The Mid-year Freak Out Tag, or The “Rachel, Why Are You Posting This Just Now? It’s Already Mid-July” Post

Mid-year BT

I know, you don’t have to tell me the date. I’m posting this mid-year freak out thing halfway through July. June has been a really busy month for me at work. The flu vaccines that we ordered were delivered and blah, blah blah…you don’t want to hear about it. I’m not griping. I actually love working at a clinic setting. As an occupational health nurse, I have more independence here compared to when I was working in a hospital.

This year has been good for me in all aspects. That includes reading and my life as a reader of course. Here are some of the highlights of my year so far:

🍂  Coming back from my hiatus: I’ve been blogging about books since 2013, but had a long hiatus (5 years) before finally coming back last April. I consider myself lucky that I still have readers, and that I’ve gained new ones. The bookish community has always been a friendly and supportive one. Know that I consider all of you my friends 🤗 🤗 🤗

🍂Breaking my writer’s block: I have had the worst writer’s block the past year. No matter how long I stare at my laptop’s screen nothing comes out, so it really feels so good to just be writing again.

🍂Finally getting myself a new bookshelf: I’m bad at keeping myself away from bookstores and, as it is, I’ve accumulated a ton of books, more than half of which I haven’t yet read. For some months, they were stacked in my room’s floor (okay, maybe there were 3 stacks *cringe*) This new bookshelf will keep my babies safe and protected.

SO, yay me! *pats own back* Anyway, before I go talk you into sleep, here’s how the first half of the year has been for me as a reader. I hope you enjoy reading my answers as much as I enjoyed thinking and writing them up.

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How many books have you read so far?

28 (and still counting) 😁

My ultimate goal this year is to actually get out of my comfort zone and read more books from other genres. I love sci-fi and fantasy. Books from these two closely related genres are definitely easier to get into for me. But I’ve noticed that more than 50% of the books I’ve finished last year were from either of those two genres (not that I’m complaining) so spreading my wings a bit, so to say, is my target this year. I think I’m doing great so far.

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What is your reading goal for the year?

A modest 40 books.

I used to set a very ambitious 100-200 books years ago (I was young okay!) but learned my lesson.

That 40-book goal is actually a step up from last year’s 30 and 2016’s 20, which I both surpassed. I’m hoping I’ll be able to reach my goal again this year, but if not, then it’s really no big deal. Hey, as long as I get to read books I’m happy. It ain’t no contest. (Yes, younger self, that goes out to you! 🙄🙄🙄)

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Best book you’ve read so far

Sadie by Courtney Summers. This is, hands down, Courtney Summers’ best book so far. Sadie is so unapologetically dark and gripping. I can’t recommend it enough. Here’s a link to my review if you want to read more about how this book messed me up.

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Best sequel you’ve read so far

Hmmm…tough one. 🤔 I’d have to give it to Dark Triumph, the second book in Robin LaFevers’ His Fair Assassin trilogy (which I loved) but War Storm by Victoria Aveyard comes at a very close second.

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

Definitely Children of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adeyemi. It’s been receiving a lot of buzz, the most recent of which is being featured on The Tonight’s Show book club as their first read. Plus, I’ve heard great things about it so I’m really excited to read it just as soon as time allows me to sneak it into my TBR pile.

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Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Wildcard (screams) I just have to know what happens next especially after that ending in Warcross!!! (I requested for a review copy of this but was declined. Penguin semi-hates me.)

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Biggest disappointment

Ghosted by Rosie Walsh. I don’t want to explain it again so here’s my review. (I’m still amazed I finished it. Oh well 😑)

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It’s a tie between A Thousand Beginnings and Endings edited by Ellen Oh and Elsie Chapman, and The Wars of the Roses: The Fall of the Plantagenets and The Rise of the Tudors by Dan Jones.

Anthologies, generally, are a hit-and-miss for me, with more misses than hits, but this collection of re-tellings of Asian myths, legends and folklore turned that around. I loved most of the stories in it, and it just felt so good to read one centered on my people and our culture. It’s another step towards diversity in books.

Okay, now my nerd is going to come out. I loved Dan Jones’ The Wars of the Roses. It’s about, as the title suggests, the fall of the Plantagenet kings and the rise of the Tudors. Did you know that Owen Tudor married Catherine of Valois (Henry V’s widow & Henry VI’s mother) in secret because they were not allowed since Owen was Welsh? I sure didn’t. It was interesting to learn more about how the Tudors came to power in England. Plus, Dan Jones’ books are just so easy to read, it’s like reading a story only the story he is telling happened in real life. (Addendum: Dan Jones has a few documentaries in his portfolio. You should check them out. I think his Great British Castles docu-series is a great place to start. Another addendum: He’s really cute! 😍)

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Favorite new author (Debut or new to you)

Kristina Pèrez. She’s a debut author and she just released her first book, Sweet Black Waves, last month. It’s a re-telling of the ancient Celtic legend Tristan and Iseult. It’s swoony, and full of magic and alludes to Celtic culture. I enjoyed her work a whole lot and now waiting (impatiently) for the sequel to come out next year.

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31179006Newest fictional crush

While no one will ever replace Tobias Eaton in my heart, (He’s still my ultimate book boyfriend and not just because he is played by the gorgeous Theo James in the movies. Brave, smart, patient and kind – he’s just the whole deal) I have found two new book boyfriends the past 6 months. Gavriel Duval from Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers and Prince Tristan of Kernyv from Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pèrez. Those two just make me swoon. 😍😍😍

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Newest fictional character

The broken but still fierce Sybella d’Albret from Robin LaFevers’ Dark Triumph. My love for this baby is more than a truckload. I just want to hug her and cheer her on as she gets her revenge on the people who hurt her.

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Book the made you cry

Sadie. It made me cry ugly, angry tears for what has been done to Sadie. Really guys, I couldn’t wait for it to come out, so you could read it already. Let’s commiserate together after you guys are done with it, okay?

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Book that made you happy

My Plain Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton and Jodi Meadows. It’s such a funny and sassy re-telling of Jane Eyre.

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Favorite book to film adaptation you saw this year

Sharp Objects. It’s not really a movie, a limited series on HBO, and it’s only on its first episode but it’s soooo good. Plus, Gillian Flynn, the “Gillian Flynn”, herself, wrote for the series.

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Favorite review you’ve written this year (so far)

A Thousand Beginnings and Endings because it was one of my most detailed ones and, personally, I still find reviewing anthologies hard. Here’s the link to it if you want to check it out.

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Most beautiful book you’ve bought (or received) so far this yearws

War Storm. You can only imagine the happiness and pleasure I get from seeing all four RQ books + Cruel Crown together on my shelves. You have one happy girl here.

(P.S. I want that crown!!! 👑👑👑)

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What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

🍂  Cruel Prince : I have this now. Oh, the cover is soooo pretty!!!

🍂  Six of Crows and Crooked Kingdom : I just can’t seem to find this in my local bookstore. I might have to order it from Book Depository. But I am definitely going to read this within the year.

🍂  Carve the Mark and The Fates Divide : I actually started on Carve the Mark but am putting it back on hold. It’s the kind of book you need a lot of time to read. I’m reserving it for December when I will go on a bit of a leave from work and blogging (just one week, y’all) for the holidays.

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There you have it! The first half of my 2018 has been productive so far. Here’s to a more bookishly fruitful last half. Cheers! 🥂🍻

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Rachel

Review: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton’s “My Plain Jane”

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Title: My Plain Jane (The Lady Janies #2)

Author/s: Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows, Brodi Ashton

Publisher: HarperTeen/HarperCollins

Publication Date: June 26, 2018

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Pre-order it:
IndieBound | Book Depository | Barnes and Noble | Amazon | Books-a-million

(Digital ARC provided by the publisher thru Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review)

I’ve read My Lady Jane a year ago and it was a riot! It was unexpectedly good – funny and witty and magical. I loved how Cynthia Hand, Jodi Meadows and Brodi Ashton “re-wrote” history and gave the tragic (and victimized) Lady Jane Grey a happy ending, one she rightfully deserves. I thought it was a one-off, so when I heard that the trio of authors will be releasing not one but two more books for the Lady Janies series, I was ecstatic.

My Plain Jane is the first of these two Janies books, and just like in MLJ, the trio of Hand, Meadows and Ashton re-wrote another famous Jane’s story – this time picking a beloved classic Jane Eyre. 

You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Goodreads

Reader, it amused!

My Plain Jane mashes up parts of Charlotte Brönte’s life and the general plot of her classic novel to make an interesting new story that sort of looks more like the lovechild of the all-female Ghostbusters movie and the source material. MPJ, like the book it follows, is still funny, outrageous and ridiculous, full of witty asides and authorial comments on literay and cultural norms.

The focus on strong female friendships is this book’s best asset. Jane’s friendship with Helen (Pst…she’s still dead here just like in canon but she’s still best friends with Jane. Go figure how that one works. I won’t spoil it for you.) and Charlotte is the best asset of this story. I love how both Helen and Charlotte support Jane, how they call her out when she does something not so smart and how they are still there for her even after she made mistakes. It’s a picture of healthy female friendship, something I wish I see more in YA.

The additional characters also hold their ground in this book, making things a bit more complicated for our beloved Jane. There’s Alexander Blackwell, the star agent of the Society for the Relocation of Wayward Spirits, who pursues Jane to offer her employment with the Society. Arthur Wellesley, the first Duke of Wellington and also the apparent leader of the Society, a man who has stood as Alexander’s father figure but hides a sinister side.  And, oh, have a I mentioned that Charlotte’s younger sisters and brother also join the show?!?

While being familiar with Jane Eyre will definitely make some of the jokes and puns make better sense, reading it is not a requirement. I actually haven’t read JE, yet I still enjoyed reading this book. I actually think it helped more that I don’t know the source novel that much as it was easier for me to suspend my disbelief. I think the only criticism I have against MPJ is its pacing. It moved a bit too slow for my liking in the first dozen or so chapters but it picks the pace up around halfway through the book.

Pacing issues aside, My Plain Jane is still a thoroughly enjoyable read. I definitely recommend this for readers who are looking for something light and fun (and funny.) Readers who love a little supernatural in their romance will also like this book.