A VERY BELATED Mid-Year Freak Out Tag + 2020 Goals Check-In

2020 reading goals banner(1)Yes, I hardcore procrastinated on this post, so I guess it’s now a two-thirds-of-the-year check-in and freak out!? Eh, I guess it at least fits my theme this year of procrastinating on all my wrap-up posts, right? Bonus points for staying on brand? Or at least for making ya take a second look when you saw the notification pop up in your email and making ya wonder “doesn’t this child know it’s nearly September??!?”.

I do indeed know it’s August and now nearly September, but I refuse to not write this post. Fingers crossed I don’t embarrass myself too much with my progress (or there lack off) on my goals. Originally I was going to only look at the first half of the year, but that sounded like extra work, and for the sake of making myself feel more accomplished 💪, I’m going to factor in everything I’ve done so far in 2020.

Also, I have no clue which version of the tag I’m doing. I pulled most of the questions from the tag I did last year, then added a few other cool ones I saw from other blogger’s posts this year.


Mid-Year Freak Out Tag:

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2020.

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The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell

This novel was one of the most unique, incredible, and thought-provoking books I have ever read. It tackles grief, trauma, science fiction, spirituality, and Christianity/religion (and you most definitely don’t have to be religious or Christian to read it–it challenges religion repeatedly). This book also features a great found family, and aaahhhh, it was just so amazing.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2019.

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The Tea Dragon Festival by Katie O’Neill

Technically more of a companion than a sequel, but I’m counting it! This series is so cute, beautiful, and includes a lot of diverse representation! I can’t until I can get my hands on the third one!

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to.

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A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

I ordered this from a local bookstore because I had heard great things about it and tbh because I wanted that gorgeous cover! Contemporary fantasy is not usually the subgenre I gravitate to, but I can’t wait to dive into this one! (please appreciate that cliche, minor pun)

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year.

How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories by Holly Black

Written in the Stars by Alexandria Bellefleur

Oooh, it’s so hard to pick only one! My cliche answer would be How the King of Elfhame Learned to Hate Stories, but my hopefully less stereotypical second answer would be Written in the Stars. Of course I’m excited for more Cardan, but I’m also dying to get a hold of this sapphic P&P retelling!

5. Biggest disappointment.

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Telling Secrets by Frederick Buechner

I had to read this memoir for class. Though memoirs aren’t my go-to genre, I’ve found that I’ve enjoyed them more and more lately, but this one was such a struggle to get through. Which was especially aggravating because the book itself was only 106 pages!

6. Biggest surprise.

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Ash by Malinda Lo

This was technically a reread for me (though I technically read it like 9 years ago so I had forgotten most of it), and I know I’ve said this before, but wow, how did baby teen me not appreciate this book?!?!? It’s sooooooooo good.

7. Favorite new author. (Debut or new to you)

Anna Stone! She writes f/f BDSM erotic romances. I discovered her during my KU trial and devoured all of her books. They’re such light and fun (and smutty, of course) reads and honestly just what I needed to get through the end of college and these weird times. You can now bet your biscuits I’ll read everything she ever writes! I think I would have to say that my favorite of hers so far has been Behind Close Doors, which is a sexy office romance with a slight mystery twist!

8. Newest fictional crush.

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Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Ooooh, this is hard. Probably Nathaniel from Sorcery of Thorns. What a sassy, charismatic sorcerer…

9. Newest favorite character.

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Let’s Talk About Love by Claire Kann

Alice from Let’s Talk About Love! I’ve already raved about her multiple times, but ughhhhhh, I want her to be my friend so bad.

10. Book that made you cry.

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A Million Junes by Emily Henry

I’m not a big crier, but I was definitely tearing up at the end of this novel! It’s a whimsical and atmospheric book with a cute romance that also tackles grief and dealing with the realization that your idealized memory of someone doesn’t live up the reality of them.

11. Book that made you happy.

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House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Of course I couldn’t get through this post without mentioning a SJM book! This book was such a fun read and honestly a great distraction when America finally realizing we were in a pandemic back in March.

12. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received).

The Deep by Rivers Solomon

Circe by Madeline Miller

Picking a single book for an answer is so hard! The Deep has one of the most mysterious and intriguingly beautiful covers I’ve ever seen. I also finally bought myself a copy of Circe this year so I can reread it in the future and ughhhh, it’s also such a pretty book.

13. Favorite Book to Movie Adaptation.

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Oooh, either Little Women or The Witcher. Though I haven’t actually read any of The Witcher books, so I guess I’ll go with Little Women! I finally read the classic in February for my book club and then my friends and I saw the adaptation right before it left the theaters! I won’t give any spoilers, but how they framed the ending…so amazing!

14. Favorite 2020 Blog Post of Mine.

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So far, I think I’m most proud of my post about motivating yourself to write during a pandemic. *waves arms pathetically* Writing and motivation are so hard, so I made an attempt to inspire both myself and others!

15. Favorite Review I’ve Written in 2020.

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Ohhh, this is hard. I’m pretty proud of my (gushing) review of Girl, Serpent, Thorn!?

16. What book(s) do you need to read by the end of the year?

Ermmmm, so many. But the first ones that come to mind are the An Ember in the Ashes series by Sabaa Tahir. I STILL need to reread the first book and then continue on to the second and third in preparation for the fourth book releasing at the end of this year.


2020 Reading Goal Check-In:

1. Read 50 books!

As of August 25th, I’ve read 37 books, which Goodreads says is 5 books ahead of schedule! Though I was hoping to be a lot more ahead, I’m still technically on track, so I’m counting it as a success. ✅

2. Read as many of my already owned books as possible.

By ‘owned books’ I mean books acquired prior to 2020 (and that are copies that I haven’t read before). So far I’ve managed 5 books, which is not ideal, but better than none. With covid/quarantine and whatnot, I was hoping to focus more on my owned books, but alas, that still has yet to happen. 🤷

And of the 36 (physical & electronic) books I’ve acquired this year, I’ve only read 8. 😬

3. Read at least ten 2020 releases

Including a novella I just finished the other day, I’ve read 10 2020 releases, so I’ve actually already completed this goal! ✅✅

4. Reread at least 5 books

So far I’ve reread 2 books, which is pretty impressive for me! Usually I get distracted by new-to-me books, but I’ve been feeling nostalgic lately, so hopefully I can reach 5 by the end of the year. I even made a TBR of books I wanna reread the other day, so fingers crossed I continue to feel inspired to reread!

5. Finish at least 4 series

Currently only at 1, but hey, it’s better than none? In case you’re curious what the series was, it was LOTR, because my Tolkien class read the entire trilogy. Thank you college for helping me with my reading goals! 😆

6. Read a variety of genres (and age categories)!

genre breakdown of books read so far in 2020 (as of August 2020)

As you can see, Fantasy is still my main genre, but romance (specifically erotic romances lol) have really been helping me get through the year!

Age category breakdown of books read so far in 2020

I think this is the first time ever that YA isn’t the highest section? But I guess it makes since with all the romance books I’m reading (which are very much adult/NA).

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I also had some other writing/blogging/life goals for 2020, but ya know…we don’t need to check-in on those. 😅


How are your goals going so far? Have you read any of the books I mentioned?

Pssst, if there are anyone you out there who also didn’t do the mid-year freak out tag earlier, and still want to, I tag you!

 

Blog Tour Stop: Lobizona by Romina Garber [ARC Review!]

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I am so honored that I was gifted an eARC of Romina Garber’s Lobizona and given the opportunity to be a part of this blog tour arranged by Wednesday Books! This novel was such a fun and addicting read, and I can’t wait to tell you more about it below!


ABOUT THE BOOK

Lobizona_Front coverLOBIZONA

by Romina Garber

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Release Date: August 4th, 2020

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Paranormal

Age Category: Young Adult

SYNOPSIS

Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past—a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.


REVIEW

Romina Garber’s Lobizona sucked me in and didn’t let me go, to the point where I could barely part with it for more than a short period at a time and ended up devouring the majority of the book in a single day.

My favorite part of this novel was the numerous themes that Garber wove into the story. Not only does she chronicle the daily struggles of being an undocumented immigrant, but she challenges misogyny and systems rooted in a gender binary through the paranormal world of witches and werewolves. Alongside this, we see Manu struggling with the personal battles of taking control of her own destiny and happiness, finding a place where she fits in, and learning how she wants to make her mark on the world.

Another one of my favorite aspects was the Argentinian folklore–inspired paranormal world that Garber crafted! Enchanting details of this world threaded their way onto every page, causing me to fly through the book at an increasing speed. I will say that some areas of the worldbuilding did feel a bit lacking in depth, but this may be a combination of me devouring the book and missing details and Manu still learning about the world. I cannot wait to see this magical world further explored in the sequel!

And not only did Garber bless us with this captivating, hidden world, but she gave us a fellow book nerd and fangirl as a protagonist! As Manu spent most of her days home-schooled under Perla (a grandmother figure in her life), it’s clear how important literature has become to her. Throughout the novel, Manu regularly compares herself and her circumstances to literature, whether it’s Harry Potter or Jane Austen. Another thing that I adored about Manu (and her friends) was that they’re unapologetically feminists, repeatedly challenging micro-aggressions and gender stereotypes. ALSO, there was a surprise f/f side couple (and potentially some additional queer characters that have yet to come out) that just made me so happy!

The only thing that I found that didn’t work for me was the insta-love romance. Manu is quickly drawn and infatuated with her love interest, and I think I would have preferred to see her more focused on exploring this new world of brujas and lobizones. The two seemed to make a decent couple, but I just wished their timeline hadn’t been so rushed.

Overall, I adored this book, and I definitely recommend it to lovers of YA, witches, werewolves, or paranormal fantasy in general! Lobizona is a beautifully balanced book between its relevant conflicts, fun boarding school setting, and captivating worldbuilding, making it a valuable contribution to the YA curriculum.

Trigger Warnings: a misogynistic and homophobic society, sexism, a brief physical assault, a capture and physical abuse by ICE

Rating: 4 stars

“…so, are you my book?”

“I have captivated you so that you won’t be able to stop howling about me for awhile.”


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Romina Garber_Credit Drew Bordeaux

ROMINA GARBER (pen name Romina Russell) is a New York Times and international bestselling author. Originally from Argentina, she landed her first writing gig as a teen—a weekly column for the Miami Herald that was later nationally syndicated—and she hasn’t stopped writing since. Her books include Lobizona. When she’s not working on a novel, Romina can be found producing movie trailers, taking photographs, or daydreaming about buying a new drum set. She is a graduate of Harvard College and a Virgo to the core.

Social Links: Twitter | Instagram


Are you excited to read Lobizona? If you’ve already read it, what were your thoughts? Let me know down in the comments!

July Wrap-Up: Wrote 60K Words for Camp NaNo and Drank Way Too Many Sugary Coffee & Tea Drinks

monthly wrap up

I’m both sad and glad July is over! July was a crazy month in that I spent most of my mental and creativity energy (and motivation) on my Camp NaNo project (and thus accomplished like nothing else). My writing buddy and I quickly realized we were most productive during the morning, so I started almost every day with an early writing session. Though I loved the routine of it, my sleep schedule was less appreciative. (My taste buds on the other hand, quite adored all the food and drinks I was bribing myself with.)

In terms of reading and blogging? July was much less productive. Once again, I read 4 books, which is on track with my reading goal, but not quite as much as I was hoping to get through. I’m finding myself reading in spurts more and more now, and less so on a regular basis–I’m keeping my fingers crossed I can reverse this shift in August!


BOOKS READ:

two books, 'Sorcery of Thorns' and 'I, Coriander' lying against wooden panels with a tiny tea cup between them

1. Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

Rating: 4.25 stars

I’ve put this book on so many TBRs and I finally read it! Rogerson crafted an intriguing and gorgeous world and I WANT MORE! This world has such promise for further exploration and I could easily see a dozen companion books written in it! *crossing all my fingers and toes for at LEAST one companion* I LOVED both Nathaniel and Silas’ characters, but tbh I wasn’t much of a fan of the MC, Elizabeth. She was okay, but gave me a lot of ‘stereotypical YA heroine vibes’. Regardless, the story was so fun and addicting and I definitely recommend it!

Buddy-read with the amazing Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den
(My first successful buddy-read! Would have been the second but I failed Sammie back in February, whoops)

2. I, Coriander by Sally Gardiner

Rating: 3 stars

A reread of a book that I originally read in 2009! (I even checked my library’s checkout history to confirm this fact). Definitely noticed some more problematic elements this time around, which is often my fear with rereads. It was still a fun, quick read with some rather unique characteristics, but I’m not sure if it’s one I’ll continue to recommend to others.

3. Pretend You’re Mine by Laura Conway

Rating: 3 stars

This was a super fun f/f romance novella that I devoured in a day (before my KU subscription ended, haha)! It was so cute to see Lauren and Jackie pretending to date while secretly harboring crushes for one another. I adored it, though I do admit the plot was a little lacking (aka there wasn’t much of one).

4. Flunked by Jen Calonita

Rating: 3.5 stars

This was a cute, quick MG read! I’m a sucker for anything related to fairytales, especially when they involve overlapping retellings. I did find the worldbuilding a bit lacking and vague, but with 5 books following it, this issue will likely get addressed. Though I intend to use August to focus on ARCs, I may have to squeeze the next book into my agenda.


Life Updates:

  • I participated in Camp NaNo! (And that was basically my entire month right there, eek)
    • My goal was to complete a 50K new, revamped first draft of an old story idea, and I surpassed my goal by writing a total of 60K words! I’m going to take a break from writing for a couple of weeks before going back and figuring out how to re-plot the monstrous hot mess of a story.
    • Binge-wrote 6.7K words on the last day of July in an attempt to give my draft a semblance of an ending, and wowza, was I dead afterwards!
    • Would not have survived Camp NaNo if it were not for my writing buddy (and all the sugary coffee & tea drinks we bought, lol)! We literally met up every day of July for writing sessions (outside, of course). I totally would have dissolved into a bemoaning puddle of mush if it wasn’t for her. ❤

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  • ‘Celebrated’ the 4th of July by attending a protest!
  • Was able to see more of my old high school friends at a couple of socially-distant gatherings at parks this month! It was so lovely to see their faces and talk with people who aren’t my family, lol.

Posts by Other Bloggers That I Enjoyed:

  • Jaime @ Jaime Writes Words and Waffles posted a review of The Crow Rider that makes me eager to return to The Storm Crow duology!
  • Destiny @ Howling Libraries wrote a review about Emily Henry’s Beach Read. I didn’t think I could get any more excited about the book, but Destiny’s review did just that!
  • Kay @ Hammock of Books shared some of her spreads from her first year of bullet journaling! Her spreads are so cute and pretty and ahhhh, now I’m itching to attempt to draw something and/or buy a bullet journal.

AUGUST TBR:

I’ve actually made a separate post for my August TBR, if ya wanna check it out! In honor of ARC August, I’m planning on dedicating most of the month to reading ARCs!


How was your July? Did you participate in Camp NaNo? Are you writing anything currently? What are your plans for August?

ARC August 2020 TBR! | Will I Actually Manage to Read My ARCs?

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Welp, it’s that time again! Is it weird that I’ve sorta been looking forward to ARC August all summer in order to catch up on my ARCs? Like, I don’t know why I think it isn’t fitting to regularly read ARCs, but alas, here we are. 😅

Eek, this is embarrassing because there are still some books on here from my August 2019 TBR….

I have 8 ARCs listed below, but since I have only been getting through about 4 books a month lately, I’m not sure how realistic it is to expect me to get through all of these?!? BUT I am taking a short break from writing now that Camp Nano is over (and thus going to try to focus more on reading), so I am still hoping to read the majority, if not all of these books! *crosses all fingers possible*  🤞🤞

For those of you who don’t know: ARC August is an annual, month-long read-a-thon dedicated to reading & catching up on ARCs. It is hosted by Read.Sleep.Repeat.


Netgalley e-ARCs:

  • Lobizona– I’ve mentioned this on a lot of recent lists lately and that’s because my stop on the blog tour is just around the corner! I actually started this the other day (yay me!) but I need to continue chipping away at it! The beginning already has hooked me & I’m excited to return to it!
  • The Silvered Serpents– Omg, because this release date got pushed back, I’ve actually had this ARC since last fall! But now that the release date is approaching in September, it’s time for me to finally get around to it. Thinking I should probably reread The Gilded Wolves first tho…
  • The Unspoken Name– LOL, so this book has actually been sitting on my ‘currently reading’ shelf since February and I don’t think I’ve actually picked it up since…oh, February. Originally it was a buddy read with Sammie @ The Bookwyrm’s Den but then I totally failed and never got past the first quarter of the book, whoops…

Physical ARCs:

the books 'Ballistic' and 'A Queen in Hiding' standing against a green wall with a tiny pink tea cup in front of them

  • A Queen in Hiding– Won this ARC in a Goodreads giveaway at the end of the last year (it released in January) and I don’t know why I haven’t read it yet?!? Especially since it has such a pretty cover and is about a magical queen forced to become a guerilla fighter!
  • Ballistic– This is an unsolicited ARC from 47North that I received earlier this year. It’s actually a sequel, so I had to go back and read book 1 first. I finished book 1 at the end of June and now I’m curious to see how the series will continue!

Extremely Old ARCs From 2019:

the books 'Gravemaidens,' 'Voices,' and 'Two Girls, a Clock, and a Crooked House' lying against a blue and white blanket

And oh, what do ya know? I’m even reusing the picture I used last year! Yes, these are the ARCs I had on this TBR in 2019! 😅 I got these ARCs from a publishing internship I had last spring (2019) by picking them up from various ‘take shelves’ (which are shelves where employees/imprints put extra ARCs/books they don’t want and anyone is welcome to take from). I may or may not have gotten these books on Good Friday when the PRH building was like 95% empty and scoured the ‘take shelves’ on every single floor with children’s/YA imprints. 😆 But despite this adventure, have I read most of the books I picked up? Errmmm, no.


What books are you hoping to read this month? Are you also participating in ARC August?

If anyone has any interest in buddy reading any of the books I mentioned above, please let me know!