Blog Tour Review: A Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

A Golden Fury_Blog Tour Banner

agoldenfuryA Golden Fury by Samantha Cohoe

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 13th, 2020

Publisher: Wednesday Books

Pages: 352 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Wednesday Books | Amazon

Synopsis: Set in eighteenth century England, Samantha Cohoe’s debut novel, A Golden Fury follows a young alchemist as she tries to save the people she loves from the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone. The streets of London and Oxford come to life as this historical fantasy unravels. Weaving together an alluring story of magic and danger, Samantha’s debut has her heroine making messy decisions as she toes the line between good and evil while it becomes blurred.

Thea Hope longs to be an alchemist out of the shadow of her famous mother. The two of them are close to creating the legendary Philosopher’s Stone—whose properties include immortality and can turn any metal into gold—but just when the promise of the Stone’s riches is in their grasp, Thea’s mother destroys the Stone in a sudden fit of violent madness.

While combing through her mother’s notes, Thea learns that there’s a curse on the Stone that causes anyone who tries to make it to lose their sanity. With the threat of the French Revolution looming, Thea is sent to Oxford for her safety, to live with the father who doesn’t know she exists.

But in Oxford, there are alchemists after the Stone who don’t believe Thea’s warning about the curse—instead, they’ll stop at nothing to steal Thea’s knowledge of how to create the Stone. But Thea can only run for so long, and soon she will have to choose: create the Stone and sacrifice her sanity, or let the people she loves die.

A Golden Fury and the curse of the Philosopher’s Stone will haunt you long after the final page.

*I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review*

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This is a spoiler-free review.

A Golden Fury is a novel that I have somewhat mixed feelings about. Though I overall enjoyed it quite a lot, my opinions on the specific, key components of any story are dramatically different from each other. This has caused me a bit of confusion when it comes to sorting out all my thoughts on it. However, it has also made me continue to think and examine the story at length, and that’s something I always enjoy. I’ll do my best to convey my thoughts about those components as clearly as I can. There is one thing that is completely clear to me though: I had an incredibly fun time reading this.

In this novel, we follow a young woman named Thea. The child of two well-respected alchemists, Thea was set down that same path by her mother from a very early age and has become a very skilled alchemist in her own right. She works under the iron fist of her mother, living life always in her shadow and under her control. Together, the pair have come within the final stages of achieving the dream of every alchemist—creating the Philosopher’s Stone, which is said to cure all sickness and turn any metal into gold.

However, things take a turn when Thea’s mother succumbs to a madness that has gradually taken over her during the process of creating the Stone, destroying it right before it’s finished. Thea flees to Oxford and, upon arriving on the doorstep of a father who knew nothing of her, is thrown into a world of scientific competition where she holds the information that many would kill to have. For a person with her knowledge of the Stone, there is nowhere truly safe to run to. And soon, she is faced with a dilemma—one that will cause the great loss of either those she loves or her own mind.

The plotline is my absolute favorite part of this novel—I really enjoyed it. I ended up finishing this book in only a couple of sittings because I was so engrossed in it. I found the narrative to be very fast-paced and filled with action. The breaks in it where the story slowed were still filled with plenty of interesting displays of knowledge, secrecy, and deception. In those moments, I continued to fly through the story—I always felt very eager to see what would happen next and how every plot point already in progress would play out.

My favorite aspects of it were the alchemical activities and psychological intrigue connected to the Stone. Cohoe’s depictions of the madness that consumes the alchemists that attempted to create the Stone were absolutely brilliant. Unusual sounds. The slight oddities at the corner of the eye. The colored clouds of smoke, only visible to the afflicted alchemist. The looming shadows that appear human but aren’t quite. The rapid spiraling into the dark pit at the heart of the madness. It was all so captivating.

The only hang-up I had was with the ending. It felt like things were solved very abruptly, and each loose thread was either too perfectly wrapped up or too severely lacked an explanation. Mainly, I was disappointed by some missing details about the Stone that I thought really needed to be filled in. The effectiveness of the conclusion of the novel suffered due to that absence of information—without that crucial explanation, it made the events come across as just a means to get to the ending. That being said, up until those last few chapters, the story remained very solid.

On the completely opposite side of the scale, we have the characters. I have to be honest, I really struggled with the characters here, only liking maybe two at most. Dominic was the only character I loved all the way through the novel. I went back and forth with Thea—she irritated me frequently, but I appreciated her strength and intelligence. She made some reckless decisions and blindly placed far too much trust. And while, from the perspective of the reader, the red flags are all over, that behavior completely fits a person in their mid-to-late teens. Stopping and looking back at myself ten or so years ago, those are very relatable behaviors.

The other characters fell very flat for me. They needed to be fleshed out a bit more—needed some more dimension and development. I found Valentin very interesting and wished there had been more to his personal story as well as his involvement in the main plotline. Overall, there was so much bitterness, resentment, and hostility between everyone and, while it proved to be understandable in some situations, it overwhelmed the plot in many others. A couple of side characters displayed a change in their attitude toward Thea and each other, but I would have loved to see it be more widespread and dynamic in nature.

The writing is where my thoughts and feelings even out. I liked Cohoe’s writing and felt that it was fairly easy to get caught up in. The novel would have benefitted from a little more worldbuilding—what is there is well-done and vividly set the tone and atmosphere, as well as the backdrop for the events of the plot. Cohoe has a strong voice and a nice, natural flow to her words. She balanced the pacing of the narrative well throughout most of it, the very ending being the only part where things felt rushed.

As you can probably tell, my opinion is all over the map when it comes to this story, but I want to stress again how much I enjoyed reading it. It is a truly engaging read in more ways than one, and I not only loved it for its captivating plot but also the way that it has left me examining it and thinking about it long after finishing. I got wholly lost in both the fast-paced action and the slower moments of intrigue—and, at times, delightful eeriness—encompassed in this narrative. A Golden Fury is a very solid debut from a promising new author, and it is a book that I would definitely recommend giving a go.

3.5 TARDISes

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About the Author

Samantha Cohoe writes historically-inspired young adult fantasy. She was raised in San Luis Obispo, California, where she enjoyed an idyllic childhood of beach trips, omnivorous reading, and writing stories brimming with adverbs. She currently lives in Denver with her family and divides her time among teaching Latin, mothering, writing, reading, and deleting adverbs. A Golden Fury is her debut novel.

Check out Samantha on:

Twitter | Instagram

Check out Wednesday Books on:

Twitter | Instagram

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*A Nerd Daily YA Debut to Watch Out for in 2020*

“Sharply written with a crackling, compassionately determined heroine, A Golden Fury is a vivid ride through eighteenth century Europe with darkness and dread creeping at its corners. Utterly enchanting.” – Emily A. Duncan, New York Times bestselling author of Wicked Saints

“An engaging concoction of fantasy, romance, and historical fiction.” Booklist

“Cohoe situates the supernatural among the historical, referencing the French Revolution and the Enlightenment while…keeping a sense of urgency as Thea struggles with the magical, demonic pull of the Stone.” Bulletin of the Center for Children’s Books

“The attention to detail in the story is excellent.   Thea herself is a confident lead with a strong voice. A solid fantasy to flesh out the world of alchemy that most readers know only from ‘Harry Potter.'” School Library Journal 

“Cohoe transmutes the legend of the Philosopher’s Stone into a dark, intoxicating tale of ambition, obsession, and sacrifice. Prepare for a magic that will consume you.” – Rosamund Hodge, New York Times bestselling author of Cruel Beauty and Bright Smoke, Cold Fire

“Steeped in mystery and magic, Samantha Cohoe’s A Golden Fury immerses readers in beautifully rendered world where magic and science mix, and where the intoxication of power can be deadly. Whip-smart Thea is a heroine readers will root for.” – Lisa Maxwell, New York Times bestselling author of The Last Magician

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Blog Tour and Giveaway: Dread the Harvest Moon by Sarah Glenn Marsh

Today’s post is for the Dread the Harvest Moon blog tour! If you’ve been around my blog for a while you’ll definitely be familiar with the incredibly talented author, Sarah Glenn Marsh. I participated in both of the blog tours for her other YA duology (Reign of the Fallen and Song of the Dead) and Sarah was also kind enough to join us here for an interview back then as well! (Fun side note: I also got to meet her in person at a book launch a couple of years ago and she is the loveliest person!)

I’m so thrilled to be part of the blog tour for Sarah’s upcoming release! Dread the Harvest Moon is a companion novel to her debut YA book, Fear the Drowning Deep, which I read in preparation for this and really enjoyed. Sarah’s writing is beautiful, and the world and characters are so enchanting. It’s a novel that’s so fun to get lost in. Both books can be read as standalone novels, so you can hop into this series wherever you want!

And for this post, to share a bit of how wonderful this series is and to get you guys excited for the upcoming release, I’ve created aesthetic boards for some of the major characters from Fear the Drowning Deep! I’ll talk a bit about why I chose the pictures I did as we go along. And make sure you check out the giveaway that is happening for copies of both Dread the Harvest Moon and Fear the Drowning Deep! I have the links for that and all the info on the novel further down this post.

Bridey

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Bridey is the main character in Fear the Drowning Deep. Bridey’s favorite place to spend time is in the woods—she much prefers to wander through them and be far away from the sea. The cliffs pictured here (which are the Cliffs of Moher in Ireland) are representing the cliffs that Port Coire sits on above the dangerous, rocky parts of the sea . They play a huge part in her life and her fear of the water.

The girl in the water reminded me of the cover. And both that picture and the one of the girl walking along the beach made me think of Bridey’s journey learning to not be as scared as she is of the sea. The violin is meant to represent the mysterious fiddle music that Bridey hears—not knowing where it’s coming from—at various points in the novel. And finally, I absolutely had to depict her interest in books and reading. I always love a character who is also a book nerd like myself!

Fynn

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Fynn enters the novel when Bridey finds him injured and washed up on the shore. He has curly dark hair, though it is a bit longer than the above picture shows (it’s probably an example of my incompetence when it comes to picture-finding, but I had the hardest time finding something that fit him hair-wise!).

I picked pictures to show both him swimming in the water as well as the eerie atmosphere that the sea creates throughout the whole novel. I chose the fin for…well, that’s probably pretty obvious! I will say though, it also represents the frightening dark fin that Bridey begins seeing in the sea by her town. And the final picture represents Fynn and Bridey’s relationship and deep connection.

Liss

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Liss is Bridey’s second youngest sister and is also the main character we follow in Dread the Harvest Moon. For this board, I went more for the feeling Liss created in me as I was reading about her. She felt like autumn to me. She always has her hair in very neat braids. I could easily picture her in that long, gorgeous dress wandering through those woods. Like a rose, she has her thorns—she can be a bit prickly on the outside—but the more you get to know her, the more you see just how loving and beautiful a person she is.

Grayse

ftddgrayse

Grayse is Bridey’s youngest sister. I felt that these images perfectly encompassed who Grayse is and the important aspects of her life. Her three sister are very dear to her and, while they are all close, she is the force that glues them together even more securely. She is a girl who is growing and maturing—starting to discover more of the world—but who is still able to lose herself in her imagination (and host tea parties for her dolls!). For me, the tulip is the flower that I associated with her.

Morag

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Morag is the town “witch” who Bridey goes to work for. Morag lives in a small, rundown cottage deep in the woods on a hill overlooking the town. I chose the picture of the spices and herbs since she sends Bridey to collect things such as herbs and plants (and occasionally sea creatures) for her to use. And Morag’s main facial feature that really stands out to Bridey is her bright blue-green eyes.

Cat

ftddcat

Cat is one of Bridey’s best friends. The picture of the two older girls felt to me like a good representation of that friendship. She has long, curly dark hair, which I tried to capture as best I could for this board. She also has a very beloved little sister that she is very close to. Cat feels like sunshine and happiness, so the flower that came to mind for me was a yellow daisy.

Lugh

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Lugh is Bridey’s other best friend. Much like I felt about Liss, he also gave me autumnal vibes. He has short ginger hair and, in my mind, I imagined him in a suspender outfit like the one in the picture above (minus the bow tie maybe!). Finally, I chose a lion because of the type of person he is. He is brave, protective, and very loyal to those he loves. A lion is what I always associate with those qualities.

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DREAD THE HARVEST MOON

A companion novel to Fear the Drowning Deep, an NPR Great Read of 2016.

dreadtheharvestmoonDread the Harvest Moon by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publisher: Ivy Press
Release Date: October 13, 2020
Format: Paperback and Ebook

ISBN-13 : 9780578751238
Page Count: 354

Three tasks. Two worlds. One deadly queen.

 Always follow the rules.

That’s what seventeen-year-old barmaid Liss Corkill does. She’s never cursed or kissed a boy, and until two years ago, when a mythical serpent kidnapped her, she was never late to anything. She knows that if she were like her free-spirited older sister Bridey who sailed to America just before the Great War, her mother would be devastated. Liss is determined to be what everyone expects, even if that means giving up her dreams.

Unless the faeries make you break them.

When Liss accidentally interferes in a fairy queen’s quest for true love, she’s pulled into the vast and dangerous world of Un-Mann, a magical realm as old as the Isle of Man itself. As punishment for her mistake, Liss must complete three tasks for the queen by the night of the Great Harvest Moonlight, the fairies’ biggest yearly celebration.

Or you find something worth dying for.

Liss’s attempts to complete her tasks are met with constant misfortune, as if someone doesn’t want her to win. But she has powerful friends: the town witch, Morag, and her sister’s best friend, Cat, who she’s secretly falling for as they hunt sea monsters by night to protect their home. Sensing a need for inspiration as the final gruesome task draws near, the queen marks Liss’s little sister for death unless Liss succeeds.

Her sister. Her town. Her dreams. If she can’t own who she is and make some new rules, Liss will lose it all.

Preorder Link: Dread the Harvest Moon

Preorder Goodies Form Link

Goodies you can get:
Signed Bookplate
Bookmark
4×6 art print
Short story taking place between the two books (emailed to you)

CLICK HERE to enter the giveaway!

Giveaway Details:

1 Winner in the USA will receive a signed copies of FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP and DREAD THE HARVEST MOON.

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ABOUT SARAH GLENN MARSH

sarahmarshSarah Glenn Marsh is an author of young adult novels including the Reign of the Fallen series and Fear the Drowning Deep, as well as children’s picture books like A Campfire Tail, Ninita’s Big World (an Amazon Best Book of 2019), Alice Across America, and many more. An avid fantasy reader from the day her dad handed her a copy of The Hobbit and promised it would change her life, she’s been making up words and worlds ever since. She lives in Virginia with her husband and their tiny zoo of four rescued sighthounds, two birds, and many fish.

When she’s not writing, she’s often found in the pottery studio, volunteering her time to sighthound rescue, raising awareness about Type 1 diabetes, or engaged in nerdy pursuits from video games to tabletop adventures. You can visit her online at www.sarahglennmarsh.com, and follow her on Twitter @SG_Marsh.

For more information about Sarah Glenn Marsh:

Website | Instagram | Twitter | Goodreads

If you’d like to check out my interview with Sarah from a few years ago, click here!

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PRAISE FOR FEAR THE DROWNING DEEP

fearthedrowningdeepFear the Drowning Deep by Sarah Glenn Marsh
Publisher: Sky Pony
Release Date: October 11, 2016
Format: Hardcover, Paperback, and Ebook
ISBN-13: 9781510703483
Page Count: 312

“Haunting—gripping—beautiful. So powerful!” —Tamora Pierce, #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Beka Cooper trilogy

Fear the Drowning Deep is gorgeous. Lyrical. Atmospheric. Magical. Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut is perfect for anyone who’s ever looked out at the sea with awe, and wondered what kind of creatures lurk in the deepest places. Utterly haunting.” —Jodi Meadows, author of the Incarnate trilogy, the Orphan Queen duology, and My Lady Jane

“Beautifully-written with mysteries and love lurking within the pages as dangerously as an ancient evil waits in the drowning deeps of Sarah’s unique setting on the Isle of Man. Don’t miss this one!” —Martina Boone, author of Compulsion and the Heirs of Watson Island trilogy

“Readers will be swept away by Bridey’s love story, every bit as thrilling and mysterious as the Isle of Man’s deep, dark sea.” —Tricia Rayburn, author of the Siren trilogy

“Sarah Glenn Marsh’s debut is a captivating tale of love and loss, fear and doubt, monsters of the sea and inside ourselves, and the strength it takes to endure and conquer them all. Hauntingly written with a richly developed setting of the Isle of Man in the early 1900s, you can smell the salt of the sea with every page you hungrily turn.” —Lori Goldstein, author of Becoming Jinn and Circle of Jinn

“Fans of folklore-influenced YA will find this to be a satisfying use of familiar material.” NPR

“[A]tmospheric historical fantasy . . . evocative setting, memorable characters, and use of obscure folkloric elements all contribute to the novel’s strong sense of place.” Publishers Weekly

“[T]his watery take on “Beauty and the Beast” will be catnip to paranormal-romance readers.” —Kirkus Reviews

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SARAH’S OTHER YA WORK

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Check out my full review here!

song of the dead cover

Check out my full review here!

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SARAH’S PICTURE BOOKS

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Blog Tour Schedule:
 
October 5th: The Clockwork Bibliophile
October 6th: It Starts at Midnight
October 7th: The Quirky Book Nerd
October 8th: Ashleigh’s Bookshelf
October 9th: Book Crushin’ & Booknerd Becky

 

October 12th: Chasing Faerytales
October 13th: Lace and Dagger Books
October 14th: Flyleaf Chronicles
October 15th: Sometimes Leelyn Reads
October 16th: YA Book Central 

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Mid-Year Book Freakout Tag 2020

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I’m running a little bit late with this tag but I absolutely had to do it! I’ve been having such a fantastic reading year and, while I’ve been in a bit of a slump lately, I’ve read so many wonderful books already. And for once I’m surprisingly still pretty on track for hitting my goal for the year! So here’s a little round up of the first half of 2020!

Best book you’ve read so far in 2020

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Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

Best sequel you’ve read so far in 2020

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Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire

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

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The Princess Will Save You by Sarah Henning
The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu
Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust
The Fell of Dark by Caleb Roehrig

Most anticipated release for the second half of the year

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The Castle of Tangled Magic by Sophie Anderson
The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue by V.E. Schwab
Among the Beasts & Briars by Ashley Poston

Biggest disappointment

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Ruin and Rising by Leigh Bardugo

Biggest surprise

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Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin (full review)

Favorite new author (Debut or new to you)

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Laini Taylor

Newest fictional crush

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Lou le Blanc – Serpent & Dove

Newest favorite character

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Nina Zenik – Six of Crows

Book that made you cry

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House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Book that made you happy

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Frostheart by Jamie Littler

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

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The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (Illumicrate Edition)

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

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Godsgrave by Jay Kristoff
Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor
Across the Green Grass Fields by Seanan McGuire (ARC)
Down Comes the Night by Alison Saft (ARC)

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Red Rising by Pierce Brown
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune
Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibanez
Skyward by Brandon Sanderson

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Review: Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

serpentanddoveSerpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

My Rating: 4.25/5 TARDISes

Series: Serpent & Dove #1

Date Published: September 3rd, 2019

Publisher: HarperTeen

Pages: 519 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Bound as one to love, honor, or burn.

Two years ago, Louise le Blanc fled her coven and took shelter in the city of Cesarine, forsaking all magic and living off whatever she could steal. There, witches like Lou are hunted. They are feared. And they are burned.

Sworn to the Church as a Chasseur, Reid Diggory has lived his life by one principle: thou shalt not suffer a witch to live. His path was never meant to cross with Lou’s, but a wicked stunt forces them into an impossible union—holy matrimony.

The war between witches and Church is an ancient one, and Lou’s most dangerous enemies bring a fate worse than fire. Unable to ignore her growing feelings, yet powerless to change what she is, a choice must be made.

And love makes fools of us all.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I feel like I can’t even begin to describe just how pleasantly surprised I was by this novel. I am not a big fan of romance-heavy stories and one of my least favorite tropes of all time is hate-to-love relationships—so basically the two things the entire plot hinges on. Needless to say, I went into this very hesitantly. Very intrigued to learn how Lou and Reid end up in the position they do and to experience this story everyone has been raving about, but also keeping my expectations as low as I could. I did not for a second expect to come out of it knowing it will, without a doubt, be on my list of favorite books of the year. This is one of those books that I believe truly lives up to all the hype surrounding it.

Serpent & Dove is a dual perspective narrative following Lou le Blanc, a witch, and Reid Diggory, a Chasseur, or witch-hunter. Lou has escaped from her coven and has taken refuge in the city of Cesarine. She lives in hiding. giving up magic and surviving as a thief.  In Cesarine, witches are seen as a danger to all of society—they are hunted and burned, and no woman is above suspicion.

Reid is sworn to the church and charged with the hunting and capture of witches, sworn into a role that demands he will not let a single witch live. In a surprising turn of events, Lou’s and Reid’s paths cross in a way neither of them could have ever expected. A way that leads to their marriage, that forms a seemingly impossible love, and that brings Lou under the roof of the people who could be her source of protection—or her death.

The writing in this book is absolutely superb and cements Shelby Mahurin on my list of favorite authors. Her writing is gorgeous and so easy to fall into. It is incredibly clear how meticulously she formed every aspect of this novel. Both the plot and the setting are incredibly intriguing and captivating. I loved the French influences in all aspects of the story—it makes for a very vivid and enticing atmosphere and Cesarine is the perfect backdrop for everything that takes place. She also does a wonderful job with the dual perspective narrative and creates two very individual voices for our two main characters.

Even though the romance is the main focus of the story, the fantasy aspect is very strong as well and is of almost equal importance. The fantastical elements, though more of a side plot for now, don’t really take a backseat in terms of detail or how significant they are to the overall story. Mahurin crafts an interesting and intricate magic system as strongly as she crafts the romance. It’s something I’m particularly looking forward to seeing in more detail in the next book.

The only minor issue I had plot-wise was the event that sends Lou and Reid down the path toward their marriage. Though my opinion shifted by the end of the novel, as I was able to see every event throughout in a different light, the scene still felt a little bit clumsy and heavy-handed and also completely random, maybe a little too much so. It wasn’t at all what I would have expected and was a bit of a letdown for me, so I sort of wish it had been done differently. But overall, this barely affected my enjoyment of the story as a whole.

This novel holds one of the most brilliant and beautiful casts of characters I’ve ever come across. Lou is everything. She is one of my new favorite characters of all time—I fell completely and utterly in love with her right from the very start of the novel. She is so strong despite the pain she has been through and the terror and uncertainty of her life now. Lou is sassy and sarcastic and absolutely hilarious. She’s tough and guarded much of the time, but underneath, she is so intensely loving, caring, and loyal—just an absolutely beautiful person. I connected with her so easily, and it was an absolute joy reading from her perspective and following her journey.

It took me a while to warm up to Reid, but I definitely had by the end of the novel. He’s quite set in his ways and his prejudices against women, always acting in a very traditional way toward Lou. They are living in a time when women are little more than the property of their husbands and this is something that is clearly ingrained in Reid. He is protective of her and chivalrous to a fault, but it takes a while from him to sound anywhere near loving, even after it’s clear he has feelings for her. At first, I struggled a bit reading his chapters because his attitude and initial inability to be open-minded frustrated me so much. However, there is one major reason I noticed that I think prevented me from connecting with him sooner.

Yes, he is very close-minded in many of his beliefs and his actions, but I felt that there were a few times where things sort of got lost in translation in a sense. There would be scenes from his point of view where his actions and words felt a bit confusing to me and I took them as negative. But later on, something would cause me to realize what exactly he meant by what he said or did and that it wasn’t in fact negative. I don’t think I explained that particularly well, but basically, I think there were times where his point of view could have been written more clearly. In the end, though, I did end up really liking him and it does become very obvious how much he truly cares and would do anything for Lou.

I ended up absolutely adoring the relationship between Lou and Reid. It unfolds and transforms in such a natural way. As I said before, hate-to-love is one of my least favorite tropes, but it is done so well here that I didn’t really mind it. It’s still not something I enjoy reading about and that obviously does impact my rating of the novel slightly. However, few people can get me to like a novel that features this type of relationship, and Mahurin definitely nailed it. My problem with the trope tends to stem from the tension being completely nonsensical and feeling like it’s just thrown in to create drama, and you will not find that in this book.

The tensions between Lou and Reid feel so realistic and necessary—they have every reason to be wary of each other. Understandably, that they sometimes overlook what they truly know about the other as a person in favor of ideas and prejudices that were hammered into them from a young age. They are both strong characters that are unapologetically themselves and, while it causes them to butt heads at first, it turns into a mutual respect for each other and, of course, love as well. The issues that create conflict, in the beginning, are what come to be the things that pull them together rather than drive them apart. And the sum of both of them individually—the strengths and the flaws—is what brings them each to love the other wholly.

There are also some stellar side characters in this story. Coco was, by far, my favorite—she is totally someone I’d love to be friends with. The friendship between her and Lou is so lovely and I’d gladly spend hours just reading about them. They have such a fun dynamic and they always have each other’s backs no matter what. They are the definition of found family and their story warmed my heart. Ansel, a bit like Reid, took me a while to start really liking, but he turns out to be an absolutely wonderful person and a great addition to that lovable found family.

Now for one of the most surprising things I’ve probably ever said and also one of the biggest contradictions when it comes to my typical taste in stories. As I’ve already said, I’m generally not a fan of books that heavily focus on romance. However, this book was so well written that one of my absolute favorite scenes in the entire story was the scene where Lou and Reid make love for the first time, as well as the truly heartwarming lead-up to it.

I am beyond picky about how sex scenes are written in novels. So many fall into the trap of using overly descriptive and flowery prose and a lot of just plain weird words for everything. While I think that being extremely blunt and cold about it is not a good direction to go in either, the flowery descriptions and oversharing of details tend to make these scenes feel very awkward and unrealistic.

The sex scene in this book does not fall into either of these traps and I absolutely adored it. It just feels so realistic and natural, and that is exactly what I frequently find is missing from these types of scenes. Mahurin continues to write as beautifully as ever but is, I felt, fairly minimal on the exact details of the scene. And this is exactly why it works so well.

While yes, there is still detail, she relies more often on the reader’s knowledge of what takes place during a sexual encounter, which cuts out the need for the overly flowery prose and questionable word choices. In a number of places, she writes it in a “fade to black” way without actually fading to black. Mahurin has created a perfect example of how a sex scene should be written and how it should feel to the reader. The focus is on the passion and love between Lou and Reid—on not just physical feeling, but emotional and mental as well. It is so beautiful and natural and is, by far, one of the best-executed scenes I’ve ever come across.

Suffice it to say, I really enjoyed this book. It is so beautifully written and captivating—it is very easy to fall into and get lost in. Shelby Mahurin has created a magical and emotional tale, both heartbreaking and heartwarming that, at its core, brilliantly demonstrates the power of love of all kinds. The story and especially the characters will definitely stick with me for a long time. I’ve honestly been thinking about it constantly since I finished it a few months ago. And, of course, I am absolutely dying to get my hands on the next book in this series. I love how this ended and I cannot wait to be back with these characters once again and see their story continue.

4.25stars

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Releases of Spring 2020

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Hey everyone!

Despite the fact that we are leaving my favorite season behind, I’m still excited to be heading into Spring. There are so many great books coming out over the next few months that I’m really looking forward to! I’ve not only been doing a ton of reading this year already, but I’ve also really be keeping up with new releases/new purchases as well, so I’m hoping to get to a lot of these read pretty soon after they come out! Anyway, enough of the rambles. Here are just a few of the books that I am most excited to get my hands on this season!

Looking Glass by Christina Henry (April 21st, 2020)

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In four new novellas, Christina Henry returns to the universe she created for Alice and Red Queen, where magic runs more freely than anyone suspects, but so do secrets and blood.
Lovely Creature
In the New City lives a girl called Elizabeth, a girl who has a secret: she can do magic. But someone knows Elizabeth’s secret–someone who has a secret of his own. That secret is a butterfly that lives in a jar, a butterfly made by a girl called Alice.
Girl in Amber
Alice and Hatcher are just looking for a place to rest. Alice has been dreaming of a cottage by a lake and a field of wildflowers, but while walking blind in a snowstorm they stumble into a castle that seems empty and abandoned…at least until nightfall.
When I First Came to Town
Hatcher wasn’t always Hatcher. Once, he was a boy called Nicholas, and Nicholas fancied himself the best fighter in the Old City. No matter who fought him he always won. Then his boss tells him he’s going to battle the fearsome Grinder, a man who never leaves his opponents alive.
The Mercy Seat
Alice has a secret–a secret that not even Hatcher knows yet, but pretty soon she won’t be able to keep it from him.

Queen of Coin and Whispers by Helen Corcoran (April 23rd, 2020)

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When idealistic teenage queen Lia inherits her corrupt uncle’s bankrupt kingdom, she brings a new spymaster into the fold… Xania, who takes the job to avenge her murdered father.
As the two grow closer, they’re quick to learn that all isn’t fair in love and treason.
They must decide not only what to sacrifice for duty, but also for each other…

Forged in Fire and Stars by Andrea Robertson (May 5th, 2020)

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Ara has always known about the legend of the Loresmith: the blacksmith who served alongside the kings and queens of every generation to protect the kingdom. It was her fate to inherit the title–though she never truly believed it would come to pass since the monarchy’s downfall years before.
But when the lost Princess Nimhea and Prince Eamon steal Ara from her quiet life with a mission to retake the throne–and take her place as the Loresmith–her whole world turns upside down. Their journey will take Ara on a dangerous adventure to discover new truths about her family’s legacy, and even to face the gods themselves. And with a mysterious thief as an unexpected companion, Ara must use all her skills to figure out just who she can trust, and forge the right path forward–for herself, her kingdom, and her heart.

Dangerous Remedy by Kat Dunn (May 5th, 2020)

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Camille, a revolutionary’s daughter, leads a band of outcasts – a runaway girl, a deserter, an aristocrat in hiding. As the Battalion des Mortes they cheat death, saving those about to meet a bloody end at the blade of Madame La Guillotine. But their latest rescue is not what she seems. The girl’s no aristocrat, but her dark and disturbing powers means both the Royalists and the Revolutionaries want her. But who and what is she?
In these dangerous days, no one can be trusted, everyone is to be feared. As Camille learns the truth, she’s forced to choose between loyalty to those she loves and the future.

Girl, Serpent, Thorn by Melissa Bashardoust (May 12th, 2020)

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There was and there was not, as all stories begin, a princess cursed to be poisonous to the touch. But for Soraya, who has lived her life hidden away, apart from her family, safe only in her gardens, it’s not just a story.
As the day of her twin brother’s wedding approaches, Soraya must decide if she’s willing to step outside of the shadows for the first time. Below in the dungeon is a demon who holds knowledge that she craves, the answer to her freedom. And above is a young man who isn’t afraid of her, whose eyes linger not with fear, but with an understanding of who she is beneath the poison.
Soraya thought she knew her place in the world, but when her choices lead to consequences she never imagined, she begins to question who she is and who she is becoming…human or demon. Princess or monster.

The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes by Suzanne Collins (May 19th, 2020)

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It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the 10th annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, 18-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to out charm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.
The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined – every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute… and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

Burn by Patrick Ness (June 2nd, 2020)

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Sarah Dewhurst and her father, outcasts in their little town of Frome, Washington, are forced to hire a dragon to work their farm, something only the poorest of the poor ever have to resort to.
The dragon, Kazimir, has more to him than meets the eye, though. Sarah can’t help but be curious about him, an animal who supposedly doesn’t have a soul, but who is seemingly intent on keeping her safe.
Because the dragon knows something she doesn’t. He has arrived at the farm with a prophecy on his mind. A prophecy that involves a deadly assassin, a cult of dragon worshippers, two FBI agents in hot pursuit—and somehow, Sarah Dewhurst herself.

The Court of Miracles by Kester Grant (June 2nd, 2020)

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In the violent urban jungle of an alternate 1828 Paris, the French Revolution has failed and the city is divided between merciless royalty and nine underworld criminal guilds, known as the Court of Miracles. Eponine (Nina) Thénardier is a talented cat burglar and member of the Thieves Guild. Nina’s life is midnight robberies, avoiding her father’s fists, and watching over her naïve adopted sister, Cosette (Ettie). When Ettie attracts the eye of the Tiger–the ruthless lord of the Guild of Flesh–Nina is caught in a desperate race to keep the younger girl safe. Her vow takes her from the city’s dark underbelly to the glittering court of Louis XVII. And it also forces Nina to make a terrible choice–protect Ettie and set off a brutal war between the guilds, or forever lose her sister to the Tiger.

Hood by Jenny Elder Moke (June 9th, 2020)

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Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.
As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?

The Circus Rose by Betsy Cornwell (June 16th, 2020)

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Twins Rosie and Ivory have grown up at their ringmaster mother’s knee, and after years on the road, they’re returning to Port End, the closest place to home they know. Yet something has changed in the bustling city: fundamentalist flyers paper the walls and preachers fill the squares, warning of shadows falling over the land. The circus prepares a triumphant homecoming show, full of lights and spectacle that could chase away even the darkest shadow. But during Rosie’s tightrope act, disaster strikes.
In this lush, sensuous novel interwoven with themes of social justice and found family, it’s up to Ivory and her magician love—with the help of a dancing bear—to track down an evil priest and save their circus family before it’s too late.

What new releases are you guys looking forward to these next few months? Let me know in the comments!

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O.W.L.s Magical Readathon 2020 TBR

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Hey everyone!

I’m so incredibly excited that it’s O.W.L.s time again! This readathon was created by the incredible G over at Book Roast. For this readathon, you need to choose a profession, then complete the O.W.L.s prompts for the required subjects you will need to pass before taking your N.E.W.T.s. There are so many amazing careers to choose from and I actually ended up going with two because I couldn’t decide!

Profession(s):

Curse Breaker
Trader of Magical Tomes

Exams Required:

Ancient Runes
Arithmancy
Charms
Defense Against the Dark Arts
History of Magic

Potions
Transfiguration

Ancient Runes – Heart Rune: heart on the cover or in the title

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Cogheart by Peter Bunzl

Arithmancy – Magical qualities of the number “2”: balance/opposites – read something outside your favorite genre (which is Fantasy)

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Dark Places by Gillian Flynn

Charms – Lumos Maxima: white cover

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Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw (Owlcrate Edition)

Defense Against the Dark Arts – Grindylows: book set at the sea/coast

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All the Stars and Teeth by Adalyn Grace

History of Magic – Witch Hunts: book featuring witches/wizards

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Strange Grace by Tessa Gratton

Potions – Shrinking Solution: book under 150 pages

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The Sea Was a Fair Master by Calvin Demmer

Transfiguration – Animagus Lecture: book/series that includes shapeshifting

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House of Earth and Blood by Sarah J. Maas

Back up:

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Ember and the Ice Dragons by Heather Fawcett

Not Needed—Extra Credit!

Astronomy – Night Classes: read the majority of this book when it’s dark outside

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The Kingdom of Back by Marie Lu

Care of Magical Creatures – Hippogriffs: creature with a beak on the cover

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Woven in Moonlight by Isabel Ibañez

Divination – Third Eye: assign numbers to your TBR and use a random number generator to pick your read

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Scavenge the Stars by Tara Sim

Herbology – Mimbulus Mimbletonia: title that starts with an “M”

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Muse of Nightmares by Laini Taylor

Muggle Studies – Book from a perspective of a muggle (contemporary)

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Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston

Let me know if you are participating in the readathon too!

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I’m still alive!

Hey guys!

I’m so sorry I’ve been MIA lately! I’ve been dealing with some health stuff and have been finding it difficult to sit down and focus enough to put my reviews together. But I wanted to pop in and let you guys know what’s been going on. I have been reading quite a lot though, so I have a bunch of books waiting to be reviewed and so much I need to talk about! I’ll still be on a little bit of a hiatus for now, but I’m hoping to start getting those done very soon and get back to blogging! 😀

-Ariana

Polarthon 2020 TBR

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There’s a readathon coming up this week that sounds awesome: the Polarthon! This was created by Jade from jadeyraereads. Because of her, I’ve not only found a bunch of amazing books recently but I’ve also discovered the genre of polar fantasy. The Polarthon sounds absolutely perfect for getting started in this genre and I can’t wait to begin!

The way your TBR is created is by deciding what path to take on the map Jade has created. There are three options for prompts for the first four books and the journey ends with a polar fantasy. The readathon takes place from February 3rd to February 9th. Make sure to head over to Jade’s channel and check out her video announcement for the readathon!

Polarthon 2020 (2)

And here is the path I chose and what books I’m reading for each prompt!

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A Place Called Perfect by Helena Duggan

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Violet never wanted to move to Perfect.

Who wants to live in a town where everyone has to wear glasses to stop them going blind? And who wants to be neat and tidy and perfectly behaved all the time?

But Violet quickly discovers there’s something weird going on – she keeps hearing noises in the night, her mum is acting strange and her dad has disappeared.

When she meets Boy she realizes that her dad is not the only person to have been stolen away…and that the mysterious Watchers are guarding a perfectly creepy secret!

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North Child by Edith Pattou

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Rose is an unusual child, a North Child. For Rose was born facing north, and the old stories say she is destined to travel far from home on a dangerous journey. Making a pact with an enormous white bear, Rose travels on his back to a mysterious castle that holds a dark enchantment, a darker temptation, and the key to her true destiny…
A beautiful, epic story of destiny, magic and love, North Child will take you on an unforgettable adventure.

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The House with Chicken Legs by Sophie Anderson

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All 12-year-old Marinka wants is a friend. A real friend. Not like her house with chicken legs. Sure, the house can play games like tag and hide-and-seek, but Marinka longs for a human companion. Someone she can talk to and share secrets with.
But that’s tough when your grandmother is a Yaga, a guardian who guides the dead into the afterlife. It’s even harder when you live in a house that wanders all over the world . . . carrying you with it. Even worse, Marinka is being trained to be a Yaga. That means no school, no parties–and no playmates that stick around for more than a day.
So when Marinka stumbles across the chance to make a real friend, she breaks all the rules . . . with devastating consequences. Her beloved grandmother mysteriously disappears, and it’s up to Marinka to find her–even if it means making a dangerous journey to the afterlife.
With a mix of whimsy, humor, and adventure, this debut novel will wrap itself around your heart and never let go.

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The Polar Bear Explorers’ Club by Alex Bell

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It sounded like a respectable and worthy enough death for an explorer – tumbling from an ice bridge to be impaled upon a mammoth tusk – but Stella really, really didn’t want that to happen, just the same.

Join Stella Starflake Pearl and her three fellow explorers as they trek across the snowy Icelands and come face-to-face with frost fairies, snow queens, outlaw hideouts, unicorns, pygmy dinosaurs and carnivorous cabbages . . .

When Stella and three other junior explorers get separated from their expedition can they cross the frozen wilderness and live to tell the tale?

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Frostheart by Jamie Littler

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Way out in the furthest part of the known world, a tiny stronghold exists all on its own, cut off from the rest of human-kin by monsters that lurk beneath the Snow Sea.

There, a little boy called Ash waits for the return of his parents, singing a forbidden lullaby to remind him of them… and doing his best to avoid his very, VERY grumpy yeti guardian, Tobu.

But life is about to get a whole lot more crazy-adventurous for Ash.

When a brave rescue attempt reveals he has amazing magical powers, he’s whisked aboard the Frostheart, a sleigh packed full of daring explorers who could use his help. But can they help him find his family . . . ?

Are any of you guys participating in the Polarthon? Let me know what your TBR is or just what your general February TBR is!

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The Goodreads Book Tag

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I was tagged to do this (ages ago! Sorry!) by one of my wonderful blogger buddies, Heather from The Sassy Book Geek! Please make sure to head over there too see her answers to this tag and check out her site. She is an amazing blogger, one of my absolute favorites, and I think you will all love her too! 😀

What was the last book you marked as “read”?

Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor

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What was the last book you marked as TBR?

Play of Shadows by Sebastien de Castell

What book do you plan to read next?

Serpent & Dove by Shelby Mahurin

serpentanddove

Do you use the star rating system?

Yes, I go by half stars—actually TARDISes on here—(because I would go insane if I tried anything more specific!). Like many people, I am frustrated that Goodreads doesn’t allow half stars. It’s so hard to choose whether to round up or down for some books!

Are you doing the 2020 reading challenge?

Yes! I’m hoping to finally reach one hundred books this year—I’ve been trying for so long and I’m so determined to get there!

Do you have a wishlist?

I definitely do! I keep one on Amazon, one on Goodreads, one on Book Depository, and a physical list in my reading planner.

Which book do you plan on buying next?

The Girl Who Speaks Bear by Sophie Anderson

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Do you have any favorite quotes? Share a few.

Um…this is definitely more than “a few” because I’m indecisive…

When you have eliminated all which is impossible, then whatever remains, however improbable, must be the truth.” – Arthur Conan Doyle

I wanted you to see what real courage is, instead of getting the idea that courage is a man with a gun in his hand. It’s when you know you’re licked before you begin, but you begin anyway and see it through no matter what.” – Harper Lee

“It was always wise to be polite to books, whether or not they could hear you.” – Margaret Rogerson

“Dream up something wild and improbable. Something beautiful and full of monsters.” – Laini Taylor

“I’ve been doomed since the moment I watched you smack a fiend off my carriage with a crowbar.” – Margaret Rogerson

“I lived in books more than I lived anywhere else.” – Neil Gaiman

“Stars got tangled in her hair whenever she played in the sky.” – Laini Taylor

“I only turn girls into salamanders on Tuesdays. Luckily for you, it’s a Wednesday, which is the day I drink a goblet of orphan’s blood for supper.” – Margaret Rogerson

“That the battles are usually in her head does not lessen the bravery of it. The hardest ones always are.” – William Ritter

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view…until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” – Harper Lee

Who are your favorite authors?

My top five favorites are Arthur Conan Doyle, Harper Lee, Margaret Rogerson, Seanan McGuire, and Victoria Schwab.

Have you joined any groups?

I have joined a few but I’ll admit I don’t really interact with them much at all. The one I participate in the most frequently is Polls for Our Souls because I always love a good poll!

I tag:

You!

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Happy New Year!

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Happy New Year, everyone! I hope you and all your loved ones have had a wonderful time this holiday season! I’ve had a chance to spend a lot of quality time with my family and it definitely was a much needed boost to my mood. I sang my 19th(!!!) Christmas Eve service with my church choir (alongside my mom in the alto section, as always!) and spent the Christmas period binge watching house reno shows, MST3K, and crazy Lifetime movies with my parents and uncle. We also celebrated my pup’s second birthday and his second Christmas with us as well! ❤ (For anyone who’s been around here for a little while, you will not be surprised at the fact that I named him Atticus!)

Atticus

Atticus!

I also wanted to update you guys on the plans for my blog in 2020! Over the last few months my posts have been pretty sporadic. I’ve been dealing with health issues, both physical and mental, and I’ve been having a hard time getting up the energy to do much of anything. Things are still rough but I’m feeling like I can start getting back into things here. Plus I’ve read a lot lately, so I have plenty of reviews to write! I’m so sorry that I sort of disappear for a little. But I am slowly starting to ease myself back into things and I am hoping to send many more posts your way this year than I did last year! ❤

I’ve also been using my Bookstagram account a lot more lately, so here’s the link in case you’re interested in connecting on there! The Quirky Book Nerd

Let me know in the comments how your holidays went or just how you’re doing! 😀

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