Review: Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan

34433755Series: Girls of Paper and Fire #1
Pages: 400
Publisher: Jimmy Patterson Books
Release Date: November 6th, 2018
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
Each year, eight beautiful girls are chosen as Paper Girls to serve the king. It’s the highest honor they could hope for…and the most demeaning. This year, there’s a ninth. And instead of paper, she’s made of fire.
In this richly developed fantasy, Lei is a member of the Paper caste, the lowest and most persecuted class of people in Ikhara. She lives in a remote village with her father, where the decade-old trauma of watching her mother snatched by royal guards for an unknown fate still haunts her. Now, the guards are back and this time it’s Lei they’re after — the girl with the golden eyes whose rumored beauty has piqued the king’s interest.
Over weeks of training in the opulent but oppressive palace, Lei and eight other girls learn the skills and charm that befit a king’s consort. There, she does the unthinkable — she falls in love. Her forbidden romance becomes enmeshed with an explosive plot that threatens her world’s entire way of life. Lei, still the wide-eyed country girl at heart, must decide how far she’s willing to go for justice and revenge.

I really don’t know what I was expecting going into this. I was thinking it would be more like Wither by Lauren DeStefano, where these girls are selected to be more like brides for the king, and I was expecting more of a competition aspect in that they’re all fighting to be the chosen Paper Girl. I was wrong.

The premise of this book is dark, be warned. Each year eight Paper Girls are chosen to basically join the Demon King’s exclusive harem. They are selected against their will, trained in the ways of the court, and expected to perform for the king. Their duties reminded me quite a bit of The Handmaid’s Tale, though they are not trying to get pregnant. They’re chosen to be the playthings of a vicious and paranoid ruler whose monarchy has ruled for the past 200 years.

When Lei is brought to the palace, she is determined to rebel in any small way she can. What she doesn’t expect is to make friends, and even fall in love with one of her fellow Paper Girls.

This world is so richly developed. There’s a map at the beginning but it’s only of the palace itself. Still, I was able to picture the entire kingdom of Ikhara so perfectly. There are three castes in this society: Moon, Steel, and Paper. The Moon Caste are demons, half human half animal, and make up the upper class and the nobility. Steel Caste is a little closer to human but still have animalistic features. Paper Caste are purely human and are the lowest of the low. The descriptions of the palace and the gowns and even the food are so detailed and beautiful that I was completely immersed in this world. The descriptions of the Moon Castes were so detailed and eerie. One of the main characters is an eagle woman whose face narrows into a beak and who has feathers down her arms that, when extended, make up huge wings. There are wolves, foxes, bulls, and even lizards. Watching the way these different creatures interact in a formal court setting was fascinating.

Lei is an excellent main character. She really struggles with missing home and her family while also starting to feel comfortable in court and make friends, and then with the guilt that comes from starting to feel happy away from her family. She wants to be compliant and do her duties as a Paper Girl to keep her family safe but is also horrified by what’s expected of her and wants to fight against it.

All of the side characters are equally excellent. Wren, Aoiki, Zelle, and Tien are so richly developed that you can’t help but feel for them. The slow revelations we get alongside Lei as we learn about Wren was written so wonderfully, it felt so genuine.

Honestly, this book was just incredible. Some definite trigger warnings include: forced sexual activity/sexual assault, violence, and cruelty to animals (brief), so be aware of those going in. If those don’t deter you, I highly recommend picking this up.

_Tia

Review: An Affair of Poisons by Addie Thorley

40046019._SY475_Series: N/A
Pages: 391
Publisher: Page Street Kids
Release Date: February 26, 2019
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
After unwittingly helping her mother poison King Louis XIV, seventeen-year-old alchemist Mirabelle Monvoisin is forced to see her mother’s Shadow Society in a horrifying new light: they’re not heroes of the people, as they’ve always claimed to be, but murderers. Herself included. Mira tries to ease her guilt by brewing helpful curatives, but her hunger tonics and headache remedies cannot right past wrongs or save the dissenters her mother vows to purge.
Royal bastard Josse de Bourbon is more kitchen boy than fils de France. But when the Shadow Society assassinates the Sun King and half of the royal court, he must become the prince he was never meant to be in order to save his injured sisters and the petulant dauphin. Forced to hide in the sewers beneath the city, Josse’s hope of reclaiming Paris seems impossible―until his path collides with Mirabelle’s.
She’s a deadly poisoner. He’s a bastard prince. They are sworn enemies, yet they form a tenuous pact to unite the commoners and former nobility against the Shadow Society. But can a rebellion built on mistrust ever hope to succeed?

Wow. An Affair of Poisons. This was amazing.

I hadn’t heard of this until I stumbled upon it at Barnes & Noble. I think they might have put it out before its actual release date? I purchased it February 19th and the Goodreads release date says the 26th, so I don’t know what happened there. I went to Barnes & Noble after surprise getting out of work early to get a pretzel and wander around, and when I saw this cover I was instantly drawn in.

This book starts off so strong! I was instantly hooked right from the first chapter. It starts with Mira, an alchemist for the Shadow Society, a secret society run by her mother with the goal of offering assistance to peasants who have been neglected by King Louis the XIV. Her mother convinces her to brew a poison to kill the abusive husband of a society member, and when Mira goes with her to witness the effects of her poison, her mother instead uses it to kill the king.

The story is action-packed right from the start. I loved the characters. This story is told from a dual perspective, that of Mira and that of Josse, bastard son of the late Sun King. I loved the character arcs and the growth that these two go through during this uprising. There are also A+ side characters and some of the best redeemable characters I’ve read.

When raving about An Affair of Poisons to my friend after informing her that she’s borrowing it and that she’s going to read it, I told her this book has everything: Historical fantasy/alternate history, political intrigue, uprising, alchemy, and definitely the most wholesome first kiss scene I’ve ever read.

Y’all. Read this.

_Tia

Backlist Read-A-Thon TBR

This year one of my goals is to participate in more read-a-thons. I’ve tried a couple in the past, but I generally don’t end up reading any more than I usually do. When I saw Chandler Ainsley’s announcement for the Backlist Read-a-Thon I knew this was a great one for me to start with, since my unread books far surpass my read books.

This read-a-thon runs from March 9th – March 15th, so please join in if you’re interested!

The prompts, and my selections:

  1. Read your shortest backlist title: A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  2. Read a book on your backlist that intimidates you: Beautiful And Damned by Robert M. Drake
  3. Read a book from your backlist that someone recommended to you: The Dressmaker of Khair Khana by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon
  4. Read a backlist title that you are the most excited about: My Sister the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite
  5. Read a diverse backlist title: Sissy by Jacob Tobia
  6. Read a backlist title with blue on the cover: Renegades by Marissa Meyer

I obviously don’t plan to read all of these in a week, but I would love to at least start most of them and get invested in them so that I’ll continue once the read-a-thon is over. I’ll be updating my progress on my twitter and I plan to post a wrap-up once we’re through. I hope you all join!

_Tia

Review: Three Mages and A Margarita by Annette Marie

39676313._SY475_

Series: The Guild Codex: Spellbound #1
Pages: 312
Publisher: Dark Owl Fantasy Inc.
Release Date: September 14, 2018
My Rating: StarStarStarStarStar
Broke, almost homeless, and recently fired. Those are my official reasons for answering a wanted ad for a skeevy-looking bartender gig.
It went downhill the moment they asked me to do a trial shift instead of an interview—to see if I’d mesh with their “special” clientele. I think that part went great. Their customers were complete dickheads, and I was an ***hole right back. That’s the definition of fitting in, right?
I expected to get thrown out on my ***. Instead, they… offered me the job?
It turns out this place isn’t a bar. It’s a guild. And the three cocky guys I drenched with a margarita during my trial? Yeah, they were mages. Either I’m exactly the kind of takes-no-*** bartender this guild needs, or there’s a good reason no one else wants to work here.
So what’s a broke girl to do? Take the job, of course—with a pay raise.

I was so pleasantly surprised by this book. When it showed up on my facebook ads, the title was just bizarre enough to pique my interests. Since it was free on kindle unlimited, I gave it a go, and it captured my attention immediately.

We follow Tori, a sassy twenty-something living on her brother’s couch. Since moving to the city three months before, she’s been unable to hold down a job and has been blacklisted from every restaurant around. When she stumbles across a flier for a bartender position in a sketchy part of town, she figures she’ll give it a shot. The frazzled manager tells her to come back later to cover the bar during a busy gathering and the job is hers. Tori soon realizes that this sketchy bar is actually a headquarters for a mage’s guild, and this job is going to be much different than she realized.

I’ve been reading quite a bit of urban fantasy lately. It’s a fun escape from reality without needing to understand an entirely new world. In my quest for urban fantasy, I’ve also discovered that it’s not easy to find good ones. I’m not generally a fan of YA urban fantasy, as they tend to be romance-heavy and follow all the same tropes as Twilight (nothing inherently wrong with that, but it’s been done to death), and a lot of adult urban fantasy tends to be heavy on the sexual content. They also haven’t been super popular lately and, given their roots in the real world, don’t tend to age well.

While this definitely isn’t for those looking for a deep, heavy fantasy with politics and enriching worlds, it’s a super fun, short book if you’re in the mood for sassy characters getting into all sorts of mischief. It’s a solid start to a series and I’m looking forward to seeing where it goes!

_Tia

2019 Reading Goals: A Review

2019 reading goals

I made a post a few months ago talking about my 2019 reading goals and how they were going. With two days left in 2019, I think it’s time to look back on the goals I’d set for myself and see how I did.

51VC+mAmYULRead a book before I see the movie

Of all the books on my shelf I thought would satisfy this goal, The Girl on the Train is not the one I was expecting to read. I listened to the audiobook while I was organizing my bookshelves and I really enjoyed it. I appreciated the different narrations and I genuinely did not anticipate the ending. I was not a fan of the film adaptation – not just because they left out and/or changed a lot, I don’t think I would have enjoyed it even if I hadn’t read the book. Still, this has been on my TBR since it came out, I finally got around to it, I enjoyed it, and I’m going to need to pick up more Paula Hawkins.

91yzz1aYgeLRead a new release

I actually read more new releases this year than I usually do because I have a tendency to buy books as soon as they come out while the hype is strong and then get distracted reading things that have been on my shelf for a while. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but then more things sit on my shelf for a while before I get to them. When Daisy Jones and the Six came out, though, I knew I wanted to be able to jump on that hype train. It was so much deeper than I expected and I was completely swept away by the world of rock and roll. I immediately purchased The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo, but I still haven’t read that yet.

41dBfav8I+L._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Listen to a book I loved reading

I read Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard last summer and I was hooked. I immediately ordered Glass Sword so I could continue the series, but then hurricane Florence hit (lol I’m listening to Florence + the Machine as I write this) and my Amazon order was delayed over a week. By the time it finally got to me I’d moved on and started reading something else, then promptly forgot the entire plot of Red Queen. I got the audiobook out from my library and listened to I can continue on with the series and, after getting about 30% of the way through the Glass Sword audiobook, I’m not sure I’ll continue. I’ve heard the last two books are much better, but I’m feeling disheartened.

42265183Read a book by a minority

This also counts as a new release (I even preordered it!). Renée Ahdieh is a Korean-American author and the main character of The Beautiful, Celine Rousseau, is also of Korean descent. This book is dark and sultry and puts you right in the heart of 19th century New Orleans. It has creatures killing women and you don’t find out what they are until the end of the book and honestly this was exactly the paranormal book I was in the mood for. If you haven’t picked it up yet I seriously recommend you do so.

 

41FeBWJVggL._SX316_BO1,204,203,200_Read a bestseller

I was uncertain about all the hype for Again, But Better since I had heard reviews from all over the spectrum. I’ve been following Christine’s YouTube channel for probably like six years now so I was curious to finally read her debut novel. The main character is very much Christine and it feels a little like a daydream about her own life, but it was cute. I found myself bored at times and I thought it could have been shorter, but I did enjoy it overall. I think if you’re in the mood for a new adult novel where the main character goes to a foreign country, falls in love, loses touch, then goes back to find her love interest, read Just One Day by Gayle Forman instead.

71AKFQHAdULRead something with a five-star rating

Going back and reviewing these goals, I realize I was a little ambiguous with this one. Something that has five stars on goodreads? Something I give five stars? I decided to go with the latter, and that’s The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale. Y’all, I devoured this book. This was another new release and so many people were talking about it when it was coming up but then as soon as it came out it seemed like it just disappeared. This is a dark, light fantasy tale inspired by the myth of Medusa and I couldn’t put it down. It’s lyrical and feels like a fairy tale and I strongly recommend this to anyone in the mood for something beautiful and creepy. Probably fans of Pan’s Labyrinth will love this.

51N877t5lEL._SX322_BO1,204,203,200_Read nonfiction

Confession: when I did my reading goals update in August I totally forgot about Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive. I slowly made my way through this between March and May while I was working on my thesis for my Women’s and Gender Studies degree, among many other amazing works, but this was the only one I read from cover to cover. It’s so much fun, so accessible to every level of academic background, and is such a unique look on modern feminism. Unfortunately, this is the only nonfiction book I got around to reading in its entirety this year, but I plan to remedy that in 2020.

A1agLFsWkOLRead a best of 2018

This was my first read of the year and BOY was it a great way to kick off the year. Children of Blood and Bone is an own voices YA fantasy that’s heavily inspired by West African myth and culture. This book had a movie deal before it was even released and it’s such a unique magic system with amazing characters, a fast-paced plot, and a rich setting. I gave this four stars when I read it and I honestly can’t remember why? I think about it all the time and I just started the sequel, Children of Virtue and Vengeance, so this series can both open and close my 2019.

41Yb0G32bcL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_Read a book I loved from years ago

I haven’t read anything by John Green since The Fault in Our Stars first came out and I guess I was just feeling like I needed a good cry because I went back and reread Ye Ole Looking for Alaska. It was just about as soon as I finished this read through that I saw they’re making a Hulu series about it and I have a lot of feelings about it, but I didn’t let that cloud my reread. This definitely has some problematic elements that don’t hold up very well today, but it was just the wave of nostalgia I was craving.

 

511TB1iB9iL._SX323_BO1,204,203,200_Marathon a series

I was intrigued by Ruined when I first got it on kindle, but I did not expect to fall in love with it the way I did. It sucked me in and just would not let go. I have a tendency to purchase the next book in a series as soon as I finish the first one and then never read it, but that was not the case here. I don’t think I’ve marathoned a series since the first time I read A Series of Unfortunate Events and it was such a great experience. My problem is that they tend to be too long and by the time I finish the first or even the second I’m ready to move on to something else and enter a different world, but this trilogy is exactly the right length to get you attached to the characters and hooked on the plot. This is a politically-driven dark YA fantasy. Let me reiterate, dark. There is a lot of gore and violence, so be warned.

 

The goals left incomplete are:

  • Stop pretending I’ve read the book and actually do it
  • Read the oldest thing on my TBR
  • Finish a series I started a long time ago and never got around to finishing

Of all the goals I set for myself this year, I think I did pretty good! These challenges definitely inspired me to read things that I might not otherwise have read, but I kept them vague enough that I could pick books I was already interested in to fulfill them. I’m going to do a similar challenge for 2020 and I look forward to seeing how I do then!

Until next time!

_Tia

Books I Hope to Find Under My Tree

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish
and is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl

I’ll admit it: I’ve already purchased most of the books on my wishlist during the mad rush of Black Friday sales. Still, there are a few I’m crossing my fingers are in some of the boxes currently under my tree.

34963585 Paper Girls: Book One by Brian K. Vaughan, Cliff Chiang, Matt Wilson, and Jared K. Fletcher
Here’s a weird fact about me: I adore graphic novels and manga, but I feel weird buying them for myself because they’re twice as expensive (at least) as other books I buy and take me less than half the time to read. So, if you’re ever looking for a gift to give me, have a look at my graphic novel wishlist. I’ve been wanting to read this series for a long time, but I have mixed emotions about Brian K. Vaughan. He’s such a popular writer, but I wasn’t a fan of Y: The Last Man and I read the first volume of Saga but was underwhelmed. I do plan on continuing that series eventually, but I want to give him another shot with a different series. I don’t know much about this, but 80s mystery delivery girl gang. I’m here for it.

71etOX4uA8LBlackbird, vol. 1 by Sam Humphries, Jen Bartel, and Triona Farrell
I know even less about this series than I do about Paper Girls, and I only heard of it about a month ago when wandering through my local Barnes & Noble, but the cover immediately drew me in and what I know of this story sounds amazing. It follows a Latinx main character and it’s magical realism. And based on the cover I’m going to be obsessed with the illustrations. I feel even worse about buying graphic novels for myself when I know so little about them, but I’m fascinated.

 

 

61VnVybND4L._SX347_BO1,204,203,200_

Goodnight Punpun Omnibus, vol. 1 by Inio Asano
This has been on my wish list for so long. I flip through it every time I go to the bookstore. It’s adorable and it looks so touching but I’ve heard it’s going to make me cry and I need it in my life. It has mature themes so it’s definitely not for everyone, but I’ve heard this hailed as the best manga out there. Literally the only reason I don’t own it yet is because it’s so expensive. I can justify buying graphic novels to some extent (I still barely do it) because of the glossy pages, the large books, and the stunning colors, but manga are almost always in black and white, the paper is flimsy, and it just hurts my heart to spend that kind of money on it. But I want it so bad.

 

51FQOx84tGL._SX352_BO1,204,203,200_ The Kurosagi Corpse Delivery Service, vol. 1 by Eiji Otsuka and Housui Yamazaki
Again, literal years. This has been on my wish list for literal years. I first saw this when perusing a comic book store in Chapel Hill before I even moved to North Carolina and was so intrigued. As I’m starting to go into studying mortuary sciences this has risen even higher on my TBR. The same reason I don’t own it is the price, and the fact that there are several books in the series, all equally expensive, and I know once I start I’m going to want to read the entire series. I don’t know much about it because almost every time I see it in a bookstore it’s in cellophane so I can’t flip through it, but the story sounds perfect for me.

 

51GLNSdDDqL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
Hard left turn here. Ever since Georgia Hardstark mentioned this book when covering the case in episode 190 of My Favorite Murder I’ve been wanting to pick up this book. I love true crime and this period in American history is fascinatingly horrific. When purchasing books for myself, unless there’s a massive sale I almost exclusively stick to novels that are in a genre I know I enjoy, so nonfiction books like this I’m usually a little more leary of. I know I’m interested in the case, but I don’t know if I’m “read an entire book about it” interested, y’know? So let someone else get it for me.

 

51wPtzioPcL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_ Monster, She Wrote: The Women Who Pioneered Horror and Speculative Fiction by Lisa Kröger and Melanie R. Anderson
This is a book that has only recently joined my wishlist, so it probably won’t be under my tree, but I think it will be fascinating. I first heard of it when scrolling through study photos on Instagram getting pumped about going back to school and someone (I don’t remember who, unfortunately) posted a photo studying in a cafe with a friend and this was on the table. I was like what is that and I instantly looked it up. This is almost all of my interests compiled into one book and I need it.

 

 

51UTHy6HiAL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_ 90s Bitch: Media, Culture, and the Failed Promise of Gender Equality by Allison Yarrow
As a Women’s and Gender Studies major, I love snarky feminist books that are less on the academic side and more on the pop culture/general audience side. I also adore feminism books with curse words in the title. Don’t know why, but that’s a very particular interest of mine. As a 90s kid myself, a feminist analysis of the 90s, as well as the hopes and disappointments of the decade, this book sounds like everything I could ask for.

 

 

813guBcUXoL The Goddess Revolution: Make Peace with Food, Love Your Body and Reclaim Your Life by Mel Wells
I first heard of this book when I saw an interview with the author on a blog when it first came out and it’s been sitting on my wishlist ever since. I’m obsessed with the cover, and while I’m not typically a self-help book reader, this concept seems great. I wrote my thesis on the intersection of feminism and neopagan spiritualities, and this seems like it will be in that niche, plus self-help. I don’t know much about it, but it seems like the type of thing that will appeal to my interests.

 

 

 

9781578636709 Becoming Dangerous: Witchy Femmes, Queer Conjurers, and Magical Rebels by Katie West and Jasmine Elliot
Using The Goddess Revolution as a segway from feminist books to witchy books, this is a little more heavily on the witchy side. This book is almost exactly what I wrote my thesis on and I really wish I had heard of it while I was in the midst of writing it. I read Witches, Sluts, Feminists: Conjuring the Sex Positive by Kristen J. Sollee for my thesis and I absolutely adored it, and this seems like it’s going to have very similar vibes. I need it.

 

 

 

816oVHUMdaL Backwoods Witchcraft: Conjure & Folk Magic From Appalachia by Jake Richards
Another witchy book, but 100% witchraft, 0% feminism. This book was recommended to me by a local pagan and is exactly what I’ve been looking for ever since I moved to North Carolina. It’s all about magical traditions of this region as well as local folklore, traditional rituals, and ways to use local materials in personal practice. I have a lot of reference witchy books, but none of them are location-centric, so I’m very interested in this one as a more focused reference.

 

 

 

Well, those are the ten books I’m hoping to find under my tree tomorrow. I’d love to know what books you all are excited about, as well as which ones you end up receiving. It’s always interesting to see the difference between the books we buy for ourselves and the books we ask for as gifts. Until next time, friends.

_Tia

Where the heck have I been?

where have i been_

Life gets crazy, I’m sure you all know that. In the last few months I’ve been traveling, I’ve been working, I’ve gotten married, I’ve registered to go back to school, and, most importantly, I’ve been reading. So let’s have a lil recap, shall we?

When last we spoke I reviewed Seraphina by Rachel Hartman. Don’t remember? Check it out here. I’ve read quite a bit since then but rather than write reviews for everything I’m going to do a shallow dive into each.

September

Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan
StarStarStarStar EmptyStar Empty
I’ve been making my way through the Percy Jackson series via audiobook throughout the year and this was by far my least favorite. I’ve been having a lot of fun with this series but this fourth installment just left me bored. I know there’s only one book left and I want to read it so I can go on to read the other series, but I have no motivation to actually read it.

Pumpkinheads by Rainbow Rowell and Faith Erin Hendricks
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Somehow I have only read one other Rainbow Rowell book, which I recognize as a failing on my part, especially since I own six of her books. Pumpkinheads was the perfect thing to get me in the fall spirit. It was adorable, quirky, and the best romance. I adored the characters, the art is wonderful, and there are so many subtle jokes in the panels that you miss if you only focus on the dialogue. I seriously cannot recommend this enough.

These Witches Don’t Burn by Isabel Sterling
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I stumbled upon this beauty at my local Barnes & Noble without having heard anything about it before. I was fascinated by the cover and when I read the synopsis I knew I had to have it. Sapphic teenage witches, what more do you need to know? Well, you need to know that the relationships between all of the characters are deep and meaningful, not just the relationship between the main character and her ex-girlfriend. You need to know that this has a pleasantly suspenseful mystery while still remaining fairly lighthearted. And you need to know that this was an absolute delight to read and I can’t wait for book two.

Apparently I then I had a month-long reading slump? Moving on…

October

The Beautiful by Renée Ahdieh
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I heard so much hype leading up to the release of this book (so much so that it was one of only two books I’ve preordered in all of 2019) and then it seems like as soon as it came out no one mentioned it? Well, I read it and I thought it was a lot of fun. It’s plugged as a vampire book, but if it hadn’t been advertised that way you wouldn’t know they were vampires until the very end. Another suspenseful mystery, some great 19th century New Orleans pageantry, and intriguing characters. I’ll be continuing with this series for sure, and I definitely need to read more of Ahdieh’s work.

October consisted of a ton of traveling and resting to recharge.

November

The Cold is in Her Bones by Peternelle van Arsdale
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Yooooooo. Again, it seemed like everyone was hauling this when it first came out but then I haven’t seen anyone talking about it since then. This was a delightfully intriguing, supernatural mystery. A beautiful interpretation of folk horror within the parameters of YA fiction and without being too scary. This story was so creative and fascinating that I read it in basically one sitting.

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard *reread*
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I was obsessed with this book when I first read it, I ordered the sequel immediately, but then there was a hurricane and I didn’t get it for quite a bit and by then I was already reading other things. I decided to listen to the audiobook from my library to refresh my memory before moving onto the second. Upon starting Glass Sword, I got bored and stopped. Maybe I’ll finish this series eventually? I’m just not sure.

Isle of Blood and Stone by Makiia Lucier
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This was my favorite book that I’ve read for my book club so far. Since Makiia is a local author we also had the pleasure of discussing this with her. I’ve heard from other members that the companion novel, Song of the Abyss, is even better, but this was a delightful YA mystery/treasure hunt with slight paranormal elements in a reimagined medieval setting. It was so much fun and I’ll definitely be reading more of her work.

The Cruel Prince by Holly Black
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Confession: this was my first Holly Black novel. But it definitely will not be my last. My only hesitation for continuing the series: I purchased this first book in paperback because I wasn’t sure if I would like it and it was on sale but the last two books aren’t in paperback yet and I want my series to match.

The Prince and the Dressmaker by Jen Wang
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Sweet precious babies.
✓ Adorable and vibrant artwork
✓ Excellent story
✓ Relatable and lovable characters
✓ No romance/Ace and Aro friendly
✓ Kicks gender norms in the teeth
A true inspiration. I need to buy this one.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow and Jen Wang
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Let’s be real, how could I read The Prince and the Dressmaker and then *not* read Jen Wang’s other book? This story was very different and a bit heavier, but still great. This deals with gender roles and discriminations withing gaming/nerd culture, as well as unfair working conditions, class struggles, and being introduced to cultures different from your own. Also a precious story.

November was a solid reading month, to say the least.

Well, that’s about the gist of what I’ve been up to. Until next time, friends.

_Tia

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

13160619._SY475_Series: Seraphina, #1
Pages: 530
Publisher: Random House
Release Date: July 1st, 2012
My Rating: StarStarStar EmptyStar EmptyStar Empty

In the kingdom of Goredd, dragons and humans live and work side by side – while below the surface, tensions and hostility simmer.

The newest member of the royal court, a uniquely gifted musician named Seraphina, holds a deep secret of her own. One that she guards with all of her being.

When a member of the royal family is brutally murdered, Seraphina is drawn into the investigation alongside the dangerously perceptive—and dashing—Prince Lucien. But as the two uncover a sinister plot to destroy the wavering peace of the kingdom, Seraphina’s struggle to protect her secret becomes increasingly difficult… while its discovery could mean her very life.

goodreads

This book has been on my radar for quite some time, as when it initially came out it was very popular on BookTube. I was curious about it: it sounded like an interesting story, it was getting excellent reviews, and the cover is gorgeous, but for some reason it took me seven years to finally pick it up. Maybe if I’d read this when it came out I would have enjoyed it more, but where I am in life now I just couldn’t get into it.

The story was fine. There wasn’t anything inherently wrong with it. In this world, there has been a treaty between humans and dragons for forty years. Still, the two races generally detest each other. As part of the treaty, whenever dragons leave their designated dragon areas, they have to assume a human form called a saarantras and wear bells at all times in order to identify themselves as dragons. Seraphina Dombegh is a half-blood whose mother posed as a human and tricked her father to fall in love with her, even though dragon/human relations were illegal.

I definitely think if I’d read this book when it first came out I wouldn’t be as bothered as I am by the manipulation on the part of Seraphina’s mother. Seraphina also struggles with this, but she resents her mother for creating a half-dragon, not for the manipulation. It feels very rapey to me and I think the characters overlooked that aspect in their shock at the merging of the two races and the fact that there were other half-bloods as well.

The relationships between Seraphina, Glisselda, and Kiggs was also bothersome. Glisselda is second heir to the throne of Goredd and Kiggs is her bastard cousin. The two have been betrothed for years and are obviously very close. We know that Seraphina is going to fall for Kiggs as soon as she meets him (even as soon as you read the synopsis you know it’s coming) and since this is told from Seraphina’s perspective we see her struggle with falling for a human even though she can never have an authentic romantic relationship because no one can know of her heritage. With as much as she struggles with her feelings, she never seems to consider Glisselda in this equation. Glisselda is clearly fond of Seraphina, is non-judgemental, and wants to help Seraphina acclimate to life at court, yet Seraphina doesn’t think twice about hurting her in order to get to Kiggs. Kiggs doesn’t seem to mind harming his cousin, friend, and fiancee either. Had I read this when I was younger I probably would have thought this plot was romantic, but now it’s just a betrayal that the characters are far too casual about.

Aside from the characters’ gray morals, there is a weird psychic element to Seraphina’s character that I don’t think was necessary. It was a cool concept, but I think it should have been a separate story. The race relations were an interesting enough plot without it. The language used was also far too confusing in my opinion, and I’m a 25-year-old English major. I can’t imagine reading this as a teenager which is the audience it’s geared for.

In general, I was just bored. This book took me far longer to read than I would have anticipated. It is a little on the longer side, but I just didn’t have any desire to pick it up throughout the day and ended up only reading it when I was going to bed. I originally rated this three stars, but that was immediately after I finished it and I was on a little bit of a high from the ending. Upon further reflection, I think it’s really a two-star read for me. It was fine. Some people like it. I am not one of those people.

_Tia

Books I Enjoyed That Were Outside My Comfort Zone

 

Top Ten Tuesday.png

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish
and is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is an extra fun one, as it gives me a chance to talk about some of my favorite books that I don’t usually mention. I tend to read some very specific types of books, but these few reaches outside of my comfort zone definitely paid off!

41xQVphTvuL._SX326_BO1,204,203,200_The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein

My number one rule about books/movies: never read or watch anything with a dog on the cover. This book absolutely blew up when it came out. Posters of it were all over my local libraries, it was on so many book club lists, and everyone was talking about it. I instantly dismissed it, because dog. Nope. I don’t remember what finally convinced me to try the audiobook, but holy hecc was it great. I completely fell in love with Enzo (obviously), the story was beautifully written, and (of course) I bawled my eyes out. I listened to this exclusively in the car during commutes and I got to the end as I was driving to visit my mom. I sat in my car in the driveway for half an hour finishing the story with my mom texting me constantly and staring at me out the window making sure I was okay. When I finished, I walked straight into the bathroom and finished my cry. As long as you’re okay with that level of heartbreak, this book is definitely worth it and I think about it often.

79543be2-edc1-43c2-9145-76b646ac7e1b_1.9211d91e9cc8a282b9eec5f92234af02Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Another one I decided to listen to on audio during commutes, and another one I sat outside my mom’s house as I finished. I worked at Barnes and Noble when this came out and I sold so many copies that holiday season! When I heard there was going to be a movie I decided I’d finally see what all the hype was about. This book is primarily told in alternating perspectives between Nick in present-day trying to figure out what happened to his missing wife and Amy’s diary entries leading up to her disappearance. It’s got murder mystery, it’s got psychological manipulation, it’s got delightfully hatable main characters. It’s excellent. The audiobook also has two different narrators to get the listener extra invested in the story. It completely blew my mind (and not just at the end, there are twists around every corner!) and I adored it. This is still the only Gillian Flynn novel I’ve read (though I have watched Sharp Objects) and I really need to pick up more.

81CbrHbtloLThe Postmortal  by Drew Magary

I picked this up on a whim from a local used bookstore largely because of the cover. I don’t usually read dark satirical types of books, but this totally blew me away. This story follows a world in which aging has been cured. You can still die in pretty much any other way, but you can’t die of old age. As technology progresses and the population becomes unsustainable, a new career emerges where people are commissioned to kill others in oddly specific ways. This book is very similar to Sythe by Neal Shusterman in concept, but the execution – pun intended – is very different. Don’t be mislead, this book is dark. There’s murder, there’s cults, there’s hate crimes, etc. It’s intense. When I finished it I just sat on the couch swearing for half an hour (that seems to be a theme with these books?) to the point where my fiance got annoyed and told me to either stop or close myself in the bedroom. It’s so good. But have something happy waiting to get the taste out of your mouth.

61oCI5iNClLThe Kite Runner  by Khaled Hosseini

I have no idea what I expected going into this. All I knew was that my friends raved about it. I think it’s best to go into this story without knowing much about the plot, but this deals with race, religion, and a whole mess of heavy topics in an elegant and lyrical way. I haven’t picked up any of Hosseini’s other works just because I’m not emotionally ready yet, but I almost certainly will in the future. I do feel the need to warn potential readers, though: I knew this book would make me cry, but I did not expect a severely upsetting scene to occur about halfway through the book. Typically these are at the end, so I was reading this on my fifteen-minute break at work, came to that scene, and was late returning to work because I had to compose myself in the break room. Use caution if you intend to read this book in a public space.

7741325Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan

I don’t do holiday books. I just don’t. I picked up this book because I’d heard amazing things about this author duo and this seemed to be their most popular book. I knew there was a movie made of Nick & Nora’s Infinite Playlist, but this seemed to be the one everyone was talking about. I’m so glad I decided to give it a shot. The story follows around two characters who interact through notes left in a Moleskine notebook in a bookstore. The New York setting at Christmastime is dreamy, the characters are adorable, and it was such a refreshing book to pick up as I finished finals and prepared to settle in for my winter break. This is a great one to curl up with by the fire with a hot beverage, a fluffy blanket, and a fuzzy animal on your lap. It’s quick, so you can read it during the holidays and it won’t drag on once the holidays are over, and it’s just so cute and put me in a great mood.

33843251._SY475_The Afterlife of Holly Chase by Cynthia Hand

Speaking of holiday books that I don’t read… The Afterlife of Holly Chase is a modern retelling of A Christmas Carol wherein a company – again based in New York – picks a new Scrooge every year.  Each Scrooge is someone who has the potential to turn their life around and, if they don’t, they will die within the next year. The three Christmas ghosts are leaders of their own team of employees to focus on the year’s Scrooge’s past, present, or future. Holly Chase is a failed Scrooge who has been given the opportunity to become the Ghost of Christmas Past in lieu of dying for real. She’s given an entirely new life, is set up in a small apartment with basic living expenses, and has a hoodie of invisibility so she can spy on the current scrooge. Holly is despicable at the beginning of the novel and her character arc is amazing. This novel is part fantasy, part paranormal, with amazing technology and such a cool concept. If you pick up one holiday-themed book, let it be this one.

18143905._UY475_SS475_The Opposite of Loneliness by Marina Keegan

I love the idea of essay/story collections, I just rarely read them to completion. I was drawn to this collection by the stunning photo on the cover. Marina Keegan was a graduate of Yale who died tragically in a car accident just five days after her graduation. This collection of her essays and short stories is gripping and heartbreaking. Marina was a refreshing voice who could have done great things, don’t miss this collection of the only pieces we have.

large960_blur-24585d50df93a94b80d51a67fd639a48My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix

On a completely different note, we have My Best Friend’s Exorcism by Grady Hendrix. Oh, this book. I knew nothing about it when I saw it in the store and I was instantly drawn to not only the title but the GORGEOUS PRESENTATION. The hardcover is meant to look like an old school yearbook and it’s stunning. I’m super picky about horror in books, but this is a nice balance of super creepy and pure 80’s joy. This book is an absolute delight for any horror fan. A slow-burn creepy story with characters that I actually grew to care about and scenes that gave me legitimate nightmares. I really need to pick up more Grady Hendrix, this is amazing.

91liwcU9WjLDarkfever by Karen Marie Moning

This series was recommended to me when I was looking for easy reads while I recovered from having my tonsils removed last year. If I’m going to go for a paranormal book, I typically read YA because I want all the drama. I picked this one up because the first book in the series was cheap on kindle and because it has fae, which is my weakness in paranormal/fantasy books. This series is just so much fun, I ended up picking up the first three in the series. I love the Dublin setting, the creatures are so unique, and I’m fascinated by Barrons. This book does contain some sexual content, but compared to other adult paranormal romances it’s very mild. This book opened the door to a whole new genre for me and I’m so excited.

41Hp8OtQ4lL._SX310_BO1,204,203,200_Differently Morphous by Yahtzee Croshaw

Y’all. Y’ALL. I picked this up because it was the deal of the day on Audible and seemed intriguing. If it sucked, I was only out about $3. BUT IT DID NOT. This book is quirky and unique and amazing. Lovecraftian monsters. A (basically) ministry of magic trying to cover up the existence of weird creatures. A protagonist who went to magic school and then found out she wasn’t actually magic. An obnoxious wizard with a cape who’s overly dramatic. A very sweaty computer nerd. This book is read by the author, it’s lighthearted, it’s excellent. I’ve already listened to it twice and I intend to listen again on an upcoming road trip.

 

Those are my top ten books I’ve enjoyed that were outside of my comfort zone! Let me know what books you’ve read that you weren’t sure about, and let me know if you’ve read any of the ones I’ve listed!

_Tia

Books I’ve Read That I’d Like In My Personal Library

Top Ten Tuesday

Top Ten Tuesday was created by The Broke and the Bookish
and is hosted by Jana at That Artsy Reader Girl

Welcome to another Top Ten Tuesday! Do I address that I missed last week? Or just move on? Let’s just move on.

Today’s challenge is the top ten books I’ve read that I would like to own in my personal library. I got my grubby little hands on these books in a variety of ways, loved them, and they have been in my wishlist ever since. Here we go.

10194157Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

I gotta come clean right off the bat. When I first read this book, I torrented it. I don’t do it anymore, but I used to back when this book initially came out. The reason I did not purchase it at the time was because, for some reason, I didn’t think I would like it! I was intrigued by it, especially by the Russian-inspired setting, but back then I was reading primarily dystopians and other apocalyptic-esque books (lots of zombies) and I just didn’t think this would be my cup of tea. I was wrong. I read this bad boy so fast and purchased the second and third books in the trilogy in hardcover as soon as I was able (I think I read this just as Siege and Storm came out and then I had to wait to get Ruin and Rising). Ever since then I’ve had the hardcover of Shadow and Bone on my wishlists but it just has not yet come to be. The same thing happened with Cinder by Marissa Meyer but I ended up getting that for my birthday a couple of years ago, so there’s still hope.

250317._SX318_Beauty by Nancy Ohlin

When I read this book back in I believe my freshman year of high school, it was published with the author’s name as Nancy Butcher, but it has since been re-released with a new pen name and a new cover and I think additional content. My friend owned this book and I was fascinated by the cover and desperately wanted to read it. Now, looking back on it with adult eyes, it’s a terrible cover. Still, this Snow White retelling was one of the first dark fairy tale retellings that I ever encountered. I finally convinced this friend to let me read it on a bus ride to New York (it’s real short) and I was absolutely mesmerized. I’ve wanted to own it ever since. While looking for a picture of the cover version that I’m familiar with, I stumbled upon this old school video review from The Book Rat Misty, circa 2014. You’re welcome for this BookTube treasure.

51ak8nrwb0LLook For Me By Moonlight by Mary Downing Hahn

I don’t know if this book actually existed pre-Twilight, but this was my first vampire novel. ou always remember your first, am I right? I found this gem at my local library on one of the many trips that my mom was doing genealogy research and I tagged along with a backpack to fill with books to check out. This story takes place in a Maine town that during the summer is a crazy tourist attraction but in the winter is completely desolate. The main character goes to spend the winter with her father and stepmother when a mysterious visitor comes to stay. I remember very little else since I read this in a single sitting over ten years ago, but I still remember it and think about it often.

9917938Blood Red Road by Moira Young

This was probably one of my first BookTube reads that I picked up back in 2011. Before BookTube I never would have picked this up. I didn’t know I was into science fiction, I was super picky about writing styles, and this book in general would have been too weird for me. I loved it. I did purchase this in hardcover right when it came out, but over the course of my many moves it disappeared (which is extra upsetting because I am not a fan of the new covers). I’ve been keeping an eye out at used bookstores and on ebay to try to find a decent copy without breaking the bank on a book I’ve already purchased once, but I am definitely itching for a reread.

WitherWither by Lauren DeStefano

Another BookTube pick that I purchased in hardcover as soon as it was released in 2011 but has since been lost to the moving goblins, this dystopian novel about a girl who is sold as a bride with the express purpose of having a child before she reaches the age of 20 — the age when all females in this society die. This eerie twist on a hate-to-love romance was fascinating and I remember being hooked. It also ended on a cliffhanger, so I remember following the updates about the trilogy religiously and was so disappointed when the cover for the second book, Fever, was released that I didn’t buy it and just never completed it. The first book is stunning and I would love to have it back in my library. Maybe I’ll just borrow the second and third installments, though.

6665671Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

Another high school read, here. I’ve been going through a very nostalgic phase lately (at least in terms of my reading preferences) and revisiting old favorites. This book I checked out of my school library because so many people on BookTube were talking about it. I remember very little. Maybe that’s the primary reason I want to read it again, I don’t think I absorbed as much of this book as I was supposed to squeezing it in between class periods. I remember loving it, but that’s all.

 

81IRj8LZUoLGoing Bovine by Libba Bray

When I read this, I had already read and loved A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray, but everything about this book initially turned me off. I hated the cover, I was in the mood for series and didn’t want a standalone, I was primarily reading books with female main characters, and it just seemed weird. Well, it is. I ended up getting the audiobook from my library and listening to it in my car and it was such a wild ride! I loved every second of it. I still think back on it very frequently and I want to purchase specifically the audiobook. It was such an excellent method of consuming this story.

14566._UY630_SR1200,630_Echo by Francesca Lia Block

Again, I remember almost nothing about this book other than the effect it had on me. I got this one out of my high school library as well and it seems like it was never very popular, but I absolutely loved it. I vividly remember one scene where the main character was dancing in a crowd and she began having a sort of trippy psychic vision. I could be completely making that up but that’s what I remember and it was awesome.

 

 

EBX1O7GWwAAfWgSChildren of Blood and Bone by Tomi Adayemi

Hey! A recent one! I only just read Children of Blood and Bone at the beginning of this year and it was amazing. I did purchase this on my kindle, but have you seen these new Barnes and Noble hardcovers?? I’m in awe. I was already thinking I’d have to purchase this in hardcover because I’m going to want to own the rest of the series as well, but maybe I’ll wait until there’s a box set released with all of these covers. The yellow one in particular is calling to me.

il_340x270.1948185368_leafFear Street by R.L. Stine

Remember when I said I used to go to the library with a full-sized backpack that I would stuff with books to check out? This series was why. I devoured these things like they were candy. I owned a couple of Fear Street books in my preteen years that I acquired at thrift stores and library sales, but I primarily read them from the library. Accidentally stumble upon one I’d already read? I’d just read it again! They’re quick, they’re scary, they’re gruesome, and they were everything my lil horror-obsessed brain wanted to consume. My absolute favorites were the Fear Street Saga, which I have since purchased in a bind-up and need to get to reading again soon, but I will happily add any Fear Street book I can find to my personal library. Maybe I’ll lend them to my niece to scare the heck out of her.

 

There you have it, those are the top ten books I’ve read that I’d love to have in my personal library! Let me know if you’ve read any of these and what your thoughts were, and what books you’ve read that you want to own! I’ll try to not miss next week’s TTT and I’ll talk to y’all later.

_Tia