Fall Bookish Bingo Wrap-Up

Monday, November 30, 2015

 Water on the Cover: The Lake House by Kate Morton
Reread: Crown of Midnight by Sarah J. Maas
Over 400 Pages: Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas
New to You Author: Marissa Campbell (Avelynn
September Release: Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas 
Author Shares First Initial: Jim Butcher (The Aeronaut's Windlass)
Historical Fiction: Walk on Earth a Stranger by Rae Carson
Book You Borrowed: Broken Blade by Kelly McCullough
LGBTQIA: Underneath Everything by Marcy Beller Paul
On Shelf for A Year+: Madapple by Christina Meldrum 
Horror: The Dead House by Dawn Kertagich
Religious Minority MC: Written in the Stars by Aisha Saeed 
Animal on Cover: Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Lol-worthy: False Covenant by Ari Marmell (10/14/15) 
About DreamsLair of Dreams by Libba Bray (10/14/15 -10/16/15)
Mental Illness: The Anatomical Shape of a Heart by Jenn Bennett (10/17/15 - 10/19/15)
Black Cover:  Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (10/24/15 - 
Science Fiction: Empire in Black and Gold by Adrian Tchaikovsky (10/28/15 - 10/30/15)
Sparkly Cover: Black Heart by Holly Black 
Mystery: The Secret Life of Anna Blanc by Jennifer Kincheloe
Set in Another Country: The Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton

Science Fiction: Armada by Ernest Cline (9/7)
New To You Author: Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout (9/15)
Borrowed: Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews (9/18)
Animal On Cover: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs (9/20)
LGBT+: George by Alex Gino (9/21)
September Release: Tonight the Streets Are Ours by Leila Sales (9/27)
Black Cover: Ash by Malinda Lo (9/29)
Religious Minority MC: Ten Things I Hate About Me by Randa Abdel-Fattah (9/29)
New Adult: Misbehaving by Abbi Glines (10/1)
Horror: Deadline by Mira Grant (10/10)
On Shelf for 1+ Years: Redshirts by John Scalzi (10/18)
Mystery: Grave Surprise by Charlaine Harris (10/22)
Water on the Cover: Pirate by Fabio (10/31)
Over 400 Pages: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo (11/2)
Orange Cover: Tiger Lily by Jodi Lynn Anderson (11/9)
ReRead: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson (11/9)
Historical Fiction: Bright Young Things by Anna Godbersen (11/26)
Sparkly Cover: Firefight by Brandon Sanderson (11/29)

So, not quite as good as summer, but I think the card was harder! So darlings, are you finally joining us for winter?

Blog Tour Review: A Year of Ravens by various

Title: A Year of Ravens
Author: Ruth Downie, Stephanie Dray, E. Knight, Kate Quinn, Vicky Alvear Shecter, S.J.A. Turney, Russell Whitfield, and Ben Kane
Genre: historical fiction
Series: n/a
Pages: 445
Published: November 15 2015
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 4/5

Britannia: land of mist and magic clinging to the western edge of the Roman Empire. A red-haired queen named Boudica led her people in a desperate rebellion against the might of Rome, an epic struggle destined to consume heroes and cowards, young and old, Roman and Celt . . . and these are their stories.

A calculating queen sees the sparks of revolt in a king’s death.

A neglected slave girl seizes her own courage as Boudica calls for war.

An idealistic tribune finds manhood in a brutal baptism of blood and slaughter.

A conflicted warrior hovers between loyalty to tribe and loyalty to Rome.

A death-haunted Druid challenges the gods themselves to ensure victory for his people.

An old champion struggles for everlasting glory in the final battle against the legions.

A fiery princess fights to salvage the pieces of her mother’s dream as the ravens circle.

A novel in seven parts, overlapping stories of warriors and peacemakers, queens and slaves, Romans and Celts who cross paths during Boudica’s epic rebellion. But who will survive to see the dawn of a new Britannia, and who will fall to feed the ravens?

This anthology boasts some of my favorite historical fiction writers and ones who collaborated so well with their Pompeii-centric anthology A Day of Fire. There were some new voices (SJA Turney, Ruth Downie, etc.) added to the mix this time around and though new to me, they were fitting additions to the known talents of Knight, Quinn, Dray, and Shecter. Spanning just the year-ish long rebellion of the infamous Iceni Queen and told through seven disparate but relevant voices from both sides of the conflict, A Year of Ravens boasts some complex themes, fully dimensional characters, and remarkable storytelling. 

There's a lot to admire about A Year of Ravens but there were three notable standouts as I made my way through the the early 450 page collection. Stephanie Dray's authorial talents bookend the anthology with two stories about a forgotten contemporary of Boudica's -- Cartimandua, Queen of the Brigantes. Cartimandua is a fascinating character (and was a real life client Queen of Rome.) Dray is of such talent that while reading her stories, I have to google all the fascinating details she peppers her narrative with. (Seriously - who would have thought Roman client-kingship so interesting?) 

Dray makes the point that while you have heard of Boudica, you can't fully understand her or put her life in context without comparing the life of her contemporary queen Cartimandua. Dray fully proves her point with her powerhouse introductory addition. She skillfully brings the reader up to speed on what Roman-held Britain was like; how the various tribes rebelled, fought amongst each other, and then finally united after an unforgivable series of events. Boudica's legend has lasted a thousand years while Cartimandua's has not. With Dray's talent, this real-life woman provides an excellent foil for her more famous counterpart.

The four stories that followed Dray's The Queen (The Slave, The Tribune, The Druid, The Son) were good. A few were very good - The Slave by Ruth Downie and The Son by SJA Turney were four stars each. The other two (authored by Russell Whitfield and Vicky Alvear Shecter, respectively) were three-stars and just lacked the spark I felt for the other stories. Those two were also quite intertwined with another - both in terms of plot and with characters that inhabited both. I was interested in Agricola because of his role but found his narration somewhat stilted and overlong. I liked The Slave because it showed a different, unique view of Boudica -- from even amongst her own tribe. Her legend has lead people to remember and revere her but she was not perfect. She made mistakes and wasn't always what she is remembered to be, as shown in her treatment of Ria, the slave.

A Year of Ravens takes pains to show the horrors and complexities of rebellion and war. In trying to rid their shores of the hated Romans, the Iceni and their allies often resort to the same butchery and torture as the Romans did before them. And in return, the Roman reprisals are equally damning. Both sides have valid points of contention; both sides have wounds that demand redress. Duro, Boudica's premier warrior and Valeria, a captured Roman matron, especially show the differing views but vivid commonalities between the two cultures. In Kate Quinn's contribution The Warrior, these points are made easily with the banter of the oddly complimentary and combative pair. Kate Quinn is a master of characterization, even with less than 70 pages to work with.

I first read E. Knight last year, with her excellent contribution to A Day of Fire, a short story titled The Mother. Her choice here was to give voice to Boudica's two wildly different but beloved daughters and it was impressively handled. Historically remembered as just "Boudica's daughters" Knight gives them names, voices, personalities, motivations and more. They come alive as Boudica does, but from their own point of view and in their own distinct voices as we never see or hear from their warrior mother. They are two vastly different kind of women and their POVs flash between the past and the present, but it's a streamlined narrative. Knight easily picks up the plot lines laid down by the six authors before her and weaves them into an expected but still original ending. 

This was a fantastic anthology. The authors' various styles meld well together and foster a remarkably coherent tale for one told from so many varying techniques and perspectives. A Year of Ravens uses Boudica and her rebellion to propel the main plot but it's the little seen narratives and views used that make the anthology creative and memorable. A Year of Ravens is the kind of historical fiction that leaves you even more interested in the time, place, and people depicted than you were before. Boudica has long been a historical favorite of mine and I can definitely say that this anthology did her legend more than justice.

Review: Medicis Daughter by Sophie Perinot

Sunday, November 29, 2015
Title: Médicis Daughter
Author: Sophie Perinot
Genre: historical fiction
Series: n/a
Pages: 384
Published: expected December 1 2015
Source: received for review
Rating: 4.5/5

Winter, 1564. Beautiful young Princess Margot is summoned to the court of France, where nothing is what it seems and a wrong word can lead to ruin. Known across Europe as Madame la Serpente, Margot’s intimidating mother, Queen Catherine de Médicis, is a powerful force in a country devastated by religious war. Among the crafty nobility of the royal court, Margot learns the intriguing and unspoken rules she must live by to please her poisonous family.

Eager to be an obedient daughter, Margot accepts her role as a marriage pawn, even as she is charmed by the powerful, charismatic Duc de Guise. Though Margot's heart belongs to Guise, her hand will be offered to Henri of Navarre, a Huguenot leader and a notorious heretic looking to seal a tenuous truce. But the promised peace is a mirage: her mother's schemes are endless, and her brothers plot vengeance in the streets of Paris. When Margot's wedding devolves into the bloodshed of the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, she will be forced to choose between her family and her soul.

Médicis Daughter is historical fiction at its finest, weaving a unique coming-of-age story and a forbidden love with one of the most dramatic and violent events in French history.

There's a reason French historical fiction is hard to resist. It's full of such fascinating people, along with pivotal tumultuous times, notorious religious turmoil, and decadently sumptuous courts and courtiers. Sophie Perinot has successfully visited historical France before with her 2012 debut novel The Sister Queens, but this second visit is set during the ancien régime - middle 1500s -  with the infamous Catherine de Médicis and her headstrong and should-be-as-infamous daughter Margot. The House of Valois is known for many things (and its many kings) but this nuanced and creative story exploring the relationship between these two determined women gives new insight into the famous but fractious royal family. 

Catherine de Médicis makes for an easy historical villain, but Perinot takes care to craft her Italian-born French Queen into a three dimensional character for her readers. Catherine is not a particularly nice woman, and her struggles with Margot easily side the reader with the latter, but she is ably characterized under Perinot's pen. The novel centers around  and concerns itself with Marguerite far more than her mother; from her coming out until a week after the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre, it is the story of France told through her princesse and later queen. 

Margot's life is one that more than warrants exploration and retelling -- without France's Salic Law barring her from politics, she might have been remembered in the same way as Elizabeth I of England. Even with France's skewed gender roles limiting her choices, she was a woman who demanded more from her time, despite the toll it took on her personal happiness while her mother was alive. Her struggle with society, with her mother, with her kingly brothers, are both accurate when known and plausible when the author has to invent to guess at events unknown. Dumas's La Reine Margot may have been the first novel to immortalize this indomitable French Queen, but the version of the queen in Médicis Daughter is the most realistic and believable I've yet come across.

Sophie Perinot has a gift for recreating even well-known eras of history with fresh eyes. Though I've known Margot's life trajectory for years and have even read other fictional books about her mother recently, reading Médicis Daughter was full of new views of events and people I was familiar with. It made me again curious about the French Wars of Religion and then the Guise family - ambitious, powerful, smart. I love when books capture the feel of their inspiration so clearly, as Perinot does here. Her knowledge of the time and place are evident and it helps to make this novel such a well-rendered version of sixteenth century France.


Late November Books

Saturday, November 28, 2015
I haven't had too many new acquisitions to the library but the ones I did get were so awesome I couldn't resist a final book haul for the month of November.


From the lovely Bekka of Pretty Deadly Reviews.....

Radiance by Catherynne M. Valente!!

and if that wasn't enough....

it's signed to me!! I love Valente's work and this sounds like her particular brand of wit and weird.  A thousand thank yous to the lovely Bekka for doing this for me!

Sent for review:

A Year of Ravens by various authors! Boudicca is such a fascinating historical figure -- and the format of this author is also different. I'm excited because a lot of these authors are already favorites.


Because WINTER IS HERE after TWO YEARS and I read it in two days and all it took was all my emotional fortitude and feelings.

For Kindle:

Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Everyone loves this, it was $1.99, it sounds amazing and now I already want Oreos. You're a witch, Becky Albertalli.

Any new releases you're going to buy in the next week? I know Sophie Perinot's Medicis Daughter and Stephanie Thornton's The Conqueror's Wife both are out on the first and you should all go out and buy both.

Book Tour Review: The Conqueror's Wife by Stephanie Thornton

Wednesday, November 25, 2015
Title: The Conqueror's Wife 
Author: Stephanie Thornton
Genre: historical fiction
Series: N/A
Pages: 512
Published: expected December 1 2-15
Source: Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours for review
Rating: 5/5

A novel from the acclaimed author of The Tiger Queens, for readers looking for “strong and determined female protagonists” (Historical Novel Society) and “a sprawling historical saga” (Renee Rosen)...

We are the women who loved Alexander the Great.  We were lovers and murderers, innocents and soldiers.
And without us, Alexander would have been only a man.
Instead he was a god.

330s, B.C.E., Greece: Alexander, a handsome young warrior of Macedon, begins his quest to conquer the ancient world. But he cannot ascend to power, and keep it, without the women who help to shape his destiny.

His spirited younger half-sister, Thessalonike, yearns to join her brother and see the world. Instead, it is Alexander's boyhood companion who rides with him into war while Thessalonike remains behind. Far away, crafty princess Drypetis will not stand idly by as Alexander topples her father from Persia's throne. And after Alexander conquers her tiny kingdom, Roxana, the beautiful and cunning daughter of a minor noble, wins Alexander’s heart…and will commit any crime to secure her place at his side.

Within a few short years, Alexander controls an empire more vast than the civilized world has ever known. But his victories are tarnished by losses on the battlefield and treachery among his inner circle. And long after Alexander is gone, the women who are his champions, wives, and enemies will fight to claim his legacy…

There is a plethora of historical fiction to be found in the world but Stephanie Thornton is one of the best authors working in the genre, by far. Her work is consistently and undeniably well-crafted; from the evident amounts of research that show in details both small and large, to the well-rounded and oft-forgotten female characters she centers her stories around. She takes care to retell stories of historical women that have been forgotten, twisted, or purposely hidden. So far to date she's ably covered Byzantine Empresses, Mongolian warrioresses, a female Pharaoh, and now the women (plus Hephaestion) of Alexander the Great. The Conqueror's Wife is another finely tuned and well-wrought addition to this fantastic (and personal favorite) author's growing bibliography.

There's a reason I countdown and anticipate every novel Thornton releases. Four novels in three years and she has yet to disappoint. She is an author that specializes in finding fascinating eras of history and then explores them from new eyes and different views than used before. Alexander's life has been retold by many voices and many authors but with using POV's from his sister, his wife, his soulmate, and his enemy-turned-reluctant-companion, Thornton covers the far-reaching conqueror's life with fresh perspectives. He's a man so famous we call him "the Great" without really thinking about all that accomplished -- and how quickly he did so. Though Alexander was no slouch, Thornton shows how the women in his life -- from his power hungry and ruthless mother Olympias to his warrior sisters Thessalonike and Cynnane and so on -- shaped, molded, and helped him achieve him all that earned him his appendage of "the Great."

The Conqueror's Wife is a longer book, but like the other Thornton novels I've read, loved, and recommend, it still doesn't feel long enough time spent with these characters. Five hundred pages have never gone so fast as they did here in Alexander's wide and rapidly-expanding world. As a history nerd with the implied a lifelong passion for exploring my favorite people, cultures, and empires, this was a book that felt fully immersive. Filled with a mostly female cast  based on real historical people from that time, it's these characters more than Alexander that come to life. Hephaestion is the sole male narrator and provides a good complement to the women that lend their voices telling the story at the heart of the novel. Each voice shines and though some may be similar in character (Olympias and Roxana, Thessalonike and Drypetis), each voice and personality is distinguishable and uniquely and identifiable their own. 

Another thing I continually like about Thornton is that while she largely stays true to historical record or generally agreed upon theories, she isn't afraid to find new motivations, reasons, or ideas for her characters' actions. Take Cassander in The Conqueror's Women. In historical record and theory, he's often shown to be  a villain in the upheaval after Alexander's death. Instead of following the expected route with his character, Thornton explores a different idea of what would motivate the man and how he would act. It worked for the story and for how the fallout after Alexander actually happened. The best historical fiction writers know what history was like and still manage to tell a story all their own. Stephanie Thornton is a great example of that kind of writer. 

If you are a fan of Kate Quinn or Sophie Perinot, I can't imagine a better new find for you than Stephanie Thornton. Without being anachronistic she writes women from history that are feminist and not limited in their lives by society's expectations. Her novels are well researched, full of place as character, and immersive. Thornton ably distills complicated times and consolidates a large cast of hist figures into a streamlined narrative.

04_The Conqueror's Wife_Blog Tour Banner_FINAL


Monday, November 23
Review at With Her Nose Stuck in a Book
Review & Giveaway at Peeking Between the Pages

Tuesday, November 24
Review at Layered Pages
Interview & Giveaway at A Bookish Affair
Spotlight & Excerpt at What Is That Book About

Wednesday, November 25
Review at A Bookish Affair
Review at Ageless Pages Reviews

Thursday, November 26
Review at Historical Readings & Reviews

Friday, November 27
Spotlight & Giveaway at Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus More

Monday, November 30
Review at Book Lovers Paradise
Review & Giveaway at 100 Pages a Day

Tuesday, December 1
Review & Giveaway at Broken Teepee
Guest Post at Book Lovers Paradise

Wednesday, December 2
Review at leeanna.me
Review & Giveaway at A Literary Vacation

Thursday, December 3
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Just One More Chapter
Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unshelfish
Excerpt at A Literary Vacation
Spotlight at The Reading Queen

Friday, December 4
Review & Giveaway at The True Book Addict

Monday, December 7
Review at The Maiden’s Court

Tuesday, December 8
Review at Reading the Past
Review at Let Them Read Books

Wednesday, December 9
Review at CelticLady’s Reviews

Thursday, December 10
Review at The Lit Bitch
Interview & Giveaway at Reading Lark
Guest Post at Historical Fiction Connection

Friday, December 11
Review at Svetlana’s Reads and Views

Saturday, December 12
Review & Giveaway at Genre Queen

Monday, December 14
Review at Book Babe
Reivew, Excerpt, & Giveaway at Unabridged Chick

Tuesday, December 15
Review at Bookramblings

Wednesday, December 16
Review at Book Nerd

Thursday, December 17
Review at Flashlight Commentary

Friday, December 18
Review at History From a Woman’s Perspective
Interview at Flashlight Commentary

Recent DNFs

Monday, November 23, 2015
It's been a while since I've posted one of these. These are a few recentish books that just did not work for me -- I tried each one for at least thirty percent.  

This Monstrous Thing by Mackenzi Lee

In 1818 Geneva, men built with clockwork parts live hidden away from society, cared for only by illegal mechanics called Shadow Boys. Two years ago, Shadow Boy Alasdair Finch’s life shattered to bits.

His brother, Oliver—dead.

His sweetheart, Mary—gone.

His chance to break free of Geneva—lost.

Heart-broken and desperate, Alasdair does the unthinkable: He brings Oliver back from the dead.

But putting back together a broken life is more difficult than mending bones and adding clockwork pieces. Oliver returns more monster than man, and Alasdair’s horror further damages the already troubled relationship.

Then comes the publication of Frankenstein and the city intensifies its search for Shadow Boys, aiming to discover the real life doctor and his monster. Alasdair finds refuge with his idol, the brilliant Dr. Geisler, who may offer him a way to escape the dangerous present and his guilt-ridden past, but at a horrible price only Oliver can pay…

I liked the beginning of this one quite a bit. I actually got a bit farther in this ARC than any of the others -- almost 60% --  but I just found my interest waning the longer (and longer....) the story went on. Alisdair is an interesting guy, the concept of the Shadow Boys, etc. are creative but I don't care about Mary or Oliver and the Frankenstein angle wasn't a highpoint for me.  It also just feels too long; the 230ish pages I read felt much longer and with over 140 left, I couldn't muster the interest or desire to finish the story.

I read enough of this to feel comfortable ratingt This Monstrous Thing three stars on Goodreads because the prose is strong and Lee is a clever writer. This is by no means a DNF because it's a bad novel -- it's not the kind of novel that I enjoy reading. It took me four days to get less than 2/3rds of the novel read and then I knew to throw in the towel. I will however, keep a look out for whatever Lee writes next.

Extraordinary Means by Robyn Schneider

 From the author of The Beginning of Everything: two teens with a deadly disease fall in love on the brink of a cure.

At seventeen, overachieving Lane finds himself at Latham House, a sanatorium for teens suffering from an incurable strain of tuberculosis. Part hospital and part boarding school, Latham is a place of endless rules and confusing rituals, where it's easier to fail breakfast than it is to flunk French.

There, Lane encounters a girl he knew years ago. Instead of the shy loner he remembers, Sadie has transformed. At Latham, she is sarcastic, fearless, and utterly compelling. Her friends, a group of eccentric troublemakers, fascinate Lane, who has never stepped out of bounds his whole life. And as he gradually becomes one of them, Sadie shows him their secrets: how to steal internet, how to sneak into town, and how to disable the med sensors they must wear at all times.

But there are consequences to having secrets, particularly at Latham House. And as Lane and Sadie begin to fall in love and their group begins to fall sicker, their insular world threatens to come crashing down.

Told in alternating points of view, Extraordinary Means is a darkly funny story about doomed friendships, first love, and the rare miracle of second chances.

I think I have to quit Robyn Schneider. And forgive me, but I am sick to death of illness contemporary books. So. Done. I had tried this because while Scheneider's first book wasn't a total success for me, it was different and creative. However, this novel is not. I found promise in the early parts of the book but the characters weren't engaging or defined enough for me. It's only 336 pages long but I grew tired of reading about Lane and Sadie and Lane + Sadie around 30% in. 

I think I want to like this author's books more than I do. They try too hard and sound unlike real teens; I can't buy into more than the premise or the tropes behind the characters. Just not a novel or a type of contemporary novel for me. 

 Sugar Skulls by Lisa Mantchev and Glenn Dallas

Welcome to Cyrene, a city where energy is currency and music is the lifeblood of its young citizens. Everyone lives on the grid, and the residents of the world’s largest playground are encouraged to pursue every physical and emotional pleasure imaginable.

Vee is the lead singer of the Sugar Skulls, an all-girl band that is Corporate’s newest pet project. Micah haunts the city like a ghost after an overdose of a deadly illegal street drug knocks him off the grid. When Micah and Vee forge an immediate, undeniable connection, their troubled worlds collide.

Trading concert stages for Cyrene’s rooftops and back alleys, they have to evade vicious thugs and Vee’s possessive manager as they unravel the mysteries connected to their dark pasts. And before the curtain falls, Micah and Vee will bring the city to its knees in their desperate bid for love, home, and a future together.

I had a good time reading my first novel from Lisa Matchev -- (it was her novel Ticker) -- and was so intrigued by the premise behind Sugar Skulls. But the novel is... messy. Confusing. Fantasy and scifi are my favorites and sink or swim fantasy is not something I am unfamiliar with. But I made it 28% and felt like I was as lost then as at the beginning. It was to the point of frustration and I set the book down. 

Two Minute Review: The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher

Saturday, November 21, 2015
Title: The Aeronaut's Windlass
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: fantasy, steampunk
Series: The Cinder Spires #1
Pages: 630
Published: September 2015
Source: publishers via NetGalley
Rating: 3.5/5

Since time immemorial, the Spires have sheltered humanity, towering for miles over the mist-shrouded surface of the world. Within their halls, aristocratic houses have ruled for generations, developing scientific marvels, fostering trade alliances, and building fleets of airships to keep the peace.

Captain Grimm commands the merchant ship, Predator. Fiercely loyal to Spire Albion, he has taken their side in the cold war with Spire Aurora, disrupting the enemy’s shipping lines by attacking their cargo vessels. But when the Predator is severely damaged in combat, leaving captain and crew grounded, Grimm is offered a proposition from the Spirearch of Albion—to join a team of agents on a vital mission in exchange for fully restoring Predator to its fighting glory.

And even as Grimm undertakes this dangerous task, he will learn that the conflict between the Spires is merely a premonition of things to come. Humanity’s ancient enemy, silent for more than ten thousand years, has begun to stir once more. And death will follow in its wake…

Jim Butcher and I have had an uneven relationship for years. Up until this novel, I could love (Codex Alera series) or leave (Harry Dresden) his work. And then I read The Aeronaut's Windlass and I didn't (and still don't, months later) know quite what to make of it or how I feel about it. I mean, I should love it. It should have worked for me in so many ways on so many levels. And yet.... I didn't. It didn't. There were some bright spots and characters, but on the whole, it's not the author's best work.

Don't get me wrong. I mean, I liked the novel okay --- I finished it and I wouldn't finish a 630 page novel I did not like. I just kept waiting for the worldbuilding to hit the sweet spot, the characters to gel and connect, or a favorite to emerge, or the plot to engage on a more than superficial level --- something to coalesce into the awesome I'd seen before in the author's world of Codex Alera. And for me? It just never happened. Sink or swim fantasy worldbuilding is often my favorite -- but this was a sink or swin fantasy without learning how to hold your breath. Butcher just LAUNCHES into this mad world and I couldn't grasp the cultures or the interpersonal relationships, which means he was trying too hard and it was too convoluted. 

There are good bones here and I think I can get where Butcher wants me to go, if I give the inevitable sequel a try. It's a large commitment and while book one wasn't what I had hoped to find or what the author is capable of, I do think Butcher can pull together a more coherent sequel with The Olympian Affair This one started out strong, but loses steam midway (and it's just soooooo long). On the plus side, it's undeniably full of ideas, creative applications of steampunk, and some very memorable characters.


Review: Young Widows Club by Alexandra Coutts

Thursday, November 19, 2015
Title:  Young Widows Club
Author: Alexandra Coutts
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 304
Published: November 10 2015
Source: publishers via NetGalley for review
Rating: 3.5/5

First came love, then came marriage, and then...

For seventeen-year-old Tam, running off to marry her musician boyfriend is the ideal escape from her claustrophobic high-school life on the island, and the ultimate rebellion against her father and stepmother. But when Tam becomes a widow just weeks later, the shell-shocked teen is forced to find her way forward by going back to the life she thought she’d moved beyond—even as her struggle to deal with her grief is forcing her to reinvent herself and reach out to others in ways she never imagined.

Alexandra Coutts rebounds from her debut of 2013 (the wayward post-apocalyptic Tumble & Fall) with a nuanced and well-rounded contemporary portrayal of young love and young grief. Most stories don't start with the main character's ostensible love interest dying, but Young Widows Club does. Coutts' novel is about the unexpected and her book starts out on the same page as her main character. It can be honest and brash, loud and full of understandable emotion; it's a vast improvement from her last novel.

Main character Tam thought she had her life laid out from when she was a teenager. She thought she knew where she was going and how she was going to get there and who with. Tam was wrong. We don't get to see her in the Before of Noah's death --Young Widows Club is concerned with the fallout of finding love and then losing it. It's far from your typical YA contemporary set in a high school. It's not always an easy book -- all the characters are experiencing or dealing with major loss -- and it's not exactly a shippy book, either. There are a lot of emotions in the novel (sympathy, empathy being the two chief ones) but they mostly deal with catharsis, acceptance, and grief counseling.

I loved the focus on how effective therapy can be when used in the novel. It's shown in an honest light -- because group doesn't work for all people or for all needs -- but it's so refreshing to see this in a YA novel.  The conversation about mental health is one that is rarely found in YA lit so it was very appreciated in Young Widows Club. For most of the novel, Tam is working on herself. On being a better version than she has been, on getting back into school and finding life after Noah.  The group and other characters show other sides of love and grief and while they don't have Tam's nuance or Colin's charm, they're moderately well-rounded. 

Young Widows Club has a deft touch for sensitive issues. I thought Coutts handled the plot well, though the inclusion of a romance seemed both too soon and just unneeded for the characters involved. That said, their scenes do have chemistry and charm. I just wish the novel had continued to focus on Tam's personal journey a little more before finding her a new love interest. 


Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Quotes I Loved From Books I Read In The Past Year Or So

Tuesday, November 17, 2015
I am a great lover of quotes. I highlight, dog-ear, and even take pictures of page numbers in order to more effectively find every bad ass, snarky line uttered by fantasy characters. While I've saved a few inspiring lines from contemporaries, sarcasm is my first language and my first love. In case you couldn't tell by how many time Ms. Maas appears on this list. Quotes link back to their GR page whenever possible, in case you want to save along.

10. “I have spent my spare time studying literature popular with young women of this planet. One should always study the battlefield."
Sean glanced at him. "And?"
"I suggest you give up now. According to my research, in a vampire-werewolf love triangle, the vampire always gets the girl.”
Ilona Andrews, Clean Sweep

9. “His eyes are somewhere between gray and blue, and his hair is somewhere between brown and blond, and I am somewhere between hostile and attracted.” ― Emery Lord, Open Road Summer

8.“Witches didn't need blood to survive, but humans didn't need wine, either.” ― Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire / “There were few sounds she enjoyed more than the groans of dying men, but the wind was one of them.”
Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire

7. “It was all going so nicely, right up until the massacre.”
Alex Marshall, A Crown for Cold Silver

6. “You look . . . better than before."Was that a compliment? I could have sworn Lucien gave Tamlin an encouraging nod.
"And you hair is . . . clean.”
Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Thorns and Roses

5. “If anyone saw Monique, a well-dressed woman of quality, dangling from the doorway, they apparently assumed everyone had difficulties in life and moved on.” ― Gail Carriger, Waistcoats & Weaponry
4. “The bodies in my floor all trusted someone. Now I walk on them to tea.” ― Victoria Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic

3. “She was Aelin Ashryver Galathynius—­and she would not be afraid.” ― Sarah J. Maas, Heir of Fire

2. “The world has gone insane, and you can't get a decent pint of lager anywhere in this bloody country. I think I can safely say that my schoolmates were correct when they predicted my eventual destination, and I am now in hell.” ― Mira Grant, Deadline

1. “Jesper knocking his head against the hull and cast his eyes heavenward. "Fine. But if Pekka Rollins kills us all, I'm going to get Wylan's ghost to teach my ghost how to play the flute just so that I can annoy the hell out of your ghost."
Brekker's lips quirked. "I'll just hire Matthias' ghost to kick your ghost's ass."

"My ghost won't associate with your ghost," Matthias said primly, and then wondered if the sea air was rotting his brain.”
Leigh Bardugo, Six of Crows

And my least favorite quote, because I never weary of punishing you all for making me read it:

"I prefer to fill my own gut before I plug a squirming wench's belly with my manroot."
Fabio, Pirate

Review: Just Visiting by Dahlia Adler

Sunday, November 15, 2015
Title: Just Visiting
Author: Dahlia Adler
Genre: contemporary
Series: N/A
Pages: 348
Published: expected November 17 2015
Source: received for review 
Rating: 4/5

Reagan Forrester wants out—out of her trailer park, out of reach of her freeloading mother, and out of the shadow of the relationship that made her the pariah of Charytan, Kansas.

Victoria Reyes wants in—in to a fashion design program, in to the arms of a cute guy who doesn't go to Charytan High, and in to a city where she won't stand out for being Mexican.

One thing the polar-opposite best friends do agree on is that wherever they go, they’re staying together. But when they set off on a series of college visits at the start of their senior year, they quickly see that the future doesn’t look quite like they expected. After two years of near-solitude following the betrayal of the ex-boyfriend who broke her heart, Reagan falls hard and fast for a Battlestar Galactica-loving, brilliant smile-sporting pre-med prospective... only to learn she's set herself up for heartbreak all over again. Meanwhile, Victoria runs full-speed toward all the things she thinks she wants… only to realize everything she’s looking for might be in the very place they've sworn to leave.

As both Reagan and Victoria struggle to learn who they are and what they want in the present, they discover just how much they don't know about each other's pasts. And when each learns what the other’s been hiding, they'll have to decide whether their friendship has a future.

Just Visiting is a great example of why I love YA literature. It's a book about two best friends -- Reagan and Victoria -- but it's honest and realistic and and full of heart. It's about life and growing up, growing older and maybe growing apart from your old life. The main characters are on the cusp of adulthood; learning what it means to be on your own and how to make the choices that will lead in the right direction. It's the closest a coming of age novel has come to my own life and it's deftly written and so much fun. Dahlia Adler is the kind of author that can put into words just how that new phase of adulthood felt without veering saccharine.

The characters in Just Visiting are authentic and fully dimensional -- so much so that I could easily find pieces of myself in both girls. There's a great friendship at the heart of the novel but it's a friendship that changes and evolves over the course of the three hundred fifty pages. Adler isn't afraid to put her characters (and readers) through the emotional ringer and does so more than once over the course of the story. I loved the slow reveal behind each character's reasons for both being in Charytan and for what they want out of life. Vic and Reagan may be from totally different background but their friendship is grounded in support, loyalty, and love.

There's one definite ship full of feeeels and pain and a baby ship that begs for a non sequel novel set in a restaurant, if you know what I mean. I love how diverse the cast is in this novel, as well. Victoria  and her family are Mexican, and her mother is also deaf. Dave*, the main love interest of the story, is Indian. Reagan's family is below the poverty line and far from a healthy homelife. This is a microcosm of real life; there is real representation to be found in Just Visiting and it is damn refreshing.  And, also, these side chracters aren't one note 0r defined by their diverse characteristics. More books like this, please.

Also an added bonus to reading a Dahlia Adler novel? Sex positivity. And the subsequent lack of slut shaming or girl hate for a rival.  The depiction of sex in the novel is realistic but it's handled so well. This is a book that gets being a teen and respects its audience enough to be honest.

If you like humor, banter, natural and authentic diversity, shippy feels, and a best friendship to remember, Just Visiting is the book you need to read. The nuanced characters of Reagan and Vic carry the story, but the entire novel is engaging, lively, and a new favorite.

Birthday Book Haul

Friday, November 13, 2015
My birthday was a 10 days back and because I lovely wonderful people in life I was luckyk enough to get some books and bookish things to celebrate.

From my husband:

The entire Heritage of Shannara series - The Scions of Shannara, The Druid of Shannara, The El-Queen of Shannara, and the Talismans of Shannara. This series was a favorite when I was growing up and first finding epic fantasy to read -- I had a loooot of ships and OTPs and favorite characters. I'm sure it won't be quite as good as I remember but I'm excited.

I go back and forth on which Shannara novel is my favorite but it's always a contest between The Elfstones of Shannara (Wil and Amberle! Eretria! The Changeling! It's also where Brooks branches off into far mroe original territory than The Sword of Shannara but I dirgress) and this. I love the Wishsong of Shannara for a lot of reasons (Brin and Rone OTP, Allanon vs the Jachyra, Kimber Boh) but especially for GARET JAX one of my favorite characters in fantasy.

(these were all from Half Price Books and Flights and Chimes and Mysterious Times  was clearance for $1. So he didn't spoil me too horribly.


I own all of Johanna Basford's coloring books and haven't completely finished any of them yet. But they are so fun and intimidating and intricate. Still, gorgeous. Lost Ocean is probably my favorite.

I've had City of Halves on my buy list forever for purely superficial reasons and finally found a copy! It mentions supernatural and serial killers so I had to have it. I've never even heard of The Path of Anger before but a fantasy version of France after the Revolution? Yessir sign me up to read that please. It's also already a bestseller in the author's native France, which is a good sign.

I've been on a nostalgia kick with fantasy -- like with all the Shannara books above -- so this was inevitable. This series was one of the first fantasy series my dad gave me to read and so I have a lot of love for it. I am not sure how it will hold up but it should be fun to go back and see how the first three books of The Belgariad hold up to memory.

He also bought me O-Ren Ishii, who hangs out with fellow swordswomen Lady Sif and Lagertha.

From my lovely coblogger:

A couple years ago Dani wrote a review about this ('Til The World Ends)that made me soo curious. However, I am weird about buying anthologies and never did. BUT NOW I CAN SEE and understand the love she has for Thorne myself. It's also Julie Kagawa and Ann Aguirre -- two strong authors, Aguirre a particular favorite for her Sirantha Jax series.

also from Dnan: delicious delicious Eos lip balm and MAXIMUS FUNKO POP which legit might be the cutest one of them all. I just need to find a fake apple to put near him on the bookshelf.

From wonderful Lyn at Great Imaginations:

The kind Dahlia Adler was kind enough to send me Behold the Bones because she knew how I loved Beware the Wild and Prometheus Books sent me The Secret Life of Anna Blanc for review :)

Last but definitely not least,

NEW MEDIATOR NOVEL FOR REVIEW!! Remembrance isn't out until2016 but I doubt I will be able to wait long before diving back into this series and then this sequel. I am ready to re-board this ship and sail into the sunset forever.

Any new books out you're excited for? Any old titles piquing your interest? Any old series needing a reread? I think I am going to go Lunar Chronicles this month and Harry Potter in December!

Review: Let's Pretend This Never Happened by Jenny Lawson

Thursday, November 12, 2015
Title: Let's Pretend This Never Happened
Author: Jenny Lawson
Genre: memoir
Series: n/a
Pages: 317
Published:April 17, 2012
Source: purchased
Rating: 5/5

For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris—Internet star Jenny Lawson, aka The Bloggess, makes her literary debut.

Jenny Lawson realized that the most mortifying moments of our lives—the ones we’d like to pretend never happened—are in fact the ones that define us. In the #1 New York Times bestseller, Let’s Pretend This Never Happened, Lawson takes readers on a hilarious journey recalling her bizarre upbringing in rural Texas, her devastatingly awkward high school years, and her relationship with her long-suffering husband, Victor. Chapters include: “Stanley the Magical, Talking Squirrel”; “A Series of Angry Post-It Notes to My Husband”; “My Vagina Is Fine. Thanks for Asking”; “And Then I Snuck a Dead Cuban Alligator on an Airplane.” Pictures with captions (no one would believe these things without proof) accompany the text.

01/25/2014 page 88 - "I'm laughing hysterically, but partially to stop cringing. As a painfully shy, former anorexic goth with anxiety, who did half-assed magic at a school that made us fish up our own crawfish to dissect, (it may not be inseminating a cow, but I feel kinship,) I hope I too can marry a NPH look-alike. And Daddy may not be a taxidermist but they did bring one for career day. When I was 8. Yes, he brought samples."

Hilarious, yet relatable and poignant. Jenny Lawson's mostly true memoir is something I'll carry with me for a long time.

The best thing I can say about this book is that it's funny enough to carry itself through some seriously sad chapters. When you realize that what you're laughing at, until your diaphragm hurts and tears run down your cheeks, is a grieving woman wielding a machete at the vultures trying to dig up her dead dog, you might think, "am I going to hell?" But Jenny wants you to laugh. Anyone who's read her blog, will be familiar with her rambling, non sequitur-based sense of humor, which she frequently deploys as a coping mechanism for her (mental and physical) health issues, grief, and other sad things.

The book starts with Ms. Lawson's childhood in rural, rural Texas. If you didn't grow up in the country, animal husbandry, taxidermy, or drowning turkeys may seem strange and confusing. But to me, another painfully shy, former goth with anxiety and a recovering ED, who did half-assed magic at a tiny country school, I relate to this part of the book so much. I'm a little scared. (The kids I babysat for did raise turkeys, and yes, they do drown in the rain. My karate instructor also had a VICIOUS rooster that would chase you down the street and liked to torment the wolf they kept penned up in the back yard by standing juuuust out of reach. Yes, I realize several of those words are confusing and possibly upsetting to city folk.) Yet, even as a fellow country girl, I'm not sure I'll ever recover from the magic squirrel or the deer.

I think the book hits its stride when Jenny meets her husband, Victor. Like all great comedy duos, he's the straight man to her slapstick comic. The Ricky to her Lucy. If he's never told her she's got some 'splainin' to do, he's missing a great opportunity. A couple of chapters, (the imaginary post-it battle, the wet towels,) are obviously in the "not true" department. This has bothered some reviewers, but I thought the post-it notes were really funny, so does it matter if they're not verbatim arguments?

On the poignant side, the entire chapter about her struggles to carry to term had me in honest tears. I'm as child free as they come, but the idea of losing wanted baby after wanted baby? And the frank, honest discussion of becoming suicidal after the fact? It's heavy, and not even a little funny, but it's very well written and gave me a lot of respect for the author and her struggle. It does have a happy ending.

I really loved this memoir. Some stories are funnier than others, and a few will be familiar to long time readers. Beyoncé, (the chicken, not the singer,) is included, as are a few of her taxidermy friends, but the majority was new content to me. The end got a bit syrupy, which was really my only gripe. If a book makes me laugh, cry, call my physician, and my only complaint is the end is too sentimental? I highly recommend you pick this one up.

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