This Could Get Ugly – Unpopular Book Opinions Tag

As with most book-related things I do, I’m doing this because I saw it first on YouTube/BookTube. I read books, too, so I thought I’d play along. Of course, these are all my personal opinions and you’re free to disagree. Preamble aside, let’s get started!

1. A popular book or series you didn’t like

Starting out strong, here… I’m going to say Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao.

I wanted to like this book. I really, truly did. And there are parts that I did like. Unhinged main character? Yes. General concept? Yes. The actual execution? Well…

I was really looking forward to the polyam romance and it was… incredibly disappointing. The two men in the relationship have their romance developed largely offscreen, so when they’re romantic on-page it really feels like it comes out of nowhere. A lot of the action scenes were hard to follow. Wu Zetian had a whole murder mission from the getgo and almost let the man who murdered her sister off the hook just because he’s hot. It’s not until she could access his memories that she’s back to her original plan. And the book is full of plenty of other aggravating choices like this. Maybe I’ll make a whole dedicated review for it. For now? Iron Widow was more like a Tin Clown.

2. A popular book or series that everyone else seems to hate but you love

The last book I can think of that would fit this would be The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold, I think. Most of the time when that book is mentioned, it’s mentioned with disdain. Obviously, book tastes are subjective, but when I was a young teen I read this book several, several times and loved it each time I did. Maybe if I read it now, my mind would be changed? But I’m quite attached to it still. I think I just read it at the exact time that I needed to.

3. A love triangle where the main character ended up with the person you did NOT want them to end up with // an OTP you didn’t like

I’m diving into the dredges of my memory for this one. Anyone ever read Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead? It never got as popular, but I loved that series to bits and still do. And like, I get why this pairing never lasted but… I really liked Rose and Adrian together, tbh. So it’s not so much I didn’t want her to end up with Dimitri, persay? I just didn’t like them together as much as I liked Rose and Adrian. And then Adrian ended up being paired with… Sydney? In the spin-off series, I think. Which was certainly a choice that was made.

4. A popular book genre you hardly reach for.

I don’t know how “popular” it is, but I don’t grab for historical fiction all that often. I am also, despite what my answer to #3 would suggest, not the biggest fan of vampire books, or paranormal books in general. And this last one I firmly maintain is an age category, not a genre, but I don’t really go for YA books anymore. Mostly because it feels like I’ve outgrown them, you know? The writing style and content in most YA books are not something that interests me anymore. But, that said, there have been some stellar reads.

5. A popular or beloved character you did not like.

Is it time to upset the stans?… it’s time to upset the stans. I couldn’t stand Rhysand from A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas. Really, there wasn’t a lot from that book/series I was willing to tolerate, but Rhysand is the biggest example and reason why. Maas decided to completely assassinate Tamlin’s character by book two just because she thought Rhysand was hotter. Sorry, but that’s what happened. Rhysand is absolutely fucking creepy. Thinking about him makes my skin crawl. Plus he low key assaults Feyre in the first book and it’s all just? Hand waved? No thank you. Fuck Rhysand.

6. A popular author you can’t seem to get in to.

Would it be cheating to say Sarah J Maas again?

Actually I have a better one. J. K. Rowling.

Folks, it’s time to find a new fandom. I never understood why Harry Potter got as big as it did. I read them as a kid and… I mean, I liked them, but they weren’t the massive world-shaping phenomena everyone else made them out to be. I never obsessed over which Hogwarts house I was or big on the scene in general. And especially now? It doesn’t hold up. J. K. Rowling absolutely shaped a generation, and I get how she appealed to people back then, but it’s time to find other books. The author is a violent bigot whose rhetoric is being sited in this new wave of transphobic legislation and you really… can see her biases in her work. Just saying.

7. A popular book trope you’re tired of seeing

I am absolutely bored of “not like other girls”. I’ve had it. Every example I’ve seen of a character who fits this archetype is just misogynistic and edgy. It’s not cool, it’s not cute, it’s not funny. You’re not any better just because you pretend to be different.

8. A popular series you have no interest in reading

I will never touch another book by Sarah J. Maas for as long as I live, or Harry Potter or anything related. I also was never interested in reading the Shadow and Bone series by Leigh Bardugo. Finally, and especially after the Goodreads Choice Awards controversy last year, I have absolutely 0 interest in reading the Empire of the Vampire series, let alone any other Jay Kristoff book.

9. What movie or TV show adaptation do you prefer more than the book

This is purely because it was a kid’s book, but Spiderwick Chronicles. The movie was alright, from what I can remember, but I had outgrown the books by the time I’d read them, so…

Annnnnnd… that’s it! Did you have any reading hot takes to share?

The Cat Reviews: Secrets My Mother Kept

This book is also a fine example of the “secretly adopted” trope without it being… weird.

As I’ve previously mentioned, I’m part of an Indie book club over on twitter – run by Jodie Renee – and have been since November of 2020. This is one of the books the group read.

Title: Secrets My Mother Kept
Author: Rebecca Tucker
Genre: Contemporary
Quick Summary: An identity crisis of a different sort…
Thoughts:

A lot of times, the secret adoption plotlines I’ve read are too far-fetched for me to buy and enjoy. This is not one of those times.

Secrets My Mother Kept is the tale of a Jewish woman who discovers she was secretly adopted after she gets sent the wrong copy of her birth certificate. What comes from this is a heartfelt unspooling of emotions regarding one’s heritage, sexuality, and faith. This is a journey many of us go through in our own lives, and that makes this book deeply relatable. Sure, not all of us are adoptees, or come from Jewish backgrounds, but there’s enough elements that something will be relatable to everyone who reads it.

This book is also a fine example of the “secretly adopted” trope without it being… weird. Sometimes, this trope is used to pair up characters in… interesting ways (see: The Mortal Instruments series by Cassandra Clare, all the “we’re dating, oh no we’re siblings, oh no we’re really not” stuff). Here, the trope is just used for good ole fashion family drama, and it’s done so well. Well enough, in fact, I whipped through this book quite quickly. It’s short, sweet, and quite relevant to the times we find ourselves in. And most importantly, it leaves you with a sort of cozy feeling by the end.

If you would like to read it for yourself, Secrets My Mother Kept can be purchased here.

A Wild Alex Appears! Reprise

Back at the end of 2018, I wrote my very first post on this blog – an introduction post. I aimed to use this blog a lot more than I have been – this was never supposed to be a “I drop in every few months” sort of deal, believe it or not. I originally aimed to make this a monthly thing, if not weekly.

Hopefully, I can get myself to that sort of place once again.

Hi! My name is Alex and I am a nonbinary writer from the Pacific Northwest. My main genre settles somewhere in the scope of speculative fiction. Often, this means “fantasy”, but not always. I’ve been a lot of places on the internet over the years – Twitter, Tumblr, Wattpad, some other, more defunct writing websites. You may have seen me around, you may not have. Regardless, welcome to my page.

The main purpose of this blog remains the same as when I conceptualized it: writing and exploring the writing world of other authors. There may also be some discussions of gaming and game design.

These are some things you can expect to see on this blog:

  • Book reviews
  • Discussions of tropes in books and games
  • Experiences I’ve had with writing/as a writer
  • Publishing discussions
  • Snippets of things I’m working on
  • Writing advice

And if there’s anything else you’re keen on seeing, feel free to say so! I’d love to hear your thoughts.

The Year of Trash Fires and the Books Within

Past year in books recaps:

2021 was a continuation on a legacy of suckage in most respects. Covid continues to be a thing – and is actively getting worse by the day. Tensions continue to mount day by day. However, there was a bright light in my corner of it all. As of October, I’ve been published! Which is… still, such a wild, incomprehensible thing to me, if I’m being honest.

I had a goal to read 40 books, which I beat out at 46 books. I read a combined total of 12,987 pages, with the shortest book at 22 pages and the longest and 752. I also maintained my average rating of 3.8 stars. All in all, I read two books less than last year, but I rated them better on average! Here’s my breakdown in visual form:

All in all, quite a productive year was had.

I think I can attribute some of my more positive shift to be because I made a more conscious decision and effort to seek out books I knew I was going to like. Books that had me excited. And also, books I had been reading for a while and needed to tie the loose ends on.

Normally at this is the time I would recap the best and worst books of the year. I’m still planning to do this, but a bit differently. I want to highlight more books, if I can, and sort them not so much by best and worst but rather moreso by category. Let’s get started.

Best Fiction Book of 2021

My answer isn’t quite the same as it was in the middle of the year, but that’s only because I made the decision to split this into “best fiction” and “best nonfiction”. While I don’t read as much nonfiction as I would often like to, I think it deserves its own category.

But we’re not there yet.

I think my answer for this category remains mostly the same as it did in the middle of the year. One of the best books I read this year was Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. However, since that post, I also got to read Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson and, honestly? What a treat. I was having a blast the whole way through. I can’t really pick between either of these books, honestly. They were both so fun and refreshing in different ways.

Worst Book of 2021

Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki immediately comes to mind here. I highlighted this book in my mid-year post as “Biggest Disappointment”… My father told me I needed to read it as he had recently became interested in stocks and investing, and that he knew it would make me angry. I don’t think he knew in just what way this book would anger me, though. I knew I would hate this book going into it, but the way Kiyosaki talks about poor people and the working class, calling them lazy or unintelligent because they aren’t rich. People like this man disgust me, honestly. Not only because he wrote this book, but also because my research into him before, during, and after reading this book shows me he’s just full of shit. Even now, thinking about this book and this person has me seething. Anyway.

Most Disappointing Book of 2021

This is going to go to Hellenismos: Practicing Greek Polytheism Today by Tony Mierzwicki. For a while, now, I’ve been trying to lean more into Greek polytheism in terms of spirituality. And in some parts, this book was a lovely guide to getting started in that. However, the author also made some pretty odd comments at parts, including ragging on GMOs in places where that wasn’t really… relevant? At all. That said, this book comes with an extensive list of resources at the end of every chapter, which is good for further research. I don’t know, though. This book at times just rubbed me pretty wrong.

Book That Most Surprised Me

Do I think this book was perfect? No. Did I enjoy myself the whole way through? Yeah. The book I picked for this category was The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci. I have a hard time with books wrote by… “influencers” doesn’t quite feel like the right word. Regardless, more often than not, I find books by these kinds of people to be lacking. I talked about this a couple years ago when talking about The Cellar by Natasha Preston. However, The Savior’s Champion was a blessed change. Again, it wasn’t a perfect book. It definitely could have been pared down some, and there’s some choices I don’t agree with. But for the most part, I had a lot of fun! And I liked this book so much I bought the next one. We’ll see how that goes.

Favorite Cover

I’m not often one for judging books by their covers, but I figured I would do this for fun. I had a couple of books in mind when thinking about this category, and I’ve reduced my choice down to two. The first is Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann. I’m really happy there’s more and more people of color being featured on book covers, and I really love the font here and just. The general layout of it. It pleases me. The other cover I had in mind was In the Dark by Loreth Anne White. I really am a sucker for more minimalistic covers, or ones that get funky with the text.

Best Nonfiction Book

I don’t read as much nonfiction as I do regular fiction, admittedly. However, I mentioned this book in my mid-year post and my answer remains the same – that is to say, my favorite nonfiction book of 2021 was Know My Name by Chanel Miller.

This book broke my heart. It really did. If you’re unfamiliar, Chanel Miller is the woman that Brock Turner raped back in 2015. I first heard about this book via the YouTube channel “withCindy” (formerly “ReadWithCindy”) and knew I had to read it. And it hit… so close to home so many times. Chanel writes about it all in such a poignant manner. And you know what? She shouldn’t have had to write this in the first place. She shouldn’t have been put through everything she did. Just… If you’re going to read any book, read this one.

Book Plans for 2022

In years past, I’ve named books that I had not, in fact, gone on to read. Still, I wanted to highlight my reading plans for this year, what I’ve already read, and what I’m currently reading or plan to before the year is up.

This year, I’m getting a little ambitious and saying I would like to read 52 books, one book for each week of the year. I’ve already read 3 as of making this post – Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson, Branches by Adam Peter Johnson (the Twitter Indie Book Club reading choice for January) and The Legend of Zelda, Vol 4: The Minish Cap/Phantom Hourglass by Akira Himekawa. I’m off to a good start! Here’s the next few books that are on my list to be read or are currently being read:

  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Good Omens by Neil Gaiman and Sir Terry Pratchett
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • The Eye of the World, Book 1 in The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon
  • Going Postal by Sir Terry Pratchett
  • Rivers Run Red by A. D. Green
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Tiny Pretty Things by Sona Charaipotra and Dhonielle Clayton
  • Dreams and Deceit by Freya Bell and Nicole L. Soper Gorden

What about you? What were some books you read last year? What are you planning to read this year?

Another Half-Year Goes By – Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag

So far in 2021, I’ve read 30 books and have averaged a 3.8 rating amongst all of them. That’s 3 more books than this time last year and .4 higher. I’m liking a lot of what I’ve read, too!

I made this post last year which was my attempt to take part in the “Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag” that’s popular in bookish/reading communities online. I’m still reading a lot, so I figured I’d go ahead and do it again!

But, before I do, some statistics.

So far in 2021, I’ve read 30 books and have averaged a 3.8 rating amongst all of them. That’s 3 more books than this time last year and .4 higher. I’m liking a lot of what I’ve read, too!

Now for the questions.

Question 1 – Best Book You’ve Read So Far?

I think this title will go to Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. I’ve loved a lot of the books I’ve read, but this is the one that gave me the most… feelings while reading it, and even right after finishing. I’m already in love with Joseph and Jeffrey’s work (see: Welcome to Night Vale), so I think it made loving this book all the easier. Also, it’s a nice intersection of all of my interests in content, I think.

Tied for this spot is going to be Know My Name by Chanel Miller. It was a harrowing autobiography that put into words many things I’ve felt and experienced before. It was painful to read, honestly… but it was supposed to be.

Question 2- Best Sequel You’ve Read So Far?

I’ve only read two series of sequels… so of those, I’m going to give it to Since September by Allison Martine. She’s an indie author we read for Indie Book Club over on Twitter. I was absolutely in love with her first book, Dibs, so my love of the sequel was kind of a no-brainer. But these books will have their own dedicated review, which will allow me to be a little more in-depth.

Question 3 – New Release You Haven’t Read Yet But Want To?

Without a doubt, I’m dying to read The Jasmine Throne by Tasha Suri. I loved reading her novel, Empire of Sand last year (it even featured on last year’s freakout tag!) and the writing was so fabulous that she’s become one of my favorite authors. The fact I now have a chance to read something else of her’s, and that it’s gay, has me ecstatic.

Question 4 – Most Anticipated Release for the Second Half of the Year?

I have two books for this one: Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao and She Who Became the Sun by Shelley Parker-Chan.

Question 5 – Biggest Disappointment?

Okay… I have two, for very different reasons. The first is Rich Dad, Poor Dad by Robert T. Kiyosaki. A disclaimer, I went into this book already knowing I wasn’t going to like it. My father recommended it to me as part of his recent… heavy interest into stocks and investment, which is fine. He even warned me this book would probably make me angry… I just don’t think he anticipated why it would make me angry. Plus, having researched the author before, during, and after reading, I know a lot of this book is a load of shit. Even if it wasn’t, it’s just so…. judgemental of poor and working class people, constantly calling them lazy or focusing on money and being unintelligent cause they can’t get rich… instead of, I don’t know, criticizing the system that puts them in this position in the first place. Then again, the author is a rich man, so of course he would think that way. Plus the writing was soooo painfully repetitive. It would constantly use many words to say the same thing – and in truth, it didn’t say much of anything at all.

The other book I’ll put here was another Indie Book Club read, Tears of a Cowgirl by Jupiter Rose. I don’t normally read Romance novels (capital R romance, different than romantic books) and this book is really all of the reasons why. There will be a dedicated review at some point, so I’ll be brief here, but basically it’s about a woman escaping an abusive ex and starting to fall in love with another guy while said ex interferes and tries to kill her… which can be interesting. However, every single person in this book had the emotional intelligence of wet cardboard. The new love interest is about as stalkerish as the ex and honestly, very fuckin creepy. I wanted to chuck this book across the room, honestly.

Question 6 – Biggest Surprise?

Hmmm… For this one, I’ll say Edge of the Breach by Halo Scot. It’s hard in general to know what books you’re going to vibe with, and I’ve found my experience with indie books in general very… mixed. I’ve found some real winners and also books that made me deliriously angry while reading them… That said, everyone on indie twitter raved about Edge of the Breach until the cows came home, and it eventually became a book club pick in Indie Book Club. And you know what? I loved this book a lot, even if it was incredibly hard to read at times. These characters are very fucked up. Like… There’s a scene towards the end that had me on the verge of vomiting. It’s sometimes that bad.

And yet, despite all of this, I loved this book enough to buy the sequel.

Question 7 – Favorite New Author?

I’m gonna say Chanel Miller, though I’m unsure if she plans to write any more books of any sort. As previously mentioned, the way she was able to recount her journey was written so beautifully. It was painful to read at times, due to how much you can relate to it. I’d love to read some sort of contemporary/literary novel from her. She’d knock it out of the park.

Question 8 – Newest Fictional Crush?

Like I said last year, I don’t really do fictional crushes. I don’t really feel like picking one.

Question 9 – Newest Favorite Character?

Hmmm… I think I’ll pick Keisha Lewis from Alice Isn’t Dead by Joseph Fink. She’s quite relatable in her determination and love of her girlfriend, and in her anxiety.

Question 10 – Book that Made You Cry?

If it wasn’t already obvious, this is going to Know My Name by Chanel Miller. I didn’t actually start crying – it’s a bit difficult for books to make me do so – but I came quite close a few times.

Question 11 – Book that Made You Happy?

This one has two answers. The first is going to be the Spice and Wolf light novels – so far, I’ve read the first three this year. This is a universe I’ve been in love with for years, and it was one of the first animes I watched when I was first starting to watch them. Since then, I’ve been dying to read the light novels or manga and have finally started said process. A lot of what helped these novels make me happy was, yes, the nostalgia and my love of the universe. Honestly, the writing is… uh… It’s not the most avant garde thing out there, but that matters little to me in this case. It was still easy enough to follow along and relive the situations I once saw on Netflix.

The second answer is Kiki’s Delivery Service by Eiko Kadono. I don’t think I need to explain this one too much, but it was an adorable novel regardless.

Question 12 – Most Beautiful Book You’ve Bought this Year?

I’m assuming this is going off of covers. In that case, I’ll say Over the Woodward Wall by Seanan McGuire/A. Deborah Baker.

Question 13 – What Books Do You Need to Read By the End of the Year?

I definitely need to read Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones, and I’ll be doing so next month. Otherwise, the current list of books I need to read is as follows:

  • A Flight in the Heavens by Gabrielle Gagne-Cyr
  • The Ghost Bride by Yangsze Choo
  • Calculated by Nova McBee
  • Going Postal by Sir Terry Pratchet
  • The First Mrs. Rothschild by Sara Aharom
  • Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson
  • The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch
  • Good Omens by Sir Terry Pratchet and Neil Gaiman
  • The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. Le Guin
  • Jade City by Fonda Lee
  • Rivers Run Red by A. D. Green
  • The Throne of the Five Winds by S. C. Emmett
  • American Gods by Neil Gaiman
  • The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern
  • Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
  • Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb
  • The Priory of the Orange Tree by Samantha Shannon

Plus anything else added on by book club. I have a whole queue ahead of me!

But what about you? Have you read anything fun lately? Do you have anything you’re itching to read? Let me know below!