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It’s happened: I’ve become old and jaded and grumpy. Hm – maybe not quite, but definitely tired.

My reading tastes have changed, and changed most dramatically over the course of the past year or so. I used to gravitate toward Chinese novels like 一生一世,美人骨 by 墨宝非宝, Japanese novels like 東京レイヴンズ by あざの 耕平 and 心霊探偵八雲 by 神永学 and 魔法科高校の劣等生 by 佐島 勤, and English books a la Mythos Academy by Jennifer Estep and Penryn & the End of Days by Susan Ee and Death Sworn by Leah Cypess. Grand books in the largest of senses, on the biggest of stages, saving the world from one large tragedy or another, be it publicly or silently. Teenage superhero novels, if you will, with a dash of romance.

I still enjoy those types of novels. But lately, more and more, I’ve found myself gravitating toward another kind of read, and noticed this especially when I attempted to clean up my to-read list on Goodreads. Recently, it’s been Breathe, Annie, Breathe by Miranda Kenneally and The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand; 你是我的荣耀 by 顾漫 and 我不喜歡這世界, 我只喜歡你 by 喬一; 魔女の宅急便 by 角野 栄子 and 窓際のトットちゃん by 黒柳 徹子. Recently, it’s become quieter books – in a sense – books about saving yourself. I’ve gravitated toward character-driven stories, about learning about yourself, about growing up, and about growing old. (It probably has roots in the changes and experiences in my own life, but I’m hardly about to start playing armchair psychologist.)

In an attempt to tackle my ever-ballooning to-read list, I tried blowing through a couple reads over the past few weeks, but found that some of the books I would’ve been so excited and in love with three, four, five years ago, when I first purchased/received them, no longer struck the same chords. It’s… a little strange? A little sad. A little nostalgic, even. Not to mention, I’ve tumbled ass-first out of the typical YA age bracket, and some of the books have, inevitably, begun to feel a little less relatable, and a little less “for me” – because they aren’t quite, not directly, not anymore.

(I wish we could make the NA bracket A Thing.)

But, there will always be books, and more books, and entire sections and genres of books to explore. A shift in reading tastes is nothing groundbreaking, really, and hardly profound. It was just interesting to have shifted like so, slowly, without noticing, and then to have suddenly, via cleaning up my to-read list on Goodreads, turned around and looked back the way I came – and noticed. Woah.

别那么骄傲 by 随侯珠
Published September 2015 by 花山文艺出版社
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★★★☆

Chatting in the dormitory at night, roommates wonder how much pain Aunt Flow brings. Mr. Perfect He Zhi Zhou has never bothered joining in on these petty talks for amusement. That is, until he became a woman and laid in bed with a white-cast complexion……

Chatting in the female dormitory at night, roommates sighed over the current pairings in the school of engineering, Shen Xi was a little curious that the problem with these topics is that there was no way to test them. Until she became an engineering male and a bar of soap dropped in front of her……

Introduction in one sentence: About how a top-scoring perfect male with no desire in the opposite gender and an amusing female lead were set up like lightning setting the ground on fire spreading out of control—leading to a sweet and rippling life……

Life is so long, don’t be so arrogant. Some things are bound to deviate.

The first half was fluffy and silly and fun. HZZ really did end up drawing the short end of the stick in all this chaos, both his and SY’s reactions to everything were hilarious, and the way the author just… shamelessly and boldly charged headfirst into everything that differed between the male and female experience… I’m screaming. I did feel a lot of sympathy for LYT, but, maybe in part because we’re seeing this through SY’s eyes, I do feel like he had it coming, and that SY deserved a lot better than him. It did really feel like he only started trying to put in the effort once HZZ came into the picture, and once he realized that SY had other options, ones arguably better than him – only when he felt threatened. And while the latter half of the book took on a slightly repetitive pattern, and with a few questionable elements, it made for a nice, lighthearted read, and I really appreciated how steadfast the main couple was, even through their small squabbles and silliness. TL;DR I’m weak for fluffy, happy, silly stories and 别那么骄傲 was just that.

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur
Published November 4th 2014 by Createspace
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

milk and honey is a collection of poetry and prose about survival. It is about the experience of violence, abuse, love, loss, and femininity. It is split into four chapters, and each chapter serves a different purpose, deals with a different pain, heals a different heartache. milk and honey takes readers through a journey of the most bitter moments in life and finds sweetness in them because there is sweetness everywhere if you are just willing to look.

I liked some of the poems, others felt rather incomplete – it was a pretty underwhelming read, despite the emotion and conviction behind every single word being pretty darn powerful. I don’t know how to feeeeeel.

Spider’s Revenge
(Elemental Assassin #5) by Jennifer Estep
Published September 27th 2011 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Old habits die hard. And I plan on mur­der­ing some­one before the night is through.

Killing used to be my reg­u­lar gig, after all. Gin Blanco, aka the Spi­der, assassin-for-hire. And I was very good at it. Now, I’m ready to make the one hit that truly mat­ters: Mab Mon­roe, the dan­ger­ous Fire ele­men­tal who mur­dered my fam­ily when I was thir­teen.

Oh, I don’t think the mis­sion will be easy, but turns out it’s a bit more prob­lem­atic than expected. The bitch knows I’m com­ing for her. So now I’m up against the army of lethal bounty hunters she hired to track me down. She also put a price on my baby sister’s head. Keep­ing Bria safe is my first pri­or­ity. Tak­ing Mab out is a close sec­ond.

Good thing I’ve got my pow­er­ful Stone and Ice magic — and my irre­sistible lover Owen Grayson — to watch my back. This bat­tle has been years in the mak­ing, and there’s a chance I won’t sur­vive. But if I’m going down, then Mab’s com­ing with me…no mat­ter what I have to do to make that happen.

There’s a plot there, somewhere, under all that repetition. In hindsight, the “army of lethal bounty hunters” feels way over-exaggerated, as does Gin’s skills – she keeps messing up perfectly good shots! I know she beats herself up for it and knew she screwed up, but it ends up feeling like cheap twists to stretch this one hit into a full-length book, and it doesn’t quite work for me. The fight sequences are still cool, though, and the last quarter or so of the book really picked up the slack.

Heart of Venom (Elemental Assassin #9) by Jennifer Estep
Published August 27th 2013 by Pocket Books
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

When a terror from the past threatens Gin’s friend and body-disposer, Sophia, Gin will stop at nothing to protect her, even if it means walking straight into a killer’s trap. Meanwhile, the rocky romance between Gin and Owen reaches a turning point—can they reunite and rekindle their love? Or will the things Gin has been forced to do in her line of work as the deadly assassin the Spider keep them apart forever? Assuming, that is, she survives long enough to find out…

I’m pretty sure you could read any book in the series at random and still know everything that came before courtesy of all the recaps. They’re not bad reads! But Estep has a formula, and she follows it to a T every single time; the same quips, the same story structure, even the same recaps. And especially after nine books, it gets old. Also, idc what he attempts to pull now – Owen’s never going to be able to bounce back from the mess he made for himself. It’s nice to get some closure on what’s been haunting Sophia and Jo-Jo for decades, and with that, I think this is as good a place as any in the series to stop.

Rookie Move (Brooklyn Bruisers #1) by Sarina Bowen
Published September 6th 2016 by Berkley
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

In high school they were the perfect couple—until the day Georgia left Leo in the cold…

Hockey player Leo Trevi has spent the last six years trying to do two things: get over the girl who broke his heart, and succeed in the NHL. But on the first day he’s called up to the newly franchised Brooklyn Bruisers, Leo gets checked on both sides, first by the team’s coach—who has a long simmering grudge, and then by the Bruisers’ sexy, icy publicist—his former girlfriend Georgia Worthington.

Saying goodbye to Leo was one of the hardest things Georgia ever had to do—and saying hello again isn’t much easier. Georgia is determined to keep their relationship strictly professional, but when a press conference microphone catches Leo declaring his feelings for her, things get really personal, really fast….

The romance was gumdrop-sweet and fluffy, and I loved the assembly of supporting characters. But I really wasn’t on board with the way the rape element was handled. Also, oof, the treatment of Leo’s exes was just. not. not great.

Lord of the Abyss (Royal House of Shadows #4) by Nalini Singh
Published November 22nd 2011 by Harlequin
Source: Library
Rating: ★★★☆☆

Once upon a time…the Blood Sorcerer vanquished the kingdom of Elden. To save their children, the queen scattered them to safety and the king filled them with vengeance. Only a magical timepiece connects the four royal heirs…and time is running out.…

As the dark Lord who condemns souls to damnation in the Abyss, Micah is nothing but a feared monster wrapped in impenetrable black armor. He has no idea he is the last heir of Elden, its last hope. Only one woman knows—the daughter of his enemy.

Liliana is nothing like her father, the Blood Sorcerer who’d cursed Micah. She sees past Micah’s armor to the prince inside. A prince whose sinful touch she craves. But first she has to brave his dark, dangerous lair and help him remember. Because they only have till midnight to save Elden.

It’s a bit of a departure from the Nalini Singh books I’m used to, the pacing was uneven in places, and I wasn’t super on board with some parts of the ending, but the characters were varying and interesting and I liked the directness of their relationships – it felt refreshing, in a sense.

I go through periods when I read no books, and then periods when I’m just reading aaaaaall the books I can get my hands on. It’s a very all-or-nothing fluctuation that I’m sure must be awful for all my Goodreads friends, whose timelines are, every other month or so, full-on spammed with all the books from whichever genre-related obsession I’ve fallen into this time. Shoutout to all my Goodreads friends for putting up with my bullshit.

These past few weeks, in the true spirit of my always falling into genres years after the hype has died, I’ve been really into Adult Urban Fantasy – vampires, werewolves, romance, you know it, you know it. And man, those series that started around 2010 are long. Couple that with my series-related commitment issues when it comes to picking up book two and subsequent stubbornness when it comes to finishing series I’m at least two-books-deep in, and the result is, well, this.

The Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh was my first UF love. I was kind of? disappointed? in the stories featuring Dimitri – the ending development felt like such a cop-out to a love-story that had so much potential – and Venom – Singh is one of my favorite favorite writers but the whole story felt like a sad deflated balloon of recycled elements – but even then they were a solid two stars. And while Raphael and Elena are my favorite couple, Naasir and Andromeda are a close second. I was all caught up on the series a few years ago, but with my recent UF kick, I discovered that a lot of authors had side-stories and extra scenes! So, apologies to my GR friends, but I spent an entire afternoon binge-reading all the extras in shorts. Afternoon well spent 😉

Naturally, then, Psy-Changeling was my second love. I didn’t speed through the whole series like I did Guild Hunter – I feel like Guild Hunter has more of a strong linear story, whereas Psy-Changeling, though it the storyline is very much present, features a different couple in each book, and so it’s easier to start and stop and hop around books within the series. I’d covered the OG couples years ago, but had skipped around a bit then, so a few weeks ago, I took to binge-reading the entire series in order, extras and shorts included. And. Guys! The shorts? You all know I’m cynical as hell, but even cynics can be romantics, and, well. Heart of Obsidian will always be my favorite entry in this series, but everything else? Thumbs up thumbs up thumbs up!! I think at this point, I’ll read just about anything Nalini Singh puts out.

So after my Nalini Singh binge-read-fest, I was craving some more series with kick-ass UF heroines. My cousin recommended me the Night Huntress series – I remember seeing Jeaniene Frost’s name everywhere at one point, and so many people had so many good things to say about the series on Goodreads but it ended up being pretty lackluster? A lot of the books were slow and draggy and most of the characters’ personalities were based on one specific point, which didn’t make for the most dynamic read. I also ended up reading the Night Huntress World series, unaware until halfway through book two (I know… how?) but I ended up liking those two books even less than the main series. Vlad had been my favorite character in Night Huntress, so I tried – and finished – the Night Prince series, but Vlad went from charming and funny to a pretentious asshole and I wasn’t at all on board with that.

The Kate Daniels series though!! And the Hidden Legacy series! They were exactly what I was looking for after bingeing Nalini Singh, and Ilona Andrews is quickly becoming another author I’d read anything from.

After that, I tried D. B. Reynolds’s Vampires in America series, but it was super formulaic, and the formula was pretty lacking in substance, and honestly, every book wrapped up neatly enough, so I felt no real compulsion to finish.

I remember really liking Jennifer Estep’s YA series Mythos Academy, and my cousin was really into her Adult Elemental Assassin series for a while, so I decided to give that one a try, and… It wasn’t that the series was a terribly bad read – a lot of the action cuts are fun! But Estep’s really fond of her recaps, and the deeper into the series you go, the more recaps she pads her books with, until it feels like 90% of them are recaps, and then it just feels daunting to have to wade through all that to get to the main story – especially when the recaps feel copy-and-pasted from previous books’ recaps. It’s a lot. And on top of that, the male love interests go from bad to worse, and then to The Worst. There are seventeen books currently published, and I made it up to the ninth book – Heart of Venom? – which neatly wrapped up many of the initial plot threads and, in light of everything else, seemed like a nice place as any to end.

Goodreads told me I’d read Some Girls Bite and Friday Night Bites, the first two books in Chloe Neill’s Chicagoland Vampires series, but honestly I couldn’t really remember anything, but the rest of the series kept popping up on my recommended list, and it seemed like the kind of series I was looking for, so I gave it another try. Everything up to book four Hard Bitten was really nice! The secondary characters were numerous but unique and interesting, and Merit’s character was interesting to follow. I really like the episodic, scooby-doo reads, tied together by some overarching story – this way, each read has a satisfying end, and then the series has a satisfying end, and then that’s double the satisfaction! But then everything started going downhill with book five, Drink Deep: Merit’s character gets thinner and thinner with the growing focus on romance, Catcher and Mallory’s relationship with Merit soured drastically, and Ethan became a bumbling megalomaniac.

I also read the first book in the Mercy Thompson series – Moon Called? a while back and wasn’t a super big fan, but I’ve heard such great things about Mercy Thompson, and even more about Alpha & Omega, it’s spinoff series, so I decided to give it another shot! The series was definitely more of an acquired taste for me – the way the author writes and organizes her elements is… different? Not sure how to explain it. It’s interesting, though, because Alpha & Omega was definitely the series I enjoyed better upon the first read – and therefore the series I rated most highly – but Mercy Thompson is the one I go back to reread scenes from. I’d definitely recommend both for fans of the genre, though!

(That is if you’ve been living under a rock like me.)

(Welcome to my rock.)