A late July wrap up

I know this post is quite late as we’re already halfway through the month of August, but better late than never. I only read a few things during July thanks to the reading slump I’d been in for a while already. Here’s what I managed to finish!

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire #1) by George R.R. Martin – ★★★★★
I had been rereading this since March. I do love this series but I wasn’t feeling motivated to read it whatsoever. Then the #IronThroneReadalong happened, which gave me the push to finish this book. I read along with the group and found so many nuggets and hints to the later events in the story. I annotated my copy as well!

Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1 edition vol. 3 by Hiromu Arakawa – ★★★★
I’m still on my FMA kick, and I don’t see it ending soon. I am falling in love with all of the characters, one volume at a time.

Fullmetal Alchemist 3-in-1 edition vol. 4 by Hiromu Arakawa – ★★★★.₅
I’m powering through this manga! Pretty soon I’ll have nothing left to read… I’m both excited to find out how it will end and sad that it will come to a close soon.

The Bride Test by Helen Hoang – ★★★
This was one of my most anticipated releases of 2019, and I was over the moon when I got accepted for a review copy on Netgalley. I’ve already reviewed it as well. I enjoyed it, but found it nowhere near as epic as her previous novel, The Kiss Quotient.

Twelve Kings (Song of the Shattered Sands #1) by Bradley P. Beaulieu – ★★★.₅
I loved the world, characters and history of this fantasy novel, but was disappointed by the pacing and writing. I’ve summarized my thoughts on Goodreads, as I’ve taken a break from posting. I would still recommend this book, and I’ll definitely continue the series, but I have to admit I was expecting more from this SFF novel.


That’s all I read during the month of July! I apologize for the late post and the very short thoughts on each book. As I mentioned in my ‘taking a break’ post, I haven’t felt very inspired to write here. However, I still wanted to share my July reads with you. I also want to put up my July in the life post in the coming week so I can chat to you all about what I watched, listened to, and did in the last month.

How was your month? Did you read any good books?

I won’t be posting much in the coming weeks…

I’ve finally accepted the fact that a) I’m in a blogging slump, and b) I can’t seem to fit it into my life at the moment. There’s only so much we can all do in a day, or even a week, which means something always has to give. At the moment, I want to focus on doing a good job at work (which takes up about 40 hours a week), spending time with my family and friends, traveling, and working out.

You read it. Working out. I’m really dedicated to becoming healthier and stronger, and I’m finally in a good mindset on fitness. Before, it always used to be about appearance for me which soured every workout I did. Now, it’s about being strong and healthy. I just became a member at a gym close to work, and I’ll be going for the first time tomorrow. I want to dedicate time to working out and having fun with that around 3 times a week, which means I’ll probably only get home at 9 PM.

I wanted to warn you all before you started questioning my absence here. I will still post whenever I can or when I feel inspired, but it will be far less frequently. This might change in a few weeks or months if I get a bout if inspiration, you never know!

Like I said, something’s always got to give. At the moment, it’s this blog for me. I won’t disappear! I’ll just be in the background for a while. I’ll still participate in things like the N.E.W.Ts readathon, but I haven’t figured out whether I’ll post updates here or simply on Twitter. Guess we’ll find out soon 🙂

review: the bride test

the bride testTitle: The Bride Test
Author: Helen Hoang
Published in 2019 by Atlantic Books
Genre: Romance (adult)
Rating: ★★★ – it was okay

I received this book through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Khai Diep has no feelings. Well, he feels irritation when people move his things or contentment when ledgers balance down to the penny, but not big, important emotions—like grief. And love. He thinks he’s defective. His family knows better—that his autism means he just processes emotions differently. When he steadfastly avoids relationships, his mother takes matters into her own hands and returns to Vietnam to find him the perfect bride.

As a mixed-race girl living in the slums of Ho Chi Minh City, Esme Tran has always felt out of place. When the opportunity arises to come to America and meet a potential husband, she can’t turn it down, thinking this could be the break her family needs. Seducing Khai, however, doesn’t go as planned. Esme’s lessons in love seem to be working…but only on herself. She’s hopelessly smitten with a man who’s convinced he can never return her affection.

my thoughts on june 19

I went into this book with high expectations because I absolutely adored Helen Hoang’s previous novel, The Kiss Quotient. Getting approved for this book on Netgalley was such a joyous moment, not only because it was one of my most anticipated reads of the year but also because being an international reader on Netgalley at the moment is rough.

Unfortunately, I didn’t love The Bride Test nearly as much as I did The Kiss Quotient and I’ll get into the reasons why today.

First, let’s discuss what I liked about the novel.

The autism representation is one of my favorite aspects of Helen Hoang’s novels. It is #ownvoices in that regard as well. Both The Kiss Quotient and The Bride Test have main characters who are neurodiverse. Khai is autistic, like Stella is in the previous novel. While both are autistic, I think the author does a fantastic job at showing that people experience autism in extremely different ways. Khai can’t handle light touch, as it causes him physical pain. He’s not great with touch in general, and needs warning beforehand so he can prepare. I love that the main characters communicate on this, and that Khai tells Esme what he needs and what she can’t do. It’s so important to have a proper discussion, and I’m glad that happened.

Another aspect of the book I adored was the importance of family. I love a good family in novels because I feel that for a lot of people, family is one of the most important parts of life. Khai’s family is so wonderful and supportive, even though his mom went to Vietnam to find a wife for him… In Esme’s life, family is equally (if not even more) important. Her mom, grandmother, and daughter are her entire life and she wants to give them the world.

Lastly, I also really loved Esme’s story. She moves to the US for two months, and has to adapt to living in an entirely different country and culture. Helen Hoang shows the difficulties of that experience through small things like not noticing the smell of fish sauce, startling at the lack of a garbage smell, etc. Esme’s story line is about making your own path in life, and not letting the opportunities you get pass you by. I absolutely loved it.

[Something I forgot to mention before posting this review this morning… I really appreciated how the first sex scene unfolded between these two characters. While it was intensely awkward to read about and I was suffering from secondhand embarrassment the entire time, it was so real. It wasn’t “perfect” like it so often is in romance novels.]

Unfortunately, it’s time to move on to the aspects I didn’t like.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t read a lot of adult romance novels lately, but I was caught off guard by some things in this book. Like the neverending references to Khai’s dick. I’m not even kidding. I can’t tell you how many (terrible) euphemisms I had to endure. In the first 20% of the novel, it’s on almost every page. EVERY PAGE has a reference to his genitals, and I’m tired. I’m also side-eyeing the author for the incredible unsubtle ways of telling the reader that he is… well-endowed. Why did I need to know that??

The sex scene at about 85% of the way through the ARC also made me incredibly uncomfortable. If you’ve read the book, please talk to me about this.

I was also irritated by what I started to call Esme’s absolute idiot moments. Throughout the novel, Helen Hoang tells us that Esme is quite smart through different ways, for example the test she takes at the end of the novel. However, those are all things told to the reader. What we are shown, is the complete opposite. She knows Khai’s mom is rich because of her clothes, bag, restaurant, etc. And while Khai doesn’t live in a villa, he doesn’t hesitate to spend money on things he deems worthy of it – like his car. So why does Esme constantly remind us that she doesn’t understand why everyone thinks Khai is rich? It just makes no sense to me. It’s these small things that undermined what the other told us about Esme.

Lastly, I can’t help but wish they had the conversation about Khai being autistic earlier. They bring Esme to the US for him, make her move in with him, and never tell her about it. It makes absolutely no sense to me? Obviously, if they want her to win his heart wouldn’t it be easier if she knew what not to do at the very start? That way, she would never do something that causes him pain or discomfort. Instead, they let her blunder around, causing both of the characters pain. It makes no sense to me.


While I enjoyed quite a few aspects of this novel, I was a tad disappointed by the overall reading experience. I still adore Helen Hoang’s The Kiss Quotient, and will continue to read the novels she releases. This one simply wasn’t it for me.

Have you read The Bride Test? What did you think of it?

 

My N.E.W.T.s TBR, my quest to become a curse worker continues

It’s almost time for the N.E.W.T.s readathon to take off, and I couldn’t be more excited. The Magical Readathons that are hosted by Book Roast are some of my absolute favorite readathons of the year, and I always try to participate in them. In April, we had the O.W.L.s, and I managed to pass 11 exams! I could pick from a wide variety of careers, but decided to stick with my original choice: becoming a curse breaker.

For all the information on the readathon, you can watch her announcement video here!

To be able to become a curse breaker, I need to pass the following N.E.W.Ts: Ancient Runes (O), Arithmancy (O), Defence Against the Dark Arts (E), and Charms (A). That totals to 9 books to read in August. I hope I’ll be able to do it, even though I have barely read any in the past 2 months. Either way, I’ll try my best. Here are some of the books I plan to read for the readathon!

Ancient Runes

Acceptable – read recommended by a friend
At the moment, I will probably read Shortcake Cake vol. 1 for this prompt. I feel like I consider every content creator I’ve followed for quite a while a friend, and I saw this manga on Pages and Panels’ YouTube channel. I’m traveling at the start of August, and this might be easier to take with me. I could also pick VengefulShit My Dad Says or Under Rose-Tainted Skies which were recommended to me by Inge, Sorcerer to the Crown or Seraphina, recommended by Annemieke, The Falconer which was recommended by Dina, or The Great Believers, recommended by Ely.

Exceeds Expectations – book written in past tense
I could pick sooo many books off my shelves for this prompt, so this is a very loose choice right now. I definitely want to read Blood for Blood soon because I’ve been putting off reading this sequel for way too long already. This readathon might just give me the push I need.

Outstanding – book that has been on your TBR for ages
I’ve had The Miniaturist since early 2015, which is kind of embarrassing to be honest. At first, I saw nothing but glowing reviews on it. Later, a lot of reviewers I trust mentioned it was a boring novel. Now I’m scared to read it, but I can’t let it sit on my shelf unread for much longer either…

Arithmancy

Acceptable – book that ends on even number of pages
Another book that has been featured on countless of my TBRs yet I still haven’t read. I have read and loved two of Ruta Sepetys’ works before, and I know I will probably love Between Shades of Gray too.

Exceeds Expectations – a standalone
I could pick so many books for this prompt! At the moment, I’m leaning towards Mango Summer, which sounds like an adorable romance. Exactly what I need in my life.

Outstanding – book that’s longer than 350 pages
This is technically an omnibus of three manga volumes instead of one novel. However, the edition is 576 pages long, and in my opinion it should count for this challenge. I’ve been loving the Fullmetal Alchemist manga, and this is the 3-in-1 edition vol. 5.

Defence Against the Dark Arts

Acceptable – book that’s black under the dust jacket
I saw on the Magical Readathon discord that it was okay to use a black paperback if you didn’t have a hardcover to fit this prompt. I don’t own many hardcovers, so I might take advantage of that. I believe that the hardcover of Contagion is black underneath the dust jacket, and I recently got that from the library. I also have The Silent Wife and The Girl King out from the library, both being (mostly) black paperbacks.

Exceeds Expectations – first book you remembered just now from your TBR
Honestly, my mind went completely black when I first read this prompt. It’s like I couldn’t remember a single book that’s on my shelves! Then my mind went to Fullmetal Alchemist, perhaps because I’m currently reading one of the volumes. As I added volume 5 of the 3-in-1 editions for one of the earlier challenges, I’m adding volume 6 here.

Charms

Acceptable – read a book you think has a gorgeous cover
I will most likely read Our Dreams at Dusk volume 1another recent manga purchase. However, if I’ve already completed my Acceptable level for Ancient Runes, I might read Shortcake Cake vol. 2 instead, to continue the manga. If by some miracle, I have quite a lot of time left in the month and can pick up a novel instead, I’ll go with Record of a Spaceborn Few, one of the most beautiful books I own.


If I have the time, I might try for more N.E.W.Ts than just the ones I need to become a curse breaker. I highly doubt that though, so I’ll focus on these first. I tried to pick different genres and formats because I find that helps speed up my reading process.

Have you read any of these? Are you participating in the N.E.W.Ts readathon?

a few settings I’d like to see more of

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week’s topic is settings we’d like to see more of. Let’s get into it!

space stations/ships

In the past year, I’ve read a few novels that are set in space ships and/or space stations and I’ve loved them all. From The Illuminae Files to Binti to Gravity, all three were incredible. Which means I’m waiting for recommendations from you! Are there any other space station books you’ve enjoyed?

remote universities

the secret history

I know this is incredibly specific, but the setting was a large part of why I loved The Secret History so much. It’s set in a remote college in New England, and is so atmospheric.

(pirate) ships

Why have I barely read any books set on ships? Especially pirate ships? I love that setting, yet I was looking through the books I read and couldn’t really find any. I did adore Red Seas Under Red Skies, which takes place on a ship, as well as Ship of Magic by Robin Hobb.

Middle Eastern/African settings (historical/fantasy)

Once again, two novels that were so atmospheric. I sped through The City of Brass, partly because of the lush descriptions of 18th century Caïro. I’m also currently reading Twelve Kings, which is a fantasy novel in a desert setting I’m really enjoying.

polar fantasy settings

a shiver of snow and sky

I read A Shiver of Snow and Sky last January, and fell in love with the setting. It takes place in a little village on an incredibly cold island, where the ground is always covered in snow and the sky is clear and filled with lights. I can’t wait to read more polar fantasies, even though I will really need some recommendations for this one.

Do you have any recommendations for me? Which settings would you like to see more of?

 

Why you should watch La Casa de Papel right now (if you haven’t already)

Today’s post is dedicated to La Casa de Papel, a Netflix show I absolutely adore. You might know it as Money Heist instead, since Netflix seems to believe you need to have an English title for it to be popular abroad.

la casa de papel

Title: La Casa de Papel (2017)
Country: Spain
Creator: Álex Pina
Episodes so far: 22
Rating: ★★★★.₅ – loved it

A mysterious man, known as “The Professor”, is planning the biggest bank heist in history. To carry out the ambitious plan, he recruits a team of eight people with certain abilities who have nothing to lose. The goal is to enter the Royal Mint of Spain in Madrid, the capital of Spain, and print €2.4 billion. To do this, the team requires eleven days of seclusion, during which they have to deal with elite police forces and 67 hostages.

my thoughts on june 19

Today, I want to share my thoughts on why everyone should watch this show (if you haven’t already, of course). I know it’s quite popular in Belgium, but I don’t know whether that is true worldwide. Let’s talk about one of my new favorite shows!

You should watch it right now because…

⭐️ season 3 will be released tomorrow. On July 19th, Part 3 of the series will release on Netflix, and I can’t tell you how excited I am about it. That means it’s the perfect time for everyone to either start the show, or catch up, because it’s the type of show you’ll want to binge-watch immediately. I watched the second season in a matter of days, which is quite the feat considering how little time I’ve had to myself lately.

⭐️ heist story. If you know me, then this will come as no surprise. I absolutely adore heist stories, whether they are in novel, TV or movie format. The fact that this show centers around a heist in Madrid was the reason I first started watching. If you love heist stories as well, this is the perfect show for you.

⭐️ action-packed, never a dull moment. The first 2 seasons (22 episodes) all take part during the heist, in a timespan of 11 days. At first, I expected it to be quite a slow-paced one, because there’s only so much you can do with 22 episodes on 11 days. However, the show managed to keep me clustered to my screen the entire time. I was never bored. Instead, I found myself fearing for the characters and rooting for them the entire time. I believe the way it was edited plays a large part in making it feel more dynamic and fast-paced.

⭐️ characters you’ll fall in love with. I always seem to root for the criminals, and this is no different. As you’re spending so much time with these characters in a closed environment for days on end, you get to know them pretty well. There are 8 members of the team, and the Professor, and all of them have time to develop their characters. Some more than others, sure, but you’ll end up getting attached to all of them.

⭐️ past and present intertwined. The series switches constantly between the heist taking place and the planning process. As events unfold in the present, their level of  planning and organization reveals itself. This made every twist more exciting to me, because I couldn’t wait to find out how much of the possible outcomes they had foreseen/anticipated.

I honestly can’t recommend this series enough. If you haven’t watched it, for some reason, please do so. Soon, you’ll have 3 seasons to binge-watch! I can’t wait to watch the new season tomorrow, even though I might not be able to actually start it when it’s released. I’m going to try my best and avoid spoilers!

Have you watched La Casa de Papel? Are you excited for season 3?

8 of my auto-buy authors

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly post hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl. This week, we’re talking about auto-buy authors. The ones whose books we’ll buy/read no matter what they’re about. I only have a handful of authors whose books I’ll read without any hesitation whatsoever, so let’s get into it.

Rin Chupeco
> read: The Bone Witch trilogy
After reading The Bone Witch trilogy, Rin Chupeco has earned herself a spot on my list of auto-buy authors. I’m excited to see what she will bring to my bookshelves next, after creating one of my all-time favorite fantasy series.

Brandon Sanderson
> read: Warbreaker, The Way of Kings, Mistborn #1-4
Is anyone surprised? Probably not. I haven’t actually bought all of his books, but I’m working on it. There are a lot of them, okay, and they’re expensive.

Julian Winters
> read: Running With Lions
It only took Julian Winters one book to end up on this list. Isn’t that completely insane? I adored Running With Lions, which I discovered at YALC last year. I managed to finish this in a matter of hours, even though I was incredibly busy. It was such a lovely book, and I can’t wait to see what he writes next.

Courtney Summers
> read: All the Rage, Sadie
A few years ago, I read All the Rage and fell in love with it. It was so dark, real, and honest which is everything I want in a contemporary read. Last year, I picked up her latest release, Sadie, which ended up being one of my favorite novels of the year. I will get to her backlist at some point, but I’m definitely buying her new releases as soon as possible.

Madeline Miller
> read: The Song of Achilles, Circe
The Song of Achilles catapulted Madeline Miller onto this list, and I pre-ordered Circe as soon as it was possible. The Song of Achilles is one of my all-time favorite novels. I cry every single time I read it. While I didn’t love Circe as much as I did her debut novel, I know I’ll buy and read every single book she publishes.

Leigh Bardugo
> read: The Grisha trilogy, Six of Crows duology
I feel like I’m lying here because I haven’t actually bought her latest release, King of Scars, yet. However, I am planning on purchasing it eventually! I don’t buy new releases immediately after they come out often because they tend to be quite expensive. Either way, I’m interested in reading every single book she ever publishes.

Alice Oseman
> read: Radio Silence, I Was Born for This, Solitaire
I find it interesting that I immediately thought of Alice Oseman for this list, even though I haven’t loved all of her books. Radio Silence was the first book of hers I ever read, which is one of my favorite contemporaries. Before meeting her last year, I bought and read I Was Born For This (which I liked) and Solitaire (which I disliked) as well. I will end up buying Heartstopper at some point in time too.

Jessica Townsend
> read: The Trials of Morrigan Crow, The Calling of Morrigan Crow
If you’ve read my reviews on these books, you’ll know that the Nevermoor series has rekindled my love for middle grade fantasy. I hadn’t enjoyed an MG book as much as these ones in ages. Jessica Townsend has reminded me why I love reading fantasy so much, and where I got started with the genre.


I don’t have 10 authors for you this week, because there aren’t that many authors out there whose books I’d buy no questions asked. I wanted to keep this 100% honest, and not include those whose books I might buy without looking at the description. These are some of my all-time favorite authors, and I can’t wait to read more of their works.

Have you read any of these authors’ books? Which authors are on your list?