February ’21 Wrap Up: BHM Edition

I can’t believe February is already here and gone! This was an extremely busy month for me but I still managed to get in A LOT of great books! Similar to what I did back in October (created a Spooky TBR, if you’re interested the post can be found here), I challenged myself to assemble an entire TBR that was written by POC authors and had POC main characters. This was one of the best and most impactful reading experiences I have ever had. I deviated a little from the list of books I originally decided on, but that was a strategic shift about halfway through the month. Let’s dive into the books and discuss them a little further!

I got off on a somewhat delayed start because I wasn’t finished with my then current read (The Midnight Library) on February 1st. I’ve owned The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas for a couple of years now and thought now was the perfect time to finally read it. The Hate U Give was emotional, moving, insightful and heartbreaking all at the same time. The story focuses Starr, our main character, witnessing a police officer wrongly shooting (and killing) her unarmed black friend during a traffic stop. The plot then grows from there, discussing racial issues, the court hearing and family dynamics. I don’t typically read contemporary books or a lot of non-fiction. While The Hate U Give is a fictional story, unfortunately, it could easily be based on true events. While this was a difficult book to read, I am grateful for the experience and the additional perspective it provided.

Next up, I read The City We Became by N. K. Jemisin. This was an amazing, engrossing, WEIRD book and I loved every minute of it. The premise was simple: When cities grow large enough, they are “born” and individuals take on the roles of “avatars” for each of the relevant boroughs. Everything about this story was unique and creative – I’ve never read anything like this before. The novel takes place in New York City at the cusp of its birth. Each of its five boroughs (Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens and Staten Island) are awoken in a person from each area. Jemisin does an amazing job with the characterization for each person. They all have a distinct voice and I never found myself accidentally mixing up two characters. While this is an urban fantasy book, there were several racial issues incorporated into the story. I don’t want to go too much more into the plot because part of the fun are the surprises as you get further into the book! If this sound at all interesting, I’d encourage you to give it a try!

At this point, I decided to pivot a bit. My next two books I had queued up were either Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi or A Song of Wraiths and Ruin by Roseanne Brown. I wanted to pick up another contemporary book that dealt with more current day issues. For that reason, I opted for Dear Martin by Nic Stone. Dear Martin falls into a similar vein to The Hate U Give. It follows the main character, Justyce McAllister. Justyce goes to a primarily white school and within the first few pages is wrongly arrested by police. From that moment on, he begins writing letter to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Justyce discusses various race issues and other struggles he experiences throughout the novel (and there are quite a few – things really escalate later in the book). I found the letters to be such a noteworthy addition, that really added depth to this novel. Similar to The Hate U Give, Dear Martin is a fictional story that could easily be non-fiction. Unfortunately, the events in this book are a little too common in today’s world. My only problem with this story was that it felt slightly rushed. There were so many relationships and concepts that I would’ve loved to have seen fleshed out a little more. This also wasn’t a very long book, coming in at around 225 pages, so there was definitely room for this story to grow.

This was not an easy reading month for me but these books are gave me an incredible amount of perspective. The stories were emotional, engaging, poignant and raw. While I’m sure some of the elements included in each of these book was sensationalized, they still addressed many important issues facing the African American communities head-on. I’m thankful that I decided to take on this reading challenge and learned so much from this experience. If you’re reading this post, I’d like to challenge you to pick up one of the books I mentioned in this post (especially The Hate U Give or Dear Martin). If you have a questions about any of these novels, feel free to leave a comment. I’ll do my best to answer and love chatting with you all about books.

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

January ’21 Recap

Well, it’s hard to believe that January is already over! I can’t believe how fast this month flew by. Unfortunately, 2021 still is looking a lot like 2020, but hopefully we’ll be on the upswing in the next few months! I had a relatively good reading month and managed to finish 4 books this month (and completely blew up my planned TBR).

I kicked off the month reading Lord of Shadows by Cassandra Clare. This is the second entry in the Dark Artifices series. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, I absolutely loved Lady Midnight! It was hands down one of my favorite reads last year and probably my favorite Shadowhunter book to date. Lord of Shadows was also a great book! I got to rejoin all of the characters from Lady Midnight. This was also an incredibly fast paced book that flew by at breakneck speeds.

Next up I read Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline. I had seen a lot of questionable and negative reviews leading up to reading this. I won’t spend a lot of time rehashing those thoughts since I dedicated a whole blog post to those feelings already! Long story, short – I really enjoyed this a lot! It had a much strong pop culture trend this time around (vs the more video game centric first novel). If you are at ALL on the fence about giving this book a try – DO IT. I don’t think any of the negativity directed at this book is warranted at all.

I was planning on tackling Queen of Air & Darkness by Cassandra Clare next but decided to deviate and listen to Everything Is Figureoutable by Marie Forleo while also reading The Midnight Library by Matt Haig. I managed to get an Amazon Kindle deal on The Midnight Library and have been DYING to read this since last year, so I had to read this ASAP! Everything is Figureoutable was a really great book to kick off January! Marie was the narrator and that really added another element of relatable. The content in this book wasn’t necessarily new or groundbreaking information but it was presented in a fun and engaging way. Marie’s stories and anecdotes really struck a chord with me. I also found most of the advice extremely applicable – like when you are stressing or worrying over a project or problem, the best way to get over that is action. Thinking back after hearing this, she is 100% right. I have always felt better when I took action on a problem I was facing. Hearing this feedback really just brought the whole concept together.

I am still in the process of finishing up The Midnight Library (but I’ll hopefully be finished by the time this post goes up). This is also another stellar read! Very life lesson-y and philosophical. One thing I’m not crazy about is how the novel romanticizes suicide a bit. I do really like the story, how it’s written and the overall life lesson, though. Probably leaning towards a 5 star read!

Wrapping up, I HIGHLY recommend all of the books included in this recap. I loved them all. I’ll be having a nice February TBR coming tomorrow that will be featuring my Black History Month reads, so be on the look out for that! If you enjoyed this post, take a look at my archive (I’ve written others like this) or follow me here / on Twitter (@ItsMrGeekToYou) for more reading updates!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

Tome Topple: Round 13 / November Recap

As I said in a previous tweet, October was FAST and November turned out to be even FASTER! How is that even possible!? I had an… interesting reading month filled with amazing books and very mediocre books. In total, I read 7 books this month and I’m still on track to hit my goal of 52 for the year! Not only did I get a lot of reading in, I also had the pleasure of co-hosting one of my favorite read-a-thons, Tome Topple (more on that later)!

As I previous mentioned, I read The Witches by Roald Dahl and The List by JA Konrath. Neither of these books were that amazing. The Witches was a rather morbid story but The List was quirky and entertaining. I really enjoy Konrath’s unique writing style. The plots are always inventive and I can’t help by get sucked into his stories!

After The List, I moved onto the masterpiece that is The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by VE Schwab. This book was FANTASTIC and it was just what the doctor ordered! While this wasn’t my typical read, I relished in the world and story that Schwab created. The premise was awesome – to escape her destiny, Addie makes a deal with a “Dark God” to free herself. This deal comes at a cost, no one can remember Addie after they’ve left her presence. Addie lives for over 300 years, roaming the earth, stealing what she needs until one day she meets Henry… and Henry can remember her. For me personally, this book really took shape about halfway through when Addie meets Henry and the “adventure” really begins. The story flowed in such an amazing and poetic way. If you haven’t picked this one up yet, move it to the top of your TBR ASAP.

Rounding out the month, I read a couple self-help books. The Person You Mean To Be By Dolly Chugh and Atomic Habits by James Clear. Dolly Chugh was a featured speaker at a recent work event. I was able to hear her talk and was blown away by how personable and relatable she is. I decided to pick up her book, The Person You Mean To Be, on audiobook because she narrated it. I don’t want to “review” this book because the subject matter isn’t meant to be entertaining – it’s meant to be informative and challenge / stretch your views. Did I agree with all of the ideas presented in this book? Absolutely not. Did these views challenge my to think in different ways and looks at certain topics from a different angle? You bet. This is one of the only books on GoodReads I didn’t give a star rating to because I’d encourage everyone to pick this up and give it a try. After I finished Dolly’s book I moved onto Atomic Habits. Atomic Habits was HANDS DOWN one of the best self-help / development books I have ever read. Clear gives you real, actionable advices for helping you to start new habits or break bad ones. I think what I appreciated the most about his take on habits was very rarely did he make the book about him (i.e. I did this or I struggled to do this) and instead talked to principles and actuality. He was also extremely easy to relate to! I found myself taking notes on ways to implement these strategies in my everyday life (and New Year Resolutions are coming)! If you’re looking for ways to build better habits, give this book a try. I can confidently say you’ll find it extremely useful!

The last couple books I read this month were Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo and The Toll by Neal Schusterman. Clap When You Land was an interesting book and, again, not something that I typically pick up. The story is about two sisters, who don’t know they are sisters, until their father dies in a tragic plane crash. The story is told from each of the girls’ perspectives. Acevedo did an incredible job giving each of these characters a unique voice. There was small nuances and cultural influences that really shown through into each of the characters. My last book I finished was The Toll and that was ONE HECK OF A FINALE. I started the Arc of a Scythe trilogy on New Year’s Day of and made my way through all 3 books over the course of the year. Scythe and Thunderhead (books 1 and 2, respectively) were absolutely incredible. I heard iffy things about The Toll, so I subliminally pushed it off. While it was a little on the long side (there was definitely some fluff that couldn’t been cut out) I found the story to be interesting and engaging. There were some interesting twists sprinkled throughout and I found the ending to be pretty spot on. It wasn’t too perfect or cookie cutter and had just enough grit and uniqueness!

Tome Topple Wrap Up

I was incredibly lucky to help co-host Tome Topple Round 13. I had a blast leading reading sprints and talking books with all of the other readers participating in the read-a-thon. I have to hand it to Sam (from @ThoughtsOnTomes) and the rest of the co-hosts, they do an incredible job running things. I’ve participated in this read-a-thon several times before and never realized how much work goes into creating it! I work in eCommerce for a retailer, so the week of Thanksgiving was a little crazy for me. I ended up finishing my only tome (The Toll) on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Another round is scheduled for February-ish, so I am hoping to topple a few books during that round since life should be a lot calmer then!

We’re well into December, so I’ll be posting a TBR soon and then my year in review wrap up! Hope everyone is staying safe and I’ll back with another post this week!

Until we meet again,
Mr Geek

October ’20 Recap

It feels like just yesterday that I was writing my October TBR post and here we are, at the end of the month! October was a complete blur but it also gave me the much needed taste of normalcy that I’ve been wanting! I was able to finally reconnect with some friends and managed to take a couple little day trips. One of my other highlights this month was co-hosting Dewey’s 24 Hour Read-A-Thon (but I’ll touch on that more later). I read some great books this month and some not-so-great books. Let’s dive in!

I kicked off October reading Pet Sematary by Stephen King. Everyone raves about this being one of King’s best books. While I thoroughly enjoyed it, I felt like I might’ve gone into this with a little too much hype. I found the story to be engrossing and atmospheric but the “horror” elements just didn’t really do it for me. The ending was a little too open for my tastes. I tend to a like a little more closure (unless there’s going to be a sequel). I also watched the original Pet Sematary movie from the 1980’s and the 2019 remake. Surprisingly, I like the 2019 remake more than the original. I felt that the small changes they made to the plot resulted in a better flow overall. After Pet Sematary, I grabbed Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell. This was a fall-themed, graphic novel that I scooped up for $3 on Kindle. I’m not really a graphic novel person, so this was really outside of my comfort zone but I really enjoyed it! The story follows the 2 main characters, Deja and Josiah, High School Seniors who have spent the last several years working together at a Pumpkin Patch. The story takes place during their last night working together before the patch closes for the year (and they head off to college the following Fall). This was a light hearted story and a nice break from my more scary reads.

My month started off strong and then I hit a rough patch which came in the form of Mexican Gothic by Silvia Garcia-Moreno and The Shadows by Alex North. I really enjoyed the first 50 pages (or so) of Mexican Gothic. I was intrigued by the story and was captivated initially but the story sort of bottomed out after that. It turned into an epic slough-fest until the last ~100 pages. At that point, everything started to come together but it was too little, too late for me. While I was reading Mexican Gothic, I also decided to listen to The Shadows by Alex North. Last year, I read his debut, The Whisper Man, which I enjoyed. There were some paranormal elements at the end that were a little cringey and I didn’t love. I almost had the opposite problem with The Shadows, the pacing seemed way too fast and I didn’t really get how everything came together. The overall plot felt a little rushed and, not being an extremely long book, I think it could’ve used another 50 pages to flesh out the plot and really pull everything together. I did enjoy the twist towards the end. It was unexpected and meshed nicely with the overall theme of the book.

As I slid into the latter half of the month, news broke that Showtime was going to be revising the Dexter TV series, bringing it back in the Fall of 2021 for one more additional season. I was a HUGE Dexter fan but the series finale in 2013 really left me with a bad taste in my mouth. I started the books but never pursued them further than the first book. Once I heard they were bringing Dexter back, I thought what better way to continue my reading theme than with a re-read of Darkly Dreaming Dexter by Jeff Lindsay. I opted for the audiobook, since I originally read this… probably 10 years ago. It was a nice refresher and I’m definitely going to continue the book series now to help prepare for the TV premiere next year!

This past week, I read City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab. It. Was. Fantastic! I love Victoria Schwab’s writing so much and have no idea why I put this off as long as I did. The story was entertaining, engaging and eerie. The story revolves around a teenager, Cassidy Blake, who has a near-death experience that results in her being able to see ghosts. I tore through this book and couldn’t put it down (literally finished it minutes before starting to write this post). It’s Halloween, so I thought what better way to end the month than by reading The Witches by Roald Dahl. This book is extremely short and I’m hoping to knock it out today (I’ll be starting that shortly after finishing this post). HBO Max recently released a movie version of The Witches and I thought it would be worth giving it a quick re-read before watching the movie (I probably read this 25 years ago… queue feeling old).

Overall, I had a VERY successful reading month. I’m still on track to hit 52 books by the end of the year. I needed to read at least 6 this month and I’ve read 7 (if I include The Witches). I also have an audiobook currently in progress that I’ll probably finish in the next couple of days and another book that I started back in April and just can’t motivate myself to finish (The Shadowhunter’s Codex, it’s a supplement book to Cassandra Clare’s Shadowhunter Chronicles – it reads like a textbook and isn’t required to understand any of her other books). I’ve already been thinking about what books I want to read for November and have a nice TBR already set! Stop back tomorrow to check out that post!

How was your October? Read any good books or have thoughts / questions about my reads? Do any fun, non-book related activities? Leave me a comment – you know how much I love to chat!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek

September ’20 Wrap Up

The last thing I remember is writing my September 20′ TBR post, I blinked and now the month is over! Generally speaking, September was extremely enjoyable. My pumpkin addiction is off to a strong start, I spent most of my time reading with a Starbucks’ Pumpkin Cream Cold Brew in one hand and a book in the other (not a sponsored post, but… Hey Starbucks, if you’re looking for a book influencer partnership, hit me up). The temperate has dropped these last couple of weeks and for the first time in ages, we’re having some Fall temperatures in Pittsburgh. As my golf season began to wind down, my reading season ramped up. I read a lot of great books this month and stuck, mostly, to the TBR I set for myself! Let’s jump into my reads!

I kicked off the month with my ARC of Wendy Walker’s new book, DON’T LOOK FOR ME. This was a fantastic thriller that I absolutely tore through. The premise was very interesting and engaging. As I started to get closer and closer to the end, I had to know what was going to happen (and ended up reading 200+ pages on a Sunday afternoon so I could finish it). Take a look at my full review here. While I was reading DON’T LOOK FOR ME, I also was listening to the audiobook of Bossypants by Tina Fey. I am a HUGE Tina Fey fan but was quite disappointed in her book when I first read it nearly a decade ago (it hurts saying that). A friend from work recently recommended the audiobook so I thought I’d give it another go and I’m really glad that I did! Fey narrated the audiobook and it really added to the overall story. Her tales felt more personal and it was so much easier to connect with her.

After that first set of books, I moved onto The Vanishing Stair by Maureen Johnson. I read Truly Devious last year and thought it was an ok book. My biggest gripe was that it felt like a really, really long book that was broken into 3 parts. By the end of book 1, I had more questions than answers and felt extremely satisfied. I really enjoyed The Vanishing Stair much more than Truly Devious. The plot felt like it started to come together better and I started seeing the end in sight. I’m planning on picking up The Hand On The Wall sometime soon so I can polish off this series by the end of the year. After The Vanishing Stair, I detoured from my TBR to read The Girl Who Drank The Moon. Regan, from PeruseProject on YouTube, read this book earlier in the year and completely raved about it. I was able to get this book for a steal on Amazon and decided to pick it up and read it immediately (very unlike me). This was a middle grade book but I thought the story was well done and very engaging. The characters were likable and I was a little surprised by the twist towards the end!

As the end of the month was approaching, I decided to dive into the audiobook of Camino Winds by John Grisham and the eBook of The Last Flight by Julie Clark. Last year, I read Camino Island. It was my first Grisham novel and it was… fine. I wasn’t overly impressed. The story was interesting and kept me engaged but the end definitely had my scratching my head saying “That’s it?!” Going into Camino Winds, I expected to a get a little resolution that I was lacking from Camino Island. I was extremely disappointed. This book revisits some of the characters from the previous entry but overall it was its own story. It really could be considered a stand alone novel. There was hardly any overlap in story and the few nods to book 1 weren’t critical information. It was an entertaining and engaging read but overall, I wasn’t really impressed. I’m not quite finished with The Last Flight at the time of writing this post (~60% done) but I am thoroughly enjoying it! I was itching for an addictive thriller and this is definitely hitting the spot. This book is also told using dual timelines, which I LOVE. The perspective shifts each chapter between present day and roughly 6 months ago. I’m hoping to finish this up by Friday so I can dive into my “Spooky” TBR over the weekend.

What did you read in September? Anything good? Anything terrible? Sound off in the comments with TBR recommendations or books I should steer clear of! As always, be sure to follow me on Twitter and add me on GoodReads (@ItsMrGeekToYou on both sites)!

Until Next Time,
Mr Geek