Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid | Book Review

★★★★☆
July 3rd

I’m so glad that I got to read this book when I did from the library, because this book has blown up in popularity recently, and is very difficult to get now!

Such a Fun Age follows Emira, an African American woman in her early twenties who is asked late one night to take the young girl she babysits, Briar, to the local grocery store to distract her from a family crisis. When she’s at the grocery store, a security guard accuses Emira of kidnapping Briar, causing a long series of events.

I was really expecting this book to be about a lot of drama following the incident in the grocery store. I was expecting a large presence of the media, a bigger tie into the Black Lives Matter movement in terms of protesting, and maybe some examples of the white parents trying to fix things and overstepping their boundaries.

I wasn’t expecting this book to be what it was: an African American women to just want to go about her life without drawing attention to herself, or to try and fix everything in the world. There’s a great quote in this book where she tells another character “I don’t need you to be mad that it happened. I need you to be mad that it just like… happens.”

This book is a lot about allyship, specifically performative allyship. Emira’s boss Alix continuously mismanages and missteps with her actions, and it was sometimes really tough to read. She has a white savior mentality and continuously tries to get close to Emira in very creepy ways to make herself seem like the good guy. Throughout the book we see her tendency to try and re-write history to try and make herself seem like the victim, and how it’s easier for her to continue to believe something she knows is a lie.

This book felt extremely grounded in reality, and I loved how well the fallout of the situation was portrayed. I loved the dynamic that Emira had with her friends, and how much she loved Briar, the little girl that she was babysitting. Emira was an incredibly bright, smart and brilliantly written character who was looking to better herself, get a stable job, have a decent apartment, and be happy.

I highly recommend the audiobook for this. It made the reading experience incredible and added significantly to my enjoyment of the book. I’m so impressed with Kiley Reid’s debut and I can’t wait to see what she comes out with in the future.

July Recap | 2020

This month was a fantastic reading month for me! I read for a bunch of different readathons, book clubs, and prompts! Total I read 3583 pages across 12 books, and found some really great new books.

Literally Dead Book Club

  • June – The Guest List by Lucy Foley (Read July 1st – 2nd)
    ★★☆☆☆
  • July – Zone One by Colson Whitehead (Read July 4th – 7th)
    ★★★☆☆

The Reading Rush

  • The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix (Read July 20th)
    ★★★★★
    Read for the book that starts with the word “The”, a genre you want to read more of, and the first book you touch
  • V for Vendetta by Alan Moore and David Lloyd (Read July 21st – 24th)
    ★★★★☆
    Read for the book outside your house, that inspired a movie I’ve already seen, and that takes place on a different continent than where you live.
  • Home Before Dark by Riley Sager (July 24th – 25th)
    ★★★★☆
    Read for the birthstone challenge

Books and Tea Readathon Prompts

  • Read a previous Books and Tea readalong book – A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Read July 9th – 13th)
    ★★★★☆
  • Finish a book – Mexican Gothic by Sylvia Moreno-Garcia (Read July 13th – 15th)
    ★★★★☆

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:

  • Such a Fun Age by Kiley Reid (Read July 3rd)
    ★★★★☆
  • Exciting Times by Naoise Dolan (Read July 5th – 6th)
    ★★★☆☆
  • When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors and Asha Bandele (Read July 2nd)
  • Carrie by Stephen King (Re-Read July 18th)
    ★★★★☆
  • Navigate Your Stars by Jesmyn Ward (Read July 28th)

When They Call You a Terrorist: A Black Lives Matter Memoir by Patrisse Khan-Cullors & Asha Bandele | Book Review


July 2nd

I don’t feel entirely comfortable reviewing the technical aspects of memoirs. It’s not my place to comment on how someone else expressed their life experience. Here’s what I will say:

I cannot begin to imagine the level of suffering that she endured, and I wish that no one ever had to endure that. But she did, and she’s incredible.

I listened to the audiobook for this memoir because it was read by the author, which I always like. The words flow so much more naturally when they’re read by the person who crafted them. I have never been as affected by an audiobook, and by a listening experience as I was with this. I hope everyone gets the chance to listen or read this book. I have a lot to keep learning, work to do on integrating more varied voices into my reading lists, and working on what I can do to support those around me.

How Well Do My Five-Star Reads Hold Up?

So I was thinking about last year. I read 48 books, most of which I enjoyed. I considered it an average reading year, even though I was slightly under my 52 book goal. I read eight books which I gave 5 stars to, and I’m wondering what my feelings on them are now. Do I still think of them? Do I have fond memories? Do I have bad memories? Let’s find out!

I think that Saga was a great way to start my year last year, and was a great introduction into an ongoing graphic novel series, something I hadn’t read before. When I think back on the series, I read it so quickly that I can’t distinguish one volume from the next, but overall I think the series is a 4-5 star read.

I’ll be honest, I don’t think about this book ever. I really liked it when I read it, but I haven’t thought about the details surrounding it in a long time. When I read this book I was on vacation and was sitting on a lounge chair looking out over the ocean in Haiti, so that might have something to do with my enjoyment of the book. It might be worth a re-read, but I can’t say with confidence that it would stay at 5 stars. I remember thinking the writing was beautiful, which is likely where this rating came from.

This one absolutely holds up in my mind, and I think about it all the time. I may re-read this again this year, because I tore through it so fast that I don’t remember a lot of details, but I absolutely loved it. I’ve considered listening to the audiobook because I’ve heard that it’s done by a full cast, and is fairly short due to the way it’s written. This book introduced me to Taylor Jenkins Reid, which I’m really glad for.

Another book that I think about constantly, specifically the beginning. This was the first time in such a long time that I read the beginning of a book and immediately connected with it. I didn’t feel this way about the entire series, but this was such a strong start and a great introduction to Mark Lawrence.

Sea Prayer is an interesting one, because it’s so short that it isn’t memorable in terms of plot, but it was very affecting. It led me to look into some of Khaled Hosseini’s other work to add to my TBR, which I’m excited to get to. I don’t know that I would still give this five stars, but I do think about the path it led me down a lot.

This is a book I definitely need to re-read, because I’m not sure it would hold up to a five star. When I read this I was still looking to read YA and try and see myself in it, which is what I got here. Since then, I’ve stopped reading as much YA and have switched almost entirely to reading Adult. If this one does hold up, it would be because of the character-driven nature, less so the plot.

Horrorstör in retrospect is probably my current favorite book, and absolutely holds up. I’m shocked reading back to last year that it wasn’t included in my top 5, because when people ask me what my favorite book is, this is my answer. This book came to me at exactly the right time, and I’m thrilled that it helped solidify Grady Hendrix as one of my favorite authors. I’ll definitely be re-reading this soon because I loved this book so much.

I consider Where the Crawdads Sing to be the book that re-introduced me to literary fiction, and told me that I do actually like it. Until this point, things that were heavily description based and not plot driven were very boring to me. This book was so popular that I decided to give it a try, and I’m so glad I did. I listened to the audiobook of this one, and absolutely loved it. Since this book I’ve read so much literary fiction, and I look back on this one fondly. I don’t know if it would hold up to being a five-star read as I’m learning to dial in on what type of literary fiction I like, but it’s definitely responsible for getting me into the genre.

That’s all eight of the books I rated 5 stars last year! I’m hoping to make this a yearly post to look back, because my opinions have already changed, and I’m excited to see if (or likely when) that happens in the future.

The Guest List by Lucy Foley | Book Review

★★☆☆☆
July 1st – 2nd

We all know that I love a good thriller. I like mysteries with compelling characters, a well-put together plot, and an interesting setting. I like when the reader has all of the pieces in front of them and they aren’t reliant on external information to solve what’s going on. I also love gothic settings. I love the isolation and distance. This had a lot of those elements and I was so excited to read it, but the execution was not for me.

This review will have spoilers.

To start, I think this book had too many perspectives. We were following multiple characters getting ready for a wedding on an island off the coast of Ireland. The bride, the maid of honor, the best man, the plus one, and the wedding planner. Five perspectives is way too many in most settings, but definitely a thriller.

Clocking in at just over 300 pages, trying to fill in the backstory of five separate people with all of their personality feels like a tremendous task, and as a result, I really think the writing of this one suffered. I was not a fan of how much the characters were telling me about themselves, but with so little time to explain anything, I don’t know that there really was an alternative other than making it significantly longer.

In addition to the five character perspectives which take place starting the day before the wedding, the book adds a sixth element where it jumps to the present. These pieces in the present I found to do absolutely nothing. I believe the intention was to add tension, but they were so infrequent and had cliffhangers so insignificant that it took away from the plot and general pacing of the book. One of the cliffhangers was what was in a character’s hand, and 50 or so pages later we find out that it was a flashlight. This was exceptionally frustrating to me, because it felt like an attempt at tension for the sake of tension.

The entire book takes place on the island, which I really enjoyed, and there was one or two characters that really stood out as being interesting. If the whole book was from the perspective of the plus one, I think I really would have liked it. She was a flawed character who was recognizing holes in her marriage and difficulties she was having with it. She was the only one who saw growth as a character, and she did her best to help other characters grow.

A lot of the complaints I saw from other reviewers talked about how predictable it was, and while I agree, that’s not typically a problem I have with thrillers. I tend to enjoy the ride more than the ending, but in this case I did not enjoy the ride. With each of these characters we come to find out how they’re all connected to the groom, be it from a past relationship, a childhood friendship with a dark secret, or connected to people who were hurt by him.

I really hated most of the side male characters who were part of the wedding party (with the exception of the best man). They had a very tribal attitude that I sometimes found hard to read through. I do think that was the point of these characters though, so I believe that was a successful bit of writing, and when combined with the plus one character, it was the best part of the book.

From what I’ve seen of Lucy Foley’s other book The Hunting Party, people have similar complaints. I’d like to see for myself if I’d like it, but as of right now I don’t think that their writing is for me, which is disappointing.

What Makes Me Pick Up a Book? | Book Tag

I found this lovely tag over at Books and Dachshunds and wanted to try it! This is all about my habits when it comes to books, book covers, and what makes me interested in them. This is a topic I love talking about at length with friends, so I was excited to see these questions.

1. Do you judge a book by its cover?

Absolutely, but only if I’ve never heard of it. If someone is holding up the cover, or says they love the book first, the cover doesn’t matter. If it’s me discovering the book, the impressions I get on the cover convince me whether I should read the synopsis or not.

2. Focusing on just the cover, what attracts you to pick it up?

I’m mostly easy to please, but I don’t think photographs are done well all the time, especially when it comes to a specific character. I don’t typically want to see that character’s face on the book.

3. Do you read the synopsis first, or do you prefer to go in knowing nothing about the book?

I like going in blind. I want to know as little as possible. Most of the time this works out really well, but sometimes it totally backfires and I end up thinking something is a completely different genre than it is.

4. Do you have any auto-buy authors?

Yes! V.E. Schwab, Grady Hendrix, Riley Sagar, Sylvain Neuvel are my current favorites.

5. Are you more likely to buy a book if it has specific elements/themes?

Sometimes. I’m more of a genre-reader than a trope/theme reader, with the exception of thrillers. I like family dramas, or revisiting the past in the “modern gothic” sense when it comes to those.

6. Do you ever read a book that has generally negative reviews just to form your own opinion on it?

Oh absolutely, though most of the time I tend to agree with the reviews themselves. I read reviews from the people I follow/am friends with the most, because I know whose reading tastes are most similar to my own.

7. Do you ever buy a book just because another booktuber/blogger has talked about it a lot?

That’s the main reason that I read people’s blogs and watch their videos! I like watching people with similar interests to me, so when they recommend something I typically add it to the TBR. Most of the time I already have them on my radar.

8. Is there anyone who’s book recommendations you always trust?

I love watching Kayla at Books and Lala, Noelle Gallagher, Jesse at Bowties and Books, and Ariel Bissett.

That’s the end of this tag! Definitely check out all of the amazing channels/blogs linked! Consider yourself tagged if you’d also like to play along.

 

Upright Women Wanted by Sarah Gailey | Book Review

★★★★☆
June 17th – 21st

Upright Women Wanted is the second short book I sought out when trying to get myself back into reading this summer. The book clocks in at 176 pages, and has a lot of LGBTQ+ representation.

Sometime in the future (we’re not sure how far in the future), the United States as we know it doesn’t exist, and seems to have gone backwards in terms of what is and isn’t available. Only approved documents can be read, and it’s the job of the Librarians to bring them along. We follow our main character, Esther, who’s a stowaway in a Librarian’s cart, trying to escape an unwanted marriage and outrun the painful memories she has of her best friend’s death.

Through this we meet the group of Librarians she’s traveling with, who at first do not trust her, and learn to accept her into their group.

The book is extremely short, and it’s tough not to give anything away in a review, so from here down there will be spoilers:

I loved the representation that the Librarians gave, showing Esther that there’s all different types of relationships (and people) than the ones in the approved materials she’s been given her whole life. The Librarians themselves do more than bring approved materials from town to town, and help people who need to escape for being hated for who they are, similar to Esther.

I found Cye’s character to be the best part of the book, and loved the way they were described. I believe this was one of the first non-binary characters I’ve read in a book, and definitely one where that was brought to the surface in a conversation as directly as it was.

A lot was packed into this small book, and it did a really great job of throwing the reader into the world and taking them along for the ride. However, balancing world-building in books like this is extremely difficult, and I did find myself wishing that there was just a bit more in terms of the futuristic aspect of the book. I could see more books set in this world being really successful, and talking about other aspects of the culture that’s been created.

Sarah Gailey has written several other books that I’m interested, and Magic for Liars has definitely been added to my TBR for later this year.

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