Wrap-Up, March 2018

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I’ve been pretty busy, so it’s been a pretty slow month for reading overall. Still, I’ve managed to review a couple books and read some others that have been on my TBR. I just came back from a trip to Miami and I have another trip coming up in April, but my goal is to read at least ten books in the coming month (don’t hold me to it).


Books I’ve Reviewed:

To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo
The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw
Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser
The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan


Other Books I’ve Read:

The Hating Game by Sally Thorne
This book was so fun! I didn’t know how much I wanted to read a romantic comedy until I had it in my hands. I fully intended on saving this for the beach on my trip, but I couldn’t help but finish it in one day. It was funny, sexy, and very enjoyable. Why can’t I have a Joshua Templeman in my office? Life isn’t fair.

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman
I’ve wanted to read another Neil Gaiman novel after reading The Ocean at the End of the Lane, and I’m so glad I finally did. This book was dark and fantastical and mysterious. Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar were probably the cruelest/funniest/most endearing villains I’ve ever encountered, and I grew to adore all the characters. The last 100 pages or so had me on the edge of my seat, and I love how everything unfolded.


Currently Reading:

I told myself I was only gonna read one book at a time, but here I am, starting two new books. To be fair, I picked up Sometimes I Lie from the airport and started it mid-flight. I’ll probably finish that one, then move on to finishing the The Snow Child.


Next to be Read (For Now):

Review: The Astonishing Color of After by Emily X.R. Pan

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Leigh Chen Sanders is absolutely certain about one thing: When her mother died by suicide, she turned into a bird.

Leigh, who is half Asian and half white, travels to Taiwan to meet her maternal grandparents for the first time. There, she is determined to find her mother, the bird. In her search, she winds up chasing after ghosts, uncovering family secrets, and forging a new relationship with her grandparents. And as she grieves, she must try to reconcile the fact that on the same day she kissed her best friend and longtime secret crush, Axel, her mother was taking her own life.

Alternating between real and magic, past and present, friendship and romance, hope and despair, The Astonishing Color of After is a novel about finding oneself through family history, art, grief, and love.


Title: The Astonishing Color of After
Author: Emily X.R. Pan
Genre: Contemporary/Magical Realism/Young Adult
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 20th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★

This book was beautiful, heart-wrenching, devastating, and hopeful.

Leigh is half-Asian, with very little connection to her Asian heritage aside from a very small knowledge of Mandarin. When her mom commits suicide and her spirit turns into a bird, Leigh follows clues left by her mom’s spirit to Taiwan, where she meets her grandparents for the first time. What follows is a series of flashbacks as Leigh comes to learn why her mom left Taiwan in the first place and how she had been hurting for a very long time. The topics of mental health and suicide are not glorified or sugar-coated. Instead, we are shown how these issues can affect a family, but how that family can learn to let go and continue on.

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I loved the setting. It was a beautiful glimpse into Taiwanese/Chinese culture, from the food to the customs to the language. Since Leigh is half-Asian, we are shown how she is perceived in America (fetishized and stereotyped) and then how she is perceived in Taiwan (being pointed out by strangers for being “mixed). We also see how there is a stigma surrounding mental illness.

The flashbacks were my favorite parts to read. I loved getting to see Leigh’s family history, from the time her grandmother was born to the time her mother met her father. We also saw the development of Leigh and Axel’s friendship, and how it evolved over time to become something more.

There are some heavy topics in The Astonishing Color of After, but it ends on a hopeful note. I thought that everything was handled beautifully, and the magical realism never felt over-the-top. Some of the reveals at the end were completely unexpected.

Don’t go into this expecting a light read, but if you are in the mood for something a little sad, a little hopeful, and a little magical, I would recommend The Astonishing Color of After.

The Best Books to Bring to the Beach

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In honor of my upcoming trip out of the frozen New England tundra and onto the warm, sunny Miami Beach, I decided to list some of my favorite beach reads! I always wait until the last minute to pack, so I’ll most likely end up overpacking (per usual). Don’t pull a Becca, and plan ahead for your beach necessities!

When I think beach reads, I mostly think of romance or contemporary fiction. I need something light that doesn’t require too much attention or effort, but still keeps me hooked.

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Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

A murder mystery that takes place in a beach town. I actually did read this on the beach, and would recommend this to anyone in the mood for something highly addictive.

The Woman in the Window by A.J. Finn

A fast-paced mystery/thriller with an unreliable narrator. This was much better than I expected. It’s easy to read, and will keep you guessing!

It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

A romance with an unexpected twist that completely shattered me.

All the Missing Girls by Jessica Strawser

A mystery/suspense novel about a young woman who returns to the town she grew up in to face a crime committed in her past. This one isn’t exactly a light read. Since it’s written in reverse, it’s a little bit more of a challenge to know what’s going on. Still, it was highly entertaining!

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

A short, atmospheric book that is both magical and frightening.


What I’m Bringing:

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The Hating Game by Sally Thorne

I’m so excited to read this! It’s not new, but for some reason I’ve been hearing a lot about this book lately. I’m definitely in the mood to read a workplace hate-to-love rom-com, so this is what I plan on bringing along on my trip.

Review: Not That I Could Tell by Jessica Strawser

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When a group of neighborhood women gathers, wine in hand, around a fire pit where their backyards meet one Saturday night, most of them are just ecstatic to have discovered that their baby monitors reach that far. It’s a rare kid-free night, and they’re giddy with it. They drink too much, and the conversation turns personal.

By Monday morning, one of them is gone.

Everyone knows something about everyone else in the quirky small Ohio town of Yellow Springs, but no one can make sense of the disappearance. Kristin was a sociable twin mom, college administrator, and doctor’s wife who didn’t seem all that bothered by her impending divorce—and the investigation turns up more questions than answers, with her husband, Paul, at the center. For her closest neighbor, Clara, the incident triggers memories she thought she’d put behind her—and when she’s unable to extract herself from the widening circle of scrutiny, her own suspicions quickly grow. But the neighborhood’s newest addition, Izzy, is determined not to jump to any conclusions—especially since she’s dealing with a crisis of her own.

As the police investigation goes from a media circus to a cold case, the neighbors are forced to reexamine what’s going on behind their own closed doors—and to ask how well anyone really knows anyone else.


Title: Not That I Could Tell
Author: Jessica Strawser
Genre: Mystery/Suspense
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 27th, 2018
Rating: ★★

I hate giving this book two stars, but it took me ten days to read it. I kept waiting to get sucked in, and it just didn’t happen.

It started off interesting enough, with the mysterious disappearance of Kristin and her two children. The night prior to the disappearance, Kristen and several other women from the neighborhood are drinking wine around a campfire. The next morning, Kristin is gone, and the neighborhood is left to speculate the cause. Was it about money? Was there something sinister involving her ex-husband, Paul?

The story is told through the two main perspectives of Clara and Izzy, two neighboring women. Interspersed between each chapter, there are very brief (one to two page) introspective chapters from Kristin’s perspective, describing what was going through her head and why she needed to disappear. These pages alone provide a mysterious and foreboding atmosphere, but I didn’t get that from the rest of the novel.

To be honest, I was just bored. The book wasn’t bad by any means and some parts were interesting, but nothing ever really hooked me. I was skimming so much toward the end that I almost missed the twist, which was surprising but didn’t affect the story all that much. There was never any real threat of danger, and the person I was lead to think was the bad guy was *shocker* the bad guy. Throughout the entire middle portion, I kept wondering if anything I was reading was actually relevant. It just… didn’t work for me.

Maybe this just wasn’t the book for me. I almost feel like I would have enjoyed it more if I was a mother, with the constant references to family life and the pains of raising children/being a stay-at-home mom. I think a lot of people will find these women relatable, but that wasn’t the case for me.

Top Ten Tuesday: Books on My Spring TBR

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*Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to bring bookish friends together. A new topic is posted each week.

This week’s topic is about books that I want to read this spring.

Already Own:

I’m so excited to read these three books, especially! I have all three in paperback, and the covers are gorgeous. If We Were Villains is marketed as perfect for fans of Donna Tartt’s The Secret History, so of course I had to buy it. Spring still seems a long way off in New England (with another storm on the way) so I bought The Snow Child to add to my growing pile of winter reads. Norse Mythology will be my third Gaiman book (and because it’s a Gaiman book, I already know it will be good).

To Purchase:

The Hating Game and From Lukov With Love were both featured on this post by Bree from In Love & Words about funny romance novels. I’ve been looking for something funny and romantic (since I’ve been reading a lot of dark stuff lately) so I’m so excited to read these! I’ve been hearing nothing but praise for Children of Blood and Bone, so this one is also next up on my purchase list.

Advanced Reader Copies:

I was just approved for Our House on Netgalley, though it may take awhile for me to get to it. I’ve had The Seven Deaths of Evelyn Hardcastle for awhile as well. I’m halfway done, but I’ve had it on hold for a few weeks now. I’m hoping to get back to reading it and finishing soon.

Anticipated Releases:

Both Circe and Sky in the Deep come out in April, and are my most anticipated releases of spring!

Sunday Spent in Bed With…The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller

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With Circe being my most anticipated release for the month of April, I really wanted to read Madeline Miller’s debut novel, The Song of Achilles! I finally picked this book up, and I’m loving it so far.

11250317Greece in the age of heroes. Patroclus, an awkward young prince, has been exiled to the court of King Peleus and his perfect son Achilles. By all rights their paths should never cross, but Achilles takes the shamed prince as his friend, and as they grow into young men skilled in the arts of war and medicine their bond blossoms into something deeper – despite the displeasure of Achilles’ mother Thetis, a cruel sea goddess. But then word comes that Helen of Sparta has been kidnapped. Torn between love and fear for his friend, Patroclus journeys with Achilles to Troy, little knowing that the years that follow will test everything they hold dear.

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I adore mythology and retellings. The Song of Achilles stays true to the original Greek mythology while offering its own spin. It’s more romantic than I expected, but I don’t mind. I think there might be a little more action going forward, with both Achilles and Patroclus going to Troy.

I’m a little nervous to finish this book since I know how the story ends, and I’m not really in the mood to have my heart ripped out of my chest (stay tuned). I’m hoping to finish this at some point today!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books That Surprised Me

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*Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to bring bookish friends together. A new topic is posted each week.

This week’s topic is about books that surprised me, for better or worse.

 

  1. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty

    I’m not a fan of contemporary fiction, but every once in a while I come across a contemporary/chick lit book that I really enjoy. This was once of them. You don’t know who dies until the very end, though its alluded to throughout the entire book in interspersed interviews with residents of the beach town, and I kept turning the pages to find out. Big Little Lies is the perfect beach read!

  2. It Ends With Us by Colleen Hoover

    The less you know about this book going into it, the better. I will say that It Ends With Us makes a complete unexpected and shocking turn. I would recommend this, but there are some trigger warnings that should be mentioned (Highlight for Spoiler: Domestic abuse, attempted rape.)

  3. Wintersong by S. Jae-Jones

    This book surprised me… in a bad way. The first half was a four or five star read for me. I loved the dark, mysterious, dreamy quality of the first half of Wintersong. It would have been a four or five star read for me, if it didn’t become a completely different book at the midway point. After that, almost everything bothered me, and I had to slog through to finish it.

  4. All the Missing Girls by Megan Miranda

    All the Missing Girls is written in reverse, which really worked for the story and made the conclusion far more shocking than it would have been otherwise. I read the entire book in an airport during a layover.

  5. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

    I had this book on my TBR for over a year before finally deciding to read it. Its not that it didn’t appeal to me, but something just kept me from picking it up. I’m so glad that I finally did, as this series is now one of my favorites! It also started my Victoria Schwab binge-read that led to me reading Vicious, one of my all-time favorites.

  6. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

    I think many people who read We Were Liars predicted the twist, but I did not. This book wasn’t my favorite, but I did find the ending both shocking and heartbreaking.

  7. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

    I read this book when it was first released, and from all the hype (and, let’s be honest, that beautiful cover) I thought I was going to love it. Instead, I found it to be a pretty generic dystopian novel. However, the revelation that a certain someone was actually evil was pretty shocking too, and probably the highlight of the whole book.

  8. Angelfall by Susan Ee

    Angelfall is an indie apocalyptic novel about angels, and really took me by surprise because of how much I loved it. While the conclusion to the series was pretty disappointing, I still think this book should get more recognition.

  9. Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

    I wasn’t sure how to feel going into Neverwhere. I didn’t know too much about the book, except that it has already been out for awhile (a few decades?) and has multiple editions. Turns out, its like an adult version of Alice in Wonderland, with two of the coolest and most ruthless villains I’ve ever encountered. I really liked it!

  10. Unravel by Calia Read

    This crazy little book was dark and romantic and made my head spin in the best possible way. The less you know, the better, but I would recommend this to anyone looking for a New Adult romance with a crazy, mysterious twist. I will say that it deals with some pretty sensitive issues that might make some people uncomfortable.

 

 

Review: The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

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Welcome to the cursed town of Sparrow…

Where, two centuries ago, three sisters were sentenced to death for witchery. Stones were tied to their ankles and they were drowned in the deep waters surrounding the town.

Now, for a brief time each summer, the sisters return, stealing the bodies of three weak-hearted girls so that they may seek their revenge, luring boys into the harbor and pulling them under.

Like many locals, seventeen-year-old Penny Talbot has accepted the fate of the town. But this year, on the eve of the sisters’ return, a boy named Bo Carter arrives; unaware of the danger he has just stumbled into.

Mistrust and lies spread quickly through the salty, rain-soaked streets. The townspeople turn against one another. Penny and Bo suspect each other of hiding secrets. And death comes swiftly to those who cannot resist the call of the sisters.

But only Penny sees what others cannot. And she will be forced to choose: save Bo, or save herself.


Title: The Wicked Deep
Author: Shea Ernshaw
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 6th, 2018
Rating: ★★★

“From the black waters of the harbor, their song sinks into dreams, permeates the brittle grass that grows along steep cliffs and rotting homes. It settles into the stones that hold up the lighthouse; it floats and swirls in the air until it’s all you can taste and breathe.”

The Wicked Deep is a dark, magical, atmospheric read. I enjoyed it, but there were a few things that bugged me.

This book is about a small coastal town in Oregon called Sparrow. This town is cursed by three witchy sisters who were drowned by the town’s residents two hundred years ago. Every year, the Swan sisters return to inhabit the bodies of girls and lure boys out to the ocean where they drown to death.

“It’s as predictable as the tide and the moon. It ebbs and flows. Death comes and it goes.”

I guessed the twists pretty early on, but the writing was compelling enough to keep me interested until the end. I really liked that each chapter was separated by short chapters (usually only a page or two long) of flashbacks from when the Swan sisters were still alive. These mini-chapters added to the dark, mysterious atmosphere of the book.

One thing that really bothered me was the fact that there were basically no adults in this book. Throughout the whole thing I just kept thinking, where tf are your parents? All the teenagers aside from Bo and Penny were insufferable and shallow. Despite the death that occurs every year, none of the townsfolk seemed to have any real sense of danger. In fact, they throw parties and celebrate the “Swan season” like its all just a big spectacle, or just a quirky facet of their town. With a population of 2000 people and multiple boys dying every summer, you would think that people would be a little more devastated. After all, in a town that small, everyone knows everyone. Instead, they throw parties, get drunk, and dare each other to go into the water for fun, even though most people believe in the sisters and are aware of the danger.

“For in a place like Sparrow, rumors spread quickly, like small pox or cholera, confusing the mind, rooting itself into the fabric of a town until there’s no telling truth from speculation.”

I never became invested in the insta-love romance, which was a pretty big part of this book, but it didn’t really bother me. I actually like the way the romantic aspects were handled (SPOILER SPOILER highlight at your own risk: Although Bo and Penny have sex, which is all fine and good except for the fact that Penny is actually Hazel? So she’s having sex with someone else’s body? A little icky and a lot wrong.) So yeah.

There were some things that weren’t really answered, but maybe its better off that way. There were also some weird punctuation mishaps, which most people probably won’t care about or even notice, but its something I’m a huge stickler for.

With all that being said, The Wicked Deep was an enjoyable read. The writing was good and the concept was unique. I would recommend this to anyone in the mood for a mysterious, romantic, atmospheric book about witches and revenge.

Review: To Kill a Kingdom by Alexandra Christo

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Princess Lira is siren royalty and the most lethal of them all. With the hearts of seventeen princes in her collection, she is revered across the sea. Until a twist of fate forces her to kill one of her own. To punish her daughter, the Sea Queen transforms Lira into the one thing they loathe most—a human. Robbed of her song, Lira has until the winter solstice to deliver Prince Elian’s heart to the Sea Queen or remain a human forever.

The ocean is the only place Prince Elian calls home, even though he is heir to the most powerful kingdom in the world. Hunting sirens is more than an unsavory hobby—it’s his calling. When he rescues a drowning woman in the ocean, she’s more than what she appears. She promises to help him find the key to destroying all of sirenkind for good—But can he trust her? And just how many deals will Elian have to barter to eliminate mankind’s greatest enemy?


Title: To Kill a Kingdom
Author: Alexandra Christo
Genre: Fantasy/Young Adult
Publisher: Feiwel Friends
Source: Hardcover
Release Date: March 6th, 2018
Rating: ★★★★★

This book is The Little Mermaid, if The Little Mermaid was darker, grittier, nastier, and spent more time aboard a pirate ship than on land. In short, it’s actually nothing like The Little Mermaid. The basic premise is the same, but Alexandra Christo has taken a fluffy fairy tale and made it so much more. As much as I love the original story, I love this twisted version even more.

I adore Lira and Elian. The characters are all so well-developed, even the secondary characters. The witty banter between everyone is just so fun, and I couldn’t help but find all their little quirks endearing, from the arrogant Kye to the strong-minded Madrid to the quiet but fierce Torik. To Kill a Kingdom is split between the perspectives of Elian and Lira, and they both have their own distinct voices and unique personalities. They’re both arrogant, sharp-tongued, and ruthless, but underneath it all, they are caring and good-hearted. Lira especially goes through a huge transformation, from a murderous and cold-hearted siren princess to someone who cares and empathizes with humans.

“His face is roguish when I sneer up at him, nothing like the sweet and gentle princes I’ve taken before. The ones whose hearts are buried beneath my bed.”

The word-building in this book is very well done. You have the cruel and nasty world under the sea where kindness is seen as weakness and savagery is strength. Sirens steal the hearts of their victims and keep them as trophies, while mermaids and mermen are more fish than human and are just as cruel. Above ground, we see many different kingdoms and languages. There’s political intrigue, as everyone seems to scheme for their own benefit and use each other as means to an end.

I loved To Kill a Kingdom. It’s dark, twisted, and witty. There was romance, but it was secondary to the main story, and seeing the build-up and the character development was way more fun, anyway. As much as I would love to see more from these characters, I appreciate the fact that it’s a standalone because I thought the story wrapped up perfectly. I can’t wait to read more from this author!

“We continue on that way, swords arcing through the air, our breath ragged. Soon there’s sun in the distance, or perhaps even moonlight. Everything is muted and as Lira swoops her blade down on mine once more, I let it all fall away. My mission, my kingdom. The world. They exist somewhere other than in this moment, and now there is only this. Me, my ship, and a girl with oceans in her eyes.”

Top Ten Tuesday: Favorite Book Quotes

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*Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by That Artsy Reader Girl to bring bookish friends together. A new topic is posted each week.

This week’s topic is my favorite book quotes of all time.

  1. “To the stars who listen—and the dreams that are answered.” – Sarah J. Maas, A Court of Mist and Fury

  2. “I’d rather die on an adventure than live standing still.” – V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic

  3. “The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not.” – Erin Morgenstern, The Night Circus

  4. “If you never did, you should. These things are fun, and fun is good.” – Dr. Seuss, One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish

  5. “Every time you take one path, you must live with the memory of the other: of a life left unchosen. Decide as seems best, one course or the other; each way will have its bitter with its sweet.” – Katherine Arden, The Girl in the Tower

  6. “Until I feared I would lose it, I never loved to read. One does not love breathing.” – Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

  7. “You fought and fought to keep all the cruelty locked up in your head, and for what? None of them ever loved you, because none of them ever knew you.” – Rosamund Hodge, Cruel Beauty

  8. “There is a stubbornness about me that never can bear to be frightened at the will of others. My courage always rises at every attempt to intimidate me.” – Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice

  9. “Plenty of humans were monstrous, and plenty of monsters knew how to play at being human.” – Victoria Schwab, Vicious

  10. “I solemnly swear that I am up to no good.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban