Saturday, July 30, 2016

Stacking the Shelves: July Book Haul

A weekly meme hosted by Tynga's Reviews

It's that time again, it's time for my monthly Stacking the Shelves. Once a month I share the books I bought and the books I got for review, so get ready because here come's July's. But not too ready, because there aren't that many. I realize that saying "get ready" usually means it's something exciting. And it is exciting, because new books always are, but it's not like I got too many. Actually this was one of my slower months.

I've been doing real well when it comes to my book buying ban. I'd like to say I'm saving up for the fall because that's going to be insane, but I'm not. I only bought two books, one physical book and one audio, which is lower than my self-imposed limit. And I've mentioned my serious addiction to Netgalley and how I'm trying to be better about not impulsively requesting books from there. Well I did so much better with that this month. In fact this may be my lowest month yet.

But I did get some books I am really excited to read and a few I already read and enjoyed.


This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab My Review
This book, you guys, this book is amazing. It was one of my most anticipated reads of the year and it did not disappoint. A dark fantasy with great character-driven moments. Loved.

Rock Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar - My Review
This is a book I've been wanting to read and kept talking myself out of buying. But I bought the audiobook and am so glad I did because I loved it. Super quirky.

For Review

When The Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore Add to Goodreads
I was sent a copy of this from the publisher and I could not be more excited. I loved Anna-Marie's debut and this one sounds really fantastic. I'm reading it next month when I do a magical realism theme.

Fear The Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh - Add to Goodreads
The fantastic people at Skypony Press emailed me a copy of this book which I am so excited to read. I've been really into atmospheric historical fantasies which for awhile I wasn't digging which is strange because that's one of my favorite subgenres.

Timekeeper by Tara Sim Add to Goodreads
The folks at Sky Pony also emailed me this one which I am equally excited about. It's such a cool concept with steampunk, time travel, and Alternative Victorian London.

The Bone Witch by Rin Chupeco - Add to Goodreads
I saw this on Netgalley and I requested it so fast my head was spinning. Not only is that cover fantastic but it sounds like an amazing and unique fantasy which I am always looking for.

Snow White by Matt Phelan Add to Goodreads
This is a dark, noir Snow White graphic novel set in Depression-era Manhattan. Yes, you read that right. How freaking cool does that sound!

Glitter by Aprilynne Pike - Add to Goodreads
This book is pitched as Breaking Bad meets Marie-Antoinette which already sounds fantastic and weird. It's a near future world that is modeled after 18th Century France which sounds pretty cool also.

Those are the books that I got in July. What books did you get? Are you excited for any of these? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, July 29, 2016

July Wrap Up and August TBR (Plus ARC August Sign Up)

Read in July Wrap: No Theme?

Well this was a surprisingly good month for reading. I've had a few slower months but I am back on track to my typical amount of books read after a late surge towards the end of the year. As far as my thoughts though, it was another hit or miss kind of month. I had my first DNF review in awhile and another six star review (which is a two star on Goodreads) but I also had a couple 10 star reviews. But that's just the way the cookie crumbles. When it was all said and done, I read 12 new books this month and no rereads, but I am about 1/3 of the way into one.

For challenges, I'm still doing well. I'm posting this a little early but by the time the month is over I will have read 100 books this year. How crazy is that! This is towards my Goodreads goal of reading 150 books this year. I'm way ahead of my goal which is still exciting. I'm still hoping I can do it without rereads but we'll see when it gets closer. I'm also ahead of my goal for the Debut Author Challenge of reading 25 debuts by reading 3 debuts again this month for a total of 22 for the year so that challenge is basically done. I'm also ahead for the Netgalley/Edelweiss Challenge having read 4 books for that challenge reaching a total of 30 towards my goal of 50 for the year. And I'm also on track for the Rock My TBR Challenge I only read 1 book for that this month getting a total of 16 towards my goal of 25 for the year. And finally, the Audiobook Challenge. I listened to 6 audiobooks this month, so much more than usual, giving me a total of 26 for the year which is ahead of my goal of 30 or more. I am still killing these challenges, which is great because I am so competitive.

The Books
1.) Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
2.) Learning to Swear in America by Katie Kennedy
Rating: 6.5 out of 10 [My Review]
3.) Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green and David Levithan
Rating: 8.5 out of 10 [My Review]
4.) This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab
Rating: 10 out of 10 [My Review]
5.) Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar 
Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
6.) Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
7.) White Cat by Holly Black Rating: 8 out of 10 [My Review]
8.) How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
9.) Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia Rating: 8 out of 10 [My Review]
10.) Poisoned Blade by Kate Elliott Rating: ? out of 10 [Review to Come]

Rereads [Reviews to Come]:
11.) Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine
12.) Jackaby and Beastly Bones by William Ritter

Other Posts

To Be Read in August: ARC August

Wait, so it's almost August? STOP IT! This year is seriously flying by. But another August is upon us which mean another ARC August. If you are not aware, this is an annual event hosted by Octavia and Shelly, aka the lovely ladies of ReadSleepRepeat, where we bloggers can catch up on review books and challenge ourselves to read a certain amount. There are also chats, giveaways, and other funness as a part of the event.

I've got a giant pile of ARCs from BEA I need to read and a Netgalley percentage that is really close to 80% so I will be taking part in the challenge as my monthly theme. I'm hoping to read a total of 10 ARCs which was my goal last year and I think I met so let's see if I can do it again. Also there is still time for you to sign up, just check out this post from ReadSleepRepeat.

Books for Review

Nevernight by Jay Kristoff Add to Goodreads
I'm so excited about this book because I loved Illuminae and I want to read another one of his books. I also flailed so hard when I was approved for this on Netgalley. 

The Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill - Add to Goodreads
This sounds like a really interesting and diverse Middle Grade fantasy so I was excited to get approved for it on Netgalley,

Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung - Add to Goodreads
I've been enjoying contemporaries a lot more recently so I picked up this debut on Netgalley because it sounds really interesting.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Cordova  - Add to Goodreads
I may wait on this one until September but in case I do get a chance to read it as part of ARC August I want it on the list for you.

And here is where I would keep naming potential reads but honestly beyond a few that I know I am going to be getting to because they are August releases, I'm not entirely sure which books I will want to read. Like I said, I have a giant stack of books from BEA. So here is those books that I might read.

Poisoned Blade by Kate ElliottAdd to Goodreads
Thieving Weasels by Billy Taylor - Add to Goodreads
The Thousandth Floor by Katherin McGee - Add to Goodreads
And the Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich - Add to Goodreads
Kingdom of Ash and Briars by Hannah West - Add to Goodreads
The Forgetting by Sharon CameronAdd to Goodreads
Metaltown by Kristen SimmonsAdd to Goodreads
Three Dark Crowns by Kandare BlakeAdd to Goodreads
Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri ManiscalcoAdd to Goodreads
The Female of the Species by Mindy McGinnis - Add to Goodreads
Warp by Lev Grossman - Add to Goodreads
A Shadow Bright and Burning by Jessica Cluess - Add to Goodreads
Salt and Storm by Kendall Kulper - Add to Goodreads
These Shallow Graves by Jennifer Donnelly - Add to Goodreads
Pretty Baby by Mary Kubica - Add to Goodreads


Heir of Fire by Sarah J. Maas - My Review and Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas - My Review
I really want to read the entire Throne of Glass series but I'm not sure I have the time and energy for that. I'll do it next year before the series is completely over. But for now I will reread the two most recent, Heir of Fire and Queen of Shadows. I think Heir of Fire sort of starts the progression of the story we are in now.

There you have it. All the books I might read in August. We'll see. I do plan to read at least 10 books for  Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

ARC Review: Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia

Title: Enter Title Here
Written by: Rahul Kanakia
Published: August 2, 2016 by Disney-Hyperion
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: I’m your protagonist—Reshma Kapoor—and if you have the free time to read this book, then you’re probably nothing like me. 

Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all. 

What's a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent's help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford. 

But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she's already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians and critics alike will enjoy. 

Of course, even with a mastermind like Reshma in charge, things can’t always go as planned. And when the valedictorian spot begins to slip from her grasp, she’ll have to decide just how far she’ll go for that satisfying ending. (Note: It’s pretty far.)

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley. This fact has not changed my opinion. ***

WOW! What a unique and compelling contemporary YA coming-of-age story. This is like no other contemporary I have read with the way it played with the tropes and storytelling made for a truly engaging and interesting read.

First things first, I have to talk about the characters in this book. For one thing there is nothing really likable about them. Yes, them. All of them. Practically every character is hard to like in varying degrees. But none more so than our main character Reshma. Resh is a selfish, entitled, arrogant brat who treats people like crap and expects them to fawn all over her. Most of the book I wanted to shake her or lecture her for being so awful to everyone around her. But at the same time I felt for her. What Kanakia is able to do here with Reshma is no easy feat, he has made a truly terrible character empathetic. You want her to succeed and you cringe when she fails for some odd reason. You hate her but you want good things to happen to her. Maybe that's because there aren't a lot of things that go well for her. In fact, the universe loves to kick her when she's down and a lot of bad things happen to her. Most of it she deserves. There's this great sense of karma or justice throughout the book that I think helps make the book compelling and the character empathetic.

But you also may empathize with Reshma because of her development throughout the story. I would probably consider this book a coming-of-age story but it's so far from that traditional novel that it almost feels like satire. It is a very self-aware and meta book. For one thing, Reshma is trying to model her life around a typical YA novel so she can write a typical YA novel. But nothing about this book or her life is typical. In the end she wakes up to that reality and has to realize the cold hard truth about life. She also realizes just how self-destructive she has been and slowly, very slowly, learns from it. As a person who was kind of a terrible teenage I appreciated that. But the development was subtle which I think made it all the more real.

The way this story is told was also very unique and meta as well. It's not necessarily a story within a story but it's not a traditional narrative either. It's told in short bursts with kind of day in the life vignettes as Reshma talks about what she did to advance her novel and/or life. But she is also so honest about this being for the novel that sometimes you wonder what is her book and what is her life. It's only when she breaks the fourth wall and tells you directly what she is doing that it becomes clear. This writing style was definitely strange and surprisingly compelling but it did make for a weirdly paced story. It didn't have a clear flow and there were a lot of different plot points that worked together and independently. Some of them had strong resolutions and others didn't. But isn't that how life works?

Enter Title Here is one of the most unique books I have read and I loved that about it. It played with the tropes in a way that made an interesting and compelling story that I couldn't stop reading with characters I loved to hate.

I give Enter Title Here by Rahul Kanakia 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Byapass: Buy. I will say that I don't think this book is for everyone. I have given it a really good review but it's my kind of read. It's different and difficult to read but that's what I liked about it. Fans of books with "unlikable" characters and anyone looking for a unique contemporary should check this out.

Have you read Enter Title Here? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts? Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Discussion Post: I Don't Take My Time Reading Anymore.

So many of you probably know that I am usually a crazy planner when it comes to my reading schedule. I am taking part in ARC AUgust next month, an event hosted by the lovely ladies at ReadSleepRepeat that I look forward to every year, and I was kind of overwhelmed by the fall releases I was thinking about reading. It's not just me, right. I mean I see you all getting excited about the September and October releases and stressed about how you are going to read them all. Samesies.

So with all the new releases coming out and my crazy reading schedule all I want to do lately is devour the books that I am hoping to read and then quickly go on to the next one. Now before we go any further I want to make something clear. I'm not a fast reader. I just read very often. I listen to audiobooks at work, I read on the bus to and from work, I read all night most days. On average I read about 100 pages a day, 30 pages while I'm commuting to and from work and then 70 at night. But then on weekends I honestly spend most of my time reading so I can finish what I started during the week or read an entire new book.

But since I started blogging I feel like the amount of books that I read in a year has exploded. Instead of reading 3 books a month I'm now reading 3 books a week. So have I started reading faster? No, I don't think so. I mean it could be that I'm reading more YA and therefore it takes less time to finish it, but I think that it's more than that. I think that now instead of taking the time to sit with a book and immerse myself in it, I just devour it.

I know some bloggers and readers who, when they are reading an amazing book, have this desire to make it last as long as possible. When the last book of their favorite series comes out, they don't want to read it yet because they don't want it to be over. I am the exact opposite. I need to find out what will happen as fast as I can. I need to know who lives, who dies, who tells their story (yup I went there). I'm way too impatient for that. Seriously, I have never been known as a patient person. I can't wait for anything. Plus I hate surprises. Often when I start reading and things get crazy, my anxiety starts flarring and there is no way that I will be able to slow down while reading this book. I can't wait, waiting's for suckers (you're not a sucker, I'm sorry for that. I just got carried away. See this is what happens). I must read as quickly as possible because I must find out what happens in the end.

This is not something I never even realized until about six months ago when I started reading Bands of Mourning by Brandon Sanderson. I couldn't stop reading so I bought the book in multiple formats, including the audiobook so I could listen at work. I needed to just devour this book whole. But then after I finished I started reading Mistborn: Secret History and despite it being a novella I was reading it extremely slowly. I wanted to make that last and it was messing with my head so I couldn't plow through it. I didn't consider the fact that my usual style is to not slow down until I wasn't doing it that way and then it clicked. I devour books, I don't take the time to sit with them.

Benefits to this Style of Reading

Well for one thing, it lets me read more books than if I took my time. There are so many amazing books out there and there is no way I could read all of them. But this really allows me to read more of them. Like I said before, the amount of books I have read since I started blogging has gone up substantially. I'm a few books away from reading 100 books this year and three years ago that seemed impossible. I think a lot of this has to do with the fact that I am moving quickly from book to book. I can marathon a whole book in a day and a half, something I never thought possible before I started blogging.

It also lets me stay current. This isn't a criticism of bloggers or the blogging world but so much of it is about timing and trends. There's a hype contingent as part of this world. Many people will read books ahead of release and there is this desire to do that. But even if I can't read it before the book comes out, I want to read it as close to release date as possible. I think it's just this desire to be part of the conversation. So much of the talk tends to be all about something new and exciting then a few days later we're onto the next book. Which is honestly understandable considering that every week a stack of interesting new books is coming out. I have found myself building up this backlog of books I want to read if I am taking my time with a book.

Plus it helps me keep up with the TBR. No, I don't necessarily mean the books that I want to read, I mean the books that I plan to read. You may know that here on the blog I do themed months where I read a bunch of books around a certain topic. Each month I set a definitely reading plan and a maybe reading plan. Moving quickly from book to book and devouring books as quickly as possible helps me stick to that. It also helps me stay up on my review books. I don't get a lot of books for review but lately I have been getting more and more, usually through Netgalley because I am addicted to checking it (seriously like 3 times a day I'll look if anything new is added and I'll request all the books). If I can power through a review book than I can finish it before release date which is always the goal or finish it within a few days. And it keeps my Netgalley percentage pretty high, but seriously it will never be 80%.

Problems With This Style of Reading

Well for one thing, you really can't savor a book. This seems obvious but it goes deeper than that. My tendency to read a book very quickly means that I don't often let myself be fully immersed in a book. I'm more worried about finding out what will happen next that I don't allow myself to take the time with what is happening then. It's like I'm not living in the moment with the book. I'm not really allowing myself to think critically about why something is happening because I'm feel as if I'm reading only from a superficial level. This isn't to say that I don't pick up on the larger themes of the book or things like foreshadowing and clues to the mystery but I feel like I'm just not as deeply involved in the book as I used to be.

But I think my biggest problem with speeding through my books is that I forget things. I mean this in two ways, first I forget things when it comes to what happened in a previous book in a series. This is small in the grand scheme of things because often it has been a year or more between reading one book and the other so naturally you are bound to forget some things. I have been trying to do more rereads this year, so far it has been in anticipation of upcoming sequels and series enders, but preparing for those is not the only reason I feel like I need to reread certain books. The fact that I don't take my time with a book means that I need to reread to remind myself about what happened in the book. Mostly I'll remember big picture stuff but not the why or how about what happened.

But that lack of remembering what happened also then extends to my memory about the enjoyment of the book. Frequently what will happen when I think back on books that I read is that I will remember a feeling and not remember specific reasons why I loved or hated the book. Like even when it comes to my favorites of the year and books I gave 10 star ratings to, a month later I won't remember exactly why I loved a book so much. I mean I can easily just read my review again and refresh my memory but still, it's a problem.

Just like anything else, there are benefits and problems with this style of reading. I don't know that I am going to change it any time soon, but I think the big thing is that I am more aware of it so I can slow down a little bit and take my time reading. This month has been one of my slower months for reading and I think that's a good thing. I'm hoping in the future to not be so caught up in having to finish a book for review and be more concerned about taking my time to read it.

What about you? Do you take your time to read a book or do you fly through it so that you can move on to the next one? Do you think reading quickly is a good thing or a bad? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Top Ten Tuesday: Zombie Apocalypse/Dystopian Skills Books Have Made Me Want to Learn

A weekly meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish

So have you ever been around people who talk about the zombie apocalypse and what they would do to prepare for it. Like where they would go, what they would bring, who they would want on their team. I have. It's a fun little ice breaker and conversation topic. One thing I always seem to say to people is that I will not be surviving the zombie apocalypse. I honestly have no useful skills. So for this weeks Top Ten Tuesday prompt I decided to mention ten skills I want to learn to survive the zombie apocalypse and the books that made me want to learn them.

Survival Skills

1.) Tending to Wounds like Claire in Outlander by Diana Gabaldon
How useful would this be in the zombie apocalypse. I mean obviously if you get bit by a zombie you are done for but like what if you break your arm or cut yourself or accidentaly get shot because you are in the middle of a battle with zombies. I have some basic first aid skills but Claire knows how to heal combat wounds and treat illnesses. That would be so helpful in this situation.

2.) Hunting and Gathering like Kol in Ivory and Bone by Julie Eshbaugh
If I was in the middle of the woods trying to escape from zombies and humans who have become practically feral I would probably not be able to feed myself. Unless I miraculously came across a fruit tree of some kind I think I would be S.O.L. And I definitely don't know how to hunt and trap like the characters in Ivory and Bone

3.) Being Invisible like Cami in the Gallagher Girls series by Ally Carter and Inej in The Dregs by Leigh Bardugo
Cami is a teenage spy know as the Chameleon. She is a pavement artist that can blend in anywhere. She blends in so well that she is practically invisible. Inej, known as The Wraith, is also practically invisible, moving in the shadows and hiding. That sounds useful when trying to escsape from zombies.

Fighting/Weapons Ability

4.) Weilding a Sword like Jamie Lannister in A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin and Celeana Sardothian in Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas
So Celaena it's more of daggers but she's also really good with a sword and well all weaponry. This seems obvious, know how to fight with a sword would be a fantastic skill to fight off zombies as well as any and all attackers to me and the people I am with

5.) Shooting a Bow like Katniss in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and Scarlet in the Scarlet trilogy by A.C. Gaughin
Swords, axes, daggers these are close range weapons, you have to be near a zombie to be able to fight them off. But if you have a bow and arrows you can fight them off from a distance. Only problem is that I don't know how to do this with any accuracy. I've shot a bow before but it's been like 12 years and even then I was pretty terrible at it.

5.5.) Being mistborn and Doing Allomancy like Kell and Vin in the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
So this an honorable mention because well it's not humanly possible in our world, at least to my knowledge. But it is afantastic magical system that would come in very handy when it comes to the zombie apocalypse because there are both offensive and defensive skills. Imagine being able to steel push, get extra strength, create a time bubble, or even hear or see really well. Super helpful.

Escape Methods

6.) Ride a Motorcycle like Yael and Luka Lowe in Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
I need to get away from the zombies some way and being able to ride a motorcycle would be really helpful. Not only are they easier to maneuver than cars but they get really good gas mileage. I assume in this instance that there is a gas shortage so this would be helpful.

7.) Flying a Plane like Maddie in Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein
When it comes to getting away from zombies I assume that the best method would be to just like fly the f out of there. Like go all Jurassic Park and leave the zombies to fend for themselves. Actually flying to a deserted island might be even more ideal. Which brings me to...

8.) Sailing a Boat like Teach in Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman and Nix in The Girl From Everywhere by Heidi Heilig
Zombies can't swim, right? It seems like the best method to escape from them would be to take to the sea. Plus if there is a gas shortage being on a sailboat means that no matter what you can move around and get places. If only I knew how to sail a boat.

Other Skills

9.) Hack a Computer like Kady in Illuminae by Aime Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and Gideon in Their Fractured Light by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
I feel like this could be useful if instead of getting out of there you were determined to stay put and just lock yourself in some kind of fallout shelter with a bank of computers. You could use your hacking skills to then monitor things and maybe find a drone to do your dirty work.

10.) Build Steampunk Weaponry and Other Stuff like Daniel in Something Strange by Susan Dennard and Vieve in all of Gail Carriger's books.
Obviously when I thought of things to fight off a zombie apocalypse I thought of Something Strange and Deadly. It's historical but it's about fighting zombies. All the inventions Daniel comes up with helps the group to better fight off the zombies. Plus Vieve's inventing would also be helpful.

So that's my list. And sure, it's geared towards the zombie apocalypse but I mean this is also a list of things books have made me want to learn. What skills have books made you want to learn? Would you survive the zombie apocalypse? Can you do any of these things? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, July 25, 2016

ARC Review: How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather

Title: How to Hang a Witch
Written by: Adriana Mather
Published: July 26, 2016 by Knopf Books for Young Readers (Penguin)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: For fans of Conversion and Mean Girls, comes a debut novel where the trials of high school start to feel like a modern day witch hunt for a teen with all the wrong connections to Salem’s past. 

Salem, Massachusetts is the site of the infamous witch trials and the new home of Samantha Mather. Recently transplanted from New York City, Sam and her stepmother are not exactly welcomed with open arms. Sam is the descendant of Cotton Mather, one of the men responsible for those trials and almost immediately, she becomes the enemy of a group of girls who call themselves The Descendants. And guess who their ancestors were? 

If dealing with that weren't enough, Sam also comes face to face with a real live (well technically dead) ghost. A handsome, angry ghost who wants Sam to stop touching his stuff. But soon Sam discovers she is at the center of a centuries old curse affecting anyone with ties to the trials. Sam must come to terms with the ghost and find a way to work with the Descendants to stop a deadly cycle that has been going on since the first accused witch was hanged. If any town should have learned its lesson, it's Salem. But history may be about to repeat itself.

**** I recieved an advance copy of this book from the publisher at BEA in exchange for an honest review. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

How to Hang a Witch was one of my most anticipated debuts. It absolutely sounds like a "me book" so I was really excited to see copies at BEA. And in fact I really loved this book, I think I even liked it more than I expected which is a strange thing to say for a book that has been on your TBR for about a year. But I was cautiously pessimistic going into this book after seeing some mixed reviews and having a few debuts not live up to my anticipation. However, How to Hang a Witch was a compulsively readable YA historical mystery full of magic, mystery, and an atmospheric setting that hooked me.

 The setting of this book was one of the things that attracted me to it and is absolutely one of it's best parts. How to Hang a Witch takes place in Salem, Massachusetts which is the perfect place for this kind of story. I felt transported to the town which came alive throughout the book. I could perfectly visualize the cobblestone streets, the clapboard style colonial buildings, the narrow alleyways, and the excessive amounts of cemeteries. It desperately made me miss New England. You see Mather captures the atmosphere and history of New England in this book. You can tell that she is not only intimately familiar with the town itself, but the Witch Trials, other historical happenings, and the spooky and unexplained stories from the town throughout it's more than 300 years in existence. This book is a love letter to a place that embraces its history even when it's a little dark and complicated.

But the already atmospheric and dark setting was further developed with fantastic supernatural and magical elements. And while there were some elements of the story that felt like they could have cliche, they mostly worked to build the atmosphere. There are all kinds of unexplained (and explained with supernatural reasons) events throughout the book that give it this spooky kind of feeling that helped establish the world. It's not scary but it did have me looking over my shoulder and thinking about peculiar events and that feeling you sometimes get when you walk into an old house and wonder if you're alone. It gave a kind of a subtle spookiness to the book that I really appreciated. Then as the book develops more and more magic comes into the world further building that supernatural feel. The magic also connected to the plot and mystery which I really appreciated. It's a slow build that pulls you in an fantastically engaging way.

Not to mention that the plot and pacing itself really builds in a similar way. It starts slow and then totally explodes. There were so many exciting and thrilling steps along the way which built upon one another to make a really engaging plot. Seriously, it just kept building and building. There was a point where I was so anxiously anticipating the big twist that I didn't think I could handle it anymore, which is when Mather hits with the reveal and then a climax that had me on the edge of my seat. It was surprisingly suspenseful which I really loved.

However, I think maybe my favorite thing about this book was the mystery. I love a good historical mystery and this absolutely fit the bill. It perfectly combined the historical occurrences, which you can tell the author did a lot of research on, and connected them with events in present day. Plus it had me curious and questioning everything throughout the book like most mysteries but it was also solvable. And there was so much to solve here. There was more than one crazy twist throughout the book and lots of subtle clues that led you to the conclusion. Plus when it was finally revealed you were left surprised but not totally caught off guard. One of my first thoughts ended up being right, but the reason was wrong.  All and all it was definitely a fantastic mystery which helped further establish the atmospheric setting and thrilling plot.

I think my only small criticism here would be with the characters. It's got a pretty big cast of characters all focused around the main character of Samantha Mather. Sam is an interesting character in that she kind of grows on you without any obvious character development. At first she feels a bit cliche but then without even realizing you see that there's more to her. That was kind of the case with a lot of the characters. We just didn't spend enough time with each of them and I think just sort of blended together for me. In the end they did feel complex when you could see that they weren't good or bad, but it was so subtle. And I get that this isn't a character-driven story, something that I honestly liked because I'm a plot-driven reader, but I would have maybe liked a little bit more with the characterizations.

But on the whole, I really loved How to Hang a Witch. It's a fantastic historical mystery full of thrills, magic, an atmospheric setting, and a truly engaging plot. I was really excited about this book going into it and I am happy to report that it lived up to and maybe even exceeded my expectations, something a lot of debuts have not been able to do this year.

I give How to Hang a Witch by Adriana Mather 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a really engaging YA historical mystery that I would definitely recommend to fans of the genre. But I think this would also be the perfect read if you are looking for a complex and mysterious witch read. It's the perfect fall read or really any time of year.

Have you read How to Hang a Witch? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Audiobook Review: White Cat by Holly Black

Title: White Cat
Series: Curse Workers #1
Written by: Holly Black
Published: May 4, 2010 by Margaret K. McElderry (Simon and Schuster)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Cassel comes from a shady, magical family of con artists and grifters. He doesn't fit in at home or at school, so he's used to feeling like an outsider. He's also used to feeling guilty; he killed his best friend, Lila, years ago. 

But when Cassel begins to have strange dreams about a white cat, and people around him are losing their memories, he starts to wonder what really happened to Lila. In his search for answers, he discovers a wicked plot for power that seems certain to succeed. But Cassel has other ideas and a plan to con the conmen.
I picked this audiobook up because I needed something to listen to at work and I put the call out to Twitter asking what I should listen to. This was the clear winner and it worked out really well because I was kind of in the mood for something dark and urban fantasy-esque. And while White Cat was a good read with a fantastic world and great characters, I'm not sure it really blew me away.

One thing I did love about this book was the world and the magical system. For one thing, this is a book about con men and organized crime. That right there is enough to intrigue me. And Holly Black did a great job with creating that world. It wasn't over the top and cliche in any way. The crime aspects was subtle which honestly made it complex. And while she did explain "the art of the trade" as it were throughout the book it didn't feel like info-dumps and came off as a good show not tell style of world building. I really enjoyed seeing the that all at play here.

I also think that I liked the world so much because it was tied to the magical system, a magical system I found totally interesting. If you have been around for awhile you know that I love magical systems that are similar to superpowers, and that's what this was here. The "curse work" gave the people who could do it their own individual powers, some more serious and dangerous that others, but all slightly dark and sinister. With just a touch they could make a person forget, dream whatever you wanted, or even kill them. It loved seeing the magic at work and learning more about it as the book developed.

However, as fantastic as the world and magical system was, the plot left me wanting more. On the whole it was interesting and engaging but it didn't totally blow me away. I think what was missing was the mystery elements. The mystery of the book definitely left a little to be desired. That isn't to say that there weren't surprises in this book because there were. There were a few that caught me off guard, but in general I did kind of feel as if they seemed a little bit predictable. Or not necessarily predictable as not revealed in a timely way. I didn't feel the shock with the mystery that I think would have given this book and the plot development on the whole that extra something for me.

But the world and the magic also made for interesting characters, There was a large cast here with both Cassel's family and those at his school. And while some of them were hard to keep track of and got mixed up in my head they still felt interesting enough that I wanted to know more. Plus I did really like Cassel, the main character. He's a great kind of protagonist in that he perfectly walked the line between good and evil. He is of course a con artist but in a family of workers and members of the world of organized crime he has a surprisingly good moral compass. Because of that, it's easy to root for him and that on top of his inquisitive nature and resourcefulness makes him all the more likeable.

And a lot of my thoughts on the character was due to the fact that I listened to the audiobook which was narrated by Jesse Eisenberg. Jesse did a great job with creating Cassel. He felt complex and likable in his uncertainty but intelligence. But at the same time, many of the other characters just sounded very similar. I usually prefer when narrators very the voices enough that I can tell the characters apart and that didn't feel like the case here. But he did do a good job creating the atmosphere and world of the book. I felt like that part really came alive and felt both complex and dark. I think it was a good audiobook but nothing that I would add to my favorites list.

But I think that basically sums up my feelings of this book. It was good, I liked it, but it's not going to be a new favorite. The world and magical system were fantastic, the characters were interesting, but the plot development and mystery left me wanting more. I'm not sure that at this point if I will continue with the series but I'm not opposed to it.

I give White Cat by Holly Black 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are in the mood for something that's kind of dark, kind of urban fantasy, with an interesting magical world then maybe check this out from your local library. I did like it and would recommend it to fans of YA fantasies but it's not something that blew me away.

Have you read White Cat? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

ARC Review: Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn

Title: Heroine Complex
Series: Heroine Complex #1
Written by: Sarah Kuhn
Published: July 5, 2016 by DAW (Penguin Group)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Being a superheroine is hard. Working for one is even harder. 

Evie Tanaka is the put-upon personal assistant to Aveda Jupiter, her childhood best friend and San Francisco's most beloved superheroine. She's great at her job—blending into the background, handling her boss's epic diva tantrums, and getting demon blood out of leather pants. 

Unfortunately, she's not nearly as together when it comes to running her own life, standing up for herself, or raising her tempestuous teenage sister, Bea. 

But everything changes when Evie's forced to pose as her glamorous boss for one night, and her darkest comes out: she has powers, too. Now it's up to her to contend with murderous cupcakes, nosy gossip bloggers, and supernatural karaoke battles—all while juggling unexpected romance and Aveda's increasingly outrageous demands. And when a larger threat emerges, Evie must finally take charge and become a superheroine in her own right... or see her city fall to a full-on demonic invasion.

*** I received an advance copy of this book from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. ***

I will read almost any novel about superheroes. Add diverse female superheroes to the mix and I am absolutely on board. And Heroine Complex did not disappoint. It was an action-packed read with kickass female heroine, complex themes about power and fame, plus a great story of friendship.

One of the things that immediately attracted me to this story was the characters, the put upon assistant of a superheroine who had powers as MC sounded so interesting and it definitely was. Evie was a fantastic main character in an understated badass sort of way. She's kind of a reluctant hero which I love but when push comes to shove she cares about people and do whatever it takes to protect them. She has great development throughout the novel. Then there is Aveda/Annie, the self-proclaimed savior and hero of the city. She is the opposite of Evie in every way and what immediately comes to mind when you think badass female protagonist. But she was far from cliche. I really liked the way the author played with traditional character tropes to make complex and compelling characters.

But that wasn't the only thing that Sarah Kuhn played with when it comes to superhero tropes. There were all kinds of great themes explored here. One of the things I love about superhero stories is when it deals with the idea of good and evil. Here it explores that a little but it went deeper than that. Here it was more about powers and what to do with that power. There was a whole plot line dealing with whether or not it was best to use the powers your given even if they are dangerous which I really enjoyed. But the best thing was more about how that power can go to your head. A lot of this book explores the idea of fame and being in the spotlight. It was a fantastic analysis of that concept especially when it comes to heroes and the age of social media and Internet stardom.

 The characters also lead to some really great exploration of relationships. I loved seeing Evie and Annie/Aveda's friendship tested throughout the book only for them to come out of it stronger. That was really the heart of the story. Plus there was the relationship with Evie and her sister Bea, which had similar conflict and heart. And for fans of romance there is a great one here. There are some pretty steamy kissing scenes and a great romantic lead that had even my black heart swooning. There was honestly just so many great relationships in this book that grounded the book and helped you to connect with the story. It also really helped to balance the character development with the plot development.

 But don't be fooled, this was a really action-packed read. Being a book about superheroines it should come as no surprise that there were tons of action scenes. The book opens up on a great fight scene so you definitely know what you're in for. From there it builds to a thrilling conclusion with narrow escapes, epic battles, and tongue-in-cheek encounters with more than one antagonist/nemesis along the way. There was also a really great mystery, including some elements I solved and some that caught me totally off guard. I really enjoyed the plot development here.

But that be said, as great as the plot development was, I did have some concerns with the pacing. It had a bit of a slow start after the first scene and it took me a little while to really get into it. Then there was a bit of an up and down with the rising action and it kind of lulled me into a false sense of security with the climax making me think it was over only to have an even bigger moment very late in the game. That really is my only criticism though.

On the whole, Heroine Complex is a fantastic read. It's a complex story about superheroes full of action and adventure not to mention great characters and heartwarming relationships.

I give Heroine Complex by Sarah Kuhn 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This is definitely a great read. It does a great job in balancing a plot-driven story with character-driven moments that connect you with the protagonists. Basically it has something for everyone. It's a great read for superhero and science fiction fans.

Have you read Heroine Complex? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!