What I’ve Been Reading // a bookish wrap-up of the past 4 months

Hey y’all! Welcome back to the blog. It’s been a loonnngggg time since I’ve mentioned what I’m reading so I thought it would be good to just wrap-up all the books I’ve read in the past 4 months.

For the first few months of school, I wasn’t really reading much. But since November or so, I’ve started reading a lot more thanks to many recommendations *cough* some of which were against my will! by some friends. Most of it has been middle grade which is kind of funny to me because I have always been against the idea of reading “kids’ books”. But my opinion has changed and I think middle grade is a pretty fun genre that is kind of innocent and pretty sweet.

I also read quite a few historical fiction novels back in September and one fantasy, so it’s been kind of a diverse mix of genres not really, but let me pretend it was.

So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what I’ve been reading!

The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder by Sarah J. Harris | ◈◈◈◈◇

I finished this at the start of August. Five whole months after I borrowed it.

It’s honestly thanks to COVID that I even finished it, otherwise I would have returned it back in March and never read it. But because lockdown started in March, I got to keep it for five months, and I only read it when the library opened back and I had to finally return it. I found the concept interesting, but it was just not fascinating enough to get me to keep reading.

I’m not even sure why I gave it 4 stars. It literally took me five months to finish it. My ratings are such a mystery to me sometimes.


The First Wave by James R. Benn | ◈◈◈◈◇

I started this series in July, and this was the second book. It’s not anything remarkable really, but I liked the setting of World War 2, and Billy can be funny at times. I also really liked Kaz, and all the other side characters, so it motivated me to continue with the series.

It was basically just like a comfort read, so I liked it.


Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys | ◈◈◈◈◈

This was the second book I think to make me cry this year.

I don’t cry while reading books. Obviously, yes, I have done so but it doesn’t happen often, and until a year ago, it never happened.

But this book? It made me cry. Three. Different. Times. The suffering and hardships that Lina and her family went through, that all the other side characters that she gets to know went through, the utter pain and cruelty of it broke my heart. It was an amazing book, maybe dry and slow at times, but overall, the story it told, and the emotions that come with it made it a definite 5 star for me. It was just so amazing, and I highly highly recommend it.


Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein | ◈◈◈◈◈

Another five star historical fiction that had me on the brink of tears. No tears spilled over, but it was very close.

It was slow. And boring. And it dragged. But the end of it? It completely made up for that and I found it absolutely perfect. The story, the characters, the intricate tale that was told was so amazing and the way things ended made me so sad.

(just a note: if you want to make me cry, just give me a historical fiction book that’s sad. I can nearly guarantee that it’ll get five stars and break my heart)


The Wicked and the Just by J. Anderson Coats | ◈◇◇◇◇

This book was a heaping disappointment. I was already wary because the cover just didn’t seem promising, but I was looking for historical fiction, and the synopsis didn’t sound so bad. Plus, it was about a period of English history that I actually didn’t know, so I decided to give it a try.

I immensely regret that decision. Cecily was rude. Not just rude, but rude. I don’t know, maybe I just haven’t read a proper mean girl villain in a while but I found her completely annoying, rude, and just awful. And the plot itself was really eh. One second Cecily and Gwenhwyfar are enemies, the next they could possibly be friends. And it flip flops again.

Have I said Cecily is an awful main character? She manipulated everyone, even her father, to get exactly what she wanted. I hated her for what she did to Gwenhwyfar’s brother. How dare she. And then a “twist” (I’m pretty sure that’s what it was supposed to be) happened and Cecily changes and I don’t know, but am I supposed to feel sorry for her now? Pfft.

I originally gave this two stars. But after that little rant, I think it only deserves one star. So one star it is.


More to the Story by Hena Khan | ◈◈◈◈◇

This was such a cute retelling of Little Women, and I really liked it. Jameela was a great main character and I liked her sisters a lot. I also love her friendship with Ali and how she learned and grew as a journalist. She honestly reminded me a lot of myself at times, and it makes me remember why I also loved Jo in the original classic.

It was just so cute and wholesome, and I would really recommend it!


An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir | ◈◈◈◇◇

After much prodding by a friend, I finally read this and I have mixed feelings.

Laia was really eh. I didn’t like her very much. Elias on the other hand was pretty interesting, and I liked him, Helene, and the school. Even though his mom is creepy. And the school is creepy.

Plot wise, it was okay. It was nothing very unique really, but it wasn’t bad.

It was just really mediocre and I don’t have many strong feelings. I’ve been told that the rest of the series is better, so we’ll see about that. Hopefully, I’ll read the second book next month.


Maisie Dobbs by Jacqueline Winspear | ◈◈◈◈◇

This was very slow and it doesn’t really deliver on the mystery aspect. It’s more like a book to explain who Maisie is and how she came to be the person she is. I wasn’t expecting that, so it did lose a star for the lack of a strong mystery, but I did enjoy her backstory once it gained a little traction.

And it was a little sad towards the end, so that may have pulled my heart strings too. Though, I now have a few reservations regarding Maisie’s explanation of why she didn’t do something, but overall, it was great.


Saving Savannah by Tonya Bolden | ◈◈◈◇◇

Savannah was a frustrating main character. On one hand, I thought she was sometimes cool. On the other hand, she has this really annoying attitude that she’s better than everyone because she sees that it’s wrong that she’s entitled and others aren’t.

The problem is that she uses that attitude in a way like she’s doing somebody a favor by helping the less fortunate or she’s on a moral higher ground or something for doing so. And she spends quite a lot of time complaining about how the rich African Americans are so out of touch with the ones who aren’t so well off, and that they are shallow and everything when she could be using that same time that she’s complaining about them to actually talk to them and see if they share her views.

That’s her main problem. She complains about them but never actually talks to them to see if perhaps, they also are too afraid to admit that they care about helping the poor too. She just judges them and acts like she’s better. Which was really annoying. The story and plot itself was ok, though I wish Yolande had a bigger part, especially since some chapters were from her POV. I have no idea why she even had chapters from her POV. They were just a few paragraphs long and then it was followed by Savannah’s monologues.

I also didn’t like the writing because the sentences were kind of awkwardly cut off. There were things like:

He, hair salt and pepper well beyond his temples, in tuxedo with tails, silver vest, high-stand wing-tip collared shirt, top hat.

and

She paced instead.

The minutes a weight. Time a tease.

They’re just not complete and it annoyed me a lot. So, overall, it was a really meh book.


Meg & Jo by Virginia Kantra | ◈◈◇◇◇

I really did not like how this retelling went. At all. It definitely doesn’t have the same sweet innocence of Little Women which it’s supposed to be retelling.

If you haven’t read Little Women and plan on doing so, then skip to the next mini review! This will be spoilery.

So, I still don’t like the Jo and Bhaer pairing in the original book, and I don’t like it in this one either. And why did Trey (who’s supposed to be Teddy/Laurie) have such a minor role? All he wanted to do was get Jo to be back with him which was frustrating because we didn’t get to know him at all. Meg was kind of authentic I think, and I did sympathize with her quite a bit, but I wish she’d just talked about her issues sometimes. Beth and Amy are so forgettable. The daddy issues is something I do no recollect from the original and it kind of annoyed me. The only way it was similar was because of Jo’s strong headedness, and the way the family was structured. Everything else was kind of flat and not really well done.

For a modern retelling, it was pretty meh and I didn’t like it all that much.


Double Vision by F. T. Bradley | ◈◈◈◈◇

I love Linc! He’s so funny, and quite the troublemaker. It was really nice getting to know him and how he got mixed up with Pandora, and seeing him trying to succeed on his first mission without having any idea how to be a secret agent.

Ben is annoying. He’s like a stiff sergeant who’s been bottled up and forced into a 12 year old’s body. He doesn’t even sound like a 12 year old to be honest. But overall, it was a fun middle grade adventure.


Mrs. Smith’s Spy School for Girls by Beth McMullen | ◈◈◈◈◇

I really love the idea of this school and the secret spy society that it has. It reminds me a bit of Gallagher Girls by Ally Carter, but a more middle grade version. I love the boarding school setting, the strict headmaster, the annoying but cool tech guy, and the two very loyal best friends.

Abby’s mom though could have been a lot more helpful with the mystery, but it was very interesting nonetheless and I really liked the plot.


Stormbreaker by Anthony Horowitz | ◈◈◈◇◇

Sigh. The only reason I read this book was because a dear friend very strongly suggested I read it.

I resisted.

It was futile.

And so I read it.

Alex is so perfect and so awesome and so amazing and I did not like him. He doesn’t have enough emotions for me, so I couldn’t feel sorry for him. And he’s just too awesome and perfect and I didn’t like it. The plot was okay; I did guess some things, but overall it wasn’t bad. So it’s really more like a 2.5 rounded up to a 3.


Power Play by Beth McMullen | ◈◈◈◇◇

I’m not sure why I gave this a three. It was pretty good, and I still enjoyed the characters and the plot.

Izzy was super cool even if she was a little bit implausible. I wish she’d had a more major role in the story (maybe even joined their team?) but alas that did not happen. Maybe in the next book it might. But other than that I loved the friendship building and trust that they all had in each other, and I’m so excited to start the next book soon!

So yeah. That’s pretty much everything I’ve read in the past four months. As you can see, November was Middle Grade month, and September was Historical Fiction. I’ve also started a new fantasy and sci-fi series this month, so it’s safe to say that my reading has done some expanding since the start of the year. No longer am I just the mystery girl, but also a historical-fantasy-sci-fi-middle-grade-spy-fiction girl. That’s quite the mouthful but I love it!

Have you guys read any of these? What did you think? What has been your favorite book recently? Any recommendations for more middle grade and historical fiction (especially if it has spies!! and boarding schools!!) books? I’m finally off for winter break, so this is the time to properly binge-read.

Share your musings and recommendations in the comments below!

23 thoughts on “What I’ve Been Reading // a bookish wrap-up of the past 4 months

  1. I’ve gotten more into reading middle grade books as well these past two years! And I feel like I’ve discovered a lot of new favorites as a result of branching out from my usual genres. Code Name Verity is also one of my favorite historical fiction books. I barely read historical fiction but that book just had me sobbing. For middle grade book recs – I’d recommend Nevermoor byJessica Townsend and Whichwood by Tahereh Mafi. Nevermoor seems pretty popular but I haven’t really heard anyone talk about Whichwood lately which just has one of the most unique premises I’ve seen so far. It’s beautifully written and quite powerful. I really enjoyed it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Historical Fiction is one of my favorite genres, so I’d recommend you try Code Name Helene as well and The Book Thief. Both broke my heart. Honestly, almost all WW2 books break my heart 😢
      Thank you so much for the recs! I’ve had Nevermoor recommended to me, but I don’t think my library has it so I haven’t read it. But I’ll definitely look into Whichwood as well!

      So sorry for the very late reply!

      Like

  2. I’ve heard a lot of things about Ruta Sepetys’ books and how they can be very emotional. I really have been meaning to try them out for a while and there are quite a few out there, but it definitely sounds like I will need some tissues. Historical fiction is always good for making you cry, haha !!
    Well you’ve definitely heard this but I do think the ember series getting better as the series goes on as well. The third book has been my favourite so far and I’m currently on the fourth !! So I hope you find that to be the same if you carry on.
    I haven’t heard of most of the other books so it was interesting to hear about that and what you thought. I often turn to middle grade when I want a quick, happy book to read and it always works, haha !! Happy reading 💛

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yess, tissues are necessary lol. The annoying thing was that the last time I cried in Between Shades of Grey, I was not expecting to. It just came out of nowhere, and I burst into tears 😂 The tears weren’t actually necessary because what I thought happened didn’t, but I started crying before I realized that lol.
      I will be carrying on since I planned a buddy read for the rest of the books next month, so that will hopefully help me like it better. I hope you love the fourth one too!
      I’m glad you enjoyed reading it!! And yes, MG is the best feel-good-innocent-and-sweet-yet-still-adventurous genre!
      Happy reading to you too! ✨❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. ooh sorry to hear you weren’t in love with an ember in the ashes! i’ve heard such good things about it and i’m starting the series next year, but like you, i’ve heard that the rest of the series is a lot better than book 1 so hopefully we both end up loving it. more to the story looks like such a fun book, i really need to read middle grade more often!! hope you’re having a great month <33

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Ahhhh! It feels like ages since I’ve last commented!! I took a break because of exams etc but I’m back now 😄

    I’m so sad you didn’t enjoy An Ember in the Ashes as much as me. For me, th first book was the best and it went slightly downhill…☹️

    Between Shades of Grey was heartbreakingly beautiful!!! 😭

    Alex Riders is classic for me. I love those books

    You know how much I love middle grade lmao so I’m quite excited that you’re getting into the genre 😄

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha lol, it’s been ages since I’ve done any post beside an LTB lol. It’s okay, I’m glad you’re back!!
      lol, hopefully, it’ll get better for me? The first book was just really in the middle in a way, and I expected more from it I guess. And I didn’t like Laia, she struck me too much as a typical YA heroine, which isn’t bad, but maybe wasn’t what I was in the mood for really. Elias though and what was happening with Helene and all was interesting.
      Ikr! It still hurts 😥
      I hope I get to the level where I at least really like the books because so far I don’t feel that much for Alex lol.
      Aww yess, I’m going to go back and see if any that you’ve recommended before are available so I can read them. It’s a pretty nice genre lol

      Like

    1. I’ve only read another book by Sepetys and that’s The Fountain of Silence which was also really good, so I’ll look into Out of the Easy! I think I’ve heard of Guernsey Literary, but I’m not sure, so I’ll look them up. Thank you for sharing!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love reading middle-grade books! It is my favorite genre! Currently, I am obsessed with the Keeper Of The Lost Cities series, but if you visit my blog I am sure you will find many more middle grades😊

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Aww!! I loved going through this! Alex Rider, of course, was my favorite on this list lol, but some of these books, that I’ve never even heard of, sound really intriguing and I’ll definitely give them a try!

    (Like More to the Story and some of the historical fiction)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I was a huge Alex Rider fan back in middle school but I haven’t reread them since! I’ve been debating whether or not I want to pick them up again, but I’m starting to think no because I don’t think I’d find them as charming and exciting :/

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I guess if you loved Alex the first time, it might be easier to reread, but for me reading it for the first time now, I find it really…annoying to say the least lol. The author is not the best when it comes to characters, so it’s hard to find it amazing. It might also be better to not reread it just to protect those happy memories you have of the series 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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