TBR Unhaul: Week Eight

Throne of the Crescent Moon – Saladin Ahmed

The Crescent Moon Kingdoms, home to djenn and ghuls, holy warriors and heretics, are at the boiling point of a power struggle between the iron-fisted Khalif and the mysterious master thief known as the Falcon Prince. In the midst of this brewing rebellion a series of brutal supernatural murders strikes at the heart of the Kingdoms. It is up to a handful of heroes to learn the truth behind these killings:

Doctor Adoulla Makhslood, “the last real ghul hunter in the great city of Dhamsawaat,” just wants a quiet cup of tea. Three score and more years old, he has grown weary of hunting monsters and saving lives, and is more than ready to retire from his dangerous and demanding vocation. But when an old flame’s family is murdered, Adoulla is drawn back to the hunter’s path.

Raseed bas Raseed, Adoulla’s young assistant, is a hidebound holy warrior whose prowess is matched only by his piety. But even as Raseed’s sword is tested by ghuls and manjackals, his soul is tested when he and Adoulla cross paths with the tribeswoman Zamia.

Zamia Badawi, Protector of the Band, has been gifted with the near-mythical power of the lion-shape, but shunned by her people for daring to take up a man’s title. She lives only to avenge her father’s death. Until she learns that Adoulla and his allies also hunt her father’s killer. Until she meets Raseed.

When they learn that the murders and the Falcon Prince’s brewing revolution are connected, the companions must race against time—and struggle against their own misgivings—to save the life of a vicious despot. In so doing they discover a plot for the Throne of the Crescent Moon that threatens to turn Dhamsawaat, and the world itself, into a blood-soaked ruin.

KEEP – Ugh, description is almost too long to keep, but looks interesting.

 

Animal Farm – George Orwell

As ferociously fresh as it was more than a half century ago, this remarkable allegory of a downtrodden society of overworked, mistreated animals, and their quest to create a paradise of progress, justice, and equality is one of the most scathing satires ever published. As we witness the rise and bloody fall of the revolutionary animals, we begin to recognize the seeds of totalitarianism in the most idealistic organization; and in our most charismatic leaders, the souls of our cruelest oppressors.

KEEP – Classics are almost always an automatic keep.

 

 

Night – Elie Wiesel

Night is Elie Wiesel’s masterpiece, a candid, horrific, and deeply poignant autobiographical account of his survival as a teenager in the Nazi death camps. This new translation by Marion Wiesel, Elie’s wife and frequent translator, presents this seminal memoir in the language and spirit truest to the author’s original intent. And in a substantive new preface, Elie reflects on the enduring importance of Night and his lifelong, passionate dedication to ensuring that the world never forgets man’s capacity for inhumanity to man.

Night offers much more than a litany of the daily terrors, everyday perversions, and rampant sadism at Auschwitz and Buchenwald; it also eloquently addresses many of the philosophical as well as personal questions implicit in any serious consideration of what the Holocaust was, what it meant, and what its legacy is and will be.

KEEP – I love–no, that’s not the right word–anything WWII related. It’s just such a fascinating–no, that’s not it either–time in history.

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TBR Unhaul: Week Seven

 

Pirates! – Celia Rees

Nancy Kington, daughter of a rich merchant, suddenly orphaned when her father dies, is sent to live on her family’s plantation in Jamaica. Disgusted by the treatment of the slaves and her brother’s willingness to marry her off, she and one of the slaves, Minerva, run away and join a band of pirates.

For both girls the pirate life is their only chance for freedom in a society where both are treated like property, rather than individuals. Together they go in search of adventure, love, and a new life that breaks all restrictions of gender, race, and position. Told through Nancy’s writings, their adventures will appeal to readers across the spectrum and around the world.

KEEP – I like Rees’s work.

The Will of the Empress – Tamora Pierce

Sandry, Daja, Briar, and Tris, are older now and back together again, in an exciting and much-awaited, stand-alone novel by everyone’s favorite mage, Tamora Pierce.

For years the Empress of Namorn has pressed her young cousin, Lady Sandrilene fa Toren, to visit her vast lands within the Empire’s borders. Sandry has avoided the invitation for as long as it was possible. Now Sandry has agreed to pay that overdue visit. Sandry’s uncle promises guards to accompany her. But they’re hardly a group of warriors! They’re her old friends from Winding Circle: Daja, Tris, and Briar. Sandry hardly knows them now. They’ve grown up and grown apart. Sandry isn’t sure they’ll ever find their old connection again – or if she even wants them to.

AX – I’m a huge Pierce fan, but I tried and failed to get into the Winding Circle. I actually gave the first three books away to a Little Free Library. I could probably just read this stand-alone, but I feel it wouldn’t be as good without the context.

A Chalice of Wind – Cate Tiernan

Separated since birth, 17-year-old twins Thais and Clio unexpectedly meet in New Orleans where they seem to be pursued by a coven of witches who want to harness the twins’ magical powers for its own ends.

AX – Description doesn’t do it for me.

 

 

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[Review] Wink Poppy Midnight – April Genevieve Tucholke

Title: Wink Poppy Midnight
Author: April Genevieve Tucholke
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★★★

Every story needs a hero.
Every story needs a villain.
Every story needs a secret.

Wink is the odd, mysterious neighbor girl, wild red hair and freckles. Poppy is the blond bully and the beautiful, manipulative high school queen bee. Midnight is the sweet, uncertain boy caught between them. Wink. Poppy. Midnight. Two girls. One boy. Three voices that burst onto the page in short, sharp, bewitching chapters, and spiral swiftly and inexorably toward something terrible or tricky or tremendous.

What really happened?
Someone knows.
Someone is lying.


I really, reeeeally enjoyed this. For one, it’s a very quick read and, since I’m obscenely behind on my Goodreads challenge, it’s nice to read a whole book in one sitting. For two, it has a very magical quality to it without there being any actual magic in it. There’s a haunted house, a fortuneteller, and a very warm and cozy hayloft that I’d love to read and take a nap in.

The characters are beautifully flawed. Wink is obsessed with fairy tales and blurs the line between fantasy and reality (I can relate). Poppy is obsessed with herself (I can relate) and Leaf, Wink’s older brother, and likes to torture people (ahem). Midnight is obsessed with being like his older brother, Alabama, who his mother took with her to France, leaving him with his dad. Tucholke has an amazing way of making you root for one character in the beginning, hating the other, and then by the end, making you completely change your opinion on them. Except for Midnight. I don’t think my opinion of him ever changed. Poor thing, stuck between these two powerful forces. They have a lot of personality, these girls.

I love how the names are so bizarre. It’s like when you watch an anime for the first time and you know immediately who the main character is because they’re in a sea of plain characters while they themselves have spiky rainbow hair and eyes the size of soccer balls. I think the same could be said with the names in this book. Wink, Poppy, Midnight, Leaf . . . If they had a normal name like Zoe or Thomas, you know they’re mundanes.

I had the pleasure of getting my book signed by Tucholke last year when she toured with a group of authors (she said she liked my name). It’s kind of sad that I’m only just now reading this, but I will definitely be picking up more of her work.

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TBR Unhaul: Week Six

Gonna jump right in.

Foundling – D.M. Cornish 

Set in the world of the Half-Continent—a land of tri-corner hats and flintlock pistols—the Monster Blood Tattoo trilogy is a world of predatory monsters, chemical potions and surgically altered people. Foundling begins the journey of Rossamund, a boy with a girl’s name, who is just about to begin a dangerous life in the service of the Emperor. What starts as a simple journey is threatened by encounters with monsters—and people, who may be worse. Learning who to trust and who to fear is neither easy nor without its perils, and Rossamund must choose his path carefully.

KEEP – Steampunk FTW.

 

The Deadwood Stage – Mike Hogan

Spring 1887. Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson find a cuckoo in their comfortable nest at 221B Baker Street when, after a chance encounter in Hyde Park, twelve-year-old Winston Spencer-Churchill is dumped on them by his far from doting mother, Lady Randolph. Winston blossoms under the affectionate, if occasionally jealous care of Watson. His developing detective skills and connections in Society are combined with a capacity for creating mayhem. Add in pack of Indians from Buffalo Bill’s Wild West show and a homicidal pork butcher with an axe and as Holmes says of this first in a series of adventures “I dare say these experiences have done him a power of good. He will be much better prepared for daily life at his public school”

KEEP – Sherlock Holmes. Need I say more?

The Elementals – Troy Jackson

Upon unifying the seven warring states under one banner, the First Emperor of China began solidifying power for what he envisioned as a thousand-year reign.

Using those he conquered, the Emperor began a series of arduous projects, including the first Great Wall, the Linqu Canal, and a national system of highways. Ignoring the physical and emotional toll exacted upon the people, his insatiable desire to further his own power has led to a growing, and secretive insurgency.

One such organization is the Dragon’s Spite who wishes to usurp control of the throne by nearly any means. But first they must marshal their forces strewn throughout the kingdom. More importantly they seek out three extraordinary girls who hold vast supernatural powers that can tip the balance in their favor. But do these unknowing heroines realize the talents that they possess? Will the Dragon’s Spite reach them before the agents of the Emperor?

AX – Not interested. (more…)

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TBR Cart

My new thing, because I think about books waaay too much, is having a To-Be-Read cart. I use one of Ikea’s incredibly versatile storage utility carts as my nightstand and love it, even though it gets filled with crap and I have to purge its contents weekly. Then I saw Instagramers using the cart for books and I thought, hey, I have 13 3/4 x 17 3/4 x 30 3/4 of unused space in my room! So I snatched up another cart and proceeded to take an hour and a half to put it together, but boy was it worth it.

The top shelf is for all the books I want to finish this summer. Most of them are set during the summer or take place in the desert or on the ocean. Whatever I don’t get to will be replaced in the fall with creepy crawly stories for Halloween.

The second shelf is filled with series I’m currently reading. A lot of them I started a long time ago and have little motivation to continue, but I must since I was stupid enough to buy the entire series (box sets are the devil). I also like seeing things through to the end.

The third shelf is my reread shelf. It’s filled with the first books of series I started reading a long time ago, but never finished. Because I like them so much, I don’t want to try and plow through the newer books and not be able to remember or understand anything. These are going to be my binge reads whenever I get around to them.

I would say this has been working out for me. The last four books I’ve read have been pulled from the cart. Instead of staring at all my shelves for hours wondering what I should read, I only stare at this shelf for half the time. It narrows down my TBR, making it a lot less stressful.

Sigh.

Only I would get stressed out at having too much to read. This shouldn’t even be a problem.

Do you have a TBR cart/stack/pile/shelf?
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[Review] Bad Romance – Heather Demetrios

Title: Bad Romance
Author: Heather Demetrios
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2017
My Rating: ★★★★

From Goodreads: Grace wants out. Out of her house, where her stepfather wields fear like a weapon and her mother makes her scrub imaginary dirt off the floors. Out of her California town, too small to contain her big city dreams. Out of her life, and into the role of Parisian artist, New York director—anything but scared and alone.

Enter Gavin: charming, talented, adored. Controlling. Dangerous. When Grace and Gavin fall in love, Grace is sure it’s too good to be true. She has no idea their relationship will become a prison she’s unable to escape. 


This book festers with rage. The story is told from Grace’s perspective as if she is writing to Gavin, the boy she falls for and later comes to hate and fear. The fact that it’s written in a mix of first and second person only makes it more poignant.

I’ve always wondered how a smart girl could end up in an abusive relationship and then stay in it. Or how you could give up your dreams for a dumb boy. But when you think you’re worthless, you don’t believe you deserve love or to be treated with respect. Grace has such a strong personality, and you just want to shake her for letting Gavin and her family get away with treating her so horribly. If she only said what she was thinking, because my god she is full of attitude, she wouldn’t be in this mess. They wouldn’t be able to cow her.

Even though I know he’s a total dick, I can’t help but find Gavin charming at first. Then I just felt bad for him. It’s clear he has issues, that he needs help. He tries to kill himself because his last girlfriend broke up with him and threatens to kill himself if Grace tries to leave him. You wonder how someone so young, who comes from a decent family, could have such problems.

Though Bad Romance should frustrate you and make you want to throw it across the room, it isn’t completely depressing. There are tons of references to musicals and plays. Most of them I’ve never seen (West Side Story anyone?), so a lot went over my head. But I had some great LOL moments. I would recommend to fans of Patrick Jones’ Things Change and Sarah Dessen’s Dreamland. 

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TBR Unhaul: Week Five

I continue with this seemingly fruitless task of narrowing down my TBR pile. And yet, I find the process oddly soothing. It also brings much needed attention to backlisted titles.

The Squire’s Tale – Gerald Morris

Life for the young orphan Terence has been peaceful, living with Trevisant, the old Hermit in a quiet, isolated wood.

That is, until the day a strange green sprite leads him to Gawain, King Arthur’s nephew, who is on his way to Camelot hoping to be knighted. Trevisant can see the future and knows that Terence must leave to serve as Gawain’s squire. From that moment on, Terence’s life is filled with heart-stopping adventure as he helps damsels-in-distress, fights battles with devious men, and protects King Arthur from his many enemies.

Along the way, Terence is amazed at his skills and new-found magical abilities. Were these a gift from his unknown parents? As Gawain continues his quest for knighthood, Terence searches for answers to the riddles in his own past.

KEEP – I love anything Arthurian.

The Dragon’s Eye – Kaza Kingsley

Life is not easy for twelve-year-old Erec Rex. His single mother can barely support her six adopted kids. And they’ve moved into an apartment so tiny that Erec sleeps with the washing machine. Worse, there is a strange force within Erec that is making him do odd things. His urge to obey these thoughts grows — until it becomes impossible to resist them.

Then one morning, Erec’s mother is missing. The force inside Erec commands him to find her, leading him on an adventure that will change him forever. When he arrives in Alypium, a hidden world where old knowledge of magic is kept, Erec learns that his mother and the entire kingdom are in peril. And he might be the only one who can save them.

AX – Description doesn’t draw me in.

Skulduggery Pleasant – Derek Landy

Meet Skulduggery Pleasant. Sure, he may lose his head now and again (in fact, he won his current skull in a poker match), but he is much more than he appears to be—which is good, considering that he is, basically, a skeleton. Skulduggery may be long dead, but he is also a mage who dodged the grave so that he could save the world from an ancient evil. But to defeat it, he’ll need the help of a new partner: a not so innocent twelve-year-old girl named Stephanie. That’s right, they’re the heroes.

Stephanie and Skulduggery are quickly caught up in a battle to stop evil forces from acquiring her recently deceased uncle’s most prized possession—the Sceptre of the Ancients. The Ancients were the good guys, an extinct race of uber-magicians from the early days of the earth, and the scepter is their most dangerous weapon, one capable of killing anyone and destroying anything. Back in the day, they used it to banish the bad guys, the evil Faceless Ones. Unfortunately, in the way of bad guys everywhere, the Faceless Ones are staging a comeback and no one besides our two heroes believes in the Faceless Ones, or even that the Sceptre is real.

So Stephanie and Skulduggery set off to find the Sceptre, fend off the minions of the bad guys, beat down vampires and the undead, prove the existence of the Ancients and the Faceless Ones, all while trading snappy, snippy banter worthy of the best screwball comedies. (more…)

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TBR Unhaul: Week Four

Just going to dive right in.

Fire in the East – Harry Sidebottom

The year is AD 255 – the Roman Imperium is stretched to breaking point, its authority and might challenged along every border. The greatest threat lies in Persia to the east, where the massing forces of the Sassanid Empire loom with fiery menace. There the isolated Roman citadel of Arete awaits inevitable invasion.

One man is sent to marshal the defences and shore up crumbling walls. A man whose name itself means war: a man called Ballista. Alone, Ballista is called to muster the forces, and the courage to stand first and to stand hard, against the greatest enemy ever to confront the Imperium.

This is part one of WARRIOR OF ROME: an epic of empire, of heroes, of treachery, of courage, and most of all, a story of brutal, bloody warfare.

AX – I read that it starts slow.

Kraken – China Mieville

In the Darwin Centre at London’s Natural History Museum, Billy Harrow, a cephalopod specialist, is conducting a tour whose climax is meant to be the Centre’s prize specimen of a rare Architeuthis dux—better known as the Giant Squid. But Billy’s tour takes an unexpected turn when the squid suddenly and impossibly vanishes into thin air.

As Billy soon discovers, this is the precipitating act in a struggle to the death between mysterious but powerful forces in a London whose existence he has been blissfully ignorant of until now, a city whose denizens—human and otherwise—are adept in magic and murder.

There is the Congregation of God Kraken, a sect of squid worshippers whose roots go back to the dawn of humanity—and beyond. There is the criminal mastermind known as the Tattoo, a merciless maniac inked onto the flesh of a hapless victim. There is the FSRC—the Fundamentalist and Sect-Related Crime Unit—a branch of London’s finest that fights sorcery with sorcery. There is Wati, a spirit from ancient Egypt who leads a ragtag union of magical familiars. There are the Londonmancers, who read the future in the city’s entrails. There is Grisamentum, London’s greatest wizard, whose shadow lingers long after his death. And then there is Goss and Subby, an ageless old man and a cretinous boy who, together, constitute a terrifying—yet darkly charismatic—demonic duo.

All of them—and others—are in pursuit of Billy, who inadvertently holds the key to the missing squid, an embryonic god whose powers, properly harnessed, can destroy all that is, was, and ever shall be.

KEEP – I haven’t read any Mieville yet.

No Shame, No Fear – Ann Turnbull

A young Quaker girl and the son of a wealthy merchant face intolerance and persecution in this gripping historical novel that evokes the passion and idealism of young love.

“Don’t cry. We won’t be parted. I promise.”

It is 1662, and England is reeling from the aftereffects of civil war, with its clashes of faith and culture. Susanna, a young Quaker girl, leaves her family to become a servant in town. Seventeen-year-old Will returns home after completing his studies to begin an apprenticeship arranged by his wealthy father. Susanna and Will meet and fall in love, but can their bond survive — no matter what? Theirs is a story that speaks across the centuries, telling of love and the fight to stay true to what is most important, in spite of parents, society, and even the law.

KEEP – Moar historical fiction. (more…)

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The World Needs Library Simulator

I’m a big fan of escaping reality and where better to do that than in VR? Not only can you immerse yourself in another world, you can choose to be anything you want (Goat Simulator), work any job you want (Garbage Truck Simulator), and date the hunky man of your dreams (Dream Daddy: A Dad Dating Simulator).

So I ask myself, why not have a Library Simulator?

In this game, you could:

  • Learn the Dewey Decimal system.
  • Replace books on shelves.
  • Help visitors find the perfect title for their bookish needs.
  • Scan books for visitors to check out.
  • Create beautiful displays.
  • Read short stories and decide if they go or stay.
  • Attach your Goodreads account and browse actual titles, add them to your TBR, and recommend to others (not fishing for sponsors or anything).

You could even pick different settings: A brightly-lit, ultra modern library with lots of wasted space. An Inner city library with bars on the window (there’s only the one) and an armed security guard. Personally, I would prefer to lord over a more traditional library with polished mahogany shelves, antique tapestries, and candle sconces. This could even add to the excitement–if someone tips over a candle, everything burns!

As if that wasn’t already intensely titillating, here’s where it gets really fun:

  • If people don’t heed your shushes and stern looks, you can stab them in the neck with your Pen of Righteous Discipline.
  • If someone bends the spine of a book, you get to break or remove theirs.

    View post on imgur.com

  • If someone smuggles in food and drink, you get to stuff it down their throat until they choke.
  • If someone dog-ears a page, you get to put a slit in their ear. After, say, two offenses, they lose the ear. And their library card.
  • If someone attempts to steal a book, well, we’ll let them live because who can resist a good book?

Let us not forget story time, children!

 

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[Review] My Italian Bulldozer – Alexander McCall Smith

Title: My Italian Bulldozer
Author: Alexander McCall Smith
Genre: Fiction
Published: 2017
My rating: ★★1/2

From Goodreads:

When writer Paul Stewart heads to the idyllic Italian town of Montalcino to finish his already late book, it seems like the perfect escape from stressful city life. Upon landing, however, things quickly take a turn for the worse when he discovers his hired car is nowhere to be found. With no record of any reservation and no other cars available it looks like Paul is stuck at the airport. That is, until an enterprising stranger offers him an unexpected alternative. While there may be no cars available there is something else on offer: a bulldozer.

With little choice in the matter, Paul accepts and so begins a series of laugh out loud adventures through the Italian countryside, following in the wake of Paul and his Italian Bulldozer. A story of unexpected circumstance and lesson in making the best of what you have, My Italian Bulldozer is a warm holiday read guaranteed to put a smile on your face.


I was supremely excited for this book. I gushed about it to friends and family. I kept looking at the cover again and again (because isn’t it kinda awesome?), and kept seeing it posted on all these “Books to Look for in 2017” lists. I even recommended it to a coworker to bring with on her trip to Italy.

Then I read it.

My disappointment in this book rivals the disappointment my parents have when I do needlepoint on Saturday night. They just look at me wondering, why aren’t you out partying? Why are you wasting your youth?

Why is this book so tame?! I expected a riotous journey through the Italian countryside, but it fell flat. There were quirky moments that made me feel like I was watching a British sitcom, but they hardly got a chuckle from me. Perhaps the humor was just too subtle . . . or nonexistent. I bulldozed (aha) through the novel just to get it out of the way and move on with my life (which, according to my family, I do not actually have).

To keep myself entertained, I started picturing Martin Freeman as Paul. If it ever is adapted into a film, he would fit the part perfectly. He has that pushover appeal.

I will admit, this book is a good palate cleanser after you’ve read a dark and dreary novel. There is a simplicity and innocence to it that I find oddly charming, and I also loved the mouthwatering descriptions of food. However, this is the first and last time I recommend a book I haven’t read. Lesson learned.

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