Friday, March 5, 2021

Month in Review: February 2021

February took about one or two blinks of the eye two go by, and from what I've seen a lot of other people seem to feel the same way about it. How is this year speeding along so much already? I'm not sure what to think.

I don't really feel like I have all that much to update about February because I'm honestly not even sure what I did in February at this point, haha. It's mainly been me in the deep grind of finishing up school and preparing for my final Master's exam (it's next week! :O) and trying not to entirely drown in my intensive Latin course (spoiler: it's not going well). I've been struggling a lot this past month with brain fog and the lack of motivation to get anything done--anyone else still struggling a lot with anything similar? Reading has been a nice escape for me, which I'm glad still holds true because a reading slump would just be the worst right now! How are you guys all holding up? Things have been so stressful and it's crazy that we're coming up on a year of the pandemic, but hopefully you're all doing alright and feeling healthy and taking care of yourselves!

In book news, I managed to read 15 books in February! I'm not sure what's been happening lately, but I have just been on a reading kick that I don't want to jinx by talking about too much, haha. The inclusion of audiobooks has also been nice, although that really only makes up one-two books a month since I'm pretty slow getting through them. I'm currently reading The Trials of Koli via audiobook and I've been really enjoying much more than I expected since I read the first book in physical format. I love the narrators!
I also feel like I read a lot of five star reads last month, so it's hard to pick highlights, but a few that I really loved are: The Marrow Thieves, The Light of the Midnight Stars (I can't wait to review this one because it was so stunning), All the Murmuring Bones, The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World, The Councillor, and Watcher of the Dead. As I said, a lot of good stuff last month--and some great variety. :) My audiobook read last month was The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin, and I am still so frustrated by. my inability to determine if I liked it or not. It's a truly fascinating concept and I love what Jemisin does with the narrative and exploration of new ideas, but I didn't care for any of the characters and I found myself only continuing to listen to it because I wanted to know how the world-building would evolve and not really enjoying much else. I don't have nay current plans to continue the series.

How was your reading month!? Read any new favorites? Anything not so great? Let me know in the comments, I love chatting!

# books read: 15

The Marrow ThievesThe Light of the Midnight StarsAll the Murmuring BonesThe Ikessar Falcon (Chronicles of the Bitch Queen, #2)

The Marrow Thieves by Cheri Dimaline 
Source: Library | Format: Paperback

The Light of the Midnight Stars by Rena Rossner 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter  
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

The Ikessar Falcon by K.S. Villoso 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the WorldThe Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)The Councillor (The Councillor, #1)Watcher of the Dead

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin 
Source: Audible | Format: Audiobook

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton 
Source: NetGalley | Format: eARC

Watcher of the Dead (Sword of Shadows #4) by J.V. Jones 
Source: Owned | Format: Hardcover

The RemovedThe Ladies of the Secret CircusThe Black Company (The Chronicles of the Black Company, #1)The Forever Sea (The Forever Sea, #1)

The Removed by Brandon Hobson 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
The Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC
The Black Company by Glen Cook 
Source: Gift | Format: Paperback
The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover

The King of Crows (The Diviners, #4)Cinders and SparrowsWe Begin at the End
The King of Crows by Libba Bray 
Source: Library | Format: Hardcover
Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann 
Source: Gift | Format: Hardcover
We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker 
Source: Publisher | Format: Physical ARC

None! :)

The Witch's HeartThis Golden FlameThe Echo WifeThe Forever Sea (The Forever Sea, #1)The RemovedThe Darkness That Comes Before (The Prince of Nothing, #1)The Councillor (The Councillor, #1)Machinehood

(other than reviews)
Top Five/Ten Tuesday:

Thursday, March 4, 2021

Review: All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slater

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter
Titan Books
Publication Date: March 9th, 2021
Paperback. 368 pages

About All the Murmuring Bones:

"Long ago Miren O'Malley's family prospered due to a deal struck with the Mer: safety for their ships in return for a child of each generation. But for many years the family have been unable to keep their side of the bargain and have fallen into decline. Miren's grandmother is determined to restore their glory, even at the price of Miren's freedom. 

A spellbinding tale of dark family secrets, magic and witches, and creatures of myth and the sea; of strong women and the men who seek to control them."

All the Murmuring Bones is a darkly atmospheric tale full of folklore and a captivating story about one woman as she charts her own new path from a rather grim life. This wasn't quite what I expected it to be, and if you're looking for a story with a lot of Mer presence, then this probably isn't what you're expecting either, but I still really loved this story for what it was and the inclusion of folklore and (supernatural) elements that made it deliciously dark and unpredictable and full of danger at every corner. 

This is a tricky review to write because there's so much that I want to say, but for so many reasons I'm not sure how to say it, nor do I want to give anything away. It's not that this ia story full of twists and turns, but it is very much one meant to be experienced personally rather than told about. This story follows Miren O'Malley as she decides to take her life's path into her own path after some unexpected tragedies and the rather arduous, foreboding journey she takes to find answers about her past.

Miren is a woman that I grew to love and admire for a variety of reasons. She's a bit prickly, one might say, and is not exactly the most endearing person, but her self-imposed distancing of herself from others is a result of her upbringing where she needed to be strong and aware of those who may try to take advantage of her or her remaining family. I found her caution and determination to be some of the most compelling points about her--she is rightfully fearful of many things she encounters and other various threats that pop up, but she doesn't necessarily let this fear rule her in any overwhelming manner. Miren knows what she wants, she knows what she has to do attain, and she does not stop for anyone or anything. Her growth is subtle, but present, and I am grateful to have been able to accompany her on her journey that was beautiful and difficult and went to some exceptionally dark places at times.

The story is told entirely through Miren's POV, but interspersed throughout are small folklore stories that are essentially about the O'Malley family's history, especially in regards to their ties to the Mer. I loved how these stories were included and how much depth and layering they added to the world and story in general. Sometimes they were framed as stories being read by Miren's grandma, at times they were stories told by Miren to herself as a comfort, at times she told them to others, and in others she read them herself. If you like folklore stories and fairy tales, then I promise you will love this aspect!

This is one of those subtly creepy books where everything just feels... off. There's something abnormal about the setting and the people and you can't always put your finger on what it is, but you know that presence of unnaturalness is present and is as much a character in this book as the people are characters. If I were to compare it to anything, I would say that some of the feelings/vibes I got from this book reminded me of ones I got from Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (though don't take the comparison too seriously, as they are fairly different stories) and I think if you liked one, you will like the other. 

All the Murmuring Books has a slow, careful narrative that isn't one you'll rush through because of the intense action scenes, but rather one you'll rush through because you just can't help but feel a desire to know what unpredictable and likely slightly disturbing thing is going to happen next. I will say that this book had a slower start that took me a little while to get into, but once I got a couple chapters in, I was hooked and wouldn't have stopped reading this book for anything.

Lastly, I wanted to leave quick note that I learned after reading All the Murmuring Bones. This story is apparently set in the same world that Slater has written other short stories in and some of the folklore stories we get in this book are drawn from her other stories. I hadn't read any of Slater's works prior to this and I don't think I had any issues diving into this one, so I wouldn't hesitate to read this book at all in case you have heard something similar. (The benefit is that it means I need to read more of Slater's work now!)  

 Overall, It's five stars from me! If you need a dark folklore-esque tale to round off the winter season (or any season works, really), then you should be sure to check out All the Murmuring Bones

 *I received an All the Murmuring Bones courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*   

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Wednesday, March 3, 2021

Can't-Wait Wednesday: The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska & Sistersong by Lucy Holland

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: 
The Widow Queen (The Bold, #1)
The Widow Queen by Elzbieta Cherezinska
Publication: April 6th, 2021
Hardcover. 512 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonIndieBound

"Elzbieta Cherezinska's The Widow Queen is the epic story of a Polish queen whose life and name were all but forgotten until now.  

The bold one, they call her—too bold for most.  

To her father, the great duke of Poland, Swietoslawa and her two sisters represent three chances for an alliance. Three marriages on which to build his empire.  

But Swietoslawa refuses to be simply a pawn in her father's schemes; she seeks a throne of her own, with no husband by her side.  

The gods may grant her wish, but crowns sit heavy, and power is a sword that cuts both ways."
I have an ARC for this that I have been dying to start and I'm hoping to get to it soon. I love that we are slowly getting more translated fantasy, and I equally love the sound of this synopsis! Fantasy political intrigue is always enticing to me. 

Sistersong by Lucy Holland
Publication: April 15th, 2021
Hardcover. 400 pages.
Pre-order: AmazonBook Depository

"535 AD. In the ancient kingdom of Dumnonia, King Cador's children inherit a fragmented land abandoned by the Romans.  

Riva, scarred in a terrible fire, fears she will never heal. 
Keyne battles to be seen as the king's son, when born a daughter. 
And Sinne, the spoiled youngest girl, yearns for romance.  

All three fear a life of confinement within the walls of the hold – a last bastion of strength against the invading Saxons. But change comes on the day ash falls from the sky, bringing Myrddhin, meddler and magician, and Tristan, a warrior whose secrets will tear the siblings apart. Riva, Keyne and Sinne must take fate into their own hands, or risk being tangled in a story they could never have imagined; one of treachery, love and ultimately, murder. It's a story that will shape the destiny of Britain."
This setting sounds fantastic and I am always hear for more stories with sisters at their core! I also believe this is actually a UK release, which I just realized when putting this post together, but that's what Book Depository is for, right?

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

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters Whose Occupations I'd Like to Try

Top Ten Tuesday is a weekly book blog meme now hosted by Jana over at The Artsy Reader Girl!

This week's topic is:  Characters Whose Occupations I'd Like to Try

This topic really made me realize how many books I read about people who aren't exactly traditional employed, but that's okay because it just made me get more creative. There are also a lot of jobs that I vehemently do not want, but I ended up finding more than I expected (and even had to leave some out) and had a lot of fun thinking about different characters' jobs. Let's check out some of the interesting jobs I found (in no particular order)!

Strange the Dreamer (Strange the Dreamer, #1)The Puppetmaster’s ApprenticeThe CouncillorThe Terror

1. Character: Lazlo Strange 
Occupation: Junior Librarian at The Great Library of Zosma, from Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor
Why: I'm assuming the 'why' here is probably obvious, but I'd love to be a library at the The Great Library of Zosma because books--and it'd also be pretty neat is Lazlo could be my supervisor or something.

2. Character: Pirouette 
Occupation: Puppetmaster's Apprentice, from The Puppetmaster's Apprentice by Lisa DeSelm
Why: I love crafting things by hand and I think it would be so neat to create some of the gorgeous pieces that Pirouette and her father make (or rather attempt to, at least). 

3. Character: Lysande Prior
Occupation: (Former) Palace Scholar, from The Councillor by E.J. Beaton
Why: I'm not sure if I'd necessarily want to be involved in royal politics, but I do enjoy the general concept of getting to devote my time to research and historical inquiry. And to get to do that as my job? Yes, please!

4. Character: Frances Crozier 
Occupation: Ship's Captain, from The Terror by Dan Simmons
Why: As long as I don't have to be a Captain of the Terror or Erebus during the Franklin Expedition, then I am on board to be a Captain of another ship!

Among the Beasts & BriarsThe Hollow PlacesThe Forever Sea (The Forever Sea, #1)Brightstorm

5. Character: Cerys (and father)
Occupation: Royal Gardener, from Among the Beasts and Briar by Ashley Poston
Why: I love plants and gardening and being outdoors, so this sounds pretty ideal, plus these gardens sound particularly lovely.

6. Character: Kara 
Occupation: Employee at The Glory to God Museum of Natural Wonders, Curiosities and Taxidermy in Hog Chapel, from The Hollow Places by T. Kingfisher
Why: I love museums! I also love the quirkiness of this museum and I think it'd be a ton of fun. 

7. Character: Kindred Greyreach
Occupation: Hearthfire keeper/Harvester, from The Forever Sea by Joshua Philip Johnson
Why:  I don't necessarily really want to be a hearthfire keeper, but I do think it sounds like really interesting work and magic, and I'd love to be an important part of sailing those ships across the Forever Sea. I also think being a harvester--people who go into the grasses to harvest them--would be neat as a chance to see a bit of the Sea. The aftereffects of doing so aren't quite as attractive, though.

8. Character: Mr. Brightstorm/Arthur & Maudie Brightstorm
Occupation: Explorers, from Brightstorm by Vashti Hardy
Why: This one is easy--because I love exploring! I honestly would love nothing more than to get to go on any sort of exploring expedition.

Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow (Nevermoor, #1)Torn (The Unraveled Kingdom, #1)

9. Character: Jupiter North 
Occupation: Hotel Deucalion owner, Member of the Wondrous Society, Member of the League of Explorers, etc., from Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Why: I don't know exactly what Jupiter does half the time, but he always seems to be doing something important or interesting, and I would love to be privy to even half the information he has.

10. Character: Sophie
Occupation: Magical Seamstress, from Torn by Rowenna Miller
Why: I don't really sew much these days, but I really enjoyed it when my mom taught me and I used to and I'd love to create clothing for people. I'd especially love imbuing the clothes I make with various magical charms to help whoever is wearing them.

Which character's occupations would you like to try?? Have you read any of these books? Let me know!

Monday, March 1, 2021

Review: We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker

We Begin at the End
We Begin At the End by Chris Whitaker
Henry Holt and Co.
Publication Date: March 2nd, 2021
Hardcover. 384 pages

About We Begin at the End:

"There are two kinds of families: the ones we are born into and the ones we create.
Walk has never left the coastal California town where he grew up. He may have become the chief of police, but he’s still trying to heal the old wound of having given the testimony that sent his best friend, Vincent King, to prison decades before. Now, thirty years later, Vincent is being released.
Duchess is a thirteen-year-old self-proclaimed outlaw. Her mother, Star, grew up with Walk and Vincent. Walk is in overdrive trying to protect them, but Vincent and Star seem bent on sliding deeper into self-destruction. Star always burned bright, but recently that light has dimmed, leaving Duchess to parent not only her mother but her five-year-old brother. At school the other kids make fun of Duchess―her clothes are torn, her hair a mess. But let them throw their sticks, because she’ll throw stones. Rules are for other people. She’s just trying to survive and keep her family together.
A fortysomething-year-old sheriff and a thirteen-year-old girl may not seem to have a lot in common. But they both have come to expect that people will disappoint you, loved ones will leave you, and if you open your heart it will be broken. So when trouble arrives with Vincent King, Walk and Duchess find they will be unable to do anything but usher it in, arms wide closed.
Chris Whitaker has written an extraordinary novel about people who deserve so much more than life serves them. At times devastating, with flashes of humor and hope throughout, it is ultimately an inspiring tale of how the human spirit prevails and how, in the end, love―in all its different guises―wins."

We Begin at the End is an unexpectedly intense and unforgettable story of family, loss, and hope. I've seen this classified as crime fiction a couple times since reading it, and although there is technically a crime in this book that needs to be solved, I wouldn't go into this expecting a regular crime novel. Whitaker's storytelling is deliberate and eloquent and I am so glad I had a chance to go on this journey, even if it did completely break my heart at multiple turns.

We Begin at the End follows the thirteen-year old self-proclaimed "outlaw" Duchess Day Radley and sheriff Walker--more commonly known simply as 'Walk'--as they both try to navigate their own individually difficult lives that occasionally intersect due to Duchess' mother, Star. Our story takes place in a small coastal town in California that is lowly but surely being overhauled from the quiet town it was into something more modern and developed. The people living in this town are largely resistant to the changes, which reflects well with the general sluggish atmosphere of its residents and the difficult, complicated lives they all seem to lead. The story kicks off when Vincent King, a man who has been in prison for the last thirty years, returns to town and some unexpected events occur.

Duchess, the first POV we follow, is an incredibly well-developed character that is both utterly compelling to follow and similarly difficult to follow throughout the many tragedies that occur in both her and her younger brother Robin's lives. Her anger at the world is entirely justified, in my opinion, and it was heartbreaking to watch her attempts to protect Robin and keep her family together as best as she can. Her character undergoes so much change and development that I couldn't help but feel impressed at Whitaker's writing. She is an incredibly complex character dealing with a myriad of trauma, grief, and the taking on of parental roles she shouldn't have to at her age. Everything about her is a closed off wall of anger, but the way she manages to navigate the world and learn to maybe trust or accept others was beautiful to watch.

The sheriff, Walk, is our second perspective and was someone that I found similarly compelling to follow, but in a different way, as his life stage is one completely different from Duchess' (understandably, given their ages and life situations) yet is just as difficult and melancholy as Duchess'. His story is a quieter one than Duchess' as he struggles with feeling physically and mentally unwell, as well as his rather mundane day-to-day life as sheriff. His change and development is much more subtle than Duchess', but it's unavoidably there and brings so much depth to his story and character. His relationships with Star and Vincent are both so complicated, but the ways in which Whitaker brings those out and showcases them is deftly done and adds many layers of nuance to everything.

We Begin at the End is a slow burn of anger, dejection, loss, and hope all rolled into one extraordinarily moving story. This is a story that with a slow, steady pacing that kept me hooked on the lives of each character and unable to turn away from the pages. This was a deceptively difficult story to read, and i Mean that in the sense that I didn't expect to hit as hard as it did or to make me feel as sorrowful and sad as I did for these characters stuck in these lives. I wanted for nothing more than happiness for each one, but because this book is so unfortunately real and raw, things didn't always end up as I'd hoped. And even though the ending is technically probably considered to be an uplifting one, it still made me feel a quiet sadness at how everything resolved. It's the sort of ending that you understand and that may be best as a result of everything that's happened, but it's not a satisfying one that makes you feel warm and fuzzy inside. But that's okay, because I feel like that's just what life is--things happen, and all we can do is learn to make the best of everything in whatever way we can. 

Overall, I've given We Begin at the End five stars. This is a beautiful and heartbreaking book that I would absolutely recommend to anyone interested in following the lives of some truly captivating characters.

 *I received an ARC of We Begin at the End courtesy of the publisher in exchange for an honest review.*   

Buy the book: Amazon | IndieBound

Friday, February 26, 2021

Anticipated March 2021 Releases!

And once again, it's time for a new month of releases! March seems especially stacked, and I feel like that's only going to be an indicator of what to expect this year. Thus far, I've read The Councillor, All the Murmuring Bones, We Begin at the End at the End, Ladies of the Secret Circus, and Machinehood, all of which I've thoroughly enjoyed (the first three were even all five star reads!), and I've just started The Lost Village, an ARC that I feel like I've been hanging onto for ages now. I am really looking to all these March releases, and I'm sure even more that I've just forgotten to list. It looks like a great month!

Are you looking forward to any of these books? Have you had a chance to read any yet? Let me know!

The CouncillorThe Fall of Koli (Rampart Trilogy #3)The Lost VillageAll the Murmuring BonesThe Unbroken (Magic of the Lost, #1)The VinesA Desolation Called Peace (Teixcalaan, #2)The Stolen KingdomMachinehoodWings of Fury (Wings of Fury, #1)Unsettled GroundOur Last EchoesThe House Uptown: A NovelRaft of StarsThe ConductorsThe Ladies of the Secret CircusIn the QuickFirekeeper's DaughterThe CommittedKlara and the SunWe Begin at the EndThe Descent of the Drowned (The Descent of the Drowned, #1)The Phone Booth at the Edge of the WorldThe Bright and the Pale (The Bright & the Pale Duology, #1)

The Councillor by E.J. Beaton || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound

The Fall of Koli by M.R. Carey || March 23rd -- Amazon | Indiebound

The Lost Village by Camilla Sten || March 23rd -- Amazon | Indiebound

All the Murmuring Bones by A.G. Slatter || March 9th -- Amazon | Indiebound
The Unbroken by C.L. Clark || March 23rd -- Amazon | Indiebound

The Vines by Shelley Nolden || March 23rd -- Amazon | Indiebound
A Desolation Called Peace by Arkady Martine || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound
The Stolen Kingdom by Jillian Boehme || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound

Machinehood by S.B. Divya || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound

Wings of Fury by Emily R. King || March 1st -- Amazon | Indiebound
Unsettled Ground by Claire Fuller || March 25th -- Amazon | Indiebound
Our Last Echoes by Kate Alice Marshall || March 16th -- Amazon | Indiebound
The House Uptown by Melissa Ginsberg || March 16th -- Amazon | Indiebound
Raft of Stars by Andrew J. Graff || March 23rd -- Amazon | Indiebound
The Conductors by Nicole Glover || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound

Ladies of the Secret Circus by Constance Sayers || March 23rd -- Amazon | Indiebound
In the Quick by Kate Hope Day || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound
Firekeeper's Daughter by Angeline Boulley || March 16th -- Amazon | Indiebound

The Committed by Viet Thanh Nguyen || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound
Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound

We Begin at the End by Chris Whitaker || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound

The Descent of the Drowned by Ana Lal Din || March 15th -- Amazon | Indiebound

The Phone Booth at the Edge of the World by Laura Imai Messina, trans. Lucy Rand || March nd -- Amazon | Indiebound

The Bright and the Pale by Jessica Rubinkowski || March 2nd -- Amazon | Indiebound
What are your anticipated March releases?