July 2019 Book Haul

july2019bookhaul

Hi everyone!

I haven’t done a book haul in ages and I figured this would be a good time to do one! My birthday was last week and I went on a bit of a shopping spree at the bookstore that day. Then, as if that weren’t enough, I went back to the bookstore with my best friend just yesterday (I’ll blame her for that one!). So, over this last week, I have gathered quite a few books that I’m extremely excited to read!

The Bone Charmer by Breeana Shields

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In Saskia’s world, bones are the source of all power. They tell the future, reveal the past, and expose secrets in the present. Each village has a designated seer who performs readings for the townsfolk, and in Midwood, the Bone Charmer is Saskia’s mother.
On the day of her kenning—a special bone reading that determines the apprenticeships of all seventeen-year-olds—Saskia’s worst fears come true. She receives an assignment to train as a Bone Charmer, like her mother, and even worse, a match-making reading that pairs her with Bram—a boy who has suspicious tattoos that hint of violence.
Saskia knows her mother saw multiple paths for her, yet chose one she knew Saskia wouldn’t want. Their argument leads to a fracture in one of the bones. Broken bones are always bad luck, but this particular set of bones have been infused with extra magic, and so the break has devastating consequences—Saskia’s future has split as well. Now she will live her two potential paths simultaneously. Only one future can survive. And Saskia’s life is in danger in both.

Come Find Me by Megan Miranda

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After surviving an infamous family tragedy, sixteen-year-old Kennedy Jones has made it her mission to keep her brother’s search through the cosmos alive. But then something disturbs the frequency on his radio telescope–a pattern registering where no signal should transmit.
In a neighboring county, seventeen-year-old Nolan Chandler is determined to find out what really happened to his brother, who disappeared the day after Nolan had an eerie premonition. There hasn’t been a single lead for two years, until Nolan picks up an odd signal–a pattern coming from his brother’s bedroom.
Drawn together by these strange signals–and their family tragedies–Kennedy and Nolan search for the origin of the mysterious frequency. But the more they uncover, the more they believe that everything’s connected–even their pasts–as it appears the signal is meant for them alone, sharing a message that only they can understand. Is something coming for them? Or is the frequency warning them about something that’s already here?

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

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The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.

The Haunted by Danielle Vega

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From Danielle Vega, YA’s answer to Stephen King, comes a new paranormal novel about dark family secrets, deep-seated vengeance, and the horrifying truth that evil often lurks in the unlikeliest of places.
Hendricks Becker-O’Malley is new in town, and she’s bringing baggage with her. With a dark and wild past, Hendricks doesn’t think the small town her parents moved her to has much to offer her in terms of excitement. She plans on laying low, but when she’s suddenly welcomed into the popular crowd at school, things don’t go as expected.
Hendricks learns from her new friends that the fixer-upper her parents are so excited about is notorious in town. Local legend says it’s haunted. Hendricks doesn’t believe it. Until she’s forced to. Blood-curdling screams erupt from the basement, her little brother wakes up covered in scratches, and something, or someone pushes her dad down the stairs. With help from the mysterious boy next door, Hendricks makes it her mission to take down the ghosts . . . if they don’t take her first.

Last Tango in Cyberspace by Steven Kotler

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Hard to say when the human species fractured exactly. Harder to say when this new talent arrived. But Lion Zorn is the first of his kind–an empathy tracker, an emotional soothsayer, with a felt sense for the future of the we. In simpler terms, he can spot cultural shifts and trends before they happen.
It’s a useful skill for a certain kind of company.
Arctic Pharmaceuticals is that kind of company. But when a routine em-tracking job leads to the discovery of a gruesome murder, Lion finds himself neck-deep in a world of eco-assassins, soul hackers and consciousness terrorists. But what the man really needs is a nap.
A unique blend of cutting-edge technology and traditional cyberpunk, Last Tango in Cyberspace explores hot topics like psychology, neuroscience, technology, as well as ecological and animal rights issues. The world created in Last Tango is based very closely on our world about five years from now, and all technology in the book either exists in labs or is rumored to exist. With its electrifying sentences, subtle humor, and an intriguing main character, readers are sure to find something that resonates with them in this groundbreaking cyberpunk science fiction thriller.

The Near Witch by Victoria Schwab

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The Near Witch’ is only an old story told to frighten children. If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company. There are no strangers in the town of Near. These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life. But when an actual stranger, a boy who seems to fade like smoke, appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true. The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi’s need to know about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.

Nocturna by Maya Motayne

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The first in a sweeping and epic own voices debut fantasy trilogy—set in a stunning Latinx-inspired world—about a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince who must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed. Perfect for fans of Tomi Adeyemi, Leigh Bardugo, and V. E. Schwab.
To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.
As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.
After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.
But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

The Obsoletes by Simeon Mills

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Fraternal twin brothers Darryl and Kanga are just like any other teenagers trying to make it through high school. They have to deal with peer pressure, awkwardness, and family drama. But there’s one closely guarded secret that sets them apart: they are robots. So long as they keep their heads down, their robophobic neighbors won’t discover the truth about them and they just might make it through to graduation.
But when Kanga becomes the star of the basketball team, there’s more at stake than typical sibling rivalry. Darryl—the worrywart of the pair—now has to work a million times harder to keep them both out of the spotlight. Though they look, sound, and act perfectly human, if anyone in their small, depressed Michigan town were to find out what they truly are, they’d likely be disassembled by an angry mob in the middle of their school gym.

The Rules of Magic by Alice Hoffman

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In this sparkling prequel we meet sisters Frances and Jet and Vincent, their brother. From the beginning their mother Susanna knew they were unique: Franny with her skin as pale as milk and blood red hair, who could commune with birds; Jet as shy as she is beautiful, who knows what others are thinking, and Vincent so charismatic that he was built for trouble. Susanna needed to set some rules of magic: no walking in the moonlight, no red shoes, no wearing black, no cats, no crows, no candles and certainly, absolutely, no books about magic…
But the Owens siblings are desperate to uncover who they really are. Each heads down a life-altering course, filled with secrets and truths, devastation and joy, and magic and love. Despite the warning handed down through the family for centuries – Know that for our family, love is a curse – they will all strive to break the rules and find true love.

The Shadow of What Was Lost by James Islington

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As destiny calls, a journey begins.

It has been twenty years since the god-like Augurs were overthrown and killed. Now, those who once served them – the Gifted – are spared only because they have accepted the rebellion’s Four Tenets, vastly limiting their powers.
As a Gifted, Davian suffers the consequences of a war lost before he was even born. He and others like him are despised. But when Davian discovers he wields the forbidden power of the Augurs, he sets into motion a chain of events that will change everything.
To the west, a young man whose fate is intertwined with Davian’s wakes up in the forest, covered in blood and with no memory of who he is…
And in the far north, an ancient enemy long thought defeated begins to stir.

Teeth in the Mist by Dawn Kurtagich

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Before the birth of time, a monk uncovers the Devil’s Tongue and dares to speak it. The repercussions will be felt for generations…
Sixteen-year-old photography enthusiast Zoey has been fascinated by the haunted, burnt-out ruins of Medwyn Mill House for as long as she can remember–so she and her best friend, Poulton, run away from home to explore them. But are they really alone in the house? And who will know if something goes wrong?
In 1851, seventeen-year-old Roan arrives at the Mill House as a ward–one of three, all with something to hide from their new guardian. When Roan learns that she is connected to an ancient secret, she must escape the house before she is trapped forever.
1583. Hermione, a new young bride, accompanies her husband to the wilds of North Wales where he plans to build the largest water mill and mansion in the area. But rumors of unholy rituals lead to a tragic occurrence and she will need all her strength to defeat it.
Three women, centuries apart, drawn together by one Unholy Pact. A pact made by a man who, more than a thousand years later, may still be watching…

Have you guys read any of these books? What are some of your recent bookish purchases? Let me know in the comments!

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Down the TBR Hole #8

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This was created by Lia from Lost in a Story. I’m going to attempt to do this post every week as the rules say, but since I have such a massive TBR, I’m going to be picking out 20 books instead of 10. So, let’s see how this goes!

The Rules:

Go to your Goodreads to-read shelf.
Order on ascending date added.
Take the first 5 (or 10 if you’re feeling adventurous) books
Read the synopses of the books
Decide: keep it or should it go?
Keep track of where you left off so you can pick up there next week!

Current “To Read” Shelf: 1957

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sendSend by Patty Blount

I’m dropping this one off my TBR solely for personal reasons. This is the type of novel that I would have picked up in my mid or late teens, but I feel I’ve grown out of that phase. I also am trying to cut down on some of the books on my TBR that I know I’m not currently in the right emotional place to read.

Judgment: GO

kingofthescrewupsKing of the Screwups by K.L. Going

This book has been sitting on my TBR for so long now and I forget how I even found it in the first place. I think this might have been one that I discovered on one of my random expeditions through the library. Anyway, though it still sounds very good, I don’t think I am actually going to get around to it at this point. And, as I need to be a bit stricter with my TBR, it has to go.

Judgment: GO

allegiantAllegiant by Veronica Roth

I tried really hard with this series since Divergent is one of my favorite young adult dystopians of all time. But I just could not get past the halfway mark in Insurgent and, though I hate leaving series unfinished, I just don’t think I’m going to get myself to read the rest of it.

Judgment: GO

asylumAsylum by Madeleine Roux

I’ll definitely be keeping this one. This is a book my mom got me because we are both into these types of novels. I’m always looking for some good young adult horror novels and though I’ve heard mix things about this one, I’m still very interested in reading it.

Judgment: KEEP

thecuriousincidentofthedoginthenighttimeThe Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon

I am tentatively keeping this one on my list for now. I have given this novel a try once because I am constantly hearing such wonderful things about it. However, I just could not get into it and had to put it aside. I hate leaving books unfinished and I do think I was in the wrong mood for it at the time, so I am going to give it another try at some point.

Judgment: KEEP

lettinganagoLetting Ana Go by Anonymous

As I said earlier, I am trying to cut down on some of the books on my TBR that I know I’m not currently in the right emotional place to read. I think this is one of them at the moment. I do own it so I’ll hang on to my copy for a little bit, but for now it’s going off my TBR.

Judgment: GO

thepromiseofstardustThe Promise of Stardust by Priscille Sibley

Once again, not in the right emotional place to read this. This is another one I might consider again somewhere down the road. It still sounds like a great novel and I am definitely interested in it. But, to be honest, I don’t feel I’m up to it right now.

Judgment: GO

thebookofdavidThe Book of David by Anonymous

Sorry to become repetitive, but the same thoughts from the previous two apply to this one as well. This is one I’m slightly more undecided on because I am still extremely interested in it, so the verdict might change. For now, though, I’ll be taking it off my TBR.

Judgment: GO

thehundredfootjourneyThe Hundred-Foot Journey by Richard C. Morais

This one’s a definite keeper! I saw the movie back when it first came out and absolutely adored it and I was extremely excited when I found out it was actually a book. I’ve been slow getting around to it but yes, I do still plan on reading this one!

Judgment: KEEP

wherethemoonisntWhere the Moon Isn’t by Nathan Filer

This was a tough one to decide on. I remember how eager I was to read this book when I first discovered it. However, it’s another one that I let sit on my TBR for ages and now I’ve lost a lot of that excitement. It does still sound like a wonderful novel, but I think I may have passed that window of interest for me. I feel like I’m just not going to get around to it.

Judgment: GO

theselectionThe Selection by Kiera Cass

Okay, so any of you who know me and my book preferences are probably wonder just what the heck this is doing on my TBR. I shall explain! Well…basically this was one of the few times I gave in to hype. I was hearing so much about this series and it seemed like it would be a short read so I figured, why not? But now I am older and wiser…and this is a definite nope.

Judgment: GO

slammedSlammed by Colleen Hoover

So the reason this is on my TBR is pretty much the same story as the previous one—I gave into the hype. I figured I should read a Colleen Hoover novel at least once just to see what I think and this one is one of the most interesting sounding ones to me. And (just to make things confusing) I do still plan to do that! However, right now, this is not something I am eager to read. So, even though it is leaving my TBR for now, I will hold onto it and it may return.

Judgment: GO

allthelightwecannotseeAll the Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

I am definitely keeping this one. I have been hearing so many incredible things about this novel and it sounds like such a heartbreaking but beautiful read. This is exactly my favorite type of historical fiction. I am really hoping I can pick this one up sometime this year.

Judgment: KEEP

thedarkestmindsThe Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken

Keep! Once again, I’ve been slow getting around to it but I am so insanely excited to read this series! Even though I haven’t begun it yet, I already own all the books! 😛

Judgment: KEEP

eonEon by Alison Goodman

I’m a bit unsure what to do about this one. It was another discovery from years ago and it does still sound fairly interesting. But, as I’m being strict when it comes to cutting down my TBR, I think this will have to go for now. I may return to it one day, but it’s not something I see myself picking up in the near future.

Judgment: GO

somethingrealSomething Real by Heather Demetrios

I’ll be honest, I thought for sure this would be one I’d take off my TBR. This has been on there for a while and it is another one of those young adult novels that I chose during a very different phase of my reading life. However, this story still sounds really lovely and heartwarming and I do honestly think I will enjoy it. I definitely still feel very motivated to read it.

Judgment: KEEP

thebronzehorsemanThe Bronze Horseman by Paullina Simons

This was another hype one. Historical fiction is definitely a genre I love—romance is always iffy. At the time I discovered this, I was definitely game to give this one a try. However, it’s been quite a long time now and I just don’t see myself getting around to it. I’m not sure it’s still my type of story.

Judgment: GO

intangibleIntangible by Jen Meyers

This is an old one from my Kindle that I’m not too sure about anymore. I think its another one from a phase that I’ve outgrown and I don’t know if I would get nearly as much enjoyment out of it now. The motivation to read it is unfortunately not really there.

Judgment: GO

100sidewaysmiles100 Sideways Miles by Andrew Smith

I have been meaning to read a novel by Andrew Smith for quite a while now and I have a few on my TBR. They all still sound interesting to me and like books I will be picking up somewhat soon, so anything by him is staying for sure.

Judgment: KEEP

midwinterbloodMidwinterblood by Marcus Sedgwick

For a long time now I’ve been wanting to read a Marcus Sedgwick novel, but I’ve been a bit indecisive about which one to choose. This one sounded pretty good at the time so I figured I would go with it, but now I’m not certain how I feel about it. For now, I’ll be removing this one but I do hope to find another novel by him to read sometime soon.

Judgment: GO

Getting Rid Of: 13/20

TBR Total: 1944

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Review: Changeling by William Ritter

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changelingChangeling by William Ritter

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: The Oddmire #1

Date Published: July 16th, 2019

Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Pages: 272 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Magic is fading from the Wild Wood. To renew it, goblins must perform an ancient ritual involving the rarest of their kind—a newborn changeling. But when the fateful night arrives to trade a human baby for a goblin one, something goes terribly wrong. After laying the changeling in a human infant’s crib, the goblin Kull is briefly distracted from his task. By the time he turns back, the changeling has already perfectly mimicked the human child. Too perfectly: Kull cannot tell them apart. Not knowing which to bring back, he leaves both babies behind.

Tinn and Cole are raised as human twins, neither knowing what secrets may be buried deep inside one of them. Then when they are twelve years old, a mysterious message arrives, calling the brothers to be heroes and protectors of magic. The boys must leave behind their sleepy town of Endsborough and risk their lives in the Wild Wood, crossing the perilous Oddmire swamp and journeying through the Deep Dark to reach the goblin horde and discover who they truly are.

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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 absolutely loved this novel. It is such a fun and magical read with just the right amount of suspense and creepiness to it. At its’ core, it is a beautiful story of love, belonging, and the true meaning of family. It shows the bravery and strength one can find in themselves when protecting the ones they love. On top of being an action-packed adventure, this story is also full of heart and positive messages. Changeling is a fast-paced and fantastical journey. I was hooked from page one and I never wanted it to end.

In this novel, we follow two young brothers, Tinn and Cole. By looking at them, they appear to be human twins—however, one of them is actually a changeling. When a goblin named Kull’s plan to switch the human baby for the goblin one goes wrong, they are both left behind. For years, their mother Annie raises the boys as brothers despite the unusual circumstances. They live as a normal family, though the boys have always wondered what they are deep down. When, at twelve years old, Tinn and Cole receive a mysterious message telling the changeling they must return to the Wild Wood and save the dying magic, they set off on a dangerous adventure to cross the Oddmire swamp and find the goblin horde.

The unique and colorful cast of characters is the driving force of this narrative. Each one has a distinct and memorable personality that adds depth and dimension to the world as a whole. Tinn and Cole are such loveable characters with a beautiful relationship—they are truly the definition of brothers. They both have very individual personalities that mesh together really well. Annie is a remarkable mother who loves the two boys equally and thinks of them as her own no matter what. She is such a strong and brave character, risking everything to find and protect them once they have run off on their journey. Ritter also packs this novel with imaginative magical beings. It is clear that he has put much time and effort into forming every aspect of the setting and the creatures and weaving those two elements tightly together.

It is incredibly interesting to hear the internal conflicts the boys have about discovering who the changeling is. They both have reasons to believe that they are the changeling due to a part of themselves and their personalities that they are unable to understand or explain. For instance, Cole wonders why he is always so compelled to cause trouble and do things he knows he shouldn’t. On the other hand, they both believe the other deserves to be the human because of what a good person they are. They both want the absolute best for the other, despite their own fears of being the changeling. It shows just how much they love and care about each other.

William Ritter does a wonderful job crafting this novel. His writing flows seamlessly and is incredibly easy to get sucked into and follow. His descriptions are vivid as he builds the unique world and palpable atmosphere of the narrative. The mysterious and treacherous nature of the Wild Wood is shown so well in the way he constructs the environment. From the encroaching trees with their gnarled roots to the mist that permeates the air, the suspense of Tinn and Cole’s journey is drastically enhanced. Ritter consistently blends reality with magic that will spark readers’ imaginations. This is true for every part of the world, making it incredibly multi-dimensional and highly immersive.

This novel fits the middle-grade genre perfectly. It is one of those universally enjoyable novels, offering something that both children and adults alike will love. The messages packed into the story are inspiring and heartwarming—they are great things for a young audience to learn about. The ideas that family can truly be found in others whether they are related to you or not and the importance of taking care of those you love are beautiful and meaningful messages to understand. The darkness in the story never becomes overwhelming and is very suitable for younger readers. Overall, this was a charming read. I cannot wait to see more from this series.

5.0 TARDISes

Author Bio:

Ritter,_Will_HR (c) Katrina SantoroWilliam Ritter is an Oregon author and educator. He is the proud father of the two bravest boys in the Wild Wood, and husband to the indomitable Queen of the Deep Dark. The Oddmire is Ritter’s first series for middle-grade readers. He is also the author of the New York Times bestselling, award-winning Jackaby series for young adult readers. Visit him online at rwillritter.wordpress.com and find him on Twitter: @Willothewords. 

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The Animal Crossing Book Tag

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I was not tagged to do this, but as soon as I saw this on Anna from My Bookish Dream’s blog, I knew I absolutely had to do it! I have been a massive Animal Crossing fan since I was a little kid, so there is no way I could pass this one up. Anna is one of my blogger besties and she runs an absolutely wonderful blog so please go check out her responses to this tag as well as her blog in general! 😀

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THE RULES:

  • Please link back to the original creator of the tag, Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Answer the following Animal Crossing themed book questions.
  • Feel free to use graphics, but be sure to credit Bookish Things and Tea.
  • Tag some friends to spread the love!
The graphics that I’m using are from the creator of this tag so all the credit for them goes to her!

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animal-crossing_-gamecube

Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier and Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes – Not that this is going to be a surprise to anyone at this point in my blogging life, but I’ve decided to choose two books instead of one for this question! Rebecca is one of my all-time favorite movies, however, I’ve never actually read the novel. It is definitely at the top of my classics TBR. Flowers for Algernon is one that I’ve heard tons about over the years, but my dad is the one who really sold me on it. He loves this book and really wants me to read it and I definitely plan on doing that soon!

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Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling – In terms of people’s favorite Harry Potter novels, I always feel like I’m in the minority with this one because I have not come across many people who liked the second one the best. There’s something about this plot that really clicks with me and I like how surprisingly dark and serious many parts of it are for a middle grade novel. So, Chamber of Secrets is my absolute favorite book of my absolute favorite series and it also happens to be a second book—voila!

(Honorable Mention: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins)

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The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle – While doing this tag, I realized that I don’t have a lot of favorite books that are actually set in large cities, even fictional ones. This, though, is one of my all-time favorite classics and London is most definitely a large city!

animal-crossing_-new-leaf

The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren – This is a very recent read I just got to do last month for a blog tour with Penguin Teen and I absolutely loved it. Honestly, it’s one of those novels that gets even better the more I think about it. The Virtue of Sin is an extremely interesting story that details the dangers of cults as well as the strength women have while fighting for the rights and treatment they deserve. This appealed to both the book nerd and the psychology nerd in me. I would very highly recommend giving this a try!

(Honorable Mention: The Hunt for the Mad Wolf’s Daughter by Diane Magras)

animal-crossing_-isabelle

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling – Yes, I picked two again…but I have an excuse! I cannot think back on my childhood—on my favorite novels that pushed me to become the reader that I am today—and not think of both of these as one. The way they helped to create my passion for literature, turned me into a writer, fueled the fantasy worlds I would escape to in my mind when life became a bit too noisy. What these books have done to my life is more incredible than words can describe.

animal-crossing_-bells

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb – There was no doubt in my mind that I would have to use this for my answer here. This novel is not only just rich with characters; it is rich with everything. This is such a beautifully told fantasy with a highly detailed and well-constructed world. Filled with a massive variety of colorful characters who leap off the page and intriguing storylines of politics, conspiracy, companionship, and a touch of romance, this is by far one of the best novels I’ve ever read.

animal-crossing_-pitfall

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad – I apologize in advance to anyone who likes this novel…but I absolutely cannot stand it. The story is not for me and the writing…um, yeah…that’s a rant I will save you from today! This is genuinely the only book that I have ever read in my entire life where I’ve come away without a single positive thing to say about it. And, lucky me, I have had to study it multiple times in school! 😛

animal-crossing_-fossil

Circe by Madeline Miller – I read this novel last year when it came out and absolutely fell in love with it. It very quickly became one of my favorite novels of all time. My experience with it was even more special because I got to meet Madeline Miller and hear her speak about Circe very shortly after I finished it. This is a beautiful and captivating tale following the witch-goddess Circe. It is an enchanting retelling of Greek mythology and I cannot recommend it highly enough (which is why I keep psyching myself out of reviewing it!).

I tag:

YOU! 😀

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Review: The Hidden Dagger Trilogy by J.L. Mbewe

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Full Trilogy Review:

I really enjoyed reading this trilogy. There are so many secrets and twists and turns in the plot it is easy to become engrossed and it is hard to put down. The story moves at a solidly fast pace and is packed with many moments of gripping action which pulled me in from the start. There is a good deal of thought and time put into every element of these novels, creating a unique and fascinating narrative. With their rich world and characters, these books make for a fun and immersive fantasy read.

This series begins following a young girl named Ayianna who has just found out she is betrothed to one of the most eligible bachelors in the land. Ayianna and her father set out to meet him and begin this new chapter of her life. However, very soon after arriving, they are attacked by a mysterious group of men, leaving her father dead and Ayianna running for her life. Quickly, it becomes clear that this is not just an isolated event—that her father was keeping some important secrets and that their world is facing a great danger. Reluctantly teaming up with an elf named Kael, Desmond her betrothed, and Prince Vian, Ayianna sets off to find her mother and unravel the mystery her father left behind.

Much more happens during the course of this trilogy, but since this is a spoiler-free review, I’ll keep from going into any more detail about the plot. However, I will say it remains consistently fresh and intriguing throughout the entire narrative. There is plenty of gripping action and adventure, surprising revelations, and mysteries that keep you wanting more. I particularly loved the fight scenes, especially when the characters were up against frightening creatures like the imps. This made for many exciting and heart-pounding moments.

Occasionally, I found that the plot sometimes became a bit slow and repetitive, primarily in the first novel. For instance, when Ayianna and her companions begin their journey through the forest, it progresses a bit slowly with the characters arguing about the same things—Vian and Desmond wanting to lead them in another direction and Kael insisting he knows where to go. While there are some moments of action and adventure, it felt as though a lot of this portion of their journey consisted of this with not quite enough variety in their interactions. However, this was not a frequent issue.

The best part of these novels is the incredibly beautiful and detailed writing. Mbewe has a great talent with words, taking the magic and fantasy to a new level. The worldbuilding is absolutely fantastic the whole way through and makes you feel like you are really in the world. Mbewe constructs it in a way that is original but has that classic fantasy novel style and feel. Every setting enhances the tone of the scene that takes place in it and adds tons of dimension to the plot.

On top of the vivid descriptions of the world, Mbewe fills it with its’ own very interesting history. This element adds so much more depth to the story. It is clear that she put a huge amount of time and effort into imagining every bit of it. There are also plenty of different creatures that add to the fantastical nature of the narrative. This also adds variety to the characters as they are not all humans. And each type of creature has a part in the history of the world with fully developed backgrounds.

Mbewe completes the building of the plot with some very well-created and multi-dimensional characters. Even some of the more minor characters are developed fully. Kael was definitely my favorite out of everyone. His personality and dialogue are some of the best aspects of the story. He is sarcastic and funny with a true heart of gold and is just plain loveable

It took me a little while to decide how I felt about Ayianna as I did not entirely connect with her at first. However, she proved to be quite a strong heroine in the long-run. There were times where I felt she was not quite reaching her full potential when it came to being the tough, independent character she is through the majority of the book. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that this is a pretty accurate reaction to the situation she has been thrown into. Her life goes through so much upheaval and she is dealing with a massive amount of grief. Yet she pushes through it and bravely carries on through this journey.

One other issue I had with the characters at times was that their emotions were not always addressed in a consistent or realistic way. There were many instances where I did not think Ayianna’s feelings and thoughts matched up with the gravity of the situation. After everything she had gone through, her reaction lacked some intense emotion it could have had, allowing the reader to connect and sympathize with her even more. The early tension between Kael and Ayianna seemed a bit confusing. It quickly felt a bit forced and like there was not really a need or reason for it. That being said, I absolutely loved their dialogue with each other and ended up really liking their relationship.

I do consider the issues I did have with the narrative rather minor in the grand scheme of things. The characters developed well throughout the course of these books and they grew into their newfound roles. None of the main characters are ever one-dimensional and they became more complex as the narrative progressed. Constantly growing as people and in their relationships with each other, they are always interesting to follow and learn more about. The worldbuilding remains detailed and vibrant, expanding more and more, and is always fully and uniquely constructed. The writing is consistently rich and beautiful. Overall, this is a really solid trilogy.

Book Details:

secretskeptSecrets Kept by J.L. Mbewe

My Rating: 3/5 TARDISes

Series: Hidden Dagger #1

Date Published: May 14th, 2015

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: With a curse, she will build an army. With the dagger, she will undo the last sacrifice. But first the sorceress must find the secret keeper. 

Torn from her homeland and thrust into a betrothal against her wishes, Ayianna learns her family has a deadly secret that now has her on the run. She joins forces with Kael, an embittered half-elf, and Saeed, an elderly High Guardian, to seek answers to her father’s death, the destruction of Dagmar, and the plains people’s bizarre behavior.

Ayianna discovers there is more at stake here than just her mother’s disappearance and her familial duty to her betrothed. The sorceress has cursed the plains people, and it is a race against time to release them before the sorceress resurrects an ancient evil.

3.0 TARDISes

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darkenedhopeDarkened Hope by J.L. Mbewe

My Rating: 3.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Hidden Dagger #2

Date Published: May 7th, 2016

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 392 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: The Secret Keeper is on the run, but does she know the secret she keeps? 

Ayianna is a cursed half-elf betrothed to Desmond, but her heart belongs Kael. After discovering the cure for the Sorceress’s curse, she and her companions embark on a dangerous quest to retrieve the ingredients.

When dragons descend upon their party, Ayianna realizes the Sorceress is searching not just for the corrupted dagger, but a human sacrifice that will open a portal to the underworld. Battling deadly creatures and natural disasters, Ayianna is forced to confront her insecurities and conflicted heart. She must decide whether to be true to her family or true to herself.

As the nations rally for war, betrayal threatens to destroy them all, and it’s a race against time to return before the curse destroys the plains people.

3.5 TARDISes

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curseboundCurse Bound by J.L. Mbewe

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Hidden Dagger #3

Date Published: June 27th, 2019

Publisher: BrokenSeed Books

Pages: 326 pages

Source: Author

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Synopsis: Kael’s worse fears have come true. Betrayal has shaken the Guardian Circle, the High Guardian is dead, and Ayianna and Prince Vian are in the hands of the Sorceress, but he and his companions must finish their quest, before they can attempt a rescue mission. Unfortunately, Desmond’s parting gift left them stranded on the western cliffs of Nälu.

Jathil, once heir to the throne of Arashel, believes her father will aid them, but first she must face the crimes of her past. When she does, she could never believe the outcome, nor the rippling effect it would have on the nations. Meanwhile the Alliance braces for war, but division threatens to undermine their efforts. When Nerissa returns from Ganya with the dragon regiment, she discovers a bigger problem. The curse bound are waking up.

As the quest nears completion, Kael is forced to choose between his heart and duty, and neither choice bodes well with him. Either way, he will face the Sorceress and her armies sooner or later. The battle for Nälu has begun and there can be only one victor. 

4.0 TARDISes

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Author Bio:

JL MbeweWriting as J. L. Mbewe, Jennette is an author, artist, mother, wife, but not always in that order. Born and raised in Minnesota, she now braves the heat of Texas, but pines for the Northern Lights and the lakes of home every autumn. She loves trying to capture the abstract and make it concrete. She is currently living her second childhood with her wonderful husband and two precious children who don’t seem to mind her eclectic collections of rocks, shells, and swords, among other things. Here, between reality and dreams, you will find her busily creating worlds inhabited by all sorts of fantasy creatures and characters, all questing about and discovering true love amid lots of peril.

Her debut novel, Secrets Kept, was nominated for the 2014 Clive Staples Award. Her second novel, Darkened Hope was a semi-finalist for the 2017 Alliance Award.

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Review: All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

allrightsreservedAll Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis

My Rating: 1/5 TARDISes

Series: Word$ #1

Date Published: August 29th, 2017

Publisher: Harlequin Teen

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent

Speth Jime is anxious to deliver her Last Day speech and celebrate her transition into adulthood. The moment she turns fifteen, Speth must pay for every word she speaks, for every nod, for every scream and even every gesture of affection. She’s been raised to know the consequences of falling into debt, and can’t begin to imagine the pain of having her eyes shocked for speaking words that she’s unable to afford.

But when Speth’s friend Beecher commits suicide rather than work off his family’s crippling debt, she can’t express her shock and dismay without breaking her Last Day contract and sending her family into Collection. Rather than read her speech—rather than say anything at all—she closes her mouth and vows never to speak again, sparking a movement that threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

I had been so eager to read this book ever since I first heard about it, so I am really sad to say that I did not enjoy it. The concept for the plot is very interesting and there were many aspects of this novel that were quite creative. However, the negatives severely outweighed the positives in this case. There was so much potential here for a riveting and powerful story about freedom of speech, and the subject itself is very topical in our world today. But what could have been both exciting and enlightening was ruined by too many tropes and an extremely unlikeable main character.

This novel takes place in a dystopian future, reminiscent of settings like Orwell’s 1984 and The Hunger Games trilogy. This society brings new meaning to the term free speech. Every single word and gesture is copyrighted or trademarked and there are few things a person can do that do not cost them money. In this story, we follow a young girl named Speth who is about to reach the age at which this system of payment for communication applies to her. When she witnesses the tragic death of her friend right before her “Last Day” speech, she is overcome with sadness at the unfair and restrictive situation they have all been forced into. So instead of reading her speech, she vows to never speak again, inadvertently starting a dangerous but crucial revolution.

I really did not like this book. Though there were some unique parts, much of it felt like a copy of other dystopian young adult novels, relying on far too many overused tropes. My number one problem was the main character, Speth. She is by far one of the most infuriating characters I have ever come across and as this is written in first person, there is no escaping her. Her actions throughout the story are consistently enraging, causing tons of unnecessary pain to everyone around her. She could have been a strong heroine, standing up for what she believes in and fighting for free speech. However, almost everything she does is highly irresponsible, not well thought-out, and is more damaging to society rather than helpful.

Though she does end up inspiring people within her society to fight for their rights, Speth herself does not even seem to actually know what she is fighting for exactly. As the plot intends, her initial refusal to speak inadvertently starts a bit of a revolution. This choice comes from the deep grief she feels in the moment, and that is completely understandable. But as the story progresses, she comes across as increasingly immature and she does not grow at all.

Standing up for what you believe in can be an extremely daunting task and requires a huge amount of courage and strength. But Speth is stubborn in the wrong way and she constantly fails to see how much she is hurting innocent people who are close to her. This calls into question the plausibility of so many people following and looking up to her.

Most of the other characters in the novel are far more likable than Speth and I thought Katsoulis did a very good job creating them. They are definitely multi-dimensional and it is interesting to learn their backstories and get a picture of how they live in this bleak societal state. Since Speth does not speak to anyone during the narrative, it is hard to get a handle on her relationships with the other characters, but for the most part, the characterization of the side characters is a decently strong aspect of the book.

Another aspect of the novel that I quite liked was the creativity of the different corporations that run every part of society. Katsoulis comes up with some very clever and sometimes hilarious ideas for these companies and the advertisements they put forth. There is this sort of dark comedy feel here due to the mixture of humor with a frighteningly realistic dystopian world. I particularly liked the concept of the placers, and I actually wish there had been even more of a focus on them.

I think the main problem here does not stem only from Speth’s recklessness and lack of consideration for other people and their wishes but also from the way the story is approached. It is clear that Katsoulis wanted this to be an action-filled narrative that shocks the reader with its many twists and turns. However, he just goes way too far. Rather than add to the strength of the underlying message of the story, these twists only become a massive detriment to Speth’s character. These events also serve to make the story less and less believable as they transpire. There was one situation in about the final quarter of the narrative that was the final straw for me and there was no redeeming itself after that.

I think the basic concept here is pretty solid and I definitely do see what Katsoulis is going for. Unfortunately, the execution was rough and, in my opinion, did not produce the desired effect. The positive message of championing freedom of speech is mostly lost due to the lack of a strong main character. Katsoulis also throws in too many events that take place purely for shock value and feel somewhat pointless within the actual narrative as a whole. I do intend to read the next book in the series to see if any of the issues I found in this one are fixed.

1.0 TARDIS

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Review: The Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

thevirtueofsinThe Virtue of Sin by Shannon Schuren

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: June 25th, 2019

Publisher: Philomel Books

Pages: 432 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Miriam lives in New Jerusalem, a haven in the desert far away from the sins and depravity of the outside world. Within the gates of New Jerusalem, and under the eye of its founder and leader, Daniel, Miriam knows she is safe. Cared for. Even if she’s forced, as a girl, to quiet her tongue when she has thoughts she wants to share, Miriam knows that New Jerusalem is a far better life than any alternative. So when God calls for a Matrimony, she’s thrilled; she knows that Caleb, the boy she loves, will choose her to be his wife and they can finally start their life together.

But when the ceremony goes wrong and Miriam winds up with someone else, she can no longer keep quiet. For the first time, Miriam begins to question not only the rules that Daniel has set in place, but also what it is she believes in, and where she truly belongs.

Alongside unexpected allies, Miriam fights to learn–and challenge–the truth behind the only way of life she’s ever known, even if it means straying from the path of Righteousness.

A compelling debut novel about speaking out, standing up, and breaking free.

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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.

There are so many aspects of this story that appealed to both the book nerd and psychology nerd in me and I was completely absorbed from the start. This is the story of two teenagers who have spent their entire lives in a cult and how they deal with their newfound clarity about their situation as they are thrown into adulthood in the community. It is a novel that portrays the importance of not always taking what people in power say at face value, fighting for equality, and learning to accept others—and oneself—for who they are.

I absolutely love anything to do with psychology—I am actually currently a forensic psychology major—and the psychology of cults is particularly interesting to study. Seeing the mindsets of both the members and the leaders is both fascinating and chilling. This novel primarily demonstrates how the beliefs and laws a leader comes up with are drilled into members. We see how this warps a person’s thoughts and view of the world and how incredibly challenging it is to break free of these beliefs. Schuren’s depictions of these elements of a cult are very accurate, enraging, and heartbreaking.

The primary subject dealt with in this novel is the unequal and extremely poor treatment of women within the cult. We see how the men silence them and do not allow them to make their own decisions. There are also other elements of the unfair treatment of minorities in the plot. The importance of standing up for these types of injustices, whether you are part of that minority or not, and of treating others with respect are shown through this story.

I was surprised at how many twists there were in this novel that I did not see coming. And I liked every single one. Schuren takes the narrative in a number of unexpected directions. There are so many secrets spilled and revelations that propelled me through every chapter. This is a true page-turner.

One of the only issues I feel the story has is that it does become a bit repetitive. I somewhat conflicted about this because it does make sense in context to some extent. The process of changing ones’ mindset and beliefs about something or someone—particularly in such a severe situation—takes a lot of time. Miriam actually does come around and see the lies of the cult’s leader fairly quickly in terms of the number of days over which the story takes place. However, I did feel that facts potentially did not need to be repeated to the reader after the first few times hearing them. Overall, this is just a very minor problem I came across.

Miriam is an incredibly strong female lead right from the very beginning of the novel. She does not want to put up with the suppression and ill-treatment of women that the men of the cult have turned into an accepted way of life. She gradually finds her voice and stands up for not just herself and the other women, but for everyone who is under the control of the Prophet. Headstrong and intelligent, Miriam makes a wonderful protagonist.

This story is not just told from Miriam’s perspective but also from Caleb’s, the boy she’s sure she is meant to marry. Alternating between these characters and seeing every situation through two different sets of eyes made this an even more intriguing plot. Schuren writes these narrators well, making their voices distinct from the other, which can be a challenge when working with more than one point of view.

Both main characters and side characters alike are multi-dimensional in this story. They are clearly carefully crafted and they evolve and respond realistically to their environment and the events of the novel. They don’t feel flat—they are the driving force of the plot. I felt that I got to know many of the characters well, no matter what size part they play in the grand scheme of things. Just like the worldbuilding, the characters are equally as vivid, detailed, and fully fleshed out. Aaron’s storyline is probably my favorite out of all of them.

My only issue with the characters is that a couple characters are rather unclear or inconsistent, mainly early on. I felt they became clearer pretty quickly, but I had a little trouble connecting with them at first. For instance, in Aaron’s case, I would think I was getting a handle on his personality and then he would do something that seemed out of character, causing me to become confused. There were times when I did not quite understand the motives for a character’s actions and those events were not always cleared up. Again, this is just a very minor issue I had.

Tying in with what I said about the characters being multi-dimensional, Schuren does a good job of clearly indicating how they develop over the course of the story. They learn and grow and evolve. The events that take place and the upheaval they experience consistently affect each character, their actions, and their views of life and the world around them.

Schuren’s writing style is definitely one of the strongest aspects of this novel. I found it very easy to get into and it had a very captivating quality to it. It was not just the story but the way she told it and worded it that held me in the narrative. The writing and the message it sends are both beautiful.

I found Schuren’s worldbuilding to be absolutely fantastic. She creates this extremely detailed and frighteningly realistic picture of what living in a cult is like. She forms both the physical world and the psychological world of these characters through her words. It feels like you are there in the desert—in the supposed safety of the community. You experience the raw emotions and the sinister atmosphere. She really brings this story to life.

This was one of my most anticipated books of the year and it absolutely did not disappoint. It was so easy to become engrossed in this novel and I found it extremely hard to put down. I read through it so fast, just intending to read a couple chapters and realizing a while later I read over one-hundred or more pages. Schuren brings so many interesting elements together to create a story that will quickly draw in readers and open their eyes to topics that are very important and timely. I highly recommend picking this up and giving it a read.

4.0 TARDISes

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