Thursday, December 6, 2018

Review: Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rene Rossner

Title: Sisters of the Winter Wood
Written by: Rene Rossner
Published: September 2018 by Redhook (Hachette Books)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Raised in a small village surrounded by vast forests, Liba and Laya have lived a peaceful sheltered life - even if they've heard of troubling times for Jews elsewhere. When their parents travel to visit their dying grandfather, the sisters are left behind in their home in the woods. 

But before they leave, Liba discovers the secret that their Tati can transform into a bear, and their Mami into a swan. Perhaps, Liba realizes, the old fairy tales are true. She must guard this secret carefully, even from her beloved sister. 

Soon a troupe of mysterious men appear in town and Laya falls under their spell-despite their mother's warning to be wary of strangers. And these are not the only dangers lurking in the woods... 

The sisters will need each other if they are to become the women they need to be - and save their people from the dark forces that draw closer.

I love new YA fantasies, unique retellings, and books about sisters so this one was right in my wheelhouse. And while this was an interesting read that finished really strong, I didn’t love it as much as I had hoped.

One thing I did love about this book was the world and setting. One of my favorite things is finding a modern book that reads like a classic fairy tale and that is exactly what this book was. It had so many elements that I have come to know and love with fairy tales including a dark wood full of secrets, magical transformations, and dubious characters. I particularly loved the setting. A dark and mysterious woods makes for such a great location for a story like this. The secrets lurking in the woods made for an atmospheric read. And the magic added to all of that. What I liked about the magic was that despite the fact that it was subtle, there clear rules and seeing the magic in action interested me. All of this worked together to craft an engaging setting for the book.

The other interesting thing about the setting for this book was the historical elements. It wasn’t really historical fiction but it did a great job of dealing with historical context and still making it feel topical. This is a book about Jewish culture and it explored what that was like from a historical standpoint. Jews were often distrusted by non-Jews and this book didn’t shy away from that. It showed some of the discrimination that Jewish people felt in Medieval times. But it also explored The Jewish religion on the whole. I can’t speak to the representation but I found it interesting to learn more about Judaism and I appreciated that aspect of this book.

The plot and pacing however, left me wanting more. It’s not that the plot was bad. In fact it did really finish strong by building to a really exciting conclusion. The thing is that the first half of this book took me a week to read and the second half took me a day. It just took so long for this book to capture my interest. I think perhaps that is because in the first half there was so much more of a focus on the romance. And you all probably know I am not typically a fan of romances. With this one I felt like one of them was a really good slowburn with a solid foundation and the other one was a ridiculous instalove that creeped me out. Luckily in the end everything shook out the way I was hoping but as the romance too center stage I felt like it was taking away from the part of the story I was actually enjoying including the relationship with the sisters.

I know this a retelling of the epic poem The Goblin Market, which I am not familiar with, and it made me curious about the poem which I think is the mark of a good retelling. But to me it had more Snow White and Rose Red vibes to it. That was one of my favorite fairy tales when I was a kid and I felt like from that standpoint I enjoyed the retelling. The reason I say that is because I felt like it had a good spin on the idea of the magical transformation and finding out that a character is royalty. It made for a good feminist story in that respect. But the best part of the retelling that I enjoyed was the relationship between the sisters. As an older sister myself I love reading books about sisters who are very different but still care so much about one another. It was a great aspect of the story added a lot of heart to the book I think.

This was definitely a good read with an atmospheric world that gave it a modern fairy tale vibes, a subtle historical setting, a retelling that had me interested in the original, and a good sisterly relationship. I just wish that it was a little shorter and the romance in the beginning didn’t take so much of the focus.

I give Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rene Rossner 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I would recommend this book to fans of modern fairy tales like Uprooted and The Bear and the Nightingale. It’s a good atmospheric read for people who look those book.

Have you read Sisters of Winter Wood? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: King of Scars
Series: Nikolai Duology #1
Written by: Leigh Bardugo
Published: January 29, 2019 by Imprint (Macmillan)

Synopsis: Nikolai Lantsov has always had a gift for the impossible. No one knows what he endured in his country’s bloody civil war—and he intends to keep it that way. Now, as enemies gather at his weakened borders, the young king must find a way to refill Ravka’s coffers, forge new alliances, and stop a rising threat to the once-great Grisha Army.

Yet with every day a dark magic within him grows stronger, threatening to destroy all he has built. With the help of a young monk and a legendary Grisha Squaller, Nikolai will journey to the places in Ravka where the deepest magic survives to vanquish the terrible legacy inside him. He will risk everything to save his country and himself. But some secrets aren’t meant to stay buried—and some wounds aren’t meant to heal.
Why I'm Waiting:

Leigh Bardugo is an autobuy author. I have loved all her books in the world of the Grisha and honestly they have been getting better. I would be super excited about any new Leigh Bardugo book and therefore I am excited about this one.

Plus, IT'S A BOOK ABOUT NIKOLAI. If you didn't love Nikolai in the original series then I don't know who you are and I don't want to be your friend. He was definitely one of the more interesting characters in that series and had great development. I am excited to learn more about him and see what everything is like for him now.

I am also really excited to find out what things are like in  Ravka. There were some vague mentions in Six of Crows but I think there is a lot more going on and I assume plenty of political intrigue. And there are more characters I am excited to check back in with. Nina Zenik has perspectives you guys!

I am very excited to read this book. I might listen to the audio depending on who narrates it but I will definitely be getting a copy. I need to read this book so badly. MORE GRISHAVERSE!!! *flails*

What about you? What are you waiting for this Wednesday? Are you waiting on King of Scars along with me? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Fantasy Reads for the Winter

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

For me, winter is the perfect time to read high fantasies. I like to escape into a world that is not my own. Plus many of these books have winter themes so they feel even more immersive during the cold weather. This list ended up being basically a "my all-time favorite fantasies" list but oh well.

1.) A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin
I mean ice is in the title of this series. Plus I'm sure anyone who has seen Game of Thrones knows that "Winter is Coming." But honestly, this is a great fantasy and the books are so long that it's perfect to read on vacation.

2.) Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
While this series isn't quite so winter heavy there are definitely winter vibes. Plus it's a really good fantasy that I would recommend if you are fan of Game of Thrones.

3.) The Young Elites by Marie Lu
This is one of my all-time fantasies because it is super dark. It's kind of villain origin story but it's fully amazing. If you have not read it and you like dark fantasies or books with magic similar to superpowers you must read it.

4.) Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
The series is finally over so it's a perfect time to marathon the series if you haven't read it yet. I know Sarah is problematic and this series is far from perfect but it's a great fantasy series with crazy twists and surprises.

5.) In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS! It seriously is so good. I just finished it and it skyrocketed to my favorite of the year because it is inventive, engaging, and hilarious.

6.) A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
I am a huge fan of Victoria Schwab. I have read almost all of her books but I think maybe this series is my favorite. It's definitely an amazing fantasy series. I would also recommend City of Ghosts which is not technically fantasy but does have winter vibes.

7.) Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson
Mistborn is one of my all-time favorite fantasies and is a perfect example of Brandon Sanderson at his finest. If you haevn't read this series change that immediately.

8.) Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
I was late to the game on this series but I am so glad I read it recently. It's amazing and if you haven't read it yet you definitely need to.

9.) The Magicians by Lev Grossman
This is one of those fantasies that is kind of tongue and cheek because it plays with the tropes. It's not the kind of book for everyone but I loved it and think more people should read it.

10.) His Dark Materials by Phillip Pullman
Another all-time favorite series that has serious winter vibes. I mean they do take you to the Northern Lights and there are armored bears. Definitely a winter fantasy read.

There you have it. All my favorite fantasies that I recommend reading or rereading this time of year. What books made your list? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, December 3, 2018

November Wrap Up and December TBR

Read in November:

It's been a really hectic month. I've been travelling a lot for work and then Thanksgiving added to that. When I travel so much it typically means a lot of time for reading but not much time for blogging which was definitely the case. But I have been consistently reading and had another good reading month. I read a total of 11 books this month.  But the bigger accomplishment is that I finished my Goodreads goal a month early!

For challenges, this year I'm low key doing challenges. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 120 books in a year. I am up to 122 books for the year which means, as I said, I finished it a month early! My original goal was 150 but I had to lower it. Finishing early feels really good and hopefully next year I can meet the 150 goal. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year and I read 3 this month which brings my total for the year to 15. I won't beat this goal but I did hit the lower goal of 15 a month early. I wanted to read 36 books from Netgalley and Edelweiss and I read 1 this month which means my total is at 17 for the year. I haven't really been reading e-books lately but I did read two this month so I might be able to do better with this next year. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 3 which brings my total to 24 for the year. I'm hoping to read one more so hopefully I will hit 25 for the year.

The Books

1.) Kingdom of Ash by Laini Taylor Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
2.) The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina Sellman Vol. 1: The Crucible 
by Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa Rating: 9 out of 10
3.)  Outrun the Moon by Stacey Lee Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
4.) Girls of Paper and Fire by Natasha Ngan Rating: 8.5 out of 10 [My Review]
5.) Silent Night 2 by R.L. Stine Rating 5 out of 10 [Podcast Website]
6.) Amber and Dusk by Shawn Serles Rating: 7.5 out of 10 stars [My Review]
7.) Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
8.) In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brenna Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
9.) Pulp by Robin Talley Rating: 9 out of 10 stars [My Review]
 10.) Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes Rating: 8 out of 10 [My Review]
11.) Sisters of the Winter Wood by Rene Rossner Rating: 8 out of 10 stars [Review to Come]

To Be Read in December: 

And here is hoping that I can continue the strong reading month. I have a ton of books I want to read before the end of the year which is why I am hoping I am able to read as much as possible especially over the holidays. There are some great books coming out in January so I hope I can get these finished.

Books for Review

Empress of All Seasons by Emiko Jean - Add to Goodreads
I had this book on my list last month but I didn't get the chance. But I started it yesterday and it has already hooked me. I'm travelling for work this week and this will be my airplane read.

The Assassin's Guide to Love and Treason by Virginia Boeckler - Add to Goodreads
Another book I hoped to read last month but I wasn't able to. I considered reading it next but I decided on Empress first.

Realm of Ruins by Hannah West - Add to Goodreads
I loved Kingdom of Ash and Briar so I was super pumped when I heard she was coming out with a sequel a century after the original book. I plan to devour this during Christmas.

The Curses by Lyra Selene Add to Goodreads
I liked The Graces so when I saw there was a sequel coming out I grabbed it from Netgalley. I'm hoping to start this one pretty soon.

Black Wings Beating by Alex London - Add to Goodreads
I was looking through my ARCs from this year to see which ones I didn't get a chance to read and honestly this is probably the only one. I haven't read any Alex London and I have heard good things.

Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand Add to Goodreads
This book has been on my list for three months now but it is still one I want to read before the end of the year. I'm not sure if it will happen but we shall see.

When We Caught Fire by Anna Godbersen - Add to Goodreads
And another book that has been on my list for months that I want to read before the end of the year. I may see if I like the audio for this one.

New Releases

Skyward by Brandon Sanderson - Add to Goodreads
A Brandon Sanderson book came out and I did not read it immediately! But I did buy a signed copy on Black Friday so I plan to read it as soon as it gets delivered.

Dark Days Deceit by Alison Goodman - Add to Goodreads
I am listening to the audiobook for this one as we speak. I had hoped to finish before the end of the month but it's much longer than I expected. But with my travelling for work I should be done by the end of the week.

Anna and the Apocalypse by Katherine Turner and Barry Waldo - Add to Goodreads
Just in case I am in the mood for a Christmas read, this one is my kind of holiday read and is also a short audiobook which is narrated by Fiona Hardingham.

Backlist Books

Dark Triumph and Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers - Add to Goodreads
The new book in this series is coming out in February so I am taking the opportunity to listen to these audiobooks during my drives to visit my family for Christmas

There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in December. As always, these are subject to change. I may read all of these or I may only read a few and then read a bunch of different ones. But honestly I think this list I can stick to. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Friday, November 30, 2018

Review: Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

Title: Little White Lies
Series: Debutantes #1
Written by: Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Published: November 6, 2018 by Freeform (Disney)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: "I'm not saying this is Sawyer's fault," the prim and proper one said delicately. "But." 

Eighteen-year-old auto mechanic Sawyer Taft did not expect her estranged grandmother to show up at her apartment door and offer her a six-figure contract to participate in debutante season. And she definitely never imagined she would accept. But when she realizes that immersing herself in her grandmother's "society" might mean discovering the answer to the biggest mystery of her life-her father's identity-she signs on the dotted line and braces herself for a year of makeovers, big dresses, bigger egos, and a whole lot of bless your heart. The one thing she doesn't expect to find is friendship, but as she's drawn into a group of debutantes with scandalous, dangerous secrets of their own, Sawyer quickly discovers that her family isn't the only mainstay of high society with skeletons in their closet. There are people in her grandmother's glittering world who are not what they appear, and no one wants Sawyer poking her nose into the past. As she navigates the twisted relationships between her new friends and their powerful parents, Sawyer's search for the truth about her own origins is just the beginning. 

Set in the world of debutante balls, grand estates and rolling green hills, Little White Lies combines a charming setting, a classic fish-out-of-water story, and the sort of layered mystery only author Jennifer Lynn Barnes can pull off.

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

I loved Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ The Fixer series and I want to read more of her books so when I heard that she was coming out with a new book that was about debutantes with secrets I was completely on board. And while it was a pretty good read, it didn’t blow me away like I was expecting.

The characterization has this real Gilmore Girls feel. Our main character is the daughter of a former rich girl who got pregnant at seventeen and left home to raise her child. The difference is that these two didn’t have the charm and connection of Rory and Lorelei. It was like later seasons Gilmore Girls where they’ve had a falling out. The grandmother however had strong Emily vibes. She was like this tough an prickly woman who has a surprising heart of gold when it comes right down to it. I loved seeing her walls break down throughout the book along with Sawyer’s. They weren’t quite unlikable characters but they were pretty dubious ones and I always like that in a mystery.

But that was just the start of the dubious characters. This book was full of characters who walk the line between good and evil. So many of them do terrible things throughout the book, some for good reasons and some for terrible reasons. There were some truly devious characters like Campbell and some characters who just made really terrible decision like Lily. I was pleasantly surprised by the relationship that developed between the girls. It started out feeling like a catty mean girls sort of situation but by the end they really came together and made a great team.

However, I do think that the mystery here was kind of lacking. I come to expect JLB to write a twisty series full of last minute surprises so that’s what I wanted here. But it never delivered on that. I think the problem was there were just too many plot points so it lacked a cohesive story. The book was told with these interludes that were happening in the past (or was it the future) that were supposed to explain why the girls were arrested but honestly I think they just confused me needlessly. And then throughout the main novel there was the idea of who Sawyer’s father was thrown in with at least three more side storylines. They all were interesting they just took away from the overall connectedness of the story. I know JLB can write a good thriller, this just wasn’t her best work. I wish she had scaled back a little bit.

But all and all this was a good read. It was fast and entertaining. I read it on a train ride home from seeing my family for Thanksgiving and it was the perfect vacation read.

I give Little White Lies by Jennifer Lynn Barnes 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I would recommend this book to someone who is not a huge fan of thrillers but wants a book with some mystery to it. I think contemporary fans will like it more than fans of mysteries.

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

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Review: Pulp by Robin Talley

Title: Pulp
Written by: Robin Talley
Published: November 13, 2018 by Harlequin Teen

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In 1955, eighteen-year-old Janet Jones keeps the love she shares with her best friend Marie a secret. It’s not easy being gay in Washington, DC, in the age of McCarthyism, but when she discovers a series of books about women falling in love with other women, it awakens something in Janet. As she juggles a romance she must keep hidden and a newfound ambition to write and publish her own story, she risks exposing herself—and Marie—to a danger all too real.

Sixty-two years later, Abby Zimet can’t stop thinking about her senior project and its subject—classic 1950s lesbian pulp fiction. Between the pages of her favorite book, the stresses of Abby’s own life are lost to the fictional hopes, desires and tragedies of the characters she’s reading about. She feels especially connected to one author, a woman who wrote under the pseudonym “Marian Love,” and becomes determined to track her down and discover her true identity.

In this novel told in dual narratives, New York Times bestselling author Robin Talley weaves together the lives of two young women connected across generations through the power of words. A stunning story of bravery, love, how far we’ve come and how much farther we have to go.

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

I've read a few of Robin Talley's books and I really enjoyed them so when I saw she was coming out a new book that historical fiction elements I was really excited to read it. And it was a really interesting and engaging read with more layers than I was expecting.

One of the most interesting things about this book for me is the fact that it read like a historical mystery. Historical mysteries are one of my favorite subgenres and I have enjoyed both Robin's historical fiction and her mysteries so I knew this book was in good hands. This was one of those stories where a modern character finds something from the historical character who she has to learn more about. Their stories are linked and often mirror each other. That is exactly what happened in Pulp. Despite how different their lives were, in so many ways Abby and Janet's lives mirrored one another as they dealt with their feelings of attraction to their best friends, found a book that spoke deep into their soul, and their desire to write the perfect story.

My favorite part about this book was the subtle themes in the plot. Books about books is not rare by any means but Pulp handled it so well and in a way that was much more subtle. Pulp is very much a book for fans of reading and writing. It perfectly expresses how you feel when you find that perfect book with that character and experiences so much like your own that you relate to it so completely it overtakes you. It also communicates the idea of writing an own voices book. A book that captures your story in that cathartic way that you not only get it out of your head but out in the world. Despite my massive failure of NaNoWriMo this was the perfect book to read for this month because it is so much about writing.

I also really enjoyed the historical aspect of this book. Robin Talley is a master of write not only the LGBT experience in a historical perspective but what it was like in the mid-20th Century. This book took some of the more unspoken and undiscussed aspects of the 1950's and early-60's and brought them into the light, well as light as possible with such dark and difficult topics. She really showed the pressure and anxiety caused by McCarthyism and the witch hunt not only for Communists but anyone who was different including homosexuals. I love exploring not only this time period but some of the aspects that don't often get the attention they deserve so I really enjoyed this book for that reason.

As far as the characters go, I felt like the author did a great job in balancing the two perspectives. The story alternated between Janet and Abby and they both had interesting stories but if I am being completely honest I enjoyed Janet's story a bit more. Abby was super relateable and the way she was dealing with her writing and the anxiety of how she was handling the forthcoming change felt so genuine and real. However, I found myself wanting to learn more about Janet and how her story unfolded. In her chapters there was drama and tension. For a plot-driven reader, Janet's story was the more engaging. I also think I just liked Janet a bit more. She had a lot going against her but she knew who she and stayed fiercely herself despite the adversity. I had a lot of respect for her because of that.

I really enjoyed Pulp a lot. It was a fast and interesting book and I devoured it. I read it so much faster than I expected because I was invested in the stories of both Janet and Abby. It was a subtle historical mystery with great themes and engaging characters.

I give Pulp by Robin Talley 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you are a fan of historical fiction, especially historical mysteries, then I would recommend reading this book. It's also a great read for people who like books about books and writing. I thoroughly enjoyed it for that aspect.

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

Monday, November 26, 2018

Review: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

Title: In Other Lands
Written by: Sarah Rees Brennan
Published: April 15, 2017 by Big Mouth House

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: “What’s your name?” 
“Serena?” Elliot asked. 
“Serene,” said Serene. “My full name is Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle.” 
 Elliot’s mouth fell open. “That is badass.” 

The Borderlands aren’t like anywhere else. Don’t try to smuggle a phone or any other piece of technology over the wall that marks the Border—unless you enjoy a fireworks display in your backpack. (Ballpoint pens are okay.) There are elves, harpies, and—best of all as far as Elliot is concerned—mermaids. 

Elliot? Who’s Elliot? Elliot is thirteen years old. He’s smart and just a tiny bit obnoxious. Sometimes more than a tiny bit. When his class goes on a field trip and he can see a wall that no one else can see, he is given the chance to go to school in the Borderlands. 

It turns out that on the other side of the wall, classes involve a lot more weaponry and fitness training and fewer mermaids than he expected. On the other hand, there’s Serene-Heart-in-the-Chaos-of-Battle, an elven warrior who is more beautiful than anyone Elliot has ever seen, and then there’s her human friend Luke: sunny, blond, and annoyingly likeable. There are lots of interesting books. There’s even the chance Elliot might be able to change the world.

Amazing! Seriously, this book was so good and I am glad that I saw someone mention it on Twitter recently because I picked up the audiobook and devoured it.

This book is a creative love letter to portal fantasies that plays with the tropes and turns them in their head. I am a huge fan of fantasies that take the tropes and play with them in a way that feels like a parody and that’s exactly what In Other Lands does. It makes for a book that feels both familiar and unique at the same time. This is a world It’s a world full of supernatural creatures like elves, trolls, unicorns, and mermaids but they are unlike the creatures that they are used to mostly because a lot of them are murderous including the unicorns. I am always looking for a unique magical setting and this book got that bill by simply just breaking with convention in a way that you can tell comes from a place of total affection for the genre.

The biggest shift I think this book makes is it’s hero, or should I say antihero. Because Eliot Schaffer is the farthest thing from a Chosen One as I think is humanly possible. He’s the bookish, sarcastic, and rude secondary character who often gets relegated to comic relief and Sarah makes him the narrator. And I gotta say, I loved that! The voice on Elliot was absolutely amazing and is without a doubt the highlight of this novel. He’s kind of an asshole but he had me laughing out loud so often that I had to make sure I didn’t look like a total weirdo on my train ride home. And Elliot is a great main character in that he’s not very heroic and yet you still root for him. Sarah does a great job with his development throughout the book and by the end he really is very likable. He makes for an amazing antihero and a great main character.

Part of what I think makes Elliot so likable is that the plot of this book is really a coming of age story. It’s got plenty of action and adventure but it’s not a plot-friend narrative. It’s about war, yes, but also how diplomacy and getting to know people who are different from you can solve conflicts. But the real heart of this story is about found family and first love. The love triangle is another trope that Sarah plays with here and she does it in such a brilliant way and with a bisexual main character. Seriously though, it was such a great hate to love slow burn that I found myself wanting to smoosh the characters faces together so my ship would sail. She actually had me rooting for the romance which is huge for me with my cold dead romancephobic heart. But Elliot was enough of a hopeless romantic for the both of us.

Finally, this book was amazingly feminist in the perfect parody of classic fantasy tropes. Usually when you hear people talking about feminist fantasies it’s because there is a kickass female character who shows the men who’s boss. But that’s not what In Other Lands does. Yes, it has a kickass girl but she comes from a matriarchal society that thinks men are the sensitive fairer sex. By flipping our societies treatment of women on its head she is not only drawing attention to the absurdity of it while developing a fantasy culture wholly unique and amazing.

I seriously cannot rave about this book enough. It is without a doubt one of my favorite books I’ve read in 2018. I absolutely loved it and I couldn’t put it down. It’s the perfect fantasy and parody at the same time. It creates a unique and interesting world, populates it with likable and hilarious characters, and takes you on a coming of age story that is disguised as a portal fantasy adventure.

I give In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. This book is definitely worth it. Especially if you, like me, are fans of irreverent fantasies that don't take themselves too seriously and play with the tropes. It's a fun romp of an adventure and I think everyone should read it.

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

Monday, November 19, 2018

Review: Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan

Title: Manhattan Beach
Written by: Jennifer Egan
Published: October 3, 2017 by Scribner (Simon and Schuster)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: The daring and magnificent novel from the Pulitzer Prize–winning author of A Visit from the Goon Squad. 

Anna Kerrigan, nearly twelve years old, accompanies her father to visit Dexter Styles, a man who, she gleans, is crucial to the survival of her father and her family. She is mesmerized by the sea beyond the house and by some charged mystery between the two men.  ‎

Years later, her father has disappeared and the country is at war. Anna works at the Brooklyn Naval Yard, where women are allowed to hold jobs that once belonged to men, now soldiers abroad. She becomes the first female diver, the most dangerous and exclusive of occupations, repairing the ships that will help America win the war. One evening at a nightclub, she meets Dexter Styles again, and begins to understand the complexity of her father’s life, the reasons he might have vanished. 

With the atmosphere of a noir thriller, Egan’s first historical novel follows Anna and Styles into a world populated by gangsters, sailors, divers, bankers, and union men. Manhattan Beach is a deft, dazzling, propulsive exploration of a transformative moment in the lives and identities of women and men, of America and the world. It is a magnificent novel by the author of A Visit from the Goon Squad, one of the great writers of our time.

I read A Visit from the Good Squad years ago, before I really started blogging and was reading a lot more literary fiction. I really enjoyed it so when I saw Egan was coming out with a new book last year I had wanted to read it but never did. So when I saw the audiobook for download from the library I snagged it and I am so glad I did because this was just what I was interested in reading.

Lately I have been really enjoying historical fiction and this book was a great example of the genre. I know I've said this before but I like historical fiction which takes a lesser known event from a period of time and explores it with fictional characters. That's exactly what this book did. The book took place in the late 1930's and early 1940's in New York City. It explored many different aspects of the period including gangsters, the Great Depression, and World War II. I liked the portions about WWII the most as we got to see life on the homefront, particularly women working in factories and other jobs in which the men had left to go fight. Seeing Anna becoming a diver for the Navy was incredibly interesting and I enjoyed seeing her overcome the assumptions people have over her strength do to her sex. But there were also more interesting layers to this story of the war that I think fans of historical fiction, particularly those who like books about WWII, will enjoy.

But I think the heart of this story was the characters. Like A Visit from the Good Squad this book is about multiple people and how their lives intertwine and overlap. The main character here is arguably Anna. When we first meet her she is twelve and following her father around on his jobs for local gangsters. We see what family life is like for her through both her eyes and her fathers which adds to the story even more. You can feel their love for one another and know how much it is reciprocated. Then as Anna grows up we follow her working at the Navy Yard and making some not great decisions. But she is seriously so sympathetic so when she is faced with the consequences you are invested. The final perspective is Dexter Stiles, a gangster who Eddie works for who Anna ends up meeting again years later after her father disappears. While Dexter's perspectives didn't have the same emotional resonance they still drew me in and added to the overall story.

Speaking of the story, this was a much slower narrative than I usually enjoy. It wasn't all action and adventure with high stakes although there were definitely aspects of that in this story. One of the storylines in particular had an extreme survival component and I really enjoyed that. For the most part these were really three, maybe even four, very different stories that only seem to connect because the characters were connected. Narratively speaking they were all very different but in the end I think they came together in a way that was interesting and engaging. Oddly enough, this book read like a historical mystery even though there wasn't really a mystery. It just had those vobes and as a fan of that genre I appreciated that.

As I mentioned, i listened to the audiobook of this one and I am really glad that I did. Each perspective had a different narrator. and they all did a fantastic job of developing the characters and setting the tone of the story. Both Eddie and Dexter were narrated by actors and they did a fantastic job. One of the reasons I wanted to read this is that Eddie is narrated by Norbert Leo Butz who I love. He really should narrate more audios because he did an amazing job. Over time I found myself forgetting it was him and falling into the story and the characters he was creating. But all the narrators did a great job and I loved the way that they would switch mid-chapter when the perspective would change. I usually hate that when I'm reading but with an audiobook with more than one narrator it works really well.

On the whole, I really enjoyed Manhattan Beach. It's not my usual read so it was a nice palatte cleanser which is just what I needed. It has a good historical setting, engaging characters, and an interweaving plot that pulls you in a takes you on a surprisingly emotional journey.

I give Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you are a fan of historical fiction and have not read this yet I recommend picking it up wither next time you are at the library or if you are in a bookstore and looking for something to read. I really enjoyed it and would recommend it.

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

Friday, November 16, 2018

Discussion Post: Am I Becoming a Mood Reader?

Hi Friends,

Welcome to another installment of My Thoughts Figuratively where I wax philisophically about things relating to reading and blogging. I used to do try and do discussion posts monthly and this is actually the second month in a row that I have posted one. Maybe I am actually going to be able to do that moving forward. But lately I have been thinking  a lot about my reading and I wanted to talk about here to get my thoughts out and see if you all have experienced it.

If you have been a longtime reader of the blog you know that I used to do monthly themes where I would read a bunch of books based on certain topic. It could have been a genre like historical fiction or high fantasy, or something more specific like pirates of "island adventures." I really liked the structure and being able to explore certain types of books in depth. But as time went on I wasn't able to think of ideas anymore and the themes stayed the same. Plus as I started to read more it became harder to predict what I was going to read each month and stick to a specific theme. Over time I slowly dropped the theme and just decided to read what I wanted every month.

But reading what I wanted in any given moment was easier then it looked. So instead of knowing exactly what I was going to read next I was faced with crippling indecision on what book to pick up after I finished one. I mean, I had a general idea of what I was hoping to read for the month based what new books were coming out and what books I had review copies of, but in general I didn't have a plan. And when I don't have a plan I tend to get overwhelmed and give up. Call it anxiety or whatever else but it made deciding what to read next a tough choice. So in those cases I have taken to Twitter and let my followers make the decision for me. It's sometimes easier when someone else tells you what to do.

So for a few months everything has been working out. I've been getting tons of reading done and there hasn't been much of a struggle deciding what to read next. Then suddenly, I feel like I've hit a wall. I feel like I have been getting burned out from fantasy, one of my favorite genres. When I do read fantasies, the ones that I have read haven't really been impressing me.And yes, that could just be the nature of the book but it felt like more than that. So I decided maybe I should take a break from fantasy, refresh myself a little bit before the winter when I know some highly anticipated books are coming out.

Then Wednesday night, as I'm deciding what to read next I asked myself what I was in the mood for. And that's when I realized that I have been asking myself what I am in the mood to read. A question I have never really thought about. I know that a lot of people are mood readers. It's a thing you hear all the time in the blogoshere "I'm a mood reader so I'm not interested in that right now." And I honestly never understood that. If a new book that you were really excited to read just came out, how are you not in the mood for it?

But now I think I get it. The type of book you are interested in reading can really shape your opinion of it. Often reading is just an expression of your feelings at the time of your reading it. How many times have you reread something that you loved only to be shocked at how not good it was? Don't lie to me, we all know you liked Twilight 10 years ago. I guess that's what mood reading is. Being in the mood for something can make you love it, and not being in the mood can make you not enjoy it. The fact that I am now in that boat completely changes the way I decide what to read next and honestly I am not sure how to proceed.

Are you a mood reader or can you set a TBR for the month? If you are a mood reader then let me know how you decide what to read next? HELP ME! Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Amber and Dusk by Lyra Selene Blog Tour: Review


Title: Amber & Dusk
Author: Lyra Selene
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Release Date: November 27, 2018
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy

Synopsis: Sylvie has always known she deserves more. Out in the permanent twilight of the Dusklands, her guardians called her power to create illusions a curse. But Sylvie knows it gives her a place in Coeur d'Or, the palais of the Amber Empress and her highborn legacies.

So Sylvie sets off toward the Amber City, a glittering jewel under a sun that never sets, to take what is hers.

But her hope for a better life is quickly dimmed. The empress invites her in only as part of a wicked wager among her powerful courtiers. Sylvie must assume a new name, Mirage, and begin to navigate secretive social circles and deadly games of intrigue in order to claim her spot. Soon it becomes apparent that nothing is as it appears and no one, including her cruel yet captivating sponsor, Sunder, will answer her questions. As Mirage strives to assume what should be her rightful place, she'll have to consider whether itis worth the price she must pay.


**** I received an advance copy of this book from the published in exchange for an honest review as a part of the blog tour. This fact has not changed my opinion. ****

I am usually looking for a new and different YA fantasy so when I read the synopsis for this book and saw the opportunity to take part in the blog tour for this one I jumped at the chance. And while I do think that this felt like a classic fantasy, and while it had a lot of promise it didn't quite deliver on that.

The thing that I think best expresses this for me is the characters.. This is a book full of odious and interesting characters. I usually prefer my fantasies to have characters who are on the darker side. People who have allegiances that are hidden and plenty of secrets. These were those kinds of characters. It made for interesting characters who I was curious to learn more about, but I feel a little bit like we didn't get that payoff. Some of the characters got good reveals towards the end of the book but for the most part they didn't strike an emotional chord for me. I think honestly because most of them weren't really very big surprises. The main character of Sylvie felt like a classic YA fantasy protagonist. She was tough and brash which I liked but she was also incredibly dense which I found a little frustrating. To be honest, that was one of the things that added to the classic feel of this book for me. It was the find of book where I preferred the secondary characters.

What I enjoyed most about Amber and Dusk was the world. For one thing, the magical system is one of those where each character has their own power and they feel almost like superpowers, which is a magical system I always enjoy. Plus the author was great about how the magic had clear rules and before the main character was able to use her powers in a significant way she had to learn how to control them, which is something I prefer in my magic. But the world also had a ton of political intrigue. I love when fantasies deal with court politics and the secrets surrounding the court and this book definitely handled that well.

I do think however that this book had too much world building and that's at the expense of the plot. New fantasy books always have a lot of exposition. I expect at least 100 pages of set up and world building. But this book kind of took things way too far. The most interesting part of the story for me didn't really kick in until about the last 80 pages and then it was over way too soon even though it sent into motion so much of the book's final act. There was one section that was only 20 pages long that I really wanted more from and I felt like this portion of the plot could have been expanded on. I need a very plot-centered story though so maybe most people won't mind about this too much.

All in all, I think this was an okay read. It had a lot going for it like odious characters and an interesting world full of political intrigue, plus it definitely read like a classic YA fantasy but it didn't quite blow me away.

I give Amber and Dusk by Lyra Selene 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are looking for a YA fantastic that is heavy on the world and political intrigue and light on the plot development then check this out. It has classic fantasy vibes that I think fans of the genre will enjoy.


฀Barnes & Noble:
฀Book Depository:



Lyra Selene was born under a full moon and has never quite managed to wipe the moonlight out of her eyes. When she isn’t dreaming up fantastical cities and brood-ing landscapes, Lyra enjoys hiking, rainstorms, autumn, and pretending she’s any good at painting.

She lives in New England with her husband, in an antique farmhouse that’s probably not haunted. AMBER & DUSK is her debut novel.


 •AMBER & DUSK by Lyra Selene
 •US Only
 •Starts: 11/12
 •Ends: 11/30