sometimes seemed one step behind in working things out. But I did really enjoy the mix of future tech and magic and I liked the style of writing. the way it jumped ahead and gave us glimpses of what happened next before showing us HOW it happened. Overall this is a fun and light science fantasy that I really enjoyed reading and would recommend to anyone looking for a quick and engrossing adventure.


DNF

The Traitor God by Cameron Johnston

This book is full of slow build immersive world building, a really interesting magic system and what was supposed to be a dark amoral character struggling with himself. Unfortunately for me the slow build felt a bit too slow (evidently I need faster paced books) and the two sides of the main character felt disconnected to me almost as if two separate characters were narrating from sentence to sentence. It ended up jarring me and I DNF’d at 35% which is a shame because I was really looking forward to this book.

 


 

My favourite book this month was definitely the surprise that was Simon vs the Homosapiens Agenda. I flew through it and actually had to tell my mum to hide my kindle away so that I’d go to sleep instead of finish the book in one sitting! What about you, what’s the best book you’ve read lately? How has your month been? Has anyone started on making book goals for next year too? Haha.

If anyone has any YA contemporary recommendations that don’t feature embarrassment then please do comment. Also I’m always open to YA scifi recs.

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6 thoughts on “Memo Pad: October Book Wrap Up”

  1. The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers. It’s not YA, specifically but I think you might enjoy it. It’s not boy/girl romantic (OK, there are some relationships but not as an overriding theme, and it treats gay relationships as totally unremarkable. There are two (kind of) sequels set in the same general universe.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I read that it was really good. But I never got around to the others. I think I wasn’t that interested in the second blurb but the third does interest me so maybe I should give them another look.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, and congratulations on your diagnosis. I have three nephews on the spectrum. Having some parameters does help to clarify things and help with coping strategies. I have sometimes wondered if I’m a bit of an Aspie myself (trouble reading expressions, low tolerance for loud noises, trouble forming friendships, total lack of small talk), but maybe I’m just socially awkward! I hope you find the help you need to improve your life.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks. It’s so difficult to know. I always felt like I was reading to much into it before the diagnosis but it does present very differently for different people and those sound familiar to me so it’s very possible you are autistic too (especially as it runs on families)

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes it is! Just recognising when I’m overwhelmed and can’t keep going and knowing it’s not my fault and I can step away is a big thing for me.

      Like

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