Friday, November 24, 2017

Anticipated December 2017 Releases!

Upcoming Releases: 
December 2017

The fact that it is already time for December is simply astounding. Where has the year gone?
As expected, there aren't really a lot of December releases, or at least not all that many I could recall. Regardless, I did still manage to find a fair few that I (and many other) are looking forward to releasing this next month, so check them out and let me know your thoughts! Let me know if I've completely overlooked any great releases, also. :)

What are your anticipated December releases?

Thursday, November 23, 2017

A Few Bookish Things I'm Thankful For!

🍁Happy Thanksgiving!🍂🦃

Today, I though I'd keep it simple and just share a short list of bookish things that I'm ever so thankful for! I hope you all have a wonderful day if you're celebrating--and if you're not, well, I still hope you have a wonderful day!

1. Beautiful Covers

I'm not really sure if this one needs an explanation. Beautiful covers are a gift that none of us deserve but we all readily accept. Just look at some of these:

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (Grisha Verse, #0.5, #2.5, #2.6)Shades of GreyThe Graveyard Book
The Book of Lost ThingsHeartlessThe Secret Keepers

Seriously, are these even legal?

2. Naturally Naked Hardcovers
I cannot for the life of me recall what these types of hardcover books are called, so for now they are going by 'naturally naked.' Adhesive Case Wrapped books? I don't remember. Regardless, I really love hardcover that don't have a jacket and instead have the cover art printed right there on the naked cover. Examples:
The Watchmaker of Filigree StreetThe Secret History
I'm not sure if all The Secret History hardcovers have no jacket, but I bought mine secondhand and it has no jacket and it's lovely!

I know sometimes library binding editions do this, but not always.

3. Post-Its!

Post-It's are true blessings. I use them as bookmarks because they stay in place and I can use them to mark exactly where I left off on a page (I'm not someone who has to read until the end of a chapter or anything like that, I'll put a book down halfway through a page.) I also use them to mark favorite quotes or scenes without having to mark up my actual book. I would be so lost without the many different forms of post-its. I use a certain size for bookmark vs. a certain size for quotes. Also, just to make myself even weirder, I also use specific color to match the book I'm reading... don't judge.

4. Matching Books/Series

We all know that there is nothing more satisfying than having a complete set of books that are equal in design/stature/etc. A few examples from my shelves:

Ah, satisfaction...
Perfect! (the far right is paperback,
hence smaller size)
And... disaster. Why is the first one only available in mass market? I don't know. This is a case of schadenfreude.

5. The Brandon Sanderson Progress Bar

This man is magic. Not only does he write like a magician and madman, he also keeps us all updated with a progress bar! You can always have a general idea of what he is working on and how far along he is on it. He also writes a million things at a time while still doing other things in life as well. Like I said, he's magic.

As of 11/22/17
Is that not the most beautiful, useful thing ever? We Sanderson fans are spoiled.

6. Goodreads

Honestly, Goodreads is so great. I also like to great an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of what I've read (and I use one for an inventory of my books, not Goodreads for that), but this is the most convenient and useful tool ever. I love Goodreads.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Waiting on Wednesday: The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released!

This week's upcoming book spotlight is:
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Publication Date: January 30th, 2018
Flatiron Books
Book Depository

From Goodreads:

The Hazel Wood
"Seventeen-year-old Alice and her mother have spent most of Alice’s life on the road, always a step ahead of the uncanny bad luck biting at their heels. But when Alice’s grandmother, the reclusive author of a cult-classic book of pitch-dark fairy tales, dies alone on her estate, the Hazel Wood, Alice learns how bad her luck can really get: Her mother is stolen away―by a figure who claims to come from the Hinterland, the cruel supernatural world where her grandmother's stories are set. Alice's only lead is the message her mother left behind: “Stay away from the Hazel Wood.”

Alice has long steered clear of her grandmother’s cultish fans. But now she has no choice but to ally with classmate Ellery Finch, a Hinterland superfan who may have his own reasons for wanting to help her. To retrieve her mother, Alice must venture first to the Hazel Wood, then into the world where her grandmother's tales began―and where she might find out how her own story went so wrong."

I've been so intrigued by The Hazel Wood ever since I first heard about it a month or so ago. It sounds so magical and somewhat dark and I can't wait to see what Melissa Albert does with this storyline. I actually just received an ARC of this a couple days ago, so now I can't wait to dive in! I still can't wait for the actual book to release though--it's gorgeous!

What do you think about this upcoming release? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Extravagant Fictional Feasts!

Extravagant Fictional

If you live in the United States, as I do, then you are probably aware of the fact that this Thursday is Thanksgiving! (And if you didn't know that and it's news to you, then don't worry--it really snuck up on us this year!) For many people, the highlight of Thanksgiving is getting to stuff your face with a large array of delicious food--and, uh, you know, spending time with those we love, of course.

Jokes aside, feasts are always fun to partake in, and they're even pretty fun to read about sometimes. I decided to make a short post about some of the more extravagant feasts in literature that I've read. I know I'm missing a lot a great feasts, but these are the ones that came to mind, so bon appétit!

I also look at food this way.

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (Harry Potter, #1)Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone by J.K. Rowling: The first feast in the Great Hall
Oh man are the Great Hall feasts the things of my dreams. Food that magically appears on tables? (Yes, I know the hosue elves made it and I would be so thankful.) A wide variety of foods? I would gain so much weight if I went to Hogwarts, but let's be honest--who cares!?

"Harry’s mouth fell open. The dishes in front of him were now piled with food. He had never seen so many things he liked to eat on one table: roast beef, roast chicken, pork chops and lamb chops, sausages, bacon and steak, boiled potatoes, roast potatoes, chips, Yorkshire pudding, peas, carrots, gravy, ketchup and, for some strange reason, mint humbugs....

 ...When everyone had eaten as much as they could, the remains of the food faded from the plates, leaving them sparkling clean as before. A moment later the puddings appeared. Blocks of ice-cream in every flavour you could think of, apple pies, treacle tarts, chocolate éclairs and jam doughnuts, trifle, strawberries, jelly, rice pudding… As Harry helped himself to a treacle tart, the talk turned to their families."

Feast of Sorrow: A Novel of Ancient RomeFeast of Sorrow by Crystal King: Thrasius' first meal creation with his new master
Now, not everything in this feast appeals to me, but if this isn't an extravagantly, no-holds-barred meal, then I don't know what is. Ancient Roman fare at its finest. I actually have a Classical cookbook that features Ancient Greek/Roman recipes with some of the stuff from this book, so I may have to give it a go some time...

"I would begin with a gustatio of salad with peppers and cucumbers, melon with mint, whole meal bread, soft cheese, and honey cake."...."Then pomegranate ice to cleanse the palate, followed by a cena prima of saffron, chickpeas, Parthian chicken, peppered morsels in wine, mussels, and oysters. If I had more time, I would also serve a stuffed suckling pig. And to close, a pear patina, along with deep-fried honey fritters, snails, olives, and, if you have it on hand, some wine from Chios or Puglia."

The Hobbit (Middle-Earth Universe)The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien: Bilbo's uninvited meal
I already know that if I were to choose any fantasy world/land to live in, it would be Middle Earth, specifically Hobbiton. I would fit in with the residents of Hobbiton perfectly, and one minor reason for that is because of their love of food. One of my favorite scenes is when everyone invades Biblo's home and help themselves to anything, mainly because it's hilarious and I am also 100% Bilbo in this scene. But also, the food sounds amazing! For example:

"Already it had almost become a throng. Some called for ale, and some for porter, and one for coffee, and all of them for cakes; so the hobbit was kept very busy for a while. A big jug of coffee bad just been set in the hearth, the seed-cakes were gone, and the dwarves were starting on a round of buttered scones, when there came-a loud knock. I hope there is something left for the late-comers to eat and drink!" 

"What's that? Tea! No thank you! A little red wine, I think, for me."
"And for me," said Thorin. 
"And raspberry jam and apple-tart," said Bifur. 
"And mince-pies and cheese," said Bofur. 
"And pork-pie and salad," said Bombur. 
"And more cakes-and ale-and coffee, if you don't mind," called the other dwarves through the door. "Put on a few eggs, there's a good fellow!" Gandalf called after him, as the hobbit stumped off to the pantries. "And just bring out the cold chicken and pickles!"

The Count of Monte CristoThe Count of Monte Cristo by Alexandre Dumas
It's been so long since I've read this book, and it's really due for a re-read, but I do remember a certain feast that I wanted to include. Confession, though: I don't like seafood. Like... any seafood. I don't eat shrimp, fish, oysters *shudder*... I just don't. So this feast doesn't sound amazing to me, but I know for those that do like seafood, this feast would be fantastic, so this is for you, seafood-lovers!

"When they began to pass around the dusky, piquant, Arlesian sausages, and lobsters in their dazzling red cuirasses, prawns of large size and brilliant color, the echinus with its prickly outside and dainty morsel within, the clovis, esteemed by the epicures of the South as more than rivalling the exquisite flavor of the oyster, North. All the delicacies, in fact, that are cast up by the wash of waters on the sandy beach, and styled by the grateful fishermen “fruits of the sea.”

A Christmas Carol: The Original Manuscript EditionA Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens
This feast just sounds so home-y and delicious. This particular meals sound rather simple and classic, but completely perfect.

"There never was such a goose. Bob said he didn’t believe there ever was such a goose cooked. Its tenderness and flavour, size and cheapness, were the themes of universal admiration. Eked out by apple-sauce and mashed potatoes, it was a sufficient dinner for the whole family; indeed, as Mrs. Cratchit said with great delight (surveying one small atom of a bone upon the dish), they hadn’t ate it all at last! Yet every one had had enough, and the youngest Cratchits in particular, were steeped in sage and onion to the eyebrows! But now, the plates being changed by Miss Belinda, Mrs. Cratchit left the room alone — too nervous to bear witnesses — to take the pudding up and bring it in."

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
Leave it to Gatsby to bring out extravagant foods! This is the food of the wealthy, and I wouldn't mind being a guest and being able to try all of these different liquors and such--uh, I mean, foods. 😉

"At least once a fortnight a corps of caterers came down with several hundred feet of canvas and enough colored lights to make a Christmas tree of Gatsby’s enormous garden. On buffet tables, garnished with glistening hors-d’oeuvre, spiced baked hams crowded against salads of harlequin designs and pastry pigs and turkeys bewitched to a dark gold. In the main hall a bar with a real brass rail was set up, and stocked with gins and liquors and with cordials so long forgotten that most of his female guests were too young to know one from another."

Would you like to try any of these extravagant literary feasts? Are there any you particularly like from other books? Let me know!

Monday, November 20, 2017

The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic by Leigh Bardugo

The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo. Imprint, 2017. Hardcover. 281 pages.

This collection was every bit as gorgeous as I had hoped it would be--if not more. I love how unique the stories are while also bearing strong influences and taking on familiar forms of other classic fairy tales. Bardugo truly proves her creative and accomplished writing skills in this collection, weaving together lyrical words with jaw-dropped stories and themes. These stories contain beautiful messages and dismantle on so many fairy tale tropes in order to create new ones by maintain the classic ideas but warping them into something rather different. 

The illustrations in this book are also so beautiful and add so very much to this entire story. I love how each story alternated with the blue and red color scheme, and I particularly loved how the border of each story developed as the story continued. That entire concept was a beautiful, creative idea that worked out wonderfully.

And now I'd like to include a brief word on each story: 

Ayama and the Thorn Wood - ★: I found this to be a perfect story to start the collection off with. There were some incredibly classic elements that made it feel very classic, while also ebodying an wholly new and unique story at the same time. I loved the storytelling element added to this story and felt that the entire thing was quite lovely. It became slightly repetitive towards the end, which I understand is common in these types of stories, but that took away some of my enjoyment.

The Too-Clever Fox 🦊★: I really enjoyed this story, although I found it slightly predictable at times. This one felt particularly classic and familiar, but I loved the various twists Bardugo weaved into it. I really enjoyed reading about all of the different animals and there roles, but the clever fox, of course, was my favorite. "The Too-Clever Fox" gets a little darker than the first story, but it still weaves in an interesting little fable message. 

The Witch of Duva - ★: I loved this one! The entire concept and the dark atmosphere that permeated the entire story in such a wonderful manner were amazing, and I really think Bardugo crafted this one perfectly. The witch was a fascinating character, and i loved how somewhat disturbing and odd this story became as it went on. 

Little Knife 🌊 ★: "Little Knife" is brilliant. This is a story about a girl named Yuva who is so jaw-droppingly beautiful that she literally has to go around with a veil over her so that people can control themselves when she is around. This is another one that I really loved. It was such a classic and timeless tale, and one that I really enjoyed. 

The Soldier Prince - ★: This was probably my least favorite content-wise. I loved the illustrations and border decorations on this story, but the story itself fell somewhat flat for me. This is a take on the Nutcracker, and although I enjoyed that aspect, I felt a little lost and uninterested in many parts o this story. the plot idea was interesting, but the execution felt lackluster.

When Water Sang Fire★: I completely understand why this was chosen as the last story of the book, as it leaves an incredibly strong message. This is a Little Mermaid-inspired tale that is all about sacrifice, ambition, and acceptance. I don't want to go into any detail on this one because it is wonderful to discover on your own. 

Overall, I've given The Language of Thorns five stars! I can definitely see myself re-reading these tales and even reading them to others. 

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Friday, November 17, 2017

Reading Recommendations: Books Featuring Some Form of Music

Reading Recommendations:
Books Featuring Some Form of Music

I feel as if I've read so  many books in which music is a rather prominent component, whether it is because one of the main characters either sings beautifully or masterfully plays an instruement, or whether it is part of the magic system of a book. In the list below, I've compiled a short list of some of the ones that have stood out most to me. Enjoy! Let me know what books you would add to this list, as well! 😊

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)Wintersong (Wintersong, #1)The Queen of the Night

Kvothe is an exceptionally skilled lute player, which has quite a bit of importance in the story.

Liesl is a talented composer and dreams of playing the piano and composing for the rest of her life. 

The Queen of the Night is all about opera, so of course singing plays a huge role in this, which is what the main character, Lilliet, strives to do.

This Savage Song (Monsters of Verity, #1)Songs of Insurrection (The Dragon Songs Saga #1)The Silmarillion

August's violin-playing is not only one of his prized possessions and favorite things to do, it also plays a fairly large role in the events of this story.

Songs of Insurrection uses music and singing as a core part of the ancient magic system--it's done in a really unique and interesting way that I really enjoyed.

Music plays an incredibly important part in the creation story of this work by Tolkien, along with various other moments throughout.

Stolen Songbird (The Malediction Trilogy, #1)Seraphina (Seraphina, #1)The Language of Thorns: Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic (Grisha Verse, #0.5, #2.5, #2.6)

Cécile, the protagonist, has a lovely singing voice, which is something she--and her mother-- are both very passionate about.

Seraphina herself is an incredibly talented and gifted musician that joins the royal court. Her musical talents are extremely important in her own character development and the story itself.

This is a beautiful short story that features the sildroher Ulla, whose singing voice is one of the best of those among her. The sildroher in general use music as one of their strongest forms of magic. 

What books would you add to this list? Have you read any of these? Let me know!

Thursday, November 16, 2017

Mageborn (Age of Dread, #1) by Stephen Aryan

Mageborn by Stephen Aryan. Orbit, 2017. Paperback. 432 pages. 

Mageborn is the first book in Stephen Aryan new epic fantasy series, Age of Dread. The plot was interesting and the entire premise had me hooked: one man, Habreel, believe that all magic should be eradicated after a war that occurred ten years ago caused extreme loss and mayhem by magic users.. In general, it's not the most unique or inventive idea I've ever heard, but the execution was done in a fascinating manner that allowed the reader to follow multiple POVs from every side, thus giving a better overall picture of the events of the book. Aryan also introduced his own inventive ideas that help this book stand out. (Note: Since finishing the book, I have discovered that Aryan's first series, written prior to this one, includes the war and backstory to much of the events in this book, though it is not necessary to read that one first--I hadn't.)

Speaking of multiple POVs: there are a quite a few. If I'm counting correctly, there are six main POVs: Habreel, Akosh, Tammy, Munroe, Wren, Tianne. Along with these are a few minor POVs that pop up, but aren't repeated much. I liked getting in the head of each of these characters and for the most part I felt that Aryan developed each of them very well. Habreel is one of the more interesting characters because, although he isn't necessarily doing 'right' things, as a reader we can understand where his thought process comes from in relation to his now seemingly drastic actions, which makes him difficult to place into a 'good' or 'bad' box. Akosh, however, is brilliantly written as a rather ruthless, uncaring woman--one which I would not want to run into, but also one which I am immensely intrigued by. Tammy and Munroe are also really well-written female characters, though I will be honest and say that I mixed them up a few times, simply because they are both strong woman who know how to kick ass and therefore sort of seem similar at times. Wren and Tianne are two students at the Red Tower, and I really enjoyed seeing each one's insight into the happenings that occurred at the Red Tower, the other students, and the instructors.

My only small niggle in regards to that characters is that wish that Aryan had maybe spent a little bit more time on individual characters and not had quite so many POVs to jump right into, but I do see how the multiple viewpoints really added to the story as well.

Where this book lost me was its lack of depth and passion. It's hard for me convey this because I can't really complain about any specific aspects of the book--the characters were well-developed, the plot had plenty of intrigue--but there was just something missing. Some of the dialogue felt a bit too 'perfect' or clunky, for one. I also felt that many actions were too predictable--such as what a character would say or do in reaction to something. There are plenty of unexpected twists and surprises, but there also many predictable surprises to go with that. Things felt very forced, neat, and far too tidy for it to feel realistic enough to become fully immersed in the story.

IN addition to what I've just said, the worldbuilding itself was lacking too much for my liking. I had a general idea of what things were like, but there was really no development or explanation for what type of world this was. As mentioned, I have since discovered that Aryan has a previous series that features many of the characters from this new series that provides much more background about the characters, the world itself, and the magic system, so that does help me understand a bit more why this book didn't go into as much depth. That being said, if this is considered a series that you can read without reading previous does (which I'm fairly certain that is how it's being marketed, but I could be wrong), then you might find yourself wanting more from this world.

Also, this is a minor detail, but an important one--I wanted a map so badly! Growing up, I never understood or used maps when reading fantasy, but over the past few years they have become indispensable to me and I feel that Mageborn could have majorly benefited from having one. I'm not counting this against the book or in my rating, but it's just a minor quibble of mine.

Overall, I've given Mageborn three-and-a-half stars! Despite it falling short of being on par with some of the great epic fantasies, Mageborn is still a solid, decent read that I would still recommend to any fantasy fan. I will probably check out the next book as well to see what happens and if there are any improvement, and I might also go back and check out Aryan's previous series, which is supposedly better than this one.

**I received a review copy of Mageborn courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating or enjoyment of the book.**