Friday, April 3, 2020

Month in Review: March 2020

Well, I'm not really sure where to start when wrapping up this month, to be honest! I think we can all agree that March was a rollercoaster in every sense of the word. I'll start off with a quick note that I am, as of now, healthy and fully isolation myself and staying home at this time. I hope you are all staying as healthy as can be right now, also! I already used to do my work from home and my Masters program is also an online one, so I'm already equipped for the stay-at-home deal, haha, but I know it's a huge adjustment for so many, so I hope you are all handling it well (and if you still have to work because you're essential, I hope you're staying safe! :) ) 

The big downsides for me personally are that my income has slowed considerably and I'm currently separated physically from my husband because of the temporary long distance situation. We've been temporarily long distance for a little while now with me traveling back and forth between Northern and Southern California and living about 50/50 in two places. I had to fly down to SoCal, where my mom lives (and where I grew up) about mid-March because I had jury duty, and it was around that time that everything started to really get crazy in the US and I decided that I was no longer comfortable flying. My husband and I both have cars, but neither are exactly cut out for a 7+ hour drive and I'm not sure how I feel about rental cars, so for the past few weeks and the foreseeable future I am staying home with my mom. Things could definitely be worse and I often feel a bit guilty for being upset over something this minimal in the grand scheme of things, but it's still difficult to be away from my partner right. At the end of the day, though, I'm just thankful that we are all safe and have a place to live and I know it's so much worse for so many people, so I try to keep that in perspective every day. 

In regards to reading, it's been a bit of a struggle to stay focused, but I'm working on trying to relax my own personal expectations and just be satisfied with any reading that I manage to get done. I've started and stopped more books this past month than I have in a long time, haha, which shows me just how scattered I am lately, but I managed to get through a good number of books in the end. Some standouts were Mexican Gothic (what a weird but amazing story!), The Adventurer's Son (unbelievable compelling and heartbreaking and thrilling), and The Sin in the Steel (if you like pirates and adventures and sarcastic characters, you'll love it!). I also decided to go ahead and include Livy's History of Rome that I've been reading for a class because, well, it's a book and I did read it, so it counts! Anyway, I'm hoping I can feel more solid about books in April, though I'm so sad that the libraries are closed (though of course I understand why)! Anyone else really feeling the loss of their local library?

Anyway: How was your reading month? Did you read any great books? Have you read any of the books I read? Let me know, I'd love to chat about any and all the books!

# books read: 14

WonderlandMexican GothicCome Tumbling Down (Wayward Children, #5)The Adventurer's SonThe Age of Witches
Wonderland by Zoje Stage 
Source: Publisher (Little, Brown) | Format: Physical ARC

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

Come Tumbling Down by Seanan McGuire 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Adventurer's Son by Roman Dial 
Source: Library| Format: Hardcover

The Age of Witches by Louisa Morgan 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Hardcover

The Sin in the Steel (The Fall of the Gods, #1)Trouble the SaintsThe Silvered Serpents (The Gilded Wolves, #2)The Book of Koli (Rampart Trilogy, #1)Blackwood
The Sin in the Steal by Ryan Van Loan 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

Trouble the Saints by Alaya Dawn Johnson 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Silvered Serpents by Roshani Chokshi 
Source: NetGalley| Format: eARC

The Book of Koli by M.R. Carey 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Paperback

Blackwood by Michael Farris Smith 
Source: Publisher (Little, Brown) | Format: Physical ARC

A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)Lair of Dreams (The Diviners, #2)The History of Rome, Books 1-5: The Rise of RomeThe Mother Code
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne 
Source: Publisher (Orbit) | Format: Paperback

Lair of Dreams by Libba Bray  (re-read)
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The Rise of Rome: Books 1-5 by Livy 
Source: Owned | Format: Paperback

The Mother Code by Carole Stivers 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The DeepHearts of OakThe House in the Cerulean SeaBrightstormThe Woman in the MirrorThe Gobblin' Society  (Narbondo, #11)ProvidenceLegacy of Ash (Legacy Trilogy, #1)Along the Razor's Edge (The War Eternal #1)A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)
The Deep by Alma Katsu 
Hearts of Oak by Eddie Robson 
The House in the Cerulean Sea by TJ Klune 
Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy 
The Woman in the Mirror by Rebecca James 
The Gobblin' Society by James P. Blaylock 
Providence by Max Barry 
Legacy of Ash by Matthew Ward 
Along the Razor's Edge by Rob J. Hayes 
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne 

(other than reviews)

The Friday Face-Off:

Have you read any of these? What books did you read this month? I hope you all had a great month-- comment below and let me know!

Thursday, April 2, 2020

Review: Sin Eater by Megan Campisi

Sin Eater
Sin Eater by Megan Campisi
Atria Books
Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Hardcover. 304 pages

About Sin Eater:

"The Sin Eater walks among us, unseen, unheard
Sins of our flesh become sins of Hers
Following Her to the grave, unseen, unheard
The Sin Eater Walks Among Us.

For the crime of stealing bread, fourteen-year-old May receives a life sentence: she must become a Sin Eater—a shunned woman, brutally marked, whose fate is to hear the final confessions of the dying, eat ritual foods symbolizing their sins as a funeral rite, and thereby shoulder their transgressions to grant their souls access to heaven. 

Orphaned and friendless, apprenticed to an older Sin Eater who cannot speak to her, May must make her way in a dangerous and cruel world she barely understands. When a deer heart appears on the coffin of a royal governess who did not confess to the dreadful sin it represents, the older Sin Eater refuses to eat it. She is taken to prison, tortured, and killed. To avenge her death, May must find out who placed the deer heart on the coffin and why."

Sin Eater was such an odd and unexpected story. This is a story about May who is forced to become a Sin Eater as punishment for her crime of stealing bread. I hadn't heard of the idea of Sin Eaters before this book, but it is apparently based on a real role that once existed, though the author is very clear in her author's note that little is actually known and most of this novel is entirely fictionalized. Nonetheless, I definitely still looked it up to find out more about it!

Sin Eater is one of those books that has a very stark, almost cold atmosphere that sort of prevents the reader from ever feeling too comfortable in it. It depicts a world that is harsh and unforgiving, especially since it is centered so heavily around sins and the wrongs that people do throughout their lives, but at the same time there was a often a very subtle thread of dark humor that ran beneath the surface of the narrative, a sort of mocking, sarcastic acknowledgment of the tragedy and struggles that exist in all classes, and that at the end of the day, we all day and have our own sins to consider at the end of our lives.

We follow the POV of May as she slowly adjusts to her new dark and lonely life as a Sin Eater. Through May, we are able to delve into this role and understand just what it might have entailed, from the fear and shame that other people when you are around to the invisibility that encompasses the life of a Sin Eater since they aren't allowed to talk to or acknowledge anyone else--in fact, the only time they are meant to talk is when they recite their ritual words and acknowledgments when hearing the sins of the dying and then relaying them to whoever is to prepare the food for the eating at the funeral.

I found myself really engaged with May's story and enjoyed following her journey as she slowly learned to become more comfortable in her position (as comfortable as can be, given what her new life entails), as well as how she described the different people, places, and situations she encountered. It took me a little while to fully connect with her character due to the tone her narration conveyed, but by the end I was able to find a stronger connection.

I particularly liked how Campisi managed to touch on and explore so many different themes and major issues through a book with such a relatively simple premise. Some of the biggest themes explored are that of social class issues, culture, family, and even those relating to gender roles. May herself is from a low class, yet moving the role of a Sin Eater tends to push her down even further, though at the same time she is able to move into the upper classes as a silent observer as she takes the dyings' confessions, which allows for an understanding and analysis of the workings of the upper class from a new perspective. This is also how May sort of stumbles into a situation much bigger than she could have ever anticipated and that leads to even more intrigue.

Overall, I've given Sin Eater four stars! As I briefly mentioned, there was a bit of disconnect at times with May in the beginning and with the tone of the narrative, but overall I was really intrigued by the premise and rather enjoyed this one.

*I received a copy of  Sin Eater courtesy of NetGalley and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

Can't-Wait Wednesday: Goldilocks by Laura Lam & The Library of Legends by Janie Chang

Can't-Wait is a weekly meme hosted by Wishful Endings that spotlights exciting upcoming releases that we can't wait to be released! This meme is based off of Jill @ Breaking the Spine's Waiting on Wednesday meme.

This week's upcoming book spotlights are: 

Goldilocks by Laura Lam
Publication: May 5th, 2020
Hardcover. 352 pages.

"A gripping science fiction thriller where five women task themselves with ensuring the survival of the human race; perfect for readers of The Martian, The Power, and Station Eleven. 

Despite increasing restrictions on the freedoms of women on Earth, Valerie Black is spearheading the first all-female mission to a planet in the Goldilocks Zone, where conditions are just right for human habitation. 

It's humanity's last hope for survival, and Naomi, Valerie's surrogate daughter and the ship's botanist, has been waiting her whole life for an opportunity like this - to step out of Valerie's shadow and really make a difference. 

But when things start going wrong on the ship, Naomi begins to suspect that someone on board is concealing a terrible secret - and realizes time for life on Earth may be running out faster than they feared . . ."
This sounds like the perfect sci-fi thriller to keep my attention right now! I love space exploration so much and this just sounds like it hits a lot of my favorite marks, so I can't wait to check it out!

The Library of Legends
The Library of Legends by Janie Chang
Publication: May 12th, 2020
William Morrow
Paperback. 400 pages.

"“Myths are the darkest and brightest incarnations of who we are . . .” 

China, 1937. When Japanese bombs begin falling on the city of Nanking, nineteen-year-old Hu Lian and her classmates at Minghua University are ordered to flee. Lian and a convoy of students, faculty and staff must walk 1,000 miles to the safety of China’s western provinces, a journey marred by the constant threat of aerial attack. And it is not just the refugees who are at risk; Lian and her classmates have been entrusted with a priceless treasure: a 500-year-old collection of myths and folklore known as the Library of Legends. 

The students’ common duty to safeguard the Library of Legends creates unexpected bonds. Lian becomes friends and forms a cautious romance with the handsome and wealthy Liu Shaoming. But after one classmate is arrested and another one is murdered, Lian realizes she must escape before a family secret puts her in danger too. Accompanied by Shao and his enigmatic maidservant, Sparrow, Lian makes her way to Shanghai in the hopes of reuniting with her mother. 

During the journey, Lian learns of the connection between her two companions and a tale from the Library of Legends, The Willow Star and the Prince. This revelation comes with profound consequences, for as the ancient books travel across China, they awaken immortals and guardian spirits who embark on an exodus of their own, one that will change the country’s fate forever."
I've been meaning to read Janie Chang's books for so long now--maybe I'll finally get around to doing that with this book! This sounds beautiful and so interesting, hopefully I'll have a chance to check it out sooner rather than later. :)

What do you think about these upcoming releases? What are your anticipated upcoming releases?

Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Top 5 Tuesday: Authors from A-Z Weeks 4 & 5: P-Z

This week I decided to switch back over and participate in Top 5 Tuesday, hosted by BionicBookworm!

This week's topic is: Authors Whose Last Names Start with P-Z

I'm continuing my participation and catch up in BionicBookworm's Top 5 Tuesday A-Z series this month! Today will be authors with last names starting with P-Z. You can find A-E here and F-O here.

I'm sorting these by author's last name, and just as a refresher for how I'm picking authors I'll post my plan of attack from my previous post: Since I'm only choosing one author for each book, I've developed a process: I'm organizing my 'read' shelf on Goodreads by alphabetical order, counting how many of each letter there are (ex.: I have 36 authors whose last names start with A), picking a random number with a number generator, and using that book!

Night Film
Night Film by Marisha Pessl
This became an instant favorite for me when I read it last year! It was wonderfully dark and I loved the way the mystery was explored.

Airwoman (Airwoman #1)
Airwoman by Zara Quentin
Zara Quentin was literally the only 'Q' I had! This book holds some fun memories for me because it was one of my early reviews/guest posts from way back in 2016.

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Harry Potter, #6)
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince by J.K. Rowling
With all the J.K. Rowling in the my 'R' section, it only makes sense that the odds of landing on one of her books were higher! Half-Blood Prince is a great one in the series, though I feel like it doesn't get as much love as it should (I really love Order of the Phoenix as well, actually, though people seem to hate on it a lot!). A perfect pick for 'R'!

The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB
The Entirely True Story of the Unbelievable FIB by Adam Shaughnessy
This was a delightful middle grade fantasy about a town in which two kids discover that there are a slew of Viking gods living beneath their town. This book was so fun and would be a perfect option for kids with any interest in mythology (or adults!).

The Thief (The Queen's Thief, #1)
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner
I remeber when I read this years ago I enjoyed it, but found it a bit odd and never cotninued with the series. Now it seems to be super popular again and the way people describe it makes me really want to restart this series!

No U!
Apparently, according to what I have recorded in Goodreads, I haven't read any books by an author that starts with 'U'! There were a few 'unknown,' but I didn't count those. Is it now my goal to read a book by an author whose last name starts with a 'U' this year? It sure is!

Palimpsest by Catherynne M. Valente
This is one of the more underrated Valente novels, in my opinion. It's definitely weird, so I get why it may not be everyone's cup of tea, but I love how imaginative and unpredictable and beautifully written it is. Also, Valente filled up a lot of my 'V' author books, so I wasn't too surprised it ended up on one of hers!

The Once and Future KingThe Once and Future King (The Once and Future King, #1-4)
The Once and Future King by T.H. White
I am so ashamed and saddened that I didn't really like this book that much! I had the highest of hopes and I did find it genuinely hilarious at times, but there were so many parts that really lost my interest and bored me a bit? I still readily recommend it because I know how loved it is and it was super entertaining at times, but I just didn't get into the entire thing for some reason, which is a shame since I love the overall story.

The Autobiography of Malcolm X
The Autobiography of Malcolm X by Malcom X, Alex Haley
This was such a fascinating read. I picked it up in high school on a bit of a whim and found myself really sucked into learning about Malcolm X's life--definitely a recommended read.

Anne Bonnie Volume #1: The Journey Begins
Anne Bonnie: The Journey Begins by Tim Yates
This is a fun graphic novel about Anne Bonnie, Pirate Queen! It's a short little graphic novel and only the first part, but I thought it was a great adventure and the illustrations were so vibrant and exciting!

The Girls at 17 Swann Street
The Girls at 17 Swann Street by Yara Zgheib
This book hit me so much harder than I expected beause of how real and relatable it was at so many different moments. Zgheib was one of the few 'Z' authors that I have on Goodreads, but I'm so glad I got to feature this book! It's beautiful and I related to so much, it really portrayed these girls' journeys well and I would be interested to read more from Zgheib in the future!

Have you read any of these? Let me know your thoughts!

Monday, March 30, 2020

Review: A Time of Courage by John Gwynne

A Time of Courage (Of Blood and Bone, #3)
A Time of Courage by John Gwynne
Publication Date: April 7th, 2020
Paperback. 720 pages

About A Time a Courage:

"The demon king Asroth has been freed from his iron prison. Now, alongside his dark bride Fritha, he plans to conquer the whole of the Banished Lands. 

In the shadows of Forn Forest, Riv and the surviving Ben-Elim desperately search for a way to unite those who remain against Asroth's vast army. 

Far in the west, Drem is with the Order of the Bright Star, besieged by a demon horde. Their fragile defenses are on the brink of shattering, but they know that it is better to fight and die than to live without hope. 

And across the Banished Lands, armies are heading south, to settle ancient grudges and decide the fate of humanity."

What a truly phenomenal way to wrap up this trilogy! I've been thoroughly enjoying each installment in the Of Blood and Bone series from John Gwynne over the past few years and the fact that it's over is bittersweet, as it was a perfect conclusion, yet I'm still a little sad that's over. I know that Gwynne is already working on something new, though, so I know I won't have to keep my fingers crossed for too long for more fantasy from him!

A Time of Courage is the final, momentous occasion: Asroth has been released and everyone is readying to prepare for the ultimate battle of good vs. evil. As with A Time of Blood, I'm trying to refrain from mentioning any specific, characters, places, or plot so as to avoid spoilers for the previous two books as well as this one, so the only two characters I'll mention by name are Drem and Riv since they are both mentioned in the synopsis at the top.

Drem is easily one of my favorite fantasy characters and POVs to follow. He has some of the best development over the arc of this trilogy, starting out as a boy with limited knowledge of the world and the evils that exist and turning into a strong leader, fighter, and character with great respect for those around him (and who deserve it, of course). It's truly been a pleasure watching him grow, and his actions in this book were just as exciting and well-written as in the previous ones. The other character I'll mention is Riv, a fiery half-breed warrior who has had to jump through a lot of different hoops during her time training and eventually fighting in battles. Riv has also been fascinating to follow and she has easily gone through some of the most dramatic changes and experiences in these books, which helped to make her such an interesting character.

In addition to Drem and Riv, there are three additional POVs that we follow that I enjoyed just about as much as I enjoyed Drem and Riv's. There are a lot of great things about Gwynne's writing, but one of his strengths is in developing really well-rounded and interesting characters that you cant help but become invested in. Even the characters on the 'villain' side tend to have complex motivations that make them captivating characters to follow and learn more about.

Another element of Gwynne's writing that has impressed me since the start are his battle scenes. I've said in many other reviews that I don't tend to enjoy battle and fight scenes all that much because they are usually difficult to follow and, well, I tend to get to bored and just want to know who gets hurt and/or dies so that I can move on to the next scene. This has never been the case in any of Gwynne's books that I've read and it pleases me so much to get such satisfaction and enjoyment out of his battles. I'm not sure if it's just because of how much research he does or simply his passion for writing these and real-life interest, but the way he writes battle scenes are clear, compelling, and genuinely keep me at the edge of my seat following along with the action.

In a time of fantasy where grimdark is gaining in popularity (and look, I love some good grimdark!) it was refreshing to dive into a world that felt epic, classic, and optimistic despite the tragedy that befalls the characters. There's something so warm and welcoming about this trilogy--it's not that it's some light story or anything because it certainly gets extremely dark, but rather that there's something so classic about this that just reminds me why I love epic fantasy so much. It's authentic and full of big characters and big themes, an epic world with a strong magic system, and plenty of magical beasts and creatures, all of which combine to create a book that feels timeless, both  classic and inventive, all rolled into one.

Overall, I've given A Time of Courage five stars!

*I received a copy of A Time of Courage courtesy of Orbit in exchange for an honest review. This has no effect on my rating of the novel.*