N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon 2019 Wrap-Up

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Wow, August was an absolutely insane month! Between my Hogwarts studies and my real life university studies, I can’t believe I’m still standing at this point. But, I successfully completed my first-ever readathon! And for it to be a Harry Potter-themed readathon makes it even more awesome. I had so much fun taking (and passing!) my N.E.W.T.s. I’m so happy I gave this a try. In total, I ended up reading twelve books which is more than I’ve read in a month in a while. So, without further ado, here is a look at my readathon results. I’m planning on having full reviews up for all of these at some point this month, so keep an eye out!

Profession:

Mind Medic

Grades Required:

O in Charms
O in Defense Against the Dark Arts
E in Muggle Studies
E in Potions
E in Transfiguration

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A: Read a book that you think has a gorgeous cover

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House of Salt and Sorrows by Erin A. Craig (Full Review Coming 9/26)

5.0 TARDISes

E: Read a comic/graphic novel/manga (or book under 150 pages)

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Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker (Full Review)

4.0 TARDISes

O: Spongeify (softening charm) – Read a paperback book

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Your Heart Is The Sea by Nikita Gill (Full Review Coming 9/20)

4.0 TARDISes

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A: Book that’s black under the dust jacket

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Sky in the Deep by Adrienne Young (Full Review Coming 10/5)

3.5 TARDISes

E: Gilderoy’s memory charm – first book that you remembered just now from your TBR

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His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler (Full Review)

4.0 TARDISes

O: Cornish Pixie! Swat it away with a book written by an English author or set in England

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The Doll Factory by Elizabeth Macneal (Full Review Coming 9/22)

2.5 TARDISes

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A: Cover that includes an actual photo element (person, item, place, etc.)

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The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney (Full Review)

4.5 TARDISes

E: Book set in our real world

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The Escape Room by Megan Goldin (Full Review Coming 10/3)

3.0 TARDISes

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A: Polyjuice Potion – Read your friend’s favorite book

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Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

4.0 TARDISes

E: House ingredient – book with a cover in your Hogwarts house color (Ravenclaw)

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Doctor Who: Myths and Legends by Richard Dinnick

3.0 TARDISes

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A: Read a book with LGBTQA+ representation

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Ziggy, Stardust and Me by James Brandon (Full Review Coming 9/18)

4.5 TARDISes

E: Read a book that’s not a first in the series

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Restricted Section Swap: Spellslinger by Sebastien de Castell

4.0 TARDISes

And now I’m a Mind Medic! I’m so pleased with how this readathon went and it’s made me really eager to do another one soon. I’m thinking of maybe doing the O.W.L.s readathon before the end of the year since I missed it, just so I can feel my studies are complete! How about you guys? Did any of you do the N.E.W.T.s Magical Readathon this past month? If so, let me know how you did, or if not, let me know what your favorite books of the month were!

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Book of the Month YA – September 2019

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I’m so excited to officially be a Book of the Month YA affiliate! I’ve been subscribed to the adult BOTM box for around a year and have absolutely loved it, so I’m incredibly happy that I get this chance to help spread the word about the YA boxes!

Every month you get to pick one book from a selection of five newly released YA novels to receive in your box for the month (spoiler alert: their book choices are always fantastic!). You can also add on up to two extra choices from the selections for the current month and any of the previous months. In my time using Book of the Month, I’ve always found it to be a really fun, budget-friendly subscription box. And the deals we get on the add-on books are music to my wallet! ❤

Here’s what you get with your membership:

  • A book of your choice for $14.99 / month
  • Add up to two extra books to your shipment for $9.99 each
  • Skip any month you want, and you won’t be charged
  • Free shipping, always
  • This month, get your first book for just $9.99 by using the code GROW.

If you’re interested in signing up (and supporting my blog in the process), check them out by using my affiliate link. I do get a small commission from every new sign-up using this link that will always be put toward further building my blog. So if you do use it, thank you so much! You can also use the regular link to sign up!

Now, let’s get into a bit more of the specifics!

How It Works:

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Book of the Month YA gives you one book of your choice (from a selection of five) for $14.99 per month and always with free shipping! You can add up to two extra books to your shipment for only $9.99 each. These extra books can be selected from the current and any of the previous months selections. If there’s a month where none of the selections appeal to you, you can skip any month you want, and you won’t be charged. I wholeheartedly love this subscription box and I cannot recommend it highly enough.

This month they are featuring one of the biggest new YA releases of fall, Frankly in Love! You can get your copy TODAY from BOTM YA (@yasofthemonth) for just $9.99 with code GROW.

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Here’s a look at all the selections for this month!

September 2019 Book Selections:

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The Girl the Sea Gave Back by Adrienne Young

For as long as she can remember, Tova has lived among the Svell, the people who found her washed ashore as a child and use her for her gift as a Truthtongue. Her own home and clan are long-faded memories, but the sacred symbols and staves inked over every inch of her skin mark her as one who can cast the rune stones and see into the future. She has found a fragile place among those who fear her, but when two clans to the east bury their age-old blood feud and join together as one, her world is dangerously close to collapse.

For the first time in generations, the leaders of the Svell are divided. Should they maintain peace or go to war with the allied clans to protect their newfound power? And when their chieftain looks to Tova to cast the stones, she sets into motion a series of events that will not only change the landscape of the mainland forever but will give her something she believed she could never have again—a home.

Permanent Record by Mary H.K. Choi

After a year of college, Pablo is working at his local twenty-four-hour deli, selling overpriced snacks to brownstone yuppies. He’s dodging calls from the student loan office and he has no idea what his next move is.

Leanna Smart’s life so far has been nothing but success. Age eight: Disney Mouseketeer; Age fifteen: first #1 single on the US pop chart; Age seventeen, *tenth* #1 single; and now, at Age nineteen…life is a queasy blur of private planes, weird hotel rooms, and strangers asking for selfies on the street.

When Leanna and Pab randomly meet at 4:00 a.m. in the middle of a snowstorm in Brooklyn, they both know they can’t be together forever. So, they keep things on the down-low and off Instagram for as long as they can. But it takes about three seconds before the world finds out…

Frankly in Love by David Yoon

High school senior Frank Li is a Limbo–his term for Korean-American kids who find themselves caught between their parents’ traditional expectations and their own Southern California upbringing. His parents have one rule when it comes to romance–“Date Korean”–which proves complicated when Frank falls for Brit Means, who is smart, beautiful–and white. Fellow Limbo Joy Song is in a similar predicament, and so they make a pact: they’ll pretend to date each other in order to gain their freedom. Frank thinks it’s the perfect plan, but in the end, Frank and Joy’s fake-dating maneuver leaves him wondering if he ever really understood love–or himself–at all.

The Stars and the Blackness Between Them by Junauda Petrus

Told in two distinct and irresistible voices, Junauda Petrus’s bold and lyrical debut is the story of two black girls from very different backgrounds finding love and happiness in a world that seems determined to deny them both.

Trinidad. Sixteen-year-old Audre is despondent, having just found out she’s going to be sent to live in America with her father because her strictly religious mother caught her with her secret girlfriend, the pastor’s daughter. Audre’s grandmother Queenie (a former dancer who drives a white convertible Cadillac and who has a few secrets of her own) tries to reassure her granddaughter that she won’t lose her roots, not even in some place called Minneapolis. “America have dey spirits too, believe me,” she tells Audre.

Minneapolis. Sixteen-year-old Mabel is lying on her bed, staring at the ceiling and trying to figure out why she feels the way she feels–about her ex Terrell, about her girl Jada and that moment they had in the woods, and about the vague feeling of illness that’s plagued her all summer. Mabel’s reverie is cut short when her father announces that his best friend and his just-arrived-from-Trinidad daughter are coming for dinner.

Mabel quickly falls hard for Audre and is determined to take care of her as she tries to navigate an American high school. But their romance takes a turn when test results reveal exactly why Mabel has been feeling low-key sick all summer and suddenly it’s Audre who is caring for Mabel as she faces a deeply uncertain future.

Junauda Petrus’s debut brilliantly captures the distinctly lush and lyrical voices of Mabel and Audre as they conjure a love that is stronger than hatred, prison, and death and as vast as the blackness between the stars.

The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

In the early 1900s, a young woman embarks on a fantastical journey of self-discovery after finding a mysterious book in this captivating and lyrical debut.

In a sprawling mansion filled with peculiar treasures, January Scaller is a curiosity herself. As the ward of the wealthy Mr. Locke, she feels little different from the artifacts that decorate the halls: carefully maintained, largely ignored, and utterly out of place.

Then she finds a strange book. A book that carries the scent of other worlds, and tells a tale of secret doors, of love, adventure and danger. Each page turn reveals impossible truths about the world and January discovers a story increasingly entwined with her own.

Lush and richly imagined, a tale of impossible journeys, unforgettable love, and the enduring power of stories awaits in Alix E. Harrow’s spellbinding debut–step inside and discover its magic.

To give you even more of an idea of what the options typically look like each month, here are the August 2019 selections! And you guys will be finding out my picks for both August and September (as well as my thoughts on them) very soon, so keep an eye out! 😀

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If you do sign up or are already a Book of the Month YA member, make sure to let me know what your book choice for September is in the comments!

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Review: Mooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

mooncakesMooncakes by Suzanne Walker and Wendy Xu

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: October 15th, 2019

Publisher: Lion Forge

Pages: 256 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: A story of love and demons, family and witchcraft.

Nova Huang knows more about magic than your average teen witch. She works at her grandmothers’ bookshop, where she helps them loan out spell books and investigate any supernatural occurrences in their New England town.

One fateful night, she follows reports of a white wolf into the woods, and she comes across the unexpected: her childhood crush, Tam Lang, battling a horse demon in the woods. As a werewolf, Tam has been wandering from place to place for years, unable to call any town home.

Pursued by dark forces eager to claim the magic of wolves and out of options, Tam turns to Nova for help. Their latent feelings are rekindled against the backdrop of witchcraft, untested magic, occult rituals, and family ties both new and old in this enchanting tale of self-discovery.

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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 such an adorable and heartwarming graphic novel. It’s packed with witchy vibes, a sweet young romance, werewolf magic, and the strength and pure love that a family—both biological and found—can give. Between the art and the story itself, it really captures the feeling of Fall—cooler weather, cozy nights, spooky feels, changing leaves. I found myself easily transported into this world, the atmosphere almost tangible. It is an absolutely beautiful read on so many levels.

In this story, we follow two best friends. Nova Huang is a brilliant, Chinese-American teenage witch who works with her two grandmothers in their bookshop. She helps them loan out books on spells while also going out and investigating any odd, supernatural happenings around their town in New England. Tam Lang, Nova’s childhood best friend, is a Chinese-American, nonbinary werewolf…and also Nova’s long-time crush.

The pair have lived apart for a few years with Tam having to constantly wander to escape those who wish to harness her power for evil. Then, one night, Nova stumbles across Tam battling a horse demon in the woods outside town. Soon, Tam, Nova, and the grandmothers team up to fight the forces pursuing Tam and defend the magic of the wolves. And something even more powerful is being rekindled between Nova and Tam.

My favorite part of this novel is the illustrations. They are absolutely perfect for the story and portray the tone of it incredibly well. Just the color scheme alone—deep, rich tones with a somewhat muted look—immediately sets the atmosphere of the novel. The colors Xu uses capture the mysterious and dangerous undertones of the text while also creating a feeling of warmth and welcoming to match the themes of family and love. And the style of the illustrations themselves is one of my favorites out of all the graphic novels I’ve ever read.

The story is also written so well and it is fantastic to see so much diversity being put into this novel. It is a perfect addition to the ever-growing library of LGBT+ young adult books. The characters are brought to life and developed extremely well in such a short amount of time. Walker does a great job forming the relationships between the characters and the close ties they share. Nova is a strong, intelligent, and brave young witch who will drop everything to help her loved ones and community. And Tam, equally strong but lost and hurting, finds love, comfort, and a sense of belonging that, as a whole, help her fight for herself and those she cares about.

The only thing I wish is that the novel was longer. There were a few parts of the story that I felt were just a bit underdeveloped. I would have loved to see more back story for both of the main characters, particularly Nova and her family. I would also have loved to see more of Nova and Tam’s relationship progress as well as learn in more depth about the magical aspects of the story—both good and evil. Also…I just need more of this!

Mooncakes is a beautifully-crafted and magical graphic novel. I can’t think of any better way to describe my experience with this novel than by saying that it made my heart happy. It has everything I love—queer romance, the unconditional love of found family, witches, werewolves, magical animals, and libraries of spells. What more could you want?! I very highly recommend picking it up this fall to read during a cozy night in with a warm drink (and maybe a snack cause, oh boy, was I craving mooncakes after this). This is truly an enchanting story that readers of any age will love.

4.0 TARDISes

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Top 10 Most Anticipated Releases of Fall 2019

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Hey everyone!

I’m already getting the Fall feels! 😀 I absolutely can’t wait for the cool weather to begin. Snuggly sweaters, changing leaves, pumpkin spice (yes, a little cliché, but I’m an addict!), and getting cuddled up with a good book. And there are so many great books coming out over the next few months and I am so pumped! A bunch of my most anticipated releases of the year are coming out during the fall and winter months so I absolutely cannot wait! Anyway, enough of the rambles. Here are just a few of the books that I am most excited to get my hands on this season!

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones (September 24th, 2019)

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Seventeen-year-old Aderyn (“Ryn”) only cares about two things: her family, and her family’s graveyard. And right now, both are in dire straits. Since the death of their parents, Ryn and her siblings have been scraping together a meager existence as gravediggers in the remote village of Colbren, which sits at the foot of a harsh and deadly mountain range that was once home to the fae. The problem with being a gravedigger in Colbren, though, is that the dead don’t always stay dead.
The risen corpses are known as “bone houses,” and legend says that they’re the result of a decades-old curse. When Ellis, an apprentice mapmaker with a mysterious past, arrives in town, the bone houses attack with new ferocity. What is it about Ellis that draws them near? And more importantly, how can they be stopped for good?
Together, Ellis and Ryn embark on a journey that will take them deep into the heart of the mountains, where they will have to face both the curse and the long-hidden truths about themselves. 

The Monster of Elendhaven by Jennifer Giesbrecht (September 24th, 2019)

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Debut author Jennifer Giesbrecht paints a darkly compelling fantasy of revenge in The Monster of Elendhaven, a dark fantasy about murder, a monster, and the magician who love both.
The city of Elendhaven sulks on the edge of the ocean. Wracked by plague, abandoned by the South, stripped of industry and left to die. But not everything dies so easily. A thing without a name stalks the city, a thing shaped like a man, with a dark heart and long pale fingers yearning to wrap around throats. A monster who cannot die. His frail master sends him out on errands, twisting him with magic, crafting a plan too cruel to name, while the monster’s heart grows fonder and colder and more cunning.
These monsters of Elendhaven will have their revenge on everyone who wronged the city, even if they have to burn the world to do it.

The Library of the Unwritten by A.J. Hackwith (October 1st, 2019)

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In the first book in a brilliant new fantasy series, books that aren’t finished by their authors reside in the Library of the Unwritten in Hell, and it is up to the Librarian to track down any restless characters who emerge from those unfinished stories.
Many years ago, Claire was named Head Librarian of the Unwritten Wing– a neutral space in Hell where all the stories unfinished by their authors reside. Her job consists mainly of repairing and organizing books, but also of keeping an eye on restless stories that risk materializing as characters and escaping the library. When a Hero escapes from his book and goes in search of his author, Claire must track and capture him with the help of former muse and current assistant Brevity and nervous demon courier Leto.
But what should have been a simple retrieval goes horrifyingly wrong when the terrifyingly angelic Ramiel attacks them, convinced that they hold the Devil’s Bible. The text of the Devil’s Bible is a powerful weapon in the power struggle between Heaven and Hell, so it falls to the librarians to find a book with the power to reshape the boundaries between Heaven, Hell….and Earth.

Thirteen Doors, Wolves Behind Them All by Laura Ruby (October 1st, 2019)

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When Frankie’s mother died and her father left her and her siblings at an orphanage in Chicago, it was supposed to be only temporary—just long enough for him to get back on his feet and be able to provide for them once again. That’s why Frankie’s not prepared for the day that he arrives for his weekend visit with a new woman on his arm and out-of-state train tickets in his pocket.
Now Frankie and her sister, Toni, are abandoned alongside so many other orphans—two young, unwanted women doing everything they can to survive.
And as the embers of the Great Depression are kindled into the fires of World War II, and the shadows of injustice, poverty, and death walk the streets in broad daylight, it will be up to Frankie to find something worth holding on to in the ruins of this shattered America—every minute of every day spent wondering if the life she’s able to carve out will be enough.
I will admit I do not know the answer. But I will be watching, waiting to find out. 
That’s what ghosts do.

Ninth House by Leigh Bardugo (October 8th, 2019)

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Galaxy “Alex” Stern is the most unlikely member of Yale’s freshman class. Raised in the Los Angeles hinterlands by a hippie mom, Alex dropped out of school early and into a world of shady drug dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse. By age twenty, in fact, she is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Some might say she’s thrown her life away. But at her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance: to attend one of the world’s most elite universities on a full ride. What’s the catch, and why her?
Still searching for answers to this herself, Alex arrives in New Haven tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies. These eight windowless “tombs” are well-known to be haunts of the future rich and powerful, from high-ranking politicos to Wall Street and Hollywood’s biggest players. But their occult activities are revealed to be more sinister and more extraordinary than any paranoid imagination might conceive.

Into the Crooked Place by Alexandra Christo (October 8th, 2019)

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The streets of Creije are for the deadly and the dreamers, and four crooks in particular know just how much magic they need up their sleeve to survive.
Tavia, a busker ready to pack up her dark-magic wares and turn her back on Creije for good. She’ll do anything to put her crimes behind her.
Wesley, the closest thing Creije has to a gangster. After growing up on streets hungry enough to swallow the weak whole, he won’t stop until he has brought the entire realm to kneel before him.
Karam, a warrior who spends her days watching over the city’s worst criminals and her nights in the fighting rings, making a deadly name for herself.
And Saxony, a resistance fighter hiding from the very people who destroyed her family, and willing to do whatever it takes to get her revenge.
Everything in their lives is going to plan, until Tavia makes a crucial mistake: she delivers a vial of dark magic—a weapon she didn’t know she had—to someone she cares about, sparking the greatest conflict in decades. Now these four magical outsiders must come together to save their home and the world, before it’s too late. But with enemies at all sides, they can trust nobody. Least of all each other.

The Never Tilting World by Rin Chupeco (October 15th, 2019)

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Generations of twin goddesses have long ruled Aeon. But seventeen years ago, one sister’s betrayal defied an ancient prophecy and split their world in two. The planet ceased to spin, and a Great Abyss now divides two realms: one cloaked in perpetual night, the other scorched by an unrelenting sun.
While one sister rules Aranth—a frozen city surrounded by a storm-wracked sea —her twin inhabits the sand-locked Golden City. Each goddess has raised a daughter, and each keeps her own secrets about her sister’s betrayal.
But when shadowy forces begin to call their daughters, Odessa and Haidee, back to the site of the Breaking, the two young goddesses —along with a powerful healer from Aranth, and a mouthy desert scavenger —set out on separate journeys across treacherous wastelands, desperate to heal their broken world. No matter the sacrifice it demands.

Beyond the Black Door by A.M. Strickland (October 29th, 2019)

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Kamai was warned never to open the black door, but she didn’t listen …
Everyone has a soul. Some are beautiful gardens, others are frightening dungeons. Soulwalkers―like Kamai and her mother―can journey into other people’s souls while they sleep.
But no matter where Kamai visits, she sees the black door. It follows her into every soul, and her mother has told her to never, ever open it.
When Kamai touches the door, it is warm and beating, like it has a pulse. When she puts her ear to it, she hears her own name whispered from the other side. And when tragedy strikes, Kamai does the unthinkable: she opens the door.
A.M. Strickland’s imaginative dark fantasy features court intrigue and romance, a main character coming to terms with her asexuality, and twists and turns as a seductive mystery unfolds that endangers not just Kamai’s own soul, but the entire kingdom …

The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern (November 5th, 2019)

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From the New York Times bestselling author of The Night Circus, a timeless love story set in a secret underground world–a place of pirates, painters, lovers, liars, and ships that sail upon a starless sea.
Zachary Ezra Rawlins is a graduate student in Vermont when he discovers a mysterious book hidden in the stacks. As he turns the pages, entranced by tales of lovelorn prisoners, key collectors, and nameless acolytes, he reads something strange: a story from his own childhood. Bewildered by this inexplicable book and desperate to make sense of how his own life came to be recorded, Zachary uncovers a series of clues–a bee, a key, and a sword–that lead him to a masquerade party in New York, to a secret club, and through a doorway to an ancient library, hidden far below the surface of the earth.
What Zachary finds in this curious place is more than just a buried home for books and their guardians–it is a place of lost cities and seas, lovers who pass notes under doors and across time, and of stories whispered by the dead. Zachary learns of those who have sacrificed much to protect this realm, relinquishing their sight and their tongues to preserve this archive, and also those who are intent on its destruction.
Together with Mirabel, a fierce, pink-haired protector of the place, and Dorian, a handsome, barefoot man with shifting alliances, Zachary travels the twisting tunnels, darkened stairwells, crowded ballrooms, and sweetly-soaked shores of this magical world, discovering his purpose–in both the mysterious book and in his own life. 

Winterwood by Shea Ernshaw (November 5th, 2019)

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From New York Times bestselling author of The Wicked Deep comes a haunting romance perfect for fans of Practical Magic, where dark fairy tales and enchanted folklore collide after a boy, believed to be missing, emerges from the magical woods—and falls in love with the witch determined to unravel his secrets.
Be careful of the dark, dark wood…
Especially the woods surrounding the town of Fir Haven. Some say these woods are magical. Haunted, even.
Rumored to be a witch, only Nora Walker knows the truth. She and the Walker women before her have always shared a special connection with the woods. And it’s this special connection that leads Nora to Oliver Huntsman—the same boy who disappeared from the Camp for Wayward Boys weeks ago—and in the middle of the worst snowstorm in years. He should be dead, but here he is alive, and left in the woods with no memory of the time he’d been missing.
But Nora can feel an uneasy shift in the woods at Oliver’s presence. And it’s not too long after that Nora realizes she has no choice but to unearth the truth behind how the boy she has come to care so deeply about survived his time in the forest, and what led him there in the first place. What Nora doesn’t know, though, is that Oliver has secrets of his own—secrets he’ll do anything to keep buried, because as it turns out, he wasn’t the only one to have gone missing on that fateful night all those weeks ago.
For as long as there have been fairy tales, we have been warned to fear what lies within the dark, dark woods and in Winterwood, New York Times bestselling author Shea Ernshaw, shows us why.

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

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September 2019 TBR

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Hi everyone!

I’m trying to continue posting more of my monthly TBRs because I absolutely love sharing what I’m reading with you guys. I managed to stick to my whole N.E.W.T.s Readathon TBR last month (wrap-up coming soon!) and I want to try to keep up the momentum with my reading. Also, I love hearing what you’ve all been reading this year and if you have any recommendations! As always, my TBR is insanely ambitious for just one month and I’m not pressuring myself to read all of them, but I’m hoping to get through a decent amount.

I’m so eager to read these books and I’m so excited to share them with you so, without further ado, here is my reading list for September!

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The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow

Mother Knows Best by Kira Peikoff

Caraval by Stephanie Garber

The Dark Lord Clementine by Sarah Jean Horwitz

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Sorcery of Thorns by Margaret Rogerson

The Twisted Ones by T. Kingfisher

A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

The Bone Houses by Emily Lloyd-Jones

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The Collected Works of Gretchen Oyster by Cary Fagan

As Many Nows as I Can Get by Shana Youngdahl

Four Dead Queens by Astrid Scholte

Shadow Frost by Coco Ma

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The Girl in Red by Christina Henry

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab (Re-read)

The Girl Before by J.P. Delaney

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

What are you guys reading this month? What have been some of your favorite reads so far this year? Let me know in the comments!

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Review: His Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

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hishideousheartHis Hideous Heart edited by Dahlia Adler

My Rating: 4/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: September 10th, 2019

Publisher: Flatiron Books

Pages: 480 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: “The Cask of Amontillado”. “The Tell-Tale Heart”. “The Pit and the Pendulum”. Filled with love and loss, vengeance and regret, the dark, chilling stories of Edgar Allen Poe have haunted us for over 150 years. Now, thirteen of YAs most celebrated writers reimagine Poe’s stories for a new generation.

These contemporary retellings will grab readers by the throat and drag them along to surprising and unsettling places, whether they are Poe aficionados or new newcomers to these classics. Tiffany D. Jackson, award-winning author of Monday’s Not Coming, transports “The Cask of Amontillado” to the streets of Brooklyn during the present day West Indian Day Carnival in Brooklyn. Poet amanda lovelace finds new meaning in the classic poem “The Raven” by blotting out words from the original lines. And Kendare Blake, New York Times bestselling author of the Three Dark Crowns series, gives the unreliable voice narrating “Metzengerstein” a contemporary edge.

With the original stories printed in the back of the book, HIS HIDEOUS HEART offers up a fun way to meet Poe for the first time, or for readers to revisit old favorites with fresh eyes. His work reminds us why we love to be scared, whether we get that thrill from watching the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, visiting a haunted house at Halloween, or by reading Poe’s spine-tingling stories.

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

“Once upon a midnight dreary,
I received a review query,
About this very quaint and curious volume of Poe’s retold lore…”

First off, I have to start by saying I was incredibly tempted to write this entire review as a poem in the style of “The Raven” but, unfortunately (…or perhaps fortunately), I think that far exceeds my creative writing talents.

I know I am pointing out the obvious at this point, but this is a collection of thirteen YA authors’ contemporary retellings of some of Edgar Allan Poe’s most famous works. The authors have taken these chilling stories and reimagined them for a new generation of readers. These modernized versions are hauntingly unique yet still retain much of Poe’s signature tone and style while paying homage to the beloved originals. Thrills and chills, love, heartbreak, and revenge can all be found within these pages, forming a collection that further immortalizes these classic tales.

As a lover of all things dark and creepy, I immediately fell in love with Edgar Allan Poe’s work when we first studied him back in middle school. So when I heard about this collection, I absolutely had to give it a read—and I was not disappointed. As with any anthology with multiple authors, you’re going to have some hits and some misses. However, I found that the focus here on Poe retellings helped to unify the stories quite a lot more than other short story collections I have read. Each story possesses the vividly eerie, peculiar, longing, and vengeful qualities found in the originals and stays very faithful to Poe’s visions for them.

My favorite stories from the collection were:

Night-Tide by Tessa Gratton
Lygia by Dahlia Adler
The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles
A Drop of Stolen Ink by Emily Lloyd-Jones
The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig
The Fall of the Bank of Usher by Fran Wilde

Now, I’ll go into some specifics about each of the individual stories and my thoughts on them.

She Rode a Horse of Fire by Kendare Blake (3.5/5)
Inspired by “Metzengerstein”

In this story, we follow a girl who works in a mansion. The young master of the estate, Friedrich Baron, loses his most recent girlfriend in a fire on his property. It turns out that she was the daughter of another wealthy family who has a centuries-long feud with Friedrich’s. Then, out of nowhere one day, a young woman appears and Friedrich begins to spend all his time with her. And, somehow, this young woman has a striking resemblance to a figure in a mysterious tapestry found in the Baron estate. Though it was an interesting story, it just felt like it needed something more. I would have liked a little more clarity about who the characters are—particularly the main character—and what their relationships to each other were. The way the story is told, it makes it seem necessary to have a few more of those details. Other than that, it is a splendid update of the original story—very faithful to all the elements of the plot with a more modern twist to them!

It’s Carnival! by Tiffany D. Jackson (3/5)
Inspired by “The Cask of Amontillado”

In this story, a girl named Cindy plans to get her revenge on a man named Darrell using Brooklyn’s West Indian Day Carnival to cover her tracks. It is clear that Darrel has been harassing her and her family relentlessly for years, though not much detail is given. The Cask of Amontillado is one of my favorite Poe tales and I felt that this was a pretty accurate depiction of the general idea of the story. It unfolds in much the same way as the original and that holding back of details is similar to how Poe tells his version. I think my only real issue was that I couldn’t quite get into Jackson’s writing style. It just didn’t click with me and I felt like there was a little something missing, but overall, it is an accurate retelling.

Night-Tide by Tessa Gratton (5/5)
Inspired by “Annabel Lee”

Gratton transforms this classic poem into a short story about lost lovers. A young lady tells of a girl she loves who has tragically fallen ill and passed away. The narrator mourns her Annabel Lee, reminisces of better times, and feels anger at the intolerant whispers of the locals in this beach town. This was my favorite story in the whole collection—I absolutely adored it. It is both beautiful and utterly heartbreaking and is such a brilliant take on the original poem. Gratton did an amazing job of capturing those feelings of loss and longing that emanate from Poe’s writing. A wholly unique and imaginative retelling!

The Glittering Death by Caleb Roehrig (4.25/5)
Inspired by “The Pit and the Pendulum”

In this story, a young girl is captured by an infamous serial killer named “The Judge”. He is going to kill her because he believes she has committed many sins and he wants her to confess them before her time comes. While trapped in a cage in his basement, she realizes she will have to determine how to beat him at his own game if she wants to get out alive. This is just begging to be turned into a full-length psychological thriller novel! The one thing I felt it was lacking was a bit more backstory for the main character. There were a number of plot points, specifically about her relationships with a couple other characters, that were only vaguely touched on. The fact that these plot points were brought up in the first place made some more detail necessary in order to fully develop the story.

A Drop of Stolen Ink by Emily Lloyd-Jones (4.5/5)
Inspired by “The Purloined Letter”

In this story, society has reached a point where our entire identities are written in a tattoo on our bodies that can be scanned whenever our details are needed. This makes it nearly impossible for a person’s identity to be stolen. However, that very thing has happened, and it is up to our main character to find the missing tattoo. Classic mystery/thriller style plot meets futuristic tech? Sign me up! I absolutely loved this story—it was definitely my kind of thing. Once again, this is another story that I would absolutely love seeing turned into a full novel!

Happy Days, Sweetheart by Stephanie Kuehn (2/5)
Inspired by “The Tell-Tale Heart”

In this story, we follow a girl who is dealing with a lot of pressure from herself to be the best but is struggling with being a minority in her school. She continuously loses out to a rich, white boy who does not put the same effort into things as she does. As the end of senior year approaches, she will do anything to become valedictorian. The Tell-Tale Heart is another one of my favorite Poe stories. However, I ended up not really liking this retelling. I do think it was very accurate and featured many of the important plot elements from the original. And, while I definitely understand the message Kuehn is trying to convey, I feel that this particular story is just not the right one to use in order to do that. I wasn’t entirely sure how to feel about this one.

The Raven (Remix) by Amanda Lovelace (N/A)
Inspired by “The Raven”

This is a blackout poetry version of “The Raven” (one of my favorite poems of all time). Essentially, Lovelace takes the original poem and blacks out portions of the text in order to reveal a new poem that she has created from Poe’s words. Unfortunately, there was an error here with the digital ARC and nothing was blacked out, so I cannot give a rating or review on this one. However, I absolutely love Amanda Lovelace and her poetry is always so beautiful and creative. I am certain I will enjoy reading this when the collection officially releases.

Changeling by Marieke Nijkamp (4/5)
Inspired by “Hop-Frog”

In this story, the children in society who are deemed “crippled” are either being treated unfairly or just left to fend for themselves. There is a tale of the fae coming to gather these children and bring them to a better life that many of them are hopeful is true. We follow a character who was once found and taken in by the fae and who now does the same for others—while also aiding them if they wish to take revenge on those who have wronged them. This one felt like a dark fairytale and I loved that. It was definitely an interesting and unique take on the original story.

The Oval Filter by Lamar Giles (5/5)
Inspired by “The Oval Portrait”

This is the story of a guy named Tariq whose girlfriend has recently been murdered. Suddenly, she is haunting his Instagram feed, her constantly changing image in the oval profile picture helping lead Tariq to discover who has killed her. I had not read The Oval Portrait prior to this but I ended up absolutely loving both versions. Giles definitely captures the highly unsettling nature of the original work using our modern-day portraits—profile pictures. The changing image in the oval filter is described so vividly and the way it is used is truly creepy. Giles did a fantastic job of setting a clear and intense tone and atmosphere in a short amount of time.

Red by Hillary Monahan (2/5)
Inspired by “The Masque of the Red Death”

Despite being familiar with and having studied The Masque of the Red Death, I was honestly quite confused by this story. I couldn’t really figure out what was happening. We follow this mysterious girl with red hair and it is clear that she is some sort of otherworldly being out for revenge. But that’s about all I figured out. There are many references to names used within the original story, such as the bar the girl ends up at having the same name and distinct internal color scheme as the home where the guests are hiding from the plague in Poe’s version. The ending produces the same result as the original text. However, I could not figure out why anything was happening or anything about the girl and what exactly she is. I do have to give Monahan credit for making such a fascinatingly atmosphere setting, though.

Lygia by Dahlia Adler (5/5)
Inspired by “Ligeia”

In this story, our main character loses the girl she is deeply in love with to cancer. Then one day at school, she passes Lygia’s locker only to see a new girl who is somewhat reminiscent of Lygia—reminiscent enough that the narrator begins to do everything she can to make her the spitting image of Lygia. This is exactly the type of story that I love and I desperately wish this was a full-length novel. And that ending! I totally want to hear more of this story. I read the original “Ligeia” alongside this one as I had not read it before and felt that it was a very unique yet accurate retelling.

The Fall of the Bank of Usher by Fran Wilde (4/5)
Inspired by “The Fall of the House of Usher”

Here, we follow twins who, together, are the hacker phenom “Madrik”. They receive an email inviting them to a bank in need of their skills to test their new security system. Once the twins arrive, however, it is clear that something much more sinister is at play. The sci-fi/hacker story nerd in me was very pleased with this one. The only “complaint” I had was that I wish this had been longer. There were so many fascinating pieces of technology I wanted more details on, and I would have loved to hear more of the twins’ backstory. Nevertheless, I thought this was an absolutely brilliant modernization of the original tale. Taking the creepy and inexplicable things that ensnare the house in the original story and transforming them into things like biotech and robotics was so great!

The Murders in the Rue Apartelle, Boracay by Rin Chupeco (3/5)
Inspired by “The Murders in the Rue Morgue”

In this story, we follow a transgender girl as she falls in love with a man who takes her on a wild journey. She marvels at his attention to detail and remarkable powers of deduction. After spending days together exploring the area, they find out that a double murder has taken place and they are swept up into the investigation. This kind of had some Sherlock Holmes vibes, which I liked. It was an interesting story, but I never felt like I was all that invested in it or the characters. I think part of it was the writing style. I have read and enjoyed Rin Chupeco’s work in the past, but have also found her writing style a bit difficult to get in to. It was a very faithful retelling of the original, however, with a neat, fantastical twist!

Overall, I had a really great time reading this. I definitely very highly recommend giving this collection a go if you are a fan of Edgar Allan Poe or any of these wonderful YA authors!

4.0 TARDISes

Dahlia Adler is an Associate Editor of mathematics by day, a blogger for B&N Teens, LGBTQ Reads, and Frolic by night, and an author of Young Adult and New Adult novels at every spare moment in between. Her books include the Daylight Falls duology, Just Visiting, and the Radleigh University trilogy, and her short stories can be found in the anthologies The Radical Element, All Out, It’s a Whole Spiel, and His Hideous Heart, which she also edited. Dahlia lives in New York with her husband, son, and an obscene amount of books, and can be found on Twitter and Instagram at @MissDahlELama.

Contributors:

Dahlia Adler
Kendare Blake
Rin Chupeco
Lamar Giles
Tessa Gratton
Tiffany D. Jackson
Stephanie Kuehn
Emily Lloyd-Jones
amanda lovelace
Hillary Monahan
Marieke Nijkamp
Caleb Roehrig
Fran Wilde

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Review: The Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

theperfectwifeThe Perfect Wife by J.P. Delaney

My Rating: 4.5/5 TARDISes

Series: Standalone

Date Published: August 6th, 2019

Publisher: Ballantine Books

Pages: 413 pages

Source: Netgalley

Links: Goodreads | Amazon | Book Depository

Synopsis: The perfect life. The perfect love. The perfect lie. From the bestselling author of The Girl Before comes a gripping new psychological thriller. . . 

Abbie awakens in a daze with no memory of who she is or how she landed in this unsettling condition. The man by her side claims to be her husband. He’s a titan of the tech world, the founder of one of Silicon Valley’s most innovative start-ups. He tells Abbie that she is a gifted artist, an avid surfer, a loving mother to their young son, and the perfect wife. He says she had a terrible accident five years ago and that, through a huge technological breakthrough, she has been brought back from the abyss.

She is a miracle of science.

But as Abbie pieces together memories of her marriage, she begins questioning her husband’s motives–and his version of events. Can she trust him when he says he wants them to be together forever? And what really happened to Abbie half a decade ago?

Beware the man who calls you . . . 

THE PERFECT WIFE

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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.

Going in, I definitely expected to like this book, but I did not expect to love it quite as much as I did. I got so wrapped up in the story that I flew through it in two sittings. Unfortunately, given the genre of the book, a spoiler-free review is going to be a challenge. In fact, there is a twist that happens in the first few pages of the novel that completely shocked me and took the story in a delightfully unexpected direction. Now, this twist and not knowing it was coming made this book so exciting that I absolutely do not want to say what it is—going into it blind was fantastic. All this being said, I will try to tell you about this novel as best as I can.

In this story, we follow our main character, Abbie, as she is recovering from an accident that has caused a great loss of memory. As she gathers and puts together the pieces of the life she forgot and the time she has missed, she finds that nothing is as it seems—her past is a blur and her future may not be under her control.

From page one, I was absolutely hooked. This is a unique and fast-paced story with plenty of twists and turns that you will not see coming. The original synopsis I read was actually a lot vaguer than the finalized one, but either way, I had absolutely no idea what I was getting in to. This had everything I love about psychological thriller novels and more—a twist that made my nerdy little heart sing even louder. And more…nerd-ily.

This is not only a gripping and twisty psychological thriller, but it also deals with several thought-provoking and timely topics. It is very informative, particularly on the topic of parenting a child with autism, which Delaney is writing on from personal experience. I have a very basic knowledge of autism and absolutely no knowledge about what the parent of an autistic child goes through and I learned a great deal through this story. It truly opened my eyes to what incredibly strong and beautiful human beings these children and parents are. I loved the depth that these topics added to the novel as a whole.

The characters are fantastically well-crafted and multi-dimensional. Our main character is very easy to connect with and I enjoyed following her. Many characters are quite ambiguous and leave you questioning their true intentions. I feel that Delaney does a wonderful job of bringing them to life and weaving their roles seamlessly into the main plotline.

Interestingly, this novel is written mostly in the second-person perspective. I have never read a story told in this way and, though I was a bit wary at first, I ended up getting into the style pretty easily. And the reasoning behind using this perspective is yet another mystery you will have to solve by picking up this book.

There were portions toward the middle of the novel—slight lulls between moments of action or shocking revelations—that at first I felt slowed things down. And while, admittedly, there were a few things I felt could have been skipped over, these slower moments actually added depth to one of the main themes in the novel. These sections allow the reader to connect further with the protagonist, putting them in her shoes as she attempts to put the pieces of her life back together. These seemingly mundane tasks she goes about that are described in great detail highlight what her life has become—slowly placing one foot in front of the other, occupying her time by focusing on each individual moment, however small.

The only minor issue I had with the plot was with a portion of the ending. It is a very surprising and intense conclusion, and for the most part, I felt things were resolved well. It is not a perfect, happy ending—which I enjoy a lot—and I was still left feeling very satisfied. There is one moment in the final pages that seemed a bit rushed and unplanned though. It is actually a positive note and one that I am quite happy about, but the logistics of it were confusing. It felt like it was squeezed in simply to resolve a plotline without much exposition to help the reader understand how and why it happened. However, the overall ending was great and I will say that this moment has definitely given me even more to think over after finishing the book.

Wow. This story. It was so unexpected in all the best ways and had me completely enthralled. I never wanted it to end and it totally kicked off a mystery/thriller reading binge for me. This was one of those books that had me making both facial and audible reactions while sitting in a room by myself. I also may or may not have talked to myself for half an hour or more trying to sort out all of my thoughts after finishing it. I have been wanting to read J.P. Delaney’s novels for a while now and this was a wonderful start. I very highly recommend giving this novel a try.

4.5 TARDISes

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