Favorite Fantasy: The Girl in the Tower by Katherine Arden Review

Since The Girl in the Tower is the second book in Katherine Arden’s Winternight trilogy, I will not be posting a summary of The Girl in the Tower. The first book, The Bear and the Nightingale, follows Vasilisa’s upbringing in the snowy, Russian wilderness, where she spends winter nights with her siblings listening to fairy tales. But magic Vasilisa discovers doesn’t just have a home in her nurse’s stories. I have a non-spoiler mini review for The Bear and the Nightingale.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

The Girl in the Tower is one of the few books I knew my bookish soul needed before the end of the year. Autumn and winter inspires me to pick up more fantasy, and with The Winter of the Witch coming out soon (January 8, 2019), it was time to pick up this sequel.I am beyond excited to say that I absolutely loved The Girl in the Tower– maybe even more than the first book—and it’s easily one of the best books that I’ve read in 2018.

I never knew I needed Russian-inspired fantasy before reading The Bear and the Nightingale, and this element again came into play in this second installment. It was actually easier to get acquainted with the Russian terminology and mythical creatures & features this time around. Speaking of more mythical characters, I loved being reunited with Morozko and Solovey. For someone who isn’t the biggest horse rider,  I need a Solovey in my life. I really enjoyed Morozko’s role in this installment and I liked the direction of his relationship with Vasya— even with all the heartbreaking moments.

I really enjoyed the third person perspective in The Girl in the Tower because we get to spend a lot of time with Vasya’s siblings who we don’t see as much in the first book, Sasha and Olga. Sasha was one of my favorite characters in The Bear and the Nightingale, and he continued to be in this installment. I liked seeing his love for his family and his role in politics. I also loved Olga, especially loving her and her daughter’s own connection to the title of the book. I’m really excited to see how Marya comes into play in The Winter of the Witch. 

I think all of Vasya’s family and Morozko could be characterized by their strength, but I was completely blown away by Vasya. I know kickbutt female characters has become more and more of a common theme in fantasy, but Vasya was such an amazing heroine. Her story in this installment reminded me of Mulan for obvious reasons, but I loved how she proved that being a woman couldn’t stop her from being intelligent and strong. It  frustrated me to pieces when Vasya and women overall in this world were limited in what they could do because of their gender, but I understand that it has a lot to do with the historical context.

I completely loved the ending of The Girl in the Tower. Obviously, I am HERE for The Winter of the Witch, but I liked how we didn’t book end cliffhanger and not too many questions unanswered.

Overall, I loved The Girl in the Tower for its characters, unique magic system and setting, and its fast-paced story highlighting the strength of women. The Winter of the Witch is currently my most anticipated release of 2019!

Have you read The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower? Share in the comments!

Royal Review: Rule by Ellen Goodlett

Summary: King Andros of the Reaches is dying, his heir has been murdered, and rebellion brews in the east. The nation is only left with one option…or rather three options in the form of three girls with three deadly secrets. And there’s only one crown to spare.

Zofi has spent her entire life drifting through the Reaches, but just when her freedom matters most, she’s dragged to the nation’s capital, Kolonya. Ren grew up in Kolonya and in the palace, serving as a ladies’ maid at court. She dreamed of being a high lady herself one day, but the timing seems off after her own misdeed. Akelyah has been raised by an abusive family in the Eastern Reach, home of the rebellion. She’d doing anything to escape her family, but why at the invitation of a king who has every reason to despise her?

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

My Thoughts

Ellen Goodlett’s Rule immediately caught my attention when I saw it compared to Pretty Little Liars and Three Dark Crowns. You can sign me up for ANY PLL-related books, and I needed to pick up Three Dark Crowns yesterday. While I’m only able to speak to its PLL relation, I can definitely see the tie-ins. Half-sisters Zofi, Akelyah, and Ren each have a deadly secret of their own that someone in Kolonya’s palace simply won’t let them forget.

My favorite perspective was Zofi because I was really intrigued by her background. I liked exploring her relationship with Vidal and she was the most cunning of the three sisters. I definitely got some Lila Bard (Shades of Magic) vibes from her.  I also enjoyed Ren’s perspective, since I think she had the most potential to be the next Queen, considering her inside knowledge on the palace. As much as I did like Danton as a character, I didn’t understand how Ren could trust him. While I didn’t mind Akeylah’s POV, I wish she opened up more to her sisters. While I appreciate the diversity rep, I wasn’t a super fan of her relationship with Rozalind. You know, her father’s wife.

Another aspect that I didn’t like was the repetitiveness.This is an element that bothers me in most multi-POV books, but the girls would often each repeat the same phrases or the same action would occur in their perspective chapter. I know this was probably used to show the girls’ similarities, like how they all have their own secret, but once is enough for this reader.

I think what makes Rule standout is its world-building and unique magic. I do think we could have used a bit more on the history of Kolonya and the Reaches dynamics in the beginning, but the world-building definitely becomes more fleshed out as the story continues. I especially liked the magic scenes with Zofi because her fight scenes and her own inside info were really exciting.

Overall, I enjoyed Rule for its unique world and all female POVs. However, I think the plot could have been more fast-paced and less repetitive. I plan on picking up the next book in the duology, Rise, when it comes out in September 2019. I’m interested to see who takes the crown once and for all.

This review is based is based on an advance reading copy. By no means did this affect my thoughts or opinions.

Have you read Rule? Share in the comments!  

Scarecrows, Sawkill, & School Mysteries: My Spooky October Reads

Halloween season always calls for mini Kit-Kats, pumpkin-spice candles, and of course, a scary read or two. Today, I’m going to be discussing my thoughts on the seasonal reads, whether thriller or downright spooky,  I picked up last month.

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One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus– Yes fellow readers, I finally decided to read one of the most hyped books in the YA community, One of Us Lying. One of my best friends and a summer co-worker non-stop recommended that I pick this one up. Fall always makes me crave books with mystery vibes, especially after devouring Courtney Summers’ Sadie. With her second book, it was time to read Karen M. McManus’s Breakfast Club-inspired read about four teens who becomes suspects of a high-profile classmate’s murder.

I can now see what the hype is about because I flew through One of Us is Lying. I actually didn’t mind getting four different perspectives and it was fun exploring their backstories. Addy was definitely my favorite because I think she had one of the most complicated backlines. Did I think One of Us is Lying was the most original book in the world? No. I admit that I did predict the ending (but maybe not the accomplice) and I wish it went in a little bit of direction (trying to avoid spoilers). Did I enjoy it though? Yes!

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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Sawkill Girls by Claire Legrand– A queer YA horror story, Sawkill Girls has the perfect creepy, Halloween vibes. Zoey, Marion and Val all have some connection to the mysterious disappearances of girls on Sawkill, and now it’s time to either fight back or fight each other.  Considering the amount of hype Claire Legrand’s Furyborn received this year, I looked forward to this release.

Sawkill Girls has many feminist messages. While I liked the book’s overall story and ending, I just though the execution wasn’t there. There are a lot of reveals throughout its lengthy story, but none of them seemed to really come into play by the end. I couldn’t connect with any of the characters, even though Zoey was my favorite, mostly for her baking-loving boyfriend. While I think the book’s length could have been shortened, I appreciate Sawkill Girls was left as a standalone instead of being split into two unnecessary installments.

My Rating: 2.5/ 5 Stars

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Small Spaces by Katherine Arden- I’ve been on an Katherine Arden high this year between her Winternight trilogy (give me The Winter of the Witch now, PLEASE),  and her first middle grade, Small Spaces. After suffering a tragic loss, eleven-year old Ollie only finds solace in books. And one of those books just happens to be one that she stole from a crazed women at the river, threatening Ollie to throw it in the river where it belongs. Ollie is captivated by the diary of a girl named Beth, whose family disappears thanks to the “smiling man.” Suddenly, the diary becomes very real when Ollie’s school trip to a local farm goes wrong and her digital watch tells her one thing: RUN.

Like The Bear and the Nightingale and The Girl in the Tower,  I adored Small Spaces for its atmospheric story. If you ever feel the need to transport to autumnal Vermont, run to Small Spaces immediately! Katherine Arden provides so many details about Halloween decorations, leaves, and best of all, all the amazing treats made by Ollie’s dad. Can he pack my lunch everyday? I’m also more than ready to move into Ollie’s colorful house, the Egg. Regarding the story itself, Small Spaces is the perfect Halloween read, as Ollie and her classmates combat the evil spirits that have taken over their school field trip. Let’s just say I may never look at scarecrows the same way.

Small Spaces is the first book in Katherine Arden’s first MG quartet, and each book is going to feature Vermont in a different season!

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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The Cheerleaders by Kara Thomas– Kara Thomas is another YA thriller author who was highly recommend to me. The Cheerleaders takes place in town five years after the mysterious deaths of five cheerleaders. One of those girls unfortunately happened to be Monica’s sister, and Monica realizes what happened five years ago still isn’t over. I actually found that The Cheerleaders‘ writing style was similar to One of Us is Lying, but I think Kara Thomas’s story grabbed me more, especially as Monica and Ginny started to fit more pieces together. I admit that I didn’t predict who the murderer was in the beginning, but I did question their role in the book. Although there are a few gruesome moments, I would describe this book more as a mystery than a scary read.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars newfireborder

What spooky reads have you read this fall? Share in the comments!

FRIENDSHIP & LOVE: Odd One Out Review

Summary: Courtney “Coop” Cooper finds himself single once again. And still in love with his best friend, Jupiter Sanchez, who keeps ignoring him to text some girl. Rae Evelyn Chin, the “new girl”, feels right where she belongs with Jupiter and Courtney, with a crush for both of them. Jupiter Charity-Sanchez discovers that the only thing worse than losing the girl you love is losing her to your boy. It’s time for Jup to do something right?

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

Nic Stone’s latest release, Odd One Out, follows the perspectives of three teens and best friends, Courtney, Jupiter and Rae. Much like Nic Stone’s Dear Martin, the book features multiple diverse characters.

Like most YA characters, Courtney, Rae, and Jupiter are trying to figure out life. However, what I think makes Odd One Out a standout when it comes to diverse YA stories is its exploration of sexuality, especially in regards to Rae and Jupiter. Jupiter and Rae explore who they are, discovering that labels maybe don’t have all the answers. Aside from sexuality, some of the characters, specifically Rae and Courtney, work through their past and relationships with loss and grief.

If I had to choose, my favorite perspective would be Courtney because he was just so sweet and a really great friend. Plus how many guys do you know who love playing basketball and cheerleading? I found his perspective and story to be the most heart-breaking and heart-warming, I also liked seeing his character development from Rae and Jupiter’s perspectives. I lovveeeed Courtney’s best friends, Golly and Britian, who have some great jokes and maybe or maybe not see some things our three MCs aren’t.

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One of the very few things I wasn’t so in love with when it comes to Odd One Out relates to some of the decisions our characters make. While most of them had good intentions, I wasn’t a huge fan of the initial reasoning behind Jupiter’s “move”. It seemed really selfish to me, but looking back, it did help get one of the relationships moving.

Overall, readers will fly through Odd One Out for it’s fantastic characters and unput-downable story. Readers looking for books that explore sexuality will absolutely love this one. I’m looking forward to Nic Stone’s recently announced MG in 2019.

Is Odd One Out on your TBR? Have you read Dear Martin? Share in the comments!

FASHION & FOSSILS: Mammoth Review

Summary: The summer before her junior year, paleontology geek Natalie Page lands a coveted internship at an Ice Age dig site near Austin, Texas.  Natalie, who’s also a plus-size fashion blogger, depends on her retro style and persona to shield herself from her former bullies. However, her vintage dresses and designer heels aren’t great for fossil digging. But nothing is going to dampen her spirit.  She’s exactly where she wants to be, and gets to work with her hero, the host of the most popular paleontology podcast in the world.  And then there’s Chase, the intern, who’s seriously cute, and Cody, a local boy who’d be even cuter if he were less of a grouch.

It’s a summer that promises to be about more than just mammoths.Until it isn’t.

When Natalie’s paleontologist hero turns out to be anything but and steals the credit for one of her accomplishments, she has to unearth the confidence she needs to stand out in a field dominated by men.  To do this, she’ll have to let her true self shine, even if that means defying the rules and risking her life for the sake of a major discovery.  While sifting through dirt, she finds more than fossils—she finds out that she is truly awesome.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

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 Cover Lust? Pardon me while I share Mammoth’s beautiful cover EVERYWHERE. I think the cover is so fitting to the book, and I love how much the blue and pink compliment one another.

 My Thoughts:

 In short, Mammoth is the paleontology-loving, plus-size fasionista takes on internship book that I never knew I needed.

Okay, let me rewind.

Mammoth was added to my TBR in early 2018, after I read in its blurb that Natalie was a fashion blogger. Add that to girls in STEM, plus-size rep, AND PALEONTOLOGY! I think the only other paleontology-loving fictional character I know is Ross from Friends.

Mammoth truly combines fashion and paleontology in a fun, unique and refreshing way. Natalie is a paleontology and fashion blogger- an uncommon, but workable duo! It’s just a given that bloggers like to read about bloggers, right??I would definitely be one of Fossilista’s many followers. The book also features pictures of Natalie in her everyday outfits and the accompanying blog excerpts.

The most enjoyable aspect of Mammoth, in my opinion, is its unique setting- an Ice Age dig site in Texas! I can safely say that I’ve never read a YA book with a main character, let alone a whole cast, who loves paleontology as much as Natalie. While I didn’t understand every single thing when it came to the subject, Jill Baguckinsky’s research and knowledge on paleontology is more than evident. While I’m not a STEM girl myself, it was beyond awesome to see girls in the field, especially in an area like paleontology where more female voices are needed.

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It was also really refreshing to have a plus-size protagonist like Natalie. I think we’ve seen a few more plus-size characters in recent YA books, but I really enjoyed how confident Natalie was in her body (and fashion sense). However, Natalie does have some less confident moments, like when she reflects on being bullied growing up or worrying about not wearing a shaper while out on the field. While sad, these moments made Natalie feel more real.

Mammoth also has an awesome full cast of characters. Mellie was my favorite out of the intern crew. Her crafty side made me want to break out my own craft box—even if I can’t crochet pillows shaped like mammoths or shark-tooth earrings. I liked that Quinn wasn’t the typical YA mean girl for being jealous of Natalie’s crush on Chase. She definitely wasn’t perfect, but I liked how she a complex person for both the reader and Natalie to figure out. I admit that had a little trouble understanding some of Eli and Cody’s brashness- Eli was just plain mean at some points- but I’m so glad that Cody had a change of heart. And I wouldn’t mind some sort of prequel or sequel starring Natalie and Aunt Judy working at Savage Swallow.

Overall, I especially loved Mammoth for its unique setting and story, fantastic cast of characters, and of course, Natalie. This is definitely a 2018 release not to be missed.

This review is based on an uncorrected proof. By no means did receiving this copy affect my thoughts or opinions.

 Mammoth comes out on November 6th, 2018newfireborder

Is Mammoth on your TBR? Share in the comments!

The Seven Torments of Amy & Craig Review & Giveaway

THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY AND CRAIG

Seven Torments of Amy and CraigSummary: Janesville, Wisconsin (cold in the sense that there is no God). 1994

The worst thing that’s ever happened to Craig is also the best: Amy. Amy and Craig never should’ve gotten together. Craig is an awkward, Dungeons & Dragons-playing geek, and Amy is the beautiful, fiercely intelligent student-body president of their high school.

Yet somehow they did. Until Amy dumped him. Then got back together with him. Then dumped him again. Then got back together with him again. Over and over and over.

Unfolding during their senior year, Amy and Craig’s exhilarating, tumultuous relationship is a kaleidoscope of joy, pain, and laughter as an uncertain future-and adult responsibility-loom on the horizon.

Craig fights for his dream of escaping Janesville and finding his place at a quirky college, while Amy’s quest to uncover her true self sometimes involves being Craig’s girlfriend?and sometimes doesn’t.

Seven heartbreaks. Seven joys.Told nonsequentially, acclaimed playwright Don Zolidis’s debut novel is a brutally funny, bittersweet taste of the utterly unique and utterly universal experience of first love.

My Rating: 4.5/5 Stars 

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My Thoughts: 

The Seven Torments of Amy & Craig is easily one of the most underrated releases of 2018. Set in 1994 Wisconsin, this book features so many heartwarming and heartbreaking moments that may make you want to join in on Craig and co.’s Saturday Dungeons & Dragons tournaments. Unless Kaitlyn has anything to do with it.

As the title may suggest, The Seven Torments of Amy & Craig has a lot to do with Amy and Craig’s relationship- and their many breakups. The book is told from Craig’s perspective, which I liked having a male main POV for a bit of a change, and flips between the couple’s breakups and their get-back-togethers. I liked learning about Amy’s past and own struggles, although I wish we got to experience them more before the end.

Additionally, I really enjoyed how the book isn’t all about Craig’s relationship with Amy. In between, we learn about Craig’s past, his family life, and his friends (including the absolutely hilarious Groash).

“I looked at Groash, who was rotating slowly in his chair. “We’re screwed,” I whispered.

“These chairs are awesome,” he whispered back.” (197)

The Seven Torments of Amy & Craig is really a story about growing up. From gearing up for college to family struggles, Craig and his friends are all dealing with something in their lives that made the book feel all the more real. While they were often cringe-worthy, for example, I really liked the chapters spent with Craig and his dad or Kaitlyn. Craig’s family had a ton of funny back-and-forths, but they demonstrated that no matter how different they each were, they all cared about each other.

And if you need another excuse to stay inside with some tea and a blanket as the cold weather approaches, 1994 Wisconsin will give you plenty of reason to! I found the moments where Craig just flopped in the snow a bit hilarious. I think the ‘90s more or less came into play when it came to the fact that these characters obviously didn’t have social media or cell phones, which made letter-writing really convenient. The setting just felt so unique for YA, and the snow and cold felt very atmospheric to the story.

Overall, The Seven Torments of Amy & Craig is a funny book that provides much insight on relationship and family dynamics. If you’re in need of a cozy read this fall or winter, make sure to pick this one up!

This book was provided to me by the publisher. By no means did this affect my thoughts or opinions.

FIND THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY & CRAIG  

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

DonOriginally from Wisconsin, Don Zolidis is a novelist and one of the most-produced playwrights in America.

His 102 published plays have received more than 12,000 productions and have appeared in every state and 64 countries.

He currently splits time between Texas and New York and aspires to owning a dog.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads | Facebook

GIVEAWAY

3 winners will win a finished copy of THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY & CRAIG, US Only.

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FOLLOW THE TOUR 

Week Three:

10/22/2018- The Clever Reader Review

10/23/2018- Life of a Literary Nerd Review

10/24/2018- A Dream Within A Dream Review

10/25/2018- We Love and Breathe Books Review

10/26/2018- Fangirl Fury– Review

Find more of the THE SEVEN TORMENTS OF AMY & CRAIG Blog Tour

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Is The Seven Torments of Amy & Craig on your TBR? Share in the comments!

 

BROADWAY TO BOOK: Dear Evan Hansen Review

Summary: Thanks to a letter that was never meant to be seen, Evan Hansen finds himself drawn into a family’s grief over their lost so . Evan feels forced to stick to the lie that he never meant to tell, that he was Connor Murphy’s secret best friend. Suddenly, Evan isn’t invisible anymore- to the whole school and even to the girl of his dreams. Connor Murphy’s parents treat Evan as their own, and through it all, he finally feels like he belongs. No longer trapped by his anxiety, this new Evan Hansen has a purpose. Until things slowly, but surely start to unravel and Evan finds himself face to face with his biggest obstacle: himself.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

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My Thoughts:

As a DEH fan, I was highly anticipating the novelization of Dear Evan Hansen by Val Emmich. However, I admit that I was really nervous to pick up this book inspired by one of my favorite musicals. It almost feels like a reverse book-to-movie adaptation! Would DEH the novel live up to everything that is DEH the musical?

My answer? Yes and No.

The plot and message behind the novel is essentially the same as the musical: Evan, a lonely teenager with mental health issues of his own, finds himself in a situation he never wanted to be in, pretending to be Connor Murphy’s best friend. While the book is primarily told from Evan’s perspective, readers get more insight on the teens, like Zoe, Alana, and Jared. We see Zoe’s grief more and get more character development from her, and we learn how Jared and Alana are more similar to Evan than he may think. I also enjoyed songs and dialogue directly from the musical were implemented in the story. The text messages and Connor Project comment posts also were similar to the emphasis on technology on stage.

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Yet, there were moments where I thought the book strayed too much from the musical or were just unnecessary. For example, Evan’s real name is Mark?? One major change from the musical to the book is Connor’s perspective. I appreciated getting to know Connor more, however, I felt the expansion of his storyline wasn’t necessary and even getting his perspective was unrealistic. While fans from the musical may look to better understand Connor, it almost felt like Thirteen Reasons Why for me, as if there had to be a specific reason for Connor’s death.

However, there were also moments where I thought the book could have strengthened  through elements from the musical. One moment that stands out to me is Evan’s speech in front of the student body. It just didn’t feel as impactful to me in the book than it was in the musical. I feel like this would’ve been the perfect moment to almost directly put in what Evan sings in, “You Will Be Found.”

Overall, I think the readers who will most enjoy the novelization of Dear Evan Hansen are those who have not yet experienced DEH in any way (Broadway, listening to the soundtrack, Wikipedia page read-through,etc.) and perhaps DEH superfans. While I enjoyed this book for reminding me why I love DEH as a musical, I believe the balance between the musical and added plot elements could have been better executed.

This review is based on an advance reader copy. By no means did this affect my thoughts or opinions. 

Are you a Dear Evan Hansen fan? Is this on your TBR? Share in the comments!