Mid-Year Book Freak-Out Tag

It’s halfway through 2018, apparently. I’m not sure if I actually believe it, but we’re going to roll with it and go ahead and do this lovely tag that I first saw this year on ChelseaDollingReads‘ BookTube channel (I’ve seen the tag around in past years, but this is my first time actually doing the tag, I think). Apparently this tag was originally created for a blog and then moved to BookTube. Links to the creators, Chami and Earl Grey Books, are here and here.  If this sounds fun to you, consider yourself tagged!

As of literally today, I’ve read 51 books so far in 2018. I have many opinions on all of them and on my reading in general. I’m probably going to do this weirdly and give around 4 answers for all of the questions, which isn’t the point, but here we go!

1. Best book you’ve read so far in 2018

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanIf We Were Villains by M.L. RioNasty Women by Samhita MukhopadhyayThe Unseen World by Liz Moore

I’ve read some fantastic books so far in 2018. My four favorite (probably) are these: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan, If We Were Villains by M.L. Rio, Nasty Women: Feminism, Resistance, and Revolution in Trump’s America edited by Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Kate Harding, and The Unseen World by Liz Moore.

2. Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2018

Beneath the Sugar Sky (Wayward Children #3)A Court of Frost and Starlight (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3.1)Impostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project, #3)Obsidio (The Illuminae Files, #3)

After scrolling through my Goodreads tracker, I’ve apparently read 4 sequels in 2018. All of them were good; I wouldn’t say that any of them were amazing. I’m pretty sure I gave all of them 3.5 stars. That’s actually really weird. If I HAD to pick, my favorite of these is probably Beneath the Sugar Sky by Seanan McGuire.

2.5 (Bonus question I made up) Best new series you’ve started

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseFuryborn by Claire LegrandThe Cruel Prince by Holly BlackAce of Shades by Amanda Foody

So far in 2018, I’ve read the first books in 4 new fantasy series that I’m really excited to continue with. I like to have a certain number of ongoing series that I’m reading, so I’m relieved that 2018 has already come out with some great ones.

3. New release you haven’t read yet, but want to

CirceRed ClocksNot That Bad: Dispatches from Rape Culture

There are actually a bunch of 2018 new releases that I haven’t gotten to yet, but these three are the ones I’m most interested in and want to get to the soonest. Two of these are Book of the Month picks from previous months.

4. Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

Record of a Spaceborn Few (Wayfarers, #3)Magic Triumphs (Kate Daniels, #10)Empire of Sand

This summer, there are 2 next-in-series books coming out that I’m ridiculously excited for; one is actually the tenth and final book in my all-time favorite urban fantasy series (Magic Triumphs), which is bittersweet, and the other is the third book in my favorite ongoing science fiction series (Record of a Spaceborn Few).  And later on in the fall, there’s a new fantasy book coming out that caught my eye at BookCon, Empire of Sand by Tasha Suri.

5. Biggest disappointment

House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski

By far, the biggest disappointment in my 2018 reading was tackling House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski, a 700+ page, unconventionally formatted weird novel and finding it dull and poorly written. It’s a great concept; I wish it could have been better executed so that I didn’t feel like I wasted my time reading it.

6. Biggest surprise

Furyborn by Claire Legrand

I’m always really wary of the hype surrounding new YA releases, but in Furyborn‘s case, I found it completely earned. You’ll find my full review of Furyborn here.

7. Favourite new author. (Debut or new to you)

The Gracekeepers by Kirsty LoganThe Color Master by Aimee BenderMade for Love by Alissa Nutting

I decided not to overlap this category with my favorite books of the year so far, but instead to pick books that I really enjoyed but that also showed me that I want to read a lot more from those authors’ backlists. I’ve already added several other books from Kirsty Logan, Aimee Bender, and Alissa Nutting to my TBR.

Also, WHY ARE YOU ASKING ME THESE HARD QUESTIONS.

8. Newest fictional crush

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

The Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang also would have worked well for my biggest surprise so far this year, because I basically never read contemporary romance but found this book to just be completely delightful, sexy, and well-written.

9. Newest favorite character

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca RoanhorseIn Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan

I’m a sucker for a badass yet flawed heroine, so of course Maggie Hoskie from Rebecca Roanhorse’s Trail of Lightning had to make this list. But I’d be lying if I didn’t mention that Elliott and Luke from Sarah Rees Brennan’s In Other Lands made it to my list of favorite characters of all time.

10. Book that made you cry

I Crawl Through It by A.S. KingThe Unseen World by Liz MooreWhat Happened by Hillary Rodham Clinton

I cry a lot when I read, so there were a lot of choices to pick from, but these three books absolutely had me in tears multiple times, for different reasons. I Crawl Through It is a must-read book for our time, since it addresses the horror and tragedy that teenagers are forced to accept as the norm and challenges that fact. The Unseen World is a book about love and loss and absolutely gutted me emotionally. And What Happened by Hillary Clinton was a stark reminder of the incredibly impressive woman who should be our president right now.

11. Book that made you happy

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanThe Kiss Quotient by Helen Hoang

I mean, obviously a lot of books made me happy this year, but these two really stand out. In Other Lands was just absolutely wonderful, and I laughed out loud more times than I can count while reading it; it also had this really touching and sweet romantic arc. The Kiss Quotient was such a fun read that I devoured so quickly and made me want to find other romance reads that are just as delightful.

12. Favourite book to film adaptation you saw this year

Call Me by Your Name. I haven’t read the book, so I’m not sure that this can officially count for this question, but it’s probably the best movie overall that I’ve seen this year as well. I actually don’t think I’ve seen any other book-to-film adaptations this year, but I do want to see Love, Simon (haven’t read that book either, though).

13. Favourite review you’ve written this year

Lately I’ve been posting more detailed book reviews, and it’s something that I want to continue to do going forward, but I don’t know that I really have a favorite. Maybe I will by the end of 2018.

14. Most beautiful book you’ve bought so far this year (or received)

An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat HowardMade for Love by Alissa NuttingMEM by Bethany C. Morrow

I love the shadowed white cover of An Unkindness of Magicians by Kat Howard. I’m also a huge fan of the rainbow design of Made for Love by Alissa Nutting; a lot of people hate this cover, but it totally works for the weird and quirky book. Mem by Bethany C. Morrow is such a gorgeous physical book; it has a translucent white overlay but the naked hardback is a golden vault design, which fits well with an ominous vault featured in the novel.

15. What books do you need to read by the end of the year?

The Female PersuasionSpinning SilverA Little LifeA Tale for the Time Being

SO MANY. I’m going to try and limit myself to 4, because every time I try to make a TBR I end up deviating from it, but also because I just can’t at all narrow down what I want to read soon. I’m also not going to mention any of the books I already talked about in earlier questions. So that being said, I’m currently almost halfway done with The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer, and I absolutely want to finish before the year’s end. I have an ARC of Spinning Silver by Naomi Novik that I received at BookCon, so that obviously makes the list as well. A Little Life and A Tale for the Time Being both fall into that “I can’t believe I haven’t read that yet!” category, so I’m going to prioritize those in the next few months.

In conclusion, this tag didn’t make me freak out at all, but it did make me think more intently about what I’ve read so far this year and realize how many awesome books and authors I’ve encountered. I’m excited to see what else I’ll read in the second half of 2018. This was a lot of fun to put together, and please consider yourselves all tagged!

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Book Review: Between the Sea and Stars by Chantal Gadoury

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Book review: Between the Sea and Stars by Chantal Gadoury

3 stars

Between the Sea and Stars is the story of a young merrow girl named Lena who lives with her father and brother beneath the sea, but dreams of exploring the surface. Unfortunately, it’s forbidden for merrows to explore the land or even emerge from the sea after the merrow queen was betrayed and killed by her human lover, who sought her magical shell that allowed her to transform from a merrow to a human. Through an unforeseen course of events, Lena does find herself on shore and immersed in the human world, although not in the way she had expected, and is forced to quickly adapt to a world of intriguing new friendships and enemies alike.

I’ve always loved mermaids and fairytale retellings, so I was of course drawn to this book due to its undersea setting and Little Mermaid inspiration. I really enjoyed learning about the world and culture of the merrow, and I thought that the Danish influences in the book’s language made it very unique. I thought that the story of the merrow queen, which may not have happened exactly the way Lena’s always heard it told, made an intriguing backdrop to Lena’s story, and it kept me curious about the assumptions that the humans and merrows make about each other’s worlds.

What didn’t work quite as well for me in this book was Lena’s character. It’s stated that she’s nineteen, but to me she seemed younger. She comes across as somewhat sheltered and naïve, which in some ways is very understandable considering her circumstances; after all, she has to adapt to living on land in a very short period of time, and she’s also dealing with the land and the sea both being very patriarchal in structure. However, I did find it frustrating that Lena rarely acts to assert or defend herself. To be fair, Lena has to deal with the aftermath of trauma over the course of this book, which absolutely affects her actions to a certain degree, but as a reader I couldn’t help but want her to stand up for herself. I also would have loved to have seen more female characters in general.

I did have some difficulty with the pacing of this book; it’s very short and moves quickly, but I felt like after the initial inciting events, there’s not much forward motion of the plot over the course of the book. I would have preferred that the book was longer so that we could see how the different tensions building in the novel would play out. There is so much interesting worldbuilding in this book that I would have loved to see more of both the human and merrow worlds, but I’ll have to wait for the next book. Overall, this was a fast, enjoyable YA novel rooted in fairy tales and mythology, and fans of mermaid stories will likely want to check this one out.

*I received an eARC of Between the Sea and Stars from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

May Reading Wrap-Up

May is over and it ended quite awhile ago! I’m very late with this wrap-up, but I have good reasons (sort of…).

So May was a pretty crazy month in general for me; one of my good friends got married in Arizona, so another friend and I flew there and then took a road trip to the Grand Canyon and then Sedona before going to her wedding. It was a lot of fun, and between packing, traveling, and a crazy month at work, May really flew by. And then I spent the first few days of June at BookCon (I’ll have a post up about my experience soon! Spoiler alert: it was fantastic 🙂 ) and then another crazy week at work leading up to a trip to the Outer Banks of North Carolina for a week at the beach with friends. But now I’m finally trying to get caught up with bookish things, so here’s what I read in May:

Total books read: 9

#readmyowndamnbooks: 6

Audiobooks: 2

ebooks: 1

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. MaasIn Other Lands by Sarah Rees BrennanJane, Unlimited by Kristin CashoreImpostor Syndrome (The Arcadia Project, #3)The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor, #1)The Color MasterWicked (A Wicked Trilogy, #1)The Merry Spinster: Tales of Everyday HorrorFuryborn by Claire Legrand

Reviews:

In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan (5 stars) – This month, I read one of my new favorite books of the year, and also of ever. In Other Lands fits right into that niche genre of books that satirize and also pay homage to traditional portal fantasy stories, like Lev Grossman’s Magicians series, or Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, or Seanan McGuire’s Wayward Children series. If you liked any of those, you’ll also probably love this book. We follow Elliott, a young bisexual British boy, who’s given the opportunity to enter the fantasy realm of his dreams–except nothing there is as he expects it to be, and he finds himself constantly challenging society’s expectations and norms. Elliott is extremely intelligent but very difficult in social situations, and he’s constantly butting heads with everyone around him except for his crush, Serene-Heart-In-the-Chaos-of-Battle, a beautiful elf maiden who is also, like all female elves, a deadly warrior. The two of them form an at-first tension-filled friend group with Luke Sunborn, a seemingly perfect stereotypical male fantasy hero, with the three of them gradually becoming closer and learning more about accepting each other’s faults as they progress in their training to join the Border Guard, which acts as a military force policing both the fantasy realm and its border with the human ones.

I will say that if you are a stickler for structured plots, then you may have issues with this book. Personally, as long as I’m enjoying what I’m reading and I love the characters, I could care less about having drawn-out battle scenes or whatever, so it didn’t bother me at all, but I could see some readers taking issue with the fact that the story meanders without following a traditional conflict/resolution fantasy plot struture.

This book is a beautiful story about growing up and learning to challenge traditionally held beliefs, which may not be the right ones, and learning to understand and accept yourself for who you are. It’s about friendship and how people can complement each other while still being from very different backgrounds. It’s about learning your strengths and using them to make the world a better place. It made me laugh out loud continuously and also cry multiple times. It’s one that I can see myself re-reading and enjoying just as much each time. It’s honestly wonderful, and I really hope that more people read it.

Furyborn by Claire Legrand (4.25 stars) – Furyborn is a well-written, well-plotted, absorbing, feminist YA fantasy. There’s a great amount of action and worldbuilding, and also some romance, which I’m always a fan of in my YA. Since it’s the first book in a planned trilogy, I’m extremely excited to see where things are headed, and I’ll absolutely be planning on picking up the next book. I won an ARC of Furyborn in a giveaway on Litsy, and you can see my full review of Furyborn here.

The Color Master by Aimee Bender (4 stars) – I really enjoyed this short story collection and will definitely be picking up more books from Aimee Bender. These short stories run from more realistic to magical realism to fairytale-esque, and I liked the variety. My three favorites were “Tiger Mending,” which is about the relationship between two sisters but also about the literal stitching together of fraying tigers; “The Color Master,” which is a partial fairytale retelling of “Donkeyskin;” and “The Devourings,” which is about a woman who marries an ogre and what happens after he mistakenly eats their children.

Impostor Syndrome by Mishell Baker (3.5 stars) – This was the third and final book of Baker’s Arcadia Project series, so I can’t tell you much about the plot, but this series revolves around Millie, a double amputee with Borderline Personality Disorder who survived a suicide attempt and now works for an organization that attempts to regulate the secret interactions between the human and fae worlds. It’s a great UF series that has a lot of discussion about mental illness, and I’m sad that it’s ending, but I’ve thoroughly enjoyed each book and hope that Mishell Baker writes more things in the future.

A Court of Frost and Starlight by Sarah J. Maas (3.5 stars) – this short novel is intended to bridge the gap between A Court of Wings and Ruin and the upcoming trilogy that focuses on side characters from the A Court of Thorns and Roses trilogy. It was enjoyable to read, but there wasn’t a whole lot happening in terms of plot. I still love this series and am very excited for the new books.

The Merry Spinster by Mallory Ortberg (2.75 stars) – Unfortunately, this was a disappointment for me. I love Ortberg’s old site The Toast, and I thought that Texts From Jane Eyre was delightful and hilarious, but these stories mostly fell flat for me. They weren’t as funny or as creepy as I wanted them to be. I love fairy tale retellings, especially dark ones, and I wanted to love this, but it ended up being only OK. I do feel like I have a decent amount of fairy tale knowledge, but Ortberg’s knowledge of fairy tales and classic literature is super impressive, so I’m sure that there are some references that I missed; it’s possible that may have taken away some of my enjoyment.

The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee (2.75 stars) – This book is literally a futuristic version of Gossip Girl, and I checked out the audiobook from my library after hearing a review on the Young Adulting podcast (which sadly was forced to change its name to Bad on Paper). It was a fun audiobook listen overall, but it did drag in parts, and I wasn’t the biggest fan of most of the characters. There is a sequel out, and apparently it’s going to become a trilogy, but I don’t think I’m into it enough to continue.

Jane, Unlimited by Kristin Cashore (2.5 stars) – This was an example of a YA book with a really great premise that (for me) failed in its execution. Jane, Unlimited is about a teenager who accepts an invitation to visit a sort-of friend’s family’s island mansion on the advice of her recently deceased aunt, who had made her promise that if she were ever asked there, she would say yes. While there, she finds a number of strange rich people and suspicious circumstances, and eventually the story branches off into five different choose-your-own-adventure-ish endings, all in different genres (except you really have to read all five or you’ve only read a bit of the book, so it’s not really Choose Your Own Adventure, unfortunately).

And also unfortunately, none of the five possible plot lines were very good. Neither were any of the characters, who all acted sort of nonsensically and were seemingly without actual personalities. No one was guilty of this more than Jane, the main character, whose entire personality could be summed up by the word UMBRELLAS. You see, Jane is a teenager who makes artsy umbrellas, and they are SO AMAZING that wealthy art dealers want to buy them for thousands of dollars, and everyone sees them as evidence of Jane being basically the coolest chick alive. I wish I was kidding. I guess if you are a huge fan of umbrellas, you would enjoy this book more than I did.

As I said before, Jane’s story branches off into different genres, which sounded like something I could really get into, since I basically love all genres. But all of the stories seemed like they were half-explored; the fantasy one in particular just seemed very lazy and not well thought-out. The horror one was fairly creepy, which I did like, but most of the others just felt far too silly for what they were supposed to be doing. I know that a lot of people loved this book, and I did finish it (I DNF a lot of YA if I’m not feeling it) but it definitely wasn’t for me.

 

Has anyone read any of these? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!

Book Review: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

Book Review: Furyborn by Claire Legrand

4.25 stars

Furyborn follows two young women, Rielle and Eliana, who are living in the same world but 1,000 years apart. Rielle is the daughter of the king’s general, and she has been forced to hide her staggering magical powers for her entire life, until they are unintentionally revealed. Once her talents come to light, Rielle is forced to undergo trials to prove that she will use her magic as a force for good as the prophesied Sun Queen, protector of the realm, rather than the also prophesied Blood Queen, who will bring ruin in her wake. And 1,000 years later, Eliana is serving a tyrannical empire as a bounty hunter in order to support her family, but she is torn out of the world she is familiar with when her mother disappears and she has to make a deal with an underground rebellion in order to find her. Their stories are told in alternating chapters as each of these very different young women are forced to battle their way through tremendous obstacles and find out who they can really trust.

I’d like to start by saying that I loved this book. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—I’m very picky when it comes to YA, and maybe especially YA fantasy, and there are a lot of books that I’ll DNF fairly quickly if they’re not what I’m interested in. Furyborn kept and held my interest the entire book; the alternating chapters made me constantly anxious to know what would happen next with each character, and I felt like I was getting little tastes of their stories that kept me motivated to find out more. It’s difficult for me to choose which story I preferred since they were both so captivating, but if I was forced to choose, I’d probably go with Eliana’s. I liked that she was an unabashedly morally grey character who had to make tough choices in her line of work in order to protect her family.

I honestly thought that it might bother me to read the story of someone set so long after the other main character’s, since I thought that might mean that you would already know how Rielle’s story ended and Eliana’s might then seem too distant to care about, but it didn’t work out that way at all. Instead, I loved that we got hints of each girl’s story through the worldbuilding, and I especially loved how things like magic, which are commonplace in Rielle’s world, are treated as myth in Eliana’s. It’s a risky, creative premise, but for me it definitely worked.

Furyborn as a whole is a well-written, well-plotted, absorbing, feminist YA fantasy. There’s a great amount of action and worldbuilding, and also some romance, which I’m always a fan of in my YA. Since it’s the first book in a planned trilogy, I’m extremely excited to see where things are headed, and I’ll absolutely be planning on picking up the next book.

*I won an ARC of Furyborn in a giveaway.