July TBR | 2020

Yikes! I haven’t done a TBR since April. To be honest… Besides the two books I read in the second half of June I haven’t read since April, so that makes a lot of sense. You may have also noticed that I’ve rebranded! This blog is officially called Ghost Shark Reads, and I’ve resurrected the instagram account back from the dead to bring it back as @ghostsharkreads.

I mentioned last week that I had read two shorter books, This is How You Lose the Time War and Upright Women Wanted to kickstart myself back into reading, and it’s definitely helping. I have very lofty plans for my TBR this month, and part of that has to do with participating in The Reading Rush, the book club pick for The Literally Dead Book Club as well as going through the July prompts for the Discord channel I’m a part of: Books and Tea!

I’ll break this down into four parts:

Literally Dead Book Club Pick
This is a club run by Books and Lala on YouTube, which can be found at their Goodreads. I’ve read several of their picks this year, and included both their June and July pick on this TBR

  • June The Guest List by Lucy Foley
  • JulyZone One by Colson Whitehead

The Reading Rush
This readathon is run by Ariel Bissett and Raeleen Lemay and can be found at their website. It runs from July 20th – 26th, and I’m really excited about the prompts this year!

  • Read a book that matches your birthstone – Home Before Dark by Riley Sager
  • Read a book that starts with the word “The”The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix or The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier
  • Read a book that inspired a movie you’ve already seenV for Vendetta by Alan Moore
  • Read the first book you touch*
  • Read a book completely outside your house*
  • Read a book in a genre you’ve always wanted to read more ofThe Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett or Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid
  • Read a book that takes place on a different continent than where you liveV for Vendetta by Alan Moore or The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier

For the fourth and fifth prompt I’ll decide those during that week by randomly touching one of them to pick which I read for that prompt, and reading one at work during the week! I was good about picking multiple for each prompt so I can mix and match and have multiple count for the same prompt if need be.

Books and Tea Readathon Prompts
This server does a readathon once a month, and it’s my first month on there! Here are my picks for the prompts, I’m happy that I was able to double them up with some of the prompts above for The Reading Rush.

  • Read a book featuring the French Revolution (or set in France)The Glass-Blowers by Daphne du Maurier
  • Read your latest book you’ve bought/borrowedA Beautifully Foolish Endeavor by Hank Green
  • Read that one book you’ve been putting offV for Vendetta by Alan Moore
  • Read a previous Books and Tea readalong bookA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
  • Finish a bookMexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia (though this could count for any of the others if I don’t get to this one)

General TBR
These are the books that don’t fit into any of the prompts for either readathon, but that I had a desire to read this month:

  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele
  • Monster, She Wrote edited by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson

This is a hefty list, but to be honest, at the time of writing this I’ve already read several of these (you’ll have to wait to see which ones!). As a reminder, I’ll be returning to my standard format: tags and miscellaneous posts on Mondays, and reviews on Fridays. This list is also fully subject to change, and I don’t expect to get to all of these this month (though it would be fun if I did!) Don’t forget to check out the clubs, channels, and people linked, and I’ll see you on Friday for my next review!

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar & Max Gladstone | Book Review

★★★★☆
June 15th – 17th

This is a dual-perspective epistolary novella (buzzwords, yay!) about two agents fighting on opposite sides of a war through time and space. The reader is brought in at the beginning of their correspondence, where they leave letters for each other through time and space.

The writing in this is absolutely gorgeous, with Max Gladstone writing the character of Red, and Amal El-Mohtar writing Blue. The two are locked in this battle of outplaying each other and trying to circumvent the moves that each are making.

The war itself is an elaborate game of chess played across different timelines and different eras, and is something that the reader isn’t given much information on, but given that it isn’t the main focus, it doesn’t distract too much.

The core relationship between Blue and Red is what’s important, and what’s at the center of this book. I guess that this would constitute an “enemies to lovers” type relationship, however they’re never really individual enemies as much as they are on opposing sides of a war. Its more Romeo and Juliet, but without all of the tragedies.

I did want more of the war concept, but not in this book. I’d love a spinoff discussing the point of the war, the intentions, and what’s happening on each side, but I like being left with this small (and I mean really small. 209 pages small) piece of a war through time and space.

This book is weird, it’s interesting, it’s extremely floral and lyrical and I really enjoyed it. I had been in a reading slump for about two months when I picked this book up, and I’m so glad that I read it, since it kickstarted me back into reading and remembering that great stories are out there.

Mid-Year Freakout Tag! | 2020

It’s a bit past where I typically do this tag, but better late than never I guess? With all of the craziness in the world, my Monday posts took a bit of a break, but I’m hoping to get them back on schedule soon. Here’s my wrap-up for June:

This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal-El Mohtar and Max Gladstone
★★★★☆

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey
★★★★☆

And now I have the questions for the Mid-Year “Freakout” Tag!

Best book you’ve read this year?
This question is actually pretty hard because I don’t feel like I’ve read anything that I absolutely adored yet (which is a bit disappointing). I loved The Long Way to a Small Angry Planet by Becky Chambers a lot.

Best sequel you’ve read in 2020? 
The Toll by Neal Shusterman was a fantastic ending to a great series. I highly recommend this series, especially because I think it’s one that does a great job of being a YA that speaks to adults as well as teenagers.

New release you haven’t read yet but want to?
Holy Sister by Mark Lawrence! It’s the third book in the series, so I have to read the second one first before I get to it, but I’m excited to finish out the trilogy.

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year?
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue is my most highly anticipated book of the year.

Biggest disappointment?
Bunny by Mona Awad was disappointing in my opinion, though I like it more in retrospect than I did when I first read it.

Biggest surprise?
The Handmaid’s Tale! I’m very reluctant to read classics, but this is making me reconsider going back to some that I read in school and giving them another chance.

Favorite new to you or debut author?
So far, Celeste Ng has been my favorite new to me author. I really liked Little Fires Everywhere, and want to go back and read some of her older titles.

Newest favorite character?
Candace Chen from Severance by Ling Ma. This book only got a 3/5 for me at the time, but in retrospect I think about this book nearly every day (especially with everything going on in the world.)

Book that made you cry?
None so far!

Book that made you happy?
This is How You Lose the Time War was fantastic, and so light and enjoyable, especially after such a long pause on reading.

Favorite book-to-film adaptation?
I haven’t seen any so far this year.

Favorite post you have done this year?
I liked my Author Spotlights from earlier this year, I’m hoping to bring those back later in the year.

Most beautiful book you’ve bought this year?
I finally got myself a copy of Monster, She Wrote edited by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson, which I’m working my way through. I love the art style and colors of that book.

What books do you need to read by the end of the year?
Thanks for asking! I have a few left

  • A Darker Shade of Magic (series) by V.E. Schwab
  • Middlegame by Seanan McGuire
  • The Kingdom of Copper by S.A. Chakraborty
  • The Book Thief by Markus Zusak
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore

Thanks so much for reading! I’m excited to see what I get to this month and for the rest of the year. 

-Siobhan

The ABC Murders by Agatha Christie | Book Review

★★★☆☆
April 8th – 11th

This book was just okay to me, which is less than I was expecting. As the second Agatha Christie book I’ve read, I was hoping that I would love this one just as much as Murder on the Orient Express. Sadly, that was not the case.

The plot of this one was very simple, without a large twist act the end to tie it together. After Hercule Poirot receives a strange letter telling him of a murder that will take place in Andover. Though it’s initially brushed off as nothing, a body is found soon after with an ABC train guide next to it.

This launches the investigation, and Poirot is once again on the case. Compared to Murder on the Orient Express, this book felt very tame and the mystery felt pretty small (even though it had triple the murder). I tend to like mysteries that happen in an enclosed environment with limited possibilities.

My biggest complaint about Agatha Christie books is that it feels like the reader needs outside knowledge to be able to solve the mystery. This is likely a product of the time that I’m now reading it in (I had no clue what an ABC train guide was), but I think it takes away from my internal desire to “solve” the mystery, because I’m not given the tools to do so.

That being said, I’m likely going to continue to read Agatha Christie novels, and see if I can find one that tops Murder on the Orient Express for me.

-Siobhan

Beverly by Nick Drnaso | Book Review

★★☆☆☆
April 8th

I didn’t like this book. I don’t know if it was that I didn’t get it and it went way over my head, or there was no point, but I found the whole thing very confusing and lacking in any type of point.

I liked the illustration style, I enjoyed that it was different vignettes and scenes, but there either needed to be a unifying thread, or no unifying thread. Instead there was a weird mix of some things being connected and some not. The first story having little bearing on any of the future ones. All of the people in these were kind of jerks or treated other people like jerks and there was no repercussions.

This book left me feeling terrible, which after Nimona was kind of a let down. I’m not one to harp on things I didn’t like, so I’ll leave it at that. This wasn’t for me.

-Siobhan

Nimona by Noelle Stevenson | Book Review

★★★★☆
April 1st – 3rd

Nimona is a graphic novel by Noelle Stevenson, which I read for the Magical Readathon (it was my Transfiguration prompt choice!) This book was absolutely adorable, with fun characters, a captivating plot, and really good stylized artwork.

We follow Nimona, a shapeshifter with a mysterious past who becomes the sidekick of Lord Ballister Blackheart, a villain with a vendetta against Sir Ambrosius Goldenloin. The dynamics between Nimona and Blackheart were great, and took on a father/daughter or mentor/mentee quality fairly early on. I liked the relationship between Goldenloin and Blackheart as well, though I wished it was further expanded on whether their relationship was strictly friendship or something more.

Nimona herself was a bit of a mystery as well. The reader is given some clue into her backstory, but it’s unclear (at least it was to me) later if she was telling the truth or if there was something more. Maybe this is something that I missed, but the ambiguity of her past took away from her relationship with Blackheart for me.

I also thought this story would focus more on her, and less on Blackheart, though I ended up being glad that it didn’t. Nimona as a character was somewhat one-dimensional, and didn’t seem to learn or change by the end. In contrast, both Blackheart and Goldenloin did grow and change, and learn more about each other.

The two have an enemies to friends (or something more?) dynamic which is really well played, showing their transition from best friends to enemies and back, which became more of the plot than I was initially expecting.

Overall, this was good. I may check out Noelle Stevenson’s series, Lumberjanes in the future.

-Siobhan

The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo | Book Review

★★★☆☆
March 28th – 31st

Third, and finally in my trifecta of non-fiction was The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It was spring when I read this, and having been stuck at home for a month at this point, I decided to engage in some spring cleaning. I watched Marie Kondo’s show of the same name on Netflix last year, and I really enjoyed seeing her method in action. I’d heard good things about her book, and wanted to give it a try.

I did listen to the audiobook for this, and I wish that I had read it physically. There were a lot of descriptions of how to fold and how to organize which I felt would work better in a physical book than over audio. I don’t know if it was because of the audiobook, but this book was just okay for me. I enjoy Marie Kondo, and liked when her personality came out in the book, but the advice itself I found to be slightly unrealistic and not entirely practical.

She speaks a lot about only keeping things that bring you joy. We all know this. There have been countless memes about this. But one thing that I didn’t feel like was touched on was things which you don’t necessarily like, but which you need. I don’t necessarily love having cleaning products in my house, but I need them in order to stay clean.

The biggest example of this for me was her section on getting rid of books. Every book that I own currently doesn’t necessarily bring me joy, but I own them for a reason. Marie Kondo doesn’t seem to see the value in collection, something which I really enjoy. As an example from my life, I own a lot of enamel pins. I really like them, and though I try and limit how many I purchase, I still own a lot of them. I can’t see myself getting rid of them, because though each individual one doesn’t bring me joy, the collection as a whole does. With my books, I definitely go through and will get rid of some that I know I’m never going to read on occasion, but I like owning books that I’ve physically read, even if I don’t have plans to go back and reread them. To me the representation of the time that they were read in is worth keeping them.

The most impractical aspect of her book was the time that everything takes. In several sections, she calls out other cleaning and tidying advice for taking place over the course of several days or a routine which has you tidy a little bit every day. She says that this is unrealistic and talks about how doing it all at once is much better.

I definitely do not have the time for this type of approach. With the combination of work stress and life stress, it would be extremely difficult for me to dedicate an entire day (or several, if we’re being honest) to the level of tidying that Marie Kondo recommends. This is something that I felt was missing from both her show and her book, was an explanation for how people merged this approach into their daily lives without needing to take a week of vacation to get everything started.

I do like the order that Marie Kondo has you tackle the items to get rid of, and I think that her explanations for why to get rid of things, and how to know if something is worth getting rid of is extremely valid and well thought out.

If I was able to dedicate the time to this type of method, I could see it being beneficial to help pair down the amount of stuff that people have. I was also really surprised to hear about the amount of things that people had in her examples. Descriptions of overflowing closets were absolutely crazy to me. I know that they’re mostly there for shock factor, but I can’t imagine dealing with that type of stress on a daily basis.

Overall this was a fairly mediocre read. I’m glad I read it, but I don’t know that I’d recommend it or ever read it again.

-Siobhan

10% Happier by Dan Harris | Book Review

★★★★☆
March 26th – 27th

Second in my little grouping of non-fiction was 10% Happier: How I Tamed the Voice in My Head, Reduce Stress Without Losing My Edge, and Found Self-Help That Actually Works, which I think wins the title for the longest title I’ll be reading all year.

I’m luckily enough to work for a company which provides the Ten Percent app, owned by Dan Harris, for their employees. Meditation was something that I found beneficial when extremely stressed, and let’s face it, we’ve all been extremely stressed out the past few months. Scribd had the audiobook, narrated by Dan Harris, so I decided to redownload the Ten Percent app, and give this book a listen.

I was expecting the book to be a lot more “preachy” about meditation, but it felt very grounded. It read more like a memoir about Dan Harris’s life, his struggle with mental health and addiction even at the peak of his career, and how meditation helped him with that.

I really liked how candid he was in a lot of the book: how he valued science and the medical benefits of meditation. One of the people he specifically mentions in the book, Sam Harris, is a fairly prominent atheist, and one who also practices meditation. It was interesting to see the separation of spirituality or religion from meditation, and focus more on the psychological and medical benefits.

Some of my favorite parts of the book were his descriptions of a ten day meditation retreat he went on, something I don’t think I could ever do. He describes his struggle, his euphoria, and then back to his struggle with trying to bring his brain back to focusing on just his body over and over again. I can barely get my brain to do that for ten minutes, let alone ten days.

The title itself, and the description of where it came from was one of my other favorite parts of the book. The idea that meditation, for Dan Harris, and also for me, isn’t about being one with yourself or expelling thoughts to think about nothing. At first it’s about forgiveness, and being kind to yourself. Not berating yourself for slipping up or having your mind wander, but instead guiding it back to focus on the breath, or what you’re trying to focus on. Meditation doesn’t solve your problems. It doesn’t get you a promotion, or more money, or a new life overnight, but it can give you the tools to be a little bit happier.

I will say that this book did convince me to give meditation a more serious attempt, and to try and incorporate even 10 minutes a day into my routine. So far I’ve found that the days that I don’t want to meditate at all are the days I need to the most, and we’ll see if it makes me 10% happier.

-Siobhan

The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck by Mark Manson

★★★☆☆
March 19th – 26th

As we all know, 2020 has been bananas. I’ve had this book on my shelf since it came out, and following an ankle injury that pulled me out of work for several weeks, as well as the following quarantine I was in, I was looking for titles to help me reduce anxiety. This was the first of those titles. This book is about what you should be worried about, what you should care about, and what you should desire to change.

I found it an interesting, although short read. My favorite part of the book was the anecdotes that Manson inserted, mostly about the ones from other cultures and history. It made the book feel so much more grounded, and it didn’t at all read like a stereotypical “self-help” book. That being said, my enjoyment of the book mostly stopped there.

Manson’s description of himself as a perfect husband (who doesn’t tell their wife that they look terrible if they try something new?) whose relationship is built on “honesty”. He describes a series of his relationship conquests, and most of it is extremely unnecessary, and then talks about how settling down with his wife made those relationships seem even more frivolous. Even most of the swearing and all of his profanity is built mostly for shock factor, and had no real substance to it.

A lot of this felt like interesting aspects of religion taken out of context and then shoved into a set of conservative values about pulling yourself out and just getting things done, and those were the parts that I wasn’t a fan of.

I likely won’t be reading Manson’s other book, because he’s definitely not for me.

-Siobhan

You Are Not Alone by Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen | Book Review

★★★☆☆
March 12th – 14th

I think this book was supposed to be a thriller. According to Goodreads, it was marketed as a thriller. Greer Hendricks and Sarah Pekkanen’s first two novels were thrillers. This one got confused along the way.

This book follows Shay, a woman in her early thirties who’s currently between jobs, stuck in an apartment with her roommate and his new girlfriend, friendless, and somewhat hopeless. Shay is is also fairly pretentious, constantly referring to the types of TedTalks she’s listening to in an effort to make her seem smart. She’s obsessed with data, keeping facts and numbers listed in her “data book”.

After Shay witnesses a woman commit suicide by jumping in front of a New York City subway, Shay finds that she’s attracted to the mystery of who this woman was, and finding out has disastrous consequences. The woman, Amanda, was a nurse involved in a close-knit ring of friends who have dark secrets and unexpected consequences.

This book did not know what it wanted to be. The main character seemed oblivious to the fact that she was being targeted or persecuted until the final third of the book, and when she did, she was able to solve everything with a few phone calls. Though every book requires some suspension of disbelief, I had a really hard time believing the level of convenience that this book had.

The entirety of the book hinged on a plot twist which I must have guessed very early into the story, because I assumed it was an established fact. When the twist was revealed, I found myself very confused. I guess the closest I can come to explaining this is if you open the fridge and have eggs inside, you expect to see eggs inside the fridge. Every time you open it, there are the eggs. But if someone then comes up to you and says “I have a surprise! There are eggs in the fridge!” You’re going to be confused. Because the eggs were there the whole time.

This book had eggs the whole time, and I was extremely confused.

The type of domestic thriller that this author duo write isn’t really my cup of tea. I may try more of their books in the future, but both of the ones I’ve read haven’t really resonated or stayed with me.

-Siobhan