Friday, August 31, 2018

August Wrap Up and September TBR

Read in August:

I had another good month of reading in August. It started off really slow thanks to a work trip I had to make but I finished super strong and I am really glad that I did. I have been trying t get back to consistently reading in the double digits and two months in a row feels good. Oh, I should probably tell you how many books I read. I read a total of 12 books this month. Managing to read this many books in a month when I had so much going on is a pretty big accomplishment and puts me back on track for my Goodreads goals.

For challenges, this year I'm low key doing challenges. I set a Goodreads goal of reading 120 books in a year. I am back on track for that goal having read 83 books total for the year and if I can maintain 10 a month then I will meet this. For the rest of the challenges I only low key set them. I want to read 20 debuts this year. I read 2 this month so I'm at 10 total for the year which is behind schedule but I guess it's possible that I make that up in the fall. I want to read 36 books from Netgalley and Edelweiss and I read 3 this month which brings my total up to 16 for the year. I haven't really been reading e-books lately so I am very behind on this one so I'll probably need to lower it to 24 and still probably make this one. I mean I haven't even requested anything in months. Most of the ones I did read were fr blog tours. I also want to read 20 backlist books. This month I read 2 which brings my total to 16 for the year so I'm doing well on that.

The Books

1.) Cheerleaders: The Second Evil by R.L. Stine 
Rating: 7 out of 10 [Podcast Website]
2.) Neverworld Wake by Marisha Pessl Rating: 9.5 out of 10 [My Review]
3.)  These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch Rating: 7.5 out of 10 [My Review]
4.) The Magicians by Lev Grossman Rating: 9 out of 10 [Reread]
5.) #Murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil Rating: 8 out of 10 stars [My Review]
6.) Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys Rating: 9 out of 10 [My Review]
7.) Mirage by Julie Murphy  Rating: 7.5 out of 10 [My Review]
8.) Girl at the Grace by Teri Bailey Black Rating: 7.5 out of 10  [My Review
9.) DC's Bombshells Vol. 2: Allies by Marguerite Bennett, Marguerite Sauvage, 
and Laura Braga Rating: 8.5 out of 10
10.) Seafire by Nathalie C. Parker Rating: 9 out of 10 stars [My Review]
11.) Replica by Lauren Oliver Rating: 8.5 out of 10 stars [Review to Come]
 12.) Saga Vol 2 by Brian K. Vaughn and Fiona Staples Rating: 9.5 out of 10

To Be Read in September: 

And we are getting into fall book season which means a crazy amount of books are about to come out. That means I have a crazy list of books I am hoping to read this month. There is no way I can read all of these but let's see how many I can actually get through.

Books for Review

Campfire by Shawn Serles - Add to Goodreads
I keep putting this book off but I really need to read it this month because we will be recording our podcast episode so I need to get to it.

A Room Away from the Wolves by Nova Ren Suma - Add to Goodreads
I wanted to read this book last month but I didn't get to it. But I love Nova's books and I am super excited to read her newest one. I got a copy at ALA and I am excited to read it.

Sadie by Courtney Summers - Add to Goodreads
My friend Michelle is super excited about this book, which makes me excited. I mean also it's a mystery and the main character is a podcaster so I'm pretty pumped.

Not Even Bones by Rebecca Schaeffer - Add to Goodreads
I learned about this book at ALA and it sounds completely awesome. I don't know exactgly what it is about but there is a mystery, serial killers, and apparently a superatural spin. Count me in

Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton - Add to Goodreads
This book sounds really cool and interesting. I haven't read anything from Tess Gratton but she's been on my list for awhile so I figure this is a good place to start.

The Agony House by Cherie Priest - Add to Goodreads
I really enjoyed I Am Princess X and when I saw this one I thought it was a sequel. It is not but it sounds like a cool MG/YA horror and it has the same format as I Am Princess X so I am down.

Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis - Add to Goodreads
Beth Revis is another author I have not read but have wanted to for awhile. SO when I saw there were copies of her dark fantasy at ALA you know I had to get one.

The Dark Descent of Elizabeth Frankenstein by Kiersten White - Add to Goodreads
I am a sucker for Frankenstein retellings and for books by Kiersten White. This book combines them both so I obviously need to read it immediately.

The Lady's Guide to Petticoats and Piracy by Mackenzie Lee - Add to Goodreads
I loved Gentleman's Guide so much and I am super pumped for the companion novel about Felicity. I have the ARC from ALA that I need to read finally.

Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor - Add to Goodreads
I cannot wait for the sequel to Strange the Dreamer. I loved that book so much and I know this one will be just as amazing. I'll probably listen to the audiobook because Steve West.

New Releases

City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab - Add to Goodreads
I was hoping to read this one last month but because it only came out on Tuesday I didn't really have time but I started it yesterday and I will probably breeze through it because I love Victoria.

Vengeful by V.E Schwab - Add to Goodreads
That's right friends, another Victoria Schwab book. But the sequel to Vicious comes out this month and I am super excited to read it.

Backlist Books

Not sure yet. I'll see what I can get on audiobook from the library.

There you have it. Some of the books I hope to read in July. 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!

Thursday, August 30, 2018

ARC Review: Seafire by Natalie C. Parker

Title: Seafire
Series: Seafire #1
Written by: Nathalie C. Parker
Published: August 28, 2018 by Razorbill (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: After her family is killed by corrupt warlord Aric Athair and his bloodthirsty army of Bullets, Caledonia Styx is left to chart her own course on the dangerous and deadly seas. She captains her ship, the Mors Navis, with a crew of girls and women just like her, whose lives have been turned upside down by Aric and his men. The crew has one misson: stay alive, and take down Aric's armed and armored fleet. 

But when Caledonia's best friend and second-in-command just barely survives an attack thanks to help from a Bullet looking to defect, Caledonia finds herself questioning whether or not to let him join their crew. Is this boy the key to taking down Aric Athair once and for all...or will he threaten everything the women of the Mors Navis have worked for?

Finally! The book I have been wanting to read all summer. I picked this book up at ALA and I am so glad that I did because it was everything I hoped it would be and more. It was an amazing story about kickass female pirates with a thrilling plot.

Seriously, this book had a completely amazing plot. I'm a plot driven reader and in order for me to love a book I need a plot full of action and adventure and this was absolutely what I found here. There were so many daring escapes and epic battle scenes that all good pirate stories have. There was this great undercurrent of survival amid a story of revenge and friendship. And Parker did a really great job in writing a non-stop narrative that didn't feel too over the top. The book really built to an exciting conclusion with a lot of fun along the way. A lot of the books I have been reading lately fall apart in the plot department and that is where Seafire really thrived.

The other best thing about this book was the characters. Caledonia for one was a great character. It's pretty easy to root for the female captain of a pirate ship. I mean seriously, how could you not love a swashbuckling female who is leading a crew of amazing young women. But what I liked most about her is that she's not perfect. She's vulnerable and makes mistakes that have real consequences. I like the fact that she didn't do everything right and she had to learn from her screw ups and live with the consequences. It made her all the more likable and complex.

But the real heart of this book was the relationships. It's very much a book about family and found family. The crew of the Mors Navis really has built something so great. They care about one another and do anything for their fellow sister. It really is a sisterhood built on teamwork and mutual respect. And they are there for each other no matter if the other person screws up. The best example of this is with Caledonia and Pisces. The two are best friends and have been through so much together. They both make some decisions that the other person doesn't agree with throughout the book but they forgive and come together when it is needed. But not all the relationships here were good. And yes, I am talking about the romance. At first I was so happy that there wasn't going to be a romance in this book and then it got shoehorned in there unexpectedly with the weirdest pairing. There were much better places to take a romance in this book and the decisions the author made felt very forced. But I'm hard on romances in general so take that for what it's worth.

I also don't know how I feel about the world of this book. I was expecting it to be a fantasy but it wasn't really. It wasn't sci-fi wither to be honest. I don't know what this was. It kind of read like a low-key dystopia. There were elements of technology and what felt like modern times but it definitely wasn't. And then there is this whole thing with the villain Aric Athair and his Fivesons who were interesting villains but didn't get the attention they deserved. I think on the whole this world was kind of a less is less situation. It was definitely cool and interesting but I feel like there could have been more attention placed on the world building. Maybe it will be explored more in future books. Honestly, I'm hoping that it is because there is a lot there left unsaid.

But all in all this was a really great read and I thoroughly enjoyed it. It had a thrilling plot full of action and adventure, great characters I became very attached to, and a lot of promise for future books in the series. It wasn't perfect but I really loved it.

I give Seafire by Natalie C. Parker 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I would absolutely recommend this book to anyone who is looking for a thrilling an exciting read. If you like books about pirates or are looking for a feminist story about sisterhood and found family definitely check it out.

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

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

ARC Review: Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Blake

Title: Girl at the Grave
Written by: Terri Bailey Blake
Published: August 7, 2018 by Tor Teen (Macmillan)
(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Early Libba Bray meets Stalking Jack the Ripper and William Ritter’s Jackaby series in this richly atmospheric Gothic tale of murder and romance in 1850s New England 

Valentine has spent years trying to outrun her mother's legacy. But small towns have long memories, and when a new string of murders occurs, all signs point to the daughter of a murderer. 

Only one person believes Valentine is innocent—Rowan Blackshaw, the son of the man her mother killed all those years ago. Valentine vows to find the real killer, but when she finally uncovers the horrifying truth, she must choose to face her own dark secrets, even if it means losing Rowan in the end. 

Debut author Terri Bailey Black unearths the long-buried secrets of a small New England town in this richly atmospheric Gothic tale of murder, guilt, redemption, and finding love where least expected..

When I first heard about this book I immediately knew I needed to read it. It's such a me book. A historical mystery set in New England? Yes, please. So I was completely excited when Tor approved my request on Netgalley. And while this was an interesting and atmospheric read perfect for fall, I didn't love it.

One thing that I did like was the setting. I am a complete sucker for books that take place in New England. I live in New England and I love it so much so when I find books that take place here that capture the spirit and atmosphere of New England I am all for it. This book definitely did that. It didn't lean to hard into it either. I'm not sure it had a distinctly New England feel but it had the vibe and felt familiar. It had an atmosphere that I loved. The other great thing about the setting is the small town aspect of the story. Mysteries are perfect in small town settings because everyone knows everyone and is in one another's business which makes suspects out of so many people. And this was definitely an interesting small town where that was the case.

The only thing about the setting that I didn't love was the historical aspect. I was super pumped to read a historical mystery because it is one of my favorite subgenres. However, this book was just a mystery with a historical setting. In my opinion, if you are going to write a historical novel you need to root the story in history. It doesn't have to be about a specific event but it should feel like the time period. This book just felt timeless and that's not really a good thing. Sometimes I would forget it was not set in the modern era and then they would talk about carriages. I don't know if it was a lack or research or just lack of historical grounding. I think the author should have just leaned into the historical setting more than she did.

The plot however was kind of hit or miss for me. I will say, I loved the mystery. It was a really fantastic mystery with lots of things that unfolded throughout the book. This is one of those mysteries where I suspect everyone at one point or another so I am able to figure out who the culprit is but their motives and what actually happened didn't get revealed until the end which I liked. However, there was so much focus on the romance in this book. There's one very small mention about finding love in the synopsis but it was definitely a big part of the plot. Which wouldn't have been that big a deal if I liked the romance, but I didn't. It was a love triangle that annoyed me so much because the character kept changing her mind. But then again, I am hard to please when it comes to romance.

As far as the characters, they were fine but didn't impress me much. Valentine is a fine protagonist and is relatively easy to sympathize with. She's the town outcast and I can feel compassion for her in that respect and I wanted her to solve the mystery but throughout the book she got very frustrating. For one thing she kept thinking she figured everything out and was always wrong. After awhile I stopped trusting her and that is never the good thing in a mystery protagonist. And then there is the romance. Because seriously, both romantic leads were not likable. Maybe I kept them at arms length because I suspected them of being involved in the murder in some way, or maybe they just weren't my find of characters but either way, I was not a fan. But it's kind of the name of the game when it comes to mysteries when you suspect everyone of murder.

All in all this was an okay read, but not the book I was hoping for. It had a good setting and an engaging mystery but there was way too much romance and I didn't connect with the characters. I wanted to love it, but sadly I did not.

I give Girl at the Grave by Teri Bailey Black 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow/Bypass. If you are a fan of historical romances and want one with a good mystery then check this book out but I would not really recommend it to anyone who doesn't like romances.

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

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Teachers for Back to School Freebie

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1.) Remus Lupin in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
In a series of amazing teachers, Lupin might be my favorite. I think the thing that I love about Lupin is that he's just a genuinely kind person. He wants to help his students learn but also be good people and that's a great teacher.

2.) Wolfe in the Great Library series by Rachel Caine
Wolfe is the antithesis of Lupin but in the best possible way. He's a very reluctant teacher. In fact the Library forced him to be a teacher as a punishment but he made the most of it. He started out really gruff and rude but had amazing development which is why I love him.

3.) Minerva McGonagall in the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
Yeah, I know there are two Harry Potter teachers, but I don't care because both Lupin and McGonagall are amazing in different ways. McGonagall is much more sassy (which I love) but she's also super caring.

4.) Jo March in Little Women by Louisa May Alcott
So Little Women is my favorite book and Jo March is one of the main reasons why. She's an amazing character and I think any bookish middle child can relate to Jo. But reading Little Men and Jo's Boys made me understand just how good a teacher Jo is, which is why she makes this list.

5.) Miss Honey in Matilda by Roald Dahl
This is probably not a surprise to anyone because I'm pretty sure everyone loves Miss Honey. She is the sweetest, kindest, most caring teacher who I think ever existed in literature.

6.) Miss Frizzle in The Magic School Bus
I'm kind of cheating here because I know Miss Frizzle mostly as the TV character but I know that it was a book first. But seriously, Miss Frizzle is amazing and I wanted her to be my teacher.

7.) Sazed in the Mistborn Trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
So the thing about Saze is that he's not really a traditional teacher. He's a guide and a person who holds and shares knowledge. But being that those are his aims he becomes a teacher. Plus Sazed is just such a great character.

8.) Prof in The Reckoners trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
So the thing about Prof is that during the actual series he's not really a teacher. He's a former teacher who is the leader of the group. But he's such a col character with amazing development and for that reason I have to include him on this list.

9.) Madame Le Foux in The Finishing School series by Gail Carriger
So I think most people who have read Gail Carriger think of Genvieve LeFoux when I say that name. But I read the Finishing School series first so I think of her aunt who was a really cool teacher so she's on this list.

10.) Professor Wadsworth in Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalso
The thing about Professor Wadworth is that he's so subtly progressive. His niece wants to be a forensic investigator and learn how to do autopsies and he's like "sure, yeah, totally, I'll teach you" even though it was totally a big deal in Victorian England.

There you have it, my favorite teachers in literature. What teachers would have made your lists? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Book Review: Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

Title: Between Shades of Gray
Written by: Ruta Sepetys
Published: March 22, 2011 by Philomel Books (Penguin Groups)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions. 

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

I have been working my way through Ruta Sepetys catalog in reverse which means that it is time for me to read her debut. I know a lot of people really love this book and I am really glad I took the time to read it because it's a great piece of historical fiction.

One of the things that I love most about this book is the historical aspect. I love when historical fiction novels explore a period of time or an event without a lot of attention. Sepetys is a master of that and this book is the perfect example. Most books that take place during World War II are focused on the western front and about the Holocaust. This book focused on the east and was about what the Soviet Union did to the people of the Baltic States and some of their own people. Sepetys obviously did her research and really delved deep into the experience for the people who were forced to bear it. It was a brutal and terrible thing that happened to the people and this book doesn't sugar coat it. Even though it broke my heart I am really glad that I learned about it.

One of the other thing that made this book so heartbreaking is the characters. That is something that Sepetys does so well. She really knows how to make characters that are likable and sympathetic. Lina was no exception. She is the kind of character that is easy to root for for multiple reason. Firstly, because of the circumstances. But secondly, because she is a kind and loving person who puts others before herself. She's the perfect heroine for this kind of book. And then there are the secondary characters. There are so many characters that are just as likable and interesting. I was definitely a fan of Lina's family. They care so much about one another and the real heart of this book is in the story of family.

And once again Ruta is an amazing author who writing truly gorgeous prose. How she can make something so brutal and terrible so hopeful and beautiful I will never know but that is exactly what she did. Her writing makes it all come alive in a way that you can perfectly visualize. I know that this is being made into a movie and I feel like I can already see it based on the writing in this book. It's beautiful in it's brutality just like the Siberian landscape that the book is set.

The only thing that I didn't like about this book was the ending. It's not that the endings was bad, it just didn't build to the strong close I was hoping for. It had an ending but it kind of fizzled out for me. I kind of missed the falling action. After being so connected to the characters and the hardship they were going through I think it does the reader a disservice to not see how or why it all ends. I wanted that and this book did not provide it for me.

But all in all this was a really good read. It was my favorite kind of historical fiction with a unique setting, likable characters, and beautiful writing. I enjoyed it just as much as all Sepetys' other books.

I give Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. All of Sepetys' books are amazing and this one is fantastic. If you are a fan of historical fiction, or sad and serious books, definitely read this one and the rest of her catalog.

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

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Mirage by Somaiya Daud Blog Tour: ARC Review

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

Title: Mirage
Series: Mirage #1
Written by: Somaiya Daud
Published: August 28, 2018 by Flatiron Books (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: In a star system dominated by the brutal Vathek empire, eighteen-year-old Amani is a dreamer. She dreams of what life was like before the occupation; she dreams of writing poetry like the old-world poems she adores; she dreams of receiving a sign from Dihya that one day, she, too, will have adventure, and travel beyond her isolated moon. 

But when adventure comes for Amani, it is not what she expects: she is kidnapped by the regime and taken in secret to the royal palace, where she discovers that she is nearly identical to the cruel half-Vathek Princess Maram. The princess is so hated by her conquered people that she requires a body double, someone to appear in public as Maram, ready to die in her place. 

As Amani is forced into her new role, she can’t help but enjoy the palace’s beauty—and her time with the princess’ fiancĂ©, Idris. But the glitter of the royal court belies a world of violence and fear. If Amani ever wishes to see her family again, she must play the princess to perfection...because one wrong move could lead to her death.


I wanted to get a copy of this book at ALA but I did not get one for some reason. But I had seen some really good really good reviews of this one so I was really glad to be a part of the blog tour through Fantastic Flying Book Club. This definitely sounded like a good and interesting science fiction read and while I enjoyed some aspects of the book, it didn't completely blow me away.

Lately I have been reading so many books with very cool and creative worlds, and Mirage was no exception. Probably one of the most unique things about this book is that it is a science fiction book with a Middle Eastern inspiration. Desert landscapes are common in science fiction but one that was so grounded in the setting and culture of the people of the desert and Middle East is not something I think I have read before. It was definitely cool and I really enjoyed being able to experience the culture. Especially because it's a book which has it's own history and mythology and you know I love that. And the author did a really good job of showing the reader the world instead of telling them. In fact, she may have done too good a job. I felt like I wanted to learn so much more about the science fiction aspect of the book and we didn't get that.

The other thing that I liked about this book was the characters, especially the female characters. Amani was a really good main character. She is the kind of female character that I love in that she is not your typical kickass femme fatale. She's vulnerable and a reluctant hero who is forced into a terrible position and has to show a lot of inner strength to make it through. She's easy to get behind in that way because you are in her head and can completely sympathize. But there were other really interesting and complex characters. One of the ones I liked best was Maram, the princess who Amani becomes the body double for. Maram could have easily become a total cliche bad girl, but she was super complex and had really great development throughout the book. I wish her father Mathias had a little more development and screen time because he was really interesting and could have gone very dark but he wasn't around much.

If you read this book then you may have noticed that I didn't mention Idris as a character that I liked, and believe me there is a reason for that. It's not that I didn't like Idris, who by the way is the love interest. He was a fine character. I just really hated the romance here. This is probably no surprise to most of you, I don't like a lot of romance. But here it was really tough because the romance was so much a part of this book and I really wish it wasn't. This had all the hallmarks of romances I don't enjoy. The character fell hard and fell fast after what was definitely insta-love. And she made so many of her decisions based on her feelings for this guy. I felt like the romance kind of took over the plot of the book in portions, which is something a lot of people love but I am not one of those people.

Which, brings me to the portion of the book I wish was different, the plot. There was a lot of promise to this book when it came to the plot but it just didn't deliver for me. There was a good amount of political intrigue here. I love books that combine fish out of water stories along with court politics and that's what this book had. For me, it was at it's best when it was focusing on the rebellion and the relationship between the rulers and the people they ruler. There were some really good scenes where it explored these aspects of the story. But I wish there were more of them. It got there in the end and I think the next book in the series is going in a really great direction, but in this one it just felt like it had a little bit of first book syndrome. 

I liked this book but I feel like I'm a bit of a black sheep here. Maybe it was the hype monster, maybe it was first book syndrome, or maybe this just wasn't my kind of read. However, it did have some great things like a really good world and complex characters.

I give Mirage by Somaiya Daud 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. I don't know that I would recommend this book to fans of hard science fiction, but if you like romances especially fantasy and sci-fi with a strong romance plot. And I am intrigued to see where this series goes.


Barnes and Noble:
Book Depository:



Somaiya Daud was born in a Midwestern city, and spent a large part of her childhood and adolescence moving around. Like most writers, she started when she was young and never really stopped. Her love of all things books propelled her to get a degree in English literature (specializing in the medieval and early modern), and while she worked on her Master’s de-gree she doubled as a bookseller at Politics and Prose in their children’s department. De-termined to remain in school for as long as possible, she packed her bags in 2014 and moved the west coast to pursue a doctoral degree in English literature. Now she’s preparing to write a dissertation on Victorians, rocks, race, and the environment. Mirage is her debut, and is due from Flatiron Books in 8/28/2018.



Prize: One finished copy of Mirage by Somaiya Daud (USA only) 
 Starts: 8/22/18 
 Ends: 8/30/18 

Friday, August 24, 2018

ARC Review: #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil

Title: #murdertrending
Series: MurderTrending #1
Written by: Gretchen McNeil
Published: August 7, 2018 by Freeform (Disney Books)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis:WELCOME TO THE NEAR FUTURE, where good and honest 8/18 citizens can enjoy watching the executions of society’s most infamous convicted felons, streaming live on The Postman app from the suburbanized prison island Alcatraz 2.0. 

When eighteen-year-old Dee Guerrera wakes up in a haze, lying on the ground of a dimly lit warehouse, she realizes she’s about to be the next victim of the app. Knowing hardened criminals are getting a taste of their own medicine in this place is one thing, but Dee refuses to roll over and die for a heinous crime she didn’t commit. Can Dee and her newly formed posse, the Death Row Breakfast Club, prove she’s innocent before she ends up wrongfully murdered for the world to see? Or will The Postman’s cast of executioners kill them off one by one?

I had heard good things about Gretchen McNeil as a mystery writer and I love a good YA mystery so I have been wanting to read her stuff for awhile now. So when I saw there were copies of this book at ALA, I picked up a copy so I could try her out. And while this was a cool concept and there were some unexpected surprises, it didn't quite blow me away.

One thing that I did really like about this book was the concept. It's one of the most creative ideas that I have read in a mystery. In some respects it had that classic mystery thing going for it where you have all these people stuck somewhere (islands are pretty popular) and you know one of them is the culprit, just not who. But then McNeil took that further by adding the reality show angle and the fact that there were serial killers trying to kill convicted criminals. It was a very unique concept and it all worked together to create a very fascinating read and concept for a mystery. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I also feel like this is a mystery with a solid plot to it. There was kind of a lot to this plot. You had the survival aspect of Dee trying to not get killed, then you had the mystery of who killed her sister and why she was wrongfully convicted, and on top of all that you had the backstory of her kidnapping. It should not have worked together but it did. It added a lot of layers to the plot and so much interest I kept wondering what was going to be revealed next and how it was all connected. It also definitely unfolded in a really good way too. Plus there was a ton of action. It had this fantastic horror movie/thriller vibe with brutal deaths and narrow escapes. McNeil did a great job of explaining the kills and they had a real cinematic quality to them. My problem with the plot however is that it almost felt too perfect. Like it just didn't seem believable sometimes. I don't want to give too much away but I'll just say I was waiting for some conspiracy to be revealed because it was all just too perfect.

But I think the perfection had a lot to do with the characters. Not that they were bad characters, they just felt a little cliche. For one thing, the main character of Dee was a complete Mary Sue. At every turn she was doing something else a little too perfectly. I love a kickass final girl but I want her to get a little lucky or surprise us with something, not be miraculously good at everything with very little explanation as to why. This was abundantly clear during the climax. The other part I just didn't really have any buy in for was the romance. The love interest was also just too perfect. He was this sweet and helpful guy who she fell for way too quickly and I wanted her to get burned by him. That would have been way more interesting to me. All in all, I just felt like these characters were just not complex enough for my taste. They weren't bad, I just feel like there was a lot of missed opportunities here. With a book that is all about serial killers and people trying to survive, I wanted more complexity.

All in all, this was an okay mystery but with a few small changes I would have enjoyed it a little bit more. The concept was cool and the plot was really engaging but the characters could have been more complex.

I give #murdertrending by Gretchen McNeil 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. It's an okay read but not as good a mystery as I was hoping. If you are new to YA mysteries and you want one that is heavy on the blood and guts then check this one out but if you are looking for a mystery that will have you surprised and reeling, there are better books.

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

Thursday, August 23, 2018

ARC Review: These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

Title: These Rebel Waves
Series: Stream Riders #1
Written by: Sara Raasch
Published: August 7, 2018 by Balzar + Bray (HarperCollins)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Adeluna is a soldier. Five years ago, she helped the magic-rich island of Grace Loray overthrow its oppressor, Argrid, a country ruled by religion. But adjusting to postwar life has not been easy. When an Argridian delegate vanishes during peace talks with Grace Loray’s new Council, Argrid demands brutal justice—but Lu suspects something more dangerous is at work. 

Devereux is a pirate. As one of the outlaws called stream raiders who run rampant on Grace Loray, he pirates the island’s magic plants and sells them on the black market. But after Argrid accuses raiders of the diplomat’s abduction, Vex becomes a target. An expert navigator, he agrees to help Lu find the Argridian—but the truth they uncover could be deadlier than any war. 

Benat is a heretic. The crown prince of Argrid, he harbors a secret obsession with Grace Loray’s forbidden magic. When Ben’s father, the king, gives him the shocking task of reversing Argrid’s fear of magic, Ben has to decide if one prince can change a devout country—or if he’s building his own pyre. 

As conspiracies arise, Lu, Vex, and Ben will have to decide who they really are . . . and what they are willing to become for peace.

I really like Sara Raasch's debut series, even though I never finished it. It was a good YA fantasy with an interesting world and magical system. So when I heard she had a new series coming out that was inspired by historical pirates I was very excited to read it. And this book was another good YA fantasy with a cool world and magical system.

One thing that Sara does so well is world building. She really knows how to create a unique world that engages the reader and that is exactly what happens in this book. Probably my favorite thing about These Rebel Waves was the world. It's a world full of magic, political intrigue, and lush settings. There was a lot involved in the world which I seriously enjoy in my fantasy. For one thing there is a nation who is trying to maintain it's independence after a revolution and that made for some interesting relationships. For another there is a lot of oppression by a world power who uses religion and scare tactics to maintain control. Those two combined always make for a really compelling setting for me and Sara did a great job in establishing all of that.

Then you have the magical system. It was an interesting magical system in that it didn't really feel like magic. The basis for the powers here were in these plants that gave those who ingested or breathed them specific abilities. Some more benign like the ability to stay alert (basically we're talking caffeine) and some more detailed like knocking you out or allowing you to hear from long-distances. I found it really interesting especially because it walked a fine line between real magic and historical witches who were basically just apothecaries.

My biggest problem however in These Rebel Waves was with the plot development. I went into this book expecting a story about pirates and privateers so I was ready for a story of adventure on the high seas. Sadly that was not what this book was about. It was much more focused on the political plotting and story of a country who survived a revolution and is trying to prevent another one. That is definitely an interesting story but when you are expecting one thing and get another you can't help but feel disappointed. I don't know why myself, and frankly a lot f other people, were fixated on that point about the story but we were. I want to make this really clear because if you want to read this book I feel like you need to know it is not about pirates. It's about politics and religion while one of the characters is a pirate.

One thing that also made the plot development a little problematic for me was the characters. This is a book with multiple perspectives which can be really great or really unnecessary in my opinion. This book leaned more towards the latter. Having two of the perspectives was definitely good. They spent most of the book in different places, doing different things which offered a lot of interest and contrast to the story. The other one however I didn't feel added much of anything except to needlessly complicate. And it's not that I didn't like the characters, because I did. Lu was a good heroine. She's tough, resourceful, cares a lot for those she loves including her home. She also had the perfect combination of reckless and cunning. Vex was easy to root for as the resident lovable rogue with a backstory that you just know is going to be full of vulnerabilities to make him more complex. And Ben is super complex. He's probably the character who has the most to overcome as he decides who he wants to be and what he can do with his position. They were likable and complex for sure. I just thing we could have done without Vex;s perspective and had a little more from Ben.

On the whole, this book was okay. It didn't blow me away, but was a YA fantasy that had a cool world, a mildly interesting plot, and likable characters. I think it just didn't quite deliver when it comes to the plot development and made things too confusing with multiple character perspectives.

I give These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch 7.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you like YA fantasy and enjoyed Sara's first series then I would say pick this up the next time you are at the library.

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

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Waiting on Wednesday: Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: Grim Lovelies
Written by: Meghan Shepherd
Published: October 2, 2018 by HMH Books for Young Readers

Synopsis: Seventeen-year-old Anouk envies the human world, where people known as Pretties lavish themselves in fast cars, high fashion, and have the freedom to fall in love. But Anouk can never have those things, because she is not really human. Enchanted from animal to human girl and forbidden to venture beyond her familiar Parisian prison, Anouk is a Beastie: destined for a life surrounded by dust bunnies and cinders serving Mada Vittora, the evil witch who spelled her into existence. That is, until one day she finds her mistress murdered in a pool of blood—and Anouk is accused of the crime.

Now, the world she always dreamed of is rife with danger. Pursued through Paris by the underground magical society known as the Haute, Anouk and her fellow Beasties only have three days to find the real killer before the spell keeping them human fades away. If they fail, they will lose the only lives they’ve ever known…but if they succeed, they could be more powerful than anyone ever bargained for.

From New York Times bestselling author Megan Shepherd, Grim Lovelies is an epic and glittering YA fantasy. Prepare to be spellbound by the world of Grim Lovelies, where secrets have been long buried, friends can become enemies, and everything—especially humanity—comes at a price.
Why I'm Waiting:

One of the things I have desperately been wanting to read lately is books set in Gilded Age Paris aka the Belle Epoque. It's such an interesting time and a lush setting that is perfect for historical fiction and fantasy. So when I heard that there was a fantasy set in Paris with a fantasy system based on magical creatures I knew that I needed to read it. It's such a cool concept and an even more exciting setting.

I havent read anything from Meghan Shepherd but I have heard really good things about her from some blogger friends whose opinion I definitely trust. I know her first series was a retelling that had a historical setting and I am definitely excited to read this book to see how I like her style to maybe read more.

I got an advanced copy of this at ALA and I was really excited. I also met Meghan Shepherd and she definitely seemed really nice. I can't wait to read this book and I am so glad to be able to snag a copy so I can read it.

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

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Discussion Post: How Blogging Has Changed the Way I Read

Wow, it has been a long time since I did a discussion post. For awhile I was trying to do at least one a month but that fell apart pretty quickly. I can't remember the last time I did a discussion past. Although I can tell you one thing, I have not done one since 2017. So needless to say, it's about time I did another discussion post.

And t be honest, this post has been a long time coming. I have been thinking about how my reading has changed since blogging for awhile now. A lot of this too is influenced by conversations I have had with some fellow blogger. I think anyone who has been reviewing books for longer than a few years can't help but change things a little bit, it's natural. So here are some things I noticed when it comes to my reading.

1.) I am much more critical

When I read a book today I read it for a very specific purpose and that is reviewing the book. So when I am reading it I am looking for very specific things. Things like plot development, world-building, pacing, characterizations. Since I started blogging reading has become much more analytical. It's not just read and enjoy a book, it's purposeful and specific.

Now this in and of itself is not a bad thing. Being critical can be good sometimes. You definitely delve deeper into the book and it's less superficial which can absolutely be a god thing. But over time I think it has become a detriment. It's harder to please me sometimes. Like I can find a book totally brilliant and still be critical of it because of the pacing or characterizations. Blogging has taken away the grey area when it comes to reading. I'm looking for that perfect read and that means there are way more books that I think are good not great.

2.) I read way more books

Before I blogged I didn't really count how many books I read in a year but it was probably 2-4 books a month. Maybe 5 or 6 if I had a lot of free time. These days if I read 5 books in a month I feel like a complete failure. Most months I read about 10 books a month and in a good month that can be 15. I'm reading way faster and I'm reading way more.

This is definitely a good thing. More is more after all. The main reason I would say this is good is because I am able to tackle that TBR way easier these days. I just have to remind myself that if I had a slow month it doesn't mean I failed, I used to read only a few books a month and that's okay too.

3.) I am much more connected with the current releases

I think this is definitely a natural side effects of blogging. There's very much an association with the new and the current and the unreleased book. There is a lot of pressure to read the coolest most exciting book. I think part of this is a side effect of wanting to be up on the trends and to get people to read your blog by being the first to review that exciting release. But I also think it's just because we know about all the new releases. We are much more connected to the publishers and their latest releases. Gone are the days where you had to wait for books to show up in the bookstore before you learned about them.

This is another thing that is neither good or bad. I mean it can definitely seem negative to be follower of the trend and obsessed with the latest thing, but in my opinion as long as you don't take it to far and forget all about backlist books or the books who have been released a few months ago then I think you are doing okay. Just don't be a snob.

4.) I own way more books

Before I started blogging I had one three shelf bookshelf and it fit all the books I owned. It got a little full before I moved to Pittsburgh but after that I started blogging and the amount of books I owned exploded. I think this is a direct result of the previous one. Knowing about more upcoming releases and the latest books is going to mean that you want more books and if you are like most book blogger you lack self-control in this department and can't help but buy all the books. I mean you are all such enablers. You make me want to buy all the books.

This is another one that isn't intrinsically bad, but can definitely turn bad very easily. For one thing, it's very bad if you are buying books you cannot afford. I hope everyone is being responsible with their money and not using rent or grocery money on books. You need housing and food, for books you can go to the library. But also I think it's very easy to get out of control. You don't have to own every single book that was ever written. It is impossible to read all those books and if you are creating an insurmountable TBR I think that's a problem. But that's my opinion.

But these are all my opinions. My thoughts, if you will. What are your thoughts? How has your reading changed since you started blogging? Is it for the better or worse? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!