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

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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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December 2019 TBR

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Hi Everyone!

I hope you’ve all been doing well and are having a fantastic start to the holiday season! We’re finally into the colder months (my favorites!) and I am so ready to snuggle up and read lots of amazing books. I’ve been on a mission to start catching up on some popular books/series that I’ve been meaning to get to for ages and haven’t yet. So far I’ve been doing pretty well and I’m hoping to keep up the momentum this month. I’ve also done a fantastic job staying on top of new releases so I’ll be trying to continue that as well.

I apologize for my posts being a bit sparse these last couple of months. I’ve been dealing with a lot health-wise and my energy level has taken a massive and unexpected hit. I’ve have been struggling a lot with getting my writing done and I’m incredibly sorry. I am toying with the idea of taking a short hiatus later this month just to heal and recover so I can start strong in the new year with blogging!

On a more positive note, I’ve been reading quite a lot and have some wonderful books I’ve been dying to review for you guys, so I will definitely have plenty coming as I begin to ease back into the swing of things. Thank you all so much for being so supportive and patient with me, it means the world. ❤

Now, onto the books I am hoping to get to this month!

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An Enchantment of Ravens by Margaret Rogerson

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw

Scythe by Neal Schusterman

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

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Air Awakens by Elise Kova

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

Stalking Jack the Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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The Cruel Prince by Holly Black

The Hearts We Sold by Emily Lloyd-Jones

The Beautiful by Renee Ahdieh

The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

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Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J. Maas

What are you guys planning on reading this month? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

houseofsaltandsorrowHouse of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 6th, 2019

Publisher: Delacorte

Pages: 416 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In a manor by the sea, twelve sisters are cursed.

Annaleigh lives a sheltered life at Highmoor, a manor by the sea, with her sisters, their father, and stepmother. Once they were twelve, but loneliness fills the grand halls now that four of the girls’ lives have been cut short. Each death was more tragic than the last—the plague, a plummeting fall, a drowning, a slippery plunge—and there are whispers throughout the surrounding villages that the family is cursed by the gods.

Disturbed by a series of ghostly visions, Annaleigh becomes increasingly suspicious that the deaths were no accidents. Her sisters have been sneaking out every night to attend glittering balls, dancing until dawn in silk gowns and shimmering slippers, and Annaleigh isn’t sure whether to try to stop them or to join their forbidden trysts. Because who—or what—are they really dancing with?

When Annaleigh’s involvement with a mysterious stranger who has secrets of his own intensifies, it’s a race to unravel the darkness that has fallen over her family—before it claims her next.

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

This is a spoiler-free review.

I completely and utterly fell head-over-heels in love with this book. This was one of my most anticipated releases of the year and it did not disappoint. It was absolutely everything I was hoping for and so much more. This might not be a completely perfect novel for everyone—or just in general, as literature is such an objective thing—but it was perfect for me. A dark retelling of the Twelve Dancing Princesses, this novel had everything I love; suspense, intrigue, suspicious deaths, ghosts, curses, dark magic, all told in a beautifully eerie and captivating way. I was hooked from page one.

In this novel, we are transported to a manor by the sea called Highmoor where we follow a girl named Annaleigh. She was once one of twelve sisters, but death befalls sister after sister, placing the Thaumus family into a constant state of mourning. This unbelievable string of bad luck has caused the residents of their town to begin whispering about the family being cursed by the gods and they keep away from the sisters in fear.

When Annaleigh starts to experience vivid, ghostly visions of her sisters, she comes to realize that the deaths that have been written off as tragic accidents may not be accidents at all. On top of this, her sisters have been running off to go dancing at lavish balls each night, returning at dawn with their shoes completely worn through. But where are her sisters going? And who are they dancing with? Annaleigh must work to discover what is plaguing her family before more harm can come to them.

This is a hauntingly beautiful tale of a family under attack by an unknown force and the lengths Annaleigh will go to in order to protect the ones she loves. It is fast-paced and absorbing and I could not put this book down—it captivated me more than any book has in a while and it was wonderful. I am a massive lover of dark retellings that are both unique as well as faithful to the original story, and Craig completely nails this.

There is so much mystery and creepiness on every page of this story—moments that will make your heart pound and keep you riveted to each word. It is a complex and carefully woven tale filled with intriguing mystery, dark and frightening ghostly visions, and unexpected twists that constantly had me on the edge of my seat. I became so wrapped up in this story and these characters and I never wanted it to end.

All of the characters in this novel are created extremely well. Annaleigh is a very strong lead character. She’s intelligent, tough, and will do absolutely anything to protect her family no matter how confusing or out of control things appear to be. She maintains her convictions about what is truly going on at Highmoor despite facing disbelief from others. I feel like I connected with her right away—she is portrayed very clearly and is multi-dimensional.

Annaleigh’s sisters are also beautifully portrayed. I love that they feel so thoroughly fleshed out and that they are so realistic and three-dimensional. Verity is my personal favorite! And the relationships between all of them are done to perfection. They are realistic and believable, making it easy to come to care for them and to be eager to see their troubles end. Each sister’s personality is so vividly depicted and I was so glad to see that they played such a big role in the plot. Annaleigh’s love for them is so strong and the driving force of the story and the love they all share for each other is unshakable.

I actually ended up really loving the romance in this novel. This is something that I say very rarely, but Craig created such a sweet and lovely relationship that melted my heart. I was a little wary early on as a love triangle is hinted at briefly. However, it never actually happens, which I was very thankful for. There is quite a bit of insta-love here, but that is something I don’t usually mind, especially when the romance is well-constructed. Craig does one of my favorite things when it comes to romances in fantasy novels which is truly keeping it a side plot. Never once does it overpower the main plot and Annaleigh maintains her focus on her family and taking care of them.

Though I would have liked to hear more about his storyline and background, I really like Cassius a lot. Cassius is very caring and he and Annaleigh go together really well—you can definitely feel a strong connection between them. I wish he had been in even more of the story. The moments between Annaleigh and Cassius are so sweet and pure that they are a fantastic contrast to the rest of the novel. The progression of their relationship creates small breaks of light happiness among the darkness and sadness in the main storyline and that worked out beautifully. And frankly, it was just plain romantic, adorable, and enjoyable!

Now we come to my favorite part of this novel—the writing. Craig’s writing is completely and utterly beautiful. Her style is so lyrical and enchanting, bringing out a strong fairytale feeling in the narrative. At the same time, her words are haunting and emotional, flawlessly bringing out the darkness of the tale. Loss, longing, love, and hope all run throughout each page. It is a style of writing that is incredibly enjoyable to get lost in for hours.

The world-building is absolutely fantastic. Craig carefully constructs a detailed and intricate setting. Seamlessly blending the tone of the narration into the environment, she creates a vivid and entrancing experience for her readers. The setting is described so thoroughly it is very easy to place yourself there and feel it come to life around you. The atmosphere is dark and eerie—to the point where it is almost tangible—and fits perfectly with the narrative itself. It is extremely clear that Craig put a huge amount of time and effort into absolutely every aspect of this narrative. Her descriptions are so clear and detailed throughout and the way she constructs the Thaumus family’s life, traditions, and backstory is magnificent.

The only minor issue I had was with parts of the ending. Things happen very quickly and I found myself slightly confused at times. Mainly, I wish there had been a little more explanation of the religious/mythological elements—they appear to come somewhat out of the blue. I wish that those aspects of the plot had been developed a bit more and had a bigger part in the story, mainly because I was so intrigued by them. However, the ending, particularly the moments involving the main villain, was properly freaky and intense and it fit the tone of the story perfectly. And that small bit of confusion did not detract at all from my enjoyment of it.

As I’m sure you can probably tell by now, this is one of the newest additions to my list of all-time favorite novels. I connected with this story completely—it was right up my alley. The suspense, the intrigue, the characters, the world, everything was perfect. Erin A. Craig’s writing is so enchanting and beautiful and I loved getting wrapped up in it. I absolutely cannot wait to read more from her in the future! I very highly recommend checking this novel out if you haven’t already.

5.0 TARDISes

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