Reading Recap: May 2018

Yay, another reading recap!

My main goal this month was to get through all the required books in the syllabus for my Young Adult lit class before term starts.  I’m happy to say that I succeeded with three days to spare!  Required novels dominated my pleasure reading this month.  Eight of the following books were for class.  There were some really great titles and I’m really looking forward to discussing Maus, Brown Girl Dreaming, and the book on the Romanovs with my classmates.

As for the books I picked up purely for fun… I was unimpressed with the newest Court of Thorns and Roses installment, but enjoyed being back in that world.  Naturally, rereading Cinder for my class launched another reread of the entire Lunar Chronicles series, which has been delightful.  For my morning cup-of-tea Christian nonfiction, both titles I finished this month were excellent.


Overall Statistics:

  • Number of books read: 11
  • Number of pages read: 2,949
  • Number of audiobooks listened to: 2
  • Number of rereads: 2
  • Longest book: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer
  • Shortest book: Maus by Art Spiegleman
  • Highest ratings:
    • Cinder by Marissa Meyer (4.75 stars)
    • Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren (4.5 stars)
  • Lowest rating: Black Butler Vol. 1 by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

Some notes on my stats:

  • Audiobooks are included in total page count.  It takes me longer to listen to a book than read it, so I count them
  • My ratings are on a 5-star system and are ridiculously subjective

If you want more information about each book, follow the links embedded in the titles.  That will bring you to the book’s Goodreads page.

Maus by Art Spiegleman

  • Pages: 159
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • This graphic novel tells the story of a Jewish family in Poland during the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II.  It’s told by Spiegleman himself, who interviews his aging father in order to share his story.  The bulk of the narrative happens in chronological flashbacks.
    • This was really well written.  I found the characters well-defined and consistent.
    • Depicting the characters as animals was an interesting, effective artistic choice.  Jewish characters were mice, Germans were pigs, Nazis were cats.  It added a degree of separation to a horrifying story.
    • It ends right as the family arrives at the Auschwitz death-camp, which makes me want to pick up the next installment to find out what happens.

Sold by Patricia McCormick

  • Pages: 268
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • This might be one of the most heartbreaking books I’ve ever read.  It’s the story of a young girl from a village in Nepal whose stepfather sells her into sex slavery to pay off his debts.
    • Beautifully written, this story is told through a series of prose vignettes.  McCormick viscerally captures Lakshmi’s loss of innocence, confusion, and shame.
    • The white-savior component of the ending left me a bit on-edge, but I’m not sure how to make sense of those feelings.  Portraying white people as savior-figures is problematic, but if they’re the ones with the power/ability to pull young girls out of slavery, that’s a good thing, right?
    • What this book does is highlight an often overlooked problem that still goes on.  Sex slavery is real and happens every day.  Lakshmi’s story hit home the importance of organizations like the International Justice Mission, who work to rescue people from horrifying circumstances.  Because of this book, I plan to resume my monthly giving to IJM (which I stopped to support other missionary friends) when I next get a pay raise.

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

  • Pages: 390
  • Rating: 4.75 stars
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Reread
  • Thoughts:
    • This was my third time around with Cinder and I fall more in love with it each time.
    • This story has one of the best premises I’ve ever encountered: A Cinderella retelling featuring a cyborg mechanic set in a dystopian/sci-fi China.  It also features an evil, alien, mind-controlling queen who lives on the moon.  It sounds far-fetched, but is such a fun ride.
    • I’m fascinated by fairytale retellings and the best walk the fine-line between staying true to the original story while also doing its own thing.  Meyer’s retelling is masterful.  She hits all the right plot points (wicked stepmother, handsome prince, pumpkin coach, glass slipper) while being wholly original.
    • Cinderella is my favorite fairytale and one of the things I think about is the protagonist as a victim of abuse.  What would entice a character to remain among such horrible treatment?  Some retellings (like Disney’s) handle this by portraying Cinderella as being so good and kind that wickedness seems to bounce right off her.  (BORING.)  Others, like the 1998 film Ever After, attribute it to love for her deceased father and strong ties to home.  Gail Carson Levine in Ella Enchanted goes so far as cursing Ella with obedience, so she’s forced to stay against her will.  Meyer handles this question extremely well: As a teenager, Cinder is subject to her legal guardian.  As a cyborg, she is a second-class citizen with hardly any rights.  While she does try to leave, it’s really not much of an option.

Falling Upward by Richard Rohr

  • Pages: 198
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • Like all of Rohr’s books I’ve read so far, I had to take this one slowly.  There’s just so much here to soak in!
    • I’m very intrigued by Rohr’s ideas about the two stages of life, which are the  main subject of this book.  I really liked his idea of the shadow-self and want to explore that more.
    • I love that he integrates sources from outside Christian doctrine to illuminate his points.  My favorite from this book is his use of Campbell’s archetypal hero’s journey, as applied to Homer’s Odyssey.
    • Once again, I’m sure I’ll be returning to this book because there’s so much wisdom to absorb.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jaqueline Woodson

  • Pages: 337
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • This book is an autobiographical collection of poems that tell the story of Woodson’s childhood, from her early years in Ohio to her childhood in the South, to coming of age in Brooklyn.
    • These poems are all about becoming and forming.  Woodson ties in family history to show that the people we come from shape who we are just as much as our experiences.  I really loved the way Woodson addresses the duality of home and feeling torn between two places.  She also captures the innocence and hopes of childhood so well.
    • I loved the lush descriptions of Southern culture and hospitality.
    • Each poem is beautifully written and I can see why Woodson earned a National Book Award for this collection.  Each poem stands alone, but tied together, they form a complete narrative.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas

  • Pages: 229
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • This novella was one of my highly-anticipated releases this year, but I heard a lot of mixed reviews from the bookstagram community, so my expectations were pretty low.  I wasn’t blown away, but it wasn’t terrible.
    • I’ll read anything SJM writes and I adore this world and the characters in this series.  More than anything, it was a delight to be with them again.
    • The story itself was… nice.  Nothing really happened, but it was fun glimpsing life in Velaris after the events of the first trilogy of books.
    • One of the weird things about this novella was the changing POV, which is new for this series.  I liked getting things from other character’s perspectives, but the narrative shifts were awkward.  Why were Feyre and Rhys written in first-person and eveyrone else in third?
    • I’m not really sure how to say this delicately, but I am SO DONE with SJM’s gratuitous sex scenes.  They’re cringey and unnecessary.  There’s a difference between sending a sex-positive message and writing smut.  For a series aimed at a YA audience, SJM fails here to write content that is actually suitable for teens, which is disappointing.
    • My favorite part of this novella is the way it set up the stories that are to come.  I loved the preview of the next book and can’t wait to see what happens with Nesta!  (Nesta and Cassian are totally my new OTP)

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

  • Pages: 454
  • Rating: 3 stars
  • Format: Audiobook
  • Reread
  • Thoughts:
    • This definitely isn’t as strong as Cinder, but is still a clever retelling of Little Red Riding Hood.
    • The audiobook narrator is so good at accents!  I am so impressed!
    • Of all the Lunar Chronicles couples, Scarlet and Wolf are my least favorites.  Their relationship has too much insta-love and the whole alpha female thing weirds me out.
    • Even though I knew what would happen, I was more interested in Cinder’s storyline in this book.  I just don’t care for Scarlet that much.
    • The highlight of this book: Carsewell Thorne.  He is an absolute treasure.  Such swagger!  Such sass!  He lights up every scene he’s in.  I can’t wait to progress to Cress and spend more time with him.

The Family Romanov: Murder, Rebellion, and the Fall of Imperial Russia by Candace Fleming

  • Pages: 304
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • Holy cats, I learned SO MUCH from this book!  Wow!  Who knew Russian history could be so interesting?
    • Fleming presents three interwoven stories: the personal lives of the Romanov family, the wider political events in Russia, and the experiences of working-class people.
    • There’s a sharp contrast between the opulent luxury of the nobility and the poverty of the masses.  With the balance of wealth so misaligned and the lower classes becoming more educated, it’s no wonder the social structure crumbled.
    • The great tragedy of the Romanovs is not that they were terrible people.  They actually seemed like decent people.  The tragedy was that they were so blinded by privilege that they lost touch with their people.  Nicholas was a weak man and, easily influenced by his wife, they had zero desire to do their jobs and rule.
    • I’m glad that Fleming included the political bits, for they helped me understand the wider picture.  I learned more in this book about the rise of communism than I ever did in a history class.

Black Butler Vol. 1 by Yana Toboso, translated by Tomo Kimura

  • Pages: 192
  • Rating: 2 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • Wow, it’s been years since I’ve picked up any manga.  Thank you, YA class.  We weren’t given any specific titles, so I went to the graphic novel section of my library and picked out the least-awful looking series.  Thus, I read Black Butler.
    • I was seriously underwhelmed by this book.
    • The art was good!  That’s to be expected, though.
    • The writing was not good.  The story was all over the place and the execution of the plot was sloppy.  Transitions from panel to panel lacked a cohesive flow.
    • The incompetent servant characters aren’t relevant to the story at all.  They offer light-hearted charm that is commonly found in anime/manga, but gosh, they did nothing and were annoying.

Liturgy of the Ordinary by Tish Harrison Warren

  • Pages: 192
  • Rating: 4.5 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • As I prepare to enter a busy season, this book is exactly what I needed.  It’s about the liturgy found in the patterns of everyday life: brushing teeth, sitting in traffic, drinking tea, sleeping, etc.  It’s about finding the sacred in the ordinary.
    • This book was profound and refreshing.  It’s quite counter-cultural, which is probably why I liked it so much.  It proposes an opposite approach to the one taken by our consumerist, workaholic culture.
    • This is a very L’Abri-ish book.  The areas Harrison Warren describe are built into the rhythms of L’Abri life.  I try to emulate L’Abri wherever I go, so it was a useful read.

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

  • Pages: 226
  • Rating: 4 stars
  • Format: Print
  • Thoughts:
    • This was my final book for my YA lit class!  It’s been on my radar for years and am so glad I was forced to finally read it.
    • One thing I love about books is the way they help me understand experiences different than my own.  This is one of those books.  After spending time with Christopher, I better understand what it’s like to have Asperger’s Syndrome.  What fascinating insight!
    • Haddon’s characterization is superb.  Christopher has a strong voice and presence.
    • There were so many formatting quirks in this novel that I loved: chapter headings being only in prime numbers, graphs, drawings, etc.  Their inclusion made sense and added to the story.

See you next month for another recap!

For more of my reading adventures, add me on Goodreads

Want more regular bookish content?  I’m on Bookstagram!  Follow me at @librarianamelia

3 thoughts on “Reading Recap: May 2018

  1. Shilpa June 4, 2018 / 11:02 pm

    You are taking a YA lit class? That is so cool.. 🙂

    • Amelia June 7, 2018 / 9:40 pm

      I am! I’m studying library science in grad school. It’s SUCH a fun class so far! 🙂

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