A Year of Reading

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? I spent far too much time trying to fix something unfixable before I realized it was Amazon’s fault, so it’s late and I’m cranky. In other words, this post is just going to be a lazy one. It’s a recap of what I’ve read this year, plus the last two I plan on finishing. It’s pretty much what you would expect from a reading list from me.

1. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling. It’s still my favorite of the series.

2. One Poison Pie by Lynn Cahoon. You can see my review here.

3. Take Joy by Jane Yolen. It was a nice little craft book, but nothing spectacular.

4. Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire by J.K. Rowling. A little more rambling than I remembered, but still in my top three HP books.

5. The Echo Wife by Sarah Gailey. You can see my review here.

6. Dark Shadow by Danielle Rose. A good series.

7. Vasilisa by Julie Mathison. You can see my review here.

8. Dark Descent by Danielle Rose. A good series.

9. Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix by J.K. Rowling. Probably in the bottom three of my favorite HP books.

10. Down World by Rebecca Phelps. You can see my review here.

11. Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling. Somewhere in the middle of my favorite HP books.

12. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling. Probably my least favorite HP book.

13. Folklorn by Angela Mi Young Hur. You can see my review here.

14. Dark Power by Danielle Rose. A good series.

15. Death in Bloom by Jess Dylan. You can see my review here.

16. Fatal Fried Rice by Vivien Chien. I love this cozy mystery series.

17. The Southern Book Club’s Guide to Slaying Vampires by Grady Hendrix. I was super disappointed by this one.

18. Bound for Murder by Victoria Gilbert. A little description heavy, but a cute cozy series.

19. Walking Through Needles by Heather Levy. You can see my review here.

20. Watch Her by Edwin Hill. The series is on the darker end of the cozy spectrum and worth checking out.

21. Just One Look by Lindsay Cameron. You can see my review here.

22. A Crafter Hooks a Killer by Holly Quinn. A cute series, but nothing special.

23. Murder in the Village by Lisa Cutts. You can see my review here.

24. Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw. A lovely read, if a bit predictable.

25. A Time to Swill by Sherry Harris. Another cute series.

26. Snow, Glass, Apples by Neil Gaiman and Colleen Doran. Beautiful illustrations, but the fairy tale retelling was just meh.

27. The Orphan Witch by Paige Crutcher. You can see my review here.

28. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell. I freaking loved this book and I have no idea why. It’s not my usual genre, but it gave me all the feels and I can’t get over how much I enjoyed it.

29. The Christmas Dress by Courtney Cole. You can see my review here.

30. Murder Always Barks Twice by Jennifer Hawkins. Another super cute cozy series and it features a corgi.

31. Storm the Earth by Rebecca Kim Wells. I probably should’ve re-read the first book in this duology, but things eventually came back to me. Definitely recommend it.

32. Flying Angels by Danielle Steel. You can see my review here.

33. Midnight Spells Murder by Mary Angela. It’s not a bad cozy series, but not great.

34. Currently Reading: Shackled Fates by Thilde Kold Holdt. I am in love with this trilogy so far.

35. Currently Reading: A History of Wild Places by Shea Ernshaw. I couldn’t find a book I wanted to review this month, so I decided to buy Ernshaw’s newest book and review it later this month.

Thoughts on DOWN WORLD

Howdy, howdy! How’s everyone doing? Dad got his first shot of the Pfizer vaccine yesterday. I’m going to get mine today (wish me luck). If you’re trying to schedule one via the CVS website, all I can tell you is to ignore their lists of availabilities and actually go through the process of trying to schedule an appointment, then try at least three or four nearby zip codes/cities (for some reason our closest pharmacy only showed up when I searched for Forney, a neighboring city, instead of our own zip code and the pharmacy I’m scheduled at only showed up under our zip when it’s apparently in Sunnyvale). Do this multiple times a day. And be prepared to be told that you can’t make the first appointment without making the second one too, which is sometimes available and sometimes not. It’s a ridiculous process. Good luck.

Anyway, I’m way off topic. It’s the last Wednesday of the month, so it’s review time! I honestly only requested this month’s book because the cover was kind of thriller-esque. It turned out to be more soft sci-fi, which was a nice change. Down World by Rebecca Phelps was released yesterday (March 30th) from Wattpad Books. As usual, I must thank them and NetGalley for access to an ARC in exchange for an honest and unbiased review. So, let’s get to it.

Nice cover.

Down World follows Marina as she enters a new school and struggles to leave her past and the death of her brother behind her. When she realizes her new crush, Brady, and her brother’s old friend, Kieren, are hiding something, she finds herself in the middle of a weird new reality: doorways to different planes of existence, the potential of her brother actually being alive, and somehow it all connects back to her mother. As Marina delves deeper into these secrets, she has to face the past and make some difficult decisions that might completely change her present.

I called this soft sci-fi because even though the science is discussed, it feels shaky at best. The characters are unsure of what’s going on and just guessing themselves, so the science feels like guesswork to the reader. I’m okay with that. I don’t mind letting the fiction drive the story. But I do know people who prefer hard sci-fi where the science drives everything and is possible. I don’t think this book is for them. But for my fiction-with-a-dab-of-science folks, this book had some definite Coraline (but for an older audience) vibes to it that were fun.

Yes, let’s go through the weird door.

The plot was okay. It had some nice twists and turns along the way. It wasn’t exactly surprising, but it wasn’t super predictable either. I figured out a lot early on, but there were a couple of things I didn’t catch until closer to their reveals. It was enough to keep the story interesting for me. At least moreso than the characters. They were all pretty flat and could’ve used some fleshing out. I just never really felt they were people as much as stereotypes. So yeah, the plot carries this story more than the characters.

My biggest issue with this book was the pacing. The first third was beyond slow despite the lack of description (the whole book could’ve used more descriptions to help us picture the places and people). The second third felt really rushed, though I admit the description was better. Things didn’t seem to find a good rhythm until the last third. That’s always kind of annoying to me even though I know I’ve been guilty of it too.

Are we going fast or slow or what?

The writing itself was fine. It wasn’t exactly memorable. I finished the story a few days ago and am already having trouble remembering the finer details. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t great. No lines stuck out for quotes or anything. However, it was a fairly smooth read.

Ultimately, Down World just wasn’t my cup of tea. It’s a standalone, so I don’t have to worry about reading another one. It does have the potential for other books set around the same premise, like a series of otherwise unconnected stories, but I won’t be looking for them if that happens.

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Overall, I gave it 3 out of 5 stars. If I’m being super honest, it’s 2 and a half stars. If you like YA sci-fi, you might enjoy this. I just happen to like books that are more fleshed out.