So I finished my Goodreads Challenge this year?
I’m sorry this installment is coming so late, but I haven’t had much time to sit down and write blog posts, except a few hours after they’re to be scheduled! School is killing me with the amount of work (even though I love classes), which is NOT fun.
I read 5 books in the second half of August, which is a nice number, but there were a lot of middle of the road books this month, which was a little sad, but hey, hopefully September is better?
Finale by Stephanie Garber (Caraval, #3) ★★★☆☆ (3.5)
Synopsis (from Goodreads)
SPOILERS FOR CARAVAL AND LEGENDARY
A love worth fighting for. A dream worth dying for. An ending worth waiting for.
It’s been two months since the Fates were freed from a deck of cards, two months since Legend claimed the throne for his own, and two months since Tella discovered the boy she fell in love with doesn’t really exist.
With lives, empires, and hearts hanging in the balance, Tella must decide if she’s going to trust Legend or a former enemy. After uncovering a secret that upends her life, Scarlett will need to do the impossible. And Legend has a choice to make that will forever change and define him.
Caraval is over, but perhaps the greatest game of all has begun. There are no spectators this time—only those who will win, and those who will lose everything.
Welcome, welcome to Finale. All games must come to an end…
This was a really interesting reading experience. While it wasn’t my favourite thing ever, I still did enjoy it! I have read the Caraval series since the first book was published, and I, unfortunately, have liked the next one a little less than the previous one. For the most part, I think it was a solid finale (haha, get it). I really liked that both sisters got perspectives here, and I feel it really added to the story.
As always, I loved the sister relationship here – it has always been one of my favourite aspect of the series. It has something that has always stood out for me. It’s just beautiful, nuanced and just wonderfully done. On that note, the mother-daughter relationship was really interesting and I liked it a lot? I also really liked how we learned more about the Fates and I also really enjoyed the cards analogy. Tying in with that, I felt that the world building was also considerably better and consistent in this one.
The writing was really good – I know a lot of people are annoyed by the emotions as colours thing, and it did get on my nerves a little bit here, but I get why it’s there, I guess? I don’t know whether it’s because my reading tastes have changed, but I feel like I just don’t really care about the romances? There’s a lot of weird age gap things, and I don’t know how to feel about it, except meh, I guess? And not only that, why were there [two (or maybe three) love triangles? REALLY, sweetie.]
I really missed the overall Caraval game, not gonna lie, and how that forced the plot to be tightly plotted, because this felt like it was spouting off in different directions sometimes? I don’t know. But. BUT. This was very bingeable.
However, I had two big problems that stopped me from rating this higher; 1) The ridiculous amount of loose ends, especially for a series finale, and 2) and what I felt was too much focus on the romance. I had so many questions at the end, which was incredibly annoying and frustrating to see. And about that second point – we could’ve focused on so many other things instead.
I know I pretty much just shat all over this book, but I did really like it and had an enjoyable time with it!
Buddy read with the sweetest, Kelly @ Another Book In the Wall!
Maid by Stephanie Land ★★★☆☆
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Evicted meets Nickel and Dimed in Stephanie Land’s memoir about working as a maid, a beautiful and gritty exploration of poverty in America. Includes a foreword by Barbara Ehrenreich.
“My daughter learned to walk in a homeless shelter.”
While the gap between upper middle-class Americans and the working poor widens, grueling low-wage domestic and service work–primarily done by women–fuels the economic success of the wealthy. Stephanie Land worked for years as a maid, pulling long hours while struggling as a single mom to keep a roof over her daughter’s head. In Maid, she reveals the dark truth of what it takes to survive and thrive in today’s inequitable society.
While she worked hard to scratch her way out of poverty as a single parent, scrubbing the toilets of the wealthy, navigating domestic labor jobs, higher education, assisted housing, and a tangled web of government assistance, Stephanie wrote. She wrote the true stories that weren’t being told. The stories of overworked and underpaid Americans.
Written in honest, heart-rending prose and with great insight, Maid explores the underbelly of upper-middle class America and the reality of what it’s like to be in service to them. “I’d become a nameless ghost,” Stephanie writes. With this book, she gives voice to the “servant” worker, those who fight daily to scramble and scrape by for their own lives and the lives of their children.
This was definitely … an interesting reading experience, and certainly an interesting memoir. I read this for school, and I felt that this was incredibly insightful in terms of shedding light onto the middle working class of the USA, which is something which isn’t really talked about in media. It depicted what it took just to survive, and it was shocking to see.
To be honest, I did feel it to be sort of repetitive and dragged, but not to the point where I was completely bored, you know? I did get bored a little at times, but the audio really saved this book for me and made it a better reading experience. The writing was also fairly solid, but defo not the best thing ever.
I want to word this as carefully as possible without pissing anyone off, but I did find it frustrating that Land didn’t acknowledge her white privilege and how it did make her situation better than other groups of diverse people in the same position she was in. (e.g PoCs, LGBTQIAP+, an immigrant (especially if the immigrant is PoC/LGBTQIAP+). I know she’s been through a lot, but still.
I’m not rating this because 1) I don’t know what to rate this, and 2) rating non-fiction feels weird – how are you supposed to rate someone’s life experiences? You don’t.
The Unhoneymooners by Christina Lauren ★★★★☆ (3.5)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
Olive is always unlucky: in her career, in love, in…well, everything. Her identical twin sister Ami, on the other hand, is probably the luckiest person in the world. Her meet-cute with her fiancé is something out of a romantic comedy (gag) and she’s managed to finance her entire wedding by winning a series of Internet contests (double gag). Worst of all, she’s forcing Olive to spend the day with her sworn enemy, Ethan, who just happens to be the best man.
Olive braces herself to get through 24 hours of wedding hell before she can return to her comfortable, unlucky life. But when the entire wedding party gets food poisoning from eating bad shellfish, the only people who aren’t affected are Olive and Ethan. And now there’s an all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Hawaii up for grabs.
Putting their mutual hatred aside for the sake of a free vacation, Olive and Ethan head for paradise, determined to avoid each other at all costs. But when Olive runs into her future boss, the little white lie she tells him is suddenly at risk to become a whole lot bigger. She and Ethan now have to pretend to be loving newlyweds, and her luck seems worse than ever. But the weird thing is that she doesn’t mind playing pretend. In fact, she feels kind of… lucky.
This was my first Christina Lauren book, and it was definitely a solid start to it. I really enjoyed how the enemies to lovers trope was done, and I was truly rooting for Olive and Ethan, both as a couple and as individuals, especially in the first half. The writing was incredibly solid, and with a good audiobook narrator who kept me engaged in the story. The banter was incredibly snarky & made me chuckle a few times, which was awesome.
However, what killed this from being a four star read (or potentially above) was the shift in tone and plot – it became a little more heavy & was just not my favourite as well as something I didn’t completely expect. BUT this was so cute and the Hawaiian setting had me just swooning and made me want to drop everything and go to Hawaii (if only I could. Ah well).
A quick spoiler talk here because I have to (highlight the text to read it): [I was really angry at Ami and Ethan’s treatment during the second half of the novel, especially with the Dane realisation, even more so than Olive, honestly, especially about Ami, who’s her twin. And the fact that the whole thing was swept under the rug extremely quickly? It gave me bad vibes, not gonna lie.]
For me, my favourite part of the story was by FAR Olive’s family – her aunts, cousins, her mother and twin sister, Ami, created a really fun, hilarious dynamic, and I truly had such a fun time with every scene they were in. They were funny, supportive and just awesome in general. Honestly, can I have a whole spin off about the Torres family? Thank you.
Alex, Approximately by Jenn Bennett ★★★★☆ (3.75-3.9??)
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The one guy Bailey Rydell can’t stand is actually the boy of her dreams—she just doesn’t know it yet.
Classic movie fan Bailey “Mink” Rydell has spent months crushing on a witty film geek she only knows online as Alex. Two coasts separate the teens until Bailey moves in with her dad, who lives in the same California surfing town as her online crush.
Faced with doubts (what if he’s a creep in real life—or worse?), Bailey doesn’t tell Alex she’s moved to his hometown. Or that she’s landed a job at the local tourist-trap museum. Or that she’s being heckled daily by the irritatingly hot museum security guard, Porter Roth—a.k.a. her new archnemesis. But life is a whole lot messier than the movies, especially when Bailey discovers that tricky fine line between hate, love, and whatever it is she’s starting to feel for Porter.
And as the summer months go by, Bailey must choose whether to cling to a dreamy online fantasy in Alex or take a risk on an imperfect reality with Porter. The choice is both simpler and more complicated than she realizes, because Porter Roth is hiding a secret of his own: Porter is Alex…Approximately.
This was such a cute read and honestly the perfect summer read! I mean, look at that cover. Admittedly, I’ve never seen You’ve Got Mail, but this seems like a solid YA retelling of it, and I think I’d like this one better anyway (though I defo need to try watching it!)
I absolutely ADORED the beachy, small-town aspect of the novel, and the inclusion of surfing made my surfing-loving self so happy (because fun fact, I do love it (a lot)). I also really loved the role old films (and films in general) played in the novel – the beginning of each chapter included a quote from a famous movie, and it was truly the perfect touch.
The romance was cute, but I do think it was a little rushed? I don’t know. But what I do know is that I had SO MUCH fun watching it develop. And also, I want to add that I was LOVING this in the beginning, but then my love of it died down a little? I DON’T KNOW.
Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the family relationships. We see both Bailey & Porter’s family quite a bit, and I just had so much fun with that. I’ve also always loved the inclusion of family in books, and I felt like it really added to their characters.
My main issue with this, and what stopped me from giving this a solid four star was how much I really didn’t like a particular sub-plot and how that made the book darker? I mean, if I come for a cute-sy, fluffy YA contemporary, summer romance, that’s what I’m hoping to get. And thinking about it now – it just feels so unnecessary and something I truly did not care for at all.
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis ★★★★☆
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
A contemporary YA novel that examines rape culture through alternating perspectives.
Alex Craft knows how to kill someone. And she doesn’t feel bad about it.
Three years ago, when her older sister, Anna, was murdered and the killer walked free, Alex uncaged the language she knows best—the language of violence. While her own crime goes unpunished, Alex knows she can’t be trusted among other people. Not with Jack, the star athlete who wants to really know her but still feels guilty over the role he played the night Anna’s body was discovered. And not with Peekay, the preacher’s kid with a defiant streak who befriends Alex while they volunteer at an animal shelter. Not anyone.
As their senior year unfolds, Alex’s darker nature breaks out, setting these three teens on a collision course that will change their lives forever.
My goodness, was this a gritty and heavy read! And do I mean gritty. This is a hard-hitting novel and an incredibly powerful one. This portrayed rape culture in such a fantastic manner and had some wonderful character work.
I really liked the small-town setting of the story, and I truly felt that it added to how claustrophobic this novel felt. It made for some incredibly interesting character dynamics, and I also really liked how it affected the characters’ interactions and relations with each other. The characters (both the three main characters and a specific major side character) had some great character progression and I loved how said major side character was fleshed out and not made into a one-dimensional, evil cheerleader character type, and that the author did not slut shame her.
I listened to this one on audio, and I really enjoyed my time doing so. There are three different narrators – one for each character, and this made each perspective even more distinct & I personally felt they really brought out the characters to life. I particularly loved Alex, and I loved how she felt that she was too much, which was interesting for a killer.
The book portrays teenagers realistically, and shows them as fleshed out, complicated, imperfect human beings, and doesn’t reduce them to stereotypes, which I really appreciated. Something else I particularly enjoyed was PK’s dynamic with her parents – it was honest, lovely & just so beautiful.
And even though I finished this book a week ago and was spoiled for the ending, that ending still sucker punched me HARD and I’m still reeling from it. And that last line? Both haunting and perfect. I still remember it.
What are some books you recently read, and what do you think of them? Have you read any of the books here, and do you agree (or disagree) with any of my opinions? Why/why not? I’d love to know.