TBR Unhaul: Week Three

I continue to skim the excess fat from my Goodreads TBR pile. To see last week’s and learn how you can join in (if you dare), click here.

Blood Red Horse – K.M. Grant

You need three things to become a brave and noble knight:
A warhorse.
A fair maiden.
A just cause.

Will has a horse—a small chestnut stallion with a white blaze in his brow. Ellie is a fair maiden, but she’s supposed to marry Will’s older brother, Gavin. And as for the cause, King Richard is calling for a Crusade. The Knights of England must go to the Holy Land to fight.

Will and Gavin will go. Blood will be shed. Lives will be taken. But through it all, two things will be constant—Ellie, and a blood-red horse called Hosanna…

KEEP – Don’t know much about the Crusades, but they interest me.

 

Wintercraft – Jenna Burtenshaw

Ten years ago Kate Winters’ parents were taken by the High Council’s wardens to help with the country’s war effort.

Now the wardens are back…and prisoners, including Kate’s uncle Artemis, are taken south on the terrifying Night Train. Kate and her friend Edgar are hunted by a far more dangerous enemy. Silas Dane – the High Council’s most feared man – recognises Kate as one of the Skilled; a rare group of people able to see through the veil between the living and the dead. His spirit was damaged by the High Council’s experiments into the veil, and he’s convinced that Kate can undo the damage and allow him to find peace.

The knowledge Kate needs lies within Wintercraft – a book thought to be hidden deep beneath the graveyard city of Fume. But the Night of Souls, when the veil between life and death is at its thinnest, is just days away and the High Council have their own sinister plans for Kate and Wintercraft.

KEEP – Gotta love dead men.

Unholy Night – Seth Grahame-Smith

In Grahame-Smith’s telling, the so-called “Three Wise Men” are infamous thieves, led by the dark, murderous Balthazar. After a daring escape from Herod’s prison, they stumble upon the famous manger and its newborn king. The last thing Balthazar needs is to be slowed down by young Joseph, Mary and their infant. But when Herod’s men begin to slaughter the first born in Judea, he has no choice but to help them escape to Egypt.

It’s the beginning of an adventure that will see them fight the last magical creatures of the Old Testament; cross paths with biblical figures like Pontius Pilate and John the Baptist; and finally deliver them to Egypt. It may just be the greatest story never told.

KEEP – I would need to read the bible first though…I honestly have no idea who the three wise men are.

 

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter – Seth Grahame-Smith

Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother’s bedside. She’s been stricken with something the old-timers call “Milk Sickness.”

“My baby boy…” she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother’s fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire.

When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, “henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose…” Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an ax, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House.

While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of our greatest president for the first time-all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of our nation.

AX – I tried reading Pride and Prejudice and Zombies and couldn’t get into it. If I like Unholy Night, I’ll give this one a try.

Farlander – Col Buchanan

For fifty years the Holy Empire of Mann, an empire and religion born from a nihilistic urban cult, has been conquering nation after nation. Their leader, Holy Matriarch Sasheen, ruthlessly maintains control through her Diplomats, priests trained as subtle predators.

Ash is a member of an elite group of assassins, the Roshun, who offer protection through the threat of vendetta. Forced by his ailing health to take on an apprentice, he chooses Nico, a young man living in the besieged city of Bar-Khos. At the time, Nico is hungry, desperate, and alone in a city that finds itself teetering on the brink.

When the Holy Matriarch’s son deliberately murders a woman under the protection of the Roshun, he forces the sect to seek his life in retribution. Ash and his young apprentice set out to fulfill the mandate, and their journey takes them into the heart of the conflict between the Empire and the Free Ports…into bloodshed and death.

AX – I have other books about assassins that I want to read more.

Envy – Gregg Olsen

Crime lives–and dies–in the deceptively picture-perfect town of Port Gamble (aka “Empty Coffin”), Washington. Evil lurks and strange things happen–and 15-year-olds Hayley and Taylor Ryan secretly use their wits and their telepathic “twin-sense” to uncover the truth about the town’s victims and culprits.

Envy, the series debut, involves the mysterious death of the twins’ old friend, Katelyn. Was it murder? Suicide? An accident? Hayley and Taylor are determined to find out–and as they investigate, they stumble upon a dark truth that is far more disturbing than they ever could have imagined.

AX – Meh.

 

(more…)

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Down the TBR Hole: Week Two

Last week I joined in a meme called “Down the TBR Hole” which was originally started on the blog Lost In A Story. I’m trying to trim down my 900+ TBR pile on Goodreads and managed to get rid of 4 out of 10 books, which means there are 4 less books in the world that I feel obligated to read (the struggle is real).

How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by ascending date added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

Let’s begin!

Small Steps – Louis Sachar 

Two years after Camp Green Lake, Armpit is home in Austin. With a record, everyone expects the worst except disabled neighbor Ginny 10. They take small steps on the right path until Camp pal X-Ray has a get-rich-quick idea. Teen pop sensation Kaira DeLeon spins his life out of control. Doing the right thing is never a wrong choice, but a small step in the right direction.

KEEP – I first read Holes in third grade and instantly fell in love with it. I’m just really hesitant to read the sequel. What if it’s not as good? What if it taints my view on the first one? What if it ruins my childhood?!

 

Clockwork Angel – Cassandra Clare

In a time when Shadowhunters are barely winning the fight against the forces of darkness, one battle will change the course of history forever. Welcome to the Infernal Devices trilogy, a stunning and dangerous prequel to the New York Timesbestselling Mortal Instruments series.

The year is 1878. Tessa Gray descends into London’s dark supernatural underworld in search of her missing brother. She soon discovers that her only allies are the demon-slaying Shadowhunters—including Will and Jem, the mysterious boys she is attracted to. Soon they find themselves up against the Pandemonium Club, a secret organization of vampires, demons, warlocks, and humans. Equipped with a magical army of unstoppable clockwork creatures, the Club is out to rule the British Empire, and only Tessa and her allies can stop them…

AX – I read City of Bones years ago and thought it was (don’t kill me, fangirls) only okay. One day I’ll try to delve back into the series, but I can’t read this until I do that.

 

A Stranger at Green Knowe – L. M. Boston

L. M. Boston’s thrilling and chilling tales of Green Knowe, a haunted manor deep in an overgrown garden in the English countryside, have been entertaining readers for half a century. Now the children of Green Knowe–both alive and ghostly–are back in appealing new editions. 

KEEP – I loved the first in the series, The Children of Green Knowe. Every time I think about it, it gives me this warm, nostalgic feeling even though all I remember is that there are creepy ghost children.

(more…)

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Down The TBR Hole: Week One

One of my favorite things to do is peruse bookish lists and add to my TBR. On Goodreads, I have well over 900 titles marked as to-read. Each time I compare that to the number of actual titles read (567), I have a panic attack.

I’ve been wanting to cull my TBR for a while now, but hadn’t the motivation until I came across “Down the TBR Hole,” originally created by Lia at Lost In A Story.

How to participate:

  • Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf
  • Order by ascending date added
  • Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
  • Read the synopses of the books
  • Decide: keep it or let it go?

Each week, I will post ten books and their synopses (from Goodreads), then decide what I’m keeping or axing. Should only take about, oh, 90 weeks. Longer if I keep adding. At any rate, I hope you’ll gain something from this. Either new books to add to your TBR or motivation to do this yourself. For me, I hope I’ll learn to be more discerning. I once thought I’d read every book that crossed my path, but now I realize the foolishness in such a pursuit (unless I am one day bitten by a vampire–here’s hoping!)

If you’ve read something on this list that I decide to let go, but you really liked, let me know and I just may keep it. You may not be easing my stress, but you will be recommending me a great book and that’s all I can ask for. Also, if there is one that I’m keeping that you really just loathed with all your being, do tell. No point wasting time on sucky books.

Let’s begin, shall we?

Curse of the Spider King – Wayne Thomas Batson and Christopher Hopper

The Seven succeeding Elven Lords of Allyra were dead, lost in the Siege of Berinfell as babes. At least that’s what everyone thought until tremors from a distant world known as Earth, revealed strange signs that Elven blood lived among its peoples. With a glimmer of hope in their hearts, sentinels are sent to see if the signs are true. But theirs is not a lone errand. The ruling warlord of Allyra, the Spider King, has sent his own scouts to hunt down the Seven and finish the job they failed to complete many ages ago.

Now 13-year-olds on the brink of the Age of Reckoning when their Elven gifts will be manifest, discover the unthinkable truth that their adoptive families are not their only kin. With mysterious Sentinels revealing breathtaking secrets of the past, and dark strangers haunting their every move, will the young Elf Lords find the way back to the home of their birth? Worlds and races collide as the forces of good and evil battle. Will anyone escape the Curse of the Spider King?

AX – Sounds interesting, but I haven’t been into MG lately since it is far too tame.


The Travelers – D.J. MacHale

Every territory of Halla has a Traveler. They lived for years–some even for decades–before learning of their true destiny. What was life like for Bobby Pendragon’s fellow Travelers before they joined him in the fight to save every time and place that has ever existed? What led up to their becoming the guardians of Halla? The answers are here!

In this first of three thrilling Pendragon prequels, read about Vo Spader’s death-defying adventures in the underwater world of Cloral, Gunny Van Dyke’s race to find a murderer in 1930’s Manhattan on First Earth, and the tough challenges Kasha faced on Eelong well before Bobby Pendragon arrived . . . 

KEEP – Pendragon is one of my favorite series ever. Maybe when I reread all ten books, I will finally get to this. Sigh. I’ve just added more to my list…


Runelight – Joanne Harris 

The squabbling Norse gods and goddesses of Runemarks are back! And there’s a feisty new heroine on the scene: Maggie, a girl the same age as Maddy but brought up a world apart – literally, in World’s End, the focus of the Order in which Maddy was raised. Now the Order is destroyed, Chaos is filling the vacuum left behind… and is breaching the everyday world.

A chilling prophecy from the Oracle. A conflict between two girls. And with just twelve days to stave off the Apocalypse, carnage is about to be unleashed . .

KEEP – I read the first book years and years ago. I think I liked it. Honestly, I’m going to read anything with Loki in it.

 

 


Gladiator: Fight for Freedom – Simon Scarrow 

Rome, 61 BC

RECRUITED as a gladiator, young Marcus Cornelius Primus faces a new life of brutal training, governed by strict rules, as he learns the skills of an elite warrior.

But Marcus cannot simply forget his past. His father lies murdered by soldiers and his mother has been kidnapped and forced into slavery. Marcus is determined to find his father’s old commander, Pompeius the Great, to seek justice for his family and set his mother free.

Yet, unbeknown to him, Marcus is hiding a life-threatening secret. And if the Romans discover it, there will be no escape . . .

AX – I love anything set in ancient Rome, but I’m not entirely sold on the synopsis (or the cover).


The Vampire Lestat – Anne Rice 

Once an aristocrat in the heady days of pre-revolutionary France, now Lestat is a rockstar in the demonic, shimmering 1980s. He rushes through the centuries in search of others like him, seeking answers to the mystery of his terrifying exsitence. His story, the second volume in Anne Rice’s best-selling Vampire Chronicles, is mesmerizing, passionate, and thrilling.

KEEP – I liked Interview with a Vampire. Also, I own it, so I better read it.

 

 

 

 


Snow White and the Seven Samurai – Tom Holt

Once upon a time (or last Thursday, as it’s known in this matrix) everything was fine: Humpty Dumpty sat on his wall, Jack and Jill went about their lawful business, the Big Bad Wolf did what big bad wolves do, and the wicked queen plotted murder most foul.But the humans hacked, cried havoc, shut down the wicked queen’s system (mirrors 3.1) and corrupted her database – and suddenly everything was not fine at all. But at least we know that they’ll all live happily ever after. Don’t we?Computers and fairy tales collide to hilarious effect in the latest sparkling cocktail of mayhem, wit and wonder from the master of comic fantasy.

KEEP – Sounds quirky.

 


The Dragon’s Path – Daniel Abraham

All paths lead to war…

Marcus’ hero days are behind him. He knows too well that even the smallest war still means somebody’s death. When his men are impressed into a doomed army, staying out of a battle he wants no part of requires some unorthodox steps.

Cithrin is an orphan, ward of a banking house. Her job is to smuggle a nation’s wealth across a war zone, hiding the gold from both sides. She knows the secret life of commerce like a second language, but the strategies of trade will not defend her from swords.

Geder, sole scion of a noble house, has more interest in philosophy than in swordplay. A poor excuse for a soldier, he is a pawn in these games. No one can predict what he will become.

Falling pebbles can start a landslide. A spat between the Free Cities and the Severed Throne is spiraling out of control. A new player rises from the depths of history, fanning the flames that will sweep the entire region onto The Dragon’s Path-the path to war.

KEEP – Epic fantasy is my weakness.


Dark Light of Day – Jill Archer

Armageddon is over. The demons won. And yet somehow…the world has continued. Survivors worship patron demons under a draconian system of tributes and rules. These laws keep the demons from warring among themselves, and the world from slipping back into chaos.

Noon Onyx grew up on the banks of the river Lethe, the daughter of a prominent politician, and a descendant of Lucifer’s warlords. Noon has a secret: She was born with waning magic, the dark, destructive, fiery power that is used to control demons and maintain the delicate peace among them. But a woman with waning magic is unheard of, and some would consider her an abomination. 

Noon is summoned to attend St. Lucifer’s, a school of demon law. She must decide whether to declare her powers there…or to attempt to continue hiding them, knowing the price for doing so may be death. And once she meets the forbiddingly powerful Ari Carmine—who suspects Noon is harboring magic as deadly as his own—Noon realizes there may be more at stake than just her life.

AX – I love stories with demons, but if I don’t want to immediately go out and purchase the book, then it probably doesn’t belong on my list.


The Map of Time – Felix J. Palma 

This rollicking page-turner with a cast of real and imagined literary characters and cunning intertwined plots stars a skeptical H.G. Wells as a time-traveling investigator.

Characters real and imaginary come vividly to life in this whimsical triple play of intertwined plots, in which a skeptical H. G. Wells is called upon to investigate purported incidents of time travel and to save lives and literary classics, including Dracula and The Time Machine, from being wiped from existence.

What happens if we change history?

AX – Steampunk, time travel, Dracula? Like, why am I taking this off the list? I normally don’t look at people’s reviews since I like to form my own opinion, but this one didn’t get the best ratings. It’s been on my list since 2012 and I still haven’t read it. Perhaps there’s a reason.


Sorceress – Celia Rees 

It came to Agnes unbidden: a vision of Mary Newbury, a young woman driven from her Puritan settlement, accused of being a witch. It is an image of a life about to change radically, as Mary defies all accepted norms — embracing independence, love, and loyalty to a Native American community that accepts her as one of their own. The two women’s lives are separated by almost four hundred years, but they are linked by more than blood. For, like Mary, Agnes has special powers — powers that Mary seeks to ensure that the rest of her story is told. 

KEEP – I read the first book, holy balls, like years ago. I don’t remember much, which means I’ll have to reread it in order to read this.

 

 

Woo! Got rid of 4/10 books. Only 919 more to go!

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Why Alphabetizing Your Private Library is The Worst: A Journey

It’s Friday night and I’ve just consumed a small Albino Turtle. Two shots of espresso, my limit for this week, surges through my veins. I’m jittery and restless until an idea hits me. An idea to do something worthwhile. Something good. I quickly fold piles of clothes and vacuum the carpet that hasn’t seen the light of day in weeks. Vivaldi blares from a Bose speaker.

Armed with my catalog of books and a damp rag, I begin. I clear the top shelf of a bookcase, wipe it down, and start the alphabetizing process.The Invisible Road by Rafael Abalos goes first, followed by The Woman in the Dunes by Kobo Abe. Then Joe Abercrombie’s Half a King. Slowly, the shelf fills. Tall books tower over vertically impaired ones. Fantasy buddies up to literary and mystery.

I am a revolutionary breaking the barriers between genres. Tonight, we are all one. We are paper. We are ink. We are words and ideas.

I play air violin to Carmen Fantasy, Op. 25 by Pablo de Sarasate and dance among stacks of books that cover the floor and bed. My mom steps into the room and turns right around. My brother asks me, “Are you out of your mind?”

By midnight, I think he may be right. I waver when my beloved Artemis Fowl books end up on the bottom shelf. As if they are nothing better than mass market paperbacks. I remind myself again, despite our outward appearances, despite the thickness of our bindings, we are all equal. Even with this inclusive new attitude, I am ill at ease with World War Z nestled against Wuthering Heights. Yet I knew when I began it would be complete, albeit meticulously organized, chaos. Determined to see it through, I shanghai my boyfriend into helping.

By three in the morning, I begin to admit that this undertaking may possibly be a mistake. I have only organized two out of four bookshelves, but that isn’t the issue. I can deny it no longer–the simple fact is that a new book would compromise the integrity of the entire system. For any new book that I buy, I would have to make room by moving every subsequent book one space over. I cannot do that for nearly 1,000 books.

The idea of a living shelf that is constantly evolving appeals to me, but it is not one easily maintained. Dejected, I quit. I do not get to the letter R. My dreams of having Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On next to J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter are crushed.

The next day, I gain perspective. No longer are my books equal. No longer will I blur the lines. With steadfast resolve, I segregate my books by genre.

I make it to midnight before I clear enough space on the bed for me and my dog to pass out. My boyfriend has to move fifty or so books just to get to the bed.

He knows I’m crazy, but he loves me anyway.

Uttering every violent threat I can think of to myself, I finish Sunday evening, but I am pleased with the results. I have two bookshelves dedicated to fantasy, one YA/adult, the other MG. Another bookcase houses science fiction, paranormal romance, horror, and fantasy. The last is full of literary classics, realistic fiction, magical realism, thriller, and . . . fantasy.

I have a lot of fantasy, okay?

I even did a bit of organizing by color (of which I am normally staunchly against) for my stand-alones. Interestingly enough, after filling the shelves, I had about fifty mass market paperbacks that I had no space for. They’re now stacked between a bookshelf and an armoire. I can only imagine it’s like having spare parts after dismantling and reassembling an engine.

I would strongly dissuade anyone from this overly ambitious endeavor, particularly if you have a large collection. I’m sick of handling books and will not be reorganizing again until the next time I move. Alas, I recently bought four new books and they are sitting untouched in the box they came in because I don’t want to find room for them.

How do you organize your shelves? 

 

 

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[Review] The House – Christina Lauren

Title: The House
Author: Christina Lauren
Genre: YA Horror
Published: 2015
My Rating: ★★★★★

When her family can no longer afford to send her to private school, Delilah returns to public school in her hometown. There, she thrusts herself upon the mysterious boy she’s had a crush on since forever.

Gavin has a secret–his house has a mind of its own and has raised him since he was a small child. House is the only family he has until Delilah enters his life, and House isn’t interested in sharing him.

I loved this! I was so thoroughly creeped out. I read it late at night (of course) and it got to the point where I’d demand my boyfriend to stand guard outside the bathroom. He wouldn’t humor me.

To be honest, I’m a bit of a chickenshit. Horror buffs might not feel the same tingles of adrenaline I did. But it’s not like there’s some thing in the house that hates Delilah. It’s the entire freaking house. Every inanimate object inside it has a mind of its own. Not only that, but its reach extends past the house, through roots and wires, to other homes. It’s not like you can easily sneak around and get away from it. The whole town is unsafe.

The characters are both endearing and I appreciated the dual point of views. Delilah looks sweet and normal, but is obsessed with the macabre. She doodles gruesome pictures in her notebooks, watches slasher flicks, and alphabetizes her books by the cause and number of deaths (might have to look into this). She’s also fiercely protective of Gavin, who is a doll (not literally, to clarify). He looks like your mysterious, haunted bad boy, but he’s actually a sweetheart. They are utterly adorable together and I was seriously worried that something horrible was going to happen to both of them.

I would recommend this to fans of Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake. It’s not as bloody and full of angst, but it still made me laugh and gave me the chills.

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[Review] The Love Interest – Cale Dietrich

Title: The Love Interest
Author: Cale Dietrich
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2017
My Rating:  ★★

Caden is a Nice, the boy next door. Dyl is a Bad, the tortured and dangerous hot guy. After years of training to become spies–specifically, the Love Interest of a Chosen (a person who will one day likely have great influence and power)–the two are thrust into the real world to compete in making a brilliant young woman fall in love with them. When the two begin to have feelings for each other, their mission becomes even more complicated. Worse, whoever she doesn’t chose will die. 

I was so looking forward to this book. I first saw it in Writer’s Digest, where they put a spotlight on debut authors. The cover snagged my attention first, followed by the odd but compelling premise. Two boys who fall in love with each other instead of the girl they’re supposed to? Heck ya!

Unfortunately, I knew I was doomed from the beginning. The voice and the dialogue felt stilted and juvenile. Yes, I’m an adult–wait, did I just say that? All right, yes, I admit it: I am physically an adult. But I read a lot of YA. There’s stuff that feels super kid-lit and stuff that has crossover appeal. This did not have crossover appeal. It just felt too…bubbly for what was happening. Perhaps it was because the story is told from the Nice’s perspective. If it had been told from the Bad’s perspective, there likely would’ve been a lot more angst.

The plot, especially in the last half, felt extremely over the top. When I was going in, I didn’t realize this would be a life or death situation and that the loser would be incinerated. I’m generally all for action, but I could’ve done without it here. I wanted the author to focus more on Caden and Dyl’s relationship. Something more realistic would’ve been more compelling. There’s also so much attention to clothes. Like, every scene there’s a description. Honestly, who cares?

I’ll admit, there are a few gems. Caden asks his coach, “Wouldn’t it be better to send us in when we’re a bit older? No one finds the love of their life while they’re a teenager.” To which she replies, “You haven’t read many YA novels recently, have you?” Dietrich pokes fun at trends in YA. How boys are expected to behave in those stories. Not like persons in their own right, but someone to cater to the girl’s every whim. The boys alter their appearances and their personalities to conform to the girl’s desires. They put her ahead of themselves at all times. It’s nice to see someone take that love triangle trope and turn it on its head. It made me think more about my own characters and how I want them to be fully fleshed out individuals.

Overall, I really wanted to like this book. The idea intrigued me, but I didn’t like the execution. It’s a debut and unfortunately it reads like a debut.

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“What Should I Read Next?” Podcast by Anne Bogel

I’ve recently begun listening to the podcast What Should I Read Next?, hosted by Anne Bogel over at Modern Mrs. Darcy. Each week she interviews a new guest. They are bloggers, fellow podcasters, authors, bookstore owners–basically people who love talking about books. Each episode is structured the same: The guest shares three books they love, one book they didn’t like, and what they want to change in their reading life.

With that information, Bogel gets to the heart of what they enjoy and what they’re looking for, then gives them three book recommendations. One guest called her the “Book Whisperer.” Many consider being on the show as a form of book therapy. She recommends books I’ve never heard of or books I would never have picked up without her describing them in such a compelling way. Needless to say, my already mountainous TBR pile now blots out the sun.

Unfortunately, there is little love for genre fiction on the show. You get a definite snobby vibe when anyone speaks about anything that isn’t considered “high literary fiction.” Still, I like to fantasize about what I would say if I were on the show.

Three Books I Love:

Like almost every guest on the show says, this is difficult. Obviously I can’t narrow down my favorites to three. I couldn’t even narrow it down to twenty. I could give the obvious and say Harry Potter or Artemis Fowl or any of the books that really resonated with me when I was younger and that still do. However, I will go with books that I’ve read in the last two years that I loved and will reread over and over again.

The Raven Boys – Maggie Stiefvater

The book follows Blue, whose life becomes entwined with four rich students from a nearby academy and their quest to find a long-lost Welsh king.

I cannot emphasize how much I love this series. I wish I had an ounce of Stiefvater’s talent. Just one freaking ounce.The Raven Cycle checks off all my boxes: Fully-fleshed out characters, close male relationships, magic, fast cars, a compelling plot, snark, hilarity, beautiful writing.

I’m so flippin’ excited that she’s making a trilogy with Ronan and Adam, who are my two favorite characters. (This is the part where I shatter Bogel’s eardrums from my shriek of excitement.)

I’ve read a little of Stiefvater’s other work. Shiver is about a pack of werewolves in Minnesota, but even though it’s set in my state, it didn’t capture my interest as much. I abandoned The Scorpio Races after a few pages, knowing I just wasn’t in the mood to read it (I’ll get back to it, I promise). But The Raven Boys is something I see myself rereading every year and never tiring of it.


Six of Crows – Leigh Bardugo

This takes place a few years after the events in the Shadow and Bone trilogy. It follows criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker (Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz. Kaz.) and his crew, who embark on a mission to retrieve a hostage from an impenetrable military stronghold and survive long enough to collect their reward.

I love Kaz’s character so much. He’s the right amount of vicious, the right amount of damaged. He’s soooooo dreamy, especially when he’s maiming people. He’s one of those characters who is one step ahead of everyone, even his own crew. I also loved the way Bardugo weaved together the different characters and their point of views. They all compliment each other really well.

If you like Netflix’s series, Peaky Blinders starring Cillian Murphy, you should definitely take a look at this. I began watching Peaky Blinders after reading the duology and all I could think was that Thomas Shelby reminded me of an adult version of Kaz.

Yum.


Wolf by Wolf – Ryan Graudin

Though it’s such a horrid period in time, I’m fascinated by World War II. I have an entire shelf dedicated to it and Wolf by Wolf is a worthy addition.

The story is set in an alternate history where the Axis powers win. A young Jewish girl named Yael is experimented on by Nazis. Given the power to skinshift, she escapes the concentration camp and joins a group of rebels. Her mission is to assassinate Hitler. To do so, she poses as the only female participant in a motorcycle race from Germany to Tokyo.

This one was heartbreaking and exciting and powerful. The sequel, Blood for Blood, even more so. As you can maybe tell from my other choices, I enjoy reading about male characters. Like a lot. But Yael is so likable and broken, that she has become one of my all-time favorite heroines.

I would recommend this to anyone looking for fast-paced action with characters who have a lot of depth.


There are so many others I wanted to include on this list. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas, A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. The list goes on…

One Book I Hate:

It’s rare for me to hate a book. Especially since I don’t have any more teachers who like to shove horrible books down my throat. My all-time most-hated book is Coin Locker Babies by Ryu Murakami. I will never forgive my Japanese literature teacher for making me read this horrendous novel. You need only read the first sentence to know why I hate it. I will never be able to scrub it from my mind.

A recent book I disliked–hate is too strong of a word–was I Woke Up Dead At The Mall by Judy Sheehan.

A girl from New York City is poisoned at her father’s wedding and ends up at the Mall of America, which serves as a sort of limbo, a place you go to before you go to heaven.

Weird premise, but I picked this up because it sounded quirky and I’m from Minnesota. It’s so rare to find books set here. But it hardly took place here at all. Most of the time, we’re in New York while the main character visits her past and tries to warn her father about her killer. I didn’t understand why only people from New York went to the Mall of America after they died. Why wouldn’t people from Minnesota go there? It just didn’t make sense and I didn’t make a connection to the MC or any of the other characters. I honestly didn’t care that they had died.

Changes I Want in My Reading Life:

I want to read more books in different genres. I only read fiction, most of it YA, and the vast majority of it is fantasy or science fiction. It’s not a coincidence that I also write YA fantasy. It’s what I love.

I want to include more nonfiction, especially creative nonfiction, more short stories, more literary fiction, and maybe, just maybe, a memoir (but that’s stretching it a bit). I also want to read more classics. I have a few shelves of them, but they intimidate me either because of their thickness (I’m trying to get through a large quantity of books this year) or because I’m worried about my own thickness and not being able to understand them.

So. Any recommendations for me? If you had to pick three favorites and one you didn’t like, what would they be?
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[Review] Outlander – Diana Gabaldon

Title: Outlander
Author: Diana Gabaldon
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Published: 1991
My Rating: ★★★★★

After WWII ends, army nurse Claire Randall vacations in the highlands of Scotland with her husband. While visiting a standing stone in an ancient circle, she is hurled back in time to 1743, where her life becomes intertwined with a young Scots warrior. 


Holy balls there’s a lot of sex. Like, chapters of it! Pages and pages and pages . . . My eyes are so violated and yet, I still loved this book. I hesitated picking it up recently because it’s so thick (that’s what she said) and I wasn’t ready for the commitment of such a hefty series. But I kept hearing about it, especially with the TV series now airing, and I remembered my older cousin recommending this book to me over a decade ago when I was a teen. She wisely told me to hold off until I was older.

I’m so glad I waited. If I hadn’t, I would’ve hated this book. There were just too many adult themes for my younger self to handle. Even now, there are a few things I could’ve done without, such as all the birthing and nursing scenes. Reading about someone milking themselves is not something I’m inclined to enjoy.

Gabaldon skillfully transports us back in time. Not only to 1945, but to 1743 as well. Her descriptions are so vivid that I actually feel like I’m in the Scottish Highlands. As far as I know, the accents are spot on and weren’t horribly difficult to understand (Huck Finn, anyone?). I wish I knew more about that particular area and time in history, but Gabaldon does a great job keeping me in the story without wondering what the heck is going on. The only problem I had were the kilts. I find them unattractive, so I often pictured the men in pants.

And in the case of Jamie Fraser, the young Scotsman, I pictured no pants at all (*roguish grin*). Ah, Jamie . . .  there were times I was very cross with him for being such a bullish man, but he is a product of his environment and I cannot fault him for that. With all that he has to endure, which is shockingly graphic and horrifying in parts, you cannot help but love him.

I’m sorely tempted to begin watching Hulu’s version, but I’d like to get through the entire series before I do. I don’t like picturing the actors while I’m reading the books, and I’m afraid they won’t do justice to the books. I also don’t want to actually see naked people because icky!

Have you read it or watched the adaptation?

 

 

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[Book Review] Holding Up the Universe – Jennifer Niven

Title: Holding Up the Universe
Author: Jennifer Niven
Genre: YA Fiction
Published: 2016
My Rating: ★★★★★

The sudden death of her mother caused Libby Strout to overeat to the point where she could no longer move and had to be cut out of her house. Now she’s lost half the weight and is returning to school for her junior year. Despite the bullies, she plans on having a normal high school experience by joining the dance team and sexing off the rest of her weight.

Jack is the school’s king, but he has a secret. He cannot recognize faces, not even his own family’s. Everyone is a stranger to him. To keep himself from being hurt, he acts aloof and doesn’t let anyone get too close.

When he plays a cruel prank on Libby (and she bloodies his nose), the two are forced into detention together. A budding relationship ensues.


This was freaking adorable. I love Libby. I love Jack. I love Libby and Jack together. They’re both funny and flawed and full of personality. I especially loved Jack’s ten-year-old brother, who is wise beyond his years. He also suffers from bullying because he’s black and most certainly gay. I so badly want to see a sequel starring this kid as a teenager.

Overweight people tend to be seen as less than human in this country, and it amazes me how much one person can hate another for their appearance alone. After being cut out of her house, Libby is sent hate mail. They call her a fat whore and shame her for eating so much while others starve. Yet Libby doesn’t let that stop her. We can all learn from her optimism and confidence. I mean, I could never walk the school’s hallways in a purple bikini, and I’m a good two hundred pounds lighter than her.

This book learned me a few things. First of all, I had no idea that prosopagnosia (face-blindness) existed. It’s frightfully fascinating, but also, I imagine, terrifying. In Jack’s case, nobody has a clue. Not even his family or closest friends. He has to search for identifiers to recognize people. Hair color, skin color, voice. If he gets people mixed up, it leads to bad things, like making out with his girlfriend’s cousin. Brad Pitt also suffers from face-blindness. That must be why we’re not together. He just can’t keep track of me (Kidding! I never had a crush on Pitt. He’s, like, old and I don’t want anyone’s leftovers).

Also, did you know a group of pandas is called an “embarrassment”? Next time my family calls me an embarrassment, I will take it as a compliment. Why yes, thank you, I am cute, cuddly, and furry.

Holding Up the Universe reminds me of Eleanor and Park. It’s sweet, funny and heartbreaking. It may not be set during the rad ’80s, but it’s in a similar vein of fiction. I haven’t read Niven’s acclaimed All the Bright Places, but you can bet it will be arriving on my doorstep soon.

Suggested reading: We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. Because it’s Libby’s all-time favorite novel, it’s referenced often. I unfortunately haven’t read it, so the references went over my head.

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[Book Review] The Sin Eater’s Daughter – Melinda Salisbury

Title: The Sin Eater’s Daughter
Author: Melinda Salisbury
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2015
My Rating: ★★★★

Twylla gives up her future as a Sin Eater to become a goddess-embodied. Betrothed to the prince, she carries out her duty as the queen’s executioner for those who commit treason. The very touch of her skin kills. The court, even the prince, avoids her. When a charming new guard arrives, she learns what it is to love. Or something.


Salisbury’s worldbuilding is spot on. The idea of Eating your sins interests me immensely. There are different foods for different sins. For example, Crow for murder and bull’s eye for rape. The Sin Eater, who is always a woman in Twylla’s kingdom, has to accept the food. If she doesn’t, then the deceased cannot be properly put to rest. The Sin Eater is beyond even the queen’s power.

What I don’t understand, and maybe I missed this, is how do you know what foods to set out for the deceased? Some sins are obvious. Others, not so much. What if it’s a secret sin? Do people just somehow know? Or is the person supposed to confess their sins before they die? It was unclear.

Twylla, the main character, doesn’t have as strong a personality as I would like. She shows moments of ruthlessness: She gave up her destiny as a Sin Eater, which she didn’t want, to become a princess. She seems resigned to her role as executioner. She craves power. Yet I didn’t entirely connect with her. She doesn’t actually do a whole lot. For most of the novel, she’s restricted to her room. Anytime she leaves her room, she is accompanied by her escort. I feel like the only thing she really contributes is that she reveals the queen’s plan.

The prince’s plight, on the other hand, tugged at my heartstrings. The poor, lonesome little guy. When you’re surrounded by crazy, inbred family who want to marry you, well, how can you not sympathize? Although he is smart and handsome with dark hair and pale skin (yum, my favorite), I cannot overlook the years of inbreeding that brought him into the world. Therefore, no book boyfriend.

I’ll be honest, the queen scares me. I think women make the best villains. They can be truly terrifying forces, likely because they’re portrayed as being more unpredictable. There’s something about the wicked queen that terrifies me. Wicked kings don’t strike as much fear in me.

I’ve already ordered the second book, so I liked it enough to continue. I’m also excited to switch to a new female protagonist. While I’m not usually a fan of series that change main characters like that, I’m actually looking forward to reading about someone other than Twylla.

Bottom line: Read this for the worldbuilding, not for the character development.

Have you read it?
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