Review: Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

pretendwearelovelyPretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: July 18th, 2017

Publisher: Tin House Books

Pages: 284 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Consuming and big-hearted, Noley Reid’s Pretend We Are Lovely details a summer in the life of the Sobel family in 1980s Blacksburg, Virginia, seven years after the tragic and suspicious death of a son and sibling.

Francie Sobel dresses in tennis skirts and ankle socks and weighs her allotted grams of carrots and iceberg lettuce. Semi-estranged husband Tate prefers a packed fridge and secret doughnuts. Daughters Enid, ten, and Vivvy, thirteen, are subtler versions of their parents, measuring their summer vacation by meals eaten or skipped. But at summer’s end, secrets both old and new come to the surface and Francie disappears, leaving the family teetering on the brink.?

Without their mother’s regimental love, and witnessing their father flounder in his new position of authority, the girls must navigate their way through middle school, find comfort in each other, and learn the difference between food and nourishment.

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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.

Pretend We Are Lovely is one of those novels that really makes you think—both during and after—but where the real impact of the plot and themes within it hits you a little while after you have turned the final page. After you’ve let it simmer in your mind for some time. This is a story that revolves around hunger and nourishment of both the body and soul. And behind the façade of food and hunger, starving and eating, the true needs of this family shine through the cracks. It is a perfect warm, summer day read, whose pages will fly by quickly, but will simultaneously strike the reader with the surprising depth and heaviness of the subject matter.

This story follows a few months in the lives of the four members of the Sobel family. Mother Francie is struggling to deal with a great loss as well as the mental and emotional scars that come with it. Thirteen-year-old Vivvy and ten-year-old Enid are dealing with their own coming of age and new place in the world, all while attempting to cope with their struggling family life and their mother’s overbearing rules, primarily about food. Father Tate is trying his best to hold his family—and all of their lives—together as Franice begins to spiral out of control, further cracking the household’s foundation.

I’ll admit when I first started, I wasn’t quite sure if I was going to end up enjoying this novel. It took me a little while to really get into it, but as soon as I did, I was fully captivated. This story is full of broken and lost, but deeply and utterly beautiful souls. They are surprisingly loveable and incredibly easy to connect with. Each one has their own distinctive voice and personality, and I found that they were very realistically portrayed. Reid demonstrated remarkable insight and skill in her creation of this fractured family.

The element of food and hunger becomes very prominent as we begin to get to know each of the characters and the dynamic of the household. They all harbor a hunger for something more on an emotional level that masks itself in a battle with their eating or dieting behaviors. And these battles manifest uniquely in each person. Vivvy and Enid each look to a different parent for cues on how to treat food. Enid follows her father’s habits of carefree eating while Vivvy mimics her mother’s struggle with food and obsessive dieting.

The relationships and constant instability of the foundation of this family was incredibly poignant. We watch Enid and Vivvy coming of age and learning to deal with many of the harsh realities of life. Francie and Tate are drifting further and further away from one another, and Tate is struggling to hold the family together as best he can for the sake of his daughters. Vivvy’s and Enid’s relationship with each other was my particular favorite to watch as it changes with the highs and lows of growing up. Tate’s love for his daughters was another one of my favorite aspects of this novel.

The writing style used in this novel might not be a hit with everyone. The perspective alternates frequently between each of the four members of the Sobel family, so the reader gets an intimate look at everyone’s perspective on the events of the plot. I found it quite interesting to see the shift in the behaviors and outlooks of the all of the characters, but it can be a bit confusing at times. There is quite a bit of jumping about, and this can make the plot a little tricky to follow. However, once I started to get used to it and became more aware of each character’s personality, it flowed a lot smoother.

The other aspect of the writing to note is the almost stream of consciousness-like style that Reid uses. For me personally, it really worked well and I enjoyed the tone that it set. It truly feels as if we as readers are intimately following the lives of a realistic family, and that brings so much depth into the novel and the messages it sends. However, I realize that, though it adds a great deal to the realism of the plot and characters, it can be somewhat of a difficult writing style to follow—so there are definite pros and cons to it for the reader.

It reads just the way a person’s train of thought would go, but that can also make things feel a bit disjointed. On top of that, the constant shift in perspective takes a little while to get fully immersed in, especially prior to really knowing the family. As a whole though, I ended up loving the format in which Reid wrote this novel. There were a lot more pros that out-weighed many of the minor cons in the style, and she completely sucked me in.

Overall, this was the big-hearted and consuming read it promised to be. Reid beautifully set the painful, destructive, yet loving atmosphere of a family in turmoil. I felt like I really connected with everyone, and found that I truly cared about each and every one of them. I experienced the hurt they both felt and inflicted, but also the small moments of caring, love and hope. Every emotion was tangible and I was completely wrapped up in their lives. The bittersweet final few chapters particularly stood out from the rest, and they are the ones that held onto me the longest.

4.0 TARDISes

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Review: Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrightsBirthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Revisions to the Truth: Book One

Date Published: June 6th, 2017

Publisher: Elevate Fiction

Pages: 402 pages

Source: Publisher

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm. 

Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.

Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

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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.

This was an extremely solid start to a very promising new fantasy series. Richly detailed, thought-provoking, and highly intriguing, I was very easily pulled into the narrative. Though it took a little while to fully immerse myself in the world and its history—the lore at the heart of every character’s life—once everything was set up, I felt completely absorbed into the words. There was something to find engaging about every moment of the narrative. This is intrinsically a coming of age story, but past that, you begin to see the intricate complexities of not only the characters but the of society they live in.

In this novel, we follow multiple characters’ lives as they weave together into one, captivating picture of the Lost Lands. Primarily, we follow two young men named Whym and Quint. Whym has reached the point of his life where he must begin an apprenticeship, and he is willing to do anything to break away from the poverty of his parents’ lives—even if it means working with a potentially dangerous man who has a past that connects darkly with his own. Quint comes from the most powerful religious family in the Lost Lands, his future laid out solidly before him. But when his long-held faith is ripped from him, he begins a journey to bring the truth to light.

Despite its initial appearance, this is not just a simple tale of two young people coming of age. It is a story about faith and beliefs. About corrupted politics and the inciting of a rebellion. About history and finding out where you fit into that which is being made around you. About discovering the meaning of truth and extracting it from the harshness of deceit. These characters are having their eyes opened to the society they are living in, one where the foundation is deception and the currency is lies.

By Fire

As in most fantasy novels, there are always some aspects that take a little while to fully grasp. Building up the world, introducing the many characters, laying down the backstory and lore, all take a while to set up and for the reader to become involved in. It took me about a third of the novel before I felt I had truly gotten into things, so the beginning was a bit slow. However, this minor sluggishness in the beginning took the place of a short but massive and confusing information dump. The opening chapters are not fast-paced and packed with action, but are a gradual and meticulous composing of an intricate world.

I was a bit confused toward the start as I began piecing the backstory together but, at the same time, there was never a moment were I did not feel very engaged in the plot. The measured construction of each and every element ended up serving the narrative well. By using this method, McNeal allows the reader to take the time needed to become connected to the story and its expansive cast of characters. He also saves them from the confusion that can come with trying to convey too much information to quickly. As a whole, though the pace might feel slow, it establishes a solid foundation for the reader right from page one.

McNeal did a wonderful job building and growing his various, multi-dimensional characters, as well as giving them each a distinctive voice and personality. They were vivid and very easy to like or dislike, as the case may be. Whether hero or villain, each one was memorable and well-developed, which worked favorably with the regularly shifting perspectives of the narrative. I also highly enjoyed the dynamic and relationships between the various characters—they were very interesting to follow. I was particularly intrigued by the relationship between Whym and Kutan.

Wood Pile

I have to admit, there were a few times where it was difficult to remember who a minor character was and what role they had played in previous chapters of the novel. This was due in part to their short appearances, stemming from the frequent jumps in perspective. Another issue that I had character-wise was that I never quite understood the concept of “the Rat-Man”. I also wish that there had been a bit more of a glimpse at some characters’ storylines, but I am hoping this will be rectified over the course of the rest of this series. All-in-all though, these were very small problems for me, and did not detract much from my overall reading experience.

McNeal’s writing in this novel was absolutely spectacular. The scope of this enchanting world that he has created leaves him endless opportunities to spin an absorbing story in his unique voice. I found him to be a brilliant storyteller; the prose was beautiful. His writing flowed incredibly well, and it was very easy to be carried away by his words. This was a strong debut novel, and I believe that he has shown a great talent and will go far in the future.

Overall, I had quite an enjoyable time delving into this tale. Once I began to feel involved in the characters’ lives, I found myself lost among the pages. This novel held so many of the elements that make me love the fantasy genre. I now feel extremely invested in these characters and their futures, so I am highly anticipating the upcoming installments in the series. If you are a fan of high fantasy or, especially, if you are just discovering the genre, this is a series that I would definitely recommend giving a try.

4.0 TARDISes

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Top Ten Tuesday – June 6th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is the top ten books from any particular genre that you’ve added to your TBR recently. For some reason, I’ve had this major urge to read some contemporary novels. It’s incredibly rare for me to feel this way, so it’s either due to summer coming up or potentially a sign of the coming apocalypse. Whatever the reason, I’ve added a bunch of contemporary novels to my TBR recently, so here are a few that I am most eager to get to. 🙂

The Distance Between Us by Kasie West

thedistancebetweenus

Seventeen-year-old Caymen Meyers studies the rich like her own personal science experiment, and after years of observation she’s pretty sure they’re only good for one thing—spending money on useless stuff, like the porcelain dolls in her mother’s shop.
So when Xander Spence walks into the store to pick up a doll for his grandmother, it only takes one glance for Caymen to figure out he’s oozing rich. Despite his charming ways and that he’s one of the first people who actually gets her, she’s smart enough to know his interest won’t last. Because if there’s one thing she’s learned from her mother’s warnings, it’s that the rich have a short attention span. But Xander keeps coming around, despite her best efforts to scare him off. And much to her dismay, she’s beginning to enjoy his company.
She knows her mom can’t find out—she wouldn’t approve. She’d much rather Caymen hang out with the local rocker who hasn’t been raised by money. But just when Xander’s attention and loyalty are about to convince Caymen that being rich isn’t a character flaw, she finds out that money is a much bigger part of their relationship than she’d ever realized. And that Xander’s not the only one she should’ve been worried about.

On the Fence by Kasie West

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For sixteen-year-old Charlotte Reynolds, aka Charlie, being raised by a single dad and three older brothers has its perks. She can outrun, outscore, and outwit every boy she knows—including her longtime neighbor and honorary fourth brother, Braden. But when it comes to being a girl, Charlie doesn’t know the first thing about anything. So when she starts working at chichi boutique to pay off a speeding ticket, she finds herself in a strange new world of makeup, lacy skirts, and BeDazzlers. Even stranger, she’s spending time with a boy who has never seen her tear it up in a pickup game. 
To cope with the stress of faking her way through this new reality, Charlie seeks late-night refuge in her backyard, talking out her problems with Braden by the fence that separates them. But their Fence Chats can’t solve Charlie’s biggest problem: she’s falling for Braden. Hard. She knows what it means to go for the win, but if spilling her secret means losing him for good, the stakes just got too high.

To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before by Jenny Han

toalltheboysivelovedbefore

Lara Jean’s love life gets complicated in this New York Times bestselling “lovely, lighthearted romance” from the New York Times bestselling author of The Summer I Turned Pretty series.
What if all the crushes you ever had found out how you felt about them… all at once?
Sixteen-year-old Lara Jean Song keeps her love letters in a hatbox her mother gave her. They aren’t love letters that anyone else wrote for her; these are ones she’s written. One for every boy she’s ever loved—five in all. When she writes, she pours out her heart and soul and says all the things she would never say in real life, because her letters are for her eyes only. Until the day her secret letters are mailed, and suddenly, Lara Jean’s love life goes from imaginary to out of control.

Dumplin’ by Julie Murphy

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Self-proclaimed fat girl Willowdean Dickson (dubbed “Dumplin’” by her former beauty queen mom) has always been at home in her own skin. Her thoughts on having the ultimate bikini body? Put a bikini on your body. With her all-American beauty best friend, Ellen, by her side, things have always worked…until Will takes a job at Harpy’s, the local fast-food joint. There she meets Private School Bo, a hot former jock. Will isn’t surprised to find herself attracted to Bo. But she is surprised when he seems to like her back.
Instead of finding new heights of self-assurance in her relationship with Bo, Will starts to doubt herself. So she sets out to take back her confidence by doing the most horrifying thing she can imagine: entering the Miss Clover City beauty pageant—along with several other unlikely candidates—to show the world that she deserves to be up there as much as any twiggy girl does. Along the way, she’ll shock the hell out of Clover City—and maybe herself most of all.
With starry Texas nights, red candy suckers, Dolly Parton songs, and a wildly unforgettable heroine—Dumplin’ is guaranteed to steal your heart.

My Life Next Door by Huntley Fitzpatrick

mylifenextdoor

The Garretts are everything the Reeds are not. Loud, messy, affectionate. And every day from her rooftop perch, Samantha Reed wishes she was one of them . . . until one summer evening, Jase Garrett climbs up next to her and changes everything.
As the two fall fiercely for each other, stumbling through the awkwardness and awesomeness of first love, Jase’s family embraces Samantha – even as she keeps him a secret from her own. Then something unthinkable happens, and the bottom drops out of Samantha’s world. She’s suddenly faced with an impossible decision. Which perfect family will save her? Or is it time she saved herself?
A transporting debut about family, friendship, first romance, and how to be true to one person you love without betraying another.

Gold Rush by Jennifer Comeaux

goldrush

Liza Petrov’s entire life has been about skating and winning her sport’s top prize – Olympic gold. She’s stayed sheltered inside her bubble, not daring to stray from her destined path. 
Until she meets Braden Patrick.
He makes her heart flutter with possibility, and for the first time she gets a taste of a normal teenage life. She longs to have both the boy and the gold, but stepping outside her bubble comes with a price. As Liza begins to question both her future and her past, can she stay focused on the present and realize her ultimate dream?

The Butterfly Project by Emma Scott

thebutteryflyproject

At age fourteen, Zelda Rossi witnessed the unthinkable, and has spent the last ten years hardening her heart against the guilt and grief. She channels her pain into her art: a dystopian graphic novel where vigilantes travel back in time to stop heinous crimes—like child abduction—before they happen. Zelda pitches her graphic novel to several big-time comic book publishers in New York City, only to have her hopes crash and burn. Circumstances leave her stranded in an unfamiliar city, and in an embarrassing moment of weakness, she meets a guarded young man with a past he’d do anything to change…
Beckett Copeland spent two years in prison for armed robbery, and is now struggling to keep his head above water. A bike messenger by day, he speeds around New York City, riding fast and hard but going nowhere, his criminal record holding him back almost as much as the guilt of his crime.
Zelda and Beckett form a grudging alliance of survival, and in between their stubborn clash of wills, they slowly begin to provide each other with the warmth of forgiveness, healing, and maybe even love. But when Zelda and Beckett come face to face with their pasts, they must choose to hold on to the guilt and regret that bind them, or let go and open their hearts for a shot at happiness.
The Butterfly Project is a novel that reveals the power of forgiveness, and how even the smallest decisions of the heart can—like the flutter of a butterfly’s wings—create currents that strengthen into gale winds, altering the course of a life forever.

The Sun is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon

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Natasha: I’m a girl who believes in science and facts. Not fate. Not destiny. Or dreams that will never come true. I’m definitely not the kind of girl who meets a cute boy on a crowded New York City street and falls in love with him. Not when my family is twelve hours away from being deported to Jamaica. Falling in love with him won’t be my story.
Daniel: I’ve always been the good son, the good student, living up to my parents’ high expectations. Never the poet. Or the dreamer. But when I see her, I forget about all that. Something about Natasha makes me think that fate has something much more extraordinary in store—for both of us.
The Universe: Every moment in our lives has brought us to this single moment. A million futures lie before us. Which one will come true?

I Hate Everyone But You by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin

ihateeveryonebutyou

Dear Best Friend,
I can already tell that I will hate everyone but you.
Sincerely,
Ava Helmer
(that brunette who won’t leave you alone)
We’re still in the same room, you weirdo.
Stop crying.
G 
So begins a series of texts and emails sent between two best friends, Ava and Gen, as they head off to their first semesters of college on opposite sides of the country. From first loves to weird roommates, heartbreak, self-discovery, coming out and mental health, the two best friends will document every moment to each other. But as each changes and grows into her new life, will their friendship be able to survive the distance?

Paintbrush by Hannah Bucchin

paintbrush

Mitchell Morrison and Josie Sedgwick have spent their whole lives at the Indian Paintbrush Community Village, a commune full of colorful characters tucked in the mountains of North Carolina, and they aren’t particularly close–at least, not anymore. Josie wishes she could spend all of her time at Paintbrush planting tomatoes, hiking the trails, or throwing giant communal birthday parties, while Mitchell can’t wait to escape the bizarre spiritual sharing and noisy community dinners. Luckily for both of them, high school graduation is just around the corner. 
But when Mitchell’s mother makes a scandalous announcement that rocks the close-knit Paintbrush community, and Josie’s younger sister starts to make some dangerously bad decisions, the two find themselves leaning on each other for support–and looking at each other in a whole new light. Their childhood friendship blossoms in to something more as they deal with their insane families, but as graduation approaches, so does life in the real world, forcing Josie and Mitchell to figure out what, exactly, their relationship is–and if it can survive their very different plans for the future.

What genre have you been particularly interested in reading lately? What are some of the most recent additions to your TBR? Let me know in the comments!

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June 2017 TBR

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Happy June, everyone!

I’m so excited because, once again, I had another amazing reading month! I managed to get through eleven books! As usual, I didn’t quite stick to my TBR entirely…but I tried! So this month, I am also going to create a rather ambitious TBR. I should have a lot of time to read this month and during my travels toward the end of the month, so I’m really hoping to get a lot of reading done. Here are some of the books I would really like to get to during the month of June! 🙂

June TBR

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire

downamongthesticksandbones

Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children.
This is the story of what happened first…
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got.
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted.
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

Paper Wishes by Spencer Hoshino

paperwishes

There is a belief that with each origami star folded, a falling star is saved. After folding 365 stars while mourning the loss of her mother, Vilvian makes a wish that will change her life forever.
Enter Nox Bright, the handsome and mysterious guy who has been haunting Vilvian’s dreams. She can barely believe it when he walks into her homeroom near the end of the school year. Has she gone crazy or is it possible that wishes really do come true?

The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

theevaporationofsofisnow

Ever since the Delonese ice-planet arrived eleven years ago, Sofi’s dreams have been vivid. Alien. In a system where Earth’s corporations rule in place of governments and the humanoid race orbiting the moon are allies, her only constant has been her younger brother, Shilo. As an online gamer, Sofi battles behind the scenes of Earth’s Fantasy Fighting arena where Shilo is forced to compete in a mix of real and virtual blood sport. But when a bomb takes out a quarter of the arena, Sofi’s the only one who believes Shilo survived. She has dreams of him. And she’s convinced he’s been taken to the ice-planet.
Except no one but ambassadors are allowed there.
For Miguel, Earth’s charming young playboy, the games are of a different sort. As Ambassador to the Delonese, his career has been built on trading secrets and seduction. Until the Fantasy Fight’s bomb goes off. Now the tables have turned and he’s a target for blackmail. The game is simple: Help the blackmailers, or lose more than anyone can fathom, or Earth can afford.

The Windfall by Diksha Basu

thewindfall

A heartfelt comedy of manners, Diksha Basu’s debut novel unfolds the story of a family discovering what it means to “make it” in modern India.
For the past thirty years, Mr. and Mrs. Jha’s lives have been defined by cramped spaces, cut corners, gossipy neighbors, and the small dramas of stolen yoga pants and stale marriages. They thought they’d settled comfortably into their golden years, pleased with their son’s acceptance into an American business school. But then Mr. Jha comes into an enormous and unexpected sum of money, and moves his wife from their housing complex in East Delhi to the super-rich side of town, where he becomes eager to fit in as a man of status: skinny ties, hired guards, shoe-polishing machines, and all.
The move sets off a chain of events that rock their neighbors, their marriage, and their son, who is struggling to keep a lid on his romantic dilemmas and slipping grades, and brings unintended consequences, ultimately forcing the Jha family to reckon with what really matters. Hilarious and wise, The Windfall illuminates with warmth and charm the precariousness of social status, the fragility of pride, and, above all, the human drive to build and share a home. Even the rich, it turns out, need to belong somewhere.

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

agatheringofshadows

**Minor spoilers for A Darker Shade of Magic**

It has been four months since a mysterious obsidian stone fell into Kell’s possession. Four months since his path crossed with Delilah Bard. Four months since Prince Rhy was wounded, and since the nefarious Dane twins of White London fell, and four months since the stone was cast with Holland’s dying body through the rift–back into Black London. 
Now, restless after having given up his smuggling habit, Kell is visited by dreams of ominous magical events, waking only to think of Lila, who disappeared from the docks as she always meant to do. As Red London finalizes preparations for the Element Games–an extravagant international competition of magic meant to entertain and keep healthy the ties between neighboring countries–a certain pirate ship draws closer, carrying old friends back into port.
And while Red London is caught up in the pageantry and thrills of the Games, another London is coming back to life. After all, a shadow that was gone in the night will reappear in the morning. But the balance of magic is ever perilous, and for one city to flourish, another London must fall.

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

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Criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker has been offered wealth beyond his wildest dreams. But to claim it, he’ll have to pull off a seemingly impossible heist:
Break into the notorious Ice Court
(a military stronghold that has never been breached)
Retrieve a hostage
(who could unleash magical havoc on the world)
Survive long enough to collect his reward
(and spend it)
Kaz needs a crew desperate enough to take on this suicide mission and dangerous enough to get the job done – and he knows exactly who: six of the deadliest outcasts the city has to offer. Together, they just might be unstoppable – if they don’t kill each other first.

The Guns Above by Robyn Bennis

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The nation of Garnia has been at war for as long as Auxiliary Lieutenant Josette Dupre can remember – this time against neighboring Vinzhalia. Garnia’s Air Signal Corp stands out as the favored martial child of the King. But though it’s co-ed, women on-board are only allowed “auxiliary” crew positions and are banned from combat. In extenuating circumstances, Josette saves her airship in the heat of battle. She is rewarded with the Mistral, becoming Garnia’s first female captain.
She wants the job – just not the political flak attached. On top of patrolling the front lines, she must also contend with a crew who doubts her expertise, a new airship that is an untested deathtrap, and the foppish aristocrat Lord Bernat – a gambler and shameless flirt with the military know-how of a thimble. He’s also been assigned to her ship to catalog her every moment of weakness and indecision. When the Vins make an unprecedented military move that could turn the tide of the war, can Josette deal with Bernat, rally her crew, and survive long enough to prove herself to the top brass?

Birthrights by J. Kyle McNeal

birthrights

To escape the burden of his family’s past, Whym accepts an apprenticeship with a master his parents fear and revile. He soon finds himself entangled in a web of treachery and on a perilous journey to locate a creature of myth and magic-a journey that will transform Whym and shape the future of the realm.
Meanwhile, Quint, the son of a powerful religious leader, abandons his faith to join the fight against a corrupt council. As the adviser to a remote tribe, he must find in himself the wisdom and fortitude to save the people from the invading army-and their own leaders.
Civil war looms, defeated foes plot revenge, and an ancient deity schemes to destroy them all. While navigating the shifting sands of truth, the two young men must distill what they believe, and decide on whose side they will stand in the coming conflict.

Hell and High Water by Tanya Landman

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Mystery turns to mortal danger as one young man s quest to clear his father’s name ensnares him in a net of deceit, conspiracy, and intrigue in 1750s England.
Caleb has spent his life roaming southern England with his Pa, little to their names but his father s signet ring and a puppet theater for popular, raunchy Punch and Judy shows until the day Pa is convicted of a theft he didn’t commit and sentenced to transportation to the colonies in America. From prison, Caleb s father sends him to the coast to find an aunt Caleb never knew he had. His aunt welcomes him into her home, but her neighbors see only Caleb s dark skin. Still, Caleb slowly falls into a strange rhythm in his new life . . . until one morning he finds a body washed up on the shore. The face is unrecognizable after its time at sea, but the signet ring is unmistakable: it can only be Caleb s father. Mystery piles on mystery as both church and state deny what Caleb knows. From award-winning British author Tanya Landman comes a heart-stopping story of race, class, family, and corruption so deep it can kill.”

Marriage of a Thousand Lies by S.J. Sindu

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Lucky and her husband, Krishna, are gay. They present an illusion of marital bliss to their conservative Sri Lankan–American families, while each dates on the side. It’s not ideal, but for Lucky, it seems to be working. She goes out dancing, she drinks a bit, she makes ends meet by doing digital art on commission. But when Lucky’s grandmother has a nasty fall, Lucky returns to her childhood home and unexpectedly reconnects with her former best friend and first lover, Nisha, who is preparing for her own arranged wedding with a man she’s never met.
As the connection between the two women is rekindled, Lucky tries to save Nisha from entering a marriage based on a lie. But does Nisha really want to be saved? And after a decade’s worth of lying, can Lucky break free of her own circumstances and build a new life? Is she willing to walk away from all that she values about her parents and community to live in a new truth? As Lucky—an outsider no matter what choices she makes—is pushed to the breaking point, Marriage of a Thousand Lies offers a vivid exploration of a life lived at a complex intersection of race, sexuality, and nationality. The result is a profoundly American debut novel shot through with humor and loss, a story of love, family, and the truths that define us all.

May Wrap-Up

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab – 5/5 stars (Full Review)

Thin Places by Lesley Choyce – 2/5 stars (Full Review)

Alice by J.M. Sullivan – 4.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Quinsey Wolfe’s Glass Vault by Candace Robinson – 3.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Send by Domenico Capilongo – 2.5/5 stars (Full Review)

Leave This Song Behind by Teen Ink – 4/5 stars (Full Review)

The Magnificent Flying Baron Estate by Eric Bower – 4/5 stars (Full review)

Pretend We Are Lovely by Noley Reid – 4/5 stars (Full review)

The Battle of the Labyrinth by Rick Riordan – 4/5 stars

The Magician’s Nephew by C.S. Lewis – 5/5 stars

Prince Caspian by C.S. Lewis – 4/5 stars

What are your reading plans for the month? What were some of your favorite May reads? Let me know in the comments!

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Top Ten Tuesday – May 30th, 2017

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Happy Tuesday, everyone! It’s time for another Top 10 Tuesday list. This is an original weekly blog meme created over at The Broke and the Bookish. Each week, there is a new bookish topic for bloggers to create a list about. If you want to know more about Top 10 Tuesday, click here!

This week’s Top 10 Tuesday topic is your top ten most anticipated books for the second half of 2017. There has already been a huge amount of amazing releases this year, and it seems like that streak is going to continue. There are so many upcoming releases I am looking forward to reading during the second half of this year. So here are a few of the ones that I am most eager to get my hands on! 🙂

Down Among the Sticks and Bones by Seanan McGuire (June 13th, 2017)

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Twin sisters Jack and Jill were seventeen when they found their way home and were packed off to Eleanor West’s Home for Wayward Children. 
This is the story of what happened first… 
Jacqueline was her mother’s perfect daughter—polite and quiet, always dressed as a princess. If her mother was sometimes a little strict, it’s because crafting the perfect daughter takes discipline. 
Jillian was her father’s perfect daughter—adventurous, thrill-seeking, and a bit of a tom-boy. He really would have preferred a son, but you work with what you’ve got. 
They were five when they learned that grown-ups can’t be trusted. 
They were twelve when they walked down the impossible staircase and discovered that the pretense of love can never be enough to prepare you a life filled with magic in a land filled with mad scientists and death and choices.

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue by Mackenzi Lee (June 27th, 2017)

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An unforgettable tale of two friends on their Grand Tour of 18th-century Europe who stumble upon a magical artifact that leads them from Paris to Venice in a dangerous manhunt, fighting pirates, highwaymen, and their feelings for each other along the way. 
Henry “Monty” Montague was born and bred to be a gentleman, but he was never one to be tamed. The finest boarding schools in England and the constant disapproval of his father haven’t been able to curb any of his roguish passions—not for gambling halls, late nights spent with a bottle of spirits, or waking up in the arms of women or men. 
But as Monty embarks on his grand tour of Europe, his quest for a life filled with pleasure and vice is in danger of coming to an end. Not only does his father expect him to take over the family’s estate upon his return, but Monty is also nursing an impossible crush on his best friend and traveling companion, Percy.
Still it isn’t in Monty’s nature to give up. Even with his younger sister, Felicity, in tow, he vows to make this yearlong escapade one last hedonistic hurrah and flirt with Percy from Paris to Rome. But when one of Monty’s reckless decisions turns their trip abroad into a harrowing manhunt that spans across Europe, it calls into question everything he knows, including his relationship with the boy he adores.
Witty, romantic, and intriguing at every turn, The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue is a sumptuous romp that explores the undeniably fine lines between friendship and love.

Lost Boy: The True Story of Captain Hook by Christina Henry (July 4th, 2017)

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There is one version of my story that everyone knows. And then there is the truth. This is how it happened. How I went from being Peter Pan’s first—and favorite—lost boy to his greatest enemy.
Peter brought me to his island because there were no rules and no grownups to make us mind. He brought boys from the Other Place to join in the fun, but Peter’s idea of fun is sharper than a pirate’s sword. Because it’s never been all fun and games on the island. Our neighbors are pirates and monsters. Our toys are knife and stick and rock—the kinds of playthings that bite.
Peter promised we would all be young and happy forever.

Daughter of the Burning City by Amanda Foody (July 25th, 2017)

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A darkly irresistible new fantasy set in the infamous Gomorrah Festival, a traveling carnival of debauchery that caters to the strangest of dreams and desires.
Sixteen-year-old Sorina has spent most of her life within the smoldering borders of the Gomorrah Festival. Yet even among the many unusual members of the traveling circus-city, Sorina stands apart as the only illusion-worker born in hundreds of years. This rare talent allows her to create illusions that others can see, feel and touch, with personalities all their own. Her creations are her family, and together they make up the cast of the Festival’s Freak Show.
But no matter how lifelike they may seem, her illusions are still just that—illusions, and not truly real. Or so she always believed…until one of them is murdered. 
Desperate to protect her family, Sorina must track down the culprit and determine how they killed a person who doesn’t actually exist. Her search for answers leads her to the self-proclaimed gossip-worker Luca, and their investigation sends them through a haze of political turmoil and forbidden romance, and into the most sinister corners of the Festival. But as the killer continues murdering Sorina’s illusions one by one, she must unravel the horrifying truth before all of her loved ones disappear.

The Dying Game by Asa Avdic (August 1st, 2017)

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A masterly locked-room mystery set in a near-future Orwellian state, in which seven people are brought to a remote island to compete in a 48-hour test for a top-secret intelligence position, and one woman must stage her own death. 
The year is 2037, and on the tiny island of Isola, seven people have been selected to participate in a 48-hour competition for a top-secret intelligence position with the totalitarian Union of Friendship. One of them is Anna Francis, a workaholic bureaucrat with a nine-year-old daughter she rarely sees and a secret that haunts her.
Anna is not actually a candidate for the position: in fact, she’s the test itself. Her assignment is to stage her own death and then to observe, from her hiding place inside the walls of the house, how the six other candidates react to the news that a murderer is among them: Who will take control? Who will crack under pressure? But then a storm rolls in, the power goes out, and the real game begins….
Combining suspense, unexpected twists, psychological gamesmanship, and a sinister dystopian future, The Dying Game conjures a world in which one woman is forced to ask, “Can I save my life by staging my death?”

All Rights Reserved by Gregory Scott Katsoulis (August 29th, 2017)

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In a world where every word and gesture is copyrighted, patented or trademarked, one girl elects to remain silent rather than pay to speak, and her defiant and unexpected silence threatens to unravel the very fabric of society.
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 (“Sorry” is a flat ten dollars and a legal admission of guilt), for every nod ($0.99/sec), for every scream ($0.99/sec) 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. Backed into a corner, Speth finds a loophole: rather than read her speechrather than say anything at allshe closes her mouth and vows never to speak again. Speth’s unexpected defiance of tradition sparks a media frenzy, inspiring others to follow in her footsteps, and threatens to destroy her, her family and the entire city around them.

The Girl with the Red Balloon by Katherine Locke (September 1st, 2017)

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When sixteen-year-old Ellie Baum accidentally time-travels via red balloon to 1988 East Berlin, she’s caught up in a conspiracy of history and magic. She meets members of an underground guild in East Berlin who use balloons and magic to help people escape over the Wall—but even to the balloon makers, Ellie’s time travel is a mystery. When it becomes clear that someone is using dark magic to change history, Ellie must risk everything—including her only way home—to stop the process.

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera (September 5th, 2017)

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When Mateo receives the dreaded call from Death-Cast, informing him that today will be his last, he doesn’t know where to begin. Quiet and shy, Mateo is devastated at the thought of leaving behind his hospitalised father, and his best friend and her baby girl. But he knows that he has to make the most of this day, it’s his last chance to get out there and make an impression.  
Rufus is busy beating up his ex-girlfriend’s new boyfriend when he gets the call. Having lost his entire family, Rufus is no stranger to Death-Cast. Not that it makes it any easier. With bridges to mend, the police searching for him and the angry new boyfriend on his tail, it’s time to run.  
Isolated and scared, the boys reach out to each other, and what follows is a day of living life to the full. Though neither of them had expected that this would involve falling in love…  
Another beautiful, heartbreaking and life-affirming book from the brilliant Adam Silvera, author of More Happy Than Not and History Is All You Left Me.

Warcross by Marie Lu (September 12th, 2017)

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From #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu—when a game called Warcross takes the world by storm, one girl hacks her way into its dangerous depths. 
For the millions who log in every day, Warcross isn’t just a game—it’s a way of life. The obsession started ten years ago and its fan base now spans the globe, some eager to escape from reality and others hoping to make a profit. Struggling to make ends meet, teenage hacker Emika Chen works as a bounty hunter, tracking down players who bet on the game illegally. But the bounty hunting world is a competitive one, and survival has not been easy. Needing to make some quick cash, Emika takes a risk and hacks into the opening game of the international Warcross Championships—only to accidentally glitch herself into the action and become an overnight sensation. 
Convinced she’s going to be arrested, Emika is shocked when instead she gets a call from the game’s creator, the elusive young billionaire Hideo Tanaka, with an irresistible offer. He needs a spy on the inside of this year’s tournament in order to uncover a security problem . . . and he wants Emika for the job. With no time to lose, Emika’s whisked off to Tokyo and thrust into a world of fame and fortune that she’s only dreamed of. But soon her investigation uncovers a sinister plot, with major consequences for the entire Warcross empire. 
In this sci-fi thriller, #1 New York Times bestselling author Marie Lu conjures an immersive, exhilarating world where choosing who to trust may be the biggest gamble of all.

Invictus by Ryan Graudin (September 26th, 2017)

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Time flies when you’re plundering history.
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.
But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems.
In this heart-stopping adventure, Ryan Graudin has created a fast-paced world that defies time and space.

What upcoming releases are you guys looking forward to during the second half of this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

adarkershadeofmagicA Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My Rating: 5/5 TARDISes

Series: Shades of Magic

Date Published: February 24th, 2015

Publisher: Tor Books

Pages: 400 pages

Source: Purchased

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: Kell is one of the last travelers–magicians with a rare, coveted ability to travel between parallel universes connected by one magical city.

There’s Grey London, dirty and boring, without any magic, and with one mad King–George III. Red London, where life and magic are revered–and where Kell was raised alongside Rhy Maresh, the roguish heir to a flourishing empire. White London–a place where people fight to control magic and the magic fights back, draining the city to its very bones. And once upon a time, there was Black London. But no one speaks of that now.

Officially, Kell is the Red traveler, ambassador of the Maresh empire, carrying the monthly correspondences between the royals of each London. Unofficially, Kell is a smuggler, servicing people willing to pay for even the smallest glimpses of a world they’ll never see. It’s a defiant hobby with dangerous consequences, which Kell is now seeing firsthand.

Fleeing into Grey London, Kell runs into Delilah Bard, a cut-purse with lofty aspirations. She robs him, saves him from a deadly enemy, and finally forces Kell to spirit her to another world for a proper adventure.

Now perilous magic is afoot, and treachery lurks at every turn. To save all of the worlds, they’ll first need to stay alive.

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This is a spoiler-free review.

This is, by far, one of the most hyped books I have on my shelves, which is something that would normally scare me off. However, this book beyond lived up to the hype. It promised action, thrilling adventures through parallel worlds, and of course, plenty of magic. Victoria Schwab once again proves herself to be one of the most brilliant and talented writers out there. She is resourceful and exceedingly unique in every detail that she writes. Between her beautiful writing, intricate descriptions, and skilled characterization, she has created a vivid and heart-pounding journey through the magic of London.

In this novel, we follow two main characters—a traveler named Kell and a thief named Delilah “Lila” Bard. Kell, hailing from Red London, is an Antari (one of two) who possess potent blood magic that allows him to cross through the doors between each of the three Londons—the regal and magical Red London, the dimmed and magic-less Grey London, and White London, rendered colorless and menacing by its abuse of magic.

Red London lives in harmony with its magic, respecting it as much as it does them. White London sees it as something to be controlled, turning it into something ugly and terrifying. However, this pales in comparison to the magic of Black London, the world that has been locked away, hidden and mute—that is, until a remaining piece of it’s dark past, in the form of a stone, unexpectedly falls into the hands of Kell. The only remnants of a history preferred to be forgotten, it sets off a chain of horrible events as Kell struggles to contain it and return it to its proper place, even if that means sacrificing himself in the process.

Along the way, he obtains an unusual companion, the tough and courageous Lila Bard, who becomes involved after she pickpockets the Black London stone off of Kell when they encounter each other in the streets of Grey London. Always seeking adventure, she forces Kell to take her along on his journey to return the stone and save the three remaining Londons from this all-consuming dark force. What starts for Kell as a reluctant pairing turns into a surprisingly strong partnership as they navigate treacherous obstacles on their quest.

Despite the complexity involved in the unique details of the various Londons, not once in this entire novel is it difficult to understand, nor will it leave the reader feeling lost. Schwab depicts each setting with such care and skill, sweeping her readers into the worlds. Rather than giving an information dump of all the necessary facts, she shows the reader by pulling them straight into the action, conjuring a clear picture through descriptions and tone. Not only is it easy to imagine what every feature of this narrative looks like, she also evokes the specific feelings of each setting in the reader.

One of the aspects of this novel that first caught my attention was how unique it sounded. I’ve read a lot of fantasy books and this one was unlike any I have encountered before. This is due in part to the highly unique magic system that is primarily demonstrated through our main character, Kell. The power of blood magic is a unique and intriguing system that I have not come across in any form before. That, combined with the specific language used by the Antari to conjure the power, had me completely hooked. It was—no pun intended—absolutely spellbinding.

This book was absolutely action-packed. The fight scenes were epic, magic-filled battles, featuring struggles involving both the characters that are advantageously powerful and the characters that fight simply using the strength and willpower they have inside them. I was fully caught up in every second, tearing through page after page.

Schwab is known for writing very character driven novels, and this one was no exception. From the very start, I completely fell in love with the characters she created for this story. Kell is an incredibly brave and selfless hero. He is willing to sacrifice himself to protect the three worlds and all those in them. Lila is headstrong and sassy; she is a skilled thief that has a certain distinctively human magic about her. Hilarious and strong-willed, she has definitely become one of my favorite female literary heroines.

As always, Schwab makes her characters vivid, realistic, and three-dimensional—loveable for both their strengths and their weaknesses. Kell and Lila together are one of the best pairings I have ever come across in literature. They are two halves of one amazing whole. Even the characters that lingered at the edges of the main plot were as equally three-dimensional as the protagonists.

The writing in this novel was absolutely enchanting. Schwab has a natural talent for weaving a complex storyline into a fluid narrative that easily carries her readers from page to page. The detailed world building and fleshing out of her characters are some of the most breathtaking elements of the story. She builds each world, each setting, right up around the reader, clearly defines the class system of the various Londons, and pulls the reader alongside Kell and Lila in their adventures. It is as if you are standing right in the middle of things, feeling the pull of the magic, which is both bright and foreboding.

At this point, I think the fact that I completely and utterly fell in love with this novel is fairly clear. This is basically the epitome of my literary-loving heart and soul. I would very highly recommend this story to everyone, especially if you love magic, parallel worlds, and magnificent writing. Victoria Schwab has an unbelievable amount of natural talent, and is a superb figure in the current literary world. There is no cliffhanger ending for this novel, but it will still leave you craving further installments.

5.0 TARDISes

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Top 5 Wednesday – May 3rd, 2017

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Top 5 Wednesday was created by Lainey at Gingerreadslainey and is now hosted by Sam from Thoughts on Tomes. Every week, book reviewers all over the world are given a bookish topic and respond with their top 5 books (or elements of books) that relate to that topic. Click here for the Goodreads group if you would like to learn more about Top 5 Wednesday and join in!

This week’s Top 5 Wednesday topic is your top five favorite science fiction and fantasy cover art. This topic is pretty similar to my Top 10 Tuesday topic yesterday, but for this list, I did not reuse any of the covers from the other. So this will be a rather short and sweet post today. Here are some of my favorite SFF covers! 🙂

The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

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The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

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Spellslinger by Sebastian de Castell

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Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastian de Castell

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A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

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Which SFF books have some of your favorite cover designs? Let me know in the comments!

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