Thursday, February 28, 2019

Review: The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry

Title: The Passion of Dolssa
Written by: Julie Berry
Published: April 12, 2016 by Viking Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Dolssa is a young gentlewoman with uncanny gifts, on the run from an obsessed friar determined to burn her as a heretic for the passion she refuses to tame. 

Botille is a wily and charismatic peasant, a matchmaker running a tavern with her two sisters in a tiny seaside town. 

The year is 1241; the place, Provensa, what we now call Provence, France—a land still reeling from the bloody crusades waged there by the Catholic Church and its northern French armies. 

When the matchmaker finds the mystic near death by a riverside, Botille takes Dolssa in and discovers the girl’s extraordinary healing power. But as the vengeful Friar Lucien hunts down his heretic, the two girls find themselves putting an entire village at the mercy of murderers.

The Passion of Dolssa has been on my list since before it came out. I read a lot of historical fiction and I am looking for books that have unique settings and stories and this absolutely fit the build. I tried to read it a few times but after those false starts I was nervous about reading it this month. But my themes is historical France so I took the time and I am glad that I did. It is not my typical read but very interesting.

This book is beautifully written. I listened to the audiobook and I am surprised by how much it pulled me in. The writing had the kind of prose that translates so well to the audio format. I do think it did have a bit of a slow start. As I said before, I tried reading it a few times and it took me until now until I finally finished it. I think it is just one of those slower books that you have to take your time with. It did built to an exciting conclusion that had me so concerned about what was going to happen, it just took it's time to hook me. Although when it did, it didn't let me go.

One of the things that surprised me most about this book is how it combined history and religion. I usually don't read a lot of books with religious content, although it is something I enjoy in high fantasy. But I feel like this book did a really good job of handling the religion. This was a period of time with a lot of religious unrest, especially with the Catholic Church, between the Crusades and the Inquisition. This book did not shy away from these more unsavory activities of the church, but it also didn't portray the church as all bad. There was a lot of grey areas when it came to not only organized religion itself but the people who practiced it. I appreciated that from both a narrative perspective and real life perspective. It made you think and that is all you can really ask for with any book, especially a historical fiction novel.

However, I would have appreciated this book to have established the physical setting. This is really important to me in historical fiction. This is one of those books where it felt like it could have happened anywhere. It could have been any place in Medieval Europe. This might not be that be an issue for many readers but for me I was missing something. I have been to Provence, it's a beautiful place and has a rich history especially in reference to religion and the Catholic Church. But for me the setting didn't really come alive and I had hoped it would.

One thing I did love however is the characters. The author did a really good job in making the reader connect with the characters, especially the women. While Dolssa is the titular character, it is Botille who is really the one who moves the plot along. In the beginning I thought I would be more interested in Dolssa's perspectives but very quickly I found that I enjoyed Botille. She is kind and caring, but also smart and resourceful. She's one of those women who is slightly ahead of her time and therefore is in a kind of precarious position. All of this made me like her and root for her. Dolssa is the character who is easy to root for, however. She is the one who is taken advantage of by society because of her position as a woman. We are not in her head as much as I expected but the times we did gave her a lot of depth. Being in Lucien's head also gave his character depth. He wasn't a totally terrible antagonist which can often happen in these kinds of stories. Now don't get me wrong, he was vile and loathsome but he felt more like of those people who is completely misguided in that he thinks he is in the right, and that made him a much more engaging character.

All in all, The Passion of Dolssa was a complex and engaging read that made me think. It's a good historical fiction novel that handled religion in a really great way and complex characters that I connected with more than I would expect.

I give The Passion of Dolssa by Julie Berry 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you haven't read this book and you are looking for a unique historical fiction novel then check this book out. What I am curious about is what people who are more religious think about it.

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

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Places Mentioned In Books I Want to Visit

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1.) Paris from Spectacle by Jodi Lynn Zdrok
I just read this book and one of the things I loved about it was how Parisian it felt. It made me want to visit Paris again and see all the things I never got to see the first time. It's the kind of city that you can never visit enough.

2.) Scotland from Outlander by Diana Gabaldon and City of Ghosts by Victoria Schwab
There are a lot of places I want to visit but I'll be honest, I wasn't much interested in Scotland until these two books. Outlander makes me want to go to the Highlands and explore the countryside while City of Ghosts has super intrigued me about Edinburgh.

3.) Arizona from Vengeance Road by Erin Bowman
So, this is less about the actual book and more about one of my best friends from college moved there. I haven't seen  her in five years and I would like to visit. Also, Arizona in February? Sounds like a great idea.

4.) Prague from Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
There are a lot of places in Eastern Europe I want to visit and Prague is one of them. I'd love to go and explore some of the places that Karou and Zuze go to throughout the book.

5.) Santorini from Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants by Ann Brashares
I loved this series back in the day. It was one of those books that got me back into YA when I was in college. One of the best parts of the book was Lena's trip to Santorini. It made me want to visit there.

6.) Istanbul (and also Wallachia) in The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova and And I Darken by Kiersten White
Again, there are many places in Eastern Europe I want to visit and Istanbul is one of them. Both of these books make it sound beautiful and amazing. Plus Wallachia would be cool because of all the Gothic castles.

Cabeswater Fanart by starsocks

7.) Amsterdam from The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Unpopular opinion: I don't like this book. But I do still want to visit Amsterdam. When I was studying abroad I never went to Amsterdam and I kind of regret it because I actually have family from Holland.

8.) London (but mostly Red London) from A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
London is another on of those places I have visited but only for a short period of time. There are so many more places I would like to go to and explore some more. Plus maybe I could find a way to Red London because then.. MAGIC!

9.) Henrietta from The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater 
Henrietta is not a real place in Virginia but if it was I would want to go there. I hear the Smoky Mountains are beautiful and the added mystery of this book makes me want to explore Henrietta and try to find Cabeswater.

10.) Adria from the Embassy Row series by Ally Carter
This is also not a real place and I don't know what inspired it but I want to go to there. It's like a beautiful island I think in the Mediterranean. Or maybe the Adriatic. That would actually make more sense.

11.) The Goblin Market from In an Absent Dream by Seanan McGuire
This is the fourth book in the Wayward Children series which is about doors to fantasy worlds opening to people. When I read this book I was so intrigued by the Goblin Market. If I had a door open to me it would be to this world.

12.) Hogwarts from the Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling
This should be no surprise. I mean, every person who grew up on Harry Potter wants to visit Hogwarts, right?

There you have it. All the places in books I want to visit. What locations made your list. Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, February 25, 2019

Review: Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard

Title: Bloodwitch
Series: The Witchlands #3
Written by: Susan Dennard
Published: February 12, 2019 by TorTeen Macmillan

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Fans of Susan Dennard's New York Times bestselling Witchlands series have fallen in love with the Bloodwitch Aeduan. And now, finally, comes his story. 

High in a snowy mountain range, a monastery that holds more than just faith clings to the side of a cliff. Below, thwarted by a lake, a bloodthirsty horde of raiders await the coming of winter and the frozen path to destroy the sanctuary and its secrets. 

The Bloodwitch Aeduan has teamed up with the Threadwitch Iseult and the magical girl Owl to stop the destruction. But to do so, he must confront his own father, and his past.

I am still kind of reeling after finishing this book a day after writing this review. Bloodwitch was one of my most anticipated reads of 2019 after waiting two years to read it. And just like the previous books in this series, it did not disappoint. This was an amazing fantasy read.

My favorite thing about this book, and this series in general, is the world. This is one of the most amazing and involved fantasy world that I have experienced in a long time. It is one of those worlds where history and mythology affects things in a big way. As the series goes on, we are learning more and more about the world. I listened to an interview with Susan recently where she mentioned she set out to write a book that is like adult fantasy where you don’t reveal things about the magic and world until much later, and that’s exactly what she has done. It’s the kind of world where you are shown instead of told. It has me completely enthralled and wanting to know more. Here we learn a good amount but I still has so many questions.

As for the plot, this is a book that had that classic sword and sorcery kind of vibes. It’s full of action and adventure with the main characters trying to save the world and their kingdoms from other countries and even scarier threats. I do feel a little bit like this was that bridge book that you see a lot in a series. It didn’t necessarily have it’s own plot but merely connected the stories from the first two books while setting up the final books. That doesn’t mean it wasn’t interesting. Susan is a master plotter who does a great job of setting up little things so she can knock them down later to a huge impact. Things are starting to get knocked down in this one, which meant surprises and twists that had me screaming internally. The book also built to a thrilling conclusion and I cannot wait for the next book in the series. I desperately need a reread of the books before that, especially Sightwitch. The way Susan plots I know this is going to be one of those series worth going back to books for reminders and for theory crafting.

One of the things that I think made this plot a little bit more challenging in terms of a cohesive story is the fact that it told in multiple perspectives. It is one more example of what gives this book that classic fantasy vibe but it also adds a lot of moving parts. This book had five or six different perspectives and many of them were going in very different places and doing very different things. And which often happens with this kind of thing, some of the perspectives were more interesting than others. I think my favorite perspectives were the ones that were more about the big picture and mythology of the series, like Isuelt and Aeduan, over those who had more of the political intrigue like Vivia and Safi. The one who surprised me the most was Merik. Merik had a storyline that had me completely enthralled and I surprisingly wanted to go back to him even though he is not one of my favorite characters. But that is just the nature of books with multiple perspectives like Bloodwitch.

But I can forgive the multiple perspectives because the characters here are so amazing. Susan is definitely a master of complex characterization and this book was a perfect example. There is a good sized squad in this series and I am invested in every single one of them. There is a lot of great character development here as many of the characters are deciding who they are and the heroes they want to be. I was fully-invested in them and their success. This book is Aeduan’s book so of course we learn a lot more about him and his history. He’s always been one of the characters I found the most interesting so I loved being able to find out about him and be in his head. Isuelt might be my favorite though. She is really coming into her own and becoming this amazing badass. These two together also make an amazing team and they were seriously killing me with feels every time they were together. The character who surprised me the most though was Merik. He’s never been one of my favorites but he is the one who has the best development and is very much continuing his redemptive arc. But I love every character I this series. Whether they are complex and likable or the kind of characters you love to hate, they are all incredibly interesting.

All in all, this is a truly amazing book and a series that keeps getting better. It has an absolutely fascinating world full of mythology and magic, a thrilling sword and sorcery plot development, and characters that are complex with great development.

I give Bloodwitch by Susan Dennard 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: BUY! If you like the first two books in this series If you are a fan of fantasy, YA or adult, I would absolutely recommend this series. It will be an amazing series to binge.

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

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Review: Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok

Title: Spectacle
Written by: Jodie Lynn Zdrok
Published: February 12, 2019 by Tor Teen (Macmillan)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: A YA murder mystery in which a young reporter must use her supernatural visions to help track down a killer targeting the young women of Paris. 

 Paris, 1887. 

 Sixteen-year-old Nathalie Baudin writes the daily morgue column for Le Petit Journal. Her job is to summarize each day's new arrivals, a task she finds both fascinating and routine. That is, until the day she has a vision of the newest body, a young woman, being murdered--from the perspective of the murderer himself. 

When the body of another woman is retrieved from the Seine days later, Paris begins to buzz with rumors that this victim may not be the last. Nathalie's search for answers sends her down a long, twisty road involving her mentally ill aunt, a brilliant but deluded scientist, and eventually into the Parisian Catacombs. As the killer continues to haunt the streets of Paris, it becomes clear that Nathalie's strange new ability may make her the only one who can discover the killer's identity--and she'll have to do it before she becomes a target herself.

You know when there is a YA historical mystery I'm not going to be far behind wanting to read it. Especially one with fantasy elements and one set in Belle Epoque Paris. This is such a me book. Which is why I was so thankful to Alyssa (aka WiththeBanned) for sharing her ARC with me. And while this book wasn't perfect it was engaging and compulsively readable.

My favorite thing about this book was the setting. I like historical fiction and because of that I read a lot of it. The best ones do a really good job of establishing time and place. This was one of those books. The author clearly did her research into what life was life in Paris during the end of the 1880's. For me, Paris really came to life in this book and it had me wanting to go back to the city. I also feel like she did a great job with establishing the culture of the time for the wealthy class, with their fixation on dressing up to visit the morgue and attending seances. I even found myself wondering if there was actually a serial killer in Paris at the time because it did feel so grounded in the history. I felt like this setting was a great aspect of this book and with someone who has been wanting books set in Belle Epoque Paris, that is a definite plus.

I also really enjoyed the fantasy elements of this book. It added a great layer to not only the setting, but the plot of the book. It reminded me a lot of The Diviners series by Libba Bray. It had that same kind of vibes. It was sometimes gory and grotesque and sometimes mysterious and fantastical.  I really like that the magic had clear rules and consequences and that each person's powers were different and that they were connected to the individual. What I really like is that it was grounded in science and history. The experiments that lead to the magic seemed like the kind of thing that someone would actually have done. It felt possible which made me enjoy it even more.

However, I wasn't totally impressed by the plot development and pacing. I am a plot-driven reader so a strong plot is very important to me, especially when it comes to mysteries. I like my mysteries to be complex and solvable. I want to be able to solve them along with the reader. Here I felt like this was the kind of mystery where they didn't want you to solve anything. They wanted to just surprise and take you for a ride with interesting twists and turns. Which is fine, and definitely what this book did, but that's not the kind of book that I enjoy. I wish it was more of a detective novel. But instead it just felt a little bit disconnected where a big reveal was then followed up with a slower sections where things would drag until the next twist. If there was more of a slow build up to a big reveal I think I would have enjoyed the plot more.

The characters too fell a little flat for me. I did like the main character of Nathalie. I feel like she was probably the most interesting character. She's one of those historical fiction heroines who is a bit ahead of her time and wants to be something that society doesn't really accept her as because she is a woman. A good amount of this book is her figuring out exactly who she wants to be and not caring about what society says about it and that is something I will always get behind. But the rest of the characters didn't make a great impression. This is the kind of book where you very easily could have a had a squad behind you with Simone, Christophe, and Louis but they were just tangentially involved. But this book was much about Nathalie and she really carried it.

All in all, I thought this was a good read. It's fast and engaging with a good historical setting, an interesting magical system, and a plot full of twists and turns. It's not the most complex mystery I have read and the pacing was a bit off but I still really enjoyed it. It was a book I was really looking forward to and it met my expectations.

I give Spectacle by Jodie Lynn Zdrok 8 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Borrow. If you are a fan of historical mysteries and want a quick and interesting read I would check this one out from your local library. It didn't blow me away but I definitely enjoyed it.

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

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Waiting on Wednesday: The Devouring Gray by Christine Lynn Herman

A weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine

Title: The Devouring Gray
Series: The Devouring Gray #1
Written by: Christine Lynn Herman
Published: April 2, 2019 by Disney-Hyperion

Synopsis: On the edge of town a beast haunts the woods, trapped in the Gray, its bonds loosening… 

Uprooted from the city, Violet Saunders doesn’t have much hope of fitting in at her new school in Four Paths, a town almost buried in the woodlands of rural New York. The fact that she’s descended from one of the town’s founders doesn’t help much, either—her new neighbours treat her with distant respect, and something very like fear. When she meets Justin, May, Isaac, and Harper, all children of founder families, and sees the otherworldly destruction they can wreak, she starts to wonder if the townsfolk are right to be afraid.

When bodies start to appear in the woods, the locals become downright hostile. Can the teenagers solve the mystery of Four Paths, and their own part in it, before another calamity strikes?
Why I'm Waiting:

When I first learned about this book I was attracted to it because it was pitched as Stranger Things meets The Raven Cycle which are two things I love and two things that sounded amazing combined. I mean, just read that synopsis! Mysterious small town with magical happenings and a mystery to solve. I am all in for those things.

But then I learned that the author went to college in Rochester, New York and based the setting for this book on Western, New York. Usually when a book is set in "Upstate New York" they actually mean an hour outside of NYC, so it's really refreshing that this book is deep upstate. If you didn't know, I grew up in a small town in New York south of Rochester. I super excited to read a book that might remind me of my hometown. Mostly I'm hoping there is mention of Wegmans. If you really want to set a book in Rochester you need a Wegmans,

I am very excited to read this book. It is without a doubt one of my most anticipated debuts of 2019. I am planning to get a copy when it comes out and I really hope that I enjoy it. I mean it sounds amazing so here's hoping.

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

Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Best Books with Less Than 2000 Reviews

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1.) The Agony House by Cherie Priest - Add to Goodreads
This was one of my favorite books of last year and like no one has read it. It  has less than 500 ratings on Goodreads. You all need to read it. It's about a family who move to New Orleans and their not sure if the house is falling apart or it's trying to kill them.

2.) Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis  - Add to Goodreads
This book didn't come out that long ago but I didn't see very many people talking about it and I wish more people would. It's a great dark fantasy and I am excited for book two.

3.) The Radical Element by Jessica Spotswood and more - Add to Goodreads
I don't read a ton of anthology but these historical ones edited by Jessica Spotswood are great. I know a good amount of people read the first one but more people should read this one.

4.)  Kingdom of Ash & Briar by Hannah West - Add to Goodreads
This book took some time to get into but it's one of the most creative fantasies I have read and is a really great retellings. It's pretty under the radar but I think more people should read it.

5.) Rocks Fall, Everyone Dies by Lindsay Ribar - Add to Goodreads
I like weird books. Especially if they are weird mysteries with a unique magical world and that's what this book was. It's unlike any book I have read since and I definitely recommend it.

6.) Black Wings Beating by Alex London - Add to Goodreads
I listened to the audiobook for this one kind of on a whim and I was totally blown away. It was a fantastic fantasy and I loved the characters. It has less than 1,00 ratings and more people need to read it.

7.) Gunslinger Girl by Lindsay Ely - Add to Goodreads
This was one of my favorite debuts of last year. It was majorly creative and I just flew through it because it was super engrossing. I which more YA Westerns existed, especially if they were all like this.

8.) The Arsonist by Stephanie Oakes - Add to Goodreads
My friend Michelle recommended this to me. She thought it was a total me book, being a historical mystery, and she was totally. It was a really great book and it should have way more than the 874 ratings it has on Goodreads.

9.) The Most Beautiful Woman in Florence by Alyssa Palumbo - Add to Goodreads
I received this book from the publisher and I am so glad I accepted that email because this was a great historical fiction novel. I don't read enough adult historical fiction. I should read more.

10.) Blanca & Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore - Add to Goodreads
I really love Anna-Marie McLemore, she writes amazing magical realism stories. Her newest might be my favorite and it's super under rated. I was just telling my best friend about it. She should read it and so should you.

There you have it. Ten books with less than 2,000 ratings on Goodreads I loved and think you should read. What under rated books made your list? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and HAPPY READING!

Monday, February 18, 2019

Review: On the Come Up by Angie Thomas

Title: On the Come Up
Written by: Angie Thomas
Published: February 5, 2019 by Balzar + Bray

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: Sixteen-year-old Bri wants to be one of the greatest rappers of all time. Or at least make it out of her neighborhood one day. As the daughter of an underground rap legend who died before he hit big, Bri’s got big shoes to fill. But now that her mom has unexpectedly lost her job, food banks and shutoff notices are as much a part of Bri’s life as beats and rhymes. With bills piling up and homelessness staring her family down, Bri no longer just wants to make it—she has to make it. 

On the Come Up is Angie Thomas’s homage to hip-hop, the art that sparked her passion for storytelling and continues to inspire her to this day. It is the story of fighting for your dreams, even as the odds are stacked against you; of the struggle to become who you are and not who everyone expects you to be; and of the desperate realities of poor and working-class black families.

I loved The Hate U Give and so I was excited to read Angie's second book. And I am so glad I did because this book really solidified Angie as a tremendous talent when it comes to writing engaging and timely contemporary fiction.

One of the things that I love about Angie as an author is the way she balances serious and complex issues without making them feel preachy. I don't read a lot of contemporaries ans the ones that I do, I like to have that balance serious and light moments. It's what makes the book feel more realistic and true to life. Like The Hate U Give, On the Come Up does a really good job of portraying the struggle people of color are going through, and how the system is built to keep them down. She doesn't shy away from things like racism, poverty, gangs, and drugs. Bri's life isn't easy and she and her family are struggling to make ends meet but their still full of humor and love for one another. That contrast gave the book a lot of depth and balance.

But what made this book so complex and relatable is Bri and her struggle to decide who she wants to be versus what other people expect her to be. One of the tings I love about reading YA is that there is always this struggle, this coming-of-age story where the character has to decide for themselves who they are. With Bri she did this under the guise of her rap career. She writes what she feels and the song blows up but when people expect her to be everything that she trying to rap against she needs to decide if what her image should be. And while this is a kind of specific problem, it still felt really genuine and relatable. It helped me connect with Bri and gave her character a lot of depth.

Although connecting with Bri was not very hard for me, in general I really liked Bri as a character. She's not necessarily going to be the kind of person everyone connects with. She's brash and reckless and is the kind of person who speaks before she things sometimes. Her mouth and temper gets her into a lot of trouble throughout the book. But I liked that she wasn't shy and she stood up for herself. Her choices weren't always the right ones, but they also aren't easy choices. I listened to the audiobook for this one because I really like the narrator, Bahni Turpin, but I was honestly a little nervous because she also narrated The Hate U Give and I didn't want to feel the same. But it didn't feel that way at all. Bri's voice shined through loud and clear, and it was a voice I enjoyed a lot.

Bri was not the only interesting character though. One of the things Angie does so well is the family dynamic. I really loved the way she handled Bri's family. Her mom, Jay, was such a complex character. I felt like the relationship they had played a lot with the trope in YA of the absent parent. Jay used to be absent but now that she is sober and around she is struggling to prove to Bri that she can take care of her, even though she is struggling to make that happen. I really connected with Jay's story and rooted for her to succeed. I also really love Bri's brother Tre. He and Bri had a lot of love and affection for each other as they had been through so much but they also had that sibling relationship where they don't always get along. Some of the funniest moments came from those two messing with each other.

All in all, I think this a fantastic follow up to the Hate U Give. It stands on its own as a fantastic read with a complex look at the issues people face today, great characters, and the perfect amount of humor and love.

I give On the Come Up by Angie Thomas 9.5 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy. I would very highly recommend this book and honestly all of Angie Thomas' books. Fans of The Hate U Give should check it out. If you are a fan of contemporary novels I would absolutely recommend this one.

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

Thursday, February 14, 2019

Book Review: Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough

Title: Blood Water {aint
Written by: Mimi Yu
Published: March 6, 2018 by Dutton Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)

(Amazon / Goodreads)

Synopsis: A debut novel based on the true story of the iconic painter, Artemisia Gentileschi. 

Her mother died when she was twelve, and suddenly Artemisia Gentileschi had a stark choice: a life as a nun in a convent or a life grinding pigment for her father's paint. 

 She chose paint. 

By the time she was seventeen, Artemisia did more than grind pigment. She was one of Rome's most talented painters, even if no one knew her name. But Rome in 1610 was a city where men took what they wanted from women, and in the aftermath of rape Artemisia faced another terrible choice: a life of silence or a life of truth, no matter the cost. 

He will not consume 
my every thought. 
I am a painter. 
I will paint. 

I will show you 
what a woman can do.

I was very interested in reading his book when it came out last year but I shy away from novels in verse so I didn’t read it. But I needed a new audiobook and when I saw this from the library, I am glad I picked it up because it wasn’t an easy read but it was a really good read.

Wow, this book did not shy away from some of the worst aspects of what it meant to be a woman during this period of history. It really goes there when it comes to abuse and sexual assault. One of the more interesting things is that it not only showed the actual sexual assault but the lead up to it and the impact it had on the character's life. And the saddest thing is that it is based on a real person and the main plot points actually happened to her. It was tough to read at times, but also still very empowering.

One of the things I appreciated most about this book was the agency she gave her main character. Artemisia is a historical figure I knew very little about and now I am really glad to know her. She is the kind of female character I always enjoy because she showed tremendous strength in the face of some of the worst possible adversity. It was easy to root for Artemisia and to want her to triumph over the men who mistreated her in the worst possible way.

But the author’s gorgeous writing was a much needed contrast with the brutal subject matter. This my first novel in verse and I honestly don't know what my hang up with the format was before. Now, I did listen to this as an audiobook so I don't know what it would be like in a written format but this definitely worked. At times I often found myself forgetting it wasn't a traditional novel. It just gave the book a poetic flow that added some needed beauty and depth to the more difficult subject matter.

This book is not for the faint of heart but it is a great read and one that I wish didn’t feel so current. It is a feminist and empowering piece of historical fiction perfect for the MeToo era.

I give Blood Water Paint by Joy McCullough 9 out of 10 stars

Buy/Borrow/Bypass: Buy/Borrow. If you like historical fiction or are looking for an issue book, I would definitely recommend this one. It doesn't sugar coat some serious things women experienced throughout history and are still experiencing today.

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

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Mini Reviews: January Reads

Hi Everyone, It has been a rough winter for me in terms of blogging. You may not have noticed that I barely posted in December, but I basically didn't post anything. I mean I used to post four times a week and in December I only posted four times. And honestly, January was not most better. If you saw my January wrap up you know that I was reading a lot but not doing much blogging. What that means is that I have this massive backlog of books I have not reviewed yet.

It kind of feels like I will never be able to catch up with everything I want to review, but I do have the desire to catch up. So with that in mind, I wanted to post the books I read last month that I didn't review. But full reviews would just get me further behind so instead I thought I would post mini reviews. I usually only do this when I DNF a book but let's try it for books I finished. Here we go...

Title: The Girl King
Series: The Girl King #1
Author: Mimi Yu
Published: January 8, 2018 by Bloomsbury YA
(Amazon / Goodreads)                                                                                          

Synopsis: Two sisters become unwitting rivals in a war to claim the title of Emperor in this sweeping tale of ambition, sacrifice and betrayal for readers of Sabaa Tahir and Alwyn Hamilton. 

All hail the Girl King. 

Sisters Lu and Min have always understood their places as princesses of the Empire. Lu knows she is destined to become the dynasty's first female ruler, while Min is resigned to a life in her shadow. Then their father declares their male cousin Set the heir instead—a betrayal that sends the sisters down two very different paths. 

Determined to reclaim her birthright, Lu goes on the run. She needs an ally—and an army—if she is to succeed. Her quest leads her to Nokhai, the last surviving wolf shapeshifter. Nok wants to keep his identity secret, but finds himself forced into an uneasy alliance with the girl whose family killed everyone he ever loved… 

Alone in the volatile court, Min's hidden power awakens—a forbidden, deadly magic that could secure Set's reign…or allow Min to claim the throne herself. But there can only be one Emperor, and the sisters' greatest enemy could turn out to be each other.

My Thoughts:

I was super excited to read an Asian-inspired fantasy about two sisters with political intrigue. I picked up a copy of this one at ALA and I had heard some good reviews from blogger friends so I was excited to read this one. It was a good read but it didn't blow me away.

One of the best things about this book was the world. It is a world full of magical and political intrigue, two things that I love in my YA fantasy. The magical system was really cool and we only really scratched the surface with it. I think there is a lot more to learn. As far as the political intrigue I think this honestly was less about the sisters and more about the larger politics of the world, which I was fine with.

I do think however the characters were a little lacking. I enjoyed Lu was probably my favorite of the sisters, which is a surprise because Min is usually the type of female character I enjoy. But Lu just felt a little more flushed out. Min fell incredibly flat for me until the very end.

Speaking of the end, I think this book just had a little bit of first book syndrome. It built to an exciting conclusion with some surprising twists along the way but it took awhile to get interesting.

Title: Space Opera
Author: Cathrynne M. Valente
Published:  October 4, 2018 by Saga Press
(Amazon / Goodreads / Audible)


A century ago, the Sentience Wars tore the galaxy apart and nearly ended the entire concept of intelligent space-faring life. In the aftermath, a curious tradition was invented-something to cheer up everyone who was left and bring the shattered worlds together in the spirit of peace, unity, and understanding. 

Once every cycle, the civilizations gather for the Metagalactic Grand Prix - part gladiatorial contest, part beauty pageant, part concert extravaganza, and part continuation of the wars of the past. Instead of competing in orbital combat, the powerful species that survived face off in a competition of song, dance, or whatever can be physically performed in an intergalactic talent show. The stakes are high for this new game, and everyone is forced to compete. 

This year, though, humankind has discovered the enormous universe. And while they expected to discover a grand drama of diplomacy, gunships, wormholes, and stoic councils of aliens, they have instead found glitter, lipstick and electric guitars. Mankind will not get to fight for its destiny - they must sing. 

A one-hit-wonder band of human musicians, dancers and roadies from London - Decibel Jones and the Absolute Zeroes - have been chosen to represent Earth on the greatest stage in the galaxy. And the fate of their species lies in their ability to rock.

My Thoughts:

I actually bought this shortly after it came out last fall but I never read it. Then I was looking for a new audiobook I saw this one and thought it might be a good opportunity to read it. Especially because in January I was really loving science fiction books. So I bought the audio and am so glad I did because this was great.

For one thing, this is a weird little book. I feel like only a very specific reader will enjoy Space Opera. It's one of those strange irreverent books which doesn't take it self very seriously and for a reader who is looking for a book that is intense and gripping, they will find this one strange and frustrating. It also plays a lot with sci-fi tropes and pokes some fun at them which I really enjoyed. It was very reminiscent of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. It had that same kind of tone.

The other thing that I think made me enjoy this book so much is that I listened to the audio. It was the kind of book that worked so well in an audio format. The narrator did a great job selling some of the jokes that probably would have fallen flat in writing. He also really went for it with some of the accents which added a lot to the characters, who were one of the major things about this book that made it so quirky.

This is definitely my find of read. It's weird and strange but had lots of thrills and so much humor that I could help but laugh at how absurd it was. Definitely one of the strangest books I have read in awhile and I mean that in the best possible way.

Title: Dark Triumph
Series: His Fair Assassins #2
Author: Robin LaFevers
Published: April 2, 2013 by HMH Books for Young Readers
(Amazon / Goodreads)                                                                                          

Synopsis: I lean forward, pushing my body out past the battlements. The wind plucks at my cloak, buffets against me, as if it would carry me off in flight, just like the birds or the knight's soul. Let go, it cries, I will take you far, far away. I want to laugh at the exhilarating feeling, I will catch you, it whistles seductively. 

The convent has returned Sybella to a life that nearly drove her mad. Her father's rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother's love is equally monstrous. When she discovers an unexpected ally imprisoned in the dungeons, will a a daughter of Death find something other than vengeance to live for?

My Thoughts:

I technically read this book in December but I didn't feel like I could review Mortal Heart without also giving my thoughts on this one. I have been wanting to finish this series for quite awhile but with Courting Darkness coming out I finally had the kick in the pants I needed.

Sybella's story was probably the hardest to read of the three. She has a real tortured past and this book did not shy away from that. It showed the reader in heartbreaking detail what Sybella had been through before she arrived at the convent and then thrust her back into the clutches of those people. Because of this she was easy to root for and want to see get justice. But I love that she is still a caring and kind woman. Sybella has a lot of depth and that made this book all the more enjoyable.

This book is also a really great example of what I love in historical fiction. It takes a lesser known location and/or period of time and inhabits it with new and engaging characters. There is a ton of political intrigue and adventure, honestly more than I was expecting, which I loved. Not to mention this is a book that does a great job establishing it's time and place while still feeling important and modern.

I can understand why so many people love this series. It's a fantastic piece pf historical fiction with a subtle fantasy element and great characters. I am excited to see what is next for Sybella and Beast in Courting Darkness.

Title: Mortal Heart 
Series: His Fair Assassins #3
Author: Robin LaFevers
Published: November 4, 2014 by HMH Books for Young Readers
(Amazon / Goodreads)                                                                                          

Synopsis: Annith has watched her gifted sisters at the convent come and go, carrying out their dark dealings in the name of St. Mortain, patiently awaiting her own turn to serve Death. But her worst fears are realized when she discovers she is being groomed by the abbess as a Seeress, to be forever sequestered in the rock and stone womb of the convent. Feeling sorely betrayed, Annith decides to strike out on her own. 

She has spent her whole life training to be an assassin. Just because the convent has changed its mind doesn't mean she has...

My Thoughts:

I already talked about my history with this book above, but I ended up getting the audio for my drive home from Christmas break and I didn't end up finishing it until later into January. Not because I wasn't enjoying it, just because of my reading slump and I wanted to enjoy it.

What was struck me about this book is that it had a lot more fantasy and religious elements than I was expecting. The first two books established the idea of Death and his handmaidens but this book really elaborated on that. We learned a lot more about Mortain and his convent. I found this incredibly interesting and it was a great addition to the final book in the series.

Annith was also a really interesting character. She's someone who has always excelled at everything she has done but never got much recognition for that. Usually I wouldn't like a character who is perfect because they can come off as a Mary Sue but Annith never did. I actually wanted her to get her dues and triumph over the Reverend Mother who was a complex antagonist that I kind of hated.

However, this was not my favorite book in the series. I think that is because I found it a little predictable. Some of the big twists in this book seemed incredibly obvious to me. They didn't have the desired effect on me because of that. Plus I found the ending a little rushed. Don't get me wrong, it was a good read I think I just liked the other two better.

There you have it, mini reviews on the books I didn't review in late December and January. I am not completely caught up with reviews but I am in a much better place. Have you read any of these books? What did you think? Leave me a comment with your thoughts. Thanks for stopping by and happy reading.

Tuesday, February 12, 2019

Top Ten Tuesday: Ships That Melted My Romancephobic Heart

A weekly meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl

1.) Ronan and Adam in The Raven Cycle by Maggie Steifvater
I wasn't initially a Pynch shipper but when I fell, I fell hard. I wanted those two to get together for like three books and when they finally did I was over the moon.

2.) Kaz and Inej in Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Talk about a slowburn. These two had me wanting them to get together for so long that even them holding hands felt like the sweetest and most romantic thing.

3.) Simon and Blue in Simon Vs. The Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli
I don't read a lot of contemporary romances but this is one of my favorites. Simon and Blue are so cute and I loved the fact that there was a bit of a mystery so the reveal of Blue was all the more sweet.

4.) Lara Jean and Peter K in To All the Boys I Loved Before by Jenny Han
This is another one of my favorite contemporary. It's actually one of the most perfect one in my opinion. What I love about this relationship is that it's not perfect which made it all the more sweet.

5.) Audrey Rose and Thomas in Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco
I am a huge fan of this series and the characters are one of the reasons is these characters. I love their romance and their banter is top notch. They also have this mutual respect that makes me so happy.

6.) Vin and Elend in Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson
This is a relationship that didn't really melt my heart but it is one of my favorites ships. The way their relationship gives me the feels every time.

7.) Chubs and Vida in The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
This is another ship that didn't melt my heart as much as it made me smile. I shipped these two from the very beginning because their banter was so perfect. I was so happy when their ship sailed.

8.) Eliot and Luke from In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan
This is probably the most resent book I read which made this list. But it's rare for me to fall this hard into a ship so I had to add it and I wanted to smoosh their faces together.

9.) David and Megan in The Reckoners by Brandon Sanderson
The only repeat on this list but I love these two so much and I really wanted to add it to the list.

10.) Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
I'm adding this one to the list because it's so rare for me to ship a couple that is actually endgame, especially in a YA like The Hunger Games which is so popular and beloved in the community.

11.) Like Every Ship Rainbow Rowell Has Ever Written 
I say this at first I was going to add Cath and Levi but then I remembered Simon and Baz which also made me remember Eleanor and Park. Basically Rainbow Rowell knows how to write a great ship. I mean even her Runaways comics are full of great ships.

12.) Like Every Ship Gail Carriger Has Ever Written
I was originally going to Alexia and Lord Maccon but then I remembered Rue and Quensel but also Prim has a great ship too in the Custard Protocol. Also Sophronia and Soap! Seriously, I love every romance in Gail's books.